Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

Too Much Talk – Too Little Action

The partners return from their annual partner retreat. They truly seem very excited and positive about what is planned for the coming months.

In fact, they talk about how things are going to be different. They talk about it a lot. A month later, they are still talking about it. Two months later, they occasionally mention it. And so the talk about the changes that will be made continues to decline until it is rarely mentioned.

As this is happening, the team members are looking at each other and rolling their eyes, shaking their heads and perhaps smiling. They have heard it all before. The long-term employees have heard lots of “talk” for many years.

August is almost gone. How about this year not talking so much about new initiatives and simply go about implementing just a few of the changes that need to be made.

There’s an old Elvis Presley song… A little less conversation, a little more action. That’s what will show your people you mean what you say!

  • "A little less conversation, a little more action please. All this aggravation ain't satisfactioning me."
  • Elvis Presley, lyrics

Monday, August 29th, 2016

Keep It Simple

I am sure if:

  • You are a CPA firm leader, that you have high expectations for all your team members.
  • You are a CPA firm partner, you have high expectations for your other partners.
  • You are a CPA firm COO/Firm Administrator, you have high expectations for the administrative assistants and other support professionals that report to you.
  • You work at a CPA firm, no matter what your position, you have high expectations for the firm.

One way to help yourself and others to meet expectations is to try your best to keep things simple.

My son, the high school band director, had one bit of advice for his 8th grade through 12th grade marching band members as they embarked on their road trip for the first Friday night football game this weekend:

Be responsible for you.

At your CPA firm, when it comes to yourself and others one of the best things you can do is be responsible for you.

Here’s what is posted in the band room – maybe it applies to your firm.


  • "In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity."
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – It’s a Write-Off

You work for an accounting firm. You know what “write-off” means. A lot of people do not know what write-off means or what it is.

Think about that when you are talking to clients and non-accounting minded people. What other phrases or words do you use that might be a mystery to others.

A conversation I overheard years ago…..

Client on phone:  I will not have my information ready, what do I do?

Accountant:  That’s okay, you just need a 7004.

Client:  What is a 7004?

Seinfeld and Kramer are also puzzled about a write-off.

  • "For me the greatest beauty always lies in the greatest clarity."
  • Gotthold Lessing

Friday, August 26th, 2016

Attracting The Millennials And Others

IMG_7704“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” – Jim Collins

Everyone wants to work for a firm that “gets it.” If you can create that special culture within your CPA firm that really understands today’s current workforce, you will be a winner.

While millennials are the focus for most firms, it involves other team members, too. Experienced people will leave firms that are stuck in the past and move on to a high-profile firm with a vibrant culture.

LBMC, headquartered in Nashville, is a shining example.

Be sure you read this article from Accounting Today: The Millennial Riddle.

  • "If you think hiring professionals is expensive, try hiring amateurs."
  • Anonymous

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

Saying Good Things

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” – Albert Einstein

Ever wonder what your valuable team members are saying about your firm? I wonder what they say to their friends. I wonder what they say to their parents. I wonder what they say to strangers. And, I wonder what they say to each other!

You should be wondering, too.

In the most progressive firms they are saying things like this:

I can see opportunity here.

They give me ownership of my projects.

I am encouraged to develop myself technically.

I am encouraged to be involved in the community.

This firm is a place for high performers.

They listen to us, we have influence here.

Early in my career, I was given opportunities to have face time with clients.

When something significant happens in your personal life, you get great support from the firm.

I have the feeling I am involved in something special and not just getting a paycheck.

They empower us and give us control over our own schedules.

I love being involved in our Staff Advisory Board.

When I moved to the area, I found the firm online and submitted an application.

These comments come from two, large, progressive, locally owned firms. They didn’t develop millennial-friendly cultures overnight. More and more firms are finding it extremely difficult to compete for top talent. You have to build the culture, the brand, the vision and purpose and… they will come.

  • "Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time."
  • George Bernard Shaw

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