Take another break
By the time you see this issue, you should have had a little time to recover from tax season -- maybe you even had a chance to take some vacation. In any case, you should be well on your way to recovery, and maybe even ready to start thinking about your business.
With that in mind, we're dedicating this month's New Product Section to books that can help you strengthen your firm, serve your clients better, and plan your future.
The lunch rule
CPA Firm Mergers & Acquisitions: How to Buy a Firm, How to Sell a Firm, and How to Make the Best Deal
AICPA; $73.75 ($59 for members)
Merging is like getting married -- most people only do it once or twice, and so they're almost never any good at it. That's why would-be newlyweds turn to matchmakers, wedding planners, and divorce lawyers, while firms turn to experts like Joel Sinkin and Terry Putney, who've consulted on literally hundreds of combinations. In this book, they share the in-depth results of their long experience bringing firms together. They cover the entire process in detail, with plentiful checklists and roadmaps to guide you along, and advice that ranges from complex mathematical calculations of firm value to the aphoristic, as in the common-sense lunch rule -- if you don't want to each lunch with someone, don't merge your firm with them.
First the hype, then ...
Big Data@Work: Dispelling the Myths, Uncovering the Opportunities
(Harvard Business Review Press; $30)
Data Crush: How the Information Tidal Wave Is Driving New Business Opportunities
With "Big Data," as with many technology-based trends, there is a gap between the hype - "Consumers create the equivalent of 17 million Libraries of Congress every 7.5 seconds!" -- and an actual functional understanding of how to make it work for the average business. Both Big Data@Work and Data Crush aim to bridge that gap, and both successfully do so. Each defines Big Data and offers helpful background on how and why it arose, and then shows how businesses can and should use it right now, with real-world examples from companies that already have. The main differences are that Data Crush is a little more enthusiastic, is strong on a wide array of related trends, and focuses a little more on retail and Internet-based data, while Big Data@Work takes a more skeptical approach, and ranges a little more broadly in terms of the businesses it looks at and the types of data they collect. Either, though, offers a solid introduction to the area.
Seeking single solutions
Firm Forward: A Journey from the Land of Compliance to the World of Reliance
CreateSpace; paper -- $25, e-book -- $9.99
Everyone knows that the old model of business is under extreme pressure from clients, from other firms, from technology, from demography, and from half a dozen other annoying factors. The question is, what are you going to do about it? You can tackle each of these issues separately, with dozens of individual policies and programs and initiatives, or you can seek out a more comprehensive answer, like the one described in Firm Forward. The book is a fable about a newly appointed managing partner whose firm has just lost some of its most important clients and team members, and chronicles his journey toward what author and well-known consultant Edi Osbourne calls "Level 5 Service," an approach to delivering high-value-added advisory services that just may be the answer to many of the problems facing the old firm model.
Dear Ed ...
101 Questions and Answers for Managing an Accounting Practice
CPA Trendlines; $95
If accounting has a Dear Abbie, it's Withum-Smith+Brown partner Ed Mendlowitz, who's been providing answers to tough questions from colleagues, peers and anyone else who wanted to reach out for years. This fantastic book is a compilation of their questions and his wise answers on a huge range of topics related to running a practice, from how to raise rates or add new service lines, to how to deal with careless staff or plan your retirement. A great reference to keep by your desk for whenever you run up against a problem.
Make that 58
57 Ways to Grow Your Business: Bright Ideas for Serious Entrepreneurs
In this book there are, in fact, 57 ways for you and your clients to grow your business. While they all fall into roughly four categories -- increasing your customers, increasing how much they buy from you, increasing the value of each sale, and increasing your own efficiency -- they also range widely from tips on determining high-level strategy to very specific pointers on how to make a client feel welcome at your office. But it turns out that the book itself is a 58th way to grow your business, because it's not actually for sale -- it's a marketing tool that members of the 2020 Group can customize in bulk and then give out to clients and prospects.
Productivity, not activity
The Secret to Peak Productivity: A Simple Guide to Reaching Your Personal Best
Having just come off tax season, you may think that you're past your period of peak productivity - but that was just your period of peak activity. Productivity is a whole other thing, and if you can maximize yours, it will pay dividends all year round. The Secret to Peak Productivity actually offers a number of secrets, and an assessment to tell you which you most need to implement, whether it's basic physical or digital organization, like setting up a better filing system or clearing the clutter from your desk, or more conceptual, like clearly identifying your goals and creating time to pursue them.
One man's trail
Lessons Learned on the Audit Trail
IIA Research Foundation
Hardcover: members - $24.50; non-members -- $34.50. Kindle -- $28.50.
All branches of accounting should get the treatment that internal auditing gets in this memoir from the chief of the Institute of Internal Auditors -- while the profession is too often perceived as boring and repetitive, Richard Chambers makes his specialty sound exciting and insightful and full of meaning. It doesn't hurt that his career has actually been pretty exciting, with stints at a Big Four firm, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the U.S. Army, but Chambers is also able to draw lessons from his experiences that are valuable not just to those who want to pursue internal auditing, but to anyone pursuing a fulfilling career.
Who needs Indians?
A Team of Leaders: Empowering Every Member to Take Ownership, Demonstrate Initiative, and Deliver Results
In these days of lean workforces, streamlined org charts and flattened hierarchies, the old concern about having too many chiefs and not enough Indians is being turned on its head. Now, a high-performing team needs fewer Indians and more chiefs -- people who are empowered, motivated and energized to take responsibility for the success of their team. A Team of Leaders offers a model of this kind of team and a set of processes to help you build it.
Better bathroom reading
The Brian Tracy Success Library
Amacom Books; $9.95 each
We don't know what sort of reading materials you keep in your bathroom (or reception area, or wherever else you want to have or offer a quick hit of the printed word), but we're going to recommend that you consider upgrading it with a selection of volumes from the Brian Tracy Success Library, a growing collection of brief books from the well-known business consultant. Each covers a different business topic quickly and concisely, but with enough detail to make them well worth a deeper look. (In fact, we would recommend this model to all other business books, most of which take a short pamphlet's worth of ideas and bloat them out to fill a full-size hardback.) Titles available so far include Negotiation, Delegation & Supervision, Time Management, Motivation, and Leadership.
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