People Over Process

People over Process

Do you want to be a star? Someone who is a sparkling speck of celebrity? Someone who can tip off the stage and be swept around the arena on the hands of raving fans?

Here’s the secret: Always, keep People over Process.

Think about it. Process is created for efficiency. People are created for growth. As soon as an individual grows, the process no longer fits the occasion. The rules must change to reflect the new person.

POP: How many definitions come to mind? A father figure is a POP. There’s snap, crackle, and POP. Maybe it’s the sound at the beginning of a race. Or, it might be the crack of a whip. Sweet to the taste is a soda. Pick your favorite, to remember, People over Process.

How do we build relationships with People? Let’s use just a little bit of Process to break down the word and discover the steps up to the stage of becoming a bonafide PEOPLE star.

Present ~ Be present. When given the opportunity of another person, be with them.

Enlighten ~ Think light. Be bright, lead the way, and most importantly, give warmth.

Open ~ Be vulnerable. Put a little skin in the game and get prepared to be bruised.

Powerful ~ Offer the very best in sacrifice of time and resources for the benefit of others.

Listen ~ Stories are the channels to deeply connect and experience the flow of a soul.

Enjoy ~ The talk and walk are less important than the music and dance. Feel it!

Now, the final question, “Do we need a stage on which to perform?”

Yes, and No.

No, in the sense, that we hone our gift in the garages and basements of life. We work diligently with a select few, out of sight and out of mind, until our talent is ready for presentation to the whole wide world.

Yes, in the sense, that we must be visible to offer our best to the most. We climb high to project our songs to many. Guaranteed – by choice, or fate – each of us will, eventually, tip off of that stage.

And — when we do, we will know whether we have kept People over Process.

There will be the POP of a body hitting the ground, or the POP of fingers keeping time to the chorus of voices from adoring fans, as we are carried in loving arms to a place of safety.

www.kimfoardcpa.com

Truth and Consequence

Truth and ConsequenceFor every cause, there is an effect.

For every pebble, there is a ripple.

For every action, there is an reaction.

For every effort, there is a result.

For every choice, there is a consequence.

The question becomes, “What is Truth?”

In the simplest of terms, “The seed planted yields a harvest in kind.”

Judgment of Others

Don’t do it. Those who do will receive the same. What is given is received. The caveat, though, is not to waste what is precious on an individual content with filth. Goodness is not appreciated by those wallowing in a rut. They will attack anything and everyone representative of a better way.

Effective Requests

Persistence is the secret. To do is to ASK. Ask to receive; Seek to find; Knock to have the door of opportunity swing wide open. Children know to ask for what they want and need. Parents joyfully respond with good gifts to those requests. Older kids can do the same.

The Golden Rule

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.”

Narrow Gates

No pain; no gain. Easy is hard; hard is easy. Follow the crowd and complain about the destination; or, lead the way and discover new frontiers.

Trees and Fruit

As the twig is bent, so the tree grows. Eventually, though, mature trees are known by what they produce. Good trees produce good fruit. Worthless trees produce nothing. In the same way that trees display their value, people express their worth by what they do. Actions trump words.

Wise Students

Talk is cheap. Only those who do the homework assignments pass the exams. Education is the enlightenment to know what to do. Experience is the empowerment to do the right thing. The combination of the two is an encouragement to learn by doing and to have fun learning.

Solid Foundations

Storms will come. Those who listen and do are the equivalent of a home built on rock. Those who hear and reject are the equivalent of a tent pitched on sand. Rock vs. Sand: it’s obvious which will stand.

Truth is everywhere. It begs and pleads to be discovered. On bended knee, it offers rewards to those who will listen and receive. The journey is not one of passivity; it is one of active engagement. This courtship requires a, daily, best effort experience in the arena of life to gain an education from the consequences of our choices.

www.kimfoard.com

Little Things

For Want of a Nail

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.

And, all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

All of us encounter big challenges throughout our lives: some, of our own making; others, from the hand of fate. When we are standing nose-to-nose with the Monster, there are two choices: Forfeit our dreams and the prize; or, Chisel the beast down to size!

Mile by mile, it’s a trial,
Yard by yard, it’s hard,
Inch by inch, it’s a cinch.

Little things make a big difference:

1.) In the entire universe, there is only one YOU. The fingerprint of your touch is unique in the lives of those in the sphere of your influence.

2.) While respectful of the very tangible Role Power by those in authority, you hold in your hands the greater intangible Relationship Power to enlighten, empower, and encourage.

3.) The person most mature in any relationship will lead the way by being proactive, patient, and kind. You have the ability to break down dissenters by loving them to pieces.

4.) All good things in life must be built. By doing your planning and preparing to succeed in being a good steward of Time and Money, the sanctuary of a home nurtures innovation.

5.) Construction is an ugly business. From the bits and pieces of a beginning, masterful creations are the result of your passionate brick-by-brick effort to deliver value to the world.

6.) By asking, seeking, and knocking, you will hear ideas, find truth, and walk through open doors. Each person has something to share.  Care abundantly; Listen intently; then, Do good.

7.) Focus only on changing “Things” within your Control. “People” change, only, when they make the decision to behave differently. Forget about pleasing others; Work on yourself.

Big things and big people have their reward in the daily headlines. They are so proud of their largess. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Salvation of the kingdom will be done by the little people, who humbly tighten the nails to save the shoe, save the horse, save the rider, save the day, and preserve the kingdom for the benefit of everyone!

www.kimfoard.com

Maverick Concepts

Maverick Concepts


Embracing the reality that no one else can fully understand our individual Business experiences, these thoughts fit well in the category:

“Easier said than done.”


1.)  Value is a perception. Given that your Business is the BEST, each Stakeholder defines that differently. Regardless of what we believe, offer, and do, the value is subjective to the understanding of the Customer. When we understand “fully” what they need and want, a menu of options can be presented for their consideration. The first step to understanding is to Care; the second step is to Listen. Then, our Customers are interested in our ideas.

2.)  People buy what they want, not what they need. Many times, they don’t know what they want. If we can broaden their horizons, they might want what we have. They just don’t know it, yet! Beyond the things they need, waits opportunity; Customers want solutions to problems. The bigger their problem: the greater the opportunity, for them and us. Rather than sell into a need, mutual benefit grows from letting them buy what they want.

3.)  Commodities are subject to price manipulations; Uniqueness isn’t. One business appears to be just like the next. Until… we have “something” no one else can deliver. At that moment, the messenger becomes Priceless. Example: Plumbing supplies can be purchased by the Consumer at the “lowest” cost; their Value is dependent upon a Plumber knowing what to do with them. By knowing how to “fix the leaks,” we move from the problems of the Past through the Present Value into the opportunities of the Future.

By changing the rules of the traditional game, we can stand out, stand up, and stand for something special in the minds of those we serve.

At that moment, there are no competitors. We stand alone!

www.kimfoard.com

A Better Way

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

The ‘ould Conspiracy

Thinking One CanThinking One Can

A little girl commented, “Dad you seem to know which people are big-hearted, good-hearted, and even those who have a heart of gold. How can I know?” His answer, “Just listen to what they say.”

It is true. From the abundance of the heart, we speak.

While the words big, good, and gold are subject to the foibles of semantics, the ‘ould words are definitive in their usage and meaning. When we hear them, a judgment is being made. The words are: Could, Should, and Would.

In fact, there are three degrees of judgment:

  • Of Others
  • Of Ourselves
  • Of Providence

Human nature loves to find the faults in others. If we think our discomfort is caused by another person, then our response becomes, almost, a religious experience. Magically, we are shrouded with the belief that, somehow, we are absolved from any responsibility for the situation. So, when the ‘ould words are used in judgment of what someone else could, should, and would do, I think of the adage, “We get what we allow.”

Less egregious, although just as damaging, is when the ‘ould words are used by us against ourselves. As Pogo acknowledged, “I have seen the enemy and he is us.” In combination with “I could have …”, “I should have …”, and “I would have …”, listen for how many times the individual saying those things, also utters the little word “Try”.

While the four-letter word “Can’t” is clear in communicating inaction, the three-letter word “Try” is sinister. At best it is misdirection and at worst it is manipulative.

As proof to this premise, do this exercise with me. Take a pen into your hand. Now, stretch your arm straight out, parallel with the floor, and “try” to drop the pen. One of two things will happen: You will either hold onto the pen; or, you will drop it.  No try to it.  It is a matter of will. You either don’t; or, you do.

The final and only legitimate usage of the ‘ould words is when we’re communicating the contrast of our frailties to the mysteries of Providence.

For example, this is a favorite explanation of Commitment:

Until one is committed
There is hesitancy, the chance to draw back,
Always ineffectiveness.
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation),
There is one elementary truth,
The ignorance of which kills countless ideas
And splendid plans:
That the moment one definitely commits oneself,
Then Providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one
That would never otherwise have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision
Raising in one’s favor all manner
Of unforeseen incidents and meetings
And material assistance,
Which no person could have dreamt
Would have come their way. 

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.

While temptation is strong to find all the reasons why we couldn’t, shouldn’t, or wouldn’t do something, there really is no excuse. Ours is not to judge; ours is to do!

My favorite childhood book was The Little Engine That Could. It is a story about optimism and hard work. The underlying theme is of a stranded train that is unable to find an engine willing to take it over a mountain to its destination. Only the little blue engine is willing. While repeating the mantra “I think I can, I think I can …”, it overcomes a seemingly impossible task.

Whether we think we can’t, or think we can, that is what we will do.

All We Do Begins With A Thought!

www.kimfoard.com

Credits:
The Little Engine
Book Cover Illustration

Barking Cats

Pets and Partners

Profitable interactions and exchanges flow from the answer to one simple question: “What do you expect from me?”

When young, the reality is “We don’t know what we don’t know.” In other words, “Good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgment.” Until we discover what we like, many times revealed by exposure to what we find distasteful, we are limited in our ability to choose wisely.

For example, until young humans learn that cats meow and dogs bark, there is the potential for a bad relationship between pet and owner. If the young pet owner expects their cat to bark, they have three legitimate choices; and, one which is more popular and less effective, practiced by adults in dysfunctional relationships.

They can:

1.) Decide to be happy with the reality that their cat meows and purrs.

2.) Decide to be unhappy with the fact that their cat doesn’t bark.

3.) Replace the cat with a dog.

4.) Attempt to change the cat.

Good luck with that last one!

Humans are not like pets: hardwired to bark, or meow. We can do and be absolutely anything. The secret to a relationship with another person, though, is the same as the pet story: We need to really listen and decide at the beginning of the relationship if we can commit to happiness.

Pets have no choice about the relationship into which they are brought; they are owned as “things.” Although noble that people mature enough to choose a barking dog, the dog has no choice in its owner. Loveable and loyal, the dog makes the best of its new home, while expecting nothing in return: the ultimate definition of unconditional love.

The dog’s owner is happy because their expectations are met: barking and unconditional love.

People are not things and we have the freedom to choose our relationships If mature, we know what we want. Even more important, we are able to articulate and demonstrate what we are able and willing to give.

Thus, there are no “right” or “wrong” answers; only truthful responses to the one simple question: “What do you expect from me?” The fun begins by knowing whether we want a pet, or, a partner; then, actively listening to the sounds they make and the stories they share!

www.kimfoard.com

What We Want

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