Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Monday, November 4th, 2019

Be Clear About Your Purpose

“It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something.”  Winston Churchill

The partners go away for a couple of days and come back with a firm mission statement. Does that inspire you? I doubt it. In many firms, it is just another “flavor of the month” and soon no one will even be able to recite it.

I like the new trend in calling it (mission statement) a statement of purpose. What is the purpose of your firm? What are you trying to achieve?

Many owner groups struggle with defining and living, their purpose. Some even copy a purpose from another firm and roll it out to their team as if it has real meaning to the owners.

Per an interesting article via Harvard Business Review, a truly powerful purpose statement is one that achieves two objectives: clearly articulating strategic goals and motivating your workforce.

If you want to find and retain top talent, they must know and understand your firm’s purpose – I mean really, not just some fancy words.

Surveys tell us that a large percentage of employees don’t feel fully connected to their firm’s purpose, they don’t see the value they create and that their jobs don’t allow them to fully leverage their strengths.

This adds up to a crisis of purpose. And, what follows along is a communication crisis. As I continue to say – most problems I encounter inside accounting firms can be traced back to poor, or lack of, communication.

Read and share the HBR article with your firm leaders. It is titled, Why Are We Here? Good question.

  • Workers feel lost. And over time, a lack of direction saps motivation; people begin backing away from the challenges required to achieve the firm’s articulated goals.
  • Sally Blount & Paul Leinwand, authors HBR

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

Immediate Feedback

“Make feedback normal. Not a performance review.” – Ed Batista

I have been recommending it for years. Many firms seem to have difficulty implementing it (doing what they say they will do). I’m talking about immediate feedback.

Our younger generation of workers wants immediate feedback at the push of a button. They do not want to wait for an annual performance feedback session or even a quarterly feedback session.

That’s why I loved a recent post by Ed Mendlowitz – Uberize Staff Evaluations:

Uber passengers are asked to evaluate their ride as soon as they get out of the car, and the drivers are also asked to evaluate the riders immediately. This seems like it would be a good idea for accounting firms.

Bruce Tulgan calls it “hands-on management.” Managers touch base with those they manage on a daily basis. Accounting firm managers need to improve and be more proactive with their people-management skills. Read Tulgan’s book, It’s Okay to Be the Boss.

As Mendlowitz and Tulgan (and I) suggest, keep it simple. I still hear stories of beginners preparing a tax return and hearing back from a manager or partner three (or more) weeks later that they did something wrong.

  • To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.
  • Elbert Hubbard

Monday, September 30th, 2019

CPA Firm Marketing

“Marketing is telling the world you’re a rock star. Content Marketing is showing the world you are one.” – Robert Rose

There continues to be a lot of questions from practitioners about marketing – activities, budgets, staffing, etc.

Of course, a big percent of your marketing budget is devoted to salaries. More and more firms are devoting more time and money to online marketing while still continuing much of the traditional methods… sponsorships, etc.

Once again, the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) partnered with the Hinge Research Institute to conduct the bi-annual Marketing Budget Benchmark Study. The purpose of this study was to provide marketing professionals, firm leaders and business developers with the insights needed to determine whether their efforts are effective – especially when compared to the marketing efforts of firms that may be similar in size or with regard to a chosen marketplace.

You can download a summary or the full report here.

  • Don’t settle: Don’t finish crappy books. If you don’t like the menu, leave the restaurant. If you’re not on the right path, get off it.
  • Chris Brogan

Wednesday, August 28th, 2019

What Kind of Busy Person Are You?

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

If you work in an accounting firm it is almost certain that you are very BUSY. Usually, busier than you want to be. However, what are you busy doing? If you are a partner doing manager work or a manager doing staff work, that does not count as being busy.

I occasionally repost a blog from Seth Godin in its entirety. Here’s one that is right on target for CPAs!

ASK A BUSY PERSON

You might know one.

The busy person has a bias for action, the ability to ship, and a willingness to contribute more than is required. The busy person is wrong more than most people (if you get up to bat more often, you’re going to have more hits and more strikeouts, right?). Those errors are dwarfed by the impact they create.

Being a busy person is a choice.

It might not work for you, but you could try it out for a while.

We need more busy people.

  • I am so busy doing nothing that the idea of doing anything which as you know, always leads to something cuts into the nothing and then forces me to have to drop everything.
  • Jerry Seinfeld

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

Be A Great Manager

Bruce Tulgan tells us: Being a great manager requires a lot of time and effort. You cannot treat your management responsibilities as a low-commitment responsibility! You owe it to the people on your team to give them the support, guidance, and coaching they deserve. 

An important part of managing people involves one-on-one conversations. These one-on-one meetings help you create an upward spiral of performance.

There are four basic steps to creating an upward spiral of performance on your team:

1. Define performance standards

2. Spell out expectations

3. Collaborate on next steps

4. Follow up, revise, and adjust

Download Tulgan’s ebook here.

one one

  • It’s the most talented, not the least talented, who are continually trying to improve their dialogue skills. As is often the case, the rich get richer.
  • Kerry Patterson

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