Archive for the ‘Retreats’ Category

Friday, September 10th, 2021

Flashback Friday – Essential Questions

“It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question. – Eugene Ionesco

Many of you are planning a Fall partner retreat. I know you will work diligently to establish a well-thought-out strategic plan.

When you are all finished, answer some important questions posed by David Maister.

Read this Flashback post from 2018.

  • Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.
  • Voltaire

Monday, July 12th, 2021

The Good Things

“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.” – Marianne Williamson

Hopefully, if you had your partner retreat in May or June, you have already scheduled your annual “state of the firm” event. It is a very important event, especially if you are wanting your employees to be “engaged” with the firm.

The annual event is done differently in various firms. Some firms focus on the firm’s performance for the last fiscal year. Some firms use it as a way to obtain feedback from the team.

It is most powerful when firms use it as a way to host a full-firm management day. At this special meeting, the partners report on what they accomplished at their strategic planning retreat and how they think the team members can help them in achieving the strategic initiatives. It is a way to build momentum and focus on the good things the firm has accomplished and the good things that firm leaders want to achieve in the coming year.

At your full firm meeting always review the “good things” that have happened during the past year. Leaders often talk too much and think about the bad things.

At this annual meeting, it is time for positive thoughts and direction. Some firms have a guest speaker to help with motivation and have break-out sessions to explore ideas that can help the firm move forward in the coming year.

Get busy! Focus on the good things!

  • Goodness is about character - integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people.
  • Dennis Prager

Friday, July 9th, 2021

Stay Away From Day-to-Day

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up somewhere else.” – Yogi Berra

As summer moves along, you are probably giving lots of thought to your Fall partner retreat.

For this Flashback Friday, read this post from 2019 – Don’t Let Day-to-Day Take Over Your Retreat.

Have a great weekend!

  • The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.
  • Maynard Keynes

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021

Passive Observers

“Passive observers don’t belong at the table.” – Dan Rockwell

Per Dan Rockwell (@Leadershipfreak), once you’ve got 7 people in a decision-making group, each additional member reduces decision effectiveness by 10%.

I have observed, by attending a huge number of partner meetings and retreats, at my own firm and with my many clients, that there are way too many passive observers in those meetings.

When a delicate topic or a confrontation arises, the biggest percentage of the partners in attendance look at their laps. They look down so the facilitator cannot make eye contact and they might not be expected to take a stand.

The same thing happens in other types of meetings in accounting firms. I love the one brave soul on the team who will raise their hand and ask the dumb question. The remainder of the team has the same question in mind but they don’t want take a chance of embarassing themselves.

It is up to you, the leader of the meeting, to run a great meeting. As Rockwell says, “Poorly run meetings offend the talent at the table.”

Here are Rockwell’s 3 words that make meetings great:

#1 – Specific – Two or three action items are enough for most meeting agendas.

#2 – Shorter – Stick to the time allotted, don’t turn a 20-minute briefing into an hour lecture.

#3 – Smaller – No passive observers. Decide and deliver.

Read Rockwell’s post here.

  • Mediocre meetings reflect and produce mediocre organizations.
  • Dan Rockwell

Monday, May 3rd, 2021

Mission – Vision – Purpose

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” – Warren G. Bennis

I still encounter some confusion about how to write a meaningful mission, vision, or purpose statement for your firm or organization.

Some CPA partner retreats actually get bogged down in this endeavor while crafting their strategic plan.

purpose statement provides the reason or reasons you exist. It is about why you exist, whereas the mission is about what you do and for whom. … Some organizations find that a mission statement alone suits their needs, whereas others prefer to use a purpose statement.

Read more about the difference between these statements in this brief, informative article.

  • The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.
  • Helen Keller

Friday, April 23rd, 2021

Your Plan – Flashback Friday

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” – Yogi Berra

Perhaps you are now planning your partner retreat or maybe a full-firm planning day. Check out this post from May 2020. Don’t let this be your plan!

  • Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.
  • Peter F. Drucker

Monday, October 5th, 2020

After the Retreat

“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.” – Peter Drucker

Think about how you felt immediately after your last strategic planning retreat. I have observed it first-hand many times. During the wrap-up conversations partners and other attendees feel relieved, enthused, optimistic even happy.

Next, think about how you felt one month after your retreat. Do you even remember that you felt relieved, enthused, optimistic and even happy?

You return to the office and there are voice messages and emails that need attention. There are team members awaiting your return so they can ask questions or obtain your opinion and there are family and other personal commitments you must meet. That is why I strongly urge you to develop specific action steps that will help you accomplish the FEW important initiatives identified at your planning retreat.

Everything is changing so rapidly that it is difficult to really comprehend what your firm will need to do two years from now. To keep your firm moving forward, identify two or three initiatives, document the steps it takes to accomplish each one and commit to getting them accomplished in 12 to 18 months.

It is each participant’s duty to actively participate. See the quotation above. If you don’t commit, there are only promises and hopes, but no plans.

  • Duty is what one expects from others; it is not what one does one’s self.
  • Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

Listen to Learn What Clients Need

“If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” – Howard Schultz

We have heard it over and over again from speakers at conferences and read it over and over again in CPA marketing publications. It is seven times easier to sell services to current clients than it is to obtain a brand new client. Client loyalty is priceless.

As with many activities inside a firm, you need a system, a process, a questionnaire or a checklist. You need some type of tool to help your accountants actually explore the future needs of current clients.

Some firms call it the Additional Services Checklist.  Others may call it The Expanded Services Questionnaire or The Enhanced Opportunity Checklist.  No matter what you name it, it is a sales tool that your team can use to find out how the firm can truly better and fully serve your clients. Once they have the checklist/questionnaire, they can simply listen more intently when they are talking with a client or working in the client’s office.

The goal is to bring extra value to your clients.  CPAs call it value-added as if their normal services don’t have much value. In these changing times, compliance services are looked upon as only a way to discover advisory services that the client needs.

Do all of your team members, even the most recent college recruits:

  • Know what to look and listen for while they are at the client’s location?
  • Been educated/informed about all of the firm’s service offerings?
  • Know what to do if they recognize an opportunity and who to refer it to inside your firm?

If you answered “no” to any of these, take action.  Host a lunch & learn in early January and talk about all the value-added services your firm offers. Provide the entire team, including the admin team, with a listing of questions/items to apply to the clients and give them the name of the partner to seek out for guidance if they identify an area where your firm can bring more value to the client.  Just having this simple questionnaire or checklist seems to give everyone more confidence.

During the lunch and learn, experienced partners and managers can speak-up and give practical advice to the less-experienced team members.

  • Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.
  • Steve Jobs

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

Should Sole Practitioners Have Retreats?

“Stop thinking in terms of limitations and start thinking in terms of possibilities.” – Terry Josephson

If you are part of a smaller firm, with one owner or two partners and are reading this blog – my answer is a resounding YES!

Just because you don’t have a multi-partner firm doesn’t mean you should not devote a special time and place for strategic planning. Try involving your entire team in the planning session. When I have facilitated these types of planning sessions, the employees contribute an amazing amount of relevant ideas and suggestions.

Sole practitioners who include their entire team in sculpting the firm’s future are making a positive difference for their firms. I believe it is a tactic that smaller firms should embrace wholeheartedly. It’s not too late to have this type of session in December or early January. It could even be a half-day event with a follow-up session in late April.

  • Take a chance! All life is a chance. A person who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare.
  • Dale Carnegie

Thursday, August 15th, 2019

Don’t Let Day-to-Day Take Over Your Retreat

“Strategic thinking starts with the end in mind.” – Pearl Zhu

If you are planning your fall retreat, plan your agenda carefully.

So many things are going on inside the firm such as issues with people and their performance, a renegade partner or secondary office, the progress on technology upgrades, the lack of new business coming in the door and so on.

Don’t let all the daily noise cloud your retreat. Put one thing on the agenda – strategic planning – then do it.

What are the big-picture items you need to address? Things that affect the future of the firm and things that will force partners to think of the firm before themselves.

Explore and discover what your firm is truly all about (vision/mission/purpose), identify (or review) your core values, uncover what needs to be done to prepare your firm for the next generation or for an upward merger. If your firm is not growing steadily, that is a huge issue to discuss. All partners must generate new business. Discuss and document the expectations for every partner. Actually talk, face-to-face, about issues within the partner group that everyone has always swept under the carpet. Address that elephant in the room!

If you don’t have a solid strategic plan to share with your team you will soon experience turnover. Talented people can easily move on to a firm that is transparent, forward-thinking, growing and creating a culture where they can see, in advance, where their career is heading.

 

  • Be strategic about productivity. Do less exceptionally well, instead of doing more in an average way.
  • Laurie Buchanan, PhD