Archive for the ‘Lighten Up’ Category

Thursday, October 15th, 2020

October 15

“This isn’t a hospital! It’s an insane asylum! And it’s your fault!” – – Sally Kellerman (Hot Lips) in MASH (1970).  Substitute the word firm for hospital.

For many CPA firms, you are down to the wire on extended individual income tax returns and all of the activity that surrounds that huge event.

Clients were late providing their information while still expecting immediate attention. They are often just plain rude to your Director of First Impressions. Partners have high expectations of the tax team, partners and the tax team have almost unreasonable expectations of the administrative team. Yet, you all pull through and give the best service possible.

Happy October 15th!

  • Be sincere; be brief; be seated.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

Relax. Enjoy.

“May we think of freedom not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.” – Peter Marshall

You and your team have been working so hard and tax season has certainly been a long one and it’s not over yet.

I hope you can take time off and enjoy this 3-day weekend!

Have a safe and enjoyable 4th of July.

  • The essence of America—that which really unites us—is not ethnicity, or nationality or religion—it is an idea—and what an idea it is: That you can come from humble circumstances and do great things.
  • Condoleezza Rice

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

People Problems

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.” – Kurt Vonnegut

I wrote the following article for the June issue of my newsletter. If you are not on the mailing list, you can sign-up here.

If you are on the mailing list and are not receiving my newsletter, check your spam folder. Some people are reporting that is where they find their issue.

I heard from several readers that they really enjoyed this article and could definitely relate. Here are some of the comments:

I just wanted to send you a note, I usually don’t get to read your newsletter the same day you send it, but boy am I thankful I did…..the People Problems – that’s me!!!!!!!!

I LOVE your article!!!  It made me roll with laughter.  I resemble the PM in the role as the’ air conditioner adjusting monitor’.  Had I only had the fortitude to be more like the maintenance person. 

So true. As a firm administrator that also takes care of
our 25 person office, I can relate so much! Smiles for the day!

People Problems

You got the job! You are now the CPA firm’s Practice Manager (COO/Firm Administrator). You will be “in” on all the management activities of the firm, deal directly with all the partners and be on the front line dealing with operations and people. You know you will be good at it because you really like people.

A year later, you finally admit you really don’t like people! 

Of course, this is an exaggeration. But, the people game is a very complicated and frustrating game inside accounting firms.

As Practice Manager (and sometimes it is the managing partner), you deal with problems and, most of these problems are caused by people. The vast majority of the problems are not anything serious. Actually, most problems are rather petty. 

Here’s a classic story (and a true one). It’s a story of trying to please everyone and, as you know, that’s not possible!

In a mid-size CPA firm, the bookkeeping department (or CAS as they call it now) is staffed by five females ranging in age from thirty to fifty-five. The members of this group cannot agree on the room temperature. It is always too hot or too cold. They continually complain to the Practice Manager about the heating/air conditioning. 

One member of the team says it is too cold in their area. The Practice Manager asks the building maintenance man to adjust it for them. So he brings in a ladder, opens a section of the ceiling and, adjusts the heating/cooling for that area. They agree that it is much better and they are all happy, for a while.

A week or two later, a different member of that team reports that it is way too hot in their area. The maintenance man goes through the same exercise. Over the period of six months, he repeats it several times and after each adjustment for a while, they are all happy.  

The Practice Manager is kept in the loop by the maintenance man. Finally, the PM asks, “Don’t you get aggravated with having to adjust the heating/cooling all the time with that group?” His reply, “I don’t adjust anything. I just get up in the ceiling and pretend I’m doing something, then they are all pleased for a while.”

Practice Managers in accounting firms have similar and unique personalities and characteristics. They enjoy the challenge of dealing with problems, solving them and, also dealing with the many people problems with patience and perseverance. And yes, they really do like people.

The problem in this example was, at least temporarily, solved by having everyone working remotely. They could control their own thermostats. Many new and unforeseen problems and challenges are now being faced by the practice manager as the firm begins to bring people back into the office.

The following quote is attributed to the poet John Lydgate and later adapted by President Lincoln: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

Don’t Let This Be Your Plan

“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.” – Peter F. Drucker

I recently read a Facebook post intended make fun of a plan to re-open a state. We have to smile and keep our sense of humor in these COVID-19 times.

It immediately reminded me of partners’ strategic plan that comes from a two-day retreat of discussing and re-discussing the same topics they talked about last year at the retreat.

I have modified the original post to fit a CPA firm, just for your amusement.

We have identified a 6 phase strategic plan. The plan will be a phased plan that we will plan to utilize in phases. The phases will be planned and the planning will be phased. We will move quickly and slowly to change but will remain the same. We have created a staff of staffers who will plan the phase and planning while phasing their phases. And that is our phased and planned strategic plan.

  • Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.
  • Peter F. Drucker

Saturday, April 11th, 2020

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – Time for something off-topic

John Prine passed this week from COVID-19. It makes me so sad.

Here is my favorite John Prine song. It will make you laugh. Also, listen to “Hello in there” by Prine – it will make you cry.

Saturday, April 4th, 2020

Lighten-Up It’s The Weekend – The First Sign of Civilization

“One of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are when you don’t come home at night.” – Margaret Mead

I saw this on Facebook so who knows if it is correct or not. Still, I think it is very inspiring and we all need some of that right now.

Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about fishhooks or clay pots or grinding stones.

But no. Mead said that the first sign of civilization in ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal.

A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts, Mead said.”

We are at our best when we serve others.  Be civilized.

  • Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.
  • Margaret Mead

Saturday, March 21st, 2020

Weekends – Lighten-Up

“Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things.” – George Carlin

For several years I also wrote a daily post for the weekends. Something that was funny or off-topic. In recent years, I have just stuck with the weekday posts.

Since so many of you are working from home now (like I have done for the last 12 years), you will find that weekends don’t seem much different than weekdays!

So, I will begin posting some flashbacks (and some new observations) so you can lighten-up, it’s the weekend.

Here’s one I hope you like – Is This You?

  • Just cause you got the monkey off your back doesn't mean the circus has left town.
  • George Carlin

Saturday, March 7th, 2020

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend

Wondering if the handshake will become a thing of the past? Maybe the Vulcan greeting sign might be the answer.

  • May I say that I have not thoroughly enjoyed serving with Humans? I find their illogic and foolish emotions a constant irritant.
  • Spock

Monday, February 17th, 2020

Frustration

“If change is happening on the outside faster than on the inside, the end is in sight.” – Jack Welch

We all like to tell our recruits and potential new-hires that “our firm is different”  – – I find that in the hundreds of firms that I have interacted with, nearly all of them have many of the same issues and frustrations.

Are you often frustrated? – “The firm” isn’t changing fast enough. New initiatives often get delayed. Leaders are not setting a good example. People leave messes in the kitchen!

All this reminds me of a story. Stories and quotations inspire me and hopefully, they do the same for you. When I was actively working inside an accounting firm, a friend of mine gave me some good advice. When something really frustrates you just substitute the word fascinated for frustrated.  When you go to get coffee, the pot has about 1/25th of an inch of coffee in it….. isn’t that fascinating?

I could elaborate more fully on the fascination of surviving in a CPA firm. But, the purpose of this blog is to communicate what you can do to make things run smoother, better, faster and more efficient.

I hope you also follow me on twitter:  @cpamanagement.

  • Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.
  • Kurt Vonnegut

Friday, January 10th, 2020

Lighten-Up – It’s Friday

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  • I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.
  • John Adams