Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

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

Thursday, March 17th, 2022

Finding Time

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” — William Penn

When you work in the CPA profession whether you are a CPA, a firm administrator/practice manager, an HR director, a marketing director, or a technology specialist, you are always busy. Very busy. It is the nature of the CPA profession. So much to do and so little time.

You want to do more things to improve your life, like exercise, read, spend more time with family, etc. But for some reason, you just can’t find the time.

You may have missed it. So, take a couple of minutes and read this interesting post by Daniel Hood (@AccountingEdit), the Editor-in-Chief of Accounting Today, titled Carving Up The Day. I think you will be able to relate!

  • All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
  • J.R.R. Tolkien

Thursday, March 10th, 2022

Clients Refusing Technology

“I think that technology is much more mysterious to the people using it than, say, the automobile was. This isn’t an original observation, but a lot of the smart devices people rely on now really do feel like magic to a lot of us.” – Author: Charlie Jane Anders

Firms are finally beginning to see some progress in clients adapting to technology. Clients are (although it has been slow) finally accepting a copy of their tax return via SafeSend and other digital methods.

My clients and other firms I know are still often offering a paper copy if a client requests it. Maybe it is time to stop this practice. The world is becoming more digital.

If your firm is to grow and prosper, it has to have some standards and reap the benefits of the expense they spend on technology. In these times of difficulty finding workers, technology helps you get more done with fewer people. Give your clients a “next year warning.” Something like, “Next year we will not be furnishing paper copies.”

As with almost everything inside a CPA firm, there will be some exceptions – but PLEASE limit the exceptions. If a client is elderly, ask permission to send their return to a relative who can assist with printing. Most computer-adverse older people have someone who helps them navigate technology.

Will you lose a few clients? Probably. But when they go to another CPA firm they will find that firm also delivers only digital copies. (That’s my dream, anyway!)

  • The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
  • Mark Twain

Tuesday, March 8th, 2022

Exceptions & Rules

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

You expended a lot of effort in establishing the firm’s paperless processes/procedures. Most of your partners follow the rules. For some partners, you do this and that – print things off, provide paper, etc. How will you get ahead by making so many exceptions to the rules?

My grandson, Sam, when he was at that pre-school age always had a question. That question was, “Is that a rule?” For example – Grandma says, “Sam, please put your shoes in the closet.” Sam asked, “Is that a rule?” When I say yes, it was a rule. He mildly said, okay and put his shoes in the closet. Evidently, his mom and dad stressed that there were certain rules for behavior.

There are certain rules for behavior in CPA firms, too. Is it a rule that we review on screen? Yes, it is a rule. Is it a rule that we have our time in by 9:00 am the following day? Yes, it is a rule. Is it a rule that we have our billings done by the 5th of the month? Yes, it is a rule. You get the drift.

Firms make too many exceptions. Once my IT Manager said something that has stuck with me over the years. He said, “We are governed by rules but we operate by exception.” Oh, my! Don’t operate your firm by exception.

I advise my clients to not establish rules if they are going to break them. Partners will agree in a meeting to a specific process/procedure/guideline and then some leave the meeting with no intention of following that “rule.” A prime example is: We will stop work at 90 days if a client has not paid our fee. If partners cannot truly agree don’t establish the rule – policy – procedure.

I love the quote, above, by Lou Holtz. I had the wonderful experience of hearing him speak several years ago. It was one of the most motivating speeches I have ever heard.

  • If you obey all the rules you'll miss all the fun.
  • Katherine Hepburn

Tuesday, March 1st, 2022

Wanting To Be Served

“We live in the age of entitlement, as opposed to enlightenment.” – Bill Bailey

Do you need to listen to a parenting expert? Yes.

As John Rosemond, a widely-read parenting expert wrote this a few years ago:

People with high self-esteem want to be paid attention to and served. They believe in their entitlement. On the other hand, folks with high regard for others pay attention to others and look for opportunities to serve them.

It is unarguable that culture is best served, preserved, and advanced by folks who fit into the latter category. Entitlements weaken, and a culture-wide entitlement mentality weakens the entire culture. Along these lines, every single manager, employer, and supervisor with whom I’ve talked in the last decade or so has told me that today’s young college graduates, by and large, are not looking for work; rather, they are looking for benefits packages (i.e. entitlements).

I must admit, I have heard from many CPA firm partners that they have some partners who are definitely on the high self-esteem wagon, demanding attention and not caring about the feelings of others. Think about the future if ALL of your partners were without humility and a sense of caring for others.

Set the example for your entire team by always demonstrating a high regard for others. Counsel others, if you need to, about their attitude of entitlement (wanting to be served).

  • It is true that, when an entitlement begins to be enjoyed by people, they like to keep it.
  • Jon Kyl