Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

People Problems

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.” – Kurt Vonnegut

I wrote the following article for the June issue of my newsletter. If you are not on the mailing list, you can sign-up here.

If you are on the mailing list and are not receiving my newsletter, check your spam folder. Some people are reporting that is where they find their issue.

I heard from several readers that they really enjoyed this article and could definitely relate. Here are some of the comments:

I just wanted to send you a note, I usually don’t get to read your newsletter the same day you send it, but boy am I thankful I did…..the People Problems – that’s me!!!!!!!!

I LOVE your article!!!  It made me roll with laughter.  I resemble the PM in the role as the’ air conditioner adjusting monitor’.  Had I only had the fortitude to be more like the maintenance person. 

So true. As a firm administrator that also takes care of
our 25 person office, I can relate so much! Smiles for the day!

People Problems

You got the job! You are now the CPA firm’s Practice Manager (COO/Firm Administrator). You will be “in” on all the management activities of the firm, deal directly with all the partners and be on the front line dealing with operations and people. You know you will be good at it because you really like people.

A year later, you finally admit you really don’t like people! 

Of course, this is an exaggeration. But, the people game is a very complicated and frustrating game inside accounting firms.

As Practice Manager (and sometimes it is the managing partner), you deal with problems and, most of these problems are caused by people. The vast majority of the problems are not anything serious. Actually, most problems are rather petty. 

Here’s a classic story (and a true one). It’s a story of trying to please everyone and, as you know, that’s not possible!

In a mid-size CPA firm, the bookkeeping department (or CAS as they call it now) is staffed by five females ranging in age from thirty to fifty-five. The members of this group cannot agree on the room temperature. It is always too hot or too cold. They continually complain to the Practice Manager about the heating/air conditioning. 

One member of the team says it is too cold in their area. The Practice Manager asks the building maintenance man to adjust it for them. So he brings in a ladder, opens a section of the ceiling and, adjusts the heating/cooling for that area. They agree that it is much better and they are all happy, for a while.

A week or two later, a different member of that team reports that it is way too hot in their area. The maintenance man goes through the same exercise. Over the period of six months, he repeats it several times and after each adjustment for a while, they are all happy.  

The Practice Manager is kept in the loop by the maintenance man. Finally, the PM asks, “Don’t you get aggravated with having to adjust the heating/cooling all the time with that group?” His reply, “I don’t adjust anything. I just get up in the ceiling and pretend I’m doing something, then they are all pleased for a while.”

Practice Managers in accounting firms have similar and unique personalities and characteristics. They enjoy the challenge of dealing with problems, solving them and, also dealing with the many people problems with patience and perseverance. And yes, they really do like people.

The problem in this example was, at least temporarily, solved by having everyone working remotely. They could control their own thermostats. Many new and unforeseen problems and challenges are now being faced by the practice manager as the firm begins to bring people back into the office.

The following quote is attributed to the poet John Lydgate and later adapted by President Lincoln: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

You Are Public. You Are a Professional

“Professional is not a label you give yourself – it’s a description you hope others will apply to you.” – David Maister

Here’s a recent tweet by @LeadersBest:

Every time you open your mouth to speak in public, you are representing yourself and displaying your character. Choose words carefully. Say what you mean… Mean what you say. Be clear and concise.

You are a CPA (Certified PUBLIC Accountant). You are not a CPA but you work in a CPA firm (not certified yet, accountants, administrative, HR, marketing, sales, training, etc.). Never forget that you are in the public eye. People listen to you when you talk, especially when you talk about your firm. They repeat things they hear about you and your firm.

If you whine to your golf group about your work or the firm, they will tell others. If you complain about a project you were assigned to your parents/spouse or other relatives, they will form an opinion about your firm and repeat it.

Never casually talk about a client to anyone outside your firm. What you say becomes public and people will repeat it and it will probably get back to your client.

CPAs and their team members are held to a higher standard than most. No matter what your role in a firm, you are a professional.

Warn your employees, the ones who frequently go out to lunch together, that they should not discuss a client in a public place where others might overhear what they say.

I like this definition of a professional: To most people, acting like a professional means working and behaving in such a way that others think of them as competent, reliable, and respectful. Professionals are a credit not only to themselves but also to others.

  • The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.
  • Vidal Sasson

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

Convergence Coaching Anytime, Anywhere Work Survey

“Best Efforts will not substitute for knowledge.” – W. Edwards Deming

In case you are not aware, the 2020 ConvergenceCoaching® Anytime, Anywhere Work™(ATAWW) Survey is currently open for participation. The survey seeks input on remote and flexible work practices in accounting and consulting firms across the country.

ConvergenceCoaching is offering participants the summary results along with best practices and strategies to implement these programs and maintain a competitive advantage. They’re requesting only one entry per firm, so be sure you coordinate with other leaders in your organization.

Here is the link to participate: https://bit.ly/2020ATAWW. The survey is open through July 31st. We encourage you to participate in this important study!

  • Dream more than others think practical…Expect more than others think possible.
  • Howard Schultz

Friday, June 26th, 2020

Flashback Friday – Procrastination

“If you are not passionate about what you mostly do, you better find another job.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

When you are driven by deadlines – like March 15, April 15 and this year July 15, it seems to allow many CPAs to put things off until the last minute. You even allow clients to facilitate your procrastination.

Read this flashback post – Fight it! – Procrastination.

  • In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.
  • Theodore Roosevelt

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

Purpose

“A business enterprise has two basic functions: marketing and innovation.” – Peter F. Drucker

Peter F. Drucker’s view on the purpose of a business is something you should consider. I want to share it with you today:

If we want to know what a business is, we have to start with its purpose. And the purpose must lie outside the business itself. In fact, it must lie in society, since a business enterprise is an organ of society. There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer. The customer is the foundation of a business and keeps it in existence. He alone gives employment. And it is to supply the customer that society entrusts wealth-producing resources to the business enterprise.

Because it is the purpose to create a customer, any business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. These are the entrepreneurial functions. Marketing is the distinguishing, the unique function of Business.

Do all of your people know the purpose of your business (firm)?

  • Find out what needs your customers want fulfilled today. Determine how well your products are meeting the needs of your customers.
  • Peter F. Drucker

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

Enduring Character

“Firmness in enduring and exertion is a character I always wish to possess. I have always despised the whining yelp of complaint and cowardly resolve.” – Robert Burns

I have observed, in some accounting firms, there is a disproportionate number of people who whine and complain.

Do you have “firmness in enduring and exertion” as a characteristic? Or, do you often find yourself doing what I call moaning and groaning about just about everything? I call it the Eeyore complex.

Even some therapists refuse to allow clients to complain endlessly. They have set time limits on how long a client can stay on a certain topic and have even declared some topics off-limits.

Some people whine because they are deeply distressed by something that they feel powerless to change. Could the whiners in your firm feel that way? Enhancing communication could be a partial cure.

One positive step would be to do an employee survey and seek out the issues that cause people to feel distressed and then take action on those issues.

If you catch yourself complaining, keep in mind nobody likes a complainer. If you don’t believe me, just Google “nobody likes a complainer.”

  • When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change he situation, or accept it. All else is madness.
  • Eckhart Tolle

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

What’s The Problem?

“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.” – Carl Jung

I had to smile at this tweet by Dan Rockwell (@Leadershipfreak):

I asked a group, “What aspects of work suck the life out of you?” Every response pointed to a “P” word – people.

  • Blabbermouths.
  • Office politics.
  • Disconnected management.
  • Constant tweaking.
  • Complainers.

Maybe you should ask the question to your team. It would have to be completely anonymous if you want people to be honest.

I don’t know how many times I have heard CPA partners say, “I just want to help clients. I don’t want to deal with all of the inside-the-firm people problems!”

So, what aspects of work suck the life out of you? If your answer is similar to the ones above, are you one of those people?

  • As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.
  • Andrew Carnegie

Friday, June 19th, 2020

Flashback Friday – Let Go of The Past

“Life is very interesting. In the end, some of your greatest pains become your greatest strengths.” – Drew Barrymore

Inside an accounting firm, when a person makes a mistake or performs unsatisfactorily on one particular task, the partners and managers have long memories.

Read this flashback post, “Let Go of the Past

Have a nice (and safe) weekend.

  • One's dignity may be assaulted, vandalized, and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.
  • Michael J. Fox

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

Strong/Weak

“Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.” – Albert Einstein

Take a close look at your partner (owner) group.

What I hope you see is a balanced group. In some firms, all partners appear to be very similar. They went to the same schools, they live in the same suburb, they drive similar cars and even their family lives appear to be very similar.

In the office, I hope they are diverse. Partners become partners because they can’t possibly know everything themselves.

Of course, mid to large size firms have an audit partner, a tax partner, a business valuation partner, etc. But look a little deeper. Do they have a partner who cannot possibly have a tough conversation with an employee? That’s okay if they have a partner who is very at ease at giving bad news or critical feedback. Do they have a partner that is a strong negotiator where other partners are not?

A successful partner group has members who are strong where others are weak, partners who are weak where others are strong. It applies to technical expertise and also to personal behaviors.

  • Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.
  • Thomas Edison

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020

Who Would Miss You?

“It is no longer possible to be important to everyone.” – Seth Godin

I don’t want to focus on death here – too depressing. But, would your clients really, truly miss you if you were gone?

Let’s say you, rather suddenly, decide to retire. Or, you accept an offer to become CFO for a large, prestigious company. Who, in your public accounting work world, would miss you?

I worked inside a growing CPA firm for 30 years. Many, many people came and went. Even when some people, who I thought were key people, key performers, great client service people, left…. most clients and team members didn’t seem to miss them at all.

I have read that when a sole practitioner suddenly dies, his/her clients will find another CPA very quickly – they don’t wait. In a larger firm, there are other partners and managers who have (or should have) client contact and can reassure the client that their financial affairs will be handled competently.

My point of all this is that there are a small group of clients who place a higher value on your advice and counsel. They are probably your favorite clients and may be part of a special segment you serve.

It is difficult to be important to everyone but you can be important to a small, valuable, easy-to-work-with group. They would miss you if you were gone. Seek more clients like that and out-place the others who think you are generic.

If you are a sole practitioner, I hope you have a practice continuation agreement in place.

  • Nothing makes a room feel emptier than wanting someone in it.
  • Calla Quinn, author