We Have a Winner!

WSCPA pic“…and there I was, sitting at the controls of the new Boeing 777 while the captain took a nap!”

At least that’s what Hayden Williams, VP of Education with the Washington Society of CPAs, thinks I’m saying. Hayden, a $25 Starbuck’s gift card is on it’s way to you.

Thanks for all the entries and the laughs! Who says accounting can’t be fun?

Busy Season Stress Buster: Laughter!

images-1They say laughter is the best medicine. Not sure who “they” are, but I do know why this is true. When you can see things in a humorous way you will be able to lighten up, have fun, release the endolphins* – those crazy fish that swim through your blood stream and help you deal with stress, anxiety, and depression.  Your day will be brighter and you’ll have a positive impact on those around you.

Researchers have studied the effects that laughter has on the body and have turned up some interesting information on how it affects us.  One thing is that laughter helps to increase our blood flow because the blood vessels expand and contract easily there by sending the appropriate amount of blood to our brains and organs.  Those who are under stress, their blood vessels tense up thereby restricting blood flow to the brain which creates costly mistakes and errors.

Researchers have also found that laughter helps to boost our levels of immune cells where stress does just the opposite.  We get sicker quicker, come to work sick because of our workload, get others in our office sick because of their low levels of immune cells, and the next thing you know – productivity is in the Kleenex box.

Researchers have also found that laughter helps in the fight against diabetes.  Laughter helps in reducing the blood sugar in your body, and I should know because I am a diabetic.

Studies have found that children laugh over a 100 times a day but when they matriculate into the workforce that laughter rate drops to about 5 times a day. Not surprisingly, once we retire laughter rates increase.

Laughter also helps to boost office morale. So when was the last time people in your office were laughing…and it wasn’t at your expense?  Why aren’t we laughing at work when we see that laughter has a lot of health benefits?

For many of us, this busy season can bring stressful situations at home and at work. Find the humor in situations, be silly, share a harmless joke. Let the endolphins swim around.

*Full disclosure: I know that it is the endorphins, but I really prefer thinking of the endolphins. It makes me smile, and that’s a good thing! Oh, and I know that dolphins are mammals not fish but they are great swimmers. Besides, it’s my story and I’m sticking with it!

Networking Tools

social_networkingBuilding a productive network of friends, colleagues and associates doesn’t just happen. It takes a bit of planning and effort. For years I’ve used two simple forms to help me Identify, build and expand my network. You may want to read my blog post, Networking: Even Accountants Can Mingle first, then feel free to use my forms as is or revise to fit your needs. With a little work, you can grow a strong network. Let me know it goes for you – I’d love to hear your success stories.

Here are my tools, hope they help you:    Identify / Build Network            Expand Network

Networking – The Mindset

In my blog posting titled Networking: Even Accountants Can Mingle, I discussed four networking tips that you can use immediately. I would like to discuss in greater detail some things around tip number one – the Mindset.

The Mindset is all about attitude – having the right attitude, believing in yourself, having a plan, and the simplest thing of all – remembering to smile!

In the months of May and June, I spoke at eight conferences and two in-house workshops that stretched across nine states.  I recognized that I would have the opportunity to meet over 1,000 individuals during this journey. So I devised a plan where I would meet at a minimum five people at each one of my stops. My plan was simple –I would simply introduce myself to people that I didn’t know either at the breaks or after my presentation ended. (You thought my plan was going to involve a lot more than that, didn’t you?)

In early July, I counted the number of business cards that I received over this timeframe, and I have 65 business cards. Wow! (65 cards divided by 8 stops = 8.125 cards per stop. I beat my goal! Now I just need to figure out who was the .125 person I met.)

I started thinking about these people that I just met and a few really stood out:

  • At the Association of Accounting Administrators Conference in Detroit, I met a woman who is a partner in a CPA firm, whose role is the office administrator, and she not a CPA.
  • At the Maryland Association of CPAs Innovation Conference in Baltimore, I met a gentleman who is the managing director of a technology company, which is located in Honolulu and he is a speaker for the AICPA.
  • At the National Association of Black Accountants Annual Convention in Nashville, I met a woman who is from Ethiopia, who is a US CPA, working for a CPA firm in Nashville.

These are just three of the fascinating individuals I had the opportunity to meet and learn about – all in a matter of two months! And all because I made a commitment to open myself up to networking. I had a positive attitude, I believed in myself, I had a plan, and I smiled! Networking really is all about the Mindset.

As the conversation would come to a close with each person I met, I would always end by saying, “please feel free to contact me at any time if I can do anything for you.”

Treat every gathering as an opportunity to meet someone fascinating.  With the right mindset, I know you will.

Networking: Even Accountants Can Mingle

Now that our eyes are adjusting to the sunlight rather than the glow of florescent light we’ve been subjected to since early January, it’s time to get out there and start networking.

That’s right – networking!

If the thought of “networking” makes you sweat, it’s time to re-think what networking really is. It’s really pretty simple. Anytime you’re at an event or even a meeting where you don’t know someone, you have the opportunity to network. It’s about introducing yourself and getting to know someone else. At any business function, introduce yourself to somebody you don’t know. At a CPE event, introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. Attending a conference? Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. (Noticing a theme here?)

Today I want to give you four networking tips that you can apply immediately.

  1. The Mindset. This involves having the right attitude, believing in yourself, having a plan, and the simplest thing of all – remembering to smile.  By taking just a little time to get in the right mindset, you’ll have a lot more confidence walking into that event. And, simply smiling can make anyone more approachable! As Victor Borge once said, “A smile is the shortest distance between two people.” And what did I mean by “having a plan?” Any gathering of individuals – no matter how large or small – I view as an opportunity to meet someone and I set a goal of trying to obtain at least 5 new  business cards. Make a plan or set a goal like that for yourself.
  2. The Preparation. As accountants, some of us tend to be more introverted, so in order to make meaningful connections, preparation is key. Preparation means doing your homework – listen, read, watch. What’s happening in the news? What’s going on in your community? What’s going on in the profession? After you have answered these questions, formulate five or six questions that you can use to start a conversation. Let’s say I’m in Cincinnati … I’d probably start off the conversation by asking someone if they’re a Reds fan and if so, what do they think of their prospects this year to win the division. An easy opener that’s sure to get the conversation going.
  3. The Implementation. Don’t be shy. Walk up, stick your hand out and introduce yourself. “Hi my name is…..” (I have yet to do this and have someone shriek and run away from me.) And this is important – engage them by being curious about them. Ask questions to get them talking about themselves. This is a great way to break the ice and create rapport with someone. Some conversations will be great and some may be non-starters for whatever reason, but the more people you talk to, the more likely you are to make some really meaningful connections. The key to effective implementation is to be a good listener with both your eyes and ears. I’ve actually walked away from people who were talking to me but weren’t listening to me or they were looking around the room to find others. To me, that just shows a complete lack of any genuine or sincere interest. So, if you’re not interested in continuing a conversation with someone, politely excuse yourself and move on.
  4. The follow-up. One of the most critical steps in just about anything we do – including networking – is following up.  I like to send a handwritten “nice meeting you” card within a couple of weeks of meeting someone. I also like to forward interesting article links or something I’ve learned more about regarding their interests or their business. Sometimes I’ll pick up the phone call the person to see if we can schedule time for coffee or lunch just so we can get to know each other better.

I said I had four tips, but here’s a bonus one for you. I like to call my approach to networking – “the Godfather approach.” I always end a conversation by saying, “please feel free to contact me at any time if I can do anything for you.” Because as in the movie the Godfather, if I do this for you, someday I will come to you and ask you for a favor.”

Now get out there and start networking!