8 Pitfalls CPAs Should Avoid While Volunteering
August 9, 2016
Many CPA firms around the country have outreach and volunteer initiatives in their local areas, but sometimes there are those that are obviously pushing their own agenda.
For example, when we think about electing people to a high political office, we wonder: “Would they put the good of the country ahead of their own personal agenda?” Well, this matters at the local level, too.
Even though community involvement can lead to more clients and a better connection with your business community, there are common pitfalls to seemingly best intentions. Here are eight pitfalls to avoid when getting involved in community organizations:
1. Joining a board, then not showing up to meetings
People get the feeling you only joined the board because it looks good on your resume or provides access to people who could be good business prospects.
Instead: Block out the year’s board meeting schedule on your calendar. Plan on attending them all. Carefully read the minutes and agenda package before each meeting.
2. Serving on a board, but not working
You show up to meetings. You offer your opinions, but don’t embrace the project or take a leading role in committee work. People assume you are in it for the prestige. There’s an exception to this rule: If you can write very large checks, they will be OK with you taking a backseat.
Instead: Find a project or role that showcases your professional skills. You make a difference while subtly positioning yourself as an expert.
3. Arriving late, leaving early
You are an important person. Doesn’t everyone get that? They are important people, too, yet they have carved out time to focus on the mission and address the problems at hand. You may think your behavior communicates your importance, but everyone else just thinks you are rude.
Instead: Keep a clock running 10 minutes fast on your office desk. You will get to meetings early instead of being late. Review the minutes from previous board meetings, noting the start and ending times. Plan accordingly.
4. Acting like you need the business
Desperate people don’t get dates. If you push too hard in romance, people assume there’s something wrong with you. People seeking long-term business relationships usually don’t choose someone who appears to be struggling. Not being pushy implies you are successful.
Instead: Dress well. Share anonymous success stories when people ask, “How’s business?” Drip on them.
5. Introducing “what you do” into conversations
You are volunteering. It’s a social setting. Leading with your elevator speech can put people on edge. Let them ask instead. This is very easy to prompt.
Instead: Plant yourself on a stool at the club bar and say, “Finally, a chance to relax. This is my busiest time of year.” The member next to you will likely ask, “What do you do?”
6. Saying “I’d like to go over your personal finances sometime.”
Regardless if you are an accountant, financial planner, or advisor, this statement feels like your hand is in their pocket. You might feel you are introducing business. The story they will spread over the next two weeks will say otherwise.
Instead: Position yourself as the alternative. Suppose a conversation leads into “I already have a CPA.” You might reply, “I’m sure you are very happy with her. If anything ever changes, please keep me in mind.”
7. Talking about yourself
The cardinal rule of dating is: “The person talking is the one having a good time.” It’s tempting to position yourself as an equal when socializing with high-net-worth individuals.
Instead: Draw them out. If you allow them to tell their stories, they usually end up liking you because they had a good time.
8. Only talking about finance
Yes, you are a numbers person. It’s the profession you chose. Talking about the stock market, company earnings, and how you made money day trading gets very boring, very quickly. Yes, you are smart. Just talking numbers implies you don’t have a softer, more interesting side.
Instead: In social settings, travel, golf, house prices, and even gardening are safe subjects.
Finally, here’s the tackiest example of pitfalls to avoid: If you attend religious services regularly, standing outside and handing your card to members of the congregation as they head to their cars is in really bad taste. Yes, it has been done!