Friday, September 4th, 2015

What If Your Managing Partner Acted Like A Marching Band Director?

fhsTeenagers across America are entering a special season. It goes along with football but I’m not talking about football season. I’m talking about marching band season.

Often young people, especially millennials, are misrepresented as being lazy, irresponsible, clueless and so on. Not marching band members… these kids are focused, driven and continually learning essential lessons that will go on to assist them in every walk of life.

Who instills these values in them? The marching band director.

Here are some marching band lessons that just might apply to the young (and old) people working inside your accounting firm.

Early is on time; on time is late. – Players need time to prep on their own prior to rehearsal. Do your accounting firm “players” arrive a few minutes ahead of time to prep on their own before work begins?

Time management is everything. – Band students practice countless hours in the summer and fall. They must learn to set aside time for homework, personal practice and family.  How many of your team members are always “too busy” to get things accomplished? When did you last offer your team some formal time management classes?

Kindness and generosity go far. – Band directors teach that there’s no room for selfishness in marching band. Each band applauds each other as they finish. “Good job” is repeated often.

Teamwork makes the dream work. – Wouldn’t this be a great motto (or battle cry) for your accounting team? Marching band involves a team of hundreds of players all performing individual parts that make-up a beautiful whole. They don’t have a “varsity” and a “B-team” they are all in it together. I find many partner groups that need to adopt this slogan… teamwork makes the dream work.

Criticism is a natural part of life. – Band students are taught to take critical feedback from judges and use the information to make a better, more creative show. Begin today to infuse your culture with the fact that feedback, even if critical, is to be put to good use. Don’t forget that upward feedback to partners is also a key component.

This post was inspired by a tweet by my son, the band director, that took me to this site.

  • "You know, if I can survive marching band, I can survive anything."
  • Nellie McKay

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

Top 100 Most Influential People In Accounting

image025I am so delighted and honored to once again be included in Accounting Today’s Top 100 Most Influential People In Accounting.

It is always something very special to me and humbling to be included with so many great contributors to the accounting profession.

However, this year it is especially meaningful because I was first named to the list in 2005!

Thanks to Dan Hood and all the folks at Accounting Today.

  • "The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle."
  • Steve Jobs

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

CPA Consultants’ Alliance Newsletter

The CPA Consultants’ Alliance released their summer recap newsletter this week. It contains the following timely articles:

A Winning Culture is an Intentional Culture by Tamera Loerzel

A Simple Way to Dissolve the Gap by Rick Solomon

Eliminate The Mystery Through Communication And Inclusion by Rita Keller

Read the newsletter here.

Sign-up for future issues on our website!

  • "Get your facts first and then you can distort them as much as your please."
  • Mark Twain

Monday, August 31st, 2015

Show Me The Money

IMG_4817According to surveys over the many years I have been involved with the profession of public accounting, CPA firms are the most profitable businesses.

It’s nothing new but I think sometimes CPA firm owners don’t think much about it, probably because they are used to the profit margins.

I read about it again last week via Accounting Today “Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services are collectively the most profitable industry in the U.S., according to a new ranking.”

The information comes from Sageworks in its annual ranking of the most profitable industries in the U.S.

Most CPAs truly love the work they do. Sure, it involves some long hours, commitment and dedication to client service but being extremely profitable sure is a nice reward.

Share this information inside your firm. Perhaps it will inspire more talented, young CPAs to go down the future partner track.

In the past, some CPAs have actually said to me, if they know how profitable we are they will want more money. Maybe it is time to actually have that conversation.


  • "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
  • Thomas Edison

Saturday, August 29th, 2015

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – Feel The Force

When my son was very young, we took him to see the first Star Wars movies. He was just like the young kids depicted in this wonderful commercial by Target. Then the thrill of the Force was passed along to our grandson, just like the kids in this ad.

If this movie has been any part of your life, you will love this commercial. It brought tears to my eyes… really. To all my CPA profession friends, may the Force be with  you. And – remember Yoda’s words below in the quotation.

  • "Do or do not. There is no try."
  • Yoda

Friday, August 28th, 2015

What They Hate The Most – Long Hours

Nick Page photo - FlickrI read lots of articles that mention how much people working in accounting firms, below the partner level, hate the long hours.

When I survey employees and talk to them, they rarely mention the extended office hours during January through April or the occasions when a client really needs to be served.

One thing they don’t like is the emails they receive from partners at 5:00 a.m. or 11:00 p.m. all year long. They read into this that they should be working at 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. They certainly don’t want to be a partner if that is part of the drill. They might not even want to stay very long at your firm at all.

Another long hours challenge is the fact that technology has put the office just a few taps away and I observe that most accountants, at all levels, certainly are tied to their mobile device.

In an article on HBR – “The Research Is Clear: Long Hours Backfire for People and for Companies” – the basic question is: “Does it work?”

I believe that during busy season, more time is wasted than during other time of they year. The mindset seems to be, “I have to log 55 billable hours so I will take my time to be sure I can get 55 billable hours in”.

What if the entire team was working at their utmost efficiency? If your firm has effectively trained people, improved and streamlined the audit tasks and the tax processes, and if partners and managers were managing, coaching and inspiring people, perhaps what actually gets done in 55 hours could be done in 45 or even 35 and the team members could go home earlier.

Beware of the old-fashioned mindset that if we have billed a client for 22 hours of work on their job each year and now we can get it done in 12, we will only be billing for 12 and our revenue will go down!

(Photo by Nick Page – Flickr)

  • "Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them."
  • Dion Boucicault

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

If You Engage Them Maybe They Will Stay.

IMG_1109Most firms do a wide variety of things to keep great people at their firms. It, definitely has become more difficult during the recent talent wars. Every firm you compete with wants your people. Firms across the country want your people. And, these other firms will pay them more.

You have to do the chair massages, special coffee, ice cream socials, bowling events, mini-golf in the hallways….. the list goes on. Oh yes, your real employee benefit menu has to be up-to-date and generous…. great pay, plenty of PTO, holidays and insurance coverage and so on.

Many studies tell us they like all that but what they really want is communication and recognition. They want to know what is going on, what you expect and what their career path really looks like. They want to know someone cares about their development.

Asking one simple question can provide your firm with some very valuable information. Ask them in an individual conversation – What is the one thing we could change that would help you be more successful at your job?

  • "You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late."
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

Why People Stay

One of the answers I receive most often when I ask CPA firm team members why they stay with their firm is, “My work. I like the work that I do”

When I ask CPA firm team members what they would say to partners by finishing this sentence: “I wish you would (fill in the blank).” They say, “….give me more challenging work.”

Yet, in firm after firm I observe partners doing manager work, managers doing senior work and seniors looking for work.  Young, bright accountants progress in their careers by being assigned to more challenging engagements.

They won’t like their work if they continue doing the same engagements year after year. They won’t get more challenging work if partners and managers continue to hoard work.

To keep people at your firm, maybe it is time to revisit your scheduling system.

  • "Share everything. Don't take things that aren't yours. Put things back where you found them."
  • Robert Fulghum

Monday, August 24th, 2015


Accountability is discussed often and written about frequently within the CPA profession. Partner accountability ranks as a top issue inside firms of all sizes, yet it continues to be one of those wishful thinking type issues. Most partner groups never come to terms with it.

You cannot hold people accountable if you don’t clearly spell-out the expectations. It even applies to something as basic as a firm courtesy policy. Sad to say, in this day and age, we have to set the expectations for basic good manners. The bottom line is that if you don’t spell out which behaviors are acceptable and which are not, you can’t hold people accountable for them.

For the partner group a partner commitment statement might be needed. For the entire firm, defining a courtesy policy, that applies to everyone, might be in order.

Here’s a sample:

CPA Firm Courtesy Policy
If you have a problem with someone, talk about the problem only with them and in private.

Use positive conversation.
Blame a system not a person.
Apologize and make restitution if someone is upset by your actions.
When you talk about a person who is not present, speak as if they are listening to your conversation. Use the person’s name in each sentence in which you refer to them.
Speak very politely using a person’s name – – ‘please’ & ‘thank-you’ as a minimum.
Greet and farewell everyone by name and with eye contact.
Tell the truth.

  • "You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else."
  • Albert Einstein

Saturday, August 22nd, 2015

Lighten-Up – It’s The Weekend: Time for something off-topic, humorous or even weird

This weekend, take a a minute and a half to watch this tiny dancer. It’s an ad for home insurance. Be sure to check-out her brother’s facial expression.

I found it thanks to Fast Company. I tell all my CPA clients and friends that they should be reading and following this site.  Have a great weekend!

  • "Be to her virtues very kind. Be to her faults a little blind."
  • Matthew Prior