Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Friday, June 11th, 2021

The Purpose of Your Firm

“A business enterprise has two basic functions: marketing and innovation.” – Peter F. Drucker

It’s Friday again and time for an enlightening Flashback Friday post. Peter F. Drucker’s view on the purpose of a business is something you should consider.  Click here.

  • The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said.
  • Peter Drucker

Wednesday, June 9th, 2021

Communicate Your Thoughts On Hybrid

“Satisfaction of one’s curiosity is one of the greatest sources of happiness in life.” – Linus Pauling

So many firms right now are sticking their toe into the hybrid work schedule waters. Do we or don’t we? How will it look? How will we keep communication and culture strong? Maybe we just go to a four-day workweek. If everyone works whatever schedule they want, will it create chaos? Will client service suffer over the long term? What will we do about the administrative team?

Many decisions need to be made and I hope you can make them quickly. The most important things is to communicate to your team. Don’t leave them wondering all summer long what the firm will do in the Fall.

Here’s a message Tim Cook of Apple sent to the team last week:

In an email to staff, Apple CEO Tim Cook has told office employees that they are expected to return to their workspace three days a week starting in September. The iPhone maker said it wants most office workers to show up Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, with the option to work remotely on Wednesdays and Fridays. “For all that we’ve been able to achieve while many of us have been separated, the truth is that there has been something essential missing from this past year: each other,” he wrote in the email. “Video conference calling has narrowed the distance between us, to be sure, but there are things it simply cannot replicate.”

What goes through my mind is how will this building look empty for the long term.

  • For now, let me simply say that I look forward to seeing your faces.
  • Tim Cook

Monday, June 7th, 2021

Fixing People

“Spend more time encouraging high performers. Most leaders spend too much time trying to fix low performers.” – Dan Rockwell (@Leadershipfreak)

The above comment certainly made me think about all the time many CPA firms spend trying to fix people, meaning poor performers.

How many poor performers do you have inside your firm? I bet you can name more than one!

The comment I always hear from firm administrators, HR managers, etc. is “the partners won’t let her/him go. He/She has been here for 15 years.”

If you have a poor performer, they are taking up space that could be allotted to a bright, ambitious, up-and-comer. They are a faulty cog in the wheel of efficiency.

It is not being mean or hurtful to a person. It is about clearly defining expectations and monitoring a person’s progress toward meeting those expectations. This has become even more important with the enhanced need to be technologically savvy when working in the accounting world.

I hear the story over and over again. We need a development plan for Sally. Do you have a sample? I ask, “How long has she been with the firm?” The answer, “Ten years.”

The bright spot I am hearing is that, because of working remotely, many firms have increased the responsibility of their managers. Managers must provide feedback AT LEAST twice a month or even weekly. A person who is not meeting expectations should know that fact before they have been with the firm for years.

  • Leaders set high standards. Refuse to tolerate mediocrity or poor performance
  • Brian Tracy

Wednesday, May 26th, 2021

Doing Your Best With Virtual Meetings

“No matter what time it is, wake me, even if it’s in the middle of a cabinet meeting.” – Ronald Reagan

I hear it over and over again, CPA firm citizens are suffering from Zoom fatigue. I have experienced some frustrations, too. There are people who never participate, don’t turn on their video on, don’t mute sound and so on.

It is up to the meeting host to facilitate a productive meeting. If you are the host for some meetings, there is a great list of suggestions from Paul McDonald in a recent issue of CPA Practice Advisor. The topics are:

  • No agenda, no meeting
  • Use visual stimuli
  • Have a backup plan
  • Get everyone involved
  • Set some ground rules
  • Video on, sound off
  • Keep to time
  • Show empathy
  • Always follow up
  • Consider alternatives
  • Do check your tech
  • Don’t multitask
  • Do check your background
  • Don’t use speakerphone
  • Do come prepared
  • Don’t interrupt
  • Do connect on a human level

Be sure to follow this link to read the helpful information about each of these bullet points. Become the champion meeting host for your firm!

  • If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be 'meetings'.
  • Dave Barry

Tuesday, May 25th, 2021

Don’t Delay!

“Ideas are useless unless used. The proof of their value is in their implementation. Until then, they are in limbo.” – Theodore Levitt

To be able to run an efficient and profitable accounting firm you need to do more than talk about the changes you need to make. Talking about change is an active exercise inside firms. Actually, implementing and executing the steps necessary for change is another topic altogether. This is where many firms settle on a plateau rather than to continue climbing the mountain.

In my early days in public accounting I worked for the founder of the firm, a person in what we now call the Veteran (or Mature) Generation. If we had an issue or challenge he would proceed with Ready, Aim, Fire. We would research solutions (ready), adopt them to fit our size firm (aim) and then implement (fire). He did not hesitate.

As the Baby Boomers took over leadership of firms or founded firms, many of them seemed to find implementation more difficult – for various reasons. Even today, I observe so many firms that have adopted: Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim……

In today’s rapidly changing environment in public accounting and especially in technology and in the nature of our workforce, practitioners (Gen-X and Millennial leaders) must be able to Fire, Fire, Fire if they want the firm to stay ahead of the competition.

In dealing with succession, many firms are still in the “aim, aim, aim, aim” mode.

  • Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.
  • Guy Kawasaki

Thursday, May 20th, 2021

Keep Your Eye On The Ball

“The trick is this: keep your eye on the ball. Even when you can’t see the ball.” – Tony Robbins

Today’s title applies to several sports. I think of golf and baseball. It also applies to partners (especially the managing partner) in accounting firms.

Keeping your eye on the ball applies throughout the game or match, not just as certain times. Managing an accounting firm requires you to keep your “eye on the ball” throughout the year, not just during busy season.

I have observed that some CPA firm owners have lucrative outside interests. Maybe it is another business or even life events, perhaps building a new house. You get distracted and yes, it is understandable. You expect the firm to run smoothly without you. Your firm administrator does a great job of running operations but he/she do not “run” the other partners or the visionary topics that need to keep moving no matter if it is summer.

After you recuperate from the never-ending tax season, hopefully that will only take a week or two, you need to regroup and focus on the inside health of the firm. Are there performance issues with staff or partners? Do you need to re-evaluate office space and/or negotiate a new lease? Are you now moving ahead with that M&A deal you put off until after May 17th? Do you need to further negotiate with that other acquisition to expand firm services?

By not keeping your eye on the ball, you might just “kill the golden goose.”

  • Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
  • Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday, May 18th, 2021

Show Them

“Businesses that forget that their primary business is the people business will not last.” – Steve Keating

Steve Keating’s post on May 16 certainly struck a chord with me. He addressed the issue of companies establishing titles for people in hopes that a person with a title would make employees feel more included and appreciated. He says that there are too many “buzz word” titles floating around. I certainly see this in the CPA profession.

Keating says, “Instead of endowing people with fancy titles that say “we care” how about actually caring? How about showing you care for everyone equally instead of saying it again and again?”

Calling people “human capital” has always grated on my nerves and I have heard it too often from CPA firm leaders. I always try to remind CPA leaders that they are not in the numbers business, they are in the people business. Be sure to read Keating’s post.

  • When the company shows they care about their people, all their people, equally, they don’t need fancy titles.
  • Steve Keating

Friday, May 7th, 2021

A Book For CPAs – Flashback Friday

“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.” – Jim Rohn

I am assuming (and hoping) that, as a leader, you have read most of the prominent business books.

Here’s a flashback post about a book I think all people working in a public accounting firm should read – The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.

  • I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.
  • Groucho Marx

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

Contradictions

“The contradictions are what make human behavior so maddening and yet so fascinating, all at the same time.” – Joan D. Vinge

As you successfully manage your public accounting firm, you will encounter many contradictions. Here are a few I have observed:

  • You have to be more flexible.
  • You have to have more structure.
  • You must be able to talk in a way that is inspiring and motivating.
  • Don’t do all the talking, it’s important to be a good listener.
  • You must inspire young people to stay with the firm.
  • You should draw upon the experience of older accountants and not rush them out the door.
  • You have to provide quick turnaround for your clients.
  • You should take your time, you can’t risk making mistakes.
  • You want the team to achieve lots of billable hours.
  • You want the team to achieve great realization.
  • You want young people to be able to take on more challenging work.
  • You allow managers to cling to the most challenging work.
  • You expect the entire team to follow all the policies and procedures.
  • You, a leader, don’t set a good example by adhering to firm policies and procedures.

What I usually observe is that a great number of firms make it all too complicated. They spin their wheels, procrastinate, micro-manage, involve too many people in trivial decisions and make important decisions too slowly. They want the firm to grow and prosper by doing the same old things they have always done.

Make some changes now… before too much of 2021 passes by. Take some risk. It can be fun and exciting (and profitable).

  • I'd like to live as a poor man with lots of money.
  • Pablo Picasso

Wednesday, May 5th, 2021

A Great Manager is an Employee Benefit

“Just as a bad manager can ruin a good job, a great manager can make a good job even better.” – Gallup

I have written and talked about the danger of having bad managers in the CPA profession many times and quoted Gallup saying, “People don’t leave companies, they leave bad managers.”

That’s why, when I came upon a recent article from Gallup titled, “The No. 1 Employee Benefit That No One’s Talking About.” Guess what that benefit is…. good managers!

Bad managers can even affect the health of your team members. The stress they feel at work goes home with them and is a factor in their overall well-being.

People leave good jobs because of bad managers then why don’t they look for good managers when seeking a new job? It is because companies don’t advertise or promote the fact that they have great managers.

I hope your firm is investing in the success of your managers. Accounting firms spend significant dollars on TECHNICAL CPE for managers as they advance in their careers. It’s time to spend more money helping them become great people managers.

There are many great leadership programs for managers and future partners in the CPA profession. Make the investment to send your managers. Then find ways to let the world know you have good managers.

Gallup has advice for building a healthy and thriving organization, starting with your managers. Read the article to learn more.

  • Research reveals that about one in 10 people possess high talent to manage.
  • Per Gallup