Posts Tagged ‘think’

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Are You An Original Or A Copy?

Today’s post is one of those “it’s on my mind” type ramblings that I sometimes can’t resist. I’ll be asking you, as a firm leader, lots of questions and I want you to think about your answers.

During my think time early this morning, my mind kept wandering to the topic of CPA firm leaders’ hesitancy in doing something different, something new, something they have never tried before.

The question I get most often is: “What are other firms doing?” Often it is even more specific: “What are other firms our size doing?” The question I want YOU to start asking is, “Why?”

We need to get our 2-day partner retreat scheduled.” Why? Will the outcome be any different than last year? Have you been talking about the same thing for 5 or 6 years? Will the same people be attending or will you involve some of your youngest people this year? Do your managers have a chance to provide input to the agenda? What do they think is the most pressing issue for the firm at this point in time?

We need a firm administrator.” Why? Will you invest in their education? Will you involve them in every partner meeting and strategic planning session? Will you allow them to be a participant rather than just taking notes? Will partners commit to giving up their favorite administrative duties to focus on partner-level activities (like bringing in business, enhancing client relationships and mentoring younger accountants)? Will you document the firm administrator duties and the duties of the managing partner so that they do not duplicate efforts?

We need a marketing director.” Why? Are you going to actually begin writing a blog for your website? Will you form a team to make the writing chore easier? Will the writers commit to actually writing on a consistent basis?  Will you involve the marketing director in partner meetings and retreats? Will the partners agree to establish a pipeline system and keep it active? As a partner, will you keep your word and show up for charitable events and business functions or will you say you will attend and then cancel out at the last minute leaving the marketing director with an empty seat to fill?

We need to hire some additional staff.” Why? Is it because you have had turnover? Have you developed an action plan for retaining your top performers? Do you recognize your all-stars or shy away from it because you do not want to show favoritism? Young accountants want feedback; are you giving it on a daily basis? Everyone wants feedback on their job performance; are you providing open, honest communication continually?

It is time for some new thinking inside accounting firms. As one of my clients said to me, “It’s time to stir the pot.” How can you “stir the pot” at your firm in 2012? It’s summer…. plenty of time left THIS YEAR to ask lots of questions and try something new.

This fall as you (I’m talking to the managing partner here) attend your firm association meeting, where you gather with other managing partners from other accounting firms, is it time to ask, “Why?” Why am I attending? Am I just going to copy what others are doing? Has the best practice actually been successful for others or are they just bragging? If some new idea or best practice has actually worked well for another firm am I willing to actually implement it at my firm? Do I contribute new ideas or do I just listen? Has this group of managing partners been together so long that they are stuck in the past? As my friend Dustin Hostetler asks: Are they trying to make yesterday’s solutions work in a tomorrow world?

I saw a Cigna ad in Time magazine that triggered most of these questions. One question was featured in the ad and I would like for you to ask yourself:

When’s the last time you did something for the first time?

  • Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore"
  • L. Frank Baum

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Talking CPA Firm Management And Then Doing Something About It

I missed posting a blog entry yesterday. Sorry about that. It is rare. I have been blogging every business day for 6-1/2 years on the topic of CPA firm management.

So, it’s not difficult for me to “talk” CPA firm management for two solid days – to me it’s fun. Some say it’s weird.

Wednesday and Thursday, on behalf of the Massachusetts CPA Society, I facilitated workshops on the topic. Wednesday it was focused on engaging your people (mentoring them, managing them, understanding the generations in the workplace and building on that culture of understanding). Thursday was focused on MAP (Managing an Accounting Practice) – things like recruiting, orientation, marketing, communication, running an efficient, profitable firm and building a culture where people will stay and build their careers.

Bottom line…. we had a good time each day. It was two separate workshops so some people attended both days and some just attended one. We covered a lot of ground and most important of all, the attendees learned a lot from each other.

They all agreed that they need to go back to their firms and Do Things.

When I asked each participant to share how they felt at the end of the day and what they were going to do, one young gentleman had a thought-provoking comment for all of YOU….

He said (paraphrasing), “I realize that I can make a difference. I’m not going to worry about what everybody else thinks or if all leaders are on board, I can do things on my own.”

Long holiday weekend ahead – get refreshed and take some time to THINK about what you are going to do to make your CPA firm a magnet for talent and clients.

  • Whether you think you can or think you can't. You're right.
  • Henry Ford

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Be More Creative

Sometimes inside accounting firms, people are not very creative. What I am referring to is that employees are taught and expected to follow checklists and firm leaders manage the firm based on what other CPA firms are doing.

Seems pretty confining, right? I don’t mean you should discard your checklists (they bring efficiency, accuracy and quality to the work you provide clients). I don’t mean you should never refer to another MAP survey. What I want you to do is encourage your people to THINK and challenge the status quo.

I was reading my March issue of FAST Company and a headline about brainstorming caught my eye. FAST Company talked to Jonah Lehrer (author of Imagine: How Creativity Works) about the types of creativity and how brainstorming doesn’t work. Some of his comments follow – be sure to read the one about brainstorming.

How Does Creativity Work? – We use creativity in the singular as if there is only one way the brain creates new connections but there are probably three neurologically distinct forms of creativity. One is when you have these moments of insight that come out of the blue (when you are in the shower). Another form is really working hard at solving a problem and the third is spontaneous improvisation (what Miles Davis did).

Can a person choose which kind of creativity to use? – The type of process we should use really depends on the type of problem we’re solving. I think we have to do a better job of diagnosing where we are in the creative process and adjust our thought process accordingly. When I’m stuck, I realize now I need to let myself relax, because the answer will arrive only when I stop looking for it. (Keller comment: Hasn’t this happened to you many times when trying to solve an accounting problem?)

You say brainstorming doesn’t work. Why? – The reason is it’s main rule: Thou shalt not criticize. (Keller: We tell our people, team, committee, task force, partners at a retreat – “spit it out, no idea is too dumb, we won’t laugh or make fun of anyone, i.e., criticize.) As long as criticism is constructive, it forces people to engage on a deeper level. The problem with brainstorming is free associations are really superficial and constricted by language. Criticism is important to get past that.

At your partner retreat this year, dig deeper into a few issues rather than superficially looking at many of the firms challenges. If a good idea surfaces, attack it! Use confrontation as a tool, don’t hide from it.

In my experience, when really tough issues come up, CPA partners tend to look at their laps rather than open their mouths. Get over it and be more creative at your firm.

Read more about Jonah Lehrer: the prodigy who lights up our brain.

  • To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.
  • Albert Einstein