This episode of the Sage Thought Leadership podcast features Kristen Rampe, CPA. Kristen has a strong entrepreneurial spirit and her professional work promotes the importance of communication to increase profitability. She specializes in the accounting industry and related fields.
Prompt, clear, and effective communication is a vital component of any successful business model. Efficient communication is of particular importance in certain industries, such as accounting, which deals with high volumes of sensitive financial information, often in real-time. For this reason, it’s crucial for all managers to emphasize strong accounting communication skills among their workforce.
In my interview with Kristen Rampe we discussed how accountants can develop their communication skills by learning about the different types of communication and harnessing modern technology systems to make communication faster, clearer, and easier. Below is an edited transcript of our discussion.
Tell our audience a little bit about yourself
Kristen Rampe: I started my career in public accounting. Actually, I had an advisor ask me what I wanted to major in and I said, “I don’t know – accounting or finance.” And because he was the accounting department head, he said, “how about accounting?” and that was the beginning of my public accounting career!
I went into public practice with the Big 4. I was there for a few years and then a couple years in the industry. I actually went back into public accounting a second time at a regional firm out in San Francisco bay area. I really enjoyed my time there but decided that I wanted to make a change in my career.
I enjoyed working with the teams in public accounting, but the technical side of it wasn’t my favorite part. I thought [it would be] better to bring to the industry some of the things I really loved, which is leadership development and soft skills in communications. So, that’s what I’ve been doing for the last five years; working with accounting firms and other accounting-related organizations on those topics. Sometimes my work includes training and development, retreat facilitation, and working on cultural initiatives. It’s a lot of fun!
I’m also proud to announce that along the way I managed to write an accounting humor book. I’m pretty sure it’s the best-selling accounting humor book! (Because it’s not a really saturated market.)
Why do you do what you do?
Kristen Rampe: I really enjoy helping CPAs and accountants work better together and communicate confidently with each other and with their clients.
One of the experiences I had, when I was in public accounting for the second time, was working with a team of people that all worked really well together and achieved a lot of great successes as a group. I know a lot of accounting teams and organizations haven’t had that same experience. I enjoy bringing some of the same characteristics and traits of that great team to other groups.
I see a lot of opportunity in the accounting world for folks who join the profession because they love solving problems, and they love working with numbers, and spreadsheets, and taking their careers to the next level, by developing those interpersonal and communication skills they can solve people problems, and client interaction problems, and develop and build an even better practice than before. That’s why I do what I do!
How do you think accountants can increase the effectiveness of the feedback they deliver, both inside and outside their firms?
Kristen Rampe: This is something I’ve seen be a challenge at firms.
From an internal perspective, [there is] receiving feedback. Sometimes, early in your career, it can be challenging to have someone tell you things that you’re not doing right or ways that they think it was done differently. Helping CPAs understand the value of that feedback and actually seeing it on their own can really progress one’s career. So for those who are newer in their career, I’d recommend seeking out feedback. Also, when someone is giving it to you, even if they’re not the most skilled at delivering the feedback, take what you can from it, and figure out what is true about what the person delivering it is saying. Can you use it to propel your career?
On the flip side, an area I see a lot of opportunity for improvement is the delivery of feedback. It’s pretty natural for folks in accounting to be more in the “conflict avoider” bucket. I will put myself in that bucket, too! I’m not the type of person who just can’t wait to engage in a conflict or get into a big, hairy difficult conversation. But the reality is, there are topics we need to discuss with each other. There are a lot of times we want to see performance and behavior changed or improved. So for practitioners who are interested in advancing their careers and developing those people that they work with, having the courage to prepare is a big thing. Taking time to prepare for challenging conversations and deliver the feedback can make a big difference.
Explain the importance of delivering the feedback yourself
Kristen Rampe: A lot of accounting firms like to use this method of feedback delivery where all of the managers get in a room and talk about the people on their team and then one person goes to deliver that feedback to the individual. This is useful unless that feedback has never been heard by the individual before. It can feel attacking if you haven’t heard it from the original person.
So those are a couple of the things I’m working on and passionate about; helping people in the accounting profession deliver and receive better feedback.
Want to hear more from the interview with Kristen Rampe? Listen to the full podcast interview.
Editor’s note: This interview first aired in 2017.