Friday, July 23rd, 2021

Professional Courtesy – Flashback Friday

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” – Henry James

Has professional courtesy completely disappeared? Do you talk to people and they are not even looking at you, they are looking at their phone or computer. Check out this post from 2019 about what a school is doing to instill professional courtesy in their students.

Have a nice weekend. I love summer!

  • "And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer."
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Thursday, July 22nd, 2021

What Your Team Expects

“Trust me is easy to say, especially when you mean it, but hard to hear.” – Seth Godin

As a result of all the changes firms have faced in the last sixteen to eighteen months, progressive firms are updating their employee handbooks. Many new and changing guidelines need to be explained and documented so that your team members know what is expected as a member of your firm’s team.

Even in your old handbook, is it possible that what you are saying contradicts what they are seeing?

Again, I am talking about setting a good example. I have learned through experience, that the partners are the ones who do not follow the documented processes and procedures that are clearly spelled out in the handbook.

People are now expecting many things to be different but they’ve been taught through experience not to believe that things are actually going to be different.

A quote from Seth Godin: “If you’ve read ten employee handbooks that say one thing when the company does another, you’re likely to not believe the eleventh one.”

Be sure to read Godin’s blog post about this topic. It is titled, Yadda, yadda, yadda.

  • "Showing tends to beat telling."
  • Seth Godin

Wednesday, July 21st, 2021

Steady On

“Frantic work is never your best work.” – Dan Rockwell

I enjoy reading tweets and blog posts by @LeadershipFreak (Dan Rockwell). His recent one, A Dairy Farmer’s Path to Success, has many good lessons for accountants. I especially liked the following excerpt:

Steady on:

I asked a farmer how he was doing and he said, “Steady on.”

You never see a farmer running around like a chicken with its head cut off. (Apologies to chickens.)

Days are long on the farm, so you pace yourself. Medium speed allows you to work all day.

Frantic work is never your best work.

Read the blog post from Dan to learn more success tips from dairy farmers.

  • "The future isn’t predictable. Instead, it’s created by informed decisions, bold action, and agile responses."
  • Dan Rockwell

Tuesday, July 20th, 2021

Visible To The Outside World

“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” – Simon Sinek

What do your clients say about your firm? What do your employees say about your firm?

Clients talk to their employees, families, friends, and business associates. Employees talk to their families and friends. What they say is a reflection of your firm’s culture.

I continually urge you to focus on culture. Yes, it is more difficult when your team members are working remotely. You should still focus on maintaining a healthy, vibrant culture. If you, as leaders, don’t work diligently to form an attractive, supportive culture, one will form on its own and it might not be a culture that you relish.

  • "Performance more often comes down to a cultural challenge, rather than simply a technical one."
  • Lara Hogan

Monday, July 19th, 2021

Considering A CRM For Your Firm?

“Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be.” – John Wooden

When I worked at a CPA firm, I was always proud of the fact that the firm was on the leading edge when it came to new ideas, processes, and software tools. We were paperless very early on but waited several years for a Document Management System that actually fit the CPA profession.

One technology tool we never purchased and one that I hesitate to recommend for CPA firms is a CRM (Client Relationship Management). Data is only as good as what is fed into the system. I knew that our partners would simply not expend the extra effort to record important client information and conversations into the system. The old slogan applied: Garbage in, garbage out.

That is why I enjoyed a recent article by Gene Marks (the famous guy you see on TV) who is a CPA. The title: On CRM: The Best CRM For An Accounting Firm Is Probably No CRM.

He explains particular things that apply to accountants that make them poor candidates for a CRM. His company has even tried and failed to implement CRMs in a dozen firms.

Be sure to read his article. I am sure the reasons for CRM failure will sound very familiar to you!

  • "The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing."
  • Henry Ford

Friday, July 16th, 2021

Words Are Powerful

“Be mindful when it comes to your words. A string of some that don’t mean much to you, may stick with someone else for a lifetime.” -Rachel Wolchin

Early in my career, I remember my firm’s partners providing feedback to me in the form of words. Yes, simple words. I have always remembered those words and I still think that keeping feedback simple is the best policy.

Right now, many of you are involved in providing feedback to your employees about their performance during busy season. Read this Flashback Friday post about evaluating people using words.

  • "The secret of being boring is to say everything."
  • Voltaire

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

Learn From History

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.” – Abraham Lincoln

My husband and I are history buffs, especially Civil War history. We have visited many battlefields and other sites. Ken Burns’ Civil War has taught us so much and a movie I always recommend is Gettysburg. It tells the story from both sides and is quite informative. It was actually filmed on the National Battlefield site in Gettysburg, one we have visited many times.

At Gettysburg, you, of course, think of Lincoln. Last week we did a road trip (the first one since COVID) and visited Lincoln’s birthplace in Kentucky (and Jefferson Davis’ birthplace, also in Kentucky). Here’s the memorial at Lincoln’s birthplace.

Our road trip also took us to Graceland and Elvis’ birthplace in Tupelo. We visited Shiloh National Military Park and Vicksburg National Military Park. I refer to this road trip as the birthplace and battlefield trip.

Now, think back on the history of your accounting firm. How has it evolved over time and what can you learn from your triumphs and your failures? I have observed that some firms that historically had a more dictatorship type of leadership changed to a very laid-back culture when new leaders took over. I have also seen the opposite happen. A very casual, and honestly disorganized type of leadership changed to a very structured and even rigid culture when the next generation took over.

What is your culture like now? Is it the type of culture you are proud of? Does your culture (and your brand appear attractive to potential employees and potential clients? Exploring your firm’s history might be quite eye-opening like American history is to me.

More pictures – the Jefferson Davis birthplace and, of course, Elvis’ birthplace in Tupelo MS.

  • "America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."
  • Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, July 14th, 2021

Gossip & Rumors

“Often those that criticize others reveal what he himself lacks.” ~ Shannon L. Alder

Rumor: A currently circulating story or report of uncertain or doubtful truth.

Gossip: A casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.

Have you read about, or watched shows about Henry VIII (like The Tudors, etc.)? I was fascinated with the way the royal Court operated on rumor and gossip. It seemed to be very much a part of Royal life. Current day, just consider all the rumors surrounding Harry and Meghan.

It all brings to mind what I call the “Grapevine” inside accounting firms. I have never encountered a firm where there is absolutely no grapevine. I always advise people new to working in a public accounting firm to stay away from The Grapevine.

Gossip and rumors thrive when communication from the top is inadequate. The is why I consider communication as the root of all evil inside firms. Rumors and gossip begin when someone drops the communication ball.

Always make communication a priority. Your people want to feel included; they want to know what is going on. If leaders do not tell them they will form their own opinions that are usually not true.

Some say that malicious gossip led to the death of Anne Boleyn. Don’t let gossip and rumor thrive inside your firm.

  • "Isn’t it kind of silly to think that tearing someone else down builds you up?"
  • Sean Covey

Tuesday, July 13th, 2021

Keeping It Simple

“How difficult it is to be simple.” – Vincent Van Gogh

CPA leaders working in public accounting have a bothersome skill. I have observed on many occasions that they have the ability to complicated almost anything. Maybe it is their inquisitive nature. Rather than just try something, test something to see if it works, they research, investigate, question an idea over and over and usually end up NOT trying something new.

They have high expectations for the team members but don’t often clearly (and simply) communicate them.

Here is some simple advice intended for a high school marching band as they depart on a road trip. I hope you can see how it could be used to communicate with your own team members. It also applies to your partner group.

  • "You've got to change incentives for good behavior as opposed to just disincentivizing bad behavior."
  • Gavin Newsom

Monday, July 12th, 2021

The Good Things

“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.” – Marianne Williamson

Hopefully, if you had your partner retreat in May or June, you have already scheduled your annual “state of the firm” event. It is a very important event, especially if you are wanting your employees to be “engaged” with the firm.

The annual event is done differently in various firms. Some firms focus on the firm’s performance for the last fiscal year. Some firms use it as a way to obtain feedback from the team.

It is most powerful when firms use it as a way to host a full-firm management day. At this special meeting, the partners report on what they accomplished at their strategic planning retreat and how they think the team members can help them in achieving the strategic initiatives. It is a way to build momentum and focus on the good things the firm has accomplished and the good things that firm leaders want to achieve in the coming year.

At your full firm meeting always review the “good things” that have happened during the past year. Leaders often talk too much and think about the bad things.

At this annual meeting, it is time for positive thoughts and direction. Some firms have a guest speaker to help with motivation and have break-out sessions to explore ideas that can help the firm move forward in the coming year.

Get busy! Focus on the good things!

  • "Goodness is about character - integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people."
  • Dennis Prager