Archive for the ‘Managers’ Category

Wednesday, January 12th, 2022

Three Rules For Networking

“The single greatest people skill is a highly developed and authentic interest in the other person.” – Bob Burg

#1 – You must be committed

An effective network is built over time. It’s not immediate gratification. Engage people in conversation. What are common interests? Do your children go to the same school? The magic phrase “tell me about yourself.”

#2 – Develop a relationship

Scanning in biz cards or adding contacts to Outlook isn’t it. Sending your contact a firm brochure or calling to ask for an appointment won’t work. If you find out something you have in common (love of dogs) send them an article.

#3 – Give, give, give

The magic phrase #2: How can I help you? Better to give than receive applies. Perhaps you can make an Introduction. Maybe they need an answer to a question. Become a go-to person.

My story:  How many things did I give away before I ever got paid for consulting?  Hundreds, maybe thousands. It does not happen over night.  It doesn’t have to if you start your young people on the networking trail immediately.

  • Networking is a lot like nutrition and fitness: we know what to do, the hard part is making it a top priority.
  • Herminia Ibarra

Monday, December 13th, 2021

Resignation

“People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.”- John C. Maxwell

Marcus Buckingham said it years ago in his book First Break All The Rules in 2016 and it is still being repeated almost daily in the business world:

“People leave managers, not companies” – Marcus Buckingham, First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently

In my version for CPA firms, it goes like this: “People don’t leave firms, they leave people.”

If you are experiencing the new trend called, “The Great Resignation,” don’t be surprised if you discover that some of your talented people leave because they have not experienced an involved, focused, qualified and caring manager.

Do you have people who are driving other people away? You better fix it.

Instead of managers being worker bees, they should adhere to the description of a manager: A manager gets things done through other people. They don’t do the work themselves. Leaders must allow managers to be managers of people and not production units who must hit certain chargeable hour goals themselves.

I’ll leave you with another quote from the same book by Buckingham:

“The talented employee may join a company because of its charismatic leaders, its generous benefits, and its world-class training programs, but how long that employee stays and how productive he is while he is there is determined by his relationship with his immediate supervisor.”

  • To lead people, walk behind them.
  • Lao Tzu

Friday, December 10th, 2021

Finding More Time – Flashback Friday

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” – William Arthur Ward

Ask yourself, what am I doing that someone with a lower billing rate can easily do? You need to enhance your delegation skills. Read this flashback post.

  • If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.
  • John Maxwell

Thursday, October 21st, 2021

Don’t Hesitate to Say Goodbye

“When I go to a party, nobody says hello. But when I leave, everybody says goodbye.” – George Gobel

In working with CPA firms, I have observed that so many CPAs like to cling to work. You can’t keep growing and expanding your skillset if you keep doing the same things while still doing the familiar things.

When you become a Senior, you have to leave much of your staff work behind. When you become a Manager, you have to say goodbye to some of the clients and the type of work you still love to do. You have to say hello to some new skills. The same thing applies when you become a partner. At that point in your career, you have to definitely say goodbye to doing the work and embrace the role of partner. Partners need to be bringing in business, enriching client relationships, and mentoring young people.

Occasionally, I read a post by Seth Godin that says so much to me about CPAs. The following is one of those posts.

WHAT WILL YOU LEAVE BEHIND?

Twenty years from now, you will have new skills. New customers. A new title and a new kind of leverage.

All of this forward motion requires a less celebrated element–all the things you’re not doing any longer.

To get a new job, you’ll need to leave the old job behind.

When you have a child, you’ve initiated a process that leads to an adult…

Often, we try to pretend that growth comes with no goodbyes, but it does.

Perhaps we can go in with our eyes open, understanding that what we begin will likely end. And when we plan for it, we’ll do it better.

  • That money talks, I'll not deny. I heard it once it said, 'Goodbye.'
  • Richard Armoour

Tuesday, October 12th, 2021

The Bonus Dilemma

“Whenever there is a hard job to be done I assign it to a lazy man; he is sure to find an easy way of doing It.” – – Walter Chrysler

You have heard me say it often: I’ve been around a while.

One thing that I have lived through during my 30+ years in CPA firm management is the bonus plan saga. It is like a nightmare that keeps repeating itself (like in the movie Groundhog Day):

  • As a firm grows, it begins to hire more people.
  • At first, there is no bonus plan. People get paid for their over-all performance.
  • Then, a partner has a great idea, “Let’s put in a bonus plan! It will inspire our people to do better.”
  • And then, the ones who don’t get a bonus become jealous.
  • And then, CPA firm leaders feel guilty because they are not being fair to everyone.
  • The ones who do get the bonus usually are the top performers, however, some others may get a bonus because they are creative, intelligent people who can figure out how to “work” any bonus system ever designed for a CPA firm.
  • Eventually, (and it doesn’t take too long) the plan begins to demotivate people.
  • Then, the bright idea becomes: “Let’s do away with our bonus plan and build it back into their salaries.  We’ll reward top performers with larger compensation increases.” Thus, everyone gets an unexpected raise.
  • Several years later, “Let’s put in a bonus plan!” – – – same thing all over again, eventually it is dropped again because it really doesn’t work very well and it creates a huge amount of administrative work in tracking, measuring and analyzing.

I’ve actually been through this saga about 4 times during my career.

I have very mixed emotions about bonus/incentive plans relating to basic job performance.  However, I am very much in favor of incentives for special efforts like bringing in a great new client or recruiting a top-notch, experienced CPA to the firm.

Many partners and managers resort to incentives because they think they’re smart enough to create the perfect carrot. Doesn’t usually work that way in CPA firms.

Here’s what often happens inside the firm.  If you provide incentives for billable time you will get lots of billable time. Also, every client engagement will be over budget. You want them to get billable hours, yet you want them to perform the engagement more efficiently in less time than last year. It sends mixed messages.  We don’t live in a single-variable world – especially inside a CPA firm.

Much of the challenge with developing a highly productive team does not depend on incentives.  It relates back to having skilled, effective managers.  Winning firms have managers (and partners) who continually communicate, coach, and train the younger people in the firm so that everyone understands their role and the importance of quality, timely client service.  That is what will earn them a bigger paycheck.

While some bonus plans can demotivate your people, good managers do not. Good managers motivate.  Embrace the challenging activity of continually interacting and communicating with your team members.

  • You know what Gordie Howe got for a signing bonus? A team jacket!
  • Ed Lauter

Monday, October 11th, 2021

The Best People Work Here

“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” – Jim Collins

Hopefully, you have worked very diligently on building a brand that attracts and retains clients. You have testimonials that stress the fact that your firm is knowledgeable, progressive, and meets your client’s expectations for awesome service. You have experts in many disciplines and are also very active in community and charitable organizations. All of that builds a brand that attracts quality clients.

That brand also attracts quality people but with people, you need more. How prestigious is it to work at your firm? Is it prestigious at all? Bruce Tulgan calls it the prestige factor. Per Tulgan, “Prestigious organizations send two messages: ‘Not everyone gets to work here,’ and ‘It is a privilege and an honor to work here.’”

Much of this falls on the shoulders of your managers. How much have you invested in their people management skills? When managers set high expectations for themselves and those they manage you begin to build a prestigious workplace. It is up to managers (and partners also fill the role of manager), to weed out low performers. Your “all-stars” do not like working at a firm that tolerates “falling stars.

In this era of the great resignation, you need to take immediate steps to build your firm’s prestige factor. Read more from Tulgan here.

  • The one thing that organizations with prestigious cultures have in common is a reputation for shining a bright light of scrutiny on performance.
  • Bruce Tulgan

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2021

Flexible Has Become Our Culture

“I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times.” – Everett Dirksen

Even before the pandemic, accounting firms were figuring out how to offer employees more flexibility and still maintain the level of production to meet the needs of the firm and the clients. My question is, is there danger in becoming too flexible?

As I have observed, it goes back to my favorite topic – communication. It also involves accountability.

As your people begin to come back to the office, you will be negotiating with each one individually as to what they want their works hours and locations to be like.

Managing people is not an easy task and if you are trying to manage people on-site and people in the virtual world it becomes even murkier. Managing people, for CPAs, has not been a highly-developed skill.

Whether managing people in person or remotely, too much flexibility and independence can set a low-performance bar if not paired with strong accountability.

Expecting people to do what they say they will do, on time, without reminders sets the stage for expectations. If people have proved they cannot do this, then they need more of your supervisory time.

Set clear expectations – This is another area where partners and managers often fail. The new generation of workers wants you to be very clear about what you expect. Most are very willing to do the work required and put in the hours necessary if they clearly understand what you expect.

Accountability – Here’s one recommendation that might work well for your remote and even your in-house workers. Check-in with your direct reports at the beginning of the week, let them work for a week in their own individual style (it might not be 8 to 5 hours), and then regroup the following week.

Closing thought: Too much flexibility and lack of communication can create a culture of poor performance if there is a lack of accountability.

  • The pandemic has definitely forced companies and leaders to look at how we treat people—what are people’s needs? I also think it’s been a real eye-opener.”
  • Nicole Lipkin

Friday, September 3rd, 2021

Check-Ins – Flashback Friday

“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” –Zig Ziglar

Now that you don’t actually see many of your employees every day, it is more important than ever to have frequent check-ins to find how they are doing and how they are progressing on their goals.

Read more in this Friday flashback post.

I HOPE you will enjoy this 3-day holiday weekend although I know that probably isn’t the case for many of you with the September due date just around the corner.

  • Never quit. It is the easiest cop-out in the world. Set a goal and don’t quit until you attain it. When you do attain it, set another goal, and don’t quit until you reach it. Never quit.
  • Bear Bryant

Thursday, September 2nd, 2021

Dementors

“You control your own life. Your own will is extremely powerful.” – J. K. Rowling

I am assuming you are familiar with Harry Potter. I read all the books and watched all the movies. J. K. Rowling created a fascinating world. Let’s take a somewhat light-hearted look at how Dementors might apply inside your firm.

When you read the following meaning of Dementors, I wonder what it brings to mind.

Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them. … If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself – soulless and evil.

I know I am weird, but it brings to my mind, some managers in CPA firms who seem to “suck the life out of people.” Thankfully, it doesn’t apply to all managers.

Some Managers are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the accounting firms that are stuck in the past and glory in the status quo. They drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them. If they can, the Manager will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like themselves – uncaring and demanding.

J. K. Rowling has revealed that the inspiration for Dementors came from her bout with severe depression before her phenomenal success. She described the feeling as an “absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope.”

I have said all of that to remind you that, as firm owners, you must invest in the non-technical training and education of your managers. Managers need to be people developers. In some firms, they are simply highly-trained technicians charged with getting the most work out of subordinates. They don’t know how to build strong relationships and engage with the people they supervise.

I’ve been working in public accounting for decades. I have heard many stories about inadequate managers. And yes, they have been described as “sucking the life out of people.” I have also heard the same about some partners.

  • We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.
  • J. K. Rowling

Friday, August 20th, 2021

Things Are Not Always Easy – Flashback Friday

“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” – Brian Tracy

Sometimes you just have to do things that make you uncomfortable. Read this Friday Flashback post – Uncomfortable Things Will Often Make You More Successful. I think we can all relate to most of them.

Have a great weekend”

  • The more you seek the uncomfortable, the more you will become comfortable.
  • Conor McGregor