Deeper Weekend 2014

Posts Categorized:

Management and Operations

Choose your favorite writer

  • Adrian Simmons
    Adrian Simmons
  • Bryan Coleman
    Bryan Coleman
  • Greg Kyte
    Greg Kyte
  • guestblogger
  • Jason Blumer
    Jason Blumer
  • Jennifer Blumer
    Jennifer Blumer
  • Scott Kregel
    Scott Kregel

REFM -  Adrian Photo Square - CATOBAs a small business owner, you have one foot in the future and one foot in the the present: building your firm for the future, while serving the needs of the present. The difference between the two worlds is the gap: the space between where you are and where you’ll be. If you let that gap grow too big while your feet are straddling it…well, I think you get the picture. ;)

In some ways, that gap is what defines an entrepreneur. They see the difference between the world how it is and how it can be. It’s an internal cognitive dissonance, a type of itch, that they reach out to scratch.

What can happen nowadays, though, is that so much innovation comes at us, that the volume of cognitive dissonance grows too loud (anyone out there felt it?). There’s a difference between a music level that’s motivating, and a music level that’s inhibiting, or even downright crushing.

That’s why I’d like to suggest that the way to drink from the proverbial firehose is to not: the truth is, we can only drink from a stream. We either choose our stream, or we get pummeled and disoriented by the firehose.

The key is honing in on the signal within the noise, adjusting our tuners. Before, we were limited by the amount of data we could gather — data was the limiting constraint. But nowadays we’re limited by our attention capacity — data is abundant, and attention is the limiting constraint. As a result, we begin to discover the fallacy of the principle that more data will produce a better decision. In reality, there’s a point after which more data, is just more data.

The signal we’re looking to hone in on is the one related to the next step we’re trying to take. And just like drinking from a firehose, the reality of taking steps, is that you can only take one at a time. We’re gonna have to accept that — you don’t get to take two steps at a time, just one.

So identify that step, gather data, stop gathering data, take that step, and here’s the important part: ignore everything else. Everything else will stop you from taking that step. Everything else will flood your brain and paralyze it. Everything else will zap your attention so none is left for the step. Everything else is just noise and not signal, excess cognitive dissonance and not flow — choose flow.

Flow comes from creating small gaps, then closing them. Be aware of your cognitive dissonance, and use it to your advantage, and not disadvantage: let it surround one step at a time, and no more.

Adrian G. Simmons is a CPA innovating ways to put money in its place. After working as an auditor out of college for KPMG, he joined his father in public practice in 2002, and now acts as the Chief Creative Designer there. With the team, he looks for ways to help their customers become financially strong, so that they can focus on what truly matters in life. Adrian likes tech, uses a fountain pen, successfully attempted a half-marathon (and may try another), and prefers dark over milk chocolate. 

REFM -  Adrian Photo Square - CATOBWhen I’m reading for content, I’m all about the marginalia: underlines, questions in the borders, even one­ sided hand­written debates with the author. Which is why I was much relieved that the Kindle allows you to digitally underline text and add notes too — you can even export them to a PDF to save and search, a way cool feature that I’ve taken advantage of many a time.

But what if the text in a book went from edge to edge? No spaces between the lines, no space on either side of the page, none at the top, none at the bottom: a page littered with letters. Hard to read, cramped with lines blurring, and eyes crossing… Read more

Management and Operations

Jennifer BlumerAs a business owner, you have a lot going on. And maybe you are trying to please a lot of people AND keep the lights on. That’s a lot of pressure. These rights are basic and maybe a little obvious, but a reminder never hurt. Maybe the reminder will help you remember to take care of yourself.

You have:

The right to say no – You don’t have to serve people whose numbers on caller ID make you cringe. You have the right to say no to a lunch appointment “just to catch up.” You have the right to say no to offering services you hate. You can say no with class, but sometimes you need to just say no.

The right to be paid for the value you provide – Your customers want access to you. Sometimes they really do have a quick questions. (And sometimes they say they have a quick question that is anything but quick.) I am not suggesting you send a bill for every phone call. I am suggesting you price in a way that makes you less frustrated when you get those kinds of calls. And that you stop working for free. Is your client paying for a tax return? Then why are you also cleaning up their accounting for the whole year? Get paid for the value you are providing. Read more

Jennifer BlumerMore and more firms are making the move to virtual or will in the coming months. Having made the transition from an a traditional office culture to a virtual one, I hope to be able to share some of our experience so you can think through the possible pitfalls and avoid them in your transition.

First, let me define the word virtual as I mean it for this post. Virtual firms do not have a home office. Everyone on the team works in their own space, usually from their homes. I do not mean you have an office but you have the ability to work elsewhere because you use cloud software. That is really cool, but just not what I mean by virtual in this post.

With that out of the way, let’s look at four areas where you could run into a problem. Read more

Management and Operations
Greg Kyte 2I suck at cars.


When I was a sophomore in college, I surprised myself by changing my own brakes on my 1991 Ford F150. My mechanic quoted $300. I spent $100 on a Chilton’s Manual and parts, changed the brakes, then drove from Seattle to Provo the very next day and didn’t die. I had so little confidence in my brake repair abilities that my brake pedal appeared to be working my sphincter muscle.


Since I was a poor college student, I was stoked that I saved $200, but my limbic brain didn’t get a rush from fixing the brakes. Auto repair doesn’t fit with my “why,” so I prefer to have somebody else take care of it. As a result, I haven’t developed my mechanical skills, and I’m automotively illiterate. (Another result is that I don’t have hardly any tools. Feel free to attack my masculinity in order to augment your own.¹)


As a CPA, I’m grateful that lots of people’s limbic brain doesn’t get a rush from doing accounting and that they need to pay somebody else to do it. ‘Cause that’s how I gets my skrilla² to afford my dope ride. Currently my dope ride is a 2007 Honda Civic. Why a 2007 Honda Civic? Because at 40 mpg, my limbic brain gets a huge rush when I calculate my mileage deduction.


My 2007 Honda Civic is fully loaded. Oh yeah. It’s got seat belts, a dash board, and brake squealer tabs. Just looked that last one up on Google. Pretty high tech car crap. Brake squealer tabs make a bad sound when it’s time to get your brakes changed. Very helpful if you suck at cars.


Not too long ago, my squealers were squealing, so I called my usual mechanic. It went to voice mail. I didn’t leave a message.


Lesson #1: Answer your damn phone.


I’ve never been too excited about my usual mechanic. He’s the uncle of a close family friend, but for some reason I always felt like I was getting screwed. Maybe because I suck at cars.


Lesson #2: Your clients might worry that they’re getting screwed because they suck at accounting. A fixed price agreement plus a scope document goes a long way.


I work with a guy who’s a great resource when it comes to everything I suck at. He’s a total car guy, motorcycle guy, tool guy, fix it guy. If I need something done, he always has a good recommendation. So I asked him where to take my 2007 Honda Civic. He recommended Mike & The Mechanics.³ Didn’t hesitate. Said that was the place to go.


Lesson #3: Read The Tipping Point,  then make sure that you’ve got customers who are mavens. Mavens are “people we rely upon to connect us to new information.” If someone asks a maven to recommend a CPA firm, two things need to be in place: you have to be a great CPA firm, and the maven has to know about you.


I took my Civic into Mike’s. He did the work. I picked up the car. The price was reasonable. He told me that my rear tires were balder than Patrick Stewart, James Carville, and Joey Brannon combined. He recommended that I get them replaced ASAFP.


As I was driving away, I thought I heard my car making a noise, but it was so faint I figured I was just imagining things. Over the course of the morning, that faint sound turned into a disturbing grinding noise which turned into a horrible clanking. I pulled over multiple times to try to see what was wrong, as if I had the kind of skills where I could pull over and just see what was wrong.


I hate being the guy to complain, but my car sounded like the bastard child of a rock polisher and a roto hammer4. When I got there I explained to Mike the various noises that my car had made. He suggested we take a quick ride together so he could hear what I was talking about. We got in the car, and the damn thing didn’t make the noise! Nothing! The car sounded perfect. It was making the noise when I pulled up right in front of the door to the office of the shop. Now nothing! My 2007 Honda Civic was making the sounds of silence like Simon and Carfunkle which pissed me off and made me feel stupid5.


After explaining that I’m not a liar and that just moments earlier the car sounded like someone shoved an unopened can of tomato paste into a garbage disposal, Mike said, “I believe you. You wouldn’t have come down here if you weren’t hearing something weird. Let me clear a bay, take it back, and see what’s going on.”


Lesson #4: When a customer complains, he already feels stupid. Give him the benefit of the doubt that – at bare minimum – his expectations were not met. Maybe you made a mistake, or maybe his expectations were wrong – either way your job is to get expectations to match the deliverable. Regardless, Mike earned big points by simply saying, “I believe you.”


It took him just a few minutes to clear a bay and get my car back there.


Lesson #5: Start fixing the problem immediately.


Just a few more minutes passed when Mike came back in and told me that something was indeed wrong. A bolt was missing from the brake apparatus, and he was mortified. He took me back to the shop to show me. It was cute that he thought I would know what he was pointing at.


Mike assured me that they would get it fixed as quickly as possible at no charge to me. Unfortunately it would take about an hour because they had to get a new bolt from Honda. I didn’t have an hour; I had to get back to work. So Mike insisted that I take his Jeep for the rest of the work day – not a car that belonged to the shop, but his personal vehicle. He insisted.


Lesson #6: If at all possible, when a customer complains, do something that will blow his damn mind. Mike letting me drive his personal car was an unexpected, over-the-top demonstration of customer service.


So I took his Jeep, he fixed my Honda, and I won’t ever go back to my old mechanic.


Lesson #7: Customer complaints are an opportunity to create incredibly loyal customers.


Studies show that customers who complain – and whose complaints are dealt with to their satisfaction in a timely manner – are more loyal than customers who never complain.


I never complained to my old mechanic; I never wrote a blog post about him, either.


¹Attack it, you wussie! I knew you didn’t have it in you.
²Skrilla is slang for “money, esp. paper currency.” Use it with your clients.
³Not the real name of the shop, but an amazing idea for the name of a real shop.
4Like I know what a roto hammer is.


Greg was born in Akron, Ohio, in the shadow of the Firestone tire factory. He began to swim competitively when he was eight, swimming for the Mountlake Terrace Lemmings. He graduated in 1995 from the University of Washington with a math degree. He chose math for the ladies. After serving ten-years as an 8th grade math teacher, he decided it was time for a career change, mainly because he “couldn’t stand those little bastards.” He began his accounting career with a local CPA firm in Orem, Utah, where he consistently failed the QuickBooks ProAdvisor advanced certification exam. Greg currently works as the Controller for the Utah Valley Physicians Plaza. He lives in Provo, Utah, with his wife and two kids. He enjoys eating maple bars, drinking Diet Pepsi, and swearing.