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Archive for June, 2011

The news this weekend was very sad. After a week-long struggle following a massive stroke, Clarence Clemons passed away. For those of us who grew up listening to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Clarence held a special place.  He was the soul of the band and a character that was bigger than life. His impact on many like myself who never had the pleasure to meet him personally was profound. Recalling many hours of listening to his soulful sax solos, it is great music such as his which can help clear your head and allow you to think, innovate and get motivated.

I read with great interest the accounts of his relationship with Bruce, and while I have heard the stories before, it was most enjoyable to read about their true bond of friendship and, in fact, partnership. What would they have been in life without each other? Perhaps just as successful, perhaps not. But they definitely would have had different career paths. Partnerships are important to many of us. It is the support we get from both our business and life partners which motivate us to success. The last thing any of us want to do is to let a partner down. They are people we can trust, rely upon and depend on. To have successful partnerships, we need to be continually mindful of the mutual goals and objectives. We can’t be petty, unfair or selfish, otherwise we will push good partners away. We must be gracious and appreciative of each other’s efforts while holding each other accountable to the partnership as a whole.

Like Bruce and Clarence, I have been blessed with great partners throughout my career which has lead to much success, making it enjoyable to face life’s challenges every day.

Rest in Peace, Clarence.

 

Bill

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Being from NJ, I just read with great interest the book, The Jersey Sting, by Josh Margolin and Ted Sherman, covering the sting operation that came down in June 2009, in which the FBI and Department of Justice indicted 44 politicians and political operatives and five Rabbis around New Jersey. While reading this compelling story, I was struck by the number of people who were willing to cooperate with the central character as he manipulated them to break the law for purportedly his own benefit, which was usually for his real estate ventures.

 

We all know entrepreneurs who want to push the envelope and go as far as they can, whether it be relative to their tax postures or an opinion on their accounting statements or – as described in the book  – to gain favoritism for their real estate projects. We must realize it is their nature, and essentially their role within their business, to maximize the potential with every opportunity they encounter. This drive is what generally makes them successful business people. On the other hand, our job as professionals – and this would include not only accountants but also attorneys, engineers, architects and others – is to be honest and forthright with them, explaining the circumstances, the parameters that can be pushed, those that cannot and the risk of failure. We need to be crystal clear and sometimes sobering in our discussions. They need to know the ramifications of their actions and how to accomplish their goals within the boundaries established by laws and regulations. And in the end, we must be willing to walk away from relationships that encourage us to compromise our integrity by breaking any of those laws or regulations for their benefit. We are an important part of the business community and need to be there to keep entrepreneurs in check and avoid chaos.

 

So long as we understand our role, we will preserve and protect both our clients and the organizations where we are employed, assisting both in successfully growing, without having cause for anyone to write a book about us.

 

Bill

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I have been watching the news with my normal amazement as the saga of Congressman Weiner unfolds. As this story was developing, it was immediately apparent that he was mishandling the media by continually lying to them – and by extension – to his constituents. Evidently, he hasn’t learned from those involved with scandals before him that the best tactic is to admit the wrong doing and apologize for the indiscretions. Recently, Congressman Chris Lee from Buffalo resigned as soon as it was revealed that he was emailing “shirtless” pictures of himself to a woman who ultimately forwarded his correspondence to a gossip website, after recognizing Lee for who he was and not the “unmarried 39-year-old lobbyist” he portrayed himself to be (he’s 46 and married… and a congressman).  Sadly, it seems Congressman Wiener is intent on making a fool of himself, his family and his office.

 

As a business leader, I observe situations such as these and attempt to ascertain a take away or lesson learned. Aside from the obvious….don’t send electronic pictures of yourself in your birthday suit to anyone… the lesson here for me is that as leaders, this is yet another reminder that the best way to lead is by example, and that the public generally still wants our leaders to be men and women who emulate a virtuous ideal both in public and in private.  

 

We have our families, colleagues, people who work for us, our clients and many people who we come in contact with in our communities every day – all watching everything we do. People who are fortunate enough to lead learn how to conduct themselves through the eyes of those observing our actions. Our ability to earn respect is developed through their observations of our conduct, not through our written or spoken word. If we want our organizations to be held accountable to strong business ethics and – yes – morals, we must demonstrate that at the top.

 

As my grandmother always said, “Actions speak louder than words” …….in volumes.

 

Bill

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While critical for those of us who are in the service sector, an important asset considered by all businesses is our employees (or staff as I like to refer to them). Staff morale can be viewed as a living entity unto itself, needing to be monitored, nurtured and fed on a regular basis. We need to make sure we keep our finger on the pulse of morale so that we can make changes in policy which will positively affect morale when necessary.

 

One of the most overlooked elements of keeping up morale is the staff evaluation process. It needs to be honest, direct and frequent. As managers, it’s too easy for us to avoid confrontation and sweep below-par behavior or performance under the rug. When we do this, however, we are impacting not only the individual staff member but his or her colleagues, as well. Too often over the years, I have heard staff complain in frustration about picking up someone else’s slack. If the staff people in question don’t know what they are doing wrong, we are being unfair to them by not letting them know and never giving them the opportunity to correct that behavior.

 

When you have an evaluation meeting, we implore upon the managers conducting the session to set the stage for three areas of discussion (when applicable):

 

  1. Explain what the staff person is doing correctly and commend them on it. Accentuate the positives, as the saying goes.
  2. Move on to opportunities for improvement and discuss clearly and honestly the staff person’s deficiencies, and give them clear recommendations on how to improve their performance.
  3. Close the meeting by offering that your door is open, and once the staff person has some time to think about what was revealed in the meeting, they can come in to discuss the results and their action plan.

 

The trick in this communication is to be clear and upbeat, and not be condescending or demeaning. Your goal is to have the staff person leave the evaluation with a positive feeling that they can take corrective actions on the negatives and springboard from the positives, thus continuing on their path to having a successful career with our firm. 

 

If, however, after a period of time no correction has been taken, we owe it to the rest of the team to take swift action and counsel the staff member out of the firm. This is never easy and the hardest thing we do as managers/owners is to give bad news to good people. But we need to keep in mind the greater good; the overarching reality is that we are only as good as the people around us.

 

Bill

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