Oiling the People Machinery in Busy Season

Tragedy hit our firm smack in the middle of busy season. We lost our COO who was also a major work producer. We also lost access to her intellectual human capital and thus had no idea of what she was working on or how she performed certain functions under her purview. It was as if she died (but didn't).

It could’ve been a disaster for us, the clients and the staff – but it wasn’t. Rather, clients were well-served and our satisfaction survey was even better than 2008.

How? Why? Wouldn’t that have happened anywhere?

I think we prevailed because we invest a lot of time, $$$, and energy in "Oiling the People Machinery." Our aim, especially during busy season, is to have our people like, if not actually love, working for us. Because when you do, magical things happen in your practice.

In our tragedy, everyone pulled together as a team. People stepped up far beyond their job descriptions. They acted as if they were owners, showing initiative, performing functions they weren’t asked to, doing things they were never hired to do.

How do you do this? For over 25 years as a consultant to the profession, I have heard partners verbalize these very desires for their firm. I wrote a book about the subject, Building Entrepreneurial People (Harcourt Brace, 1995). Instead of consulting with others, I was able to do it for our own firm.

What we do everyday is love our employees and partners as ourselves (see New Testament for further information). Remind yourself how blessed you are to have them. Pray for them. Treat them as you would want them to treat you if the roles were reversed.

Literally, our #1 goal is to have fun during extremely busy times. To make the work more enjoyable, lighten the atmosphere, remove some of the pressure, not take ourselves so seriously. Productivity, billing, client satisfaction flow from this (think SouthWest Airlines). But! If everyone is having fun, who’s doing the work? Can’t both be done simultaneously?

Here are some of the things we do during the year, and step up during busy season to create a positive atmosphere that people want to work in:

1) We have a “Good Employee of the Week.” I’ll ask around to find out who has had an outstanding, beyond-the-call-of-duty week. I pay close attention to our people’s attitudes and activities. Winner gets a $50 cash award, and their name is prominently displayed on our Employee of the Week poster in the lunch room. How corny? People fight over it and brag about it. When’s the last time you had people competing in your office to outperform the others? Why the person was awarded GEOW is noted on the sign next to their name (came in on Sunday to finish the Geithner tax return…).

2) We have a “Bad Employee of the Week.” Usually this is one of the owners or managers who had a sense of humor and doesn’t mind being ribbed. Actually, it’s hard to work for us if you are a sourpuss, and these people usually weed themselves out in a real hurry. One week, Larry, a manager, was BEOW because he let the office run out of candy (very important stuff!). Another week he was caught googling himself on the internet and couldn’t find a peep about himself. Yet another week, he locked himself out of his car three times. If GEOW’s get a $50 cash bonus, BEOW’s are supposed to pay the firm $50. Larry owes us a lot of money.

3) Guess the refund game. Unlike many other CPA firms, we review the return line by line with the client when they come to pick it up. Maybe you don’t have time for this; neither do we. However, the client gets to see the value we have created, especially compared to previous providers elsewhere. And if the client is getting a refund, we tell them they have to guess the refund, just like on the Price is Right (you guess over the amount, we keep the refund for ourselves…). Yes, our practice tends to attract a client that has a sense of humor, as well.

4) Popcorn and home-baked cookies. A local bank basically built itself from a trailer to huge market share by making people feel good when they visited the bank; they made them feel at home. Decorated more like a ski lodge than a bank, they serve cappuccino and fresh baked cookies. We’ve done it the last two years and it is a hit. Yes, we allow staff and partners to eat the cookies, too. Every person walking in our office, even salespeople, are offered a fresh-baked cookie and something to drink.

5) Some clients bring children with to the office. So, we have a children’s play area to keep the monsters away from me and others who aren’t fond of them. In the play area, the brats get to spin the wheel of fortune (a raffle wheel we found on eBay), to win their special prize! Kids are happy, parents are happy, client is happy. We found this year that Nickelodeon is like crack cocaine in that it keeps them occupied, through commercials even.

6) We brag about our employees to our clients. No client leaves the office without meeting one of our staff people they aren’t familiar with. I ALWAYS boast about something positive about the employee to the client, such as “Despite the fact that Julie is from New York originally, we keep her around because she is smarter than I am.” This universally makes a positive impression on the client – and the staff person.

You get the idea. Our focus is to keep our focus off of how hard it is to work under such terrible time and client difficulties, and concentrate on all the other positive attributes of working for our firm. This year that policy really came through when we needed it. Don’t knock it until you have tried it. I welcome any other similar suggestions from y’all out there. Email godfather@allancpa.com

By Allan Boress, CPA, CVA – author of The “I-Hate-Selling” Book, available at amazon.com

This blog

by Allan Boress, CPA - Based on over 25 years being a practitioner and consultant to the profession. Mr. Boress is the author of 12 published books in 6 different languages, including a best-seller, The "I-Hate-Selling" Book.

More from this blog

Bloggers crew

Steve Knowles has spent 25 years in business and practice in the UK, but he also worked in the states and the years haven't dulled his way of seeing an alternative view to everyone else, and every day is a new adventure.

42560

Joel M. Ungar, CPA is a lifelong resident of the Detroit area and a graduate of The University of Michigan. He is a principal with Silberstein Ungar, PLLC, a Top 15 auditor of SEC public reporting companies.

74819

Allan Boress, CPA, with over 25 years as a practitioner and consultant to the accounting profession. Mr. Boress is the author of 12 published books in 6 different languages, including a best-seller, The "I-Hate-Selling" Book.

47531

Larry Perry, CPA, CPA Firm Support Services, LLC, is the author of accounting and auditing manuals, author and presenter of live staff training seminars, and author of webcast and self-study CPE programs. He blogs about small audits, reviews, and compilations.

87295
Sandra Wiley, COO and Shareholder, is ranked by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her prominent role as an industry expert on HR and training as well as influence as a management and planning consultant. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant's Alliance. Sandra is a certified Kolbe™ trainer who advises firms on building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff.
19987

Maria Calabrese, CIR, Human Resources manager for Fazio, Mannuzza, Roche, Tankel, LaPilusa, LLC in Cranford, New Jersey, Maria's topics revolve around the world of: Mentoring, Performance management, and The "Y Generation," a.k.a. "The whY generation".

54655

William Brighenti is a CPA, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified [Business] Valuation Analyst, operating an accounting, tax, and QuickBooks consulting firm in Hartford, Connecticut, Accountants CPA Hartford.

79364

Ken Garen, CPA, is the co-founder and President of Universal Business Computing Company (www.ubcc.com), a software development firm of high-volume, high-productivity accounting and payroll technology.

24563

Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA, is the publisher of TaxMama.com, and author of the weekly syndicated Ask TaxMama column. She provides answers to tax questions from taxpayers and tax professionals worldwide.

63075

Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP is the CPA Programs Leader for Intacct Corporation responsible for leading the CPA/BPO Partners nationally.

33951
Brian Strahle is the owner of LEVERAGE SALT, LLC where he provides state and local tax technical services to accounting firms, law firms and tax research organizations across the United States. He also writes a weekly column in Tax Analysts State tax Notes entitled, "The SALT Effect." For more info, visit his website: www.leveragestateandlocaltax.com
101155
Scott H. Cytron, ABC, is president of Cytron and Company, known for helping companies and organizations improve their bottom line through a hybrid of strategic public relations, communications, marketing programs and top-notch client service. An accredited consultant, Scott works with companies, organizations and individuals in professional services (accounting, finance, medical, legal, engineering), high-tech and B2B/B2C product/service sales.
25254

Rita Keller is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker, author, mentor and blogger. She has over 30 years hands-on experience in CPA firm management, marketing, technology and administrative operations.

51522
Stacy Kildal is the mom of two fantastic kids, an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Certified Enterprise Solutions ProAdvisor, Sleeter Group Certified Consultant, a nationally recognized member of the Intuit Trainer and Writer Network, and co-host of RadioFree QuickBooks.
27097
Michael Alter's blog specializes in providing practical advice to those who seek greater profitability and practice management tactics that enhance deeper client relationships.
31389

Sally Glick, CMO, Principal, Marketer of the Year in 2003 and AAM Hall of Famer in 2007, leads a lively discussion of the constantly expanding roles of marketing and the professional marketers that drive this initiative in accounting firms of all sizes.

98623

The IMA Young Professionals Blog features the insights of IMA’s Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.

32579

FEI Financial Reporting Blog provides highlights from SEC, PCAOB, FASB, IASB, and other regulatory news, including reporting under Sarbanes-Oxley Sect 404. It is written by Edith Orenstein, Director of Technical Policy Analysis at FEI.

109492

Sue Anderson has 30 years of experience in continuing education for accountants. Currently she is the program director for online CPE provider CPE Link.

59814

Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members.

38607
Caleb Newquist is the Editor-in-Chief of Sift Media US, overseeing content for both AccountingWEB and Going Concern.
65565

Leita Hart-Fanta, CPA, CGFM, and CGAP is the author of "The Yellow Book Interpreted" and owner of Yellowbook-CPE.com a website devoted to training for governmental auditors.

91433

AccountingWEB is more than just a U.S. team of journalists and financial and technology experts - we have an international side, too! Members of our British team who publish AccountingWEB.co.uk share their ideas, insights, and perspectives from across the pond.

52527