Membership Report, May 31, 2015

June 7, 2015

Below find our membership report for the period ended May 31, 2015. The report has been split up into two…separating paid & unpaid members. We can see that we are up 10 paid members compared to last year this time. Note that this report is based on members who have paid their dues to the date of the report. In 2014 the notice for dues were sent out late, so we will see the 10-member difference shrink over the next few months.

In total our membership is 97 members – very consistent with prior years.

May 2015 Membership (paid)May 2015 Membership (unpaid)


The Biggest Sin

June 5, 2015

In my experience, the biggest issue I have seen is not fraud or evil, the biggest sin (in business) is incompetence.

That is not to say there are calamitously horrible decisions being made daily, everywhere, but there are some for sure, and small instances of incompetence add up.

Incompetence comes in many forms. Unskilled or stupid people will manifest incompetence in short order.

I think that we all face the risk of incompetence, and it is not from stupidity or lack of skill, it comes from complacency, and two kinds in particular: inattention, and failing to remember why you are there in the first place.

Inattention is a problem we all could face. Everyone is busy, and if you show even mediocre skills, you are often assigned more and more work. You eventually get so busy that you stop looking at some details…and you miss something. If it is big enough, you lose the confidence of management and you could lose your job. Is it fair to call that incompetence? Is it fair to blame you? Well, incompetence is often judged by the outcome, and blame is usually attached to those immediately involved, which could very well be you, and the underlying cause is likely never examined.

The second type of complacency, failing to remember why you are there in the first place, is a form of arrogance. People focus on their awesomeness based on past successes, and forget that they are there to do a job – whether it is to monitor quality of products or services or watch some set of numbers, sometimes people think that their presence is enough to keep the big machine working smoothly. Something gets missed and you have a “situation”.

The fix for both of these is really hard to pin down. You could say “better management” is the solution, and you would be right. Except that is where incompetence usually appears. As an underling, what can you do?

There may not be a lot you can do, but you can do your job, do it well. Maybe try to do a bit of their job too, if you can. You might spot an issue that would otherwise get missed and at the same time rise in the estimation of your superiors. It is a tough situation to be in when you are not in the driver’s seat…you may just have to keep your eyes open for “other employment opportunities”. You wouldn’t be the first!


So What Did You Think Would Happen?

June 5, 2015

Every November I go to my old high school – now the school where my oldest son attends (which feels a little weird) – to present at the career day for the grade 11 and 12 students. My job is to show them what an accountant does and whet they need to do in order to become one. They ask all sorts of questions about the work, the schooling, the pay.

To date, no one has asked the question “so what should I do now?”.

Since I am speaking to a blog and not a classroom, I can ask and answer that question which has not been asked yet…and I would answer it this way: “come up with an idea of where you want to be in 10 years, and who you want to be when you get there.”

OK, a digression:

I met a former colleague the other day, and while he is a good hearted man and means well, he is quite bitter. He spent a lot of time deriding people with professional credentials (he did not finish his degree)…though apparently unaware of the degrees hanging on my wall in the very office where we sat.

He is friend, and an interesting case in my mind. He had a long and successful career as an accountant and IT professional. He was a valued problem-solver who fixed really, really broken things using the kind of common sense that comes with someone possessed of a self-reliant mindset. Then the world changed and he didn’t. Maybe he couldn’t because he was set in his ways and did not want to learn anything new so late in his career, but more likely because his professional background and training did not allow him to see any change as an opportunity.

Did he drift through life without a purpose? No. He had the loving family, fulfilling career, some spare money. But he did choose not to finish his degree in accounting, a certificate that he was very well suite to (and would excel in). The discipline and awareness that professional certifications bring includes teaching an awareness of how fleeting success, employment, or happiness could be. At the end of a successful career he was “retired” by the company. Well taken care of, but he left knowing that he was no longer wanted, has not forgotten, and it still hurts him more than 11 years later.

Is it unkind to ask ‘so, what did you think would happen?’…if you did not finish your education? If you chose to fight change every time? If you did not see how you no longer ‘fit’ with the current situation at work?

My own experience has taught me not to leave my career in other people’s hands, and to make sure that I have something of value to offer. My credentials and experience are mine and cannot be chased away…the only one who can mess those up is me.

…back to high school career day…

Thinking of the people I graduated with, most landed as expected, and landed well – school, marriage, kids, career. Some landed in a very different spot…at age 17, did LD think that he would be a father at 19? Did MM, RL, PM, DD know that they would be married, divorced and re-married within 10 years? Did PA think he would have spent time in jail?

The choices that (not a small number of) my fellow grads made in the 10 short years since grad resulted in these people being in a very different and sometimes unpleasant spot than they may have assumed, if they had thought about it at all at graduation.

I am not suggesting that if you did not have a plan that you have now drifted into meaningless existence and deserve what you have received in your life. Far from it.  But any of us at any age can make a vision of where we are going to be in 5, 10, 20 years. You can help plant the seed in a new generation to think beyond the weekend. You can dream of where you want to be 10 years from now, and what kind of person you want to be, and start towards that goal.

I you don’t, what do you think will happen?


Membership Report March 31, 2015

April 10, 2015

2015 ended well in terms of our membership: we maintained our membership in CCPs and students, losing a net of four affiliate members. We have started a project to win those members back and hope to be back up to 108 members for FY 2015-16.

Double click on the image below to see the report for Manitoba and Canada.

March 31, 2015 Membership Report


Service Culture, Please?

April 5, 2015

Perhaps this falls into the category “what is wrong with people today”, but that is not my intent. But I have a beef. Best to explain with an example:

As part of a review of internal procedures, I asked a consultant to send me a list of penalties for violations of certain regulations. He send me an 8-page excerpt from the law (in 8-point font) and provides no direction on where I can find information on the one issue we had discussed.

What was the impact of his action? Well, first, I questioned the “consulting” part of abilities, and second, fearing more of the same, we plan not to engage his services for the work we were tendering. Note that we have not told him this yet, and after 6 weeks, he has not even called once to follow up. Not the guy for the job.

Imagine asking for a set of financial statements and being presented with a printed copy of all general ledger transactions. The message is: here it is, you sort it out because I can’t be bothered.

I am not a high-maintenance manager that demands customized service. I am, however, someone who tries to add value, and most of the time that means serving others, and that means going the extra mile.

Whether we are in credit or not, if we sit at a desk, we are information/knowledge workers. In order to add value you need to provide information and not just data.

Let me rephrase: we need to provide usable information.

The best employee I ever worked with, Julie, was great at this. Not only would she prepare everything accurately and clearly, when she ran into something she did not understand, she studied it, found a solution, and brought the solution to me and asked if she was right. And she almost always was right.

As a result of my and others’ increased confidence in her, she was given greater and greater responsibilities. We treated each other as equals out of mutual respect, and we knew we had each others’ back. Our work lives were easier and more enjoyable as a result.

What I have learned is that when asked to provide information, if I do not know what the end use of that info is, I ask. If I cannot ask, I make a guess and then provide context to the recipient of what I did and why.

Even if my guess is wrong, I have communicated two things to my boss:

  • I could provide more value if I have better information
  • I serve notice that my brain is on when I work

A wise person told me: people are the way they are for a reason. You do not have to fix that problem, but you may have to give them a reason to be something different.

Twenty percent of staff take eighty percent of your time, likely because they need it. Invest that time and show them how to add value.


Service, and Talking Nice

April 5, 2015

You may not be aware, but the CIC is standardizing its email services for all Chapters using a company called Constant Contact (www.constantcontact.com). This newsletter was prepared using this new service. Why I mention this is that when I was testing out the service and set up a trial account, I received great customer service.

And all they did was phone me…not email, phone. Are you thinking ‘so what?’…Well here is so what:

First, the call told me that they have an organization that is large enough to call a small account in a small city in a small province, and that they thought that I was worth the call.

Second, they were letting me know that when I signed up and gave my contact info that a real, live human being noticed it and did something about it (in fact, within 25 minutes of my setting up the account).

Third, they listened to what I planned to do to test it out, spoke to me like what I had to do was important, let me know that I can always call if I need help. Then they told me that they will be following up to see if they can do anything better, and offered me a $50 template-design service, for free.

Why is that all so awesome?

  • Because I am telling you about it, and have told others.
  • Because the other email service that I have used for the past four years has never once called me. Not once.
  • Because I am part of other organizations that need email services.
  • Because I felt instantly connected to this company through this genuinely friendly voice. I thought ‘now here is a company that has its stuff together’.
  • And while this service is slightly more expensive, I felt right away that it will be worth it.

I then started to think how could I lever this experience to work with my own job? I am an accountant and work in the accounting department. I am not typically a front-line service provider to our customers.

Are you thinking ‘so what?’ yet?

Maybe the credit staff could call their AP staff and introduce themselves and thank them for their business and let them know that if they have any questions about our invoicing or product that we will always be a phone call away.

That strategy worked very well for Constant Contact because they are an email service provider that helps companies market themselves to their own customers – so they should be good at this sort of thing.

How much more powerful would it be if we finance types surprised our counterparts with a friendly welcome-to-our-company call? Perhaps establishing a good relationship with their AP department might only spread a bit of warm-fuzzy. But one day when money is tight for a customer, their AP department might just fondly remember us in their cheque-runs!

A friendly call to a customer might just be an action that takes us financial types right out of our comfort zone…it is definitely a stretch goal, but credit professionals live on the phone. How hard can it be?


There Can Be Only One. Of Each.

February 5, 2015

For the last two years I have been hammering away at two articles for this newsletter. One on the use of social media, and another on online services and mobility. But I have not been able to make either work (and with the speed of technological change, I have had to start over a couple of times)!

I have three issues I am trying to write about:

  • Why do I have so many online services?
  • Do I really have that much to say anyway?
  • What do I wish I knew back then?

Online Services 

I don’t think that I am an electronic hoarder, but it is starting to feel that way. I have a lot of online services. A lot (about 90), but in my defence I have been looking for a one-stop shop for my needs, and that means trying out new things. Right now, for online storage, I have seven different services: Box; Dropbox, Google Drive; OneDrive; OneNote; Evernote, and a more secure cloud service my work provides.

I also have a number of email accounts, social media accounts and other more specific services like Google Sites for the websites I manage (don’t ask).

What I wanted was one place to either manage or see all these services.

I will save you the trouble, it does not exist.

Aggregators, software that brings different platforms together, are not the answer. They held out a lot of promise for sure, but many that started up a few years ago are now out of business. There is no service that would bring social media and cloud services, email accounts, and so on, together with an interface that allows you to use it.

I am on all of these services because at one time or another I needed them, or someone else shared something with me on one of these services so I had to join. For now, that is the way it will be, I guess.

What do I Really Have to Say?

OK, so I have lots of online services. But I do not have an agenda that includes communicating to the world using these services, even on an infrequent basis…so since I was not planning on building something, why did I go out and buy so many hammers?

Aside from this newsletter, I have no other reason to post my thoughts to the wide world. I am not someone who over-shares via Twitter or Facebook. I really set up my accounts to get a handle on these things before my kids get too into social media (and they have blown past me long ago in terms of what they are doing online).

What I Wish I Knew

  • What I wanted/needed…planning for technology change is fruitless. My kids have the social media accounts I set up for them, but they now use other platforms, and I am still playing catch-up (and adding more social media services).
  • I do not need to spend a lot of money on devices.
  • My equipment’s limitations (if I knew that the Blackberry Q10s did not support my main cloud services, I would have done something differently).

Recommendations

  • Figure out what you want. If you have a far-flung family, Facebook is likely the best for sharing pictures and planning get-togethers: just about everyone has (or can get) an account, and it is easy to use. You do not need private websites or 12 different social media platforms.
  • Once you have that, figure out what you need (need, not want) to do. The only thing more expensive than an electronic device is multiple electronic devices. If all you do is surf, a tablet is great. If you type a lot or work on spreadsheets, get something that supports a keyboard and a mouse. If you use your phone only as a phone, don’t buy an $800 smartphone.
  • Plan for change. Buy more memory than you need. Make sure your device is long for this world (sorry, BlackBerry). Companies like Apple ,Microsoft and Samsung are likely going to last, and will have apps for most of the things you want.

You simply cannot expect to have one program, social media account or device that does everything…and that is OK, since very likely, you are not going to do everything! But you should know roughly what you will be doing.

Recommendation: focus, plan, spend…and then stop spending!


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