A Secret to Business Success

Blog 5In the world of improv, people talk a lot about commitment. You need to be fully committed to your character. If you’re going to be the tree, be the best tree that you can be. If you’re going to be a crazy game show host, be the craziest. Be fully committed to that character.

That’s a lesson for businesses, too. If you don’t have the passion for what you’re selling, then you’re not going to sell it. Suppose you’re trying to sell those clickers that speakers use in their presentations. “Hey, would you like to buy this clicker? It helps in presentations, and it has a couple of useful buttons. What do you say?” You’re bound to not get a positive response. You haven’t shown passion or energy. You haven’t communicated that this is the world’s best clicker, that everyone should have one, and what your clicker has meant to you personally.

It’s hard to fake enthusiasm and enthusiasm is what sells. The customer is looking for passion behind the words. In my nontechnical presentations, people can see my passion. Unfortunately, most technical topics and presentations are delivered in a dry, monotone manner. So how do you infuse enthusiasm no matter what you’re talking about? Seek to understand your audience and what matters to them.

When somebody contacts me about the possibility of doing a presentation, I ask a lot of questions:

  • “What are the issues you are facing?
  • What kinds of presentations have you been offering, on what topics?”
  • “What is your expectation after the two hours that I present? What behaviors are you trying to change? Which issues should I address, and what do you wish me to stay away from?”

In essence, I try to customize what I’m supposed to present that way it’s not canned and it’s personalized for the intended audience. Providing a canned approach is not going to be beneficial for either party – it’s certainly not going to enthuse them.

This approach is not only applicable to larger presentations, it is just as important for your smaller one-on-one interactions with clients and prospects. You need to understand your audience. What are their needs and wants, and what behaviors are they trying to change, modify, or enhance?

Be committed to each client and prospect you have the responsibility to meet with – doing so will force you to ask better questions, dig deeper into what they really need and allow you to be the best tree/crazy gameshow host/financial advisor you can be.

Learn more about how you can leverage improv to improve your career – visit www.improvisnojoke.com today and download a free chapter of my book, Improv is No Joke. Need a keynote? Contact me today and let’s talk about what you need.

Improvisation is a Way of Life

Yes-and1Accountants and other business professionals are particularly great at linear thinking. Surprises are rarely welcome and creativity is often a foreign word. However, untapped potential can be harnessed when communication and problem solving skills combine with technical prowess. Many people think improvisation is just a fun expression to make people laugh; useless in the white collar profession. I have discovered the opposite to be true. There are many ways to incorporate improvisational strategies in your daily life and drastically improve your communication skills.

The Group Mind Concept

If you have ever watched an improvisation skit, you get the feeling that the actors are not holding to their own agenda. Everyone seems to bring ideas to the scene, creating a group mindset. And it works! Granted, the objective is to find the humor and provide entertainment for an onstage improv performance, but when the principles behind the scenes are practiced in the business setting, a higher level of communication takes the place of business as usual.

Second Nature

It is possible to deliver only the high level of technical skills needed to perform your duties, but is it enough these days? When the principles of improv (support, trust, respect, focus, listen, and adapt) are added to these technical skills, your networking and interpersonal communication will attract others to you. This combination generates a buzz of productivity that will in turn motivate you and your teammates to deliver more great work.

Whatever your professional goals may be, an understanding and application of the basic principles of improv can help get you reach them. Improv skills will set you apart from all the other guys (and gals) because these skills have practical uses in relationships with clients, colleagues, and team members.

Ready to make innovative changes in your career or workplace? Download a free chapter to Pete Margaritis’ new book, Improv is No Joke, or he can come to you as your next keynote speaker!

What’s Keeping You Up At Night?

Frustrated or angry man in bed awakeIf you are like most accounting firm partners, the problem that is interrupting your sleep is recruiting and retaining qualified staff. According to the AICPA biennial Top Issues Survey, whether you are sole practitioner or have 21+ professionals on your team, it’s all about the staff.

From Succession Planning to Bringing in New Clients, Retaining and Sourcing Qualified Staff, the “soft skills” in accounting management are creating anxiety.

Question is: What are you doing about it?

Professional skills training allows you to invest in your staff, providing important education and training that can, in turn, improve retention, develop tomorrow’s leaders and improve client relationships. You may want to start with an easy survey, nothing too complicated or cumbersome.

•  Offer 4 or 5 continuing education options and allow your staff to rank them in importance.

•  If you have exit interviews on file, review them to better understand why high potential staff are leaving your firm and joining another.

•  Talk to industry insiders, like your state’s society of CPAs, to learn more about the key issues in your area.

Develop a plan for continuing education in accounting and soft skills for your staff that is updated annually. A good night’s sleep is right around the corner!


Getting Creative

Silhouette People Meeting Team Creative Process ConceptWhen asked what you do for a living, what do you answer? Accountant or business manager or maybe partner in a CPA firm? That may be what your business card says, but in reality what you should say is “I am a problem solver”. That’s the value you bring to clients: you make their businesses run more smoothly by resolving problems that create obstacles to success.

The best problem solvers are also very creative. They look beyond the obvious job duties and investigate opportunities. Rather than complete the tasks assigned by clients (or bosses), creative problem solvers look deeper into the project. They identify potential liabilities, brainstorm potential solutions, do their research and discuss the options with their client.

Now you may say that you just aren’t creative, that it’s right brain versus left brain, that it’s something you are born with or you aren’t. Not true. Creativity can and should be nurtured and developed in every person. Even accountants!

Most business leaders are driven by the bottom line. Investing in developing creativity in your staff has to yield dividends, and it does. Here are the facts*.

•  Companies that embrace creativity outperform those that don’t 1.5 to 1
•  58% of those who foster creativity increased annual revenue by 10% or more. Only 20% of less creative companies had similar growth.
•  82% of companies believe there is a strong connection between creativity and business results.
•  60% of companies who foster creativity in their team have received award and recognition as a “best place to work.”
•  Despite the facts, 61% of senior managers do not describe their companies as creative!

So what does it take to bring out the creativity in your team? Start with yourself.
•  As the leader of your team, are you open and receptive to new ideas?
•  Is brainstorming a part of the process – actively soliciting ideas that challenge the norm.
•  Is your team encouraged to try something new, to avoid SALY (Same As Last Year).
•  Are you a “Yes, but…” leader or a “Yes, and…” leader?

If you answered no to any of these points, you may be the problem. The solution: get professional help. Let’s talk – you can be a creative, problem solver.


* Results from a Forrester Consulting Survey

It May Be Time To Reinvent Your Firm

Bad news, layoffs or bankruptcyAn article in this month’s Accounting Today, The Keys to Transforming Your Firm, that talks about some of the steps a firm can take to ensure long-term success. Things like have an updated annual plan for success and creating and communicating the firm’s vision.  While I agree with all the points, there is one that I see as a major hurdle for many firms: developing leaders and successors.

Ongoing leadership skills education encourages your staff to learn to communicate more effectively with clients and co-workers, to approach issues from many angles and to solve problems in new ways. As with technical skills, improving and honing professional skills takes education and experience.  Critical thinking and working creatively to solve problems are not intuitive for many of us. But they can be taught.

While a great many firms want their staff to grow into leaders, they do not encourage thinking differently. I call this syndrome SALY – Same As Last Year. SALY impedes growth and creates barriers to critical thinking and creative problem solving. The antidote for SALY is to introduce new ideas and approaches, to empower you staff to make well-thought out decisions without hearing “we don’t do it that way here.”  Ongoing professional training and exposure to new leadership concepts, like improvisation for business, will help your firm move forward.

The real risk you run if you choose not to change, adapt, reinvent and grow? The real risk is turnover of high potential staff who are not engaged in what worked last year, last decade and definitely not last century.