Archive for the ‘Process’ Category

Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

Clarity

“If you have drama, there is a lack of clarity at the root.” – Marlene Chism

Yesterday, I wrote about being very clear about what you expect from people. Clearly communicate your expectations.

This morning I read an interesting article by Marlene Chism titled, The Root Cause of Workplace Drama: Lack of Clarity.

She notes, one reason for lack of clarity is failing managers:

There is a reason people do what they do, and that reason is often due to the culture and past experiences. For example, on a consulting project, I found out that the reason managers didn’t make decisions is because they lacked confidence. The reason the managers lacked confidence was because many of their decisions had been overridden by senior leaders. Therefore, the managers feared making mistakes and losing face in front of employees.

She also talks about unsuccessful employees and wrong issues/quick fixes. Read the entire article here.

  • Avoid the tendency to focus on a solution before clearly identifying the problem.
  • Marlene Chism

Monday, January 28th, 2019

Improving Your Processes

“Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.” – – Alfred Adler

In 2018, after busy season, you and many others in your firm worked very hard to focus on your internal processes. Many firm administrators have explored, revisited, revamped, documented and rolled-out improved processes for the 2019 busy season.

Of course, there will need to be tweaking and modification along the way. One of the biggest hurdles for many CPA firm leaders is that they think procedures need to be perfect before they make changes to the old way. Nothing is ever perfect. My most important piece of advice for making your firm better is DO THINGS!

As your team works through the new, improved processes, make adjustments immediately if the process isn’t working as expected. Never be afraid to fail. You will never move ahead if you don’t have failures.

Be sure you have clearly defined and communicated each process or procedure. Make sure everyone knows exactly what is expected.

I like to share this sample – it is an excellent example of clearly defined steps. It is how to make coffee. Never again can someone in your firm, who left an empty pot on the burner, say, “I don’t know how to make coffee.”

While this is on the lighter side, think about how using this format could help your people more clearly define all of the processes in your firm.

You don’t have to wait until April to work on Action Plans for many of your processes, have the administrative team get started as they come upon challenges during busy season. January through April is also a good time for your tech team, your HR manager and marketing director to better define and clearly document the processes in their areas.

 

  • Do the hard jobs first. The easy jobs will take care of themselves.
  • Dale Carnegie

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

Abundance

With Thanksgiving coming up tomorrow, abundance comes to mind. Most of us have too much….. stuff, food, drink, cars, homes, and more.

Do you have an abundance of rules, regulations, processes, procedures inside your firm? Do you ask your employees to do things that really don’t need to be done?

Often, when we move procedures into a more computerized system, we use the same steps that we used when we did it manually. Encourage people to question WHY they are doing things and make suggestions on a better way.

A meaningful quote by Peter Drucker caused me to write this blog:

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

  • Not what we have but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.
  • Epicurus

Thursday, October 4th, 2018

Winter Weather

“It is only in sorrow bad weather masters us; in joy, we face the storm and defy it.” – Amelia Barr

It is only October but for those CPA firms in the winter weather advisory sections of the country, it means that ice and snow are just around the corner.

Many firms have snow days or inclement weather policies. I asked advice from several firms from across the country and, as I expected, most firms now expect people to work from home on those days. Firms provide remote access to all employees.

Some firms have made the leap to unlimited PTO and, of course, everyone gets paid for those days they are unable to get to the office. Other firms have put a cap on snow days, allowing one day’s pay.

I found that the firms in the areas where there is always significant snow, rarely close the office. All firms stress the safety of the employees and using common sense about tackling a rough commute.

Here’s my favorite system:

We are no longer closing our office for winter weather.  We let individuals decide if they can make it in and if they can’t they can work from home.  All members of the team have remote access.

 

  • Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.
  • John Ruskin

Friday, July 13th, 2018

Think Before You Automate

“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?” – Henry David Thoreau

Your firm is almost paperless. You have been working on it (that’s what many firm leaders tell me) but still some paper flows around the office as tax returns and other client projects are being prepared.

You find an appropriate accounting workflow software and commit to automating the way that work flows through your office. There are several vendors serving the CPA profession. Do your research and find out which one is best for your firm. Both of the prominent CPA profession software vendors have a product.

Then you are anxious to get it up and running so that you can digitally track the work flowing through the office. Move ahead cautiously. Take time to think. Are you planning to simply replicate your current process by using the software?

Before you automate, investigate and eliminate all of the inefficiencies in your current processes. The accounting software will just do what you tell it to do. Form a task force comprised of people from different levels and disciplines involved in the work and streamline the process before you automate it.

Accounting workflow software will help you take a huge step toward becoming a truly digital firm.

 

  • Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.
  • Peter Drucker

Friday, July 6th, 2018

Flashback Friday – Provide Guidance On How To Enter Time

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” – Albert Einstein

If you are a value pricing firm, disregard.  Good for you and I bet you have a lot of happy team members. I also imagine that you have well-trained managers who mentor and guide them through client engagements.

If you are not a value pricing firm, like most of the firms I talk to and work with, I bet you get the questions, “How do we enter our time for traveling to a client location? Is it chargeable or not?”

Here’s a flashback post to help you help your team.

  • No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.
  • Andrew Carnegie

Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

Client Acceptance

“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.” – Nathaniel Branden

A potential new client calls and wants to meet you and possibly hire you and your firm. You are thrilled – a new client!

More and more potential clients are contacting you via your website to inquire about services. You are thrilled – a new client!

They come into the office for a complimentary first meeting. This is where you need to be careful and not be so thrilled.

They talk and talk. You talk and talk. Before you know it you have given them a couple hours of FREE consultation. Because you are a nice person and want to help people you have also probably given them valuable advice on their financial situation without them becoming a client.

Many people who contact you, are not a suitable client for your services. Don’t invest too much time upfront.

Yes, put the word out there that you offer a free one-hour consultation for prospective clients. But, establish a script for that first meeting to learn more about them so you can decide whether they are a suitable candidate for your firm. Don’t accept clients that do not fit your criteria for an “A” client. Your expertise is not a fit for everyone. Invest one hour, no more until they sign the engagement letter.

The establishment of a valid billing and collection policy begins with client acceptance.

  • Acceptance doesn't mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there's got to be a way through it.
  • Michael J. Fox

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

Incentive For New Business – Keep It Simple

“If you look at history, innovation doesn’t come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect.” – Steven Johnson

Many firms, in recent years, have adopted an incentive plan for bringing new business to the firm. It is usually a percentage of fees billed to the new client for the first year of service. Some firms pay a percentage for the first two or three years of service.

The most common ones that I am aware of are 10% of first-year fees or 5% of fees for the first one, two and/or three years.

Some firms require that a certain amount of fees must be billed and even that certain realization levels are accomplished. They also pay the incentive on a delayed schedule – after services are rendered and fees are billed (and collected, in some cases).

Why not be more generous? How motivational is it to make the effort to bring in new business when the reward comes way down the road with lots of stipulations.

At my firm, we paid 10% of first-year fees at the time the initial engagement letter was signed, based on the amount quoted in the engagement letter. We did not pay for individual income tax clients unless they were quoted a fee over $2,000.

The incentive was intended for business clients. If we quoted a range of fees, like many firms do, such as $3,000 – $4,000, we paid the team member 10% of the higher amount. If first-year fees ended up being more than the amount quoted in the engagement letter, we paid the make-up amount after the year-end. This policy did not apply to partners. All that was required is that the team member made the introduction and involved a partner.

Whatever your firm offers, keep it simple and provide more timely gratification to the team member.

Just FYI, we did not pay-out this incentive very often. It didn’t seem to motivate staff and admin very much.

  • You've got to change incentives for good behavior as opposed to just disincentivizing bad behavior.
  • Gavin Newsom

Monday, January 15th, 2018

Doing The Work

“Happiness is not in the mere possession of money, it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Have you examined how work is actually prepared, processed and completed inside your firm lately? You better put it on your list!

Lots of firms have embraced the Lean Six Sigma process and not only improved their workflow and efficiency but have also ignited more passion for the work in their team members.

So many people in CPA firms do things because “that’s the way Joe (partner) wants it” or “Rebecca wants it done this way.”

Today’s workforce wants to be challenged and not simply repeat the same work, the same way, year after year after year.

Managers, and sometimes even partners, cling to work that they have done for years because it’s easy for them and it helps them accumulate billable hours. Identify a less experienced team member and delegate that work. It might not be easy for them but it will help them grow in their career and that’s what builds a top performing team.

Read this great article via HBR – Why People Really Quit Their Jobs.

  • Who you are tomorrow begins with what you do today.
  • Tim Fargo

Monday, November 27th, 2017

Year-End Tax Checklist

“Life is simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius

Well-managed CPA firms have, for a long time, supplied their individual income tax clients with some sort of year-end tax checklist. It is meant to be a helpful tool to encourage the clients to consider significant (and some insignificant) events that might affect their tax return.

At my firm, we used to include the tax checklist with the tax organizer. Many clients, as you can imagine, never bothered to look at their organizer, so they also missed the tax checklist. Then, we stopped providing tax organizers. Our default setting was “No organizer” unless a client specifically requested one. A few did.

Things are so much better now. You can simply send an email to your clients with a link to the annual tax checklist. They can quickly scan through the questions and provide you with information that affects their return.

Last week I received an email from one of my clients that included the year end tax checklist link (just because I am on their mailing list). It was quick to read, easy to review and made me think about pertinent information. That’s exactly how you want your clients to feel about how you provide services – quick, easy and pertinent!

Make 2018 a year when you become a proactive advisor to your clients and get away from always being in reactionary mode.

  • The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.
  • Hans Hofmann