Archive for April, 2014

A common complaint about professional service providers is that they don’t return their client phone calls or respond to e-mails in a timely manner.  A successful accountant-client relationship is based largely on effective and open communication. Responding as quickly as possible to client phone calls and e-mails is not just a matter of common courtesy; at WS+B, it is a requirement.  Responsiveness is the very reason why we supply you with the most current technology and mobile devices available today.

This also applies to responding to your colleagues here at the firm.  When a staff member contacts you with a question or issue, it is expected that you treat that email or call with the same sense of urgency and concern as you would a client, offering a response as soon as you can.  Consider it the same as if the query came directly from a client, because oftentimes, your colleague is working for that very client!

Here’s the rule of thumb: we strongly encourage responding to all calls and emails to both clients and colleagues within the same business day.  Or, if necessary, a quick reply stating you will be in touch soon would work if you are unable to fully respond at that moment.

Telephone and e-mail diplomacy can win or lose business, or make or break a working relationship.


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With tax season behind us and most everyone having taken some time to recuperate, we now shift our focus and attention to completing “upward” and “downward” evaluations.  I cannot express enough how important this process is to the professional development of our staff at every level, from Staff I to Partner, and from every administrative department.  When done constructively and honestly, it is likely the most effective tool we offer for identifying the strengths and weaknesses of our staff in order to help them grow in their careers in a positive, productive direction.

The points below reflect important factors to consider when completing the evaluations.  These apply to both “upward” and “downward” reviews.

  • It is natural when doing the reviews to think about constructive criticism and ways for people to improve, but just as important is making sure you comment and illustrate areas where people excel and where they do a great job.  The evaluation presents a great opportunity to give a “pat on the back” that is deserved which motivates people to do an even better job.
  • When offering constructive criticism, remember that the goal is to encourage a change in behavior.  Mean-spirited and rude comments are either taken too personally causing hurt feelings, or are just flat out ignored.  After writing the comment, think about how you would react if the comment was given to you.
  • The goal is to provide honest feedback to each person as a professional.  This is not a popularity contest.  We encourage “grading” everyone based upon the question and their job performance and not personal feelings.  If you do not rate honestly, ratings become over- or under-inflated and therefore less meaningful.
  • Bad performance cannot be improved, nor will good performance be sustained, if the person doesn’t know about it.
  • Honest, written documentation is essential where performance problems exist.  Performance reviews completed honestly provide important supporting documentation to help justify a person’s raise or promotion (or lack thereof).

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Just one day of tax season left and after a hectic flurry over the weekend these last couple of days should be a lay- up.

As we think about shift gears after busy season, I’d like to continue expanding upon the ten traits described in the Withum Way, all of which define our culture and the behaviors which best exemplify our people.  Today we will cover point nine:

9. GIVE BACK.  You will never see a more caring, compassionate group of professionals than what you find here at WS+B.  They are passionate about the missions of their charities of choice and encourage participation at every level.

For four decades, WS+B staff have volunteered their time and talents for the benefit of the greater good.  Giving back is clearly an intrinsic part of our Firm’s culture.  The founders of our Firm envisioned that each of our offices would be gateways to the community, placing considerable emphasis on supporting local charities and other entities whose mission is to serve those in need.  And you all have embraced this philosophy fully.  As individuals or in teams, you are out almost every weekend, walking, bicycling, running or parading with your pets, all for the sake of helping others who need so much but ask for so little.  WS+B’s partner group alone provides representation on over 180 not-for-profit boards and committees, choosing to be involved with those organizations whose mission means something to them on a very personal level.

Here’s one recent example spearheaded by the Morristown office, where we received a warm and appreciative response:

“We are thrilled that WithumSmith+Brown has chosen to contribute over 25 laptops to the Volunteer Center of Bergen County,” said Janet Sharma, Executive Director of the Volunteer Center of Bergen County.  “We are currently managing a large Hurricane Sandy Recovery Project involving 50+ nonprofit organizations that are providing services to residents impacted by the storm.  While several of the laptops are being used at the Volunteer Center’s offices in Hackensack, eight are indispensable to the staff of our Recovery Information Center in Moonachie, and others are going directly to residents who lost their computers in the flood.  The laptops will be used by students at all levels, from pre-K to college, by homeowners, and by small mom-and-pop businesses struggling to survive.  Your donation of the laptops is having far-reaching impact, and we are very grateful!”

Thank you for being the caring people you are! It means so much too so many.

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The biggest and final push is on!

We enter today with just eight days left of tax season.  As I speak with many of our staff members on the front lines, it has been an intense year with many challenges that we have met and overcome.  This last week is always the most stressful as we wrap up clients who brought in information early and then dribbled in K-1’s to us much later; or deal with those clients who enjoy the adrenaline rush of going right to the deadline; or prepare extensions for those business owners whose returns are the most complicated and have the most risk to us.  Ah, the joys of being a CPA!

As we enter the final days, we remember that everyone is under pressure.  It’s important to continue to treat each other professionally, calmly and kindly, as we have done so far this tax season.  We have a great firm with an even greater culture.  While this week is stressful, it will also be rewarding… and on the other side of it is a day off next Wednesday and likely that vacation that’s been planned.

Have a great week!

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A little over two weeks left in busy season…..but, who’s counting?

Sometimes in life, you have to do the hard things.  It’s human nature to want to do those things that come easy, or push things to the back-burner because you know they will be challenging, or simply avoid doing anything that elevates your blood pressure or pushes you out of your comfort zone.  But it’s when you do those very things that you actually discover new strengths, growing personally or professionally, which ultimately leads to your own version of “success.”  I recently read a great article entitled, “19 Hard Things You Need To Do To Be Successful” and would like to share theses inspiration thoughts to get you through this week and the rest of the tax season:

You have to do the hard things.

  • You have to make the call you’re afraid to make.
  • You have to get up earlier than you want to get up.
  • You have to give more than you get in return right away.
  • You have to care more about others than they care about you.
  • You have to fight when you are already injured, bloody, and sore.
  • You have to feel unsure and insecure when playing it safe seems smarter.
  • You have to lead when no one else is following you yet.
  • You have to invest in yourself even though no one else is.
  • You have to look like a fool while you’re looking for answers you don’t have.
  • You have to grind out the details when it’s easier to shrug them off.
  • You have to deliver results when making excuses is an option.
  • You have to search for your own explanations even when you’re told to accept the “facts.”
  • You have to make mistakes and look like an idiot.
  • You have to try and fail and try again.
  • You have to run faster even though you’re out of breath.
  • You have to be kind to people who have been cruel to you.
  • You have to meet deadlines that are unreasonable and deliver results that are unparalleled.
  • You have to be accountable for your actions even when things go wrong.
  • You have to keep moving towards where you want to be no matter what’s in front of you.

You have to do the hard things. The things that no one else is doing. The things that scare you. The things that make you wonder how much longer you can hold on.  Those are the things that define you. Those are the things that make the difference between living a life of mediocrity or outrageous success.

Enjoy your week and may it be successful!

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