Fifty-Five

Today’s the day. A birth day: fifty-five years ago, today. Born in 1955, I’m turning 55, in this year of 2010. Beyond the numbers, 1955 was a year of Classics!

Classic

Today’s the day.

A birth day: fifty-five years ago, today.

Born in 1955, I’m turning 55, within the tenth month, of this year 2010.

As a Numbers Guy, a Certified Public Accountant, I wonder if it was by design, or simply the hand of fate, that fifty-five is so rich in meaning.

Fifty-five has the interesting property that it is the 10th Fibonacci number and the sum of the numbers 1 to 10.  It is a heptagonal number, a centered nonagonal number, and a triangular number (the sum of the numbers 1 to 10) and a square pyramidal number (the sum of the squares of the integers 1 to 5). It is also a Fibonacci number (the largest Fibonacci number to also be a triangular number) and a Kaprekar number.

The common theme in the above: squares and triangles.

A couple observations are worthy of being dovetailed into this world of numbers and shapes.

Builders use a Square to keep their designs, and creations, uniform and true. From the foundations to the last piece of trim, square is the focus of precision. Thus, originates the professional tagline of Building Bright Financial Futures.

At the beginning of this building career and while attending a continuing education seminar, the presenter made a comment that there were a few of us in the room with arms folded across our chest thinking, “I can do that. In fact, I can do that better!” To this day, I’m impressed with his powers of observation and insight.

Then he went on and asked the room to draw a Triangle at the top of a page, a Square under that, a Rectangle under that, a Circle under that, and, finally, a Wavy-line at the bottom of the page. We were asked to place a checkmark by the image representative of our persona. I placed mine at the apex of the Triangle.

Desirous of the Truth; Passionate about Pinnacles: Yes, that is the sum of who I am.

To continue the great sport of 1955, Fifty-five, and Twenty-ten, I see that:

1955 can be massaged into 1 + 9 = 10; and, 5 + 5 = 10

Numerically, Fifty-five is 55; and, can transfigure into 5 + 5 = 10

Twenty-ten is this year of 2010; formed from the two tens of 1955 and the one ten of 55

Can it get any better than that?!

Beyond the numbers, 1955 was a year of Classics. From Chevys, to Fords, Corvettes to T-Birds, that year is one of distinction.

Classic

adj.

1.

a. Belonging to the highest rank or class.

b. Serving as the established model or standard.

c. Having lasting significance or worth; enduring.

2.

a. Adhering or conforming to established standards and principles.

b. Of a well-known type; typical.

3. Of or characteristic of the literature, art, and culture of ancient Greece and Rome; classical.

4.

a. Formal, refined, and restrained in style.

b. Simple and harmonious; elegant.

5. Having historical or literary associations.

n.

1. An artist, author, or work generally considered to be of the highest rank or excellence, especially one of enduring significance.

2. A work recognized as definitive in its field.

3.

a. A literary work of ancient Greece or Rome.

b. classics The languages and literature of ancient Greece and Rome. Used with the.

c. One that is of the highest rank or class: The car was a classic of automotive design.

4. A typical or traditional example.

5. Informal A superior or unusual example of its kind.

6. A traditional event, especially a major sporting event that is held annually.

Whether a Square, a Triangle, or a Classic, I know for a fact that I’m one of a kind.

Just like You!

www.kimfoard.com

A Better Way

Listening to our clients is another of those Win-Win propositions: We learn what they want and they learn how much we care.

Thinking In A Different Way

Innovation only comes from those willing to think differently.

Since all we do begins with a thought, new thoughts lead to new actions. While new thoughts are frequently accepted as entertaining, new actions give the world cause for pause!

Because these thoughts and actions are new, they are different from the old. If everyone is doing the same old thing, the innovator gets noticed. Our comprehension of anything stems from language. Until we have a word, title, or category for something, we are limited in understanding its reward, or risk.

This is a story about being different.

There are days of pleasant surprises. Yesterday was one of those for me. The gift was wrapped inside my email Inbox.

Hi Kim,

I’ve added your blog to my AccountingBlogList.com under the category of General which, after reading some of your blog, doesn’t seem quite accurate to me. Can you skim my list and tell me if you see a better spot? Or suggest if I should create a new category and, if so, what might it be called?

Thanks and congrats on a good blog!

Michelle

This is my response.

~

Michelle,

Thank you for the great honor to be included on AccountingBlogList.com!

Your comment about finding me “hard to categorize” did make me laugh! It is not the first time I’ve heard that. In fact, many tend to believe there needs to be a special classification in the neighborhood of “Off The Wall”.

Seriously, though, I have noticed that, as I tell my stories, eyes get big and soon laughter follows; usually, with a comment of, “Kim, you’re unique!”

The greatest documented compliment was offered by Ron Baker when, at the bottom of my Trailblazer article, he provided this valuable feedback: “More importantly, congratulations to you for having an open mind, looking for a better way, and contributing to the dignity of our profession by doing the right thing for your customers.”

That comment is what, I believe, defines Accounting:

  • Care about the people.
  • Listen to them.
  • Deliver value.
  • Learn.

Then, repeat the cycle.

Meeting you at the AICPA Tech+ conference was a treat for me. The excitement of being with a thousand of the sharpest minds in the country was only dampened by the frustration of not being able to meet and share with each of them.

Sitting in the session of One-on-one with Peter Sheahan and listening to the methodology of promoting ourselves to others resulted in a moment of clarity. The questions from the audience were relative to the specific steps in offering our marketing more effectively. It dawned on me that the problem is not with our sales tactics; it is with our ability to communicate. Communication is what the listener does.

We, simply, need to listen to our customers. Their desires, today, are different from what they were, yesterday. Each day is a new opportunity to deliver value to them, and the marketplace.

Listening to our clients is another of those Win-Win propositions: We learn what they want and they learn how much we care. What I know, now, after thirty years of sitting at their feet, pales in comparison to the formal college degree. Sure, our clients come to us for our qualities as a Master in the realm of accounting; yet, we (and they) benefit when we become their Students and learn even more about them and the multifaceted world we share.

That’s a very long introduction to my point: In my original Tribute email to Ron on Memorial Day, I shared a story of growth to that moment in time. Now, it is different. I was doing the best I could with what I knew, at the time. With new education and experience, I’ve discovered A Better Way.

Originally, the thought was to have a Business blog and a Personal blog. Silly me! Great accountants eat, breathe, sleep and live this chosen profession, passionately, 24/7. So, the design has been re-tooled to provide introductions from my Website blog; then, to tell stories at the SageTalk blog.

In a telephone conversation with a Client last week, I heard a new twist on that friend’s impression of my efforts. She said, “Kim, you’re a gladiator! You refuse to sit on the sidelines; you are engaged in battle to make a difference.”

Maybe it’s the Scotch-Irish ancestry and the parable that goes with it: “You know what Irish tact is, right? It’s the ability to tell a man to go to H-E-double L and have him looking forward to the trip.”

Personally, I want to believe it stems from a Teddy Roosevelt shtick quoted in this Coattails blog post:

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but, who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly!

My purpose is to join you and Ron in your efforts to make a difference in the lives of many.

If there is a category for our type, I believe a fitting title is: A Better Way

New, Different, Better; regardless of the semantics, we intend to, truly, be Trailblazers for the benefit of all.

Thank you, again, for your kind and thoughtful recognition.

Best regards,

Kim

~

www.kimfoard.com

Techno Numbers

A Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) is a Certified Public Accountant recognized for their unique ability to provide business insight by leveraging knowledge of information relationships and supporting technologies.

CPA.CITP

A Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) is a Certified Public Accountant recognized for his or her unique ability to provide business insight by leveraging knowledge of information relationships and supporting technologies.

Unlike other certifications which are presented to the marketplace based on a wide scope of skills, the CITP credential is awarded to an accounting professional, who focuses on information assurance and management; thus, making a CPA among the most trusted business advisor.

The CITP credential is predicated on the fact that in today’s complex business environment, technology plays an ever increasing role in how organizations meet their business obligations, and that no single professional has a more comprehensive understanding of those obligations than a Certified Public Accountant.

An increasingly competitive global marketplace has organizations clamoring for better information assurance or additional business insight. While IT professionals have the technical expertise necessary to ensure that IT hardware is secure or technology solutions are properly deployed, they lack the CPA’s perspective and ability to understand the complicated business implications and risks associated with technology.

The CITP credential demonstrates the CPA’s ability to leverage technology to effectively manage information while ensuring the data’s reliability, security, accessibility and relevance. The CITP credential program provides tools, training, and support to help CPAs expand their information management-related services and provide greater benefit to the business and academic communities they serve.

As a client, your CPA’s CITP credential will enhance your confidence in their ability to apply both business and information technology consulting skills to solve your unique business challenges. In addition to meeting stringent experience and education requirements, CITPs are required to continue their professional development through continual professional education, and must meet the professional standards dictated by CPA profession and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

CITPs have the business experience and specialized knowledge that enables them to:

  • Identify and enhance critical success factors in your business.
  • Communicate the business technology information you need, when you need it, and in the form you need to make critical business decisions for your business.
  • Implement information technology as a catalyst to achieve new levels of success in your business.
  • Apply real world knowledge and experience to ensure a return on your technology investment.

The AICPA has compiled a referral directory from materials submitted by its members. The sole purpose of this directory is to provide a method for locating Certified Information Technology Professionals, to procure the value of their services for your benefit. Find a CITP

Or, you can simply use the CPA, CITP, and QuickBooks Advanced Certified ProAdvisor, who has been recognized as an Achiever by the Billings Gazette and a Trailblazer by VeraSage Institute.

www.kimfoard.com

Feedback Three-Step

The communication circuit is complete, only, when the Receiver is courageous enough to Transmit back what they have heard and understood, by giving Feedback.

Dancing ChildrenCircles of Life

Baby’s first step is cause for celebration. Even for us older kids, first steps can be special times of celebration and acknowledgment.

They are, always, the beginning of a journey to discovery.

Sometimes we follow the first step with a second. Other times that first step forward is followed by two steps backward.

Regardless of the pattern, we are dancing.

Those who love to dance know about the Two-Step. If we are to dance our way into the hearts, minds, and souls of those about whom we care deeply, maybe, it’s time we learn the Three-Step. It is much more than leading with our good foot – and, then, dragging the other behind. In fact, it has nothing to do with our feet and everything to do with our heads.

Communication is what the listener does.

While there are many mediums available for communication, the most popular is — Words. Some of us use many, while other individuals use few. We, all, use them, constantly, to express our thoughts and ideas to others. Our messages are composed of two elements: Content and Context.

Guaranteed — the words I choose and the intent behind them will be heard and understood differently by each person, who receives them. They will be filtered through the education and experience of that person. And, they will mean something different to that individual, depending on the day and their mood.

Since Certified Public Accountants are trained in probabilities, let’s look at the odds of being heard and understood. Setting aside that which is beyond our control (the context within which our message will be received), let’s take a look at the content.

A researcher named Mehrabian was interested in how listeners get their information. The results: 55% from the visual component, 38% from the auditory component, and 7% from the language. Our words account for only 7% of comprehension. Have you ever wondered why emails are misunderstood?!Feedback Model

Regardless of how elegantly we Transmit, the logic and emotion of the Receiver are beyond our control. With the first two steps of this communication dance, we have made noise and they have heard the sound. Communication is yet to be accomplished.

The third, and most important, step is Feedback. The communication circuit is complete, only, when the Receiver is courageous enough to Transmit back what they have heard and understood.

In our daily life, we take for granted closed circuits. We flip the switch and the lights come on. Thus, we have reinforced a truth — Electricity will only flow in a completed circuit. Why then do we insist on wandering around in the dark while refusing to complete our communication circuits? We complete them by giving Feedback.

Circles of LifeWhile there might be legitimate reasons for our inertia, the encouragement is for us to consider the circle of life, itself. Just like the electrical circuit, we are of limited value unless, and until, we complete the circuit.

If we consider the possibility that we are simply wonderful chunks of conduit for the goodness from above to flow through us for the benefit of others, then, it’s logical to envision the lights coming on for ourselves and the rest of the world. We, literally, become lighthouses to guide others through the storms of life. Bright lights make absolutely no noise.

Since all of the words above only contribute 7% to this premise, let’s add the 38% auditory component. By clicking on the “Circles” hyperlink below, we can enjoy sensory delights.

Circles

By Sawyer Brown

There’s one around my finger
One around my coffee cup
One around the hands of time
And that big orange ball a comin’ up
There’s one around my eight to five
Four beneath me when I drive
An extra one for overtime, circles
There’ll be one in the hugs around my legs
And one around my waist
And one around the table holdin’ hands and sayin’ grace

I thank God for circles
For you, for me, for family and friends
I thank God for circles
May they go round-and-round and never have to end

There’s one around the block
There’s always one around the bend
Any to and from you go
And back again
Some are green and some are golden
Summer turns to winter cold
And into spring the seasons roll, circles
There’ll be one around the candles
One around the birthday cakes
One around the table holdin’ hands and sayin’ grace

I thank God for circles
For you, for me, for family and friends
I thank God for circles
May they go round-and-round and never have to end

There’s one around the world
That goes around so we can see it all
One around the halo
When we’re called

I thank God for circles
For you, for me, for family and friends
I thank God for circles
May they go round-and-round and never have to end
I thank God for family and circles
May we find and have so many more of them

The researcher, Mehrabian wrote about a substantial limitation to his study, “These findings, regarding the relative contribution of the tonal component of a verbal message, can be safely extended, only, to communication situations in which no additional information about the communicator-addressee relationship is available.”

In summary, Listeners derive information from visual, tonal, and other verbal cues. Yet, their understanding is dependent upon a number of other factors, including how well they know the communicator.

Communication is what the listener does.

This communicator believes Feedback is a necessary dimension of effective personal growth. It provides for real-time modifications of behavior, and related events, to achieve mutually desired benefits for the participants, which might otherwise be unobtainable, or delayed.

To achieve 100% effectiveness, let’s add the 55% visual component to our circuit of communication. Picture a knight standing at the ready to be of service in your kingdom. He waits for the Feedback that will enhance his efforts to be of greater value to you. If a courageous leader, you will empower him to serve in more effective ways, by offering the Feedback necessary to achieve even greater victories in this our journey, the circle of life!

kimfoard.com

Credits:
Dancers
Feedback Model
Circles of Life

What We Want

If we will decide “What We Want” and, then, offer that with passion to others, the result is guaranteed to be a “Win Win Win”: for Customers; for Us; and, for the Whole Wide World!

What We WantAs a door-to-door Cutco® knife salesman in my freshman year of college, I learned that people buy what they want; not, what they need.

When asked for several knives to sharpen, one couple would present broken blades so dull soft butter was a challenge. While giving me hearty nods of approval that they were in need of knives and enjoying the presentation of tricks performed with the sharp knives from my sales kit, they would politely say, “No. No, thanks. We don’t want what you’re selling.”

The couple in the next house would struggle to find any dull knives in the sets of fine cutlery displayed in their kitchen. As they apologized for not being able to play along, I would make a little conversation, reluctantly begin the show, and then quickly navigate my way through the script. Without even asking for the order, my focus was on an exit strategy. They would reach over, touch my arm and exclaim, “Yes! We want to buy the biggest set.”

Only years later, when studying one of the greatest salesmen, Zig Ziglar, did I learn, “You can get everything you want in life, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

This is my story.

The days of my childhood were spent horseback in a sea of cowhides with a Dad who knew the way to confidence was by doing what others said was impossible. The evenings were spent in epic tales of adventure with a Mom who knew the portal to opportunity was by learning from the stories of others.

After high school, I turned down scholarships to pursue my dream of being a cowboy. Fifteen months later, I knew I didn’t have the same love of horses and cows as my dad. Yet, all of those years living the notion, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” came in handy for a poor kid with a new dream of going to college. In the course of managing my fledgling business as a twenty-something entrepreneur, the counsel of an older Client cut short my whining as he said, “Kim, your problem is not that you were born poor. Your problem is that you were born with ambition. Many are born poor and stay that way. You want something else.”

Another facet of the “something else” was eventually discovered twenty years later in a book written by Ronald J. Baker, Professional’s Guide to Value Pricing (with CD), Edition 3, published by Aspen Law & Business, 2001.

By starting with one client in a little Montana town of 2,500 population, appropriately named Roundup, the cowboy in me was enjoying the gathering of a small herd of loyal clients. They understood from the very beginning: I was in the business of selling dollars. I didn’t understand Value Pricing. I did understand the importance of finding 5 to 10 times my fee in benefit for them. In the early years, there was an Exit Conference with every single client to explain what had been done. That made quite an impression and they would say, “No one has ever cared enough to spend time with me, like this.” Spend time? Heck, no! I was investing time with them. I wanted a long-term relationship.

Then, one day, time had taken its toll on a ranch family and they were in the process of transitioning the next generation into the accounting function. I remember vividly the excitement of working with the new twenty-something CFO, as we set up QuickBooks® and enjoyed a day’s worth of coaching and visiting.

In the course of adding families, processes, and infrastructure to the ranch operation (right in the middle of a seven year drought), there was a Net Operating Loss to be carried-back: Many thousands of dollars of benefit for a thousand dollar fee. To my surprise, I received a call from the new CFO, who had questions about the bill.

Remember, this was before Value Pricing, Fixed Price Agreements, Retainers, and crystal-clear Communication at the beginning of every project.

Sure enough, he was right. There was a line on his bill, and every other client’s bill, that read:

Photocopies and Assembly ­— $75.00

Made perfect sense to a bean-counter. We have overhead. After a few years in business, we have a history of expense. We can project that cost into the next year and we can reasonably estimate the number of projects for a given year. So, we do the math. $75.00 was a good number. All clients paid the same on any project and it, definitely, was a Fixed Cost, to me. Not to the client. He wanted to negotiate that amount, downward.

In fact, he had counted the number of pages, and fasteners, applied the going Office Supply Store rate for those commodities, and arrived at his number of $7.50. In his mind, he had been overcharged by a factor of 10. Ah, that “Perfect 10.” Yet, this time it was viewed as being in my favor, not the client’s, and it was causing harm to our relationship.

He thought I was cheating him. I thought he was behaving stupidly. We were, both, on to something!

The value provided to the family for the last twenty years didn’t matter at that moment. In essence, he was a “new client” and deserved my respect. So, we began at the beginning.

Having read enough of “Professional’s Guide to Value Pricing” to think differently and having found the CD in the back of the book with templates, I approached this “new beginning” with fervor. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain — a relationship hung in the balance.

There must be a better way to build relationships than: Work Hard ~ Send Bill. For twenty years, I had done what I had been trained to do by my accounting mentors. It worked, most of the time: 95% of the clients understood the value and were willing to be surprised by the bill. For a competitive perfectionist, that other 5% was the challenge; and, at that moment, I had one very irate customer on my hands, and my mind.

Change nothing; Nothing changes.
Insanity is repeating the old and expecting something new.
Easy is hard; Hard is easy.
We get what we allow.

It was time for a change.
The insanity was tiring.
A new path was needed.
I had created this mess.

A single line on a bill was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

One more witticism became the mantra of the day, “Fake it until you make it!” At the time, all I had was a page of script titled Questions You Should Ask The Customer During The Fixed Price Agreement Meeting and a burning desire to find a better way.

Through the years, those questions have been customized and internalized until they are at the center of every new beginning and potential client relationship.

The conversation is structured around:

  • Why do you believe a great Partnership might be possible?
  • Which attributes of Character are most important to you?
  • How can we ensure dynamic Communication?
  • What is the passion at the core of your Commitments?
  • What growth plans do you have?
  • How do you define quality service?
  • Is a results focused Service Guarantee important to you?
  • What do you consider as timely response to your requests of me?
  • Why are you changing professionals?
  • What specific objectives do you want to achieve?
  • How will you measure our progress and accomplishment?
  • Are you Able To Pay for guaranteed exceptional value?
  • Are you Willing To Pay a retainer in advance and the balance upon completion?

Forget about Perfect 10s; these are the Lucky 13!

As accountants, we will eventually need, and want, to answer this question:

  • Are we Relationship Builders, or Paper Shufflers?

Paper, as a commodity, is cheaper by the case.

Relationships are priceless.

For those who want to debate whether the glass is half-full, or half-empty, trading in commodities might be an excellent career choice. For those of us who wonder why so much attention is given to half of anything, “Creating and Capturing Value” is quite a noble profession.

Wholeness comes from tapping into the Universal Principle of abundance. Our real potential is unlimited. Yet, this isn’t about us.

Communication is what the listener does. Are we listening to our clients? Do we really hear and understand what our customers want?

Oh, sure, they will grudgingly accept bills for the compliance work they need to have done. When they understand how much we care about them, demonstrated by how we actively listen to their dreams, they are open to new ideas. As they consider all of the many menu choices available to them (with a clear pricing structure designed to express the value of each one) and ultimately commit to partnering with us, the want is palpable.

Yes, that new CFO in charge of the family ranching heritage understood the Value in the Price (when I covered up the detail of the bill) and wanted me to understand that he wanted more of that simplicity. Why did it take me so long to get the horse in front of the carriage? Answer: Good judgment comes from experience; Experience comes from bad judgment.

Disciples of Value Pricing never hear “The check’s in the mail.” In fact, because the checks are in the drawer, we manage risk, schedule our days, attract quality clients, stumble into opportunities, enjoy open communication, reap financial rewards, and tie Ribbons & Bows around each and every project on our way to building relationships.

I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.

In our world of technological advances, “www” has become the gateway to infinite possibilities. If we will decide “What We Want” and, then, offer that with passion to others, the result is guaranteed to be a “Win Win Win”: for Customers; for Us; and, for the Whole Wide World!

www.kimfoard.com