Friday, February 12th, 2021

Don’t Become Invisible

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” – Jonathan Swift

2020 was a challenging year and you had to distance yourself from others. This Friday Flashback Post stresses visibility.

Also, just because it is tax season, it doesn’t mean you are permitted to forget about visibility. During this time of year, CPAs are the heroes – you are working very hard to help others. Stress that theme on your website and other social media sites.

  • "Because when some people are invisible, everyone suffers."
  • Gloria Steinem

Thursday, February 11th, 2021

The Annual Performance Evaluation

“Be spectacularly great at what you do. Wear your passion on your sleeve and hold your heart in the palm of your hand. And work hard. Really hard.” – Robin Sharma

If you have been keeping up with current trends in firm management, you probably know all too well that the annual performance review is on the verge of death.

Many firms have already abandoned this old-school method of providing team members with information that could help advance their careers. Today’s workforce wants feedback continually – every day – or more often. If your firm does away with the annual performance review, it means that managers and partners need to step up their game. They need to learn how to actually manage people and manage performance. It’s worth the effort.

You might think of it as conversation-based performance feedback. You will probably find that this method will help advance the skill level of your team much more rapidly. These performance conversations can focus on serving the clients, embracing the firm’s core values, and more.

Eliminating those old-fashioned performance rating sheets will create a sigh of relief from everyone involved!

If you can’t eliminate the more structured performance feedback process, at least simplify the one you have. Try the Keep, Stop, Start method and perhaps give this feedback monthly.

  • "Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected."
  • Steve Jobs

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

Training New Staff Virtually

“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly is the ultimate competitive advantage.” – Jack Welch

CPA firms have come a long way since last March. While working remotely is now a fact of life, some aspects of surviving in a virtual world have been more challenging. Firms are sometimes struggling with things like interviewing, orientation, onboarding and training.

In a recent discussion on the CPAFMA discussion board, the question was asked about how to train new team members virtually.

Jen Zarins, Director of Learning & Development for the Tidwell Group in Columbus, Ohio graciously allowed me to share her response. I hope you find it helpful in structuring your firm’s virtual training process.

We utilized zoom a ton.   We keep zoom meeting rooms open all day so they can ask questions for the first few days.   Monitoring their timesheets to verify they aren’t spinning wheels too long is needed in the beginning. We utilize Slack for instant messaging and it seems the recent college grads are way more comfortable sending IMs instead of emails or picking up the phone. The interns also have a Slack channel to ask questions. We have the seniors monitoring the channel and answering questions more timely than emails to folks who are in meetings.

Screen sharing and going thru their first couple sets of review comments instead of just them reading tone in them also helps. I think it is important that they show their face on the screen to read the expressions to see if they are really understanding. If they are shy on camera, we have found playing a few online games with zoom open was a great ice breaker.

  • "The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay. "
  • Credited to Henry Ford

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021

The Sloth

“In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

A few years ago we enjoyed a unique trip to Costa Rica. We didn’t go to a resort or spend time at a tourist beach. We saw the country via land, sea, and air – the middle, the south, and the north.

We were lucky to observe sloths in the wild. The ones we saw didn’t move. We watched one for a couple of hours one afternoon leading up to sunset. No movement.

Is your leadership style like the sloth? Some of your team members might think so. They want decisions made quickly. Do you do that? They are promised that a certain change will happen but it’s delayed and delayed again.

At partner retreats, some important and needed decisions are put off until after the next tax season or put on the list for next year’s retreat.

Sloths are amazing creatures and have been called the world’s laziest animal, slow to do almost everything. It’s not true.

Are your partners viewed much the same? I hope it’s not true.

Here are 10 Incredible Facts About the Sloth – it is very interesting.

  • "Sloth is most often evidenced in busyness ... in frantic running around, trying to be everything to everyone, and then having no time to listen or pray, no time to become the person who is doing these things."
  • Eugene H. Peterson

Monday, February 8th, 2021

Smile

“Don’t open a shop unless you know how to smile.” – Petteri Tarkkonen

Today’s quote certainly applies to accounting firms.

I have heard so many stories from CPA firm citizens about their partners. Here are a few:

  • Some of our partners never smile.
  • Partners don’t seem to have a sense of humor.
  • Some of our partners walk right by you in the hall and never even acknowledge you.
  • I wish all of our partners would simply say Good Morning.
  • I wish all of our partners would say thank-you more often.
  • When I was hired, they said they have an open-door policy but it seems like every time I need to talk to a partner they seem to be too busy.
  • I need to ask a partner a question but they never answer my emails.

Partners and managers, you may not have a lot to smile about during COVID, during tax season or when client expectations are unreasonable. Your team members don’t know what pressures you are under. That doesn’t mean you can’t smile and be congenial towards all of those people who are often suffering right along with you.

One of my favorite phrases, MBWA (Manage By Wandering Around) still applies. If some of your team are in the office, walk around and briefly check-in on them. The same applies to your remote workers. You can email, call or video chat with them and use the same words – – “How are you doing? Is there anything I can do to help?”

Did you know that people can tell when you smile when answering the phone?

Smiling is part of simply being polite. Maybe your firm needs a Courtesy Policy.

  • "Politeness is the art of choosing among your thoughts."
  • Madame De Stael

Friday, February 5th, 2021

Titles & Leaders – Flashback Friday

“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” – Publilius Syrus

You have many leaders in your firm. You can’t tell who they are by their titles.

A title doesn’t make you a leader. Read more….

  • "The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes."
  • Tony Blair

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

Safe

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” – William Shedd

Are you a follower firm?

So many accounting firm leaders play the safe game, the waiting game. They hear about new software, a new process, or a new employee benefit from reading/hearing an online discussion or attending a CPE session. Then they play it safe, they wait and see what other firms find out, and then dip their toe in the water.

This is not all bad. You learn so much from others and that should definitely continue. But, once in a while, listen to a new idea suggested by staff or by the firm administrator and go ahead and implement it. Try it!

I always recommend you “test it.” Never be afraid to try something new and then determine it just doesn’t work for your firm. Don’t hesitate to tell your team, “That was worth a try but it just doesn’t work. Let’s forget about it and try something else.”

Referencing the above quote, you can always stay in the safe harbor and never progress. Doing things the way you have always done them feels very comfortable (and safe). Show your creativity and become one of those firms that other firms follow!

  • "Ironically, in a changing world, playing it safe is one of the riskiest things you can do."
  • Reid Hoffman

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021

Superhero CPAs

“We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.” – Carol S Dweck

In a public accounting firm, the employees look up to the partners. They want their leaders to always set a good example. They want their leaders to always tell them the truth – good or bad. They want their leaders to be kind but also want them to be tough when tough decisions need to be made. They want their leaders to make decisions quickly. They want leaders to outplace poor performers more quickly. They want their leaders to seek the best possible candidates to join the firm team.

“They” expect a lot. The team wants leaders who are extraordinary. It sounds like a job for a Superhero. Do you represent that for your followers?

  • "Heroes are made by the path they choose, not the powers they are graced with."
  • Iron Man

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021

Interesting Development From the AICPA

Many of you know Tom Hood. Here’s a press release from the AICPA:

Tom Hood, CPA, CITP, CGMA to Join Association of International Certified Professional Accountants as Executive Vice President, Business Growth and Engagement

The Association also announced that it will acquire the Business Learning Institute, strengthening its commitment to continuing education and delivering value to businesses and CPA firms.

NEW YORK, February 1, 2021 – The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (the Association) announced today that Tom Hood, CPA, CITP, CGMA, former executive director and CEO of the Maryland Association of CPAs (MACPA), has joined the organization as executive vice president, business growth and engagement. He will report to Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, the Association’s CEO.

In addition to Hood’s appointment, the Association has acquired the Business Learning Institute (BLI) from MACPA. The acquisition of BLI’s many learning programs will enhance the Association’s offerings to corporate employers in upskilling and reskilling their employees so they continue to meet ever-changing marketplace demands. Together, the Association and BLI will accelerate the introduction of new, innovative content for accounting and finance professionals globally. Founded in 1999 by MACPA, BLI is a highly respected source for human intelligence skill development and a strategic learning partner and talent management consultancy for businesses and CPA firms worldwide. Hood will continue to provide leadership in supporting BLI’s clients, products and services throughout BLI’s integration with the Association.

“Tom’s vision and mission to help finance and accounting professionals grow in a changing business environment is well aligned with the Association’s goals of powering trust, opportunity and prosperity for members, students, the profession and those they serve. He brings energy, insight, enthusiasm and a unique ability to facilitate connections,” Melancon said. “Tom will add value to our engagement with businesses and the accounting and finance professions, increasing our understanding of the challenges they face and how to best meet their needs.”

Melancon added, “We are proud of our reputation as a key source for accounting and finance professionals’ learning needs. BLI’s content complements and enriches our current learning tools, further deepens our global offerings and helps expand our value proposition. This development is an important step in the Association’s commitment to creating a strong and vibrant future for the profession and those it serves.”

Hood will use his extensive connections, influence, experience and passion for the accounting and finance profession to engage with businesses, their leaders and their global networks. Hood will convert those insights into actions that support the profession and work across the Association to grow its understanding of their challenges and opportunities.

“I am excited to join Barry and his team at the Association to continue making accounting and finance professionals around the world even more future ready and able to thrive in a global volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. The BLI team is looking forward to coming together as part of the Association to leverage our combined strengths, reach and scale,” Hood said. Jackie Brown will succeed Hood as MACPA’s CEO. Brown, who has spent 40 years as part of the MACPA team and has served as its chief operating officer for the past 23 years, provides the MACPA with a much-needed sense of familiarity and stability as Hood departs.

Avonette Blanding, CPA, chair of MACPA’s Board of Directors, added, “Tom is also a great teacher, mentor and leader. I’m thrilled by his decision to join the Association and expand his reach within the profession.” (Watch this MACPA video and read this MACPA article for more information.)

Another focus of Hood’s role will be partnering with Andrew Harding, FCMA, CGMA, the Association’s chief executive of management accounting, to further professionalize management accounting and support professionals in obtaining their Chartered Global Management Credential (CGMA) credential in the Americas. This includes the digital-first Finance Leadership Program, an online learning program that teaches candidates the finance, business, people and leadership skills needed to succeed in finance teams of the future.

Hood is well known across the accounting profession and in 2020 was named the Second Most Influential Person in Accounting for the eighth year by Accounting Today. He has been a longtime thought leader and driver of change among state CPA societies, both as a volunteer chair and, since 1997, as CEO of MACPA. He received the AICPA Special Recognition Award for his contributions to the profession leading the CPA Vision Project in 2003. In addition to his CPA license, Hood has obtained

the CGMA credential and the AICPA Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) certification. He is a graduate of Loyola College (B.A. in Accounting) and has a Master’s in Finance (Real Estate) from Johns Hopkins University.

  • "Honesty and integrity are absolutely essential for success in life - all areas of life. The really good news is that anyone can develop both honesty and integrity."
  • Zig Ziglar

Monday, February 1st, 2021

The Partner Pyramid

“Life is a long lesson in humility.” – James M. Barrie

You are a leader in an accounting firm. You have worked very hard to reach the level of authority and responsibility that you now enjoy. You are now a partner. Congratulations, but beware! Things have changed.

Some CPAs, climbing the ladder of success, believe that becoming a partner means they are off the hook. They can control their own work lives. They will have many people working under their guidance to get the work done. They can relax a bit. They have reached the top of the pyramid. They can play more golf.

Wrong! Take a minute and a half to learn about the Partner Pyramid.

  • "Pride is concerned with who is right. Humility is concerned with what is right."
  • Ezra Taft Benson