Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Thursday, June 2nd, 2022

Slow Adapters

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” – Stephen Hawking

I’m sure you still have some inside your firm. I encounter them frequently as I interact with CPA firms.

They are not the leaders who want to be on the leading edge of becoming a digital firm. They are not the ones who are forcing, as best they can, a truly paperless culture. They are not the ones who embrace a remote workforce. They are not the ones who bill timely and control the amount of work-in-process. They are not the ones who are using fixed-price agreements. They are not the ones who support outsourcing much of the routine compliance work.

They are the ones who we kindly refer to as the slow adapters. They have lots of excuses why they can’t do this and they can’t do that all the while most of the people working at the firm are working towards becoming a firm of the future, a modern firm. You work around them as best you can but old-school firms are slowly fading away and the slow adapters will do the same.

I read a passage recently in a novel and I tweaked it to apply to the slow adapters. I think it fits:

They don’t want a modern firm because they know that a modern firm won’t want them.

  • As human beings we do change, grow, adapt, perhaps even learn and become wiser.
  • Wendy Carlos

Thursday, May 26th, 2022

Return To The Office

“Setting a good example is truly the most effective means of communication – and setting a poor one is disastrous!” – Jan Carlzon

Wow. I have heard so many STRONG opinions about when, how, why, and why not return to working in an office environment. Firm partners are thinking about how will we identify and mentor future partners if we never see them in person. How will we really know their personalities, strengths, and weaknesses?

Opposite of that, I have heard about several instances where the majority of the CPA firm staff are back in the office but the partners are mostly absent, still content with working from home.

Firms with strong leadership and competent managing partners know that partners set the example. How many of your partners are setting a good example whether it is about being present in the office or in a dozen other ways?

Here’s an article about bosses not returning to the office.

  • A good example has twice the value of good advice.
  • Albert Schweitzer

Wednesday, May 11th, 2022

Training

“Learning experiences are like journeys. The journey starts where the learning is now and ends where the learner is more successful. The end of the journey isn’t knowing more, it’s doing more.” – Julie Dirksen

I have been thinking about training.

You attend an internal, tax update training session and you learn so much. Then what? You go to (or attend online), a state CPA society course and you learn so much. Then what? You go to a national conference, spend a lot of money, learn so much, and get so many great ideas. Then what?

When the training is over, it becomes a distant memory, something that occasionally comes to mind.

Some firms tell me that they need to improve the way they train people. The secret is not in the training itself, it is what you do with that training. With new hires, you provide training, lots of it at first. The secret to success is constantly reinforcing that training. Are they practicing what they have learned? You add more training as they become more experienced. Again, you must continually reinforce the training. Focus on the results and give the new hires feedback.

You attend a conference and hear so many good ideas from so many wonderful speakers. You take elaborate notes and are thinking about so many things you need to do when you return to the office. Again, it is not the actual training your receive, it is what you do with it. Do you take action?

Or, do those notes get buried in your training folder or, if paper notes, are they sitting in a pile of other notes in your office. For training to be worthwhile and benefit you and your firm, you must take action.

  • A "deliverable" isn't worth much, including all training. It's the result of the deliverable, the outcome, that may be valuable (which is seldom true of training when it isn't supported on the job). Most training is just to get a "ticket stamped" on the way to other positions.
  • Alan Weiss

Thursday, May 5th, 2022

Committees

“I am not a committee.” —Princess Leia, The Empire Strikes Back

As May the 4th was yesterday, the above quote via Princess Leia caught my attention. Can you believe that Star Wars was released 45 years ago on May 25?

Anyway, back on topic. When I hear the word “Committee” in a CPA firm, I cringe. Please keep in mind that your firm is a business, not a non-profit. Trying to manage by committee will just slow you down and create confusion and power struggles.

Establish a management structure with a qualified, inspired Managing Partner and a professional, skilled, efficient Firm Administrator (Practice Manager) to carry out the routine duties of managing the business.

Occasionally, you might need to establish a Task Force to focus on one specific area or initiative. The best thing about a task force is that it is not ongoing. It completes its duty and disbands. Also, keep in mind how much non-productive time many partners spend if you have them on various committees. The pandemic has shown us just how much people hate meetings!

Major issues such as mergers or firing a partner would, of course, require full participation by the ownership group but day-to-day the “other” partners need to be bringing in business, serving clients, and mentoring staff.

  • If you want to kill any idea in the world, get a committee working on it.
  • Charles Kettering

Wednesday, May 4th, 2022

Together or Apart?

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford

In the world of CPA firm management in a multi-partner firm, the best possible thing that can happen is ALL partners are on the same page.

Sounds simple, right? If you live in a multi-partner firm, you know that it is a distant dream or even a fantasy. It is only natural that individuals have different wants and desires.

If you have two or three partners, things run fairly smoothly. If you have hundreds of partners, they stay out of management and focus on clients and mentoring staff. It is the six to 15 partner groups where I see the most discord.

For years consultants have been advising partner groups that if the majority is in favor of a certain initiative, those not in favor must leave the partner meeting or retreat and act as if they are fully on board with the decision. Does that happen? Rarely.

With two or three partners, decisions are made and acted upon. Four to 15, or so, partners, discord happens. Of course, as the firm expands, it is very important for leadership to know and understand the partners’ preferences and be able to lobby or politic to get the result that is best for the firm.

As the business world has changed, some partners are even outplaced or asked to retire early. I hope things are going smoothly at your firm. Don’t fear confrontation and deal with problems as they arise. The longer you ignore important issues, the quicker your firm will fall behind.

“May the 4th be with you.”

  • Do or do not. There is no try.
  • Yoda

Monday, April 25th, 2022

The Managing Partner (CEO)

“If you are the CEO, you are the brand.” — George Farris

The above quotation inspired this post. If you are the Managing Partner, you are the brand.

CPA firms operate under the partnership model even if they are not legally a partnership. There is a group of owners, usually titled partners. They elect one partner to take on the role of Managing Partner (MP), meaning he/she is the person charged with managing and leading the firm.

Larger firms have mostly evolved to a more structured system where an executive committee, led by the MP, deals with most firm management decisions. But, the majority of firms in the U.S. are considered smaller and the MP leads the firm. The role has great responsibility but yet, the other partners still want to be involved in almost everything! Still, the MP is expected to be out and about in the community being the visible “face” of the firm. The MP is on various community and charitable boards, attends many civic events, and speaks at various venues when given the opportunity. The MP really does generate and develop a brand for the firm.

Something I have often heard from MPs is the fact that they have become the firm’s MP because no one else wanted the job! Makes me sad. It is such an opportunity if you do it right, for the individual and for the firm. A great MP should be rewarded substantially because of the management duties plus they are expected to have a significant client load. They should be bringing in business and passing it along to other partners.

My simple reminder today is that as MP, you should never lose sight of the fact that you have a responsibility to build the firm brand. The firm brand determines how many clients you will attract and how many accounting graduates and other prospective employees decide to join the firm.

If you want to learn more about the role, there is a great webinar coming up on May 3 titled, The Role of the ManagingPartner: A Guide for Managing Partners to Achieve Greatness for Their Firms. It is via CPA Leadership Institute and presented by Gary Adamson.

  • It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.
  • Warren Buffett

Friday, April 22nd, 2022

Little Things – Flashback Friday

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” – John Wooden

The client assumes you are accurate in your work. Little things matter to them. That is why a handwritten note can make such a big impression. Read this Flashback post about some powerful words.

  • If you can't do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.
  • William H. McRaven

Thursday, April 21st, 2022

Marketing – Defender of the Brand

“Marketing involves making a promise and keeping it.” – Seth Godin

A post from Seth Godin that, to me, is so important for CPAs. This is for all the dedicated, hardworking CPA firm marketers. Is the firm delivering what you expect? The following is his post from April 20th:

Defender of the brand

Some CMOs and marketing types simply do ads and promo. Give them average products for average people and some money, and they’ll do the ad thing.

And some are actually marketers. Marketing involves making a promise and keeping it. Marketers understand that your logo isn’t a brand, it’s simply a flag. The brand is the experience that people expect to have when they engage with you. It’s your benefit of the doubt.

If you’re that kind of marketer, you quickly come to learn that the single most important part of your job is being sure that you make great products and services. Because sooner or later, the experience is the brand. Sooner or later, the story you tell needs to be true.

Which means…

That your main job is persuading the people you work with to ship great stuff. No junk. No shortcuts.

If you are not the defender of the brand, who is?

  • Investigate. Innovate. And then communicate.
  • George Farris

Wednesday, April 6th, 2022

Insights From the CEO of GM

The best way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing” – Walt Disney

Mary Barra is the CEO of General Motors. In her 38 years at GM, Barra has been an executive assistant, plant manager, product developer, and HR leader, among other roles before she became CEO.

In an interview with Adam Grant at The Wharton School, she shared some insights on leadership at a past Wharton People Analytics Conference.

  • Ask for feedback from your staff
  • Meet to discuss, not to disseminate information
  • Simplify your message
  • Remember to effect change: Benefits>Effort
  • Know your business
  • Win both hearts and minds
  • Align on values
  • Lead culture with behaviors

This list alone should be helpful to you but be sure to read the article to learn about her comments on each of these insights.

I admire leaders who work their way up in an organization. I believe they have greater insight and knowledge about the people and the organization they now lead.

  • Believe you can, and you’re halfway there.
  • Theodore Roosevelt

Monday, April 4th, 2022

Does This Non-Word Apply?

“Anytime you see a turtle up on top of a fence post, you know he had some help.” – Unknown

Occasionally, I reprint a blog post from Seth Godin. Today is one of those days. To me, it has meaning to those of us working for or with CPAs.

ANYTIMED – by Seth Godin

It’s not a word, but perhaps it should be.

If a competitor goes after your customers by offering them faster service, all day and all night, you’ve been anytimed.

And if your boss, fearing that event, or simply trying to boost output for free, pushes you to be available all hours of the day and night, you’re being anytimed as well.

The market wants convenience and speed and price. Anytimed is a side effect of that race.

Do you want to be anytimed by your clients? Maybe part of onboarding a client is the time to set some boundaries.

Are you anytimed by your boss (partner or manager)? So many CPA team members feel like they are actually “on-call” day and night, 7 days per week, especially in tax season. Maybe it is time for employers to establish boundaries and stick to them.

  • Anywhere, anytime ordinary people are given the chance to choose, the choice is the same: freedom, not tyranny; democracy, not dictatorship; the rule of law, not the rule of the secret police.
  • Tony Blair