Do you stand out on LinkedIn?

LinkedIn_logoLast night I had the pleasure of presenting on the above topic to a group of UTS Alumnus. I faced the unenviable task of squeezing a one day workshop into a little less than an hour. The gathered group were most patient with me!

There were three big things I wanted to get across last night. I’ve uploaded the presentation onto Slideshare to give you a taste of the presentation (http://www.slideshare.net/JamesEvangelidis/do-you-stand-out-on-linkedin)

You can’t stand out on LinkedIn. There are over 430million LinkedIn members and about 3.5million in Australia alone. If Heads of State, Nobel Prize winners and world famous entertainers/sports people can’t stand out on LinkedIn, then you & I have little chance. But there is good news. You don’t have to stand out on LinkedIn – all you have to do is stand out in YOUR part of LinkedIn! By your part I mean your community, your networks, your tribe.

Have a decent profile photo. The big point I want to get across here is that LinkedIn is not Facebook or Instagram or Tinder. A professional looking head & shoulders image wearing the type of clothing you wear when working is all you need.

Use your headline the right way. The headline section of your profile (i.e. those 2-3 lines that appear under your name at the top of the profile page) is in my humble view the most valuable real estate on your profile. So don’t waste it one something like your position title & the business you work for. Get creative! Here is my headline to get you started – Helping professional services firms better understand their clients & markets.

Hope the above helps!

Until next time.

 

James

 

 

Daniel Day Lewis – a frustrated accounting client?

Recently I was in a meeting with a CFO of a large privately-owned business with an annual revenue of $120m +. We were chatting about his thoughts regarding the accounting profession. Let’s call this CFO Daniel as in Daniel Day Lewis.

I came to a question of what can the profession do to improve its service to clients.  There was a pause. Daniel paused and then his face started to look redder and redder.

“You know what frustrates me the most James?” he asks rhetorically. “I resent the fact that we hire a firm of accountants/advisors to help us with a particular issue for which they have the right expertise and I end up managing their people for them! I’ve got enough things on my plate without having to set deadlines, follow up and provide guidance when it should be the partners job to take care of their own people. I really get sick of it”

Is Daniel being unrealistic here? What do you think? To my mind I don’t think he is. If you were to hire a building company to build a house for you is it up to you to deal with the various tradespeople directly and make sure the job gets done on time and on budget? Clearly it’s not. The building company would usually have a project manager with whom you can liaise to discuss progress and work through any issues that might come along. Is accounting any different? Or perhaps should accounting be different?

What are some ways in which accountants can offer their clients better service so that CFOs like Daniel don’t get frustrated and tear their hear out! I’ll share some thoughts in the next post.

Thanks,

James E

Should accountants eat lunch? (2 of 2)

Following on from the last post I now finish relating the story of Ron & Jim. Here is where we left them …

“I have to be honest here Ron. When you said at that first meeting that we’ll get together over lunch, talk some business and get to know each other I thought it was one of those empty & passing lines people use all the time.”

“Why do you say that Jim?”, Ron replied.

“Well my last accountant who was a great bloke and seemed to do an OK job for me didn’t take me out to lunch once. So its nice to have lunch and to get to know each other better”

“How long were you with your last accountant?”

Sadly, Jim said “14 years.”

There it is 14 years! Jim the client and his accountant hadn’t once met and broken bread together. I was almost too scared to ask Ron how many times Jim had had a coffee with the accountant (I’m probably thinking 14 – a tea or coffee was probably offered to Jim each year he visited his accountant’s office!)

I don’t know about you, but I think something special happens when you share food and drink with someone. It doesn’t have to be fancy – coffee & cake or sandwich & an OJ – it could be anything. What happens when you break bread with another person is that the barriers tend to come down. You’ll find that you will be talking about subjects and situations that you will never think would come up. That is the wonder of the meeting – because through that open conversation you as the accountant will definitely get to know the client much better and learn the things that excite, motivate and inspire them. You will also gain insight into those things that concern, fear and disappoint them.

Set against this background you will be in a much better position to help their business operate better and grow.

So … should accountants eat lunch? The answer is a resounding YES!

Until next time.

James E

Small accountant beats big accountant

Although my day job is as a specialist headhunter in the accounting profession, I have some fingers in other pies. For example, some clients see me as a “honest broker” – rightly or wrongly. That is someone who can offer an objective sounding board and (perhaps) a slightly different perspective.

One of my commercial clients was planning to exit his business and has hired me as sounding board and has brought his accountant – a chap which he has used for several years – to join him as an adviser. I’ve met this accountant chap many times over the years. To protect the innocent let’s call him Matt as in Matt Damon.

Matt is not the most brilliant or technically gifted accountant in the world. However, he has a wonderful attitude of being really helpful to his clients. Matt goes out of his way to serve, ask questions and generally be available to his clients. None of what he does is ground breaking stuff – but he does the small things well and is consistent.

Some time ago the same client referred to above had a tax issue. I introduced him to a top-notch tax specialist at a big firm. To cut a long story short, the lack of service, care and attention from the big firm drove my client friend back to his local accountant – Matt. Not because of his technical ability or size of his firm – he went back to Matt  for two simple reasons. Matt showed care and was helpful. A one man band beat one of the world’s biggest accounting brands. He simply made a difference to his client by showing some care and helping!

My question to you – are you showing your clients care and are you helpful? I’d love to know what you think.

Bye for now,

James E

A break for Christmas

Hi everyone,

That time of year is here again. I’ll start to post again in the week beginning 7 January 2013.

To all my wonderful readers – have a blessed Christmas & a great New Year!

All my very best,

James E

Are you an accountant that is worth more than $5 per hour?

Following on from the last post I now share the 2nd theme which is contributing to the inevitably of compliance services not dying, but certainly being eked away bit by bit. The surge in the use of outsourced services as indicated by the popularity of sites such as odesk, elance & freelancer. These sites have a created a global market for anyone to buy services ranging from bookkeeping up to network administration.

A quick scan through the elance.com site shows that there are over 1.8million individuals who provide services on an hour by hour basis with costs ranging from as little as $5 per hour. what is even more interesting is the range of skills. Here is a list of skills & disciplines in just 3 areas pertinent to this accounting blog. The numbers in brackets refer to the number of contractors on the elance site that offer the service.

Finance Professionals
Accounting (13,494)
Accounts Payable (4,563)
Accounts Receivable (4,699)
Analytics (3,560)
Bookkeeping (6,303)
Budgeting & Forecasting (3,598)
Business Analysis (5,493)
Business Mathematics (1,206)
Business Plans (5,826)
Corporate Strategy (1,893)
Data Interpretation (989)
Data Sufficiency (197)
Financial Analysis (6,102)
Financial Forecasting (3,517)
Financial Management (11,258)
Financial Reporting (6,059)
Financial Statements (4,668)
Human Resources (2,281)
Inventory Management (1,522)
Investment Research (932)
Job Costing (728)
Lacerte (45)
MYOB (357)
Management (21,831)
Negotiation (1,589)
Operations Management (4,238)
Organizational Behavior (624)
Payroll (3,230)
Peachtree (986)
Project Management (6,358)
QuickBooks (2,951)
Quicken (205)
Six Sigma (330)
Statistics (1,078)
Strategic Planning (1,599)
TQM (23)
Tax Preparation (2,067)

 

Consultants
Accounting (13,494)
Accounts Payable (4,563)
Accounts Receivable (4,699)
Analytics (3,560)
Bookkeeping (6,303)
Budgeting & Forecasting (3,598)
Business Analysis (5,493)
Business Mathematics (1,206)
Business Plans (5,826)
Corporate Strategy (1,893)
Data Interpretation (989)
Data Sufficiency (197)
Financial Analysis (6,102)
Financial Forecasting (3,517)
Financial Management (11,258)
Financial Reporting (6,059)
Financial Statements (4,668)
Human Resources (2,281)
Inventory Management (1,522)
Investment Research (932)
Job Costing (728)
Lacerte (45)
MYOB (357)
Management (21,831)
Negotiation (1,589)
Operations Management (4,238)
Organizational Behavior (624)
Payroll (3,230)
Peachtree (986)
Project Management (6,358)
QuickBooks (2,951)
Quicken (205)
Six Sigma (330)
Statistics (1,078)
Strategic Planning (1,599)
TQM (23)
Tax Preparation (2,067)

What more can one say? The above is only one such site. I know what you’rte thinking. What’s the use of having people in India, Sri Lanka and similar places doing your accounts? If you can’t see the use to a business person needing a compliance servoce done then that in itself concerns me 🙁   See you next post.

All my best,

James E.

A tax audit and a funny old gentleman

For the benefit of those readers of this blog living outside of Australia – our financial year ends tomorrow. So to mark this annual event here is a little joke about our tax office & an old chap. It is one of the funniest jokes I have heard or read about a tax collection agency like the Australian Tax Office.  Please forgive the language, but it is very funny!

Grandad & the Australian Taxation Office.

The ATO decides to audit Grandad and summons him to their office.

The auditor was not surprised when Grandad showed-up with his lawyer.

The auditor said, ‘Well, sir, you have an extravagant lifestyle, and no full-time employment, which you explain by saying that you win money gambling. I’m not sure the ATO finds that believable.’

I’m a great gambler, and I can prove it,’ says Grandad. ‘How about a demonstration?’

The auditor thinks for a moment and said, ‘Okay. Go ahead.’

Grandad says, ‘I’ll bet you a thousand dollars that I can bite my own eye.’

The auditor thinks a moment and says, ‘It’s a bet.’

Grandpa removes his glass eye and bites it. The auditor’s jaw drops.

Grandpa says, ‘Now, I’ll bet you two thousand dollars that I can bite my other eye.’

Now the auditor can tell Grandad isn’t blind, so he takes the bet.

Grandad removes his dentures and bites his good eye.

The stunned auditor now realizes he has wagered and lost three grand, with Grandad’s lawyer as a witness. He starts to get nervous.

‘Want to go double or nothing ?’ Grandad asks ‘I’ll bet you six thousand dollars that I can stand on one side of your desk, and pee into that wastebasket on the other side, and never get a drop anywhere in between.’

The auditor, twice burned, is cautious now, but he looks carefully and decides there’s no way this old guy could possibly manage that stunt, so he agrees again.

Grandad stands beside the desk and unzips his pants, but although he strains mightily, he can’t make the stream reach the wastebasket on the other side, so he pretty much urinates all over the auditor’s desk.

The auditor leaps with joy, realizing that he has just turned a major loss into a huge win.

But Grandad’s own lawyer moans and puts his head in his hands.

 ‘Are you okay?’ the auditor asks.

 ‘Not really,’ says the lawyer. ‘This morning, when Grandad told me he’d been summoned for an audit, he bet me $25,000 that he could come in here and p#$$ all over your desk and that you’d be happy about it!’

Don’t Mess with Old People!

What a CFO looks for in an accounting firm

Murray Walton, CFO of IDP Education, an organisation placing international students into higher education within Australia, shares what he looks for when wanting to hire a new accounting firms.

Set against the background of our recent request for tender, along with receiving each firm’s written proposal, I wanted to make sure I eyeballed the people involved. Each firm came in and spoke to me three or four times before the presentation to the audit and risk committee. I wanted to put them in the best possible position with the committee so they could convey clearly the benefits and style of their services, so we had a dry run so to speak. They would each give their presentation and then I would highlight certain items, “OK, this is the situation: we’ve got a material difference on a signifi cant item. You and I don’t agree. How are you going to communicate that to the committee? How are you going to communicate to the audit team who’s sitting next to me? Are you going straight to him or are you going to come and work with me? How does your process work?”
This process was valuable. Poking each firm like that showed real differences in
their style, content and cultural fit with our business. It was really interesting. What
I’m really looking for in the final analysis is how they communicate and how their
process works when they end up in a difference of view with me as the CFO.
An interesting approach.

What were some of the items on your scoring sheet used to assess each firm?

We looked at things like communication style, cultural profile, demonstrated experience
and expertise, strategies and infrastructure to deliver the external audit services, quality processes, audit team composition, the audit fee, firm independence, international
delivery capacity, how they would handle matters of material significance, and what other non-audit services they would be able to provide.
With this last item, I’m not talking about tax and advisory but rather what things would they be able bring to the table that they are not necessarily going to charge us for … things
like thought leadership, executive networks, training and updates, and the like. We also looked at how they communicated with the audit committee and the management team, their transition plan from our audit existing firm and then finally, how we felt about their presentation.

 

Not adding value

Jim Kondonis is the CFO of Lowes Manhattan. Read Jim’s answer to the question, Tell me about a time when you received terrible service from an accounting firm.
How did it make you feel? What could they have done differently?

I won’t call it a terrible service; I’d rather call this a service that didn’t add value. It was
in a past life of mine. I was working with a Big Four accounting firm and we were using
them as an adviser on a particular acquisition we were working on.
The company that I was involved with was looking at a major acquisition. We decided we’d outsource the due diligence process and obviously involve our accounting partner in the deal. To cut a long story short, it cost us a lot of money for very little value. What happened was that the deal fell over at the 11th hour and we had a big bill to pay.
In fact, the owner of the business I was working with had to negotiate the big bill down to $300,000. At the end of the day, the due diligence process failed because certain parts of the sales contract were not relayed back to the business owner. If they were communicated early on in the piece, we probably would have saved a lot of money, since the deal would have not proceeded, very early in the due diligence process. It came down to the fact that the accounting firm didn’t really understand the operations of the business that they were involved with and didn’t understand the needs of our business. If they understood the needs, then looking at the sale contract, they would have picked up this anomaly in the contract and known for sure that it just wouldn’t have worked for the business.

They didn’t pick up this contract anomaly? It wasn’t discussed at all?

No, until right at the 11th hour when they said, ”Oh, and by the way, in the contract,
there’s this and this, and you can’t use the brand without the permission of the current
owners”. If they really understood how a retail operation worked, then they would
have known that this condition just couldn’t fl y. The whole deal would have been
sidelined in the first couple of weeks. We would have saved a huge amount of time,
effort and expense.

What could they (i.e. the accounting firm) have done differently?

They should have read the sales contract thoroughly. If they didn’t have the skills to
review the contract then they should have said something or recommended another
adviser to us. Their due diligence seemed to focus only on the numbers side and didn’t
take into account the commercial implications of the contract.

The Australian Rugby Union

Here are some thoughts from Ashley Selwood, CFO, Australian Rugby Union in response to the question: What is the most important quality or attribute you look for in an accountant?

The times that we’ve engaged an external accountant have been mainly around projects. We’ve tended to engage accountants and others for project-type work, so they’d come in to complete a specific task. There has been some advice from time to time on tax issues, but we’re a not-for-profi t, so although we don’t pay tax we still have tax issues. We’ve still got fringe benefits, GST and the like. My comments are around where we’ve engaged accountants on the basis of projects.

Set against this background, one of the attributes I’d look for is the ability for the person (or persons) to sit down and spend the time up-front getting to know our business. In my experience, many accountants use predefined work processes, templates, checklists, software and so on. This is good and helps in a lot of business settings such as audit
assignments.
However, I find at times that external accountants already have some preconceived ideas about what the solution is before they spend the time to actually get to know our business. We’re a sport and nine out of 10 people who walk in the door are either followers
of rugby or at the very least know a bit about rugby. When you’re dealing with sport there’s a lot more heart than head involved and sometimes people will walk in the door as a consultant or an accountant and the first thing they’ll do is spend an hour telling you what’s wrong with the Wallabies! Once you get through that, they always seem to have quite fixed ideas of what the solutions are without actually spending the time to get to know our business. In my view this is a fundamental mistake. It not only applies to accountants but all other external professional consultants, irrespective of their discipline.

With sport, people understand it or think they do. What they don’t understand is the business of sport, which is why we are engaging them in the fi rst place. The challenge, in our case, is that the core of our business is run on six Saturday nights during the year. We play six test matches annually against countries from around the world and we drive all our revenue for the year from those six matches.
When you’re sitting down and talking to an accountant and looking at what attributes you want them to have, you want them to set aside their preconceived ideas and get to really know what our business is about before they start, and get into the process of providing the advice or whatever the work they need to do.

I have an example – it wasn’t with an accountant but with a consultant – where we were three meetings into the work when something came up and I started to explain a little bit more about our business, and this person, who was taking copious notes, actually admitted after the end the meeting, “I wish I had known that earlier”.
We were already three meetings into the work and when I started explaining some of these things that they didn’t realise – like six Saturday nights; we deal in six currencies every day; all that sort of stuff – they didn’t know that because they hadn’t spent the time up-front to get to know the business. They’d walked in, they had their template, they thought they knew all about rugby. Needless to say, I was not impressed with how they ran the project.