Monday, August 3rd, 2015

Always Carve Out Time to Think

With my clients, I continually stress the importance of taking time to THINK. I also blog about it often. I was inspired by the story of Thomas Watson, Chairman & CEO of IBM from 1914 until 1956.

This summer, please take your vacation, take an extended weekend to get away, or occasionally report to the office that you simply won’t be in today… better yet – do all three.

I enjoyed a recent article from Fast Company (by Laura VanderkamIMG_5547) about how to create your own mini-retreat. It’s the story of how an author carved out time for a mini-retreat so she could create, think and work without distractions.

Are you a key leader in a CPA firm? Are you an accountant (young or old) who wants to advance in their career and be a bigger contributor? Then, carve out some time in your busy life to think and create.

Honestly, I am very tired of hearing, “I’m too busy!” every time a great idea needs to be implemented in a growing accounting firm. You choose to be busy, sometimes to avoid the fact that things need to change.

When you carve out some time (even a few hours) here are some tips from the article:

Why? – – Getting away is great but without intention it’s a vacation, not a retreat. Ask yourself what you would like to achieve.

Claim Your Time – – Determine what needs to happen to make getting away for a short time possible. Who will pick up the kids and take care of other daily responsibilities? Mark your personal retreat time on your calendar in advance.

Choose your space – – Check into a hotel alone. Borrow a friend’s vacation house or simply go to a library or to Barnes & Noble for a morning. Maybe your could go fishing or walk on a beach and let your mind wander.

Discipline – – Don’t check your phone. Avoid being disturbed by social media, emails or calls.

Read the entire article here.

  • "For fast-acting relief, try slowing down."
  • Lily Tomlin

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – Type A vs. Type B

I often hear people describe their managing partner as a “Type A” personality. I also hear people describe another partner, a tax partner for example, as a “Type B”.

Hubspot’s blog post on this topic is helpful and amusing. I know inside accounting firms, there is a real mixture of personality types and they, hopefully, all work together as a well-oiled machine. If everyone were alike, nothing would get accomplished.

So, this weekend enjoy Hubspot’s explanation of A and B.

Here’s how the two break down:

  • Type As are the “go-getters.” They tend to be more ambitious, organized, time-oriented, impatient, and tend to stress themselves out by taking on more than they can handle.
  • Type Bs, by contrast, are more relaxed and low-stress. They tend to be more patient, steadier, more creative, enjoy achievement more, and don’t get wrapped up in details.

Thanks to for this graphic.

a/b personality types

  • "Great minds have purposes, others have wishes."
  • Washington Irving

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Advisory For Keller

IMG_3168For many years now I have maintained a simple email group comprised of people working daily in a CPA firm that I call my unofficial advisory board.

When I am doing research on a certain topic or if one of my clients has a specific challenge they are facing, I send an email inquiry to my valuable group. I call the group: Advisory4Keller

For example, I have a current question before my group about how, exactly, they are handling scheduling.  After I receive responses (I give them a few days), I summarize and share the information with all those who replied. I do not over-use this valuable tool – I don’t want increase the workload for the members of the group! For example, in 2013 and 2014 I surveyed the group 6 to 10 times. In 2015, so far it has been 3 times.

If you are a CPA firm administrator, managing partner or other management leader in a firm (HR, marketing, technology, department head, etc.) and would like to be part of the group, simply email me to let me know and I will contact you. The information, about you, that I need is on my contact page.

The picture was taken a few years ago of the Ohio Chapter of The Association For Accounting Administration – These people know what really going on!

  • "The future depends on what you do today."
  • Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

CPA Partners, Are You Talking?

There is an old 60s song titled, You Talk Too Much. Here are the lyrics:

You talk too much, you worry me to death
You talk too much, you even worry my pet
You just talk, you talk too much

You talk about people that you don’t know
You talk about people wherever you go
You just talk, you talk too much

You talk about people that you’ve never seen
You talk about people, you can make me scream
You just talk, you talk too much

CPA partner groups DO NOT talk too much, about the right things.

Much like the lyrics of the song, they will casually chat with each other and often talk about people that they don’t really know – 2nd hand gossip.

Much like the lyrics of the song, they will critique people and each other about things they have actually “never seen”. Again, 2nd hand or even third-hand information.

EC50CC8658If things are not going so well at a firm, if the partner group is not on the same page and there are under-currents of discord, it is usually a lapse in communication. The partners have skipped or cancelled their partner meetings. They go into a partner retreat unprepared and shy away from the more difficult conversations and topics.

Simply talking more with each other and staying on topic not only helps communication, it builds teamwork among the partner group. Partners that meet regularly and talk about agenda items that are important in a very open and honest manner have fewer problems, challenges and issues.

Larger partner groups: Have a formal quarterly meeting for 2 to 3 hours, or more. On the months you do not meet, go to lunch together at least once during those months. In multi-office firms, of course the lunches are by office.

Smaller partner groups: Have a formal monthly meeting for 2 to 3 hours, or more. It’s much easier to schedule in a smaller firm but smaller firms seem to get out of the habit more often.

For all firms, this should be a priority meeting. One of the most important responsibilities of a partner is to speak-up in meetings. Everyone MUST be heard. Often, more dominant personalities monopolize the conversations and discussions – managing partners should not let this happen, nor should the MP dominate every discussion. All concerns should be aired in the meeting NOT in the hallway or over a beer at the end of the day by partner cliques.

For all firms, deal with factual information. Have a documented agenda (your firm administrator can assist with that) and don’t “table” the tough decisions until the next meeting.

Be sure you “talk too much”.


  • "Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools talk because they have to say something."
  • Plato

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go! – Racing Toward Change

IMG_5705Ready, set, go! On your mark, get set, go! – – Many of us used these words as children when preparing for a childhood race (I’ll beat you home! Let’s see who gets there first” and so on).  And, of course, it has traditionally been used to officially start a foot race of varying kinds for varying levels.

Right now, if you are managing an accounting firm, you need to have “on your mark” and “get set” behind you and be focused on “going!”.

Thanks to Sean McCabe of Accounting Today for talking with me about helping firms get ready for the future. Please read the article on Page 1 of the July issue – Change will come, whether you like it or not … If you can’t bring yourself to embrace it, at leas find a way to prepare yourself and your firm for the future.

As Erik Asgeirsson, CEO of says, “Firms are trapped by their own success. We all know when companies are faced with going out of business, they change pretty dramatically. But if they’re successful, they say, ‘I don’t understand why we need to make investments in change management.'”.

If your organization has not researched what you have to do (on your mark), customized action steps that will perhaps shake-up your leaders and the firm culture (get set) and already marked some of those action steps off the list (Go!)- -then you are facing almost insurmountable odds of surviving into the future.

Involve your non-partner, younger accountants (in most firms that is people under 45) in the process. The AICPA says, “By 2020 many CPA firms will be composed of 75 percent Millennials – yet firms continue to be managed the way the parents or even grandparents of current partners would have run them – that’s a major disconnect.”

Just think! 2020 is not that far away.

  • "To drive change successfully inside the firm, it's very important to be clear on your purpose."
  • Erik Asgeirsson

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

Keep Your Relationships Alive & Healthy

If you want to be successful in bringing business to your CPA firm, you must be a relationship-builder. It surprises me when I hear CPAs, working in public practice, say they won’t, can’t or don’t know how to bring new business to the firm. It is simply liking people and getting to know them and letting them get to know you. CPAs are smart, well-educated, and nice. You have amazing knowledge about tax, accounting, audit and business practices. People will be naturally drawn to you – – SO, put yourself out there!

If you are a partner and you are not able to bring in business, why are you a partner?

Here’s a real-life story of how maintaining relationships works:

DruckerSharon Drucker, used to work for the New Jersey Society of CPAs. We met when she was involved in coordinating an event where I was speaking. Over the next few years we stayed in touch via email and social media.

Recently, she contacted me (via LinkedIn) to let me know that she has a new job as Director of Business Development on the new Surgent team (formerly Surgent McCoy). She will be working with firms across the US to identify and meet their professional learning needs, through both live and digital CPE programs.

I’m sure you are aware of Surgent, it has been around for more than 30 years (like me!). Surgent, LLC, is the largest independent provider of continuing education in the United States, offering more webinar, self-study, and live event offerings than any competitor in the marketplace. Their clients include 250 of the top 300 firms nationwide.

The moral of the story: Sharon kept our relationship alive by contacting me. I was delighted because I want to keep my relationships alive and healthy. We will both benefit (and can help each other).

  • "Make new friends but keep the old; one is silver and the other is gold."
  • Proverb

Monday, July 27th, 2015

Three Steps To Valuing Your CPA Practice

Are you facing several partner retirements over the next few years? If not, you would be rather unusual. With the exodus of the baby boomers from the workforce, many CPA firms face the challenge of valuing their practice for those events.

gary-adamson-598x747Last week, I received the latest newsletter from Gary Adamson of Adamson Advisory. In it he describes three steps to valuing your practice. Here are some highlights:

Step One – You need to determine the value of your firm. This is for an internal transition, not a sale or merger. Values are typically higher for an outside deal. There are two pieces to this puzzle – capital and goodwill. Capital is easy so goodwill is where most of the discussion centers. For traditional services, the overall average goodwill value has been about 80% for the last several years. So, don’t always count on one times revenue.

Step Two – This is where you determine how to split up the firm’s goodwill among the owners. You can allocate it based on ownership percentages or books of business (we see this in smaller firms). In larger firms there is a process called average annual volume or AAV.

Step Three – This is the process you utilize to pay out the value to the retiring partner. The majority of firms are paying out the goodwill in the form of deferred compensation. Usually it is over a 7 to 10 year period.

Be sure to read the entire article via Adamson Advisory.

  • "Any fool can make a rule."
  • Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, July 25th, 2015

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – I Hope The Force Is With You

IMG_1234You probably know I am a Star Wars Fan. Why else would I dress up like Princess Leia for the opening of the AICPA PractitionersTECH+ a few years ago?

I remember when we took our young son to see the first movie. I didn’t expect much…. but life in our family changed. Star Wars toys became a Christmas must and our grandson must have scores of Star Wars Lego sets. His dad sometimes still gets Star Wars gifts.

This week I watched some of the teasers and trailers for the new episode coming out in December – Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.

Here’s the official Teaser Trailer #2. Escape the “everyday” and become part of the Force. Today’s quote is one every leader in a CPA firm should embrace.


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

Friday, July 24th, 2015

My Journey To Becoming “Visible”

DSCN0750 - Version 3Who is Rita Keller and what is she all about?

Perhaps you have wondered that from time to time if you follow my blog, tweets and other social media. You might have read my bio online but that’s not the entire story.

A special thanks to Hinge Marketing for naming me one of their “Visible Experts”. Read all about my story on their site. I enjoyed my telephone interview with Emily Paterson although it did cause me to have some scary flash-back moments!

I went from a resident expert to a visible expert. I built a reputation through years of hard work, I took advantage of social media and then I took a leap and never looked back.

How about you? Have you been contemplating something for your firm or for yourself that feels risky? Take a leap!

  • "Though I am not normally honest, I am so sometimes by chance."
  • Shakespeare

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

Two Million Hours Per Year on Performance Management

Maybe you read the article back in April. It came across on Twitter again this week.

It is on the Harvard Business Review site and is from their April, 2015 issue and it is about a Big Four firm that has drastically changed their performance feedback approach. The article – Reinventing Performance Management is by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall.

It goes something like this (and it makes sense). The big firm realized how labor intensive it is to gather, analyze, collaborate on and provide feedback on performance. The end result being that the feedback was not that helpful. They need something nimbler, real-time, and more individualized. I like that terminology. The Big Four and all of us working in CPA firm management want something focused on fueling performance in the future rather than assessing it in the past.

I have been saying for many years that if you don’t update your performance management system, everyone ends up dreading them – the people getting feedback and the people giving feedback. It is looked at as drudgery.

This particular Big Four firm found that their old way of creating the ratings consumed close to 2 million hours a year!

Please follow the link and read about the 4 future-focused statements that leaders/managers at the firm are being asked about their subordinates.

They are asking leaders what they would do with their team members, not what they think of them. I like that.

What I don’t like, personally, is that a Big Four firm gets written up in the Harvard Business Review for enacting this wonderful process and if you talk to people in the local offices, the well-publicized national initiatives (whatever they may be) are not being implemented.

Local and regional CPA firm partners, look at YOUR process this year and determine if it is time to revise it. Once revised, I know you will implement! It is part of your ammunition for retaining top performers.

  • "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit."
  • Aristotle