Holy Cow!
Oct 24,2016
As I started to write this, the Chicago Cubs were preparing to play the MLB Championship Series against the Dodgers. And now, they are IN the World Series! Holy Cow! What, you might ask, does this have to do with leadership and why does it belong on a leadership blog? If I answer honestly, I’ll have to say nothing and it probably doesn’t belong here. I could figure out a way to weave the importance of leadership into the Cubs' long, hard road back to success and the leadership of their team (e.g. Epstein, Maddon, etc.) I could talk about what a never-say-quit approach means when it comes to players, management and fans…how being without a World Series appearance since 1945 (or a win since 1908) affects management decisions in ways that are sometimes good, but sometimes desperately bad. And how when there’s finally success after such a long drought, naysayers seem to crawl out of the woodwork and try to convince others that it just. can’t. happen. I could tell you that anything is possible if people stay focused and if fans (whether they’re in the stands or on your client roster) truly believe in you – even if...
Smith & Howard Celebrates 45 Years
Sep 15,2016
Forty-five years ago today is the day it all started – Joe Smith and Jim Howard created what would become a top CPA firm in both the state and nation. As we reflect on our 45-year journey many things come to mind, but growth has been our biggest reward. We grow stronger together and are proud that our growth hasn’t been in just the traditional sense of revenue or employees (though those have grown significantly). The growth we are proudest of is that of our people. While the number of employees has grown from two to over 100, it is the professional and personal growth of the individuals of Smith & Howard that will truly leave a lasting mark.  Our client family continues to grow every day. It has been our pleasure and honor to work with some of the most respected businesses and individuals in Georgia over our 45 years. We have seen those businesses grow and prosper, which of course contributes to the prosperity and success of their owners and employees.  The community impacts the firm and our growth. We exist to be valuable to our clients, our people and our community. Smith & Howard employees live and...
Qualities of Leaders: Having a Positive Attitude and Inspiring Others
Aug 30,2016
This is the third in my series on 10 Qualities of a Leader, taken from a list published by Forbes. In this segment, I’d like to touch on Having a Positive Attitude and Inspiring Others; they are connected and one affects the other. In fact, Wade Boggs, former professional baseball player and Hall of Fame Inductee says, “A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results.”I have days where I am pelted from all sides with problems, challenges and issues that could create a downcast, frustrated or simply tepid approach to my day and to people I am around.  I’m not unique in this – my guess is when you read that last sentence, you said, ‘Hey, that happens to me, too. It’s not just you, John!” A leader – whether it’s a leader of a business, a team of employees or a group planning a party – has a special responsibility to shoulder problems, challenges and issues while conveying a positive attitude. That doesn’t mean you’re denying the issues; in fact, it’s helpful for you to acknowledge them and discuss with the group (many heads are...
Leading Through Leisure: How a Hobby Can Build a Stronger Career
Aug 10,2016
For the last five years, I've had a new passion. I'm not quite sure of its genesis, but I suspect it was related to a problem I needed to solve that was a bit out of my comfort zone.Storage space in our home was woefully inefficient for all the mystery boxes and belongings my wife and I had accumulated over the years. Somehow I decided I could master a do-it-yourself project which I was pretty much unqualified to undertake. Imagine our surprise when we actually ended up with functional, attractive shelving in our home.OK, I admit to being pretty smug about that success, but thinking back, it was the process of transformation that launched my interest. There's something about the feel and the smell of the wood, the stress of frequent failures and adapting to them, and the pleasure of a finished project that has gotten me hooked on woodworking. With slide-out pantry shelving, a couple of tables and a few day-bed porch swings now on my resume, I've come to realize my passion for my hobby is a lot like my passion for my career. And I'm learning that, for me, the parallel processes make the outcomes stronger for...
Creativity and Intuition in Leaders: Hard to Define, Important to Possess
Jul 28,2016
Creativity and intuition are probably the two qualities that are the hardest to define but are key to a leader’s success. In my last post, I introduced 10 qualities of a leader, as presented by Forbes magazine. The first two that I explored were confidence and communication. In this post, I will cover creativity and intuition.CreativityAt Smith & Howard, our values state that we emphasize creativity and imagination in all we do. That might seem like an odd value for CPAs to live by, but putting the challenge out there for each of us to strive for every day definitely sets a high bar for each of us. A leader may not always be the most creative person, but they must practice creativity and as importantly must allow and encourage creativity in the company culture.A conversation I recently had with a professional in a creative field made me realize how difficult this can be for any leader. This person runs a successful business that relies on creative individuals and new ideas. Yet she told me that people stop her in the hall on a regular basis with a “great idea” that may or may not make good business sense. Her challenge...
A Closer Look at the Top 10 Qualities of a Great Leader
Jun 30,2016
I recently came across an article on Forbes’ web site that listed and described the top 10 qualities that make a great leader. A link to the full article is at the end of this piece, but I wanted to talk about a few of them here, from my own perspective. The ten qualities from Forbes are:HonestyDelegateCommunicationConfidenceCommitmentPositive AttitudeCreativityIntuitionInspireApproachIn this post, I’d like to touch on confidence and communication, as they can be two of the most difficult for leaders to display under trying circumstances, but may be two of the most important with honesty being #1.Confidence: While it is pretty easy to be confident when things are going as planned, it is equally easy to lose that confidence with plans go awry. As in any situation – business or personal – unexpected turns of events can make even the most stalwart individual find reasons to doubt their original plan. As a leader, I have found it critical and very helpful to look at the original plan to analyze it and see if there were flaws in the plan or whether the new circumstances were unforeseeable. In either case, a leader must assess the current situation, incorporate the new circumstances into...
Are You The Leader or The Facilitator?
May 31,2016
Are you the leader or the facilitator? There’s nothing wrong with being either one. But if you think you’re a leader and you’re really a facilitator, you need to reexamine your roles and your goals. A leader is most focused on where a group is going, or as blogger John W. Richardson says, “the definition of leadership is to turn around and see if anyone is following you.” I’ve written before about the role of leaders and how everyone is a leader at some point. This post will discuss more about the role of the facilitator and will give you two simple tips that we use at Smith & Howard to get things done more consistently.A facilitator helps the group reach the goals. Inherent in the role of facilitator is project and time management. The facilitator is all about getting things done. As that same blogger said about facilitators, “If you don’t have followers behind you but instead have a list of projects in front of you…” you’re a facilitator.Smith & Howard, like any business, has its share of leaders and facilitators. And often, a leader in one area may take on the role of facilitator in a different group...
Leading When Successful: Four Ways We Do It
Apr 26,2016
Google is such a great way to see the topics that are trending. If you search for “leading through” topics, you’ll find a bevy of “leading through adversity,” “leading through change,” and “leading through tough times” subjects. You won’t find quite as many results when you search for “leading when successful.”From my observations, I believe that leading when you are successful provides unique challenges and potential for big stumbles if it isn’t done well. Why? Often, the lack of leadership focus in good times is the result of complacency (Everything is great, let’s just ease back and relax.) or arrogance (We made it! Nothing can stop us now.) Woe to the leader who takes this approach. Learning from your success is every bit as important as learning from adversity and tough times. This allows you to develop a strategy that capitalizes on the reasons for your success and to move yourself and/or your company even further into growth and success. Becoming complacent or arrogant about success leaves us all open to surprises – changes in personnel, markets or other factors that contributed to your success to begin with – and with no plan to correct them.In times of success, our...
Reflections on a Mission Trip to Honduras
Apr 20,2016
I recently returned from a trip to the Agalta Valley in Honduras that I took with the Wilderness Team from Honduras Outreach. One of our purposes was to guide a group of villagers in building and installing water stands that would provide fresh water to the churches, schools and homes of various villages – 114 water stands in all.On the surface, the project was fairly straightforward and simple: build and paint stands with the locals who would be using them, deliver the stands and train individuals on their use. Of course, the ultimate success of the project was more complex: it depended on the team itself working well together; it depended on our ability to overcome language barriers with the villagers and it depended on the team and the villagers achieving a level of trust that would allow for teamwork.The teamMost of the team members are leaders in business at some level. We could not all be leaders on the water stand project; some of us had to take a role that was unfamiliar to us and spend more time following direction than giving direction. We also had to learn quickly how to work together; with none of us having experience with...
Simple Truths of Service: Are you focused on your clients?
Mar 02,2016
Ken Blanchard’s book, The Simple Truths of Service, provides some excellent insights on client service that seem pretty obvious. But like many such insights, what seems obvious is not necessarily consistently practiced. In one part of his book, he says, “No one can make you serve customers well. That’s because great service is a choice.” He’s right, but as simple and clear as that truth is, it can be difficult to put into practice.As I pondered Blanchard’s statement, I was reminded of something our founding partners, Jim Howard and Joe Smith used to say often: “Clients are the reason for our work, not an interruption of it.” I think perhaps this is the preface to Blanchard’s statement. It is often necessary to remind ourselves why we are here to begin with. It is not for meeting a calendar full of deadlines, leadership training, tax and audit training, recruiting or web site updates. It is for one reason and one reason only: our clients.This is our busiest time of year. Your organization may have a different “busy season” or you may – like many businesses in growth mode – be busy every day. At all times and through all business cycles,...