Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

Monday, September 17th, 2018

Due Date Decisions

“You’ve done it before and you can do it now. See the positive possibilities. Redirect the substantial energy of your frustration and turn it into positive, effective, unstoppable determination.” – Ralph Marston

The extended due date is here.

You and your team have been working very hard during a time of year when you should not have to work so hard.

You have those fire-drill clients that almost always hold you hostage right up until the drop-dead extension deadline. It is frustrating. Your team wonders why you put up with these clients.

Why do you? Putting extra strain and frustration on your employees in times where employees are valuable and new ones are difficult to cultivate doesn’t seem like a good plan.

Use this client retention analysis form to help you sort out which clients to outplace.

Or, just ask your employees to vote for 5 clients that they would enjoy seeing gone from the client list.

 

  • Hope fills the holes in my frustration in my heart.
  • Emanuel Cleaver

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018

The Future of Your Firm

Are you, as leaders, doing the right things today to prepare your firm and yourselves for the future?

I love this quote from Marcus Buckingham:

The future isn’t

somewhere you discover.

It’s somewhere you create 

out of the choices

you make today.

As you prepare for your partner retreat, as you enter into the fall season, as you do year-end planning for the firm, as you participate in the fall college recruiting activities…. be sure you make the right choices.

 

  • Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you.
  • John Maxwell

Monday, July 9th, 2018

Is It A Rule or A Guideline?

I have three rules: Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people you care.” – Lou Holtz

Sometimes we get our inspiration from strange places. When I read the following quote from Ghostbusters, it made me think CPAs.

“I make it a rule never to get involved with possessed people… Actually, it’s more of a guideline than a rule.” – Bill Murray, Ghostbusters

It also made me think of my grandson when he was very small. If he was corrected because of some action, he would ask, “Is that a rule?” If we said yes, he was okay with that. I think it is something he learned in preschool. If it is a rule, you follow it.

Inside your firm, do you have rules or guidelines? Maybe we need to actually use the term “rule” more often.

  • It is a rule that every partner must bill out all WIP over $500 by the 2nd day of the following month.
  • It is a rule that our people are punctual in relation to their own behaviors and in serving clients.
  • It is a rule that we send accounts receivable statements to all clients every month, no exceptions.
  • It is a rule that we don’t voice our issues with others, except to them directly and in private.

Then we maybe we have some guidelines:

  • We have a guideline that says we return a client’s phone call the same day.
  • We have a guideline that says we stop work if a client is 90 days past due on payment.

I think you probably have more guidelines than rules. Should some of your guidelines actually be rules? Do you demand that all staff follow the documented workflow processes but partners don’t follow the rules?

Help your staff understand this complicated scenario. How are you dealing with it or are you ignoring it?

One time a CPA firm technology director said to me, “At our firm we have guidelines but we manage by exception.” I usually observe that inside CPA firms, there are way too many exceptions.

 

  • The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

Billing For Administrative Time

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” – Leo Tolstoy

One practice management question that has been asked many times over the years is whether administrative team members should charge their time to a client.

If your firm is still billing by the hour, all employees whether admin team or accounting team should record any time expended on behalf of a client. Whether it is billed or not is up to the discretion of the biller, usually a partner. I have observed that in many firms, most, if not all, of this time is billed.

The accounting firm administrative team spends a great deal of their time on client work. They are providing service on behalf of a client. Serving the client is a valuable and important activity.

Some clients are more “needy” than others and often much of that neediness for service falls to the admin team.

I have also observed that administrative team members focused on client work are usually only about 30-40% chargeable.

 

  • Time has more value than money. You can get more money but you cannot get more time.
  • Jim Rohn

Friday, June 29th, 2018

Flashback Friday – Are You Making Excuses?

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

Do you procrastinate? Be honest.

Read this flashback post from June 2016.

  • I am convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.
  • Steve Jobs

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

Motto or Tagline

Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.
– Henry David Thoreau

Most firms have them. Many firms have them prominently displayed on their website. I am referring to the firm motto or tagline. Most are rather boring. They are things like the following:

  • A Century Strong
  • Improving the lives of our staff, clients and community with innovation, trust and integrity.
  • Collaborative Approach.Practical Advice
  • Go Beyond
  • Serving clients since 1931
  • Strategy Meets Challenges
  • Helping You Meet Your Financial Goals
  • Experience, Financial Clarity and Confidence
  • Uncommon Expertise, Incomparable Service

Read more here. 

Some firms tout their longevity, some their client service and some have just copied something another firm has used. I remember hearing a very prominent managing partner from a very prominent and forward-thinking firm do a presentation on developing core values for his firm. We, the audience, were all very impressed with the list of six or so values and the meaning behind each one. Privately, in a later conversation, I asked him, “How did you come up with the values and meaningful descriptions?” He replied, “Oh, I just found them on the internet.”

Mottos and taglines are also used internally to motivate your entire staff. Maybe you need a different kind of motto for internal use, something that will actually motivate staff, something not so stiff, formal and vague. Here’s a motto, intended as a family motto, that I recently read in a magazine. I love it and think it would be a great motto for your CPA team:

Be kind. Have fun. Work hard. Learn a lot.

Whatever your motto – to make it relevant and truly alive inside your firm you must use it repetitively. Make posters and display them around the office. Engrave it on a paperweight for each person’s desk. Put it on t-shirts and give them out at the firm summer picnic.

My continuing message to all of you: Be kind. Have fun. Work hard. Learn a lot.

  • My motto is: Contented with little, yet wishing for more.
  • Charles Lamb

Monday, June 18th, 2018

Get Moving!

“A plan that starts next week is a comfort to stagnation.” – Dan Rockwell

It is past mid-June. You have conducted your after-tax-season debriefing. You made a list of things to work on for next year. Action steps were discussed.

Many partner groups have already had their retreats. You came out of that session excited about the future and with some definite action steps.

How many steps have you taken? Have you taken even one? Get moving – summer is flying by.

  • I will prepare and some day my chance will come.
  • Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

Grace and Radical Kindness

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” – Fred Rogers

You have heard it and read it over and over again. I am talking about news and conversations about arguments, disagreements, biases, hate, and lack of understanding. Like many, I am very tired of the whole thing. I’m tired of people who can’t seem to tolerate anyone who thinks differently than them.

On a smaller scale, how are things inside your CPA firm? How’s morale? Are people happy? Are there certain people you know NOT to approach at certain times because they are in a bad mood? Are there bossy people, closed-minded people and people who simply don’t want to rock the boat when it involves change? Are there egotistical people or even greedy people?

Maybe it is time for Radical Kindness. That’s the term the Director of the new documentary about Mister Rogers uses to describe him. Here’s an excerpt from a recent article I read in the Dayton Daily News about the film. The director is the filmmaker Morgan Neville:

“I’ve thought a lot about why the film moves people. Fred kind of digested his message down to what I call radical kindness, but Fred himself called it grace. And to him, grace was an idea that could be expressed as – Be good to others, even if they don’t deserve it.”

“Fred saw life as a struggle between fear and love. What we see today, rage and anger and resentment, are the byproducts of fear. What he tried to do was quell that fear in children, to keep them from manifesting those toxic emotions. Fred chose love, and that is his legacy.”

Here is a link to the trailer for the documentary. There is also a movie in the works about Fred Rogers, starring Tom Hanks. It is to be released in 2019.

For now, I hope you act with grace and practice radical kindness.

  • There's no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are."
  • Mister Rogers

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

Lack of Sleep

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.” – Robert Frost

If you are working for a CPA firm, you are working hard. Often, it is fast-paced, challenging, stressful and frustrating – but not all the time. Sometimes, it is slow and boring – but that is rare (my opinion).

You get up early so you can get to the office early so you can have some quiet time before the crowd arrives. Then, you also often stay late for the same reason. You still have home duties and want to spend time with your family so you probably stay up later than you should. You rise at 4:30 or 5:00 and get to bed at 11:00, 11:30 or 12:00. You are definitely not getting enough sleep.

All of this affects your productivity. Some experts have actually noted that showing up for work sleep deprived can be the equivalent of showing up to work intoxicated!

Experts also tell us that you should be getting 7 – 9 hours of sleep per night. I know when I worked in a growing firm, I usually got about 5-1/2 to 6 hours of sleep – for years. Now that I work from home, I can attest that getting 7 hours sleep per night makes a big, positive difference.

Lack of sleep not only affects your productivity at work, it affects your health.

Here’s a good article to share with your team via Fast Company: Why We Can’t Sleep And What It’s Doing to Our Work.

 

  • Sleep is the best meditation.
  • Dalai Lama

Monday, June 4th, 2018

The History of Your Firm

“History never really says goodbye. History says, ‘See you later.'” – Eduardo Galeano

Last week, I was on vacation in Gettysburg, PA. We have always liked history vacations and have done many and it usually involves visiting national parks. The Gettysburg National Military Park is one of our favorites.

We have been to Gettysburg numerous times and we always learn something new and see things we have never seen before. It is because they are continually updating the park and making it more like it was in 1863. They want to make it “real” for visitors.

How much do your people know about the history of your firm? Many firms do have a summary on their website and many do not. Why not make it more real for them?

To help your people better understand the firm and its leaders, try a timeline exercise at your next full-firm meeting (or do a lunch and learn).

Get a large roll of paper and affix a long sheet to a wall in the staff room – make it about 15 to 20 feet wide. Draw a long line and put the date of the firm’s founding at the beginning on the left. Note the current date (month) at the other end of the long line. Then have everyone (using markers) mark on the sheet when they joined the firm. For many firms, it will span several decades. Then have random people talk about “what it was like” when they joined the firm and encourage people to ask questions.

Some very interesting discussions will follow!

Follow this up with another session a month or so later and talk about something even more important – the future.

 

  • I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.
  • Thomas Jefferson