Thursday, February 26th, 2015

National Practice Management Conference 2015

AAA NPMC Brochure-1I hope, by now, you are aware of The Association for Accounting Administration. It is an organization founded over 30 years ago to assist the professionals inside a CPA firm that are responsible for management, administration, operations, technology, HR, marketing and all the other things that go on behind the scenes in a busy, proactive, growing firm.

I am continually amazed by the myriad of duties that are handled by a firm administrator in a firm of any size. I also am amazed that most of the time the partners are completely oblivious to the depth and breadth of the tasks handled by the firm administrator and the amount of time involved. This perception not only applies to the firm administrator/office manager but also to the tech person, marketing coordinator, etc.

If you want to enhance the role of your administrative go-to person and other management professionals, invest in their success and send them to the AAA National Practice Management Conference being held this summer in Orlando. This year the conference will be very different.

In June, three distinctive accounting organizations will come together to deliver unique programs within a complete learning experience. AICPA PractitionersTECH+, The Association for Accounting Administration and the Association for Accounting Marketing will host one, big conference with an amazing menu of choices for continuing education and networking with peers.

This is a perfect opportunity for the managing partner, firm administrator, marketing director and technology leader to attend together and really build some momentum for the firm.

I will be speaking on June 8th about The Roles and Responsibilities of the Practice Manager. If you are new to your role in firm management (or even if you are not), I hope you will join me for some back to basics of firm management.

For more information click here.

Click here to register.

  • "Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is."
  • Isaac Asimov

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Amazing Things Can Happen

I grew up in a hard-working family. Both of my parents worked so they could provide the type of life-style they thought was beneficial to our family and also enjoyable for them. When I observe how young families live now it seems very lavish compared to what I experienced as a child.

My parents just expected (no doubt about it) that when I got out of school, I would work hard and never take advantage of any employer.

Maybe that’s why it puzzles me when I hear accounting firm employees whine about, what I call, hard work. Mostly, I think they are whining about the longer hours necessary during certain times of the year. All professions have “busy” times

My personal story is a success story about hard work (and perseverance). I found a position, a job, a career that I loved and I worked hard to improve. It paid off. Simple as that.

If you are in the early part of your career in public accounting, it can be a glorious time – you are in demand! Firms are hiring. Firms are doing many great things to be sure they retain top talent. The work is challenging and interesting and becoming a CPA means you become “a most trusted advisor” to so many interesting businesses and people.

Think about this from Conan O’Brien:

“All I ask is one thing, and I’m asking this particularly of young people: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” – – Conan O’Brien

  • "I just want to say to the kids out there watching. You can do anything you want in life. Unless Jay Leno wants to do it too."
  • Conan O'Brien

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

Want A Strong Brand? – Your Culture Drives It

0 Avatar slide for blogLast week I wrote about how your processes and procedures (systems) are driven by your culture. There is another important thing about culture – – it is the engine behind your brand. In fact, I think culture and brand go hand-in-hand for growing CPA firms.

Want to assess your culture? Sit quietly in the next partner or management meeting and just listen. Bring your lunch and sit off to the side alone in the lunch room and just listen (pretend you are reading a book!). The next time your leadership team is discussing an important decision, just listen…. and assess how decisions are made.

As Shawn Parr, in a recent article noted, “A vibrant culture provides a cooperative and collaborative environment for a brand to thrive.” I like his comparison of Zappos (fast-growing, electric culture that’s inclusionary, encouraging and empowering) with American Apparel (a company with a well-documented and highly dysfunctional culture).

I have met so many accounting firms that fit into BOTH categories. I have been so encouraged by some progressive firms that are on the leading edge (not the bleeding edge). Their team members love working for the firm and realize what a great profession they are part of.

On the other hand, I have also talked with many firms that are struggling. Their experienced CPAs hide from confrontation. They love status quo. They wonder why they have turnover.

Building a vibrant and strong firm culture is not easy and it takes time. Leaders must believe the vision and live the values.

Rally your firm leaders and have them to commit to taking the first step. It’s an easy one, beginning this week, every boss (partners and managers) will set a great example! They must acknowledge that they are being watched and that it is their responsibility to earn their employees’ trust.


  • "Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters."
  • Albert Einstein

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Making Promotion Decisions Based On Technical Expertise

It is a very common occurrence in the CPA profession. You promote someone to “manager” because they have developed great technical skills and they have attained a certain level of seniority.

I’m sure you have heard of the Peter Principle – a person gets promoted to a level where they are truly incompetent. If a person is a great accountant, we assume they are ready to lead other people.

There’s a good article via Fast Company that suggests how to spot future leaders.

Look for:

The Advisor – People who are sought out by others for insight and advice.

The Fixer – An employee with a “never say die” attitude, who is always looking for solutions.

The Motivator – People who can inspire others toward a common cause.

The Listener – Someone who takes the time to “take in” what’s going on around them.

The Specialist – Someone who is a jack-of-all trades will likely never excel at any one thing. Leaders know their strengths and focus on those areas.

The Trainee – Leadership candidates need to be trainable.

The Prioritizer – They don’t spend their days putting out fires. They spend their time on what’s important in the long run.

I know you are aware of the big succession issues in the CPA profession. Begin this year to invest in the success of your firm’s managers. They need training and education on how to manage, nurture and mentor people – – not just how to efficiently prepare and/or review a tax return.

Take this challenge directly to your managers. Get them involved in developing an action plan that will help them grow and develop as managers of people.

If you are a manager….. take this challenge to your partners and offer to champion a leadership development program at your firm.


  • "Growing other leaders from the ranks isn't just the duty of a leader, it's an obligation."
  • Warren Bennis

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – Enjoy Some Music

Most people will admit that listening to music is an enjoyable, stress-relieving activity in their life.

During this time of year for CPAs and their team members they may need some relief from deadlines, busyness, long hours, heavy workloads and perhaps even some grumpy co-workers and bosses.

I love all types of music, bluegrass to classical, and was delighted with this performance by Chris Thile, mandolinist, and member of the Punch Brothers and Nickel Creek. A bluegrass guy playing Bach on a mandolin.

  • "Music touches us emotionally, when words alone can't."
  • Johnny Depp

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Systems Are Driven By Culture

I talk a lot about processes and procedures, some people call them protocols; some call them systems. They are the guidelines established (after much research and discussion) inside your firm to efficiently get the work out the door.

Perhaps your systems are outdated or even ignored. They are very important. However, there is something much more important that drives the systems inside your CPA firm – it’s culture. I put it bluntly when talking with CPAs in public practice – – If your culture supports partners, or others, being exempt from following systems, to hide from change, to live in the days of “this is the  way we have always done it!”, no amount of excellent systems will help you serve your clients (and your people) effectively. Your competition will leave you behind.

Tom Peters says: Forget the words culture, vision, stories, narratives. Skip the pseudo-technical language. Don’t call consultants or coaches. How about plain-vanilla-insanely-important-self-managed-Give-a-Shitism? Give-a-shit… about each other, about the work, about the community.

Have the leaders and followers inside your firm slipped into the dangerous rut of getting the work out the door and thinking that good is good enough? Have some lost site of a culture of urgency to serve the clients better than any other accounting firm?

One of the two core values instilled by Dr. William Mayo (Mayo Clinic) in 1910 was, effectively practicing team medicine. Designing the practice around the patient, or “patient-centered care,” as some call its rare manifestation today, was the other core value. At Mayo, upon occasion prominent M.D.s have been asked to leave because of their inability to fully grasp the team-practice concept.

If you have partners at your CPA firm who are never “on board,” who hide behind “Devil’s Advocate,” do you ask them to leave? Or, does the firm slowly sink into mediocrity?

  • "In real life, strategy is actually very straightforward. Pick a general direction and implement like hell."
  • Jack Welch

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

A Change In Overtime & The Average Work Week

How and when a CPA firm pays overtime is something that has been discussed and argued for years. It is not always easy deciding who is “exempt” and who is “non-exempt”.

I have found that most firms are very careful about these rules. I just wanted to give you a heads-up about some new overtime pay protections for low-salaried managers that are in the works.

Here’s the article on CNN Money – be sure you are in the know for your firm and for your clients.

Here’s another interesting fact. According to a Gallup poll from last fall. The average U.S. employee works 46.7 hours per week. So, don’t think it is just the accounting profession that has extended hours.

The best thing about public accounting hours is that, for many accountants, the extra hours occur in winter and when summer arrives it’s a 40-hour work week.

  • "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."
  • Tim Notke

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

CPA Practice Advisor – Gail Perry

gail2Have you read Gail’s editorial column in the February issue of CPA Practice Advisor?

It is titled: The 30,000 Foot View of the Accounting Profession – It’s Time For A Landing.

She provides a list of challenges facing the CPA profession from a group of accountants. Here’s a few examples of the challenges:

  • Technology is replacing or changing the role of entry-level people.
  • Attracting talented graduates
  • Adding advisory services
  • Many client and staff relationships are virtual
  • And, several more

The irony is that this entire list was compiled in the year 2000! Read her column. Do you see a major problem here?

The scary thing for me is the fact that I have been working with CPAs for over 30 years. I am still called upon to assist with some of the same issues I experienced that long ago.

  • "All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better."
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, February 16th, 2015

Key CPA Firm Issue – Retention. Are You Doing The Right Things Or Just Things?

For years now, in the CPA profession, we have been doing all kinds of warm and fuzzy stuff for our employees.

  • Let’s use Starbucks coffee rather than the grocery store variety.
  • Let’s give them flex hours and core hours so they can sleep late or stay late – their choice.
  • Let’s give them really nice portfolios with the firm logo.
  • Let’s give them firm logo jackets, sweatshirts, t-shirts and coffee mugs.
  • Let’s give them an extra week of vacation.
  • Let’s subsidize their health club dues.
  • Let’s pay them for referral leads.
  • Let’s buy a real popcorn machine for the break room.

Get the picture? Sound all too familiar?

Want to truly engage your people? First step:  Observe, research and solicit information to determine what motivates your BEST performers.

Many studies tell us that engaging millennial employees it is simply being more inclusive. Millennial top performers want to be in the loop, they want transparency AND opportunity. Older, experienced employees in your accounting firm have become accustomed to all the mystery, secrecy and complacency.

Major change is difficult for some CPAs. I like to recommend taking baby steps to improve things inside your firm. It can be a small step but at least TAKE THAT SMALL STEP.

Do this: Take one of your high-profile engagements, one that is challenging and interesting, away from one of your long-time managers (who has had it for years) and assign it to a not-so-long-time millennial (that’s someone under 35 years of age).

That will do more to engage an up-and-comer than all the free bagels you can buy.


  • "When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute."
  • Simon Sinek

Saturday, February 14th, 2015

Lighten-Up! – Let The Arrow Hit You!

Happy Valentine’s Day to all my wonderful clients, associates and friends in the CPA profession. Honestly, I do LOVE my work and the people I serve.

I hope you are feeling the love inside your firm. CPAs are honest, caring people – sometimes they just don’t let it show.

If you are a CPA firm leader, don’t let your people feel like Charlie Brown!

  • "Who, being loved, is poor?"
  • Oscar Wilde