Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category

elevator_speech_is_out_of_orderMichelle Golden is a terrific resource.  She advises professional services firms (e.g., accounting and law) on growth.  She is extremely well regarded, annually making the Accounting Today list of Top 100 Most Influential People.  I feel fortunate indeed that we are friends.

In the following video, Michelle teaches us how to make a meaningful connection with someone upon first meeting.  She points out that the traditional elevator speech doesn’t work and shouldn’t be used.

When asked, “What do you do?,” some of us succinctly provide a one or two word self-description.  Mine is, “I’m an accounting professor.”  Knowing that most people ask only out of politeness or as a means to break the silence, I never provide details.  After the predictable, “Oh, that’s a really tough subject,” or “I hated that course with an unrivaled passion,” this topic shuts down and perhaps we continue talking about something else.

For many of my readers, though, making a contact that could lead to a potential sale is extremely important.  So the traditional sales guru recommendation is to launch into a rehearsed elevator speech.  I’ll do this if I want someone to read The Summa.

Michelle Golden says that a typical elevator speech epitomizes everything that is wrong with marketing today.  It is like product marketing, which is far different from services marketing.  The elevator speech broadcasts a message, “Buy me.”  And most people shrink back or shut down from such a message.  She calls it spam.  The elevator speech delivers information at the wrong time and place is therefore irrelevant to the listener.  She says that the elevator speech does nothing to build trust.

Michelle continues on.  She says that what you want to communicate is you can help other the other person.  And this can only be done if you first find out more about the other person.  I like this thought, shifting the focus from self to the other person.

Michelle Golden recommends these five questions to help get the other person to open up:

  1. Where to you work?
  2. What inspired you to go into that?
  3. What do you like about what you do?
  4. What was that like when you started doing that?
  5. How do you approach something that you are doing now?

She says that often the person will reciprocate by asking you questions. This is where telling personal stories comes in.  And by telling a story relevant to the other person (because you know about them), you often get a chance to help them.  And that gives you a chance to stay connected.

Michelle Golden is a fantastic resource, and you should watch her video.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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The baby boom generation has served well the world of accounting for three or four decades.  If you, dear reader, belong to it, do you remember what it was like starting out?  Even if you do (which is doubtful), be assured that it isn’t like that any more.

As I recall, major life decisions in college revolved around getting a date and deciding which adult beverage to serve with it (still find it difficult to believe that what was eaten, drunk and inhaled didn’t kill us).  For life after college, decisions still revolved around getting a date and deciding which adult beverages to serve.  Any decisions pertaining to building a future were, for me at least, pretty much left to TEDAIT (take each day as it comes).

Accounting majors back then had it easy.  Take classes (but not too seriously), take a job with an accounting firm, plan on switching to corporate after a few years.  We didn’t graduate with much, if any, school debt.  My tuition as a freshman was less than $100 per semester.  Everything else was TEDAIT.

If you, dear reader, are a college student or new professional, you know it isn’t like that any more.  Life is complicated.

Today’s accounting majors have it rough in college.  Many find financial pressures to be distracting and depressing.  Tuition is expensive (so are the costs of living), forcing students to work and borrow incredible amounts of money.  Classes are demanding, requiring more time and alertness than I ever had to apply.  And today’s crushing flood of information from technology means that students are made aware of much more.  Back in my day, friends numbered in the dozens.  Today, college students number their Facebook friends by the hundreds and thousands.  A laptop, smart phone and wifi connection are as essential as shampoo and toilet paper.

Life after college requires planning, now.  Bob Jensen at AECM passed along a link to a clever roadmap for life after college.  The basis for the map is Jenny Blake’s book, Life After College.  The map has been prepare with the assistance of companies Mint and Quicken. Yes, the map is designed to sell a service (and a book).  But it’s still a good reminder of everything which a young person must be aware.  I’ve not read the book, but the roadmap is cute.

The first part of the roadmap deals with necessities:

The second part deals with major life issues.

Again, the entire map can be viewed at Roadmap for Life After College

The images are copyrighted, I assume, by Mint.  Used by permission.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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Bob Jensen on AECM today shared a link to a 2004 article by Sidney Finkelstein (Dartmouth College), “The Seven Habits of Spectacularly Unsuccessful Executives.”  The seven habits are:

  1. They see themselves (and their organizations) dominating their environment
  2. They identify so completely with the organization that there is no clear boundary between their personal interests and their corporation’s interests
  3. They think they have all the answers
  4. They ruthlessly eliminate anyone who isn’t completely behind them
  5. They are consummate spokespersons, obsessed with the company image
  6. They underestimate obstacles
  7. They stubbornly rely on what worked for them in the past

There is nothing new here.  Anyone who has ever worked under someone knows all about managerial failures.  I can sum up the list in three words:  pride, arrogance and bullying.

I’ve had bosses before who would ask of my opinion only so they could force me out of it.  The truly abusive bosses don’t even bother.  They simply force people to toe the line.  Independent thinking is not allowed.

Spectacularly selfish people lack the most essential qualities of respect for others and respect of others.

Eventually, leaders with the deadly seven habits fail because their focus on self limits their ability to focus on problems and solutions.  Because they respect no others, no one steps forward to help the executive avoid burning completely when the crash inevitably  happens.

I appreciate this modern age of social media.  Research is emerging that use of social media helps people to have more and more successful face to face social interactions.  That’s right, heavy social media users learn to shift focus from self to others.

That’s one reason why I recommend that accountants use social media.  Accountants are doubly cursed, adding a focus on the bottom line number to a focus on self.  How many times have you heard an accountant say, “You can’t argue with the numbers.”   Well of course you can, but there shouldn’t be an argument in the first place.  Not if you notice, respect and work with others.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

Comments are welcome.

Want more of The Summa? Sign up to receive email notification of posts.  And please follow me on Twitter (@profalbrecht).

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Good Writing

Writing and speaking properly are important for financial professionals, professors and students.  Although there are no grammar police walking a beat, a poorly worded communication has the potential to offend the receiver.  Giving offense is bad because it distracts from the message.  Here is an example.

Two people meet, and one says to the other, “How are you today?”

The other responds, “I am good.”

The proper response is, “I am well.”

I have heard many anecdotes of the heavy cost incurred by financial professionals who write or speak poorly, for it is not unusual to lose business as a result of unpolished prose.  Moreover, there are significant benefits to writing and speaking properly.

Why do I blog about this today?  A recent discussion on AECM (e-mail listserv for accounting professors) focused on the proper use of active and passive voice.  Although some say that it is bad to use passive voice, it really isn’t.  It depends upon meaning and style.

In my opinion, a balanced program of continuing professional education (CPAs must take at least 40 hours per year) should include instruction in writing and speaking properly.  I would be happy to offer these CPE sessions, should any state society wish to hire me.

It takes a tremendous effort to learn proper English.  Like most, I learned proper English from reading.  After teaching myself to read, I read hundreds of magazine short stories, thousands of science fiction novels, countless newspaper sports pages and many encyclopedia articles.  If you don’t like to read, realize that you are limiting yourself in much the same way as not regularly bathing, or even not brushing your teeth.

Then there are the K-12 courses in English, endured but not enjoyed.  I took English literature courses in college, which not only provided instruction in writing, but also provided many opportunities to practice.

Being able to practice writing is the final building block.  Written communications, papers in school and perhaps even short stories give writers the necessary exercise to build their Enlgish muscles.  Always there is the goal of doing a better job of expressing thoughts, emotions and depictions of events.

Web sites can supplement the learning process, but they do not substitute for the reading and practice.  For the AECM issue of active or passive voice, a visit to the Grammar Girl blog provides guidance.

For an entertaining look at proper wording, visit the Terribly Write blog.

Bob Jensen (emeritus professor from Trinity University) has some links to writing helpers (wait 10 seconds for page to load).

[Editing is very important.  Failure to spot an error can lead to embarrassing errors.  Thanks to Gary Zeune for spotting one that was in the first sentence.]

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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Lest I Forget

Accountants have a sharp eye.  They can look through a book of accounts, add up a few numbers, and find the problem with unerring accuracy. ! How do they do that?  And they proudly proclaim the source of the problem to one and all.  Wonder how the source feels about that?

Q:  When was the last time you remember seeing a smiling/laughing accountant?

A:  Sadistic IRS staffers telling jokes about sticking it to lying taxpayers in Stranger Than Fiction, an award winning Hollywood film.

Complaints, criticisms and finding faults.  Yeah.

I had a bad week at the office last week.  One too many complaints.  It shook me up.  Went into a local coffee shop, and Sarah (all coffee tenders are named Sarah, aren’t they?) asked what was wrong?  I had no smile.

I’ll share with you now a lesson learned from years of life experience, it’s better to give than to take.  Last week at the office my smile was taken, and it wasn’t even used by the taker.  Invariably ta-kees become ta-kers (I resemble that).  How much better it would have been for the other to give me a reason to smile.  I would have returned it 100-fold.  Receivers become givers.

My older son Tom wore out his texting thumb trying to cheer me up.  He finally succeeded with a link to the following video.  I am now reminded of advice that I once gave to other professors:  The last thing you should do before entering any classroom is to put a smile on your face. One professor was so taken that he printed and taped the advice to his inside office door in such a way that he would always be reminded before class.

I follow a few tweeters, and they’ve been theorizing about the positive career effect of getting 8 hours of sleep each and every night.  I’m absolutely sure that even more accountant careers would take off and go way way up if the accountant was a smile giver.  Remember, a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.

The following film short will take 16 minutes to be viewed.  You will be a better person if you watch it all the way until the end.

Validation (2007), written by Kurt Kuenne, starring  T.J. Thyne and Vicki Davis.

I’ll keep watching this video, lest I forget again.  Thanks Tom.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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