Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

Your Mentor

“Do your little bit of good where you are. It’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu

If you are working in the CPA profession, should have a mentor. I don’t care if you are a 50-something partner (or 60-something), find someone who will tell you the trust and work on improving yourself.

Don’t rely on your mentor. You should seek out their help if you need it. I love this story from Stephen R. Covey:

“When I was just 20 years old, I served as an assistant to the president of an organization. One time I asked him, “Why don’t you ever give me any feedback? You never tell me if you like my speeches.” And he said, “Do you want to be dependent upon me? You know within yourself what’s happening. If you want some help, you just ask me. I’m here. “From then on, I was free of the president. I didn’t have to worry about his reaction. He never praised me or blamed me, but if I wanted help, he’d give it. So I would ask him, “What do you think of this.” He served me as a source of help.”

 

  • The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
  • Gandhi

Thursday, September 13th, 2018

GOFER or NOT?

 “In business, what’s dangerous is not to evolve.” – Jeff Bezos

Is your firm administrator (aka, Practice Manager) a gofer or a take-charger?

Many CPA firms have various titles for the person this person. Often it depends on the size of the firm. It could be an office manager, executive assistant, firm administrator, director of administration, chief operating officer, practice manager, and others.

No matter what the title, the mission is the same, to save partners valuable time. What the partners do with that “saved” time is a topic for another day.

It is an executive position and, over time, takes complete responsibility for the operations of the firm. This means everything that goes on behind the scenes. Most Practice Manager job descriptions are quite expansive and include processes, procedures, human resources, financial activities, marketing, facilities, and technology. If you need a sample job description, let me know.

If your managing partner is using this person as a gofer (someone who just does what they are told and immediately reports back), you’ve got it all wrong.

It is a take-charge position and if you have someone who is happy being a gofer, you’ve got the wrong person.

If you are in this role and not operating at a take-charge level, don’t hesitate to speak up and ask for more responsibility, training, and education. So much is available via the CPA Firm Management Association.

  • Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.
  • Steve Jobs

Friday, September 7th, 2018

A CPA Partner’s Primary Mission – Flashback Friday

“Make each day your masterpiece.” – John Wooden

If you are a partner in a CPA firm or if you want to be a partner in a CPA firm, one simple act can set the tone for the entire culture of the firm. Set a good example.

As I talk with firm administrators, practice managers, marketing directors, HR directors and staff inside CPA firms around the country, almost all tell me that the people who do not follow the processes and guidelines are the partners.

Here is a post from 2016 about setting a good example. Are you a Dynamo or a Cruiser?

  • Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.
  • John Wooden

Thursday, September 6th, 2018

Three Factors in Effective Firm Management from Koltin

“If the role of managing partner isn’t valued, don’t give up your day job.” – Alan Koltin

KoltinLast evening I watched a short video via the Journal of Accountancy by Alan Koltin. He is so right-on, I loved it. I hope you’ll take just two and one-half minutes to learn about three factors in effective firm management.

I have observed that so many firms have little respect for the role of managing partner. Some even think that it is something the person designated should do in their spare time.

There are many factors of success in managing an accounting firm but Koltin has featured the big three:

  1. Talent
  2. Setting management up for success (authority)
  3. Valuing the role

Watch the video or read the transcript here.

  • Instead of being a speedboat, often you are like the Titantic.
  • Alan Koltin

Thursday, August 30th, 2018

Silence

“Sometimes you don’t have to say anything. Silence speaks it all.” – Disha Patani

During each day, you get an enormous amount of questions.

You are the firm administrator. It seems like people are lined up outside your office door continually as the day evolves.

You are the managing partner. A client calls and expects an answer on the spot. A partner stops you in the hall and asks a question. Your firm administrator needs an answer right away!

Partners and managers get questions from staff. Staff members get questions from each other. It seems everyone asking questions think YOU must have an easy and quick answer.

Try a little silence. In appropriate situations, just remain silent and the person asking the question just might answer it themselves.

If you are stopped in the hallway and asked a question say: “Let me think about that and I’ll get back to you.” Often, people catch you off guard and it is much safer to deflect, think and then reply.

Delay doesn’t mean days or weeks, it means minutes or hours.

One of the main insights I receive from staff is that they often wait on answers from partners (mostly regarding client work) for days, weeks and sometimes months.

  • He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.
  • Elbert Hubbard

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

Working Remotely Works

“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” – Joseph Campbell

I recently noticed a discussion on the CPAFMA discussion board. Someone wanted guidance on designing a remote work policy.  Some firms are really strict about having a documented agreement that outlines the do’s and don’ts of staff working remotely.

I thought a great reply was provided by my friend, Donna Marlarkey, Firm Administrator for KWC in Alexandria, Virginia. The firm doesn’t stress that working remotely is a privilege, it is something offered to everyone. Here is Donna’s reply to the question.

donnaWe have so many staff who work remotely… some even work from other states (we have them in NC, Colorado, North Dakota and Rhode Island). Our staff loves the flexibility of working from home when they need to. We try not to get wound up in whether it is a right or a privilege… as long as the employee is getting their work done.

The courtesy is extended to everyone… from Partners to our administrative staff (to the extent admin staff has work they can do remotely, like billing, setting up new clients, etc.). We are on a cloud and we are mostly paperless, so working from home is no different than working here at the office. We do ask that they update the EIO board to let us know when they intend to work from home so that we can plan for it (the EIO board “electronic in/out” status site that we use to know where our staff are and what their schedule is). 

I had lunch with someone the other day who used to be with BB&T and they worked under the presumption it was a privilege. They made staff sign annual statements that showed their kids were enrolled in daycare, and they had some kind of program that could tell by the lack of keystrokes whether someone was working or not… if someone was home “working” they were supposed to be working, not going to the store, doing laundry, etc.

Our firm takes the position that we want to be competitive, so we want our staff to have options to have work/life balance, so again, as long as the work is getting done, we let them control their schedule. It’s surprising how many of our young staff prefer to work at really odd hours… they will log in at 10:00 at night when they are most productive! 

I wish you all the best with coming up with an agreement that works for you and your firm.

I agree with Donna – I also wish you much success in offering remote work opportunities to your staff.

  • Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.
  • Voltaire

Friday, August 24th, 2018

Flashback Friday – Keep Focused

“Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day.” – Jim Rohn

As you become more experienced you might get distracted by various activities outside the firm. Don’t take your eye off the ball. 

Have a great week-end.

  • If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.
  • Jim Rohn

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018

Fight Your Urge to Procrastinate

“Indecision and delays are the parents of failure.” – George Canning

You are working your way through some strategic planning with your partners. An item comes up that has been discussed on many occasions. One or more participants might say:

  • “Let’s put that one in the parking lot for later.”
  • “It is too late in the year to take that one on.”
  • “We can’t deal with that now, let’s wait until after tax season.”

It is the procrastination dance that many accountants know all too well.

From Psychology Today:

Everyone puts things off until the last minute sometimes, but procrastinators chronically avoid difficult tasks and deliberately look for distractions. Procrastination in large part reflects our perennial struggle with self-control as well as our inability to accurately predict how we’ll feel tomorrow, or the next day. “I don’t feel like it” takes precedence over goals; however, it then begets a downward spiral of negative emotions that deter future effort.

Procrastinators may say they perform better under pressure, but more often than not that’s their way of justifying putting things off. The bright side? It’s possible to overcome procrastination—with effort. Perfectionists are often procrastinators; it is psychologically more acceptable to never tackle a task than to face the possibility of falling short on performance.

I hope you quickly address items that need to be resolved. Either deal with it or take it off the table permanently.

  • Procrastination is the bad habit of putting of until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.
  • Napoleon Hill

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

Hold People Accountable

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

If your partners and managers do a poor job of giving feedback, a culture of accountability probably does not exist.

Many accountants (because they are nice people) are uncomfortable giving feedback even when it is needed desperately.

If you procrastinate on giving feedback when people don’t meet deadlines or are not punctual, others observe and assume deadlines can be pushed back a week and it’s okay to be late for a staff meeting.

The more feedback you give, the easier it becomes. Make it part of your daily MBWA (manage by wandering around).

This also applies to partners and managers. They must be accountable to those they supervise. I have always been fond of a partner commitment statement I learned from Sam Allred: “I will do what I say I will do, on time, without reminders.”

  • Leaders don't create followers, they create more leaders.
  • Tom Peters

Friday, August 17th, 2018

Flashback Friday – What’s In It For Me?

“You have to water the flowers you want to grow.” – Stephen Covey

If you are considering taking on the role of Mentor. Or, if you are a Mentee looking for a Mentor – what’s in it for you?

Here’s a post from 2016 that explains the benefits of both roles.

Have a great weekend!

  • To add value to others, one must first value others.
  • John Maxwell