Pure Lucht
Leadership Lessons Learned by John Lucht

It surprises many people to learn that accounting firms can bill up to 50% of their revenue in the first four months of each year. Not only does this speak to the volume of work created by demands for audits and IRS-required tax filings, it also provides a hint into the hours and brain power used by everyone in an accounting firm during that time. And I mean everyone.

At Smith & Howard, there really is no “i” in team - we all pitch in at some level during busy season. Even having participated in over 20 years of busy seasons at Smith & Howard, I still find myself in awe at the incredible staff we have, the positive attitudes...

I consider myself extremely fortunate to work with about 100 very smart people at S&H. Many of them are young, energetic professionals who have ideas and ambitions that are broader and more creative than anything I would dream up on my own.

Our challenge as leaders? To recognize this energy and creativity and help our staff channel that energy in ways that interest them and help them grow and at the same time provide solutions our clients need. 

About 7 months ago, we decided to establish a scholarship program at the Atlanta Technology Village (ATV) providing free rent for a year to a total of four tech start-ups. While this was a firm-wide initiative, it was our younger staff members...

When the mission of your business is “We have a passionate commitment to responsive, personal service,” you have to spend a good bit of time reminding one another what that means. Not just to the business, but to the client. I found some inspiration in the video below and hope you do, too.

Click here to watch Customer Love.

The ten most important phrases for customer service are:

  1. I apologize for our mistake. Let me make it right.
  2. Thank you for your business. Please come back again.
  3. I’m not sure, but I will find out.
  4. What else can I do for you?
  5. What is most convenient for you?
  6. How may I serve you?
  7. How did we
  8. ...

It’s hard to believe, but the SEC spring football schedule kicks off in less than two weeks. Our office has graduates from a wide range of colleges, many of them in the SEC. No matter which SEC team we cheer for, we believe that SEC coaches are among the best in the nation. Coaching is all about leadership and in many ways it is probably one of the most challenging leadership roles of all. So I thought it would be a good time to highlight some leadership lessons from three SEC coaches: Mark Richt of the University of Georgia, Gus Malzahn of Auburn University and Nick Saban of the University of Alabama. No matter where your team allegiance may...

Back in January, I wrote that we were being very clear about our firm goals for the year and planned to communicate openly and frequently about those goals. One of my personal goals has been to write the entire office every Monday with a quick note about how we are (or are not) making one of our goals happen, ways to stay focused and what our goals mean to the group as a whole.

I thought this would be a difficult task. But I’ve found it to be much easier than I originally thought. Why? When the firm’s goals are established and communicated and everyone is already working in sync to achieve the goals, the emails seem to write themselves....

As a once “future leader” at Smith & Howard, I can attest to the importance of organizations thinking ahead about the qualities of individuals who will lead their companies for many years to come. Knowing what kind of person will work well in the culture of the firm while helping the organization grow are key things we look for at Smith & Howard. Sounds simple, but it’s actually quite complex. Why? Because a person can be a very smart, committed professional and a great person, but may still not fit in with an organization’s culture for various reasons. Also, some of the key qualities may not be evident when someone straight out of college joins the firm. For that reason,...

This weekend, Georgians shook off the cabin fever (and an earthquake tremor, to boot) and settled back into our daily routines. What a crazy spate of winter weather we’ve had in Atlanta. Like other businesses around the city, we officially closed our offices for two days to make sure our employees were not on the road during the snow and ice storms.

While we have to admit we were frustrated that not one, but two winter storms arrived just as our audit and tax busy seasons were gearing up, most of us made quick adjustments and managed to throw in some fun time along with working remotely. I was one of those people, venturing out to create my own snowman…bringing...

I recently returned from a conference with other CPA firm CEOs. The conference, “Winning is Everything,” sounds like a bunch of overly competitive, high achiever, Type A personality types that think to win at all costs is first and foremost in being successful in business.  As it turns out, the name of the conference was deceiving. We discussed topics including getting in the mind of the buyer, developing an inclusive workplace and encouraging collaboration.  Now, those sound like topics that required focus on others, not me, me, me.

I was particularly intrigued by the discussion on “Collaboration – a Secret Weapon for Retention, Engagement and Motivation” that was presented by Sandra Wiley.  She reminded us of the Helen Keller...

Letting go is as much as part of leadership as is being involved. In an article in Forbes magazine, Mike Myatt said, “A leader simply operates at their best when they understand their ability to influence is much more fruitful than their ability to control. Here’s the thing – the purpose of leadership is not to shine the spotlight on yourself, but to unlock the potential of others so they can in turn shine the spotlight on countless more. Control is about power – not leadership. Surrender allows a leader to get out of their own way and focus on adding value to those whom they serve.”

At Smith & Howard, we have specialty groups that focus on key industries...

At some point in our careers, we will experience both sides of a difficult conversation. Having these conversations is one of the biggest challenges many leaders face. I have found the following tips from the Harvard Business Review (HBR) invaluable. They have been condensed and edited for space and to reflect my opinion, but the original HBR piece can be read here.

Don’t Delay

It’s often difficult to have conversations about sensitive subjects. Whether the issue is behavioral or simply a disagreement about an approach, it may seem easier to put the conversation off. As the HBR says, “You’ll be better off if you stop procrastinating and make the conversation happen. Request a time to meet.   Use a...

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