Friday, April 29th, 2016

It Is Healthy To Stand Up!

“If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.” – H. G. Wells

Do you have a stand-up desk? Maybe it is something you should consider. More and more accounting firms are offering the option of stand-up desks, not only to partners, but to all staff as well.

I have blogged about this several times: April 24, 2010July 10, 2013June 20, 2014, and maybe even more. It is not something new but I wanted to bring it up again because it now seems to be really gaining steam in accounting firms.

Maybe it will help you with recruiting….. all firms are looking for something to make them unique.

Here’s some information from Julia Johnson, firm administrator for WSW CPAs in Nashville. 

“We moved into new space in September. We put in the sit/stand option for everyone and used a product by Human Scale that allowed us to work with the standard workstations. The sit/stand piece can hold two monitors, and we added a second piece that clamps onto the workstation to hold the other two (ours use 4 monitors each). See pictures attached. They use them daily and love them.”

standup desk 4 monitors Standup stand


  • "Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough."
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

As You Advance – Be Sure To Ask For Feedback

Thanks to the Ohio Society of CPAs for once again featuring a conversation with me on their Spotlight Video Series.

This time we talk about the fact that as you advance in your career and become a partner in your accounting firm, you probably won’t get as much feedback as you did as a staff person or a manager.

It’s up to you to seek out feedback, make people comfortable talking to you. Make yourself approachable.

  • "Communication - the human connection - is the key to personal and career success."
  • Paul J. Meyer

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Drip, Drip, Drip

“If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting it off.” – Olin Miller

Seth Godin did a post this week that made me think of my advice to you. He says: The Tidal Wave Is Overrated. “Yes, it can lead to wholesale destruction, but it’s the incessant (but much smaller) daily tidal force that moves all boats, worldwide.”

You and your firm will not get to where you are going all at once. It’s like an entertainment personality that becomes an star over-night when in reality they have been working at it for 15 or 20 years, through disappointment after disappointment.

Changing your firm will not happen over-night. But you have to take that first baby step. the challenge for accountants is actually taking that very first step. They know what to do but procrastination or complacency sets in.

Godin says you can worry about creating a tsunami, but it’s the drip, drip, drip that will change everything in the long run.

You KNOW what to do…. your challenge is to SIMPLY BEGIN.

  • "When you have to make a choice and don't make it, that in itself is a choice."
  • William James

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

Now Is The Time For A Client Survey

“A man’s feet must be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world.” – Craig Kilborn

Busy season is over. You worked long hours. You focused on clients and probably ignored important things at own firm. You have served your clients well.

Did you, really? How do you know?

There is an easy solution to this important question. Simply ask them.

This is a perfect time to do a client survey. Find out how they really feel and if you are meeting their expectations. Find out what you can do to exceed their expectations. Find out what other services they need from your firm. Find out if they are even aware of all the services you can provide.

If you don’t do a full-blown survey, at least call your “A” clients and ask them if you met their expectations. Thank them for their business. Show them some love!

Here’s some information about my Survey Services.

  • "USA Today has come out with a new survey: Apparently three out of four people make up 75% of the population."
  • David Letterman

Monday, April 25th, 2016

Satisfaction Guaranteed

Most progressive CPA firms guarantee their work. Do You?

Firms are including a guarantee in the engagement letter or proposal.

Here’s what I put in my own Engagement Agreements:

Service Guarantee and Confidentiality

Rita Keller’s services are unconditionally guaranteed. If the services do not meet your expectation, you may end the arrangement and pay only the value you deem acceptable. Confidentiality is extremely important. While Keller may serve other CPA firms in your market, absolutely no information about your firm will ever be discussed or disclosed. If I discover a best practice during my association with your firm, I may request permission to feature you and/or your firm on my blog.

Sometimes these guarantees are structured in the form of a Commitment Statement to the client that includes things like:

  • You will be respected and never taken for granted.
  • We absolutely respect the confidentiality of our working relationship with you.
  • We will return phone calls and answer email within 24 hours.
  • …. and so on.

Some even include asking the client for some commitments as a second part of the statement, such as:

  • You will give us all the information we need to complete the assignment.
  • You will meet mutually agreed upon deadlines. In the case of circumstances beyond your control, you will notify us immediately of the situation.
  • You will pay our fees per our engagement letter.
  • … and so on.

Just something you might consider for your firm. It makes a bold and important statement to your clients.

Here’s a sample of a Client Commitment Statement.

  • "The best way to guarantee a loss is to quit."
  • Morgan Freeman

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend: It Is Not The Dream Of Being Big. It’s The Dream Of Being Real.

“Poetry is truth in its Sunday clothes.” – Joseph Roux

I recently read (in O magazine) that Bill Murray really is a poetry lover. Here is a favorite passage from him that I can identify with and I also think applies to all the special CPAs I know.

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence, which knew it would inherit the earth before anybody said so…

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous, or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular, but because it never forgot what it could do.

Here is a video of Murray reading poetry to a group of construction workers at Poets House.  Enjoy the weekend.

  • "Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance."
  • Carl Sandburg

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

Opportunity To Fuel Your Professional Growth From The Ohio Society of CPAs

“A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

I am working with the Ohio Society of CPAs on an upcoming program. It’s called the Business Excellence Symposium and is being held May 11th in Westlake, OH (Cleveland suburb).

I’m excited by the work OSCPA is undertaking to advance business across Ohio by helping CPAs and finance and accounting professionals be positioned to meet today’s business challenges head on to drive growth. The topic selection, and the expertise brought forth is really on-point for the greatest challenges facing our businesses, large or small.

Attend and gain strategies and insights from national leaders in the business and accounting community:

  • Create a culture that top talent can’t pass up – with tips from the leadership coach for The Ohio State University’s football program.
  • Maximize staff resources and harness the power of diversity.
  • Unlock growth strategies that leverage your specific skill sets as an accounting professional.
  • Develop practices to deliver better solutions to organizational challenges.
  • Learn about harnessing business growth potential via a panel discussion with me and Katie Tolin, CPA Growth Guides

All in all, it looks like it’s going to be a great event, you can see the details here. Also, if you can’t make the trip, note there is a live webcasted option.

This is a perfect symposium (and affordable) to send several of your millennial accountants.
If you decide to attend, you can use my personal invitation to get a 20% “friends of BES” discount.  Simply send an email to saying you learned about the Symposium from me and you would like to attend.


  • "I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma."
  • Eartha Kitt

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Hear It From Them

“Live your life and ignore your age.” – Norman Vincent Peale

I’ve done many presentations about and written extensively about generations in the workplace. I am convinced that ALL generations better understanding each other, and not putting each other in “boxes” because of their age, can solve most if not all of the misunderstandings inside the firm.

That being said, I do probably focus more on the Millennials. This week, I read an article on the Forbes site by Paul Armstrong. It was directed to marketers and listed three things they need to know so they can better understand the Millennial customer.

10363724_10154114657826535_4176653492470208085_nYou can read the short article and take what you need because the Millennials working in your accounting firm ARE your customers.

The second of the three things was the most important to me because it stressed the fact that we need to hear directly from Millennials so we can better understand what they want and how they feel.

I’ve been guilty. I stand before an audience and tell them what Millennials are like, how they behave (in general) and what they want. I do get much of this directly from Millennials and a lot of it from research, articles, etc. What you really need is to hear it directly from them.

Here’s a quote by an IBM executive from the article:  “I still don’t get how middle aged men on stage can tell us what Millennials want.  Surely we should hear this from real Millennials?”

Rather than listening to us older, non-Millennial male and female consultants tell you what Millennials want, why not ask them yourselves?

Host some roundtable discussions at your firm. Put an older partner at each table with several Millennials and begin gathering information. Ask specific questions and just listen.

You can always survey your Millennials first and then use the results for some lively roundtable discussions.

One of the first things that caused me to focus on Millennials was a statement from a Millennial panel at a conference several years ago. The young man said: “I have an 18-month old daughter at home. Bath time is important to me. At my current firm, I can go home for dinner and bath time and then work for several hours after she goes to bed. That’s why I joined this firm.”

Photo: Lumsden McCormick Facebook

  • "Young people are in a condition like permanent intoxication, because youth is sweet and they are growing."
  • Aristotle

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

More About Flexibility

“The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.” – Tom Peters

Yesterday, I blogged about flexibility. Since it is such a popular topic, I wanted to continue to provide information to you today.

Isaac O’Bannon, Managing Editor of CPA Practice Advisor, in a recent post tells us that many firms really do offer flexibility. If your firm does not, it’s time to learn more about it and begin making some changes.

Here’s O’Bannon’s take on the rules:

As long as you comply with RULE #1: Get the job done. It is also recommended that you comply with RULE #2: Be damn good at your job, consistently. Oh, and RULE #3: Be responsive to your boss, your clients, and anyone else you do business with or for- so that it’s just like you were in the office.

Here’s some firms that made Fortune’s list of the 50 Best Workplaces for Flexibility. #1 was Ryan, an international tax firm. Other accounting firms on the list:  PwC at #12, Plante Moran at #27 and DeLeon & Stang at #30.

  • "You absolutely must have the discipline not to hire until you find the right people."
  • Jim Collins

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

Here’s What Flexibility Really Looks Like

“You let professionals be professional, and you don’t sweat the small stuff?  I love it!” – – New employee at William Vaughan Company

If you are a member of the CPA Firm Management Association, you have access to their extremely helpful discussion board. If you are involved in what goes on behind the scenes in any CPA firm, you should be a member.

When I talk to firms about flexibility, I get many reactions. Some are general disbelief! Yes, things have changed significantly when it comes to how the work gets done in many firms across the country. Flexibility is one of the most visible changes. When I actively worked at a firm, we initiated flexibility in February, 1986 – 30 years ago! Some firms are still lagging.

Sharon_TrabbicOn the question of flexibility, Sharon Trabbic, Chief Operating Officer at William Vaughn & Company in Maumee, Ohio provided this response to a question on the CPAFMA discussion board:

We also have flexible hour arrangement, and I think you will find that many CPA firms have embraced it and it’s working out nicely. When we first implemented flex time, we asked for employees to be in the office between 9 and 3, but we’ve virtually abandoned that now.

Here’s what we ask our employees to work at a minimum:

  • January 2 to February 15 or so – 40 hours a week
  • February 15 to April 15 – 55 hours a week
  • April 16 to Labor Day – 36 hours a week
  • Day after Labor Day to October 15 – 40 hours a week
  • October 16 to Thanksgiving – 36 hours a week
  • Monday after Thanksgiving to December 31 (tax planning season) – 40 hours a week

It doesn’t matter how they get the hours in, which days or hours they work. We also allow employees to work from home if they need to (we have a secure cloud environment which makes that easy). We don’t monitor hours except during tax season, and only if there is a problem, which there hasn’t been. We all are professionals and we feel that flexibility for many is a perk they really like and easy for us to allow.

We also have chargeable hour goals and a few of our employees reach their chargeable hour goals but don’t work more than 40 hours outside of busy season but work perhaps 65 during busy season, and that is fine with us too.

Flexibility is a high priority for the new generation of employees. Of course, entry level people need to gain a certain amount of experience before they earn the right to occasionally work from home.

Position your firm so that you come out a winner in the talent wars. You cannot have an A+ firm if you attract and hire B players.

Thanks to Sharon and William Vaughn & Company for sharing!

  • "Have a plan, but be open to opportunity."
  • Ralph Raikes