Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

Do You Have People Who Aren’t Self-Aware In Your Firm?

“I am dating a woman now who, evidently, is unaware of it.” – Gary Shandling

Research shows that although 95% of people think they are self-aware, only 10 to 15% actually are.

In a recent article via HBR, you probably can find them in your office. It is my observation that you definitely find them in CPA firms!

These are people who have solid qualifications and are intelligent, yet they have no clue as to how they come across to their co-workers or employees. They are not only frustrating, but they can also cause increased stress and decreased motivation for others on the team.

Sometimes it is hard to identify that the real problem is lack of self-awareness. Some things to consider are that they don’t accept critical feedback, they lack empathy, they have an inflated opinion of their contributions and they are hurtful to others without realizing it.

Sometimes upward feedback surveys can bring the issues to the surface. In other cases, if you recognize it in others, you might have that crucial conversation with the person yourself.

Read the entire article. Plan to deal with these situations rather than sweep them under the carpet and risk driving top performers away from your firm.

 

  • "There must be a happy medium somewhere between being totally informed and blissfully unaware."
  • Doug Larson

Monday, March 23rd, 2020

Choose Calm Over Panic

“The language of excitement is at best picturesque merely. You must be calm before you can utter oracles.” – Henry David Thoreau

Seth Godin’s blog post from last Friday is so meaningful during these confusing times.

Here is one passage that spoke to me.

Twitter has been engineered to maximize panic. Calm is penalized, panic is amplified. And if you are hanging out in real life with people who spend a lot of time on social media and news sites, you’ve invited all of those people into your circle as well. – Seth Godin

I use Twitter for communication and for sharing helpful information for CPAs and their teams. So many people don’t. I don’t follow them. You shouldn’t either.

  • "He who is of calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition youth and age are equally a burden."
  • Plato

Saturday, March 21st, 2020

Weekends – Lighten-Up

“Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things.” – George Carlin

For several years I also wrote a daily post for the weekends. Something that was funny or off-topic. In recent years, I have just stuck with the weekday posts.

Since so many of you are working from home now (like I have done for the last 12 years), you will find that weekends don’t seem much different than weekdays!

So, I will begin posting some flashbacks (and some new observations) so you can lighten-up, it’s the weekend.

Here’s one I hope you like – Is This You?

  • "Just cause you got the monkey off your back doesn't mean the circus has left town."
  • George Carlin

Friday, March 20th, 2020

AICPA ENGAGE Conference – Cancelled

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

News from the AICPA about one of their largest conferences:

AICPA and CIMA to Postpone ENGAGE 2020 Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

Accounting and Finance Event to Be Rescheduled Later This Year

NEW YORK (March 19, 2020) – ENGAGE 2020, one of the largest accounting and finance conferences in North America, will be postponed until later this year due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The event is sponsored by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).

The original date for ENGAGE 2020 was June 7-11 in Las Vegas. Details on the timing and format of the rescheduled event are still being set, as the situation surrounding the outbreak is fluid.

“We want our attendees, staff, and speakers to be safe, so this is the most prudent step to take at this point,” said Clar Rosso, executive vice president for engagement and learning innovation at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, the global organization comprised of the AICPA and CIMA.  “We also know that families, small businesses and companies of all sizes will be depending on CPAs and management accountants to help guide them through unexpected financial and economic challenges in the weeks ahead, so we are bearing that in mind, too.”

Given the restrictions on normal activities, the AICPA and CIMA continue to explore ways to support our members in their professional and personal development through expanded digital offerings and other virtual learning opportunities. More information will be available on these enhanced options soon.

ENGAGE 2020 attendees who are already registered and others interested in details about the rescheduled event can sign up for updates on aicpaengage.com. More information about the postponement, refunds, and other policies can be found in a FAQ on the site.

Several other upcoming AICPA conferences will also be postponed, including the AICPA CFO Conference, which will now be held Sept. 16-18 at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort in San Diego, Calif., the AICPA Employee Benefit Plans Conference and the AICPA Not-for-Profit Industry Conference, with the latter two reschedulings still to be determined. Please visit aicpaconferences.com for more information on events in the weeks ahead.

  • "During my New York run, I injured my voice badly. I was getting increasingly hoarse, and it finally gave up. The doctor said I had two choices. Either cancel things, or try my luck and perhaps never speak again. That's not much of a choice."
  • Trevor Noah

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

Trust Your Leader

“Leadership means that a group, large or small, is willing to entrust authority to a person who has shown judgment, wisdom, personal appeal, and proven competence.” – Walt Disney

The above quote applies to public accounting firms. The firm has rewarded some employees the role of partner. Partner means owner AND leader in the firm.

The group of leaders has spent time and energy on deciding who should be the managing partner (or CEO) of the firm. This person has won their respect and trust.

Often the managing partner walks a tightrope between what is best for the firm and what is best for any individual partner. It is not an easy job. They must go well beyond client service (which most partners should be focused on). They must study current trends, pay attention to all employees, gather productive methods from other firms, be the face and voice of the firm in the local business community, etc.

So, be sure that you are “entrusting authority” to your MP. If the owner group has doubts if they have the right person, stop complaining, wondering, and second-guessing the person in the role. Trust them and give them authority or select a different MP.

  • "Fantasy and reality often overlap."
  • Walt Disney

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

You Are A Star

“It is kind of fun to do the impossible.” – Walt Disney

When you work for Disney all employees are referred to as cast members. Cast members refer to every employee, not just the ones who portray Disney characters.

473CB98A-3331-416C-BE99-D52F25AD638CThis method came from Walt Disney himself. He wanted to create a theme park that was a magical place for all the visitors. To him, each day, the employees were putting on a show, a magical show. It is about managing the guests’ experience.

You can bring this line of thinking into your busy, successful CPA firm. You are the same as Disney – you are providing a service and a wonderful experience for your customers (clients). You want each client, potential client, visitor or vendor dealing with your firm to have the same Smith, Jones & Company experience whether it is the Mr. Big Shot client or the Elderly Lady client.

So, when things get back to normal (after working remotely for a while), walk into the office and remember that you are going on stage. You are a star in your firm’s production. As you work from home, you can apply the same process. You will be talking with clients via phone, texting and emailing them. Let your “on stage” personality shine through.

Later on, help your firm develop some guidelines for the client experience at your firm and train future employees on how to manage the client experience.

Here are some “secret” rules for Disney employees.

  • "The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing."
  • Walt Disney

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

What Firms Are Doing – COVID-19

“It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness.” — Seneca

I made an inquiry as to what individual CPA firms were doing in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. Thanks to the many firm leaders who replied.

As you can imagine, it is a continuing saga and things are changing daily. As of now, here are some things I learned:

  • From East Coast to West Coast all of the firms are already providing the option for employees to work at home.
  • A small number of “key” people are working in the office to take care of various daily tasks.
  • Of course, all firms are stressing that “if you are sick, stay home!”
  • Firms are on a mission to control cleanliness – Cleaning doorknobs, light switches, copy machine keypads, restrooms, etc. on a daily basis and in some firms several times per day. Many are supplying hand sanitizers at each workstation and other places throughout the office.
  • Firm meetings have been canceled and everyone is being asked not to attend any kind of outside meeting – board meetings, etc.
  • Auditors are working remotely.
  • Tax clients are being asked to drop off their tax info in a special receptacle in the lobby and not interact with the receptionist.
  • All in-person client meetings have been canceled and communication is happening virtually via various options.
  • Firms have banned all firm travel. If local travel is necessary, the firm has requested that the employees drive and not take public transportation.
  • One firm, located in Washington State, is “in the thick of it” and many contingencies have been put into place to help any who are directly exposed. Many of their employees have self-quarantined because of possible exposure and some are awaiting test results because of exposure. Employees in the high-risk category were sent home last week until further notice.
  • Firms are even arranging ways for those in the office to practice social distancing.

These comments come from firms in North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Maryland, Washington, Illinois, and several from California.

I was very impressed with the proactiveness of so many firms but I am certainly not surprised. Accounting firms are problem-solving champions!

I live in Ohio and I have been especially impressed with what our state government is doing and communication is a huge part of it.

Right now, communication is critical and firms are continually keeping their people in the loop as to new developments almost on an hourly basis.

This is a huge challenge for public accounting firms and most mentioned that they are awaiting word about extending tax deadlines.

Be sure you are communicating and carrying out your own firm’s plan.

  • "Preparedness is the key to success and victory."
  • Douglas MacArthur

Monday, March 16th, 2020

Stay Positive

“I’ve decided to be happy because it is good for my health.” – Voltaire

It is a strange time for all of you working in public accounting. Of course, it is tax season. Client service must continue as usual. However, strange and unfamiliar circumstances have been layered on top of business as usual.

Many of you are working from home this week and for the unforeseeable future. In my state of Ohio, all schools will be closed at the end of today.

This new day and week will bring new challenges. However, I know that CPAs and all their team members will meet the challenges with style and grace. They will be creative, curious and dedicated.

Already, I have heard from many firms about how they are handling the challenges. I will post about some solutions that CPA firms are embracing tomorrow. It is a time of flexibility and creativity and I KNOW you are good at that.

I love to share quotes and it is time for some positive ones! Below are a few (via @SkipPrichard). Follow this link to read his entire post – 24 Quotes to help you relax when you are stressed.

Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answers.” – William Burroughs

“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” – Mohandas Gandhi

“Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax.” – Mark Black

  • "Nothing can bring you peace but yourself."
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, March 13th, 2020

Don’t Get Too Busy To Provide Feedback

You only have to do very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.” – – Warren Buffett

Inside your firm this busy season you have interns and new-hires, first-year CPA candidates.

During the hiring process for these young, future CPAs you talked to, listened to, entertained them. The firm leaders were on their best behavior.

Then when these young, high-potential employees enter the firm they are often greeted with silence. Sure they go through training but often it’s do-this, do-that, follow-this guideline and so on.

When young people enter your accounting firm, keep the conversations going – – not some sort of formal feedback session after 60-days or 90-days – talk to them daily. Create a culture of communication – clear, concise, honest and often.

Seth Godin says the best way to change long-term behavior is with short-term feedback. The opposite is not true. We rarely change short-term behavior with long-term feedback.

There is a lot of whining surrounding performance evaluation systems inside CPA firms. It creates a culture of dread. If you want to change your culture and attract top talent – start with feedback.

  • "How was your day? is a question that matters a lot more than it seems."
  • Seth Godin

Thursday, March 12th, 2020

Important News From The AICPA

Here’s a press release:

AICPA Calls for Tax Relief for Individuals and Businesses Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

WASHINGTON, DC, March 11, 2020 – The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) today called for the Treasury Department and the IRS to provide relief to all taxpayers in light of the uncertainty and challenges caused by the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Specifically, we request that Treasury and the IRS consider the following recommendations, which will provide extensive relief to millions of individuals and businesses:

Individuals

  • Broad Relief: Extend certain deadlines falling on or after March 15, 2020 and before October 15, 2020 to give individuals additional time to file and make payments through October 15, 2020.
  • Automatic Extension: Provide an automatic extension to October 15, 2020, without the need to file any forms or request an extension.
  • Penalties & Interest:
    • Waive late payment penalties if at least 70% of an individual’s current tax due is paid by April 15, 2020.
    • Waive interest through October 15, 2020.
  • Other Relief:
    • Waive underpayment penalties for 2020 estimated tax payments if paid by September 15, 2020.
    • Extend the IRA contribution deadline.

Businesses

  • Broad Relief: Extend certain deadlines falling on or after March 15, 2020 and before October 15, 2020, to give businesses additional time to file and make payments through October 15, 2020.
  • Automatic Extension: Provide an automatic extension without the need to file any forms or request an extension.
  • Penalties & Interest: Waive late payment penalties and interest through October 15, 2020.
  • Other Relief: Provide appropriate relief for all businesses and tax-exempt organizations regarding elections and filings (including payroll, excise tax, etc.).

“We are hearing from our members that they and their clients are experiencing great uncertainty about this year’s tax filing season.  Our recommendations will help give taxpayers, large and small, much-needed relief in the midst of this fast-moving emergency situation,” said Edward Karl, AICPA Vice President of Taxation.  “We continue to closely monitor the Coronavirus pandemic and thank the Treasury Department and IRS for their commitment to the welfare of all taxpayers.”

  • "Panic causes tunnel vision. Calm acceptance of danger allows us to more easily assess the situation and see the options."
  • Simon Sinek