Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

The Interviewing Obstacle

“If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” – Thomas Edison

Recently, one of my monthly coaching clients remarked to me, “The person you interviewed is not the same person you hired.”

I’m sure many of you involved with interviewing college recruits and experienced CPAs have had that feeling at times. I think it is pretty much human nature. Think about the times when you have been in a situation that is out of your element. I bet you were on your absolute best behavior, not acting naturally and carefully watching what you say.

If you have had some difficulty hiring successfully, maybe it is time to update your approach to interviewing. Interviewing is the most important part of the hiring process. So, if you are intending to overhaul your hiring process, look at the interview process first.

The old standard question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” is now considered the worst interview question.

Be sure you are asking the right questions, results-oriented questions. Be aware that video screening is being widely used, as well as actual video interviewing.

Another very important step is to keep in touch with the candidates. One statistic tells us that nearly 50% of candidates never hear back after an interview.

The way you interview and hire helps build your brand as a firm. Your reputation will spread on the college campus if you make the interview process an efficient and informative experience.

  • "Insist on yourself. Never imitate."
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, May 30th, 2016

Memorial Day Remembrance

VN soldiers1Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving their country’s armed forces.

While we do remember and honor all of our veterans on Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day is the other special holiday for all who have served.

I have been fortunate in that I have only known one person who died serving their country. A boy from our high school, a year ahead of me, died in Vietnam. I did not know him well but I do look up his name on the Wall every time I am in Washington DC.

There is another name I always visit when I am at the Wall. I did not know him, personally, but I am very fond of his son. I have even been with his son to together look at the name on the Vietnam Wall. His son is my good friend, Roman Kepczyk, known to many of you in the CPA profession. Below is a picture of Roman’s father’s name on the Wall.

I hope you will take a few moments today to remember those who have died in service to our country.

Kepczyk - Version 2

 

  • "One of the best ways to keep peace is to be prepared for war."
  • General George Washington

Friday, May 27th, 2016

Three-Day Weekend Ahead – Taking Time Off Should Be Important

IMG_0078Many people are looking forward to the 3-day weekend coming up. We will all be observing Memorial Day on Monday.

This first “summer” holiday is anticipated by CPA firm citizens because of the not too distant memories of the long hours of tax season just behind them.

While holidays are treasured, I have observed that many CPAs and others working in public accounting rarely take all of the vacation days they have coming to them. It amazes me how almost everyone working in an accounting firm is “too busy” to utilize their vacation time. It’s not just partners and other CPAs. I know marketing directors, HR professionals and firm administrators never take all of their vacation time. They are “too busy.”

I urge you this year, whether you are an auditor or a tax person or a support professional, take all of your vacation time. See what it feels like. Enrich yourself outside of work.

This Monday, remember our military personnel who died in service to their country.

  • "A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you've been taking."
  • Earl Wilson

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

CPA Firm Message: We Are Closed On Fridays For The Summer

“When one door is closed, don’t you know, another is open.” – Bob Marley

This week I received a notice from a CPA firm that was sent out via an email blast. I have talked with many CPA partners about this topic and it still creates a lot of lively discussions. While many firms have embraced closing on Fridays or developing some other system for a shorter summer work schedule, I have observed that the majority of firms do not embrace this practice.

It is a huge plus in hiring and retaining top talent. I hope you consider it. Here’s the message:

Dear Clients and Friends:

(Name of firm) Summer Office Hours

To allow our team the opportunity to retool and recharge after the hectic pace of tax season, we will be returning to our summer office hours. 

Effective May 27 through September 5 our offices will be open

Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

 We will be closed on Fridays during the summer months.  (However, since Uncle Sam never seems to rest, arrangements can be made to meet with you on a Friday in the event of any urgent tax matter or if it is the only day you are available to pick up returns and documents from our office.  Please contact us in advance to coordinate such arrangements.) 

 Very truly yours,

 

  • "It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."
  • Mark Twain

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Not Cut Out For Public Accounting

I have heard this said for years, “Not everyone is cut out for public accounting.” What does that means exactly? Have you ever thought about it?

I have and I have even actually used those words on people I have had to “let go.”

What makes a person a good fit for public accounting?

You have to be dedicated to building a career and a business. You have to learn the ropes rather quickly. You have to be a good thinker, a good talker and enjoy people. Along with all of these, you have to be comfortable with life-long learning and keeping current on huge amounts of tough technical details about tax, accounting and auditing. Then comes the characteristics of an advisor. It means really understanding how different businesses work and what makes them successful and then be able to convince clients to follow your advice.

Add to that, when you become a partner in a firm you have to become skilled at managing an accounting firm. It is not as easy as it sounds. It goes way beyond the “numbers” skills that it takes to be a good accountant. You have to be knowledgeable about HR, technology, marketing, administration, etc.

Not every accountant can, or wants, do that. In addition to all of that knowledge you have to acquire and maintain, you have to be willing to work long hours and be dedicated to a life of service. Not every accountant can do that.

However, the pay-off is phenomenal both financially and emotionally.

Almost every long-term CPA partner that I talk to tells me they absolutely love what they do. That’s the big pay-off.

It is a career, not a job. Some accountants just want a job.

 

  • "Careers are a jungle gym, not a laddeer."
  • Sheryl Sandberg

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

Addicted to Work

“You shouldn’t have superhuman expectations.” – Mary Blair-Loy

Frequently, it appears to me that some experienced CPAs are addicted to their work.

I think this is a big issue when it comes to succession planning. Sure, the firm’s policy says they must “retire” at age 65. They must relinquish their stock and they do. But many of these “retirees” want to keep working, keep their office, keep their relationships with special clients and not stay at home or pursue other interests.

Most do not have other interests. They believe their career is their life, it defines them. Being a partner at the firm feeds their ego or makes them feel important. Without being affiliated with the firm they feel they have no identity.

There is a great article on this topic on the HBR site. You feel challenged by your work; you’re engaged by it; you’re learning new things; and you have the opportunity to shape other people’s careers. It is extremely rewarding but when you give all your attention to work, you eventually pay a steep price. 

Working long hours, taking few vacations and never truly being “off” (due to digital devices) is harmful to your relationships, your health and your productivity. It is also a bad example to set for your employees. No wonder many younger CPAs have no desire to become an owner.

Read the entire article here. It gives you some tips to overcome your addiction. Take an honest look at yourself, whether you are a retiring partner or a constantly busy accountant of any age working in a CPA firm.

  • "There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure."
  • Colin Powell

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Strengthen The Connection Between Current & Emerging Leaders

I am so pleased to be part of a new book published by The CPA Consultants’ Alliance. 

Accounting firms all over North America are in a quandary and challenged about how to move forward. Current partners simply don’t see the leadership skills they expect in their firm’s up-and-coming staff and worry about their retirement prospects. While at the same time, emerging leaders are frustrated with a lack of training from above and have no desire to live the hectic life of their older compatriots.

To address these and other succession-related issues, The CPA Consultants’ Alliance (CPACA), a working group of thought leaders united in their efforts to further leadership within the CPA profession has published a new book aimed at helping the CPA profession close the divide between current and emerging leaders.

CPACA members wrote the book, entitled BRIDGING THE GAP: Strengthening the Connection between Current and Emerging Leaders in the CPA Profession as a collaboration.

“This book represents cooperation among leading experts to bring understanding of this complex and important issue to CPA professionals,” said Sarah Dobek, President of Inovautus Consulting and current President of the CPACA.

“I’m proud of what this book represents,” she said. “Not only is it a timely and valuable resource for the profession, it’s been a great learning experience for the CPACA members broadening all our perspectives to make us more informed and better resources for the firms we serve.”

Members of the CPACA collaborated for a year on the content for the book—each bringing a different perspective to the topic and authoring a chapter addressing leadership issues.

The book features 14 chapters worth of insights and examples. In addition, each chapter contains discussion questions to help open conversations among current and emerging leaders in firms to build greater understanding and a common vision for the future. The book is available from Amazon in both Kindle and soft cover form.

  • "Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality."
  • Warren Bennis

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Show The Love

IMG_6788“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” – Voltaire

Sometimes just after busy season you might think you have seen enough of clients for a while. You are wrong about that!

So many times I have heard clients say they wish their CPA was more proactive. What kind of Action Plan do you have in place to continually communicate with clients?

I think it falls under the “this is how we do it here” category.

  • We take new hires along to client meetings.
  • We expect every person in the firm to have a role in marketing.
  • We provide continual performance feedback to our employees.
  • We close the office on Fridays in the summer.
  • We acknowledge every team members birthday.
  • We have a client service plan for “A” clients and a different one for “B” clients.
  • We send our clients a birthday card.
  • We thank our clients in different ways for simply trusting us as their financial and business advisor.

Should any of these “this is how we do it here” bullets apply to your firm? What else can you add?

Yesterday, I received some free drink coupons from Southwest. They remembered to thank me. It made me smile. Do you think Southwest has more customers than you do? You could certainly do some little expected things to show your clients that you appreciate them.

  • "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."
  • John F. Kennedy

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

The New Exempt Overtime Rules – A Big Factor For The CPA Profession

In the CPA profession, it used to be that many firms took “overtime” hours into consideration when establishing entry-level salaries often resulting in a higher beginning wage. However, many firms (mostly depending on geographic location) do not offer a salary of over $47,476 for beginners.

Even some long-time bookkeepers and other administrative professionals, currently on salary, do not meet the new threshold.

From a recent SHRM article: “It will be hard to accept and even implement,” said Robert Boonin, immediate past chair of the Wage and Hour Defense Institute, a network of wage and hour lawyers, and an attorney with Dykema in Detroit, Mich.  “It’ll be a cultural change to many and perceived as a step back in career growth.”

You now need to be talking with your people, well before the deadline to comply – December 1, 2016.

Another excerpt from SHRM – very important in this world of expecting an instant response from your staff on weekends and after hours:

What about previously salaried workers who were used to responding managers’ e-mails or phone calls after hours?

“Managers can certainly continue to e-mail after hours and expect timely responses from newly nonexempt employees, [they] just need to be prepared to pay for the time,” Kilborn said. “Perhaps this is a chance for those managers to evaluate how badly they need that response from the employee if they know that they will be paying for it directly.”

Said Wise: “Regardless of what a supervisor may be used to … a manager may have to adjust expectations if response time would result in overtime, or an employer may have to consider financial ramifications if response time is critical and would require overtime.”

Read more here, on the SHRM site. Then get busy planning for this change and how it will impact your firm and your clients. They will look to your firm for guidance.

There is a lot of information on the web a about this new law – Google and read! The details seem to keep changing!

Here’s something from the Ohio Society of CPAs Member Alert:

While the complete rules package is not yet available, key revisions include:

  • Exempt salary threshold increased to $47,476 from $23,660
  • The salary threshold will automatically update every three years, and is anticipated to top $50,000 by 2020
  • The new rules are effective Dec. 1.

 

  • "The people's good is the highest law."
  • Cicero

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

The Importance of Your CPA Firm Employee Handbook

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” – Oscar Wilde

Your employee handbook is important to firm leaders AND it is important to CPA firm employees.

Most mid- to large size CPA firms have an employee handbook in place. Many smaller firms also have one in place, too. However, I find that firms without a full-time firm administrator or HR professional haven’t updated, or even read, their employee handbook in ages.

Recently, I reviewed an employee handbook used by one of my newer clients. I opened the pdf copy and immediately recognized something about 20 years old and probably straight out of the old MAP Handbook. It was dated to say the least.

Here’s the point of this post: Employers need to have their policies and procedures documented in writing and have it easily accessible (online) to all employees. Employees need to actually read the entire employee handbook and sign-off.

The trouble is that new employees are over-whelmed when first joining the firm, meeting new co-workers and getting up-to-speed on their duties as soon as possible. Often the reading of the employee handbook gets put on the back burner. They may even sign-off without actually reading the handbook. After all, some handbooks can be 20 to 40 pages long!

Eventually, the firm administrator, MP or HR person will be faced with a situation where an employee has violated a policy. During the ensuing conversation, the employee admits they have not read the handbook.

I recommend that during orientation, one hour be set aside for the new employee to have uninterrupted time to read the firm’s employee handbook.

 

  • "Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense."
  • Gertrude Stein