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Posts Tagged ‘advice’

As we get into full throttle here in busy season, a message about being positive is in order! Positive people, those who choose a good mood over a bad day, have a powerful advantage over negative thinkers. While some people allow life’s problems to get them down, optimistic people remind themselves that bad times are only temporary. They find ways to practice positivity, and with a sunny outlook on life, their energy is wildly infectious.

As it pertains to leadership, the power of positive thinking is vital for success, be it that of a team, a department, an office or an entire company. You can have two professionals in a leadership role who are equal in experience and skill, heading up the same group of team members. But one has a positive, optimistic attitude; the other has a generally negative demeanor. The positive leader will prevail every time with a more vibrant, productive team whose energy permeates the workplace. Negativity only leads to reduced productivity and engagement, and allowing it to fester is much more costly and damaging to an organization’s bottom line than confronting or possibly replacing a single toxic staff person.

Creating a positive and healthy culture for your team rests on a few major principles. The qualities of a positive workplace culture boils down to these Super Seven essential characteristics:

  1. Caring for, being interested in, and maintaining responsibility for colleagues as friends.
  2. Providing support for one another, including offering kindness and compassion when others are struggling.
  3. Avoiding blame and forgive mistakes.
  4. Fostering open communication, and avoiding gossip and back-stabbing.
  5. Inspiring one another at work.
  6. Emphasizing the meaningfulness of the work.
  7. Treating one another with respect, gratitude, trust, and integrity.

Positive thinking can set you up for success in every area of your life. You can be healthier, happier, and more successful just by changing your thoughts. If you want to be happy, and not just for one day, focus on the things that will help you remain positive over time. Because a positive attitude can do more than just make you feel good—it could also change your life. You can train your mind to embrace the bright side of things. Here are a few positive quotes I recently received in an email, to get you in the right frame of mind:

  • “A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results.” —Wade Boggs
  • “Virtually nothing is impossible in this world if you just put your mind to it and maintain a positive attitude.” —Lou Holtz
  • “It’s actually cool to be positive and optimistic and idealistic. It’s cool to see yourself doing beautiful, great things.” —Tom DeLonge
  • “There is little difference in people but that little difference makes a big difference. The little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative.” —W. Clement Stone
  • “It takes but one positive thought when given a chance to survive and thrive to overpower an entire army of negative thoughts.” —Robert H. Schuller

I hope you enjoyed today’s message. Have an absolutely positive week!

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Part of my job as Managing Partner is to be out and about in the business community, shaking hands and telling people about the great things going on at Withum. Networking is an important aspect of building our pipeline of new business opportunities. Many of us have client and referral source relationships spanning over 25 years, having started with a fortuitous meeting and handshake at a local event or business dinner. While we are in the midst of ‘marketing busy season’ when events and conferences and networking dinners are filling up our calendars, I thought I’d share a Top 10 Networking Tips list I recently received from a colleague; it’s worth a read:

    1. Get in the right state, not “in a right state.”
      Keep in mind that you want to gain some value and benefit from the time you are committing to attending the networking event. You’ll need to look friendly and relaxed – versus panicky and nervous – if you want people to be comfortable talking to you.
    2. You will be more interesting if you are more interested.
      We have two ears and one mouth so we should aim to listen for twice as long as we speak. The people you meet will be more comfortable talking about themselves than listening to you.
    3. Networking is about building relationships not about ‘getting work’.
      People buy professional services from people they know, like and trust. You’re unlikely to meet someone who just happens to need your services that day. The magic happens when you keep in touch and demonstrate a sincere interest in them both personally and professionally.
    4. “What do you do?”
      Don’t pigeon hole yourself as any ole ordinary accountant, “I’m a CPA”. Practice answering the question in such a way that ensures you are remembered specifically and distinctly from all of the rest. This is called your ‘elevator pitch.’ Instead, you can say something simple like, “I’m an accountant with WithumSmith+Brown, one of the top accounting firms in the country. Have you heard of us? I specialize in . We work with many great clients in this area.” That’s a basic good ice-breaking introduction which you can follow up by asking questions about the person with whom you are speaking.
    5. Focus on a niche, not a list.
      Even those new acquaintances who are genuinely interested in you will quickly switch off if you try to identify all of the things you do or could do for clients. Equally, they won’t remember the list so you’ll be in danger of making yourself more forgettable. In the example above, you need to focus on a key area or topic no matter how broad your expertise and experience. People want to know more go-to people who have an expertise.
    6. Flirt as you network. Ok, not in way you are thinking, but by following these simple gestures to make you appear more likable:
      F is for FUN;
      L is for LAUGHTER or at least having a smile on your face;
      I is being INTERESTED in what other people have to say;
      R is RESPONDING to what other people are saying through conversation;
      T is TALKING appropriately not extensively about yourself.
    7. You’re not alone if you feel alone.
      There will always be someone else standing alone who will be so pleased and relieved if you go over and start a conversation with them. The chances of rejection are tiny. Simply introduce yourself, ask them their name and what do they do.
    8. Listen to what people say; don’t try to sell.
      You can only solve people’s problems or help them make the most of opportunities if you know what these are. That means listening and absorbing, not talking. If you listen well, they’ll trust you and if you ask the right questions, you’ll uncover all the clues you’ll need in order to decide if you have something to offer them.
    9. Get the other person’s name and business card.
      You can politely ask for someone’s card without seeming pushy, or wait until they offer their card to you. If you didn’t catch their name when first introduced, ask again. No one objects to repeating their name to someone who evidently wants to remember them.
    10. Follow up afterwards.
      Having given up your time to attend the event, make sure it is worthwhile by keeping a promise to follow up with each of the people you meet. Even if you think they may not be the most valuable contact, remember that you don’t know who they know who could be interested in what you do. Follow up with an email or supply some valuable information in the next day or so after meeting. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Then ensure you keep in touch thereafter.

I hope these tips will help you be more successful in your networking endeavors. By being subtle and polite, you come from a position of strength to follow up with your new-found friends/colleagues/potential clients to begin a lasting and meaningful relationship. So get out there and network!

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With several big filing deadlines now behind us, this time of year serves as a good reminder that our clients are the core reason why we are a thriving professional services firm. They need and require the services we provide, but choose to remain Withum clients. CCH published an Accounting Firm Client Survey which provided a list of top client responses as to why they chose to no longer work with their current service provider. I think it is a good list to review, although fortunately a few of the points are not applicable to Withum. But overall, it reflects what generally matters most to clients.

The Top 10 Reasons Clients Leave:

  1. The firm did not regularly check with me on my changing needs.
  2. Staff were not able to efficiently find the information needed to deliver the services I needed.
  3. I believe the firm was charging more than the value I was receiving. (note this is a PERCEPTION that we need to avoid by demonstrating value time after time)
  4. It became apparent that the firm was not leveraging technology to deliver the best services possible.
  5. The firm did not keep me up-to-date on regulations that directly affected me.
  6. I became concerned about the firm’s financial stability.
  7. The firm no longer specialized in the types of services I needed.
  8. I lost trust in the ability to deliver the quality services I needed.
  9. It became apparent to me that the firm was not acting as efficiently as it should.
  10. The firm had difficulty recruiting or retaining talented employees.

At Withum, we make every effort to do our part in the client retention process: by hiring the best and brightest talent possible; by providing education and training to our staff to keep them current on tax laws, regulations and industry knowledge; by implementing cutting-edge technology to provide world-class client service and client communications; and by conducting annual client surveys to keep a pulse on their needs. But the rest is up to you… the individual professional.

Regardless of how much pressure we are under to meet client deadlines, please be respectful of the valued relationships we have developed and nurtured with them, so that they continue to be clients of ours for many years to come. And in the event I can ever assist with a client relationship by meeting with them personally, please feel free to reach out to me.

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As shared in previous messages, I enjoy reading books, blogs and articles on leadership and business topics as part of my own professional development. They often serve as inspiration for many ideas and initiatives which are currently established here at the firm. One blog I find particularly good is Three Minute Leadership by Michael M. Reuter, speaker, author and a Professor at the Seton Hall University Stillman School of Business, and also a friend and colleague of our partner Tom Basilo who is an adjunct professor there, as well. I am going to share one of Professor Reuter’s recent posts, which I hope will provide some inspiration to you as we approach the finish line of tax season. Enjoy…

There comes times in the lives of all great leaders when they are pushed to their physical, emotional, mental or spiritual limits. Fatigued, exhausted and drained by their experiences, they still relentlessly pursue their journey. They never give up. It is their attitude and mindset to hold on to their hopes, dreams, determination and life’s purpose. Pause and reflect a moment on the words of other great leaders who shared their counsel and learning about giving up.

  • “When you’ve exhausted all possibilities, remember this: You haven’t.” Thomas Edison
  • “Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than one with all the facts.” Albert Einstein
  • “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 30 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed; I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan
  • “Having a rough morning? Place your hand over your heart. Feel that? That’s called purpose… you’re alive for a reason. Don’t give up.” Melissa Joy
  • “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” Vince Lombardi
  • “I ran and ran and ran every day, and I acquired this sense of determination, this sense of spirit that I would never, never give up, no matter what else happened.” Wilma Rudolph
  • “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” Babe Ruth
  • “Falling down is how we grow. Staying down is how we die.” Brian Vaszily
  • “Never give up. Go over, go under, go around, or go through. But never give up.” Tom Venuto

In those solitary moments when life’s challenges are pushing your limits, may you feel your power and purpose remembering the words of Bevan Lee: “’I am’ – two of the most powerful words; for what you put after them shapes your reality.” Be more than you ever dreamed you could be. Be also that one person in someone’s life who would say to you: “Because of you, I didn’t give up.” Be that servant leader of love, caring and hope. Life is so very good.

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I recently read a great article on Yahoo! Small Business entitled, “You’ll Never Hear Successful People Say These 15 Phrases.”  Each point made is very applicable to what we do in our profession.  I’d like to share each of the phrases in a series of three emails, five phrases described in each, so you can fully appreciate the message shared for each one.  These are taken right from the article, but I am Withum-izing a few where appropriate.  As you read through these, ask yourself if you are guilty of saying these phrases, keeping you from reaching your fullest potential… and then learn how to remove them from your vernacular. 

Here are some phrases you’ll never hear a successful person say:

1. “We can’t do that.”

One thing that makes people and companies successful is the ability to make solving their clients’ problems and demands their main priority. If a need arises repeatedly, the most successful people learn how to solve it as quickly as they can.  Withum is home to many great resources and connections, both internal and external.  There is likely no problem we can’t help our clients solve.  Instead of saying, “We can’t do that,’ respond by saying, “I don’t have the answer/solution to that question/issue.  Let me check with my colleagues and I will get right back to you.”  Reach out to a supervisor or PIC if you come across an issue or service request you think you can’t address.  It’s pretty likely you can.

2. “I don’t know how.”

Instead of automatically shutting down the solution-finding process, successful people learn what they must in order to succeed in a project or in their career. For example, you would never see a truly successful international business consultant who travels to Italy multiple times per year refusing to learn Italian. If you have a desire to do something, do what you need to do to gain the skills to achieve your goals. 

3. “I don’t know what that is.”

Pleading ignorance doesn’t make the problem go away. It just makes the asker find someone who is able to work with them to solve the problem. While it’s always good to be honest with those you interact with, finishing this phrase with “but I’ll find out” is a surefire way to become more successful. Again, Withum is home to many great resources and experts who can help you find the answer if you cannot do so on your own.

4. “I did everything on my own.”

The best people know to surround themselves with others who are smart, savvy and as dedicated as they are. The best leaders also know to give credit where credit is due, as due credit to you will always come back in hand. Recognize those that have helped you or made an impact and you’ll continue to earn success and recognition yourself.  As you know, at Withum, TEAM is what drives success and recognition, not ME.

5. “That’s too early.”

If there is a networking event, client meeting or prospect opportunity at the very beginning of the day, the most successful people do what it takes to be there. Part of being successful is being at the right place at the right time, no matter if you’re a morning bird or night owl.

Please consider these important points to help you be a more successful person, at Withum and in life. I look forward to sharing the other ten phrases with you in future emails.

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It is always good to be reminded that our clients are the core reason why we are a thriving professional services firm.  They need and require the services we provide, but choose to remain WS+B clients.  We encourage everyone to establish a relationship with their clients, and not view their engagements as lists of to-do’s to check off as they are completed, and then you move on.  Here are a few tips to help you do the same:

  • Understand your clients internal controls, so you fully understand how your client’s business works.  If need be, leverage the talents of different groups within your company.  Certainly, if you understand your clients’ businesses, you are better able to advise against problems which may arise.
  • Get to know other key people within the company, and what it is they do that is instrumental in day-to-day operations.
    • Ask the client, “What keeps you up at night?” to see if you can help find a solution.  It’s likely that you have a deep well of talent of expertise at your firm, as well as a vast network of resources of those services we you may not directly provide (insurance, investments, payroll, etc.).  You can likely help solve any problematic issue at hand.
    • If they sell through retail or wholesale outlets, go and see how their products are actually sold.  If they manufacture a product, take a tour of the facility.  See for yourself how their core business runs.
    • Check out their website on a regular basis.  At the very least, check it right before a client visit.  It is sure to have information related to recent news or product/service offerings. And don’t forget about their blogs, Facebook page or Twitter entries, if they are active with social media.

As a Firm, we make every effort to do our part in the client retention process: hiring the best and the brightest talent possible; providing education and training to our staff; implementing cutting-edge technology for ease of client communications; and conducting annual client surveys to keep a pulse on their needs.  But the rest is up to you… the individual professional!

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