Quotes for Success
"Life's most profound questions are never answered directly, for truth can never be proven.
It can only be revealed by actions." Ralph Waldo Emerson
"In the end it is important to remember that we can't become what we need to be by remaining what we are." Max DuPree
"A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there." Unknown
"A gift that we can give each other is that of high expectations." Joe Kanfer
Life Lessons - Learning from Early Experiences!
By Bob Gallagher - November 11, 2015
After almost fifty years, I am starting to wind down my professional career and reflect on my learning and work experiences. A major influence that greatly enhanced my career, and one of the most rewarding experiences in my life, was as a nineteen-year old teenager. I was an accounting major, yet, I was hired for summer work by the Vocational Rehabilitation Department at the Veterans Administration Hospital located in Bath, New York, which housed many World War I and II veterans and was situated on 250 acres of beautiful land. My immediate supervisors were two psychologists. In 1961, the Veterans Administration decided that they wanted to create a summer pilot program to have veterans who resided at the facility be more active and assigned several to a work detail landscaping the premises. My role was to supervise the team. I never had any prior experience in landscaping or in managing people. However, as a nineteen-year old teenager, the opportunity to work during the summer was one I couldn't turn down; like most college students, I needed the income. Although this experience occurred over fifty years ago, I remember "that summer" vividly. Chester Wright, Wilber Finkbinder, Tankard Roberts and Sully were some of the names I will never forget. Sully had a powerful handshake and just smiled when he would shake my hand. Sully had a severe stuttering problem. Altogether, there were ten veterans assigned to the landscaping assignment. The ages of the gentlemen were between fifty-five and sixty-years old and they all had served in World War I and World War II.
During my first day I met the gentlemen and was provided landscaping tools and a roller for edging purposes. The veterans looked at me with curious eyes and, in some cases, with disdain. It was a very difficult day as one of the gentlemen threw a pitchfork and only moved one foot the entire day on an assignment.
At the end of the week, I was required to complete an evaluation form for each veteran. After two weeks, I was frustrated because I could have stated the same comments from the previous week. Nothing changed. How could I better motivate the team? After consulting with my supervisor, we decided to select the person who was a model worker during the first two weeks. Since there was only one - namely, Chester Wright - it was easy to give Chester the recognition. However, what no one knew at the time was that Chester was going to be placed on the payroll and receive 60 cents per hour for his services. When word spread that Chester was placed on the payroll, wow what an amazing change in attitude and work habits of many of the others. The gentleman who threw the pitchfork was a changed person. Each week, I selected a veteran to be placed on the payroll and you can imagine the conversation and the improvement in work attitudes. Their behavior mostly changed due to the financial incentive though I also praised them many times for a job well done. By the end of the summer, everyone was on the payroll and they did a wonderful job with their landscaping assignments. The veterans were very proud of al their work and you could see them definitely working as a team helping each other.
The V.A. Center had a wonderful baseball field and I was fortunate to play on a traveling team that played their weekend games at the Center. Tankard Roberts was an avid fan and he would sit in the stands chewing tobacco and rooting for our team.
During that summer, I had an illness and couldn't work for a few days. We lived on the grounds of the V.A. Center and I was resting outside our home. Around lunchtime, I saw the landscaping crew walking up our driveway. They were checking on me and I was extremely moved by their compassion. They wanted to make sure I was okay.
As I was working with the veterans I had many reflections about my father who worked for the Veterans Administration hospitals as a Hospital Administrator for forty years and was very dedicated to making sure that all veterans receive responsive and excellent care. We always lived on the hospital premises and resided in several states during that time; and my grandfather, Major Michael Dee, who was the commanding officer of the military police of the Sixth Division in France during World War I. His record in this important position was such as to merit great praise from high officials in the army, among them being Major General Clarence Edwards, who bestowed upon him the highest commendations for his efficiency, bravery and humanitarian interest in the men under his command.
At the end of my assignment, I said goodbye to the veterans and expressed by thanks for their efforts and friendship. I felt a sadness, yet at the same time, an appreciation for these gentlemen who certainly impacted my life and had devoted their lives serving our country. During the past fifty years, I have had the opportunity to work with outstanding professionals who taught me about values and commitment. I learned early on that "Life is a Broadway Play" - namely, you are on stage every minute of every day and have a tremendous impact on the people you meet, coach and mentor. There is never a standing ovation, just the wonderful satisfaction that you have assisted individuals in enjoying their work and building their self-esteem as a hallmark of one's career! I will always remember my experience working with these veterans who helped shape and influence my life at an early age. I wish I could thank them again. Someday, I know I will have that opportunity. In fact, the first person that will welcome me will be "Sully" with that powerful handshake and magical smile!
10 Questions To Help You Grow Your Client Base
By Andrew Sobel
Here are 10 questions you should ask yourself as you plan how to make this year a success:
1) What compelling ideas can you bring to your clients?
Clients frequently comment to me about how they can get virtually identical services from any of dozens of different providers, be they lawyers, consultants, bankers, or even corporate salesmen representing a product line-and that what can really distinguish someone is the ability to offer new ideas, new perspectives, or new information that helps them (the client) think differently about his or her issues. Are you content to do exactly the same thing, year after year, for your clients? If so, you may find that the professional-client bonds that tie you together are slowly and imperceptibly loosening. Think about which new-or perhaps reformulated and re-packaged-ideas can help your clients improve their businesses AND distinguish you from the rest of the pack.
2) What "Core" relationships are you going to focus on developing this year?
In any given year, there are a handful of high-potential relationships you should focus on developing with individuals who are currently NOT clients. These "Core" relationships, for most of you, number between 5 and 25, depending on where you are in your career and the exact nature of your services. They should include not just individuals you would like to develop into clients, but also "catalysts," people who can introduce you to potential clients and help make deals happen, and "collaborators," who might be strategic partners to you. You will still want to network widely, and keep in touch with a broad group of people (numbering perhaps in the hundreds) through holiday cards, publications, and so on. But for these high-potential Core Relationships, you'll do more. You'll make personal contact with these individuals several times during the year; send an article or book that corresponds to an important interest they may have, invest to learn more about them as individuals, become educated about their business interests and issues, and in general identify ways to add value to them. Make this list now and design a program of core relationship-building activities that you can commit to. The dividends will be huge.
3) Do your relationships reduce uncertainty for your clients?
Despite the inexorable commoditization of most services, many clients still gravitate toward professionals/firms with whom they have a trusted, personal relationship. A strong relationship provides many benefits, but one of the most important, for the client, is risk reduction. Do your relationships reduce uncertainty for your clients? In essence, I'm asking "Do you REALLY have a deep, trusted relationship with this client?" Here are some of the "risk-reducing" characteristics you should check for in each of your key relationships:
*There is strong personal and professional trust.
*There is mutual personal knowledge that helps each of you predict how the other will act under different circumstances.
*Your clients recognize what you're really, truly good at.
*Your clients are willing to consider using you/your firm for other types of services based on a belief in the high quality of your judgment and in the certainty that you and your firm will always deliver.
*Your clients recognize that the risk and potential additional cost of using a competitor instead of you is just not worth it!
4) Are you clear about whom you do and do not want as a client?
Knowing which clients are right for you, and having the discipline to turn down those who aren't, can really unlock the growth of your business-especially if you're small. The practical implications of this are beautifully illustrated in the article, "The Strategic Power of Saying No" (Susan Bishop, HBR, 11/1/99). Remember that you become what you sell. When you say "yes" to a client, your business mix-for better or for worse-inexorably shifts in a particular direction. Be sure it's a consciously engineered direction rather than one you stumble onto.
5) What are you going to do this year to ensure that clients call YOU?
Put another way: What's your personal marketing plan look like?
Notice that I said "personal" not "company." Even for the largest firms (e.g., Accenture or Merrill Lynch) that spend heavily on brand advertising, the ultimate foundation of a corporate brand for services-based companies is the reputation of the individual professionals that it employs. So whether you're a partner with a big consulting firm, a sales executive with a corporation, or an individual practitioner who does financial planning-you need to constantly work on creating reasons for clients to call YOU. Once they do, you'll have plenty of opportunity to represent the capabilities of your entire organization as opposed to just your own competencies. There are dozens of ways to create this "client pull", and each of you will mix and match them based on what you're good at and are comfortable with. For some (like myself), publishing articles or books will be a key element of personal marketing; for others, the emphasis may be on face-to-face networking at key conferences.
6) Are you prepared to go beyond the letter of your contracts and provide core value, surprise value, and personal value?
Clients can get "deliverables"-core value-from anybody. Are you willing to invest the time to be able to offer surprise value-insights about your client's organization and business that go beyond the specific services you're delivering? Are you getting to know your client well enough as a person so that you understand what he or she may benefit from on a personal level? (One client, for example, may want to learn more about your methodologies; another might be more interested in a valuable, personal introduction you can make for her). Remember: It's when you consistently provide all three types of value-core, surprise, and personal-that you truly stand out in your clients' eyes.
7) Do you have a mentor, and are you taking opportunities to mentor others?
Those of you who have been fortunate enough to have had mentors in your careers know how powerful such influences can be. Sometimes, it doesn't happen naturally that we have a mentor, and in such cases we need to be more assertive about seeking out advice. Some authors suggest creating a personal "board of directors," which may work well for some but for others (including myself) this seems overly formalistic and contrived. On the other hand, who will YOU be mentoring in the coming year? In a large firm, that's how you truly build a sustainable business. I do try, for example, to be quite liberal with my own counsel. I get a lot of email with questions sent by people who have read one of my books or articles, and I ALWAYS answer as thoughtfully as I can (in contrast, I have emailed the authors of several books that I read in the last year-hey, you'd think that there would exist some author-to-author mutual respect or professional courtesy-only to never hear back, ever!).
8) Which established clients of yours will you ask for a reference or referral this year?
The final and most often unrealized phase of building your "relationship capital" is when your long-standing clients help you to geometrically multiply your influence. The most common and direct way of achieving this is by getting referrals. Asking a client for a referral may seem distasteful or embarrassing to you, but if you've done a great job for someone, why wouldn't she be delighted to refer you to someone else? There's a further benefit: when a client publicly states his opinion about you, it reinforces his belief enormously. Typically, a referee's enthusiasm for you will only grow over time.
9) Can you clearly communicate to clients how you can help them and their businesses GROW?
I'm not an economist, and even if I were I would probably be no better at forecasting the economy than the next man or woman on the street. However, it's clear that we are emerging from several years of bottom-line preoccupation to a renewed interest in growth, in the broadest possible terms: revenue growth, profit growth, growth in employee loyalty, growth in ethical behavior, growth in investments, and so on. You need to be able to communicate to your clients how your services fit into a growth agenda.
10) How and when will you bring some silence into your professional and personal life?
Most of the corporate executives and professionals I work with are overwhelmed with "noise"-constant demands on their time in the form of interminable meetings, a bottomless pit of emails, phones that never stop ringing, and piles of documents to read. Consciously creating more silence in your life can have enormous benefits for you and your clients. Let me give you just two examples:
*The research on creativity shows that our most fertile ideas come during a time of reflection and quiet after intensive work. Ask yourself honestly: Do you wish you had more reflection time to really think about your clients' and your own issues, and come up with innovative solutions and alternative ideas?
*Because most of us have a bit of the "expert for hire" mentality, we generally fill up any empty space in our client conversations with what are no doubt "interesting" opinions, findings and facts. After all, we've got so many things to tell our clients! Instead, try leaving some space in your discussions-some moments of silence. It's highly unlikely that your clients will think you're stupid or have "run out of things to say." On the contrary: You'll come across as empathetic, reflective, and wise!
Create more silence in your life - it will pay dividends in unexpected ways!
The Crackberry Disease!
It is a shame that such a useful and brilliant technology has created a terrible addiction known as the Crackberry Disease and today there is no known immediate cure. If you thought smoking addiction is bad, wait until you see this addiction.
Partners are upsetting major clients, their other Partners, their professional staff, their family, even golfing buddies and car passengers with their addiction to the Blackberry, Treo and similar tools.
Unfortunately, such misuse and disrespect for others is clouding the benefit of this wonderful productivity-enhancement tool. Blackberry, Treo and other users should follow the following five sacred rules to protect them from being diagnosed with this proverbial disease:
Turn off your Blackberry during all Partner meetings and also at church.
Turn off your Blackberry when having dinner with clients or playing golf.
Turn off your Blackberry while driving when there are other passengers in the car.
Stop showing disrespect to other Partners by utilizing your Blackberry when they are discussing an issue.
Give someone who has the disease the necessary medication (rules) to get better.
As you know we always tell our friends to stop smoking for many health reasons. However, one will only change their behavior if there are consequences. Don't wait to lose a major client or a golf buddy while being addicted to your Blackberry or Treo. Start now taking the medication.
Business Development Ideas
"Your current charge hours determine your current income. Your marketing hours determine your future income". David Maister
Remember the five "P's" of marketing: Process, Persistence, Pro-Active, Problem Solving, Planning
Clip various articles of interest on business or personal matters from the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and local papers and mail to clients with a complimentary card.
Send thank you notes to network, friends and clients to build relationships. Remember the power of the written word is enormous.
To further illustrate the power of a note, there was a story on ESPN on February 4, 2002 about the national high school football Player of the Year who had to make a choice on attending Florida State, Washington University, University of Notre Dame or University of Southern California. The player had narrowed his choices to these four Universities. The commentator was highlighting his outstanding performances in high school and also interviewed the player's mother.
During the interview, the player, noted that he received hundreds and hundreds of letters from college coaches who were recruiting him. The player commented "that he only read the handwritten notes and threw away typed letters. He knew that the coach cared about him if the coach took the time to write a personal note." This is also evident in the business world and it is the old adage "before you show me how much you know, show me how much you care." A handwritten note does take time but shows the client that you really care and as noted above, will create a lasting impression.
Send separate letters and correspondence regarding matters noted during a review of financial or tax issues, (it is important to mail this letter separately from the Tax Return Transmittal Letter so that the client receives maximum awareness about each issue).
While you are meeting with your clients, ask them if they are satisfied with your services. Feedback is important. Have we exceeded their expectations? Listen, Listen, Listen.
Remember holidays, especially Thanksgiving Day, which are opportunities to send cards and thank clients for their business and friendship. The personal touch is most important.
Build relationships by showing that you care about the client's family as well as their business. If you do something special for an individual's family, it will be viewed that you care.
Join an organization and be involved. Don't join just for the sake of attending a luncheon. Be involved. Be President. Do something special for the organization. Be creative.
Think business development the first 15 minutes of each day. Be proactive and focus on attaining goals.
Give at least two speeches a year and write or co-authoran article that will be published. It takes time, however the benefit both professionally and personally is worth the investment.
Create an internal cross-serving session to learn about different issues. Assign an individual to present a topic each month. Identify the timely business and tax topics.
Utilize PowerPoint for all client and proposal presentations. Rehearsal equals success.
Return client calls immediately. Always return calls the same day and make two "check-in" calls each day with a client.
Write management letters with recommendations to improve client's cash flow and profitability.
Read four business books a year to expand your knowiedge about marketing and managing people.
Have a standard list of client references available for a prospective client. "Utilize Client Testimonials".
Identify your network sales force - five attorneys, five clients. five other business associates. Your sales force is your key to assisting you to develop new business. Remember "Dig your well before you're thirsty" (Harvey McKay)
Host an annual open house for your clients and business network. Treat them special! Make it a "Fun Event".
Refer your network to your clients' business to purchase products or services.
Keep track of referrals and make sure that statistics are maintained for referrals to bank, law firms, and other sources.
Be enthusiastic and ask prospective clients for their business. Be pro-active and persistent.
Offer additional services that the client needs to enhance the value of their company.
Meet with clients prospects, or your network for lunch a minimum of three times a week. Remember "People Sell People."
When presenting information to a client or a prospective client, utilize the flip chart or a chalkboard. A stand-up presentation dramatically improves business development results.
Business development is about building relationships and trust with your network and prospects. Be patient and persistent.
Remember the five "P's" of marketing: Process, Persistence, Pro-active, Problern Solving, Planning
"Before You Show Me How Much You Know, Show Me How Much You Care"John Maxwell
Twenty-Five Strategies to Keep Your Firm on Top
Despite all that's happened in CPA firms and the profession in recent years, some things never change. These "unchangeables"-also known as the basics-relate to the proper management of your practice, as AOMAR was recently reminded by reviewing a list of strategies for building and maintaining a CPA firm practice.
The list was developed a while back and most of those pointers still apply. No matter what the CPA firm of the new millennium looks like, these suggestions always will be meaningful:
1. Build the team for the future. Invest in training, and have all partners and managers conduct management development workshops. Provide training to administration staff, too.
2. Launch a management development library. Recommended Reading contains a number of classics. They should be made available to all staff.
3. Propose training in public speaking. All professionals should be adept at public speaking; those who aren't should attend a course, and practice.
4. Start an internship program. This involves hiring college students whom you can train in your firm's way of doing things, and who can become a part of your team early in their careers.
5. Develop the team concept. This is generally understood in firms that are organized into practice groups. But even if yours isn't, you can foster the concept that each engagement involves a team effort. In some firms, groups of people seem to gravitate toward working together regularly. Examine the dynamic of these self-formed teams. Such a tendency can be a productivity enhancer for your firm.
6. Begin a firmwide "people skills" program. Dealing with people is largely what professional services firms are all about. Training should stress listening and communication, but also motivation, consistency, and compassion.
7. Farm out some work. If your firm does mostly audits and consulting with a small amount of tax work, consider subcontracting out the last. This lets you focus staff and effort on the major part of your practice and what you do best.
8. Require periodic management development training for all partners. This helps them reinforce what they need to make the firm successful. Such workshops should focus on people management, productivity, and marketing.
9. Hold an annual awards banquet for staff. Beyond the post-busy-season-dinner, you can give credit to the contributions and achievements of staff in front of their peers. While Gallagher's suggestion involved professional staff only, expand this to include administration staff, whose hard work must be recognized as well.
10. Require annual physicals for all partners. Healthy partners are productive-making checkups and exercise required activities helps keep them that way.
11. Track time on a daily basis. Whether you use timesheets or online reporting-and even if your firm is moving more toward value billing-all staff should know where they're spending their time. This is not just a billing issue; it is a productivity issue.
12. Establish a written billing and collection policy. If you don't have one, now's the time to create it.
13. Classify hours as charge, non-charge, or marketing hours. AOMAR suggests adding categories for administration, training, and mentoring.
14. Schedule quarterly partner planning meetings. And make them on Saturdays, so client work doesn't "interfere."
15. Establish one day a month for committee meetings, marketing sessions, and review of monthly billing data.
16. Establish a principal or director-level slot for your firm administrator and marketing director. These are key members of your management team - treat them as such by granting them partner-level status and involving them in planning and decisionmaking.
17. Use a credit manager for bill collection. Even a part-time one for smaller firms can help ease the demands of this sensitive issue on partner time.
18. Institute a performance-based compensation system for staff.
19. Adjust hourly rates twice a year-once to reflect salary costs, then for increases in other costs.
20. Develop a business plan to establish your firm's direction.
21. Fund a retirement plan if you haven't yet done so, and cap annual payments to retired partners.
22. Conduct a client survey every two years and listen to what they have to say. Respond immediately to any concerns-and make sure the clients know you've done so.
23. Develop an internal newsletter. Especially in larger firms and those that now include merged-in partners and staff, it is important to provide a personal touch and share information about achievements in the office and outside of it.
24. Host an annual open house for clients and prospects. Let them see your offices and meet the whole firm.
25. Create a sense of urgency. "Clients want service today-not tomorrow," Gallagher says. While today's staffing shortages may make it harder to reach this goal, consider what steps you can take to make high-quality, fast service a reality.
CPA Partner Potential
Time Management Skills
Ten Watchwords for the Millenium
Change Pro-Active Anticipate
Consultative Positive Attitude Achiever
Classic Service Promptness Author Specialist