The End of Busy Season is Here. What now?

End of Busy Season
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Busy season is almost at an end. Corporate tax returns are due March 15. Personal returns are due April 15. On the audit side, there are March 31 and April 30 deadlines.

From day one of busy season, you’ve had a countdown to the last of your major deadlines. You keep looking at the calendar hoping you miscounted and the end of busy season is a day closer than you thought.

You’ve made it this far through busy season. You can make it a little further to the end.  You can even make it to the end of busy season and enjoy it. It is possible.

Busy season of 2014 represents my 13th busy season. There have been challenging, troubling and even fun times during those 13 years. Hopefully you experience that too.

When you look back on this busy season, you will wonder how it passed so quickly. Here is a brief list of things on which you should reminisce as you come to the end of busy season:

1. What motivated you – To make it to the end of busy season, you had to have some motivation during busy season to keep going. What was your motivation?

Did you use stress as your motivation? In some respect, I’m positive you did. Working longer hours to meet a deadline is a form of stress. What did that stress do for you? Besides motivating you to reach that deadline, what else was there?

For me, I focus best when I’m stressed. My productivity increases dramatically. I’m more efficient with my time and spend less time doing non-productive activities.

2. What you learned – You learn something each day. You may not notice some of these things because you learned it so incrementally it didn’t seem like learning. But, you did.

What did you learn this busy season? Here are some things you probably learned:

  • How you function on less sleep
  • Whether you focus on your health when you work more hours
  • How well you communicate with your spouse or significant other
  • How to better plan an engagement
  • How to better wrap up an engagement
  • What to do before you leave the field so wrap up is easier
  • How to batch process work
  • The expectations of certain partners and managers
  • Whether you’re cut out for public accounting

3. What you enjoyed – If you didn’t experience at least some joy each day through the end of busy season, you’re in the wrong career. You should have enjoyed something each day.

  • Did you enjoy working with a particular co-worker or partner/manager?
  • Did you enjoy working in a particular industry?
  • Did you enjoy the camaraderie working as a team?
  • Did you enjoy the detailed work of tax preparation or creating work papers?
  • Did you enjoy drafting financial statements?

If I could do one thing every minute through the end of busy season, it would be reviewing financial statements. Work papers are puzzle pieces. The financial statements are the completed puzzle. Seeing how everything fits together to create a set of financial statements and related footnotes is fun for me.

4. Opportunities for sales – The audit team is the primary sales force in public accounting. If the audit team does not represent the company well, additional services will not be sold to that client.

A member of the audit team sees all the “goings on” in a company.  You see what the client needs and hear what management wants. If you pay attention, you can be the hero at the end of busy season too.

What opportunities for additional services did you identify? I clearly remember the first “add-on” service I helped acquire. The client had a subsidiary that was required by different states to have stand-alone financial statements. I helped that client see how a review could meet those needs.

That was my first sale and I will never forget it.

5. Opportunities for growth – Busy season is like it sounds…busy. Motivated and career-oriented employees will take advantages of opportunities even during those busy times. What did you do to help you grow professionally or personally during this busy season?

  • Did you ask to work on new and more difficult areas?
  • Did you ask to work on a new client so you couldn’t rely on last year’s work papers?
  • Did you let your superiors know you wanted to attend board of directors’ or audit committee meetings?
  • Did you volunteer to present in those meetings?
  • Did you continue or increase your marketing efforts?

Opportunities abound during and after the end of busy season. It’s your responsibility to recognize the opportunities and then take advantage of them. It may be the end of busy season but that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of these opportunities going forward as well.

6. How you treated others – Did you follow the golden rule during busy season. Naturally, you should follow the golden rule at all times, not just to the end of busy season. During stressful times, however, it means a lot to people when they are treated well.

  • Did you express gratitude to your co-workers for helping you learn?
  • Did you express gratitude to superiors who gave you opportunities?
  • Did you express gratitude to client employees who helped you?
  • Did you express gratitude to administrative staff?

Treating administrative staff with respect and gratitude is essential to me. My job could not get done without their hard and dedicated work. Unfortunately, too many people take administrative personnel for granted, especially during busy season.

The next time you see your receptionist or word processing personnel, thank them for what they do. In fact, every time you see them, say thank you. It will mean the world to them and show them how good of a person you really are.

The end of busy season is near. I wish you the best as you reach the end. It’s up to you as to whether you continue treading water or you dive in and swim to the finish line.

The end of busy season is a time to celebrate. You worked long and hard hours. You got so much done. You earned your firm a lot of money. Enjoy it.

And, remember, at no point during the year is the next busy season more than 12 months away!

Leadership and Management: Are They Both Necessary?

Leadership and management
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Which is preferred between leadership and management? Does everyone require both leadership and management or does it depend on the individual?

Leadership and management are the subjects of many books, blogs, doctoral theses and academic discussions. Neither is the perfect solution but both can be perfect.

Why all the fuss about the difference between leadership and management? Here’s why:

Some people are really good leaders and others are really good managers. It is usually an either/or situation. Rarely does one person have such good leadership and management skills that others are envious.

Through observation, I’ve witnessed the following as they relate to leadership and management:

1. Leaders know they are leaders and do not desire to be managers.

2. Not all leaders are liked but they are respected.

3. Leaders surround themselves with people whose strengths complement the leader’s weaknesses.

4. Some managers want to be leaders but manage in a way that people will not want to follow them.

5. Good managers are liked and respected by their subordinates.

6. Bad managers are afraid of looking foolish.

Think about all the leaders and managers you have witnessed in your life. Some may have been teachers, coaches, parents or bosses. Look carefully at each of the six traits above. You can name at least one person for each item.

If companies, schools and sports teams are built on the foundations of good leadership and management, why are there so many bad leaders and managers out there? Why can’t they all be taught what traits make up good leadership and management?

A few reasons why good leadership and management is not consistently found are:

1. Not everyone is meant to be in leadership and management positions. Some people are meant to stay in the rank and file. There’s nothing wrong with that.

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2. Viewpoints of good leadership and management traits and skills are different. You may think a trait is good for a leader but I may not. There’s nothing wrong with that either.

3.  Great examples of leadership and management are rare. Without great examples to model oneself by, it is difficult to become a great leader or manager.

What do you do when the wrong people are in leadership and management positions? This can be very difficult to deal with. You have the right to have a working environment in which you do not feel threatened. The wrong leader or manager can keep that from happening.

These are the four steps to take if you are working for someone who has improperly been put in a position of authority:

1. It’s not you, its them – If you’ve ever been on the wrong side of the “It’s not you, it’s me” breakup line, you know that can hurt. You also know its not truthful. However, in the case of bad leadership and management personnel, sometimes it is true.

If you have a bad boss and that boss is continually derogatory and mean, you have to realize it’s not you. That boss has a problem. Do not take what is said as a personal insult. That boss has a bad temperament and/or conceit problem but you are not the cause of it. He was like that long before you met him and he will continue to be like that long after you’re gone.

2. Confront the bully – This is one of the most intimidating things to do in your career. It’s been my experience that people in leadership and management positions who are mean, rude and just downright disrespectful often will change when confronted.

Mean bosses are bullies. While bullying in the work place should not be tolerated, you know it is in certain cases. That bully is the same as the elementary school bully. Once you stand up for yourself, the bully will back down. You just have to earn the bully’s respect.

3. Hold your tongue – As much as you want to retaliate at what a bad boss says or does, it is what we call a CLM – Career Limiting Move. Retaliation gets you no where. Just like in a football game, the player who retaliates most often draws the penalty flag. It’s just not worth it.

Keep your mouth shut in the heat of the moment. Let things cool down and ask advice of someone else in management about how to approach the situation.

4. Ask for help – Successful people are those who realize early that they cannot do everything themselves. They ask for help. If you are not able to cope or earn respect from the bad leader or manager from following the three previous steps, it is probably time to ask for help.

Successful people also realize early on to only take advice from only people who are at a level or have what they want. Therefore, do not ask for help from your peers or those below you unless you know they have successfully navigated the bad boss situation. Otherwise, ask someone at the same level as the bad boss or someone above him.

When you ask for help, make sure you have some sort of relationship with the person you are asking. The last thing you want is for this plea for assistance to back-fire on you. Good people in leadership and management positions will want to help. Make sure you ask the right person.

We’ve addressed six observations about leadership and management. All are true. What others can you think of? We’ve also gone over three reasons why good leadership and management is hard to find. There have to be more than three. What else can you think of? Finally, we identified a four step process to dealing with bad people in leadership and management positions. What other steps would you add?
Answer these questions in the comments below.

When you make it into leadership or management positions, what kind of leader or manager will you be? Will others think highly of you or will you be that bully? I hope the former, rather than the latter. Let’s change the face of leadership and management so we can all be proud of the people above us.

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How to Create and Maintain Healthy Relationships

Healthy Relationships
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Love or the feeling of connection is a primal need of all humans. That need is fulfilled by creating and maintaining relationships with others. To truly feel love or have a deep connection, one must create a relationship and nurture it until it turns into a prosperous and healthy relationship.

Creating relationships is easy. You create an immediate relationship with someone by making eye contact or speaking. That relationship, however, is very shallow and can vanish quickly.

Creating healthy relationships, on the other hand, takes intentional effort and desire by two parties. One person, regardless of the intention and desire to create a healthy relationship, cannot force that healthy relationship on someone else. The other person has to have the same intention and desire.

When two parties have the same desire and use that desire to perform intentional acts, a healthy relationship can form.

How many healthy relationships do you have? Do you only have healthy relationships with family? Probably not. You desire that love and connection with more than just your physical family members. How did those relationships first develop? What did you both do to grow that initial connection into a healthy relationship?

Healthy relationships in selling

You might have heard the terms of Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C). These are the two forms in which businesses believe sales occur. A business can sell to another business or a business can sell direct to a consumer.

There is a newer concept to which I really relate that has been coined by Chris Ducker. He states that people want to do business P2P, or people-to-people. When you think about that term, you want to buy items from people you like and trust.

Apple, for example, can get away with B2B and B2C because of the brand it has created and nurtured. It has built healthy relationships with its customers. Most companies, though, rely on sales people in some form or fashion. Those sales people are doing business with people.

Businesses do not make buying decisions. People within businesses make buying decisions. You and I are also more likely to buy high dollar products from sales people we know, like and trust. Those types of sales people have the knack for creating healthy relationships quickly.

Healthy relationships with co-workers

Even though we are all in inherently in sales in some manner, healthy relationships do not stop with the buying and selling situations. Instead, we want healthy relationships with our co-workers and bosses. Healthy relationships can overcome issues that arise. However, shallow relationships will evaporate quickly with the slightest issue.

A boss/employee relationship works in a specific way. The employee knows he is subject to the boss. The boss knows he wields power over the employee. That can be a very strenuous or easy-going situation.

My employees and I have healthy relationships because there is mutual trust and respect. I trust them to do what they need to do when they need to do it. I do not have to micro-manage. They know my belief that family comes first and we work around family needs as long as the work gets done. We’ve built that healthy relationship.

I know others who have bosses they don’t trust. They feel that if they are a minute late to work that they will be chastised. Or, if they work through lunch but leave at 4:55, they will get in trouble. That is not a healthy relationship.

Common traits of healthy relationships

All healthy relationships have specific commonalities. There can be different traits that can help maintain healthy relationships but only four that are present in all healthy relationships. Those four traits are trust, respect, communication and love.

Trust is the belief in the honesty of the other person. You believe your spouse will abide by the oath he took on your wedding day. You believe your boss will support you when you need help. Without trust, a relationship has no foundation. That relationship is built on hope rather than trust.

Respect has to be earned. Someone appointed to the position of power, i.e., manager or boss, does not automatically receive respect because of the appointment. I do respect the position but maybe not the person. For example, I respect the role of the presidency but may not respect the person serving as president.

An interesting facet of respect is that it does not mean agreement. You can have the utmost respect for a person even though you do not agree with how he approaches something. You can respect someone for his integrity or intelligence but not be in agreement with his decisions.

Communication is the third requirement for healthy relationships. The lack of communication is the cause of most disagreements with children and adults. It’s the primary cause for divorce. It’s the primary cause of people not enjoying their jobs.

Good communication does not require being a completely open book. You don’t have to give every detail of everything you do to be a good communicator. Instead, it’s about providing the right information, in the right way and at the right time.

Good communicators work at it. It takes discipline and practice to become a good communicator. It also takes consistency. Being nervous when opening an email, listening to a voice message or seeing someone approach because you don’t know which personality is going to present itself in that moment causes so much stress and anxiety.

Love is the final piece of healthy relationships. There are four words in the Greek language translated as “love.” Any of these four can be used to maintain healthy relationships but the most important might just be “agape” love. Agape is the expression of love in a selfless way.

Love does not have to be sexual or even familial. Agape love is expressed when you do something good for the benefit of the recipient. You get nothing in return. It’s all about the other person. You can express love to your co-workers by helping them succeed. You can show love to your clients by sending them pertinent information without it being requested. You do good because it’s good, not because of what you might receive in return.

When you are able to combine a healthy dose of trust, respect, communication and love, healthy relationships will result. The healthiest and longest lasting relationships will be those for which both parties have the desire to better the relationship and intentionally put forth the effort to do so.

As you were reading this, you were thinking about your healthy relationships. Be thankful for them and do not take them for granted. Be intentional about making them even better.

You also were thinking about those relationships that are not so healthy. Those relationships can be improved. Talk to the other person and express your desire to improve the relationship. You can work together to make it a healthy relationship.

5 Steps to Change Your Personal Brand

Bert Purdy's personal brand

If integrity is what one does when no one is watching and a company’s culture is demonstrated by what the employees do when not watched, what is a personal brand?

Your personal brand is what people say about you behind your back.

Do you know what people say about you behind your back? Since it’s behind your back, you probably don’t. But what do you think they say? Do you think what others say about you behind your back coincides with the brand you are trying to emit?

You try very hard to present yourself in a certain way financially, emotionally, physically, intellectually and spiritually. At the intersection of those five archetypes is your personal brand.

Let’s take me as an example.

I want everyone I meet to learn certain things about me within minutes of seeing me and talking with me. At work, I am known as the one always in professional dress. It is rare I do not wear a full suit and tie.

I’m also known as the Bible intellect. People come to me within the office for spiritual or religious questions. This is not because I outwardly preach religion. It’s because I live my religion. People know I do not drink or curse and I attend worship services three times a week.

My co-workers also know me as even-keel emotionally but very much in love with my family. Rarely do I let my co-workers see me get upset. I NEVER yell at a co-worker. Even when correcting behavior or attitudes of co-workers, respect is always present. They all know and ask about my wife and three girls and know I feel completely lucky to have won my wife’s heart 12 years ago after 11 years of trying.

Then there is this blog. I decided to start writing this blog for two reasons. First, I was always being asked for career advice from college students, students’ parents or young professionals. I thought, “Why not write down all this advice so people around the world can benefit from it too.” So I did.

The second reason I started The Intentional Employee was to enhance my personal brand. Everything I write about on here and have talked about on interviews (see here and here), is about how much I love my job. It was my intention that I make it the de facto standard for clients and prospects to want to work with me because they want someone to work with who is happy and motivated.

Think about it. Given the chance to hire one of two plumbers to fix a leaky faucet who had identical skill sets and talent, who would you rather hire? Would you rather hire one who radiates joy, is clean and  makes you feel comfortable or one who has a negative attitude, wears too small of pants without a belt and scares your children?

Your personal brand matters.

What does your brand say about you? If you don’t like what that is, it’s time to change it. Here are the steps to change it:

1. Document it – Instead of just thinking about how you want to present yourself, write it down. Write down how you want to look, how you want co-workers, church-goers and family members to think of you, how you will react in positive and negative situations. Document everything you can think of. You will shortly discover how much goes into your personal brand.

2. Summarize – Now that you wrote as much as you can about your personal brand, summarize it. In essence, write your personal branding statement. Similar to a company’s mission statement, your branding statement will document more than the good in the world you want to accomplish. It will document what people think of you as you go through your life accomplishing that good.

Here is my personal branding statement:

To be a positive and Christian influence on everyone with whom I come into contact. Professionalism, respect, positivity and integrity are my guiding principles with everything I do, say or think.

3. Small steps – It is very hard to make radical changes in our lives and continue them without fail. Therefore, make one change per week. If you add one thing per week, eventually you will be radiating your true personal brand.

Part of your personal brand may be to be healthy. We all know how New Year’s resolutions about getting fit end. They end abruptly and badly. Why? Because we try to do too much all at once. Instead of going to the gym at 4 a.m. every day. Try going to the gym at 6 a.m. Once you’ve done that one day or for a series of days, move to 5 a.m. You will be much more likely to stick with it.

4. Recognize your failure – Regardless of how hard you try, you will fail. You will not reinvent your personal brand without facing some struggle. The sooner you realize this, the quicker you can regroup and move on.

You do not need to be perfect. I’ll repeat. You do not need to be perfect. Perfection should not be a part of your personal brand. You should strive to live perfectly according to your brand but you will slip up. That is okay. Just make sure they are not giant missteps. Hopefully, those missteps will be imperceptible to others.

5. Don’t listen to negative people – If you make a change in your life, you will hear some negativity. Someone you know, maybe even a close family member or friend, wants to be that proverbial squeaky wheel. He just wants to be greased; he doesn’t care for what’s best for you.

If you decide to change your eating habits from eating out every day with co-workers to eating a healthy lunch you bring, those co-workers will chastise you for it. They cannot see past their supersize soft drink and french fries to see the healthy choice you’re making. They will say you abandoned them or think you are better than them.

Maybe you are…and should.

It’s time…

To be who you really want to be. To realize your full potential. To enjoy each day of your life. To make amazing new friends. To live a happier life.

Hopefully, you’ve read through this entire article and have determined you already have the personal brand you desire. That’s great! However, if people are talking negatively about your back, do you want to change their negative comments to positive? You have the power and ability to change yourself. You cannot change someone’s perceptions of you but you can change what they see.

What others see is your personal brand. You are your personal brand. No one can make it for you. You have to decide to be the person you want to be. Now is the time. Go do it.

What Is Your Value?

Your Value
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You have value; value that no one else has. You have a unique set of talents and gifts. You are special.

The previous three sentences can be said about anyone. You may not believe you have a special talent or special knowledge. But you do.

You may not be the best at everything but you are great at something. You have value to share. You just need to recognize it.

How can you find your value? No, I’m not talking about your values. You should know what they are and live by them every day. You can demonstrate your values by showing your value.

Let’s look at Anne for an example. Anne works for a community bank as a new accounts specialist. Her job is to help customers open the account that is best suited to their needs. A customer may know what kind of account she wants but Anne can help her differentiate between all the accounts.

Anne’s integrity is her biggest value. She could convince her customers to open the types of accounts from which the bank would make the most money. However, because her integrity trumps everything, she will help customers to open the best accounts.

David is an experienced realtor who helps both buyers and sellers. Because David’s reputation could make or break his career as a realtor, he only works with people he trusts and knows he can provide value.

If a seller is convinced his house is worth more than David thinks it will sell for, David will not agree to represent the seller. He could agree to work with the seller and let the house sit on the market for months but that would hurt his reputation as being able to help sell houses quickly.

He brings value to his clients because he demonstrates his knowledge of the local real estate market. Less experienced realtors might agree to help sell the property because of the potentially larger commission. David realizes he will be able to sell more houses and make higher total commissions if he only agrees to work with people who take his advice.

Have you recognized your value yet? The key is to realize that you don’t have to be an expert to show value. You only need to know slightly more than the person you’re helping. If you know just a bit more than the other person, you will get to show your value.

Value will be recognized because of your desire to learn about a topic, your experience doing something or your inherent ability to perform. Look inside yourself and find your value. Once you find it, share it. You will do the world a disservice if you do not share your value. As is said, “To whom much is given, much is expected.”