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The Boomer Bulletin - 2016
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Prepare for an Exciting World of Change

Posted By Sandra Wiley, President, Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Updated: Monday, March 13, 2017

In nearly every article we read, conference we attend, internal planning meeting we hold or client conversation we participate in, the word change pops up. In some, it elicits a feeling of excitement. For others, it is uncomfortable or downright scary. Our world is certainly on the move, and change has become a part of the normal landscape. One of the ways we can calm uncertainty is through knowledge and an action plan.  Let’s look at a few of the changes coming our way and the positive steps you can take to prepare proactively. 

Changes in Leadership:

Concern:  Transition of Leadership

What to do now: Confront reality and ensure that all of your current partners, principles and senior managers develop a personal plan for their transition out of the firm. Plans should include not only how they will transition clients but also their plans for the next phase of their life. The most successful changes happen when individuals are comfortable about not only what they are leaving, but what they are headed to. 

Changes in Talent:

Concern:  A Shortage of Mid- Level Superstars

What to do now:  The war for talent is no secret in our profession. Your checklist should include a 365 day per year recruitment plan, a strategy for developing talent quickly including an intern program, onboarding to build engagement from their first day and individual training plans to let them grow at a pace that will motivate them to stay for the long term. If you haven’t guessed, that means FAST. Your best defense is to put a laser focus on the current superstars and sponsor them. That means give them your wisdom, time and talent daily. If they feel connected, important and challenged, you will retain those superstars that you are currently out trying to find. 

Changes in Growth:

Concern:  The Incredible Shrinking World of Compliance Work

What to do now:  You may not be feeling the loss yet, but you will. Given the new technologies in play and the comfort of the next generation with those technologies, we must begin making changes now that will protect our growth goals in the future.  A good place to start is by finding a peer network that will walk with you as you educate yourself, identify how to use process and technology more effectively and build a true business advisory practice. Many seasoned leaders already feel they are conducting advising or consulting type work with their clients. However, that is being done in a silo by select leaders. It is not a firm-wide initiative that includes training on new skills, pricing, packaging, strategizing and implementing at all stages of the firm’s strategic plan. 

Changes in Technology

Concern:  Preparing for a World Where Cloud, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Blockchain are the Norm

What to do now:  The best thing to do now is educate, educate, educate. If you have not moved to the cloud yet, do it. If you are unsure what AI really is and how it will affect your tax and audit compliance work, read about it. If you have heard of blockchain or Bitcoin and you say “right, and I believe in the zombie apocalypse too,” do yourself a favor watch the TED Talks of futurist like Don Tapscott or Bettina Warburg. They describe these new technologies in completely understandable terms. Then, surround yourself with a community of the smartest people you know to get a head start on making the new world of AI and blockchain not only understandable but an exciting new strategic direction for your firm.   

Change does not have to be scary; it can be your protective shield for an amazing future.  The choice is yours.  Embrace it and be prepared, ignore it and fall behind.

 

 By Sandra Wiley

 President

 Boomer Consulting, Inc.

 

 

 

 

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5 Strategies for Increasing Buy-In

Posted By Arianna Campbell, Consultant, Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Updated: Monday, March 13, 2017

When firms plan to make significant changes, such as implementing new software or improving an existing process, there are often questions and concerns about how to ensure a high level of buy-in. The hope is that everyone will get on board from the very beginning and it will be smooth sailing. The reality is that not everyone is going to buy in. In fact, from our experience, a small percentage of people will resist a new change no matter what.  This resistance to change by just a few can be frustrating, but there are productive ways to help you navigate this challenge.  Here are five strategies we have seen used within CPA firms to improve the success of their change initiatives.

#1 - Clarification and explanation

Sometimes confusion or miscommunication about a new plan or process causes a lack of buy-in. Even after a full rollout of the new plan, some people may miss an important detail or step. What was clear to one person may be difficult to understand for another. Instead of asking for clarification, some people attempt to follow the new plan without these critical pieces of information. This impacts their ability to be successful. What started as a need for more information can lead to a lack of support for the new change as discouragement settles in.

Understanding how people retain new information can help to increase buy-in. Robert Frost, an engineer and instructor at NASA explains, “Retention means being able to easily access the information later. To do that, one needs to ensure the following during learning and after: 1) Repetition 2) Connection of new information to old information.” Be proactive about providing written step-by-step documentation and resources for people to reference. Explain the new plan or process multiple times, both in a group setting and individually as needed. Connect the new information to the old by explaining differences and similarities to add additional clarity.

#2 - Training

When people challenge change, it can indicate a need for training. For example, decreased participation might be caused by not knowing how to access the correct area in the new software or from not understanding how to use a new scanner.  It is important to ensure that people have been properly trained to complete new tasks and use new systems.

Training is essential for buy-in because it builds the confidence needed to perform new responsibilities. Trust also increases as people begin to master new skills. What was once viewed as change becomes the new normal. The Professional Learning Board says, “As a skill is practiced or rehearsed over days and weeks, the activity becomes easier and easier while naturally forcing the skill to a subconscious level where it becomes permanently stored for recall and habitual use at any time.” Protect time for training and anticipate the need for in-depth sessions on more challenging topics.

#3 - Gather Feedback

If you want to know why someone is opposed to change, talk to them to get a better understanding of the reason behind their reaction. This feedback, when expressed constructively, can be a gift. Give them a chance to share their thoughts and to be heard. Getting their perspective can provide insight that may not have been discovered in previous discussions.  Opening up the communication can also help to build trust. However, keep in mind that addressing significant concerns is best reserved for a one-on-one discussion.  

While gathering feedback can be valuable, don’t get stuck in this feedback loop. Take their comments into consideration and follow up to communicate how their feedback was implemented or will be used for continuous improvement in the future.

#4 - Share Success Stories

Do the changes have positive results? Share them! In some cases, people wait to get on board until they see that the changes are successful. It is important to capture and share success stories and statistics to help increase buy-in. This contributes to making the change more tangible and relevant.

Firm-wide change initiatives should include regular updates on progress and accomplishments. Designate several early adopters as representatives to capture “wins” from different departments and levels. People become motivated to participate in the firm’s progress, and an overall feeling of excitement and accomplishment becomes contagious. 

#5 - Give it Time

For those who still aren’t convinced, time can be the best persuader. Achieving buy-in just takes more time for some people. Continue to encourage them to get on board, but don’t sacrifice the forward progress of the firm for a select few who are slow to adapt. Over time, the overall success of those following the process will far outweigh any negative impacts of those who are not.

Change is challenging, especially when it is met with resistance. In the words of Steven Covey, “Seek to understand, then to be understood.” To increase buy-in, it is important to get beneath the surface to understand the cause of the opposition. This will allow the firm to achieve alignment and growth.

 

  By Arianna Campbell

  Consultant

  Boomer Consulting, Inc.

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Millennials in the Accounting Profession

Posted By Jacqueline Ratzing, Project Manager, Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Updated: Monday, March 13, 2017

We continuously hear about millennials in the workplace and the lack of understanding of goals and desires millennials have compared to their predecessors.  But what about Millennials specifically in the accounting profession?

According to the AICPA’s 2015 report Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits, “total accounting enrollment continued to increase, with a majority of the increase coming from a 34% rise in masters in accounting students.” Yet, despite growing enrollment in accounting degree programs, 68 percent of Chief Financial Officers say it’s “challenging to find skilled candidates for accounting jobs and other professional-level positions.” If degrees awarded are at an all-time high, why are these roles so hard to fill?

Why not ask a Millennial? I had the pleasure of interviewing a student who is looking to get start in public accounting. She is in the process of finishing her MBA this year, just finished an eight-week internship at a Big 4 firm and is planning to sit for the CPA exam by the end of this year.  

Why do you want to go into Public Accounting?

Ideally I’d like to work in private accounting or start my own practice. I think that starting in public accounting gives you the most well-rounded background and qualifies you for more future opportunities.  

You just finished an eight-week internship at a Big 4 firm, why did you choose to do an internship with them?

For me, Big 4 is most likely just a starting point to get experience. My personal preference is a smaller, more local firm where you can get a more personalized experience.

How can firms attract Millennials and get them to stay at their firm?

The Big 4 do a good job of attracting millennials by their presence on campus, competitive wages and innovative benefits. On the retention side, the hours are long and people often feel overworked and underappreciated. They are making a move to have many benefits outside of “busy season” but the question remains, “But the question remains: Does it make up for the amount of overtime required during busy season?” Showing recognition and appreciation for hard work as well as monetary compensation can help convince people to stay.

As a millennial, what are you looking for in a firm?

I am currently looking for high wages and a flexible schedule (aren’t we all?). However, the opportunity for promotions is important to me as well.

Where do you think the accounting profession headed?

As with everything, technology is taking over. More things can be done remotely on a laptop or phone so there is less need to be in the office (unless you need to be at a client site). Also, I notice that the “accounting” firms are moving away from that term and rebranding themselves as “professional services” firms to highlight that they offer other services as well.

After talking with this student two things stuck out. First, being part of the biggest and best companies is not something that everyone wants these days. For some, it’s more important to follow their personal vision. Secondly, accommodation is important. While it is unrealistic for a firm to completely renovate their business model to meet the growing demands of Millennials, it is important for firms to listen to Millennials, whether that means offering flexible work arrangements or finding ways to recognize hard work and show appreciation. Either way, Millennials are giving us feedback, it is up to us to decide whether we listen and adapt or keep the status quo.

 

 By Jacqueline Ratzing

 Project Manager

 Boomer Consulting, Inc.

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Identifying Great Places to Work

Posted By Megan Schottler, Solutions Advisor, Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Updated: Monday, March 13, 2017

Our careers take up a significant portion of our life. It’s important that we not only find work that we love doing but also find a great company to be a part of. Finding the right career and company combination is the foundation of work/life integration. Below are a few characteristics to consider as you search for a great place to work.

Growth Potential vs. a Structured Career Path

Some firms have very structured career paths. It takes three to five years to move from associate to senior, another three to five years from senior to manager, and so on. This kind of structure looks only at hierarchy, technical proficiency and past performance, not potential.

Look for:

  • Investment in people. Great firms to work for offer more than 40 continuing education hours per year. They invest in their people to help them develop more than just technical competence. Look for firms that promote leadership development, support involvement in professional organizations and encourage their people to pursue specialized designations and niches.
  • Training. On your first day at the job, will you be handed a copy of the prior year work papers and left to muddle through an engagement on your own? Or is there a formalized training program that will help you learn the policies and procedures while you gain technical knowledge? A great place to work for takes the time to train their people well before expecting them to start churning out work. Look for firms with a formalized training and development program that is personalized for each employee.

Entrepreneurial Mindset vs. Corporate

The notion of an entrepreneur strictly as someone who starts a business is very limiting. As Donna M. De Carolis, Ph.D. and founding dean of the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship ay Drexel University pointed out in Forbes, the characteristics of an entrepreneur include terms like “visionary, leader and, possibly, hero.” They are risk takers, influential and creative. Don’t think you can’t be entrepreneurial just because you’re working for someone else. The best places to work want every one of their employees to be entrepreneurial.

Look for:

  • Embracing new technology. Firms that encourage an entrepreneurial mindset are willing to embrace new technology that frees up time for their employees to innovate and enables them to work as easily outside of the office as they can inside. You can’t think big while you’re being bogged down by technology that can’t keep up with the times. A great place to work will be happy to share how and why they invest in technology.
  • Remote working. Best places to work allow their employees to work remotely, at least some of the time. That’s because they recognize that the value of their people comes not from the amount of time they spend in the office, but from what they do. Look for firms that currently have members of their team working remotely and don’t let remote work limit the career trajectory of their remote employees.

Work/Life Integration

Work/life integration is about having a measure of control over when, where and how you work so you can enjoy your life, not feel like you’re on the hamster wheel of work, sleep, work, sleep. A great place to work believes their people should have a fulfilled life inside and outside of work. That means feeling that you are doing good work, but not at the expense of your family or personal life.

Look for:

  • Wellness benefits. Health insurance is an obvious need, but the best places to work also invest in their employees’ health beyond annual exams and emergency room visits. Look for companies that subsidize gym memberships and offer other perks to incentive people to take care of themselves.
  • Work/family integration. Time is our most valuable resource, and its scarcity puts a strain on many families. Yet some firms do little to realign the world of work with the reality of family life. Look for firms with policies that help employees manage work and family obligations without having to choose between the two, such as flexible work hours. People will go through different stages of work/life integration throughout their life and having a job that supports those stages is one worth committing to.

If you’re looking for a change in your career, it isn’t just the position description you should focus on. Look for a firm that will be a good fit for you, because the more comfortable and happy you are at work, the more effective you’ll be in your role. 

 

 By Megan Schottler

 Solutions Advisor

 Boomer Consulting, Inc.

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Processing Through Your Firm’s Biggest Dangers

Posted By Deanna Perkins, Solutions Advisor, Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, February 14, 2017

During visioning sessions with clients, we walk them through a DOS Exercise. DOS stands for Dangers, Opportunities and Strengths. This exercise helps them to think through what strengths their firm currently has, what opportunities they can develop for future growth and what dangers they are facing. Dangers are what keeps them up at night - their biggest challenges. Today I want to walk you through a process to think about your firm’s dangers. It starts by working through the scope of the danger, thinking about the business reasons surrounding it and the personal impacts this danger has directly on you and your team.

When looking at the scope of a danger, you need to develop the starting and ending point on which you’re focused. Don’t say a danger is, “We need to be more strategic.” Be more specific than that. Why do you think your firm is not being strategic? What specific examples are you thinking about? This is where you may say,

“Well, we have three partners, and they all have their own thoughts on where this company should be in three years.”

Now this is a good start towards figuring out that scope of your danger. Continue asking yourself questions to give you framework before moving to the next step of the process. Think about the various discussions your firm has had about this particular issue. Think about the various ways you may, or may not, have tried to solve this in the past.

“A couple of years ago we tried to sit down and have everyone write out their thoughts on the future of the firm. We each shared our plans to see where there might be similarities and differences, but once the exercise was done everyone thought their plan was the best one and we couldn’t come to an agreement. Everyone left the meeting continuing to do the same things they’d always done.”

Once you have a good idea of what your danger is, and can picture several examples of why this needs some attention, you’re ready to look at the business reasons for why this needs to be solved. Think about the ways you’ve tried to solve it in the past and why you don’t believe that they worked. How much has this danger cost the firm by not being resolved? What negative impact(s) has this had on the firm?

“It didn’t work because there was no one helping to run the meeting and facilitate constructive discussion to get everyone talking about what was best for the firm and the team. This has cost us a lot of time, energy and even talent. Since the team doesn’t have a clear vision of where the firm is heading, and how they are going to fit in the picture in the future, we’ve had huge turnover at all levels. During exit interviews, the number one reason individuals left was a lack of vision and direction from the top down.”

Once you’ve gone through the second step of the process, you’re ready to look into how this personally impacts you and your team. In the above example we already know that it’s affecting the team with turnover, but think through how this is affecting you directly. What frustrations does this danger cause you? How does this prevent you from getting your job done? If you have these frustrations, others on your team have them as well.

“It’s frustrating not having a good picture of the future since I don’t know how to prioritize the work I’m given. It’s hard for us to stay motivated since we don’t know the end game and what we’re working towards. It can also be confusing since one partner asks you to do one thing saying it’s the priority, but then another will come and ask for a different project to be placed as your top priority. We never seem to get anything done.”

Now that you’ve worked through these three steps you should be able to summarize the scope of the danger, how it’s affecting the business and how it’s personally affecting you and the rest of the team. From here you can brainstorm the best ways to resolve this danger and make that a key strategic objective over the next year. 

 

 

 By Deanna Perkins

 Solutions Advisor

 Boomer Consulting, Inc.

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Power of a Peer Community: Intro to the Boomer Lean Circle™

Posted By Dustin Hostetler, Chief Innovation Officer, Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, February 14, 2017

 

Just over two years ago, I joined Boomer Consulting, Inc. when the consulting company I founded, Flowtivity LLC, merged with Boomer Consulting, Inc. For years, I had worked with CPA firms around the country, helping them find and eliminate inefficiencies and build quality into their processes, maximizing the value of their work and improve bottom lines. I was able to continue that work with the Boomer Consulting team.

 

Power of a peer community

One of the advantages I gained by joining Boomer is the power of peer communities. For years, Boomer has brought leaders together through several peer networks, including the Boomer Technology Circles™. We offered a Lean track during each of the last two BTC Summits, where we discussed the foundational elements of a continuous improvement culture and heard first-hand from some of the leading firms in the profession who are applying Lean to their tax, advisory and audit departments.

 

We had a chance to get feedback from the trenches about the concepts and ideas that resonate at firms, the roadblocks they’ve overcome and how they were able to optimize buy-in at all levels of the firm. We saw firms go from good to great when they tapped into the power of community and collaboration.

 

What’s next?

How can we take Lean to the next level? We believe we’re doing that with our new Boomer Lean Circle™. This new addition to the lineup of Boomer peer communities capitalizes on what we’ve already been doing so well – bringing together smart and motivated professionals – with an emphasis on gaining a sustainable Lean advantage.

This is the first community for Lean leaders in CPA firms, and it’s open to anyone with a desire to be proactive when it comes to Lean and willing to share their successes and lessons learned.

We know from our experiences in the other Boomer circles that when members of our profession get together, they don’t just improve their individual firms, but the industry as a whole. I am excited to be a part of the next evolution of Lean Six Sigma in the accounting profession, and I hope to see you there.

 

 By Dustin Hostetler

 Chief Innovation Officer

 Boomer Consulting, Inc.

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How List Making Helps with Work/Life Integration

Posted By Samantha Zerr, Operations Accountant, Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Updated: Monday, February 13, 2017

 

“I make lists to keep my anxiety level down. If I write down 15 things to be done, I lose that vague, nagging sense that there are an overwhelming number of things to be done, all of which are on the brink of being forgotten.”  - Mary Roach

 

Are you a list maker?  In November, I shared a Boomer Bulletin article detailing how my journey towards work/life integration continues to evolve. One of my challenges was separating my work life from my home life while working from home. Having the option to work from remotely is an important aspect of work/life integration for many people. It certainly has been helpful to me over the last couple months, but it has also presented a few challenges.

 

Personally, I have trouble turning off work when I’m done working. This is true even when I work in the office since I bring my laptop home every night. But it’s especially true when I work from home. I’ve found myself opening up my laptop many evenings when I had an idea or thought about something that didn’t get done during the day. As a result, I rarely felt “refreshed and recharged,” since my mind was constantly on work. I also struggled to be fully present in my home life, when work kept creeping in after hours. How have I learned to switch off?

I depend on lists

I’ve always been a list-maker, so this comes quite naturally to me. Instead of opening up my laptop to “just do one last thing” in the evening, I make lists. When I get an idea or remember something I need to do, instead of doing it in the evenings, I jot it down.

 

Writing for Psychology Today, Carrie Barron MD shared six benefits of making lists:

 

1.       Provide a positive psychological process whereby questions and confusions can be worked through. True purposes surface.

2.       Foster a capacity to select and prioritize. This is useful for an information-overloaded situation.

3.       Separate minutia from what matters, which is good for identity as well as achievement.

4.       Help determine the steps needed. That which resonates informs direction and plan.

5.       Combats avoidance. Taking abstract to concrete sets the stage for commitment and action.

6.       Organize and contain a sense of inner chaos, which can make your load feel more manageable.

 

I’ve definitely found that making lists of things I want to accomplish the next day helps me get thoughts of work out of my mind, allowing me to be present at home.

 

 Lists might be essential for “turning off” work

Non list-makers laugh at list-lovers. Do we spend more time making lists than accomplishing work? Do we right down completed tasks just to get the satisfaction of crossing something off the list? Well, maybe. But I’m not the only one who recognizes their value in leaving work at work.

 

In 2015, Brandon Smit, a researcher on work/family conflict at Ball State University in Indiana found that the simple process of making a list of unfinished business at the end of the day helps turn off the lingering work thoughts that tend to follow us home.

 

I will still struggle with work/life integration. Nobody is perfect and as soon as we find the perfect recipe for success – if it exists – things are bound to change and require adjustments. But list-making can be a powerful tool for achieving that elusive ideal.

 

 By Samantha Zerr

 Operations Accountant

 Boomer Consulting, Inc.

 

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Does Your Firm Have a BI Strategy?

Posted By Chelsea Roberts, Process Administrator, Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Updated: Monday, January 9, 2017

Since becoming the Process Administrator at Boomer Consulting, Inc., creating a Business Intelligence and analytics strategy has been a major theme of my position. During this time, I have learned one basic truth: Data is just that. It doesn’t lie. Data provides a factual basis to gain better insight into past, present and future decisions of a company. Implementing an BI initiative in your firm can be a confusing, painfully unsuccessful endeavor without properly understanding what you are looking for and how to get there. Understanding the benefits and insights (past, present and future) your firm stands to gain and effectively getting this project off the ground are two basic steps to making this project a viable success.

 

Past/Hindsight

Descriptive (‘what happened”) and diagnostic (“why did it happen”) analytics provide a historical look back at your firm and its performance. This holistic view provides the ability to spot under-performing services or practices, allowing you to make critical improvements to improve the overall success of your firm. This view also enables you to gain valuable insight into client behavior to determine cross-selling opportunities. Using descriptive analytics, Boomer Consulting can now look at historical data from our community services and see how community membership has waxed or waned over the last 18 years. We can also diagnose why these fluctuations happened (i.e. recession, client surge to new BCI programs, etc).

 

Present/Insight

Having an at-a-glance snapshot of your firm's performance allows you to immediately answer various business questions that arise. This also permits you to easily track data that would otherwise take valuable time to research, as well as pinpoint areas that could benefit from increased efficiency.  At any given time, any Boomer Consulting employee can now see the number and amount of community memberships and revenue.

 

Future/Foresight

Predictive (“what might happen”) and prescriptive (“what should we do”) analytics provides foresight into your firm's future. Better data analysis helps you make better-informed decisions regarding the impending success of your company. For example, setting a revenue goal for the coming year based on data could mean the difference between achieving the stated goal versus adjusting the revenue goal later in the year. Continuing with the Boomer Consulting example, we can now have more intelligent discussions about future projections and service adjustments to provide better value to our clients.

 

How do I get started?

Like any project within your firm, you should first start with a tool like a project filter or internal assessment to answer key questions about the initiative. This will help you to answer the following questions:

  • Who is responsible for gathering and managing the data? Who will have access to the data? Whose perspective will you take into account when determining what data is necessary to track?
  •  What do you want to measure? What are your KPIs? Measure what you want to achieve.
  • Where will the data reside?

Strategies to Implement a BI/Analytics Program

According to a report by Forrester Research, the 10 best practices to kick off your BI strategy are:

  1. Choose a C-level sponsor (who’s not the CIO). This person should understand the importance of both data analysis and keeping the BI objectives aligned with the firm’s overall strategy.
  2.  Create common definitions. Get everyone on the same page regarding the governance of data.
  3. Assess the current situation. Find a good starting point for the strategy plan.
  4. Create a plan for data storage. Define the data requirements and architecture of the BI plan.
  5. Understand what users need. Identify all types of users involved and understand what output they need from their perspective.
  6. Decide whether to buy or build the analytical data model. Decide whether you want to purchase an analytical model or build one internally.
  7. Consider all business intelligence components. Ensure that all of your BI systems address your vision and structure. These could include data integration, quality, analytics and management.
  8. Choose a systems integrator. Choose a person who is highly knowledgeable regarding BI strategy and implementation.
  9. Think “actionable” and “baby steps”. Break down the overall process into manageable steps and due outs.
  10. Choose low-hanging fruit to start. Pick smaller, easier targets to achieve and build on.

Developing a BI and analytics initiative is not a one-time event. Your firm’s needs and goals will change, as will the types of data you have available. It can be daunting at first, especially when you have a lot of data to deal with, but starting with a clear plan can help you turn the barrage of raw data into real, actionable information that can help grow your firm.

 

 By Chelsea Roberts

 Process Administrator

 Boomer Consulting, Inc.

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4 Tips on How to Rename a Firm

Posted By Heather Robinson, Marketing Manager, Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Updated: Monday, January 9, 2017

Pop quiz: What do BackRub, Blue Ribbon Sports and AuctionWeb have in common?

Hint: You probably know these companies better by their current names: Google, Nike and Ebay.

If you guessed “They’re all companies that changed their name” give yourself a pat on the back!

I always find it interesting to hear about giant brands that changed their names, but smaller companies change their names too, often as a matter of survival.

Firms might change their name to better align with new services, new ownership or because they ran into a similarly named business during an expansion. No matter the reason, renaming a firm and going through the requisite rebranding process is rarely without its challenges. Here are five tips to make renaming a firm work in the real world.

Do your research

Deciding on a new firm name can be one of the most challenging parts of the renaming process. How do you choose a name that will last? One that will embody your values and reflect the emotional connection you want to have with your clients? This part can be so complex that there are entire companies devoted to naming other companies!

One name might sound great when it’s tossed out at a partner meeting, but what will the rest of the world think? Survey employees to find out what they think of the new name. Remember, though, that names will always be subjective and getting a consensus will be difficult. There will always be someone who has a visceral reaction based on their own experience or clings to their own idea. Gather input, but keep the approval team small.

Once you’ve developed some ideas, do research to make sure the name isn’t already in use. Start with the US Patent and Trademark Office’s trademark search tool. Then find out whether the domain name is available and whether the name is up for grabs on all social media channels, including Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Even if you’re not active on all of those channels, you don’t want someone else posting under your company name.

Revamp your swag

From new business cards to t-shirts, website to marketing collateral, everything bearing your old firm name will have to be replaced. You’ll want to be consistent when it comes time to roll out the new name. If you need some help remembering all of the areas that will need to be updated, the Center for Productivity created a handy checklist to help with the transition.

To reduce confusion for existing clients, some firms include “formerly XYZ Company” on the letterhead, website and other items for several months after the change.

Communicate the change

How you communicate the name change can make all the difference between a successful transition and a failure. Start with your employees. Don’t just make an announcement via email. Hold face-to-face meetings to announce the name change, explain the rationale behind it and answer any questions they may have.

Once employees are on board, reveal the name change publicly. Draw up a clear communication plan, using as many channels as possible. Announce the change well in advance of the actual switchover to give clients time to get used to the idea. Some name changes come about for negative reasons, whether the firm was bought out or faced legal challenges. Make sure your clients know you are celebrating the change! You might even consider hosting a special event for customers to mark the launch.

Transition seamlessly

Don’t let the transformation drag out over several confusing and inconsistent months. When you make the change, everything should transition on one single day. You will need to have your former website redirect to the new one and rename social media accounts.

Employees should be fully briefed and ready to use the new name when they are writing emails or talking to clients. You may still encounter resistance from some staff and customers who have grown accustomed to your existing identity. Remain positive and upbeat in all of your communications and demonstrate a sense of leadership. Over time, the name change and any opposition to it will seem like ancient history.

With careful research, thorough planning, strategy and execution, you can successfully rename your firm. Follow the four tips above, and you and your team can better anticipate and manage the renaming process to achieve your desired results.

 

 By Heather Robinson

 Marketing Manager

 Boomer Consulting, Inc.

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Lean Toolset Skillset Mindset

Posted By Michael Wherry, CPA, Consultant, Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Updated: Monday, January 9, 2017

Change is coming. Are you ready?

As a CPA, I am all too familiar with our aversion to change. Maybe I am biased and even non-CPAs fear change. I’m not sure, but I do know it’s easier just to forget about change and continue with the status quo. Sound familiar?

So what is different now? Why can’t I bury my head in the sand and just keep doing what I have always done? It has worked very well in the past. Well, a couple of reasons come to mind for why you need to seize the opportunity and find ways to change. Technology is making life easier in many respects, including the work that CPA firms do. I am not as concerned about how fast my people can fly through a column of numbers on their ten key. It is now more important to figure out how technology can allow me to get more work done. A significant barrier to leveraging new technology is outdated processes and a lack of understanding on how to manage change.

Enter… Lean. Well, not really an entrance but more of a proven method to improve your processes. Successful CPA firms have been using Lean for over ten years to improve processes. Wouldn’t it be great if you could use Lean for more than just process improvement?

By breaking Lean thinking into three components, you can! Successful CPA firms need to have the right skillset, toolset and mindset. Let’s explore Lean in the context of these three synergistic components.

Lean Toolset

Much like the Pythagorean Theorem is a tool in geometry, Lean black belts and green belts use the tool D-M-A-I-C, to help improve processes. At its core, Lean is the systematic elimination of waste within a process - waste from the customer’s point of view. Focusing on the waste within a process can be difficult. In our Lean projects, we focus on the five phases of D-M-A-I-C to not only identify waste but then identify improvements to keep it from creeping back in. 

D – Define. What problem do you want to fix? Create the vision, define the objectives, identify the scope and create timelines for completion.

M – Measure. Measurement is critical for thoroughly understanding the baseline and current state of your process. Not what “should be” happening, but what is actually happening today – and all of the variation between offices and individuals.

A – Analyze. Tear the process down. What does the data tell you? Identify the inefficiencies and waste. Identify the work loops and churn. Identify the quality issues. Ultimately, identify areas of opportunity.

I – Improve. How will you fix the problem? Develop ideas and solutions in the areas of opportunity identified during the Analyze phase. Don’t just apply best practices to a part of the process that isn’t a root cause of weakness. That leads to ineffective change and convoluted processes.

C – Control. How will you sustain the improvements? Take time to train, roll out and implement the new process. This is where you must address the ‘why’ questions. If you did your homework in Define, Measure and Analyze, this step will go much smoother.

The benefit of D-M-A-I-C is how it answers the two critical “why” questions: Why do we need to change? And why will this change be better? We are all adverse to change and focusing on the right Lean Toolset addresses this.

Lean Skillset

Have you ever seen someone try to use a power tool for the first time? Chances are they didn’t have the proper skills to use the tool. Just like projects we work on outside the office, matching the right skills with the right tools can make all the difference. The same rings true with Lean.

The proper balance in this example is to pair the right tool (D-M-A-I-C) with the right skills of a TOPS team. TOPS stands for Team Orientated Problem Solving. Four key skills need to be included in a TOPS team.

  •  You need a Champion, someone to provide executive level support for the problem you are trying to solve. Think of this person as the team cheerleader.
  •  You need a leader. No team is complete without its Captain. The leader is the day-to-day face of the team.  Their role is to make sure everyone is working in the same direction for the common goal.
  •  The third skill you need is that of a Facilitator. Within the context of Lean, it is best that this person has a green or black belt certification. A Lean facilitator is an independent party that fills the role of coach. If you don’t want to bring in an outside facilitator, consider having an audit person facilitate a tax project or a tax person facilitate an audit project. By creating a distinction between the facilitator and the project team, it allows the facilitator to focus on the coaching skill that your TOPS team requires.
  •  The fourth and most important skill that your team needs are the players. The various people who work within the process daily. For an audit project, this would include staff, in-charge, manager, partner and administrative personnel. Your team should have people that will act as Ambassadors for their fellow employees being sure to bring the voice of their level to the project.    

The Lean Mindset

Once your firm sees how Lean tools and skills help you improve your current processes, you will learn that your journey has just started. Lean tools and skills have a proven track record of improving existing processes. But don’t stop there! How can a Lean mindset be used in other areas of your firm?

Some of the most successful firms have a Lean mindset, whether or not they recognize it as Lean. Consider some of these characteristics of high-performing firms:

They consider changes in the market and look for opportunities to expand service offerings. One of the core principals of lean is that customers define value. What services does your firm offer? What additional value can you bring to your clients? Lean firms anticipate change and look for ways to proactively serve their clients.

They value their internal customers (employees) as much as they value their external customers (clients). When you make hiring decisions are you focused on both what the candidate can bring your internal customers (employees) as well as your external clients?

They believe in professional development and a culture of life-long learning. Continuous improvement is another core principle of Lean. Continuous improvement can be applied to people as well as processes.

They value high-performance, being the best and going the extra mile. Even if they are the biggest, best, most profitable firm today, that can change on a dime. Successful firms embrace change and continually seek out opportunities to do things better.

They embrace a “one-firm” concept. Another core principle of Lean is making the process flow. Processes can’t flow when certain partners insist on doing things their own way, in defiance of firm standards and practices. Successful firms put the firm before personal preferences.

Is your firm ready to embrace change and rise above the pack?  The lean mindset can be your leverage to align all your people in a common goal of providing the best service to your clients while matching this service to what they value, leading to the proverbial win-win. I scratch your back, you scratch mine!

 

 By Michael Wherry, CPA

 Consultant

 Boomer Consulting, Inc.

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