Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Leap Forward

“We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal, and then leap in the dark to our success.” – Henry David Thoreau

Back in March (2016), I wrote about accountants being comfortable with status quo and the fact that I don’t meet many who focus on leaping into the future.

Why do I use the word leap? Because you have so much ground to cover. You have been comfortable in the “we make a lot of money, so why change anything?” world.

It’s nearing September. Since March, how has the leaping program been working out for you? Is your firm still acting as historians rather than futurists?

There is still time to accomplish a lot this year. Get busy and check some of those action items off your list before 2017 arrives.

Remember, LEAP forward, don’t look BACK.

  • "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."
  • Neil Armstrong

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Never Dodge Difficult Conversations

If you supervise other people there are times when you really need to have some open and honest conversations.

Of course, you need to have frequent and honest talks when people are doing well. Continually sprinkle praise on your top performers and also have periodic conversations with them about their career path and the progress they are making.

You also need to have some crucial conversations, critical conversations, and difficult conversations when people are not meeting your expectations. I have observed that while communication with your top performers is easy, it does not happen often enough. I have also observed that difficult conversations are often put-off for months and sometimes even years!

Partners and managers often ask, “How do we begin? How do we actually conduct these difficult conversations?”

I always recommend that you be very clear about the situation whether it is about performance on an engagement or even about the fact that they have body odor.

How do you begin? Be completely straight forward and say, “I need to have a difficult conversation with  you.”

Then you might want to use the BEER method (I have blogged about it before. Here’s a recap:

Talk directly with the person, in private and follow these steps:
B = Behavior – describe to the person what they are doing or not doing that is unacceptable
E = Effect – Explain why the behavior is unacceptable, how it hurts productivity, bothers others, etc.
E = Expectation – Tell the what you expect them to do (or not do) to change.
R = Result – Clearly explain what will happen if the employee changes (positive) or the consequences if this behavior continues.


  • "A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. That's why there are so few good conversations: due to scarcity, two intelligent talkers seldom meet."
  • Truman Capote

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

A Leader’s Mission: Create THE Culture

“Culture drives great results.” – Jack Welch

I have been stressing the culture message for years: If you don’t create, mold, re-mold and monitor your firm culture, it will form anyway and might not be something you had in mind. It might even turn out to be rather ugly!

I was pleased to read, last week, as I followed the Boomer Technology Summit via Twitter that speaker Steven Anderson addressed the topic of culture stressing, “Every organization, whether it’s your firm, your client’s company, or even your family, has a culture, by design or by default.”

Dan Hood of Accounting Today was there in person and wrote a great recap of Anderson’s presentation. It cover’s Anderson’s “natural laws” for creating a place where people will want to work.

Read all about the three “Laws” in Dan’s article here.

On my blog page, I searched for “culture” and found many additional readings you can access if you want to really WORK on your culture. You can access the search here. Do more reading, research, and soul-searching. Then talk with your partners and decide what you want your firm culture to feel like. Next step is to get busy creating it.


  • "When you lavish praise on people they flourish. Criticize, and they shrivel up."
  • Richard Branson

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

CPA Honored On A Topps Baseball Card

Robert_Card-copy“Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.” – Yogi Berra

Did you ever collect baseball cards? Topps baseball cards have been around since the late 1880s.

Who would think it, a CPA’s picture on a real baseball card?

I have blogged about my friend Robert Raiola many times. Why? Because he is unique among CPAs and exemplifies what being a CPA, famous for something, is all about.

Raiola is director of the sports and entertainment group at New York-based PKF O’Connor Davies. He appears on the 2016 Topps’ Allen & Ginter baseball card set, issued on August 13, which includes Major League Baseball players and other sports figures, such as radio host Mike Francesa and actor Kevin (“Field of Dreams”) Costner.

Inside Public Accounting covers the entire story very well. And, by the way, he has over 52,000 followers on Twitter – @SportsTaxMan.

Congratulations, Robert! (Read the entire IPA story here.)

What are you famous for?

  • "You could be a kid for as long as you want when you play baseball."
  • Cal Ripken, Jr.

Saturday, August 20th, 2016

LIghten-Up – The Stressful Beginning of The School Year

There’s a guy on YouTube, a school principal from somewhere, that posts some pretty hilarious videos about the lives of teachers.

Decades ago, I was a kindergarten teacher’s aide. I was in charge of three consecutive lunch sessions (30 minutes each) for kids from kindergarten through 4th grade every day (about 400 kids). The teachers would be relieved for 30 minutes while Mrs. Keller handled the ups and downs of lunch time. Kindergarten kids were very entertaining. Why mothers put thermos lids on so tightly is beyond me. I must have opened thousands!

That’s why this video about  the most stressful part of the beginning of the school year (kindergarten lunchroom duty) hits home with me and is so true! Enjoy.

  • "If someone is going down the wrong road, he doesn’t need motivation to speed him up. What he needs is education to turn him around."
  • Jim Rohn

Friday, August 19th, 2016

The Journey

IMG_1242“I think it’s my adventure, my trip, my journey, and I guess my attitude is, let the chips fall where they may.” – Leonard Nimoy

Accounting firms and the awesome people who populate them are on a journey. They have been on it for many years and the speed of the journey is increasing.

Around the year 2000, the journey to becoming a paperless firm started becoming a reality for some progressive firms. Around that same time, the journey included the wonder of the Blackberry. Then, in 2007, the iPhone was unveiled. Since then, mobile devices have definitely changed your communication style and habits.

LinkedIn was launched in 2003 and was the first social media tool that accountants and other professionals utilized. In 2004, Facebook was unveiled. While it took a while for CPAs to embrace Facebook, it is now unusual for me to interact with a firm that does not have a Facebook page.

Here it is 2016, and the AICPA and other advisory groups for CPAs are telling you that your foundation services (tax and audit) will be non-existent in the not too distant future. Profession leaders are urging you to increase the speed of your journey to becoming a full-fledged business advisor and consultant.

This journey, from accountant to consultant, will be exciting and fulfilling. I urge you to begin the journey immediately. Establish an action plan, assign responsibilities and affix due dates. Most of all, don’t look at this exciting part of the journey with dread and apprehension. It’s going to be revitalizing and will attract even more of the best and brightest college graduates to join the CPA profession.

In closing, remember, challenge yourself continually, embrace and enjoy life-long learning and while doing all of this, don’t forget to have some fun. It’s a recipe for a rewarding career and life.

  • "Life is a journey that must be traveled no matter how bad the roads and accommodations."
  • Oliver Goldsmith

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

Partners Are Not Exempt From Feedback

Often, accounting firm partners procrastinate when it comes to asking for feedback from their employees. Sometimes, firm partners seem to be actually afraid of receiving feedback. They fear it might not be very flattering.

I disagree with all of that. I facilitate a lot of upward feedback surveys for the accounting profession and it always turns out to be a very beneficial and helpful exercise.

If you want to boost morale and increase employee engagement, ask them their opinion.

Many experts have written about the benefits. Not only does it boost morale, it reduces turnover, and sets the stage for enhanced performance.

Your team members have the front-line knowledge of how the work is going within the firm. They know which partner writes the best review notes and which one is the best listener.

When asked, “What more could this partner do to help further your career development?” the team members are very insightful and provide excellent suggestions.

Many managing partners want this feedback for partners so they can help them set meaningful goals for the months ahead. My clients tell me that many great conversations have occurred by discussing the upward feedback with individual partners.

I have noticed, from various MAP surveys, that many firms have never conducted an upward feedback survey for partners. Here’s a link to more information.


  • "Wall Street is the only place that people ride to in a Rolls Royce to get advice from those who take the subway."
  • Warren Buffett

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

You Don’t Have Any Whiners, Do You?

During my presentations, I often ask a rhetorical question, “You don’t have any whiners at your firm, do you?” What I receive is usually a lot of snickers and sometimes outright laughter.

Yes, most of you have them, hopefully not many. The old adage, misery loves company, often applies to accounting firm teams. Dan Rockwell (@LeadershipFreak) addressed the four hidden agendas concealed in complaints in a recent blog post. Here are the four:

  1. “You should have ….” You caused the problem because you dropped the ball.
  2. “What are you going to do about this?” Whiners want – no expect – you to make it better.
  3. “I’m not happy.” Chronic complainers don’t own the real issue. They want something for themselves.
  4. “I want to look good while I talk bad.” Complainers use compassion as camouflage. They’re complaining because they “care”.

Follow this link to read Dan’s entire blog post – he tells you more than the four hidden agendas, he gives you solutions. You should follow @leadershipfreak on Twitter. I love the picture and quotation he featured on this blog post. Hopefully, you are not one of the complainers in your office!


  • "Anyone can start something new. It takes real leaders to stop something old."
  • Dan Rockwell

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

Unappreciated, Low-Value Work

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” – Socrates

I have coached many managing partners and firm administrators, the two people usually charged with “running” the firm properly.

I have often found that they try very hard, almost desperately hard, to please others. Often they end up doing many tasks that no one really appreciates or even needs.

“I run so many month-end reports out of our practice management system and I doubt if anyone even looks at them,” a statement I have heard from multiple firm administrators over the years. Do you wonder if your partners look at the month-end, miscellaneous reports you furnish them?

Simply stop producing reports that you think no one looks at. The sad thing that usually happens is that no one even notices you stopped producing the reports!

You can also develop a one-page recap of important KPIs at the end of the month and eliminate furnishing all the detailed reports.

This also applies to all the individual tax organizers you might still be printing and mailing (I hope you aren’t still doing this but….). The organizer comes back to you, unopened, with their year-end paper documents. Consider establishing a rule that only clients that ask for (or opt-in for) a printed organizer will receive one. The default is “no organizer.”

If you want to work at a higher level and take on more important work with more responsibility, get rid of the “busy work” no one cares about.

  • "If you want to conquer fear, don't sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy."
  • Dale Carnegie.

Monday, August 15th, 2016

Beginners Do Appreciate Review Notes

“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.” – Frank A. Clark

One of the services I provide to CPA firms is facilitating upward feedback surveys. I usually begin by conducting an upward feedback survey for partners in a firm. Then most of my clients continue on with asking for feedback on managers and supervisors.

One of the interesting things these surveys disclose is that people beginning their career in public accounting value review notes that are expertly communicated in an educational manner.

Many respondents, from many firms, have mentioned that a particular boss (partner, manager or supervisor) provides excellent review notes and often go on to describe how helpful the review notes are and how they learn from them.

Don’t think that this is the entire story! Many respondents, from many firms, also don’t hesitate to mention when a particular boss does not provide clear and concise (and helpful) review notes.

Review notes are such a common practice inside busy firms that we sometimes don’t even think about how helpful it would be if the firm had some sort of standard for writing review notes. If your firm has documented guidelines for writing review notes, maybe you would be open to sharing them with me via email.

One firm, when staff noted that sometimes review notes seemed harsh, actually changed the name of their Review Notes to Learning Points.

Also, don’t forget that people like some verbal feedback to go along with the written review notes.

  • "I think it's very important to have a feedback loop, where you're constantly thinking about what you've done and how you could be doing it better."
  • Elon Musk