Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

It’s Time to Talk About That Elephant

“You’re not learning anything unless you’re having the difficult conversations.” – Gwyneth Paltrow

Maybe you have already had your annual partner retreat. Did you talk about the elephant in the room?

Maybe your annual retreat is coming up soon. Will you talk about the elephant in the room?

I have been involved in and facilitated many retreats and often, as the old saying goes, it is like pulling teeth to get partners to be completely honest and talk about the elephant.

Whether you are in a partner meeting or in a performance feedback session with a team member, it can be difficult to address those elephants.

Marlene Chism has some great advice for discussing the undiscussables in her article via SmartBrief. She gives some specific, practical advice on how to:

  1. Get out of your head
  2. Get out of the story
  3. Own your stuff
  4. Set a positive intention

Read the article and begin to practice these helpful tools.

  • Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.
  • Ambrose Bierce

Thursday, May 16th, 2019

Client Service and Technology

“The team at your firm needs to know how to provide excellent client service. It should be clear to them what the firm’s expectation is and that you enable each person to provide excellent client service.” – Randy Johnston

I believe that excellent, over-the-top, client service is your best marketing strategy. Your clients will brag about you to others because that kind of client/customer service is rare these days.

I usually visit two groceries on a regular basis. One is huge and offers everything you could possibly need in the grocery category. The other is also a chain but a small, specialized type. The large one offers self-checkout and a few full-service lanes are open even though they have numerous ones that are always closed. The smaller one has no self-checkout. The clerks in the large one rarely talk to you and almost never smile. The clerks in the smaller one are always friendly, talkative and helpful. The large one has cheaper prices. The smaller one is usually slightly higher in price. Which one do I visit the most? You guessed it. Friendly, caring, engaging customer service out-weighs pricing.

Today,  am sending you to an article by Randy Johnston via CPA Practice Advisor. He gives us lots of technology tools to help with awesome client service.

He notes: But most of you who have been in business for a while recognize right away that there is a difference between academic smart, book smart, certification smart, common sense, clever, innovative and practical. 

And: How can we use technology to enable great client service? First, we should define what we want as our client service deliverable. Technology tools can make each client service interaction easier, more seamless and professional.

 

  • Just having satisfied customers isn’t good enough anymore. If you really want a booming business, you have to create raving fans.
  • Ken Blanchard

Thursday, May 9th, 2019

Unplug

 “Tired minds don’t plan well. Sleep first, plan later.” – Walter Reisch

If you work in a public accounting firm, you probably took some time off immediately after April 15th. For many, it is just a day or two and for others, it might be a full week or more. It is something you do every year.

If you are not one of those people, you are probably still intending to take some time off soon. How did (or how will) you spend your time off?

Studies have shown us that to really renew your zest for work, you should unplug from being part of our hyper-connected world even if it is for a few minutes. Did you know that your blood pressure rises when you talk on a mobile phone?

Research has revealed that intensive use of cell phones and computers can be linked to an increase in stress, sleep disorders and depressive symptoms in young adults. Follow the link to the research and read the list of findings. The list contains many points that describe what young adults in CPA firms are asked to do.

So, when you take that mental break to relieve tax season stress, or when you go on your family vacation, unplug from computers and mobile devices for a few hours or an entire afternoon. Better yet, go off the grid for a full day!

  • I can think. I can sleep. I can move. I can ride my bide. I can dream.
  • Bill Walton

Friday, December 7th, 2018

Do We Make Leadership Too Difficult?

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

In the CPA profession, there is an enormous amount of resources for leadership training. We hear about it all the time, we read about it all the time and there are hundreds of books written every year on leadership. Almost all of the prominent CPA management advisors offer a “leadership training” program. And yes, I write many blog posts on the topic of leadership.

Does all the training and reading on leadership work? Are we making it too difficult? Are we expecting too much? Are we spending too much on leadership training? Isn’t most of it obtained by experience and passion?

I hope you follow HBR on Twitter (@harvardbiz). Here’s an HBR tweet I read this week that led me to an excellent article:

With such a flurry of developments, there must be some useful new ways to think about leadership.

An excerpt from the article:

The reality, however, is somewhat different. Yes, the leadership development industry is thriving, and yes there are a lot of new and interesting ideas, some of which may prove to be helpful. But despite many changes in our context — as organizations have become more democratic and networked, for example — in its fundamentals leadership has not changed over the years. It is still about mobilizing people in an organization around common goals to achieve impact, at scale.

Getting a promotion or becoming a partner does not make you a leader.

  • Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

Read Read Read

I love to read. I used to read almost every major new business book that came to my attention. Now, I read a much wider variety of things – books, articles, blogs, whitepapers, and tweets. I learn things from all of these that can be applied to the CPA profession.

As for business books. I sometimes get tired of the “new idea of the month” club. So, I widened my view of the world. I read thrillers, mysteries, science fiction, historical topics, biographies and sometimes Dave Barry, just to make me laugh.

I know what you are thinking. You don’t have time! Listen to audio books as you commute. Get up 30 minutes earlier and read while you drink your first cup of coffee. One day a week, skip lunch and read for an hour. Don’t sleep in on the weekends – get up early and read. When you flying, rather than watching a movie on your phone, read something.

Here are some great quotes about reading.

“Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren’t very new after all.” – Abraham Lincoln

“Books are mirrors. You only see in them what you already have inside of you.” – Carlos Zafon

“Classic – – a book which people praise and don’t read.” – Mark Twain

“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.” – P. J. O’Rourke

  • If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.
  • Haruki Murakami

Monday, October 29th, 2018

Office Halloween Fun

“Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble.” – From Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Over the years, at my firm, we had some wonderful, fun times at Halloween. Bringing in team members children to trick or treat at each office or desk, organizing the best costume contest and having refreshments in the late afternoon.

I know that many CPA firms do similar things and have a lot of fun. However, this year, and going forward, you must be careful and set some guidelines. I’m sure you have all read and heard about the high-profile news person who lost her job over a comment about Halloween costumes. As with so many things, these days, you must be cautious when it comes to almost any topic.

Here are some guidelines from Huffington Post:

Pick a theme – For example, dress like one of your favorite cartoon characters.

Avoid Controversial Costumes – such as dressing like a particular politician.

Don’t Forget It Is a Workday – Will your costume make it uncomfortable to perform some of your routine duties?

No Pressure – Not everyone in your office may enjoy Halloween. No one HAS to dress in a costume.

Decorate Tastefully – Avoid toy weapons and any blood, guts and gore aspects of decorating.

Go Easy on the Alcohol – that is if you serve it at all. Some tasty punch might be more appropriate.

Here’s an article via Inc. by Suzanne Lucas, @RealEvilHRLady about last week’s incident.

  • Villainy wears many masks, none so dangerous as the mask of virtue.
  • Ichabod Crane, Sleepy Hallow

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

Meetings Are Important – Make Them Matter

“The problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred.” – Sigmund Freud

We have all thought it and probably said it out loud, “Oh no, not another meeting! I don’t have time for this.”

I recently read an interview by Skip Prichard of Paul Axtell about his new book – Meetings Matter: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversations. As Prichard notes, he thought it would be a snooze but he actually even re-read it. The book goes far beyond meetings, it is great advice on how to be more effective.

In the interview, Axtell explains:

  • Our time in ineffective meetings far outweighs our time in powerful meetings. No wonder we moan and groan.
  • Meetings are actually at the heart of an effective organization. They are a place and situation where clarity can be achieved, decisions made, alignment garnered and actions identified. (Don’t you wish your partner meetings and retreats could be described like that?)
  • Conversations matter. Here are the 4 C’s of a Conversation: Clarity, Candor, Commitment, and Completion. (Read more about each one in the interview.)

I’m going to read the book. I hope you read both the interview and the book. Set a 2019 goal to have more productive and interesting meetings.

  • If I'm not happy in this time and place, I'm not paying attention.
  • Jodi Hills

Monday, October 1st, 2018

I Love Small Firms

“A big business starts small.” – Richard Branson

I have heard the following numbers mentioned by consultants and AICPA leaders many times. I also use them often. I like to make people working in public accounting aware of the numbers.

There are approximately 46,000 CPA firms in the USA and the 500th largest firm has about 20 people and $3M in revenue. Most recently, I read these numbers via Accounting today in an article by Edward Mendlowitz of Withum. He also notes that small firms outnumber large firms 91 to 1.

In the article, I discovered that he and I have something in common. We like to focus our consulting efforts on smaller firms.

Over the years I have worked directly with over 100 firms and advised and spoken to thousands of CPAs, firm administrators, HR directors, marketing directors and, IT managers. I have a large following for my daily blog and tweets. I have found, much like Mr. Mendlowitz, that small firms need help.

These firms, unlike the larger firms, aren’t big enough to justify hiring full-time support professionals such as HR, marketing, and management professionals. They need and are willing to pay for outside resources that will help them manage better and improve operations.

I find leaders of smaller firms interesting, enthusiastic and receptive to new ideas and methods. Yet, much like accountants in larger firms, they find it very challenging to implement.

Be sure to read the article in the link above.

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

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018

Improve Your Writing

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” – Mark Twain

Accountants must be good at numbers and they also need to be good writers.

According to a recent post by Grammarly, many writers use filler words and phrases and they also use hedging words because they don’t want to appear demanding and bossy.

I am guilty of using hedging words and I never realized it. I also observe that many accountants do the same.

Here are some good examples via Grammarly:

Slightly

I’m slightly annoyed by Kate’s repeated tardiness.

Sort of, Kind of

Their plan was kind of short-sighted.

Rather, somewhat

The play was rather interesting.

Quite

His car is quite fast.

Probably

We should probably wait to send that email until we have final approval.

If you need to learn more ways to improve your writing, read the entire post.

  • Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.
  • Mark Twain

Monday, August 13th, 2018

Cul de sac

“If your job is a cul-de-sac, you have to quit or accept the fact that your career is over.” – Seth Godin

Cul de sac is a dead-end street. It goes nowhere. Seth Godin talks about cul-de-sac jobs in his book The Dip.

If you are working in a CPA firm, no matter what your title, you might find yourself in a cul-de-sac job. You work and you work and nothing much happens. It doesn’t get better, it doesn’t get worse. It just is.

Get off the cul-de-sac – why invest your life in something not getting any better.

Some of you work in cul-de-sac firms. There is a lot of talk about how things will get better but nothing much seems to happen. Years pass by.

Some of you are in cul-de-sac partner groups. Same as above, lots of talk but not much really happens. Years pass by.

Move your firm and/or yourself out of the cul-de-sac.

 

  • People settle. They settle for less than they are capable of.
  • Seth Godin