Friday, September 27th, 2019

It’s Friday – Clean Up Your Emails

“No one got rich checking their email more often.” – Noah Kagan

I have heard it for years. Now, I hear it more from Baby Boomers working at accounting firms.

“I have so many emails! I just can’t keep up.”

Younger generations have found other ways to make contact. One Boomer partner’s comment to me: “My clients are texting me! I can’t deal with that!”

I have known some CPA partners and managers who almost think it is a badge of courage to say they have 1,500 emails in the inbox! Or, “I get 200 emails per day!”

Do you have hundreds in your firm email inbox? Go ahead, delete them all in one bold action and start over.

I like the efficiency practice I learned years ago in dealing with paper items sitting in a physical inbox sitting on your desk. It applies to email now.

Look at the item. You have three choices.

  1. Delegate it.
  2. Deal with it immediately.
  3. Throw it in the trash.

Have a great fall weekend.

 

  • "Email is having an increasingly pernicious effect. Not only is it having a perceptible effect on productivity, it's skewing what it is we focus on. The immediate increasingly crowds out the important. "
  • Noreena Hertz

Thursday, September 26th, 2019

Men Mentoring Women

“Colleagues are a wonderful thing – but mentors, that’s where the real work gets done.” — Junot Diaz

If you have followed me for a while, or know me personally, you know that I have been a loud voice on the topic of mentoring inside a CPA firm.

I believe it is the foundation of the CPA profession – an older, more experienced person advises and teaches a younger, less experienced person (a new college graduate). That’s the way most CPAs learned their trade.

I attribute all I know and have achieved to having other people mentor, advise, coach and teach me. Almost all of my mentors were men.

In light of the MeToo era, men are becoming hesitant and even confused about how to appropriately mentor younger (or even not-so-young) females.

It is important to initially establish comfort levels and establish boundaries. Here’s an excerpt from a recent post by @leadershipfreak  (How men overcome discomfort mentoring women) as he interviews Joan Kuhl:

Joan Kuhl, author of Dig Your Heels In, offers three practical suggestions for men who feel uncomfortable mentoring women.

  1. You can’t have different rules for men and women. You might prefer public spaces or coffee shops for mentoring conversations. If you take male mentees to sporting events, you must include female mentees.
  2. Establish trust from the start. Be willing to listen to hard feedback about company culture.
  3. Focus on goals and skills. Make the relationship development specific to the business.

Be sure to read the entire post and also watch the video of the interview. It can be used for education/training inside your own firm. Mentoring matters! You don’t want to lose mentoring opportunities just because people are wondering how to proceed.

  • "Our chief want in life is somebody who will make us do what we can."
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

Commitments Rather Than Mission Statements

“Just having satisfied customers isn’t good enough anymore. If you really want a booming business, you have to create raving fans.”―Ken Blanchard

I enjoy reading Jeffrey Gitomer’s thoughts, rants, and raves: books, articles and information on his website. If you are not familiar with him, he is a sales guy who has a whole lot to say about business and much of it strongly applies to CPAs. 

Here’s some information, from Gitomer, about client service.

Are you having a fall retreat? Are you going to talk about client retention? It’s a big management concern for CPA firms. It is much more difficult to bring in a new client than it is to retain old ones.

Don’t use your valuable time at a retreat to talk about things you will never do (or live-up to). Focus on the absolute truths you are willing to commit to in relation to serving your clients. I agree with Gitomer in that most mission statements are B.S. Define your future actions on what you REALLY intend to do, not what you wish you could do. 

As Gitomer states, “You might want to compare this list of commitments to what you are doing in your company with and to your customers. And you may want to TRASH your self-serving mission statement that NO ONE could recite even if someone was pointing a gun at them.”

Here are a few items from his customer promise and commitment list. 

We will be friendly.
We will be professional.
We will have what clients want when they want it.
We will answer the phone on the second ring with a live person.
We will be easy to do business with.
We will keep you informed as we progress.
We will recover memorably when an error occurs.
We will kiss ass and we will do it with a smile.
We will lead by example – always walking our talk.
and on and on….. 

Organize a lunch and learn session with your team and add to this list. What are you willing to do? Determine it and then DO THINGS!

  • "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, September 24th, 2019

Playing Games With Time

“Understanding the value of time is understanding the true essence of life.” – Sunday Adelaja

If you bill based time, does everyone at your firm keep their time accurately?

Do partners play games with time? For example:

  • That will put us over budget, just post your time to admin.
  • Two managers were involved, let’s just record one manager’s time.
  • I was helping Joe with some questions on XXXX client. I’ll just put my time in training.

Tell your people to record all time and that it doesn’t mean you will actually bill the client for all the time. Recording time and billing the client are two separate things.

If you are playing these games, why are you billing by time in the first place??

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

Monday, September 23rd, 2019

Monday Morning

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” – Henry Ford

Here it is again, Monday. For some, it’s a clean slate and the chance to begin again and have a successful, productive week.

For most, it’s a drag. You’ve slept in over the weekend and even getting up earlier on Monday starts things off with dread. Of course, you know that experts tell us to keep our sleeping hours routine – get up at the same time on weekends as you do during the week. We lose sight of that when Friday night arrives!

One good tip to conquer Monday mornings is something that I hope you have been doing for years. Update your to-do list on Friday BEFORE you leave and identify the specific things you need to do on Monday.

Experts tell us that on Monday, begin with a few of the easy things on your list and fairly quickly dive into the more difficult tasks. Getting them out of the way will give you a brighter outlook for the entire week.

  • "Mondays are the start of the work week which offer new beginnings 52 times a year."
  • David Dweck

Friday, September 20th, 2019

Flashback Friday – John Wooden’s Methods

You can learn a lot from John Wooden. Check out some of his methods in this Friday Flashback post.

Click here.

  • "If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"
  • John Wooden

Thursday, September 19th, 2019

Is This You?

“If in anything I have faith in something you could call the human spirit – I have faith it will always save itself at the last minute.” – Vashti Bunyan

There is a cast of characters working inside every CPA firm. You probably give them nicknames. Just maybe you are one of those famous characters yourself.

The nickname – Last Minute Larry or Last Minute Lisa might apply to more than one partner in your firm. They just simply seem to be unable to manage their clients who are also last-minute types.

Lighten-up, maybe this shirt would be a great gift!

IMG_0715

 

  • "We humans appear on the cosmic calendar so recently that our recorded history occupies only the last few seconds of the last minute of December 31st."
  • Carl Sagan

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019

Dominate Your Suffering!

A due date has passed and another looms on the horizon. Then there is so much to focus on relating to firm management and then year-end tax planning…… and then, and then….. along comes tax season.

To me, most of it was not suffering. I actually enjoyed busy season because everyone was focused on serving the client and they didn’t have time to whine and complain – they were enjoying it, too!

Voltaire wrote:

“Men are thrown into the world to suffer and to dominate their suffering. Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats; life is a desert, but we can transform our corner into a garden.”

Can you see how this might apply to your CPA firm? Start singing more!

  • "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
  • Winston Churchill

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

Deal With Toxic People

“If you put good apples into a bad situation, you’ll get bad apples.” – Philip Zimbardo

I am continually amazed at how many accounting firm leaders tolerate toxic employees.

Over the years, it is one of the issues that I discover inside many firms both large and small. It is the classic case where someone’s work product is fine but almost all of their peers dislike them and even fear them. In some cases, the offender ignores firm guidelines and openly belittles people.

They seem to serve the clients okay, but do you know for sure? Have talented people left your firm because you continually protect the “Attila the Hun” personality type?

Now is the time to deal with it before you get into another busy season.

I have blogged about this topic often hoping it will inspire leaders to deal with bad apples. Yet, the situations still seems to flourish. Here’s an informative article from HBR that might convince you to take action – How One Corrupt Employee Can a Whole Team.

  • "Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for."
  • Epicurus

Monday, September 16th, 2019

A Simple Thing

“When you meet people, show real appreciation, then genuine curiosity.” – Martha Beck

How do your clients, prospective clients, and other visitors feel when they walk into your office? Do they feel welcome, comfortable and appreciated?

Things that DO NOT promote a warm and fuzzy feeling:

  • An empty front desk
  • A sliding glass window that is closed
  • A bell to ring when you arrive
  • An outdated waiting area that looks like the 1970s
  • A receptionist that doesn’t offer to hang up their coat or get them a refreshment

I once knew a spectacular Director of First Impressions. She did some very simple things to make visitors say, “Wow!” For example, she checked the partners’ calendars every day to see if any visitors would be coming to the office to meet with partners the next day. She would make a sign and put it on her counter for each person, saying:

SUSAN SMITH

WELCOME TO

John Doe & Company

It might be a client, a prospective client, a vendor, an intern, a new hire or someone interviewing with the firm. Everyone saw a visible sign that they were important. The sign evolved into a digital message sign that sat on the reception counter.

There are a lot of little things you can do to show visitors/clients that you care.

 

  • "Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things."
  • Robert Brault