Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

Tuesday, May 17th, 2022

Civility

“Play fair. Don’t hit people. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.” – Robert Fulghum, author of All I Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

As you become a manager and then a partner in your firm, if you want to be viewed as an inspiring leader, you better be practicing civility.

There is solid research behind this. This is from Christine Porath via HBR:

“For the last 20 years, I’ve studied the costs of incivility, as well as the benefits of civility. Across the board, I’ve found that civility pays. it enhances your influence and performance and is positively associated with being perceived as a leader.”

Leaders need to demonstrate respect. According to recent studies, being treated with respect was more important to employees than recognition, appreciation, inspiring visions, or even learning opportunities.

Be sure to read the informative article.

  • Politeness is the art of choosing your thoughts.
  • Madame De Stael

Monday, May 9th, 2022

Mistakes Happen

“The public seldom forgive twice.” – Johann Kaspar Lavater

When I first joined a CPA firm, I was actually amazed at the lengths the partners and staff went to assure that the work they did for the clients was absolutely correct. At that point in my life, my work experience had always demanded: “do it right the first time.”

In the accounting firm, my administrative work was proofed and reviewed. The work performed by the accountants was checked, reviewed, corrected, reviewed again, (corrected again, if need be), quality reviewed, and then checked by a partner before they signed off. I was amazed at the review steps that were part of everyday life in an accounting firm.

I was, and still am, puzzled by the fact that more focus isn’t put on doing it right the first time. When things are checked and reviewed so much, I imagine it is easy to hurry through a task and just hope your reviewer will catch any mistakes.

Once in a great while, a mistake happens. Oh, no! It is a small mistake and you have all experienced them. It is usually the wrong address used when mailing something. A simple typo in a communication to a client. A label affixed to an envelope that is crooked (remember, everything going to a client must be perfect, it is the little things that matter). Have you ever mailed a tax organizer to a dead person? The family is not pleased.

However, rarely, a more major mistake slips through the review process. The client brings it to your attention. You apologize profusely to the client and go about correcting the error. They seem to understand. They are loyal and forgiving. They don’t even consider leaving the firm.

That is why making mistakes when serving CPA firm clients is so rare and why so much caution is applied to the processes. Because if you make another mistake with that same client, you will probably lose the client and damage the firm reputation.

Keep today’s quotation, above, in mind and develop training methods that encourage your team to do it right the first time.

  • If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?
  • John Wooden

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

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022

The Last Days

“The digital age was dragging older lawyers like the Boones into the world of paperless files and storage, and not a minute too soon … Why destroy so many trees to produce much paper that becomes useless almost as fast as it is filed away?” – Author: John Grisham

There is a good article via Accounting Today titled, Frontier: The last days of paper.

Almost always, when I talk with clients and prospects they hesitantly disclose that they are only partially paperless. This paperless tend has been evolving for nearly twenty-five years and still some firms are hesitant to fully embrace the digital world.

The arguments are:

  • We have several older partners (and employees) that are just not ready to give up the paper.
  • We have many clients who demand we give them a paper copy.
  • We have many clients who want a digital copy AND a paper copy.
  • Some tax returns are just too complex to review on-screen.
  • And, the classic excuse: I just like the feel of paper.

I am sure you can add some excuses to this list. But, 2022 is the year, the year to fully embrace the digital world. Are you even offering your clients a paperless method of payment? Look at your competitor’s website. I bet they have a “Pay us here” selection where clients can easily pay without writing a check.

Are you still providing paper tax organizers? Paper tax organizers consume a huge amount of paper (and time and effort). Are you paying your bills via Bill.com or something similar? I receive checks from many of my clients issued via Bill.com. Bill.com also recently acquired Invoice2go this past September. There is more information on that acquisition here.

During the last couple of years, you have made great strides in becoming paperless (because you were forced into it). Make 2022 the year to take the final steps into the digital world.

  • There are three classes of men; the retrograde, the stationary, and the progressive.
  • Johann Kaspar Lavater

Thursday, April 28th, 2022

Another Season Unfolds

“Do not listen to those who weep and complain, for their disease is contagious.” Og Mandino

The team and partners have been very busy. Now, they have more time to think about what is going on around them. You might hear comments like:

  • I have a lot more charge hours than Joe. I wonder if I am paid more than Joe?
  • How can the firm expect us to do our best work when it is always so hot in the office?
  • How can the firm expect us to do our best work when it is always so cold in the office?
  • I mostly work from home, I miss out on the treats people bring into the office.
  • Sally is always late and then she eats breakfast in the lunchroom before she starts to work.
  • Ted actually exits out the rear entrance at 3:00 when the partners are away from the office.
  • The people working in the office get a lot more training than I do.
  • Why do I have to come into the office two days per week?
  • Susie and Joyce Admin chat at the front desk for a half-hour every morning!
  • The firm does so much for people with families. I am single. What special stuff do I get?
  • Joe Partner always leaves such a mess around the coffee machine.

Tax season is over (for now). It is the Dealing With People Season. It always makes me think of Seinfeld:

Elaine: I will NEVER understand people.

Jerry: They’re the worst.

Some of these complaints might seem extreme to you but I bet you can tell me even better “stories” about people complaining. Good luck with Dealing With People Season!

  • Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, and most do.
  • Dale Carnegie

Tuesday, April 12th, 2022

Why Do You Stay?

“People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining.” – Stephen Hawking

I have heard a similar story many times during my years of talking with CPA firm team members.

I am often asked to counsel an employee working in a CPA firm. They tell me things. Sometimes I hear things via an upward feedback survey interview or at a conference. It involves a certain team member sharing somewhat of a horror story with me.

They tell me that they never hear a partner say thank you. They are not recognized or appreciated for their hard work and dedication. Any kind of formal feedback never happens. Many leaders are unprofessional, distant, grumpy, unhappy, unappreciative, self-centered, short-tempered, greedy, weird, crazy, and sometimes even worse. They (the leaders/partner) will not change and embrace current trends.

When I ask the obvious question, “Why do you stay?” I get similar and somewhat surprising answers.

  • They don’t mean to be rude.
  • They are really very busy and can’t help themselves.
  • I like the location, it is close to my home.
  • They pay me fairly.
  • I like my co-workers.
  • I like my clients.
  • They do provide some flexibility,
  • I can’t make this much money somewhere else.

I wonder if they just like to complain. At one time, I had one of those “No Whining” signs in my office because I really heard more whining than complaining.

Has it just become part of the firm culture? And, the validity of those complaints can’t be serious or why would they stay?

Be sure to work on the culture at your firm. If you don’t focus on it and continually work on it, it will form on its own and might not be something you are proud of.

  • That I be not as those are who spend the day in complaining of headache and the night in drinking the wine which gives the headache!
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Thursday, April 7th, 2022

Dress Appropriately

“Elegance is a question of personality, more than one’s clothing.” — Jean-Paul Gaultier

People are beginning to return to offices. They have become accustomed to wearing sweatpants, flip-flops pajama bottoms, etc. Now they are faced with wearing something that doesn’t have an elastic waist!

I recently discovered that Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, when she was HR leader at the company, reduced their several-page dress code to two words: Dress appropriately.

If you are a plumber, you dress appropriately for your work. If a plumber showed up at my door dressed to run a marathon. I would not be impressed.

I went to see a dentist once, in an emergency situation, he was not dressed like my regular dentist dressed and he actually seemed creepy to me.

Many CPA firms before the pandemic embraced a dress appropriately policy. I think that is a good policy and should be continued. But, has “appropriately” changed in light of the remote work world? Try to determine what your clients will think of you and dress appropriately.

  • The way you dress is an expression of your personality.
  • Alessandro Michele

Tuesday, April 5th, 2022

Hard Work

“Winners embrace hard work. They love the discipline of it, the trade-off they’re making to win. Losers, on the other hand, see it as punishment. And that’s the difference.” – Lou Holtz

I agree with the above quote by Lou Holtz. If you want to be successful and reap financial rewards, hard work is part of the equation.

We, working in the CPA profession, know about hard work. It is part of a professional career whether you are a CPA, a lawyer, an engineer, or a medical professional.

It is also hard work to be working in technical support, as an Amazon distribution employee, or as an employee of a construction company.

No matter what the career path, hard work pays off. I feel like I am a good example. I worked long hours when I was at a firm, not only during tax season but all year long. I enjoyed the challenge and appreciated the knowledge I gained. I loved it.

Make sure you enjoy or even love, the work you do and it really doesn’t seem like hard work. As Holtz says, if you work hard, you just might become a winner. If you see your work as punishment, get another job.

  • It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it.
  • Lou Holtz

Friday, April 1st, 2022

Be Proactive With Your Clients

“If you expect nothing from somebody you are never disappointed.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

I admire firms that are proactive with their clients. Here is this week’s Flashback Friday post about a firm that is proactive.

It’s Friday. Quit working at 4:00 pm!

  • Simplify, simplify.
  • Henry David Thoreau

Monday, March 28th, 2022

I Like Living.

“We’ve greatly exaggerated the risk of sinking, without celebrating the value of swimming.” – Seth Godin

For many CPA teams this time of year, every day is another workday. The hours, days, weeks seem to be getting longer and longer.

However, in recent years, firms have taken great strides to alleviate the dark cloud of tax season that hangs over their employees’ heads. I honestly believe that CPA firms, despite the many due dates, are wonderful places to work and expand your career. When I was working inside a firm, I enjoyed tax season because everyone was focused on providing awesome service to the clients. They were focused on helping people. That’s what CPAs do.

The drudgery involved has a lot to do with attitude and attitude is the one thing you only can control. So many people are less fortunate than CPA firm teams.

The following quote from Agatha Christie’s autobiography is sure meaningful to me and I hope it is to you. Being alive is a grand thing!

“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly despairing, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing. – Agatha Christie

The following from Seth Godin should guide us in hiring:

“The actual differentiator in just about every job is attitude. From plumbers to carpenters to radiologists to pharmacists, someone with extraordinary soft skills (honesty, commitment, compassion, resilience, enrollment in the journey, empathy, willingness to be coached… the real skills that we actually care about) is going to outperform. If this is so obviously true, then why don’t organizations hire for attitude and train for expertise?

  • Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don't need to escape from.
  • Seth Godin