Urgent and Important

How do you get someone to appreciate the urgency of a situation that may not appear to be urgent?

It is easy if the kitchen is on fire.  Or if you have a deadline in an hour for a major client and the deliverable isn’t quite ready for prime time.

How about spending time with your spouse or your children?  Certainly important, but is it urgent?  There’s always tomorrow, right?

Stephen Covey, the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and First Things First, has a time management 2×2 matrix that is brilliant and elegantly simple.  Here is an example of the matrix.

We at Growth CPR have used this matrix to help us prioritize our days and our lives.  But we have a different thought about skills development not being urgent.

Wake up!!  The accounting profession is on fire!  Automation is here and more is on the way.  Bookkeeping is automated.  Audits are increasingly automated.  Tax returns are automated.  And what can’t be automated is being done somewhere else that costs a lot less than where you are.  Trust us on this one.

Compliance based work is being commoditized. 

For 20 years, the accounting industry leadership has been urging CPAs to develop and broaden their advisory skills.  They have been pleading to accountants to provide “value added” insights and knowledge-based advice to clients.  The state societies know this and are working feverishly to help their members be prepared for the future.  But they are met with a wall of indifference and apathy.

20 years ago, it was important and not urgent.  Today, it is important and urgent.

We beg you – DO SOMETHING!

Do not wait until you have more time.  You will NEVER have more time and by the time you do, you’ll be out of time.   

“In a world of change, the learners shall inherit the earth, while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists,” wrote American philosopher Eric Hoffer.

Our world and profession are changing.  Don’t be irrelevant.

Turn the Pandemic into a Candemic

Let’s do this.

Main Street CPAs are on the front lines of the battle for small business survival. They can be first responders to the small businesses caught up in the crisis brought on by this crazy virus. They can make a positive difference to a business on the verge of closing or one that has had to close. They can do good and do well.

We have all seen the statistics and have heard how the virus has ravaged the national economy. Main Street businesses have been hit particularly hard. Yelp recently reported that 60 percent of the businesses on their site that have closed since March 1 are not reopening.

Small businesses and their owners are the lifeblood of the compliance, tax, bookkeeping, and outsourcing services provided by CPA firms. A shrinking pool of small businesses is not good for the local economy and certainly not good for the CPAs who count them as clients.

Main Street CPAs are in a privileged position to deliver impactful advice to help their clients do more than survive – they can help them thrive. Within the present turmoil and uncertainty lie the seeds of opportunity and latent growth.

CPAs know that a business’s value is far more than just the physical and tangible property, equipment, and inventory that are shown on a balance sheet. Numerous other types of assets are reflected in a company’s value and do not appear on the balance sheet. Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, had a tangible book value of $179 billion at the end of 2019. They had a corresponding market value of $935 billion.

Leveraging that knowledge and recognizing that a business’s valuable assets include customer lists, networks, and community relationships, CPAs can be a catalyst for helping lessen the damage caused by the pandemic.

A business that is closing due to the virus may not be able to be saved. But what if a CPA can make the closure less painful, at least financially?  

Imagine this. A CPA has a client called “New Day Spa.”  How can the CPA help New Day Spa and simultaneously help the local former owners of the closed “Old Spa” as well as their customers?

By helping New Day Spa acquire Old Spa customers for $0 down!

Here’s how:

  1. With the New Day Spa owners, reach out to Old Spa owners.
  2. Let the Old Spa owners know that New Day Spa would like to help them recover some of their losses.
  3. The plan is to give them a percentage of future revenue, for a period of time, if they send a personalized email to their customers recommending New Day Spa’s business.
  4. Offer those Old Spa customers a discount for becoming New Day Spa customers and let them know that a portion of their business will be paid to the Old Spa owners.
  5. Hold “transition” events whereby Old Spa customers can meet and mingle with the owners and staff of New Day Spa.
  6. Have “alumni” events where the Old Spa owners do “guest appearances” to reconnect and stay connected with their customers.

Who wins?

Everybody.

Old Spa customers are introduced to a “new home.” They receive some discounted services and have a way to express their support for the old owners without it feeling like charity.

The Old Spa owners receive some financial gain from their customer lists and relationships they otherwise would not have. They are offered the chance to stay connected with the people, the community, and the industry they love. And the heartbreak of losing their business is diminished, even if just a little bit.

The CPA is seen as an innovator and problem solver, helping connect people and businesses while helping to stabilize the community. The financial models will need to be prepared and analyzed to determine the amount of a discount to be given and the length of time for a revenue-sharing deal. Maybe the CPA can even participate in a gain-sharing arrangement.

This approach can be used for almost any small business in any community. CPAs know the numbers of their clients’ business. They can help them see and realize the potential value.

There are predatory and opportunistic businesses looking to take full advantage of the crisis. Let’s beat them to the punch. Let’s show our communities what can be achieved and how.

We are all in this together. We can do this.

What are your ideas?  How can we get the word out to as many CPAs as possible? 

Leave your comments here. Tweet them out @GrowthCPR. Let’s crowdsource ideas and make this a movement.  Also, look for more Candemic ideas soon at www.candmic.com which is sponsored by us and our friends at www.k2e.com

Let’s do this. Because we can and because we care.

Small Business and the Pandemic

We recently came across this rather bleak chart below from the LendingTree Small Business survey done in early September.  We are tired of the doom and gloom, but we need to look at the data to understand to future.

We keep hearing the truth that the U.S. economy is amid the largest upheaval and downturn since the Great Depression.  As the data shows, 43 percent of the businesses surveyed have gross revenue decreases of more than 50 percent.  6 percent of small businesses have been dissolved. 

It is obvious that COVID-19 has forever transformed the business landscape on a scale and at a velocity we have never experienced.  Main Street CPA firms are not immune to the effects. But the effects don’t have to be fatal or even dramatic.

 

Small businesses and their owners are the lifeblood of the compliance, tax, bookkeeping, and outsourcing services provided by CPA firms.  And, a shrinking pool of small businesses means increasing competition among and between CPA firms, resulting in downward pressure on professional rates and fees.

But, Main Street CPA firms are in a privileged position to deliver impactful advice to help their clients do more than survive – to help them thrive.  Within the present turmoil and uncertainty, lie the seeds of opportunity and latent growth.

 

It may seem counterintuitive to be preaching the opportunity of growth in a rapid economic contraction.  However, with the right tools, frameworks, and perspectives, new businesses will be established, and the engine of innovation will continue creating forward momentum amid the present destruction.

Now is not the time for Main Street CPA firms to blend in.  Now it the time for them to stand out. 

Pumpkin Spiced Advisory Services

It’s fall and the time of year when pumpkin spice everything makes its appearance.  And we mean, EVERYTHING.

Who hasn’t had a craving for pumpkin spiced Roundup?  Or pumpkin spiced Spam?

Our hands shot up so quickly we think we damaged the ligaments in our shoulders.

But these products got us thinking (which can be dangerous…).  What is it about pumpkin spice that makes people seek it out with such zeal and passion?  How could pumpkin spiced Spam sell out in less than seven hours?

Pumpkin spice invokes positive feelings and emotions.  Maybe it’s the chill in the air.  Or perhaps it’s the thoughts of family and friends as Thanksgiving draws near.

Most of all, it’s unique.  Love it or hate it, pumpkin spice is hard to ignore.

What if your advisory services were equally unique?  What if when your clients thought of you or your firm, positive feelings and emotions were companions?

It is hard to be more nondescript than Spam.  Compliance services may come the closest.

If Spam can create immense demand with pumpkin spice, so can you.  Here is the recipe for pumpkin spice advisory services.

  • One part compliance. Can be a tax return, an attestation report, or a monthly financial statement as part of a bookkeeping engagement.
  • Generous dose of insight. What are the drivers behind the numbers?  How do they compare to the prior quarter?  The prior year?  To industry benchmarks?  What are the trends?
  • Mix together using a proven framework to form an educated opinion about what latent opportunities exist and where they may be concealed.
  • Shape into at least three actionable recommendations the client can take to help them be better and more competitive tomorrow than they are today.
  • Serve in a personalized manner, possibly with a pumpkin spice latte or an equally distinct treat.

Your client’s will love both treats.

If Spam can make the unremarkable remarkable, you can too.  

Your Vision Determines Your Destiny

Your Vision Determines your Destination

In her bestselling book Mindset – The New Psychology of Success, renowned psychologist Carol Dweck, Ph.D., describes how almost every area of human endeavor can be dramatically influenced by how people think about their talents and abilities.

She speaks of fixed versus growth mindsets.

Fixed mindsets think “this is who I am.”  Growth mindsets think “this is where I am”.

Fixed mindsets think “this describes me.”  Growth mindsets think “this describes me now.”

The way we think about ourselves can either paralyze us or propel us forward.

“How do I look?” can either be a question answered by other people, or it can be a question of ourselves, asking how each of us view the world.  “How do I look” can easily be rephrased into “How do I look at myself and at life?”

Thankfully, how you see yourself isn’t fixed.  Like any skill, mindsets can be learned.  That is incredibly freeing.  Read that again.  Mindsets can be learned.

Your vision of yourself determines your destination. 

What you have done matters, but not as much as what you will do. 

What you have learned matters, but not as much as what you will learn. 

What you have thought matters, but not as much as what you will think.

Growth CPR strives to maintain a growth mindset.  Heck, growth is part of our name!  And we want to share and promote that mindset with Main Street CPAs.  We want them and their clients to be successful, however they have defined success.

Think of what your firm or advisory practice could be in 5 or 10 years if you started today.  Think “I can do this”.  Think “how can I do this?” 

Your vision determines your destination.  We are here to help.  Come join us.  Let’s grow!

“7 Strategies for Better Group Decision-Making”

Not all group decisions are good decisions.  This Harvard Business Review article identifies seven simple strategies for more effective group decision making.  Following these strategies will increase the likelihood of a productive process when using Growth CPR ideas to facilitate a meeting.

  • Keep the group small when you need to make an important decision.

Large groups tend to make biased decisions.  This article suggests that the decision-making group be kept to between three and five people.

  • It is better to choose a heterogenous group over a homogenous group (most of the time).

Homogenous groups are best when the issue is about structured environments such as improving a specific process.  Otherwise, a heterogenous group is more likely to achieve a better outcome.

  • Adopt a strategic dissenter.

A ‘devil’s advocate” is often the best defense against the groupthink.

  • Collect opinions independently.

A coordinator should facilitate the meeting by gathering opinions beforehand, anonymizing the opinions, and circulating the document before the meeting.  This helps mitigate perceived seniority, alleged expertise, and hidden agendas.

  • Provide a safe space to speak up.

There are three basic elements that create a safe space.  One, focus feedback on the idea not the person.  Two, express comments as a suggestion, not a mandate.  Three, express feedback in an empathetic and appreciative manner.

  • Don’t over-rely on experts.

Invite experts to provide their opinion on a clearly defined topic and position them as outsiders to the group.

  • Share collective responsibility.

The outcome of the decision should be delivered by the group.  All members of the team should feel accountable for the outcome.

As the article concludes, “following these steps doesn’t guaranteed a great decision.  However, the better quality of the decision-making process and the interaction between the group members, the greater your chances of reaching a successful outcome.”

Donuts, Do-Nots, and DuPont

Suppose your client was this hapless donut shop owner in this The Far Side cartoon below?

If you did his business tax return, would you notice the excessively large “cost of goods sold” anomaly?  If you provided attestation or bookkeeping services, would you recognize the inventory “shrinkage” or be able to connect the dots and understand where the profits were being eaten up (pun intended…)?

If not, do not expect him to remain a client for long.

Do not let these opportunities to help your client, and to stand apart from your competition pass by.  There is a chasm of difference between knowing the numbers and knowing the business. 

Knowing the numbers is the ante to join the game.  Knowing the business is having pocket aces.

A powerful framework for helping Main Street CPA firms understand the business is the DuPont Model.  The model decomposes the different drivers of financial and operational performance and enables management (and their advisors…) to identify, target, and act upon those drivers in efforts to improve the overall performance of the business.  One of the best parts of the DuPont model is that the inputs are basic financial reports and metrics.  Items that you and your client are already looking at, just not in the holistic format of the DuPont Model.

Main Street CPA firms would do well to adopt the DuPont Model as a standard practice in applying it to their clients and elevating their own business acumen.

Growth CPR can help you help your client’s dough and profits rise.

Advisory Versus Upselling

We recently had an interesting back-and-forth with someone about whether Growth CPR was just another “upselling” company.  That we are just advocating a sales technique used to get a client to spend more by buying an upgraded or premium version of what is being purchased. 

Our response was “unequivocally not!”

But the individual had valid points and concerns.  They are a champion of the CPA profession and did not want another charlatan peddling schemes and tactics that would bring dishonor to Main Street CPA firms. 

Fear not, valiant knight.  Growth CPR stands beside you to restore honor to the much maligned “consultant” role.

We are huge fans of Gary Larson’s “The Far Side”, and the following cartoon perfectly captures the “upselling” approach we abhor.

Growth CPR is a champion of Main Street CPA firms.  Our purpose is to equip them with the tools and frameworks to provide value and insight to their clients, whether they get paid for it or not, and allow them to differentiate themselves in a largely undifferentiated market.

Main Street CPA firms are on the front line of helping small businesses not only survive the current turmoil, but to thrive.  Delivering a multiple more in value than has been received in fees is advisory.  That is what we advocate and champion.  And in helping their clients thrive, they help themselves thrive as well.   A true win-win.

No One Ever “Swiped Right” for a Compliance Report

The poor attestation reports, tax returns, and trial balances.  They are viewed as a “valuable commodity” oxymoron by some.  A “necessary evil” by others.  “That is the most moving attestation report I’ve ever seen” said no one ever.

And that is a problem.  The product of your hard work that took you years of education and training to master is accepted by the client with a barely audible “Meh…”

What to do?

Spending money on fancy binding and lettering that is often advertised on the back page of industry rags is like putting racing stripes on a car.  It may make the car look better, but it does not help the car go any faster.

Assuming the CPA has the requisite competency, the content is not the problem.  Neither is the packaging.  The problem is what is missing.

Information.  Insight.  Actionable suggestions that move the profit or revenue needle forward.  Distinguishing the difference between symptoms and root causes of an issue.  Astute observations of trends and the underlying opportunities that litter the client’s business and industry.

That is what is missing.  That is what perks up a CEO’s or CFO’s ears.  That is what makes a CPA stand out from the undifferentiated crowd.

Not easy, certainly.  But achieving something of value is rarely easy.

Have your client love you for your mind.  Give them a reason to swipe right.  We mean, swipe credit.

Today versus tomorrow

There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “The best time to plant is tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

The same truth applies to anything that takes time to grow. What would you like your firm to look like 5 years from now? 10 years from now?

What would you like your life to look like in 5 years?

These are not merely philosophical exercises. The choices we make today are the seeds that define what our tomorrow will look like.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the world is changing at a velocity and of a magnitude never before experienced. Dare we say, unprecedented?

What would you do if ten percent of your clients disappeared? Or if the ever-encroaching automation of work reduced your core services to undifferentiated commodities?

We are not peddlers of fear. We have a message of hope. Do something!

What would your clients do if 10 percent of their business disappeared? Help them figure it out.

How should your clients be taking advantage of the ever-encroaching automation wave? Help them figure it out.

Listen to podcasts. Read blogs. Take an online course. We would love for you to join Growth CPR, but we would be just as happy (almost…) if you took a single step today towards what you want your life and firm to look like in 5 years. Just one step.

And then another one tomorrow.

Do not look back on today and think “I wish”. Look back and say “I did”.

The best time to grow an advisory practice was yesterday. The second best time is now. Start growing.