By Selene Sullivan, CPA, 2020-21 OSCPA Board Chair, for The Accountant
One of my favorite hobbies is reading. I usually have two or three books going at the same time. Over the last few months, I have read a couple of business books and have been listening to the AICPA’s “Small Firm Philosophy” podcast. I feel there is always something to learn or re-learn. Without a desire to expand our knowledge, it is often easy to get stuck in the way we have always done things or rely on the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. At one firm where I worked, I started a discussion to move from legal size paper to letter size. The response I got was they had tried that about 10 or 15 years before and it didn’t work. That was the end of the discussion. Our workpapers have certainly changed since that conversation. From reading, as well as from listening to others’ ideas, I have picked up a few things I find helpful and useful.
A colleague and I have been reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. One of the habits I found helpful was to “begin with the end in mind”. The idea behind this habit is we should develop an outcome-oriented mindset in all the activities that we engage — meetings, projects, presentations. One of the recommendations was to think how we would like to be remembered and how our current activities support that goal. It is easy for me to get wrapped up in what needs to be done and not think about whether it is something that helps me reach my goals or is something I want to be doing. Reading this book was a reminder that I need to make sure I am setting personal goals and missions before “just doing”. I have found this focus on “an end in mind” helps to guide my decisions and what I choose to be involved in. There are lots of choices to make and many directions that one can go; but choosing the ones that best fit with my desired outcomes are where I will be most engaged and impactful.
Another great book that our firm’s leadership team has been reading is Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't by Jim Collins. This book contains many wonderful concepts that one can utilize and put into practice. The chapter that caught my attention the most was “First Who, Then What.” One of the biggest issues facing firms and agencies of all sizes is finding qualified candidates to fill open positions. It seems we are all looking for a unicorn, the perfect candidate who has the skills and experience along with a great personality. This book challenges the idea that you need to find the “perfect” candidate. The concept the author encourages is to “get the right people on the bus, then figure out where to go.” Jim Collins talks a lot about hiring people that fit your culture and those you want to work with, over hiring for talent alone. He talks about being patient in the hiring process so you get the right person for your team — skills can be taught but character doesn’t change. We, in fact, had a situation where we had a person with the seemingly correct skill set, but who didn’t mesh with our office culture and values. This ended up costing us time and money dealing with the issues that arose. In the end, it became apparent to both parties that it was not a good fit. We are currently being patient to find the right person for the “bus”.
I also highly recommend the AICPA “Small Firm Philosophy” podcast if you are a manager or owner in a small firm. They have new content coming out regularly and it is always timely and pertinent. They discuss important topics such as the effects of COVID-19 on firm workflow and operations, how to find work/life balance, managing a virtual firm and various others. As a small firm business owner, I appreciate the fact that the podcasts are relatively short, and I can listen in the car on the way to the office. One podcast I found interesting discussed what makes a firm a great firm to work for. In it, they discussed the importance of showing the employees that they were valued and cared for in many little ways, as well as allowing work schedule flexibility. Our staff is our second biggest asset outside of our clients, and it is important we take care of them and value them. Our firm strives to create and maintain a team that moves towards the same common goal: to meet the needs of our clients. I know I am extremely thankful for our team at Principle Accounting. I feel lucky to go to an office with people that I respect and can have fun with.
I think it is important to keep learning and growing. In the last couple of years, reading and listening to podcasts have been my favorite way to do this. I’d love to hear from you on your favorite books or podcasts.