Friday, February 1st, 2019

Engage Your Team Members With Benefits & Perks

“The main thing that you have to remember on this journey is, just be nice to everyone and always smile.” – Ed Sheeran

I recently read an interesting article in CPA Practice Advisor. It is titled, Virginia CPA Firm Launches Extensive Employee Benefits and Perks Program. 

Some of their benefits and perks are things I have observed often in other firms. On the other hand, some of their benefits and perks are way ahead of many firms.

In this age of hiring, developing and retaining talented young professionals, you need to review your benefit package often and keep pace with current trends.

Read the article and see how your benefits stack-up.

My observation and experience tell me that a long list of perks won’t keep talented professionals at your firm if your leadership group is dysfunctional and doesn’t set an inspiring, professional example.

  • "It is nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice."
  • John Templeton

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

There Are Many Ways To Mentor Someone

“The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have.” – – Norman Vincent Peale

I receive lots of questions about how to make mentoring a successful endeavor in a CPA firm. The following are some ways that mentoring has changed in recent years. It doesn’t have to be an older, wiser man mentoring a young, eager protege. Think of your first memory of being mentored. I bet it was a teacher or coach… someone who thought you could do more than you thought you could.

Old Rule: Mentors and mentees should have a lot in common
New Rule: The best matches are mismatches

Old Rule: Look for your mentor higher-up on the food chain
New Rule: A good mentor is anyone from whom you can learn

Old Rule: Mentoring is one-on-one
New Rule: Mentoring works best when you mix and match

Old Rule: Mentors pick their mentees
New Rule: Mentees pick their mentors

Old Rule: You are either a mentor or a mentee
New Rule: Everyone needs mentors

  • "The best way a mentor can prepare another leader is to expose him or her to other great people."
  • John Maxwell

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

An Effective Way to a Coach Person

“It’s not hard to find smart people. It’s hard to find people who inspire and motivate.” – David Maister
If you never heard David Maister speak in person, you lost out on a memorable experience. He was vibrant and very direct.  He often would stop himself and say, “Okay, I’ve got to calm down.”
One lesson from Maister that I have never forgotten is an example he used in explaining the effective way to coach a person (a partner in a CPA firm, for example). The method is called “the pigeon story” and he presented it in a humorous and logical fashion.
I’ll try to summarize it briefly. If you want a pigeon (partner) to progress to another “place” that is too distant from them, they can’t do it in one huge step. You draw a line very close in front of them and draw them there. You coach them by saying, “Come on Pigeon, you can do it, I will help you.” When they get there you celebrate and then draw another line, not too far in front of them. Same with people (partners). It is too hard to make a gigantic leap to an annual goal – it is too far in the distance. Instead, set a goal that is a small step away and continually repeat, “Come on partner, you can do it, I will help you.” After seven or eight lines (small steps, 9 or 10 for tax partners), they arrive at the larger goal.
  • "The way to get rich is don’t get sucked into doing dumb stuff for people you don’t like."
  • David Maister

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

Friday, January 25th, 2019

Managing Your Time

“Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed.” – Peter Drucker

How well do you manage time?

In the CPA profession, we talk about time, worry about time and track time. Yet, how many CPAs have ever taken a time management course?

It doesn’t matter if you value price or bill by the hour, how much time do you waste?

Here’s an interesting viewpoint on time from LeadershipFreak.

  • "The two most powerful warriors are patience and time."
  • Leo Tolstoy

Thursday, January 24th, 2019

Client Service Is Your Best Marketing

If you are doing what everyone else is doing, if you are inside the band of common, then it’s not an approach that will move you forward.  – Seth Godin

What is your firm known for? Accuracy, understanding, caring, knowledge, maybe expensive?

Has anyone said that you have the best client service? I believe that if a CPA firm focused intensely on client service they would become the leading firm in their market. If a CPA firm did extensive training with their people on making client interactions satisfying and even fun, they would become the leading firm in their market.

Some examples from Seth Godin:

A b2b insurance agency spent two million dollars ripping out voice mail from their agency. Every call gets answered by a human every time. It paid for itself in four months. That’s a strategic investment, not a cost-cutting shortcut.

When Fedex was building relationships with busy businesspeople who would become the backbone of their customer base, they answered the phone on the first ring, every time.

Has anyone at your firm ever answered the phone on the first ring? Do any of your partners actually dodge calls from some clients? Read: Your Customer Service Strategy.

  • "You can treat your customers like they don’t have a choice, but in the long run, customers always have a choice."
  • Seth Godin

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

Just Send Us Your Information

“Assumptions are the termites of relationships.” – Henry Winkler

It is easy to just have clients mail their information to you or use your portal to submit it. You don’t have to do anything. Some clients, who are close by, just drop it off at the front desk and walk out the door.

Why not think about increasing communication with your clients at this time of year. Many of your 1040 clients are also business clients. Ask them to stop by and spend 15 minutes with you (or talk to them via phone) to talk about their business or personal situation.

A brief conversation like this can uncover additional services that your firm could provide to clients. Tax time is marketing time. Many of your clients might be greatly under-served and you do not even know it.

Have you talked to a client at tax time and found out that during the past year they have used another provider for something your firm provides? Their comment might be, “I didn’t know YOU could do that!”

  • "“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” "
  • Sam Walton

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019

State of the Firm (SOTF)

“Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality. – Dalai Lama

When I was working inside a successful, growing firm, we did a state of the firm event every year. We brought everyone together from our three offices for a full morning of information and fun. It was a great time for people from different offices to see and talk to each other face-to-face. Our team seemed to enjoy hearing about the progress of the firm and news about what might happen in the future. It was held in the Spring, usually in May. We had just over 100 people.

This morning I read an article about Withum’s annual SOTF event where they bring together over 1,000 people! They hold theirs in January. Read all about it here.

Is it worth it? Absolutely.

It is my observation that people working in an accounting firm want to be included. They want to know what’s going on and how the firm is doing. It is a great recruiting and retention tool. Your people read about these events at other firms and probably wonder why their firm isn’t doing it.

  • "An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest."
  • Benjamin Franklin

Monday, January 21st, 2019

It’s Healthy to Stand

“If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.” – H. G. Wells

I noticed a news article about a firm unveiling new offices in a new market.

The firm, Lutz,  offers accounting services including tax, bookkeeping, and business consulting to individuals and organizations in a variety of industries. The company was founded by Ralph Lutz in 1980 in Omaha as the CPA firm of Lutz, Kinsey, Friedman & Meyers. They also have offices in Grand Island, Lincoln, and Hastings, Nebraska.

Check out the picture of two of their accountants utilizing the stand-up desk option. Are you offering the option to your team members yet?

standup

  • "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."
  • Winston Churchill