Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

Take Them Along

“I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.” – Winston Churchill

Throughout the summer and fall, it is conference season for accounting firms. It is the time when CPA firm leaders attend various types of conferences to obtain CPE credit. While much of the CPE sessions for team members is now obtained online, management of an accounting practice is still learned via attending management conferences and networking with others in the profession.

What I observe is that a firm usually has ONE representative at any such conference that contains a management track. That one person goes back to their firm and does their best to convince others of the trends, changes and challenges the firm is, or will be, facing.

I heard this same story last night as I attended the CPA Firm Management Association opening reception. “It is difficult to convince my partners of what I think we should do after I return from this conference.” “My firm would only send me.” “My managing partner wouldn’t attend with me.” “I was lucky to be able to convince the partners to even just let me attend.”

Managing partners attend their firm association MP sessions but go alone. Please, this year, take one, two or three other partners along. Allow your COO to also attend with you. If it is another conference like CPAFMA’s national practice management conference or AICPA Practitioners’ TECH conference – take others with you and your firm will move forward faster.

Here’s a shining example. My friend, Benito Tagle, attends AICPA PCPS Practitioners’ TECH every year. In recent years, he has included some representatives of his staff. During the conference, they meet and strategize about who will attend the various sessions. They break apart to cover topics and then come together in the evening to discuss what they learned and what the next day will bring.

Below is a picture of Benito and his team going over the next day’s schedule at this year’s PSTech. Guess what? Their firm is making great progress!

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  • "Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn."
  • Benjamin Franklin

Monday, June 27th, 2016

Excuses

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” – Jim Rohn

April 16th – We can’t tackle revising our performance feedback system, we have to have some downtime for a while after April 15th.

May 1 – We can’t work on the new orientation/onboarding project now because everyone is taking some vacation since tax season is over.

June 1 – We can’t tackle revising our performance feedback system, it’s time to do them and we’ll have to wait until this year’s process is over.

July 1 – We can’t right now… too many people on vacation.

August 15th – We can’t do an upward partner feedback survey, it’s time to focus on the September 15th due date.

September 16th – We can’t possibly work on that organizational alignment project, we have to focus on the October due date.

October 17th – We’ll work on our succession plan after the partner retreat.

November 1 – Let’s see what we can get done in November!

December 1 – We’ll have to put a halt on that workflow project because we are so busy in December with tax planning.

January 1 – We’ll have to wait until after April 15th.

Sound familiar?

  • "When you know what you want, and you want it bad enough, you'll find a way to get it."
  • Jim Rohn

Friday, June 24th, 2016

A Simple Thought For Friday

One of my favorite t-shirts. THINK about it.

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  • "I am convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance."
  • Steve Jobs

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

How You Learn All About CPA Firm Management

“The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.” – Hubert H. Humphrey

Next week I will be in Baltimore for the CPAFMA (formerly the Association for Accounting Administration) National Practice Management Conference.

If you are a partner in a CPA firm and your firm administrator or COO is not attending, shame on you. You must invest in the education, skill-building, and knowledge of this key role in your firm. The payback is phenomenal.

Notice that the title includes National and Practice Management. It is rare to find a conference, national or otherwise, that is completely devoted to the improved management of an accounting practice (MAP).

This conference is targeted to those responsible for the efficient, profitable operation of an accounting firm. That includes managing partners.

This year, we are seeing many more transitions from long-time managing partners to the new, less experienced managing partner. There is no other place to obtain SO MUCH firm management knowledge and support.

Whether you are attending or not, check out the agenda. One of the best and most appreciated sessions is the break-out by firm size. You don’t get to talk to people working inside a similar size firm from across the United States very often.

Now, firm administrators, shame on you. I have heard many of you say, “I’m not going the conference, it’s expensive and the partners wouldn’t pay it.” I asked, “Did you ask them and provide a value proposition?” The answer, “Well, no, I didn’t ask because I knew they wouldn’t send me.” This situation makes me very sad. BUT, at the conference next week, sure I will speak but I will also learn AND, I will have so much fun doing it!

This is a good example of why I write and speak about the need for improved communication inside accounting firms!

Here are just a fewIMG_3911 pictures of fun and life-long friends!photo (1)IMG_1727 - Version 2IMG_2619

 

HC my friends

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  • "One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood."
  • Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

My View – Casual Dress

“Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.” – Machiavelli

Most of you know, I worked for 30 years at a growing, profitable CPA firm. Most of those years, I believed that the CPA profession was a world of professional men and women who had the great responsibility of advising successful business people. I believed that I worked in a professional office and was delighted to dress in what the world then called professional dress. Our offices were beautiful, tasteful, high-class. I believed in making a great first impression. Why wouldn’t we, as individuals, want to be viewed the same?

Of course, years ago, the firm moved to business casual. We called it “dress appropriate” which meant the same thing that is being talked about now… dress for your day. But then business casual meant no jeans and always a collared shirt for days in the office and professional dress for client/prospect meetings, business networking events, etc.

Of course, business casual slowly became more casual and we had to enforce our dress code. That was certainly not a fun task!

I held out for years about females not wearing panty hose with skirts and dresses. A wonderful mentor of mine finally said to me, “Rita, get over it” and I did. That being said, I still cringe when I see an overweight, young female attorney walking down the street in a suit or short skirt with pasty-white legs. Oh, well.

Now, guess what? I’m “over it” with a lot of things. The world is more casual and the professional business world is more casual and I am certainly more casual in my dress.

It is all about what I continually urge you to do… embrace change! Institute a “dress for your day” policy that allows jeans. Close your office on Friday. Times have changed and CPAs must adapt more quickly than they have in the past.

If you want to attract and keep talented people, stay abreast of current trends and make changes quickly, as needed. Crowe did a survey of their workforce last fall, casual attire was ranked the most important workforce amenity.

  • "One key to successful leadership is continuous personal change. Personal change is a reflection of our inner growth and empowerment."
  • Robert E. Quinn

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Expand The Feedback For Your Firm Administrator

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has take place.” – George Bernard Shaw

Here’s the issue: The firm’s long-time, experienced and valuable firm administrator receives their performance feedback from the firm’s managing partner.

Year after year the same person gives feedback to the same person. Very often I hear from firm administrators that they no longer receive formal performance evaluations nor on-going feedback about their performance because they are doing a good job and nothing has changed.

I could give you a very long list of why this is a terrible situation…. for both sides. But, I would rather give you a solution to improving this situation.

Every year, have a different partner gather input and conduct the face-to-face feedback conversation with the firm administrator. If you only have two or three partners, continually rotate this duty.

The value of this activity is two-fold. The “other” partners get to see and hear, first-hand, the volume of duties and challenges faced by the firm administrator and the firm administrator gets to hear comments and advice from several sources within the firm.

The dual-value comes from all partners and the firm administrator getting to know and understand each other better.

  • ""Employees who report receiving recognition and praise within the last seven days show increased productivity, get higher scores from customers, and have better safety records. They're just more engaged at work."
  • Tom Rath

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Expanding Your Services To Current Clients

“If you want to be the best salesperson, first you must be the best person.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

We have heard it said over and over again at CPA management conferences – for years! “Don’t forget to ask your clients WHAT ELSE they need from you and your firm.”

The trouble is, they don’t usually know what they need. I find it is much like focusing on improving your own firm. Another well-known saying applies. “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Often, your client doesn’t know what they don’t know.

It is your business to know your client and their business so well that you are able to enlighten them as to what they should do, what they shouldn’t do and how they can make their business more profitable. As a CPA, you are known as the most trusted advisor. Are you living up to that role?

That is where specialization comes into play. Not every CPA in your firm can know everything about every service line. If you are on the auto dealer team at your firm you better know everything about operating a dealership. You are routinely reading dealership management magazines and newsletters and you attend the same conferences that dealership owners attend. Hopefully, someone from your firm is speaking at those industry conferences. The same activities apply to your firm’s non-profit, construction, hospitality, distribution and all other teams.

You should, of course, continue to ask your clients how you can help but you should also be very upfront in telling them about current trends in their industry and what they should be doing to stay competitive and profitable.

  • "The key to mastering any kind of sales is switching statements about you - how great you are, and what you do - to statements about them."
  • Jeffrey Gitomer

Friday, June 17th, 2016

CPA Management Newsletter

My newsletter went out yesterday. Here are the stories I included in this edition:

  • The Latest On Issues Being Faced By Firms
  • Keep The Feedback Flowing – Video Interview
  • Need To Talk?

I hope you received your copy. Be sure to check your spam filter. If you are not on my mailing list, you can sign up for my newsletter here.

 

  • "By the time we've made it, we've had it."
  • Malcolm Forbes

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Millennials And Job-Hopping

Accounting firm leaders and HR directors are talking about it and they have almost come to expect it. They don’t shy away from a new hire just because they have had two other jobs in the last five years. I’m talking about the job-hopping trend that has become the new normal for millennials.

According to studies, the biggest job hoppers work in media, entertainment, government and non-profits. They tend to stay longer in industries where they make things like autos, manufacturing, and oil.

As for the accounting profession, think back to a comment we have heard over and over again in the CPA profession. The new recruits repeatedly tell us that their professors urged them to accept an offer from the big four, stick it out for two years and then leave so that they have big four experience on your resume.

It seems like they are programmed to job hop from the time they are majoring in accounting at a university.

This is a big topic but one aspect is compensation. My advice to you, don’t lose an all-star performer because the firm down the street is offering them a $5,000 or even $10,000 salary increase to jump ship. This happens all the time! Consider your own firm. I bet you have paid similar “increases” to lure a top performer from a competing firm. You will pay an outside top performer a premium wage but shy away from paying the same to a top performer already working for your firm.

CPA firm leaders often worry that if they pay a certain person more money it will upset their compensation apple cart.

Keep in mind: Top performers should get top pay. Average performers should get average pay. If your average performers complain to you simply explain to them exactly what they have to do to become a top performer.

  • "If you pick the right people and give them the opportunity to spread their wings and put compensation as a carrier behind it you almost don't have to manage them."
  • Jack Welch

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

A True Story About Launching A New Service

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” – Albert Einstein

Have you been thinking of launching a new service? Have you been thinking of how to better serve your clients via cloud accounting? I have observed that many CPA firm leaders are debating these topics during their partner meetings and management retreats.

sarahSarah Johnson Dobek of Inovautus Consulting posted a great feature story recently about how one firm launched a service around cloud accounting.

Highlights:

  • Clients were requesting better access to their books in real-time with mobility.
  • The old desktop versions of accounting software were a problem.
  • The firm wanted to offer more non-traditional services.
  • The growth has been higher than any other area of the firm.
  • The workflow is different than traditional tax and audit services.
  • Required a change in the pricing model.

Dobek advises:

  • Launching a new service can be daunting – develop a plan.
  • Be prepared for some things to not go as planned.
  • It always takes longer than you expect.
  • Define what success looks like.

Read this entire interesting story about launching a new service via Inovautus, here.

  • "The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well."
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson