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Posts Tagged ‘management’

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 five:

  1. Demand Integrity. One of Fred Withum’s favorite sayings was, “Our services are for sale; not our integrity.” This truism still applies, as Withum staff continue to hold up the highest levels of values and ethics, and expect the same from those with whom they work.

The goal of every professional service provider is to be a ‘trusted advisor’ to his or her clients.  Being honest and truthful is the basis of a trusting, valued relationship.  But sometimes the truth hurts, especially when it negatively affects the bottom line.  Your client may not want to hear what you have to say all the time, but in the long run, they will respect you more for having maintained your integrity and principles, guiding them to make the best decisions.

On the flip side, how do you address a situation when you find yourself in the wrong?  Remember this: honesty and transparency about mistakes actually increases your credibility and builds trust with clients. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s just a fact of life. It’s how you handle the mistakes which makes all the difference. Here are a few tips on how to best address an error with a client:

  • First, apologize sincerely.
  • Next, state what happened. Be honest, be succinct, but don’t berate yourself with, “I’m such an idiot…”   Rather, say, “In my effort to meet the deadline, I failed to double check the file.”
  • Next, share how you are going to fix it. Provide a solution that will meet the client’s needs.
  • Finally, share how you will make sure it never happens again.

Of course, no matter how honest and transparent you are, continually making mistakes will cause you to lose credibility and lose the client!  However, a good client will not expect everything to always go perfectly.  Be true to yourself and your core values, and ultimately, things will work out for all parties involved.

Thanks and have a great week!

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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 four:

  1. Maintain a Cooperative Attitude. Possessing a willingness to help, to solve any problem, to ‘make it happen’, is an attribute that is appreciated tenfold by others, and you are perceived as a team player.

There’s an old adage which states, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” This means that a team can accomplish more together than if the individuals of that team went out on their own. The importance of being a team player is to contribute to that whole through leadership, cooperation and participation. I often hear stories about our professionals going above and beyond to help a client meet a deadline or solve a problem – sacrificing sleep, hustling to get many small details together, traveling great distances or making calls to the right people who have answers when we don’t, all in the effort to get the job done right for that client.  Taking these extra measures means the world to our clients and contributes to turning our relationships with them from a client/accountant one to that of the trusted professional. This also means a lot to your colleagues who are working alongside you.

Whether with your clients, co-workers, or even your own family or circle of friends, demonstrating a positive, cooperative attitude goes a long way in strengthening relationships when everyone feels they are working together.

Thanks and have a great week!

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Happy Leap Day!!

Today’s MP Message is the last installment related to “The Real-Life MBA: Your No-BS Guide to Winning the Game, Building a Team, and Growing Your Career,” authored by Jack & Suzy Welch. I’d like to share the last topic of discussion: Getting Unstuck in Your Career.

At some point along your career path, you may feel stuck in some critical way – stuck in confusion or fear; or having feelings of being overwhelmed; or not getting the opportunity to live up to your potential; or just simply sick and tired of doing the same thing every day… all of which I hope is not happening here at Withum.  However, a career impasse does happen from time to time.  The Welch’s share a few great insights into helping you get out of the career doldrums if you are in one or happen to experience one in the future:

  1. Don’t Deliver. Over-deliver. If you want to demonstrate breadth and depth, the first change you need to make is not just meeting expectations. Overdelivering means taking the presumed thinking or idea in your supervisor’s head and elevating it to a whole new level. It’s about defining the extra credit, and then acing it. Feel free to ask your Career Coach, PIC or department leader on what is expected of you… then do a little more! You’ll be surprised at how invigorating this can be.
  2. Volunteer for Hard Duty. Exceeding expectations is something you can strive for every day, but every now and again, you get the opportunity to demonstrate your strengths by volunteering for, and nailing, a hard engagement or project, particularly one that no one wants to touch yet offers high-visibility potential.  These types of opportunities can rebrand you from follower to leader, from muddler to winner, from maybe to yes.
  1. Acquire Followers the Hard Way. A third change you can make to break your career stalemate is the acquisition of followers. You need to show the leaders of our firm that people – peers and supervisors alike – listen when you talk. Luckily, if you’ve embraced the first change of over-delivering results, the acquisition of followers should come pretty automatically.  People generally want to hear what the firm’s biggest contributors are saying. And don’t be afraid to let your PICs or members of the Marketing Department know what you are doing. They are champions of our professionals and want to share successes and efforts with the firm.
  1. Make Sure You are Tech-Current. Not being tech-current is a surefire way to lose your seat at the table. As mentioned in the Withum Way, you need to welcome innovation and change, and that certainly applies to the new software systems and gadgets we introduce to our professionals on a regular basis. We upgrade our technology in an effort to improve efficiency and to give our staff the best tools to perform their tasks, ultimately providing our clients with the world-class service they expect.
  1. Get Real About Mentors. No matter where you are in your career, consider every person in your sphere to be a mentor – young, old and in between, in your area of expertise and outside it… and observe best practices. If someone is a great speaker, study what he’s doing right and incorporate that into your presentations. If a manager in your office consistently on-boards new employees well, copy his/her techniques. If you have a supervisor who runs a great meeting, see that person as a teacher or guide. Learn from every experience.
  1. Love Everyone. Ok, that might sound weird. But the point here is to speak only positively of everyone. Loving everyone is not a brain thing; it’s a heart thing. Train yourself to avoid surreptitious coalitions, backstabbing and politicking. Don’t get caught up in the gossip and mean-spirited nonsense that sometimes goes on in the workplace. Uplift people in conversation, and turn a negative into a positive. A person who demonstrates integrity and leadership possesses the qualities of which promotions are made.

I hope you enjoyed these messages from The Real Life MBA. Remember, if you’d like to read this book yourself, feel free to visit my bookshelf on Shelfari.com and order it. You can enter the expense under Publications/Subscriptions, with the words “Bill’s Virtual Library Book” in the Description section.

Have a great week!

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In today’s post, we will be covering the fourth topic from Jack & Suzy Welch’s book, The Real-Life MBA: Your No-BS Guide to Winning the Game, Building a Team, and Growing Your Career, which is: Leadership.

The word “leadership” can bring to mind a variety of definitions and images. Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”  While that may be true at a 20,000 foot level, there are many more nuances which comprise the true meaning of leadership at a deeper level. The Welch’s believe that leadership can be boiled down to two simple things:

  1. Truth and Trust.
  2. Ceaselessly seeking the former, relentlessly building the latter.

Truth-and-trust leadership is an overarching approach – an organizing principle – that drives everything leaders do every day, whether they are in staff meetings, performance evaluations, strategy sessions, budget reviews and everything in between.

Truth is a determined pursuit, a personal and unquenchable fire, burning to know what is really happening inside the people – or the company – and out. Truth is bearing down on the assumptions, asking questions which must be answered with rigor. “Where did you come up with those numbers?” “What were the underlying assumptions that got you there?” “What was your thought process in making that determination?” “What kind of technology or situation could disrupt everything you are suggesting?” This is how leaders dig for the truth.

Trust is a muscle that is strengthened by daily exercise. In our world, trust amongst staff is generally developed during meetings. We talk about work and how to get it done, review the competition, devise marketing strategies. But meetings are huge opportunities to build trust if you do them right. This is the platform where you encourage open debate and praise courage when someone says or does something bold, counterintuitive or assumption-challenging. And to take it further, you (lightly) reprimand those who try to silence these ideas. Good leaders keep confidences closely, and in public conversations and private ones, make it clear that everyone is on the same team. They don’t tolerate gossip. And really important is that trust-building leaders tell the same story to everyone all the time. Everyone hears everything, and variations or discrepancies or attempts to spin differently for different audiences can cause trust issues.

Combined, the double helix of truth and trust cracks the code of leadership today.

I hope you enjoyed this installment of the thought leadership coming from The Real Life MBA.

Have a great week!

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Let’s face it.  As service providers in the accounting profession, not only are we expected to deliver world-class service to our clients, but it is imperative that we bring in new business to propel growth.  We work in a very competitive marketplace, thus we need to spend a lot of time and energy visiting prospects and pitching our services. When I hear that we lost an opportunity due to fees, I can’t help but wonder if we just didn’t sell our value well enough.  There will always be someone offering the same services for lower fees… sometimes much lower fees.

“Selling value” means having the ability to clearly explain how we can solve those problems which plague these prospects at that time. In order to establish the value or worth of our services and solutions, we first need to learn about the problem they are facing and how it affects the performance of their company. This can be expressed in terms of sales, profits, employee turnover, order accuracy, customer retention or satisfaction, time to market, market share, etc. Learn to ask tough, high-value questions that will help you understand the impact of the problem. Most people are uncomfortable asking deep, probing questions because they believe that the prospect will think that they are prying. However, personal experience has taught me that most key decision makers respect professionals who ask tough questions. Once we are in front of a prospect, you can ask questions such as:

  • “What are your long term goals?”
  • “Do you have a succession plan?”
  • “What is keeping you up at night?”
  • “How good are your controls?…..over cash receipts?…..cash disbursements?”
  • “How is that affecting…?”
  • “What impact is that having on customer loyalty, market share, etc.?”
  • “What is that costing you in terms of lost sales, profitability, etc.?”
  • “How important is this compared to other projects you have on your plate right now?”
  • “If we had an appropriate solution, what would that mean to your company or you personally?”

After you have determined the importance and the impact of a particular problem, you can then demonstrate the worth or value of our services to the prospect. What value do Withum professionals have to offer?

  1. We solve problems. Remember the pitch to a potential client is all about them and their pain. If we ask questions similar to those listed above and we successfully uncover why they are even entertaining us for the work, we need to demonstrate how we can provide a solution to their problem. This could include an offer to review past tax returns for free (we would charge to implement suggestions) or send out one of our internal controls people for a day to do a review of key controls (again, we would charge to implement suggestions). This will demonstrate to the potential client that we care about their business and that we are there to partner with them in making their business more successful, of course always being within the bounds of maintaining independence where necessary.
  1. We offer world-class client service. The purpose behind most everything we do at our firm revolves around the betterment of our relationships with our clients. This is the impetus behind providing ‘world-class client service.’ We fully appreciate that our clients need accounting services, but choose to work with our firm.
  1. We have deep industry expertise. We believe that to put our clients in a position of strength, we need to be at the heart of their industry. Focused industry expertise is a core attribute of our talent. Our partners and managers specialize in key lines of business to provide the best possible service, taking the time to intimately understand what drives their market — and their success.
  1. We have many long-term relationships. Our stability has permitted us to develop long-term relationships in the banking, legal and financial services fields.  With strong roots in the business community, we have built relationships which afford our clients with referrals to the finest services available in these areas. As for our clients, we have many who have been with us for nearly four decades.
  1. We offer the Withum Way Culture. Our people are smart, passionate, loyal and dedicated. We respect and care for each other, both personally and professionally. You are not just another client; you are a friend of the firm; a member of the Withum family. And we are there for our clients as a strategic partner in helping them succeed.

Please refer to our Firm brochure if you are looking for more ammunition on our value.  It’s a great tool.

Remember, if you have not fully uncovered your prospect’s problem and determined exactly how our services can help them solve a particular business issue, then our fees will always seem too high unless we happen to be the lowest priced bid. There is a significant difference between cost and worth.  And working with the talented professionals at our firm is worth the extra fees in the short-term, with the prospective client reaping the benefits of our expertise in the long-term.

Thanks and have a great week.

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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 two:

  1. Possess a Vision for Growth. Those who are most successful at WithumSmith+Brown are forward-thinking with a long-term perspective on how our clients, our communities and our firm can grow and succeed. They take the initiative to identify challenging issues and bring about positive change.

There’s a wise old adage which states that people will support that which they help to create. It’s been widely proven that successful organizations having a broader participation among its people in creating a vision will in turn have people with a greater commitment to it. Regardless of what level professional you are, from staff I to partner; or in which department you are based, be it Accounting, Marketing, Firm Administration, IT or Human Resources, we encourage you to make your time really count and be an active part of the growth and betterment of yourself, our firm, our clients and our communities.

Quoting an article I read recently, “A compelling vision projects an image of how an organization intends to grow and serve its clients through individual, team, and organizational excellence.” That is why our firm finds it important to hold annual events such as the State of the Firm; or why PICs conduct regularly scheduled staff meetings; or why we hold niche meetings; or why we have the Withum Suggestion Box. See it. Feel it. Share it. The future and success of our firm is all about our people. And from what I see, the future is very bright indeed.

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In the coming months, I will share a series of messages covering each of the ten behavioral traits which define the Withum Way.  We introduced this list for the first time at the State of the Firm event in January 2012, having created it with the intent to define the core values of our firm’s people.  This is the way we think; this is the way we feel; this is what we do.  These behaviors go beyond office walls, beyond service and industry niche teams, as they spill over into the way we choose to perform, even in our personal lives.  As we grow as a firm, defining the Withum Way philosophy serves as a playbook for younger staff and new members of our Withum family on how to continue developing our culture, our brand and our business strategies, essentially institutionalizing our culture.

So, today, we begin with the first trait:

  1. Think Client Centrically.  The purpose behind most everything we do revolves around the betterment of our relationships with our clients. This is the impetus behind providing ‘world-class client service.’

Competition is fierce.  What sets our firm apart from its competitors, however, is our unwavering commitment to providing World Class Service to our clients, going above and beyond what is expected.  As stated in our Core Values messaging, our greatest success is derived from working alongside every client as a true partner, and watching their business grow and thrive. We are more than just accountants. We are business advisors who offer innovative solutions and alternative ideas to help our clients succeed.

To really make an impression with our highly valued clients, take the time to actually speak with them at least once a month, if not more often.  Pick up the phone and make a call.  Arrange a time to stop by their offices just to see how things are. Take your clients out to breakfast or lunch and discuss face-to-face what is keeping them up at night.  Make it a point to let your client know you value their business. And don’t be afraid of getting to know your clients on a personal level. Ask about their family; ask about their interests. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn how much you have in common. It’s the little things that go a long way in preserving your client relationships and solidifying your role as trusted advisor.  Frequent touches with our clients help to ensure they are our clients for many years to come.

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