Friday, October 24th, 2014

Millennials – Don’t Overreact

10352910_10152827659781535_751124781211827779_nI do talk about Millennials quite a bit. Especially, because accounting firms hire a lot of new college graduates as entry-level staffers.

Currently, the new college graduates are called Millennials because they were born from 1980 onward. That means many of them in your accounting firm are in their early 30s.

I think the biggest deal about Millennials inside accounting firms is that they are so much more savvy about technology and the social media world most of us live in these days.

I really like millennials and when I was working everyday inside a growing firm, the interns were special to me – honest, hardworking, intelligent. Wait! Doesn’t that describe almost every accountant and others who work inside CPA firms, no matter what their age? Yes, Millennials are regular people, too and we sometimes overreact in trying to figure them out.

One tidbit I read several years ago was from a Baby Boomer: Millennials want the same thing we wanted as we entered the workforce, they just have the guts to ask for it.

If your CPA firm is hiring (and every firm I talk to is hiring right now), read the article and watch this very informative (and short) video from Fast Company. 

If you are managing Millennials, my advice:  Chill-out, they are regular people, too. Talk to them like adults.

Additional note, my firm took-off on a progressive and ambitious growth path when the founder retired and a 32-year old was named managing partner.

Photo credit: Lumsden McCormick

  • "Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die."
  • Herbert Hoover

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

QuickBooks Online & The CPA Firm

As I talk with CPA practitioners and their teams around the country, the minute QBO is mentioned (QuickBooks Online), the whining begins. I’m talking serious whining here!

I think you know by now, I am here to convey honesty and insight into the world of CPA firm management. I try to offer solutions and alternatives to every issue. That’s why I am addressing this QBO issue.

For years and years I have heard anguish and pain about the different “versions” of QB and how difficult it is to keep CPA firm clients on the most recent version of QB. Some firms report that they must keep a significant number of QB versions active on their servers just to serve the clients. Some firms have even adopted a policy to force all clients to stay current on versions.

All of that, of course, would be solved with an online version and the phasing out of all desktop versions. That is what Intuit is doing.

It doesn’t seem to be going so well, so far.  Users and practitioners are stirred-up and very negative. The most positive comment I have heard about QBO  is “Well, it has its limitations.”

Please note, I am not a user. I cannot do anything but communicate what I am hearing and reading and offer possible solutions.

As with most issues involving significant change, people (users) will get used to it. But, for now, this move to the cloud does not seem like an enjoyable experience.

Yesterday on AccountingWeb, Nate Stewart wrote, “Why QuickBooks’ Cloud Bet Matters To Everyone.” He notes that Intuit says, “QuickBooks Online is the future and it’s better to go with the tide than against it.”

Here’s a review by PC Magazine and it compares similar products.

When I read articles like these online, I always view the comments (I urge you to do the same). Sometimes they are very insightful. One comment seemed to be aligned with what I actually hear from CPA firm users, “With 15 years experience using Quickbooks both online and PC/MAC versions, I can honestly say avoid the online version like the plague.”

I’m sure it will get better, so be patient but I also recommend exploring options like Xero and others.

  • "Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day."
  • A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Reminder About CPACA Succession Survey

CPA_LogoThis week, things at your firm just might be a little less hectic than they have been in recent weeks.

Back in September, I invited firms to respond to a survey that is being conducted to determine how partners in CPA firms view their firm’s ability to address the succession of their partners primarily as they approach retirement.

Because of the fall tax due dates, we are offering extended time to complete the survey. Thanks so much to those of you who have already completed the survey and for all others, now you have more time! The survey will now close on October 31.

The survey consists of 15 short, simple statements to which respondents will enter their level of agreement. It should take no more than 10 minutes to complete. We will be releasing our findings in the form of an article that will include ideas and practical advice your firm can apply. All survey participants who supply us with contact information will receive a copy of the article as well as access to interviews we are doing with CPA firm leaders and emerging leaders.

Here is a link to where you can complete the survey.

 

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

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

It’s Bigger Than Engaging Your People

Okay, so you know I love quotations. I am not a purest about them…. I realize there are many mis-quotes out there or pure quotes attributed to the wrong person. That doesn’t bother me a great deal. If I find a few words that inspire me, make the think or even cause me to take action – that’s good enough for me. Some even inspire me to write a blog post for people working at CPA firms!

“Love life. Engage in it. Give it all you’ve got. Love it with a passion because life truly does give back, many times over, what you put into it.” – – Maya Angelou

In my work with accountants (CPAs), I often find that to them… work is life. They truly love their work. They can be completely absorbed and captivated by a tax issue. They can become obsessed with the organization, planning and carrying-out of an audit.

Of course, I am speaking in generalities. They love their work with a passion. But, do they love life with a passion? Many enjoy amazing monetary pay-back for their efforts and passion for work. But is that engaging in life? I know many who never take all of their vacation time. Many who never read fiction or biographies for enjoyment. They are too busy.

I have been consistent in my message to accountants about engaging their people. People like to work for people they like. People come to like people they know.

How involved are you, as a CPA firm leader and role model, with the people who work for you and your firm?

Succession planning, strategic planning, practice growth, partner unity – and even more issues facing CPA firm leaders could be solved if leaders were more engaged with their people and their peers.

People (the best talent) would stay with firms and become owners in the future if they felt engaged with leaders who demonstrate that they are engaged in life.

  • "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude."
  • Maya Angelou

Monday, October 20th, 2014

The Chairman of PwC – Insight On Engaging The Millennials

Bob Moritz, the Chairman of PwC, in an article via Harvard Business Review, talks about how the firm has changed and what they must now do to engage (and retain) their young, Millennial workforce.

I have been attempting to help CPAs better understand Millennials for almost a decade and I believe that many CPA firm leaders have embraced proven trends in hiring and keeping top talent (which are Millennials and many of them female).

I think you will find Moritz’s comments very interesting – I know most of you keep an eye on what the Big Four are doing.

Some tidbits from Mr Moritz follow…. but please read the entire article here.

  • Things have definitely changed in the three decades I have been with the firm.
  • Bigger bonuses and promotions went to those who sacrificed more of their personal lives, whereas our current HR policies primarily reward quality and value the work and life needs of every person.
  • Millennials are vocal and extremely globally oriented – they know and care much more about what’s going on all over the world than I did at their age.
  • PwC’s Millennials don’t only demand to know the organization’s purpose – its reason for being – but are prepared to leave the firm if that purpose doesn’t align with their own values.

PwC studied their Millennials and have made significant changes in their HR practices. PwC Boomers accepted the notion of making partner as the reward and justification for years of long hours in service to clients. But their current studies revealed that the allure of someday becoming partner is no longer enough to spark high levels of engagement.

Again, follow the link and read the article – it is very interesting and informative.

 

  • "I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples."
  • Mother Teresa

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

Lighten-Up It Is The Weekend – Enjoy This Wonderful Performance

Last weekend our granddaughter spent a couple days with us. As is our tradition when she and/or her brother visit, we have Popcorn Movie Night. Of course, they pick the movie and often bring their own along. For our movie viewing, since her brother wasn’t along, she picked the 25th Anniversary presentation of Phantom of the Opera at Royal Albert Hall, filmed in 2011. We had never seen it. Andrew Lloyd Weber comes out on stage at the end and reminisces.

We have seen Phantom live a couple of times and of course, the movie. But this anniversary performance was truly wonderful. Ramin Karimloo played the phantom. I hate to admit it, but I think he does a better job than Michael Crawford (the original).

This weekend, enjoy this unique performance by Karimloo singing Let Him Live from Les Miserables.

 

  • "When going to the opera, don't sit under the chandelier."

Friday, October 17th, 2014

We All Know Some Unpleasant Women

I recently read an HBR blog that examined why some women negotiate better than others.

Women who do negotiate well and become successful (and equally paid as men) usually are tagged as “too pushy.” If you have been in the business world for a few years, I imagine you have observed this first-hand or even experienced it yourself.

It seems, according to the research, that women who succeed in challenging careers have a personality trait by which they regard their two “selves” – their professional identity and their gender identity – not as in conflict but as fundamentally compatible.

One bit of information in the article intrigued me and helped me to realize that I have actually observed it with successful women leaders – – –

…one of the most successful women in Silicon Valley, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, endorses findings by Mary Sue Coleman that women who get ahead are “relentlessly pleasant”.

Along the way in my many years working in public accounting, I have observed that aggressive, demanding men are often admired and that aggressive, demanding women are not.

I even received advice that disappointed me but at the time, but learned it was very true.

A very high-profile, author and consultant to professional service firms told me, face-to-face (when I inquired as to how to continue and improve upon being a non-CPA leader inside my firm) “You will never be their equal or have respect for your leadership skills because you are not a CPA.”

Another very successful, high-profile consultant to CPA firms (a male who facilitated a partner retreat for us) counseled me off and on as I progressed. He told me, “Partners hate to take orders from women.” I think this one can be translated to mean – men hate to take orders from women.

I pretty much ignored this kind of advice and kept on being “relentlessly pleasant” — most of the time, with an occasional relapse.

As I progressed in my career over many years, I found more success if I simply took the advice of my mother: “You can catch more bees with honey than vinegar.

  • "I always prefer to believe the best of everybody, it saves so much trouble."
  • Rudyard Kipling

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Productivity Hack of the Week

Fast-Company-Logo“To help you work smarter instead of harder, we’re hitting you with a productivity hack each Friday. Check out our hacks here.” – – this is from Fast Company.

If you are confused by the word hack, used in this context, learn more here.

I thought the Productivity Hack Of The Week for October 10, 2014 just might interest many accountants working in public accounting. You know…. the place where in most firms you track every single minute of your day! (Except for the very progressive firms where they have embraced the value pricing model.) Of course, whether you are tracking time or not – you can end up wasting a lot of time browsing the web.

Taking a Facebook break or reading a few blogs that you follow everyday (and find helpful… hopefully like mine), can still be good for you and also be productive, within limits. It is still very clear that there is only so much time you can spend with these browsing activities.

That is why, when I read about how to track how much time you waste, I thought it would certainly pique your interest.

There is an app that runs in the background while you work on your computer or smartphone that tracks each second you spend on applications and websites and gives you weekly reports and data based on your activity.

Then there is another app that helps you, after you have decided how much time you want to cut back (a productivity extension for Google Chrome) that allows you to restrict the amount of time you can spend on time-wasting websites. If you lack self-control completely and need to put yourself on a productivity lock down, you can block specific sites completely using Chrome.

All this is interesting. I need to dig a little deeper and see if it could benefit me. I know that I get sucked into reading a post and following a link, then another link and end up reading, reading, reading….. which is good for my knowledge and expertise but I often have other more important priorities!

As mentioned above, Fast Company provides a productivity hack every week – read them here.

  • "Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work."
  • Stephen King

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Just Another Due Date

IMG_4340I guess you could call it the last major tax return due date of the year for certified public accountants.

Most business people are well aware that March 15th is the tax due date for corporate tax returns, April 15th is the due date for individual income tax returns. The filing of corporate returns can be extended until September 15 and individual returns until October 15. This creates a very busy time inside most CPA firms leading up to 3/15 and 4/15 and another (mini busy season) leading up to 9/15 and 10/15.

Working with and talking to CPAs across the country (and the people who work for them), I hear so much frustration and observe an immense amount of finger-pointing about why these due dates cause so much stress and unhappiness.

Yet, I find bright spots! I also hear (a very few) stories about Mary or John (partner in the firm) who never has to work so many extra hours as a due date approaches nor do they put excessive demands on the people who help them deliver client services.

What has Mary or John done differently than their other partners?

Simple. They trained their clients. 

I have seen it happen first-hand. It is possible.

  • "It's easier to go down a hill than up it, but the view is much better at the top."
  • Henry Ward Beecher

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Status Quo Could Mean Failure

cpa logoI admire CPAs. They are smart, professional, traditional, conservative and cautious when making decisions. They have manners. That says a lot these days!

I only wish they would welcome change. When I work with CPA firm leaders, I often advise…. “It’s time to stir the pot.” I imagine you get the picture. The managing partner usually replies enthusiastically, “You are right!”

In the world of public accounting, if you are not growing, you are shrinking. Status quo eventually leads to failure.

Observe your surroundings. CPA firms are growing again. CPA firms are hiring again… continually seeking top talent (they want your people!). CPA firms are offering services in different ways than they have ever done in the past. CPA firms are investing in niches and becoming well-known for their expertise.

If you are slow to embrace current trends and to make necessary changes, this excerpt from a Seth Godin blog post might apply to you very soon:

“The thing is: failure almost always arrives in a whimper. It is almost always the result of missed opportunities, a series of bad choices and the rust that comes from things gradually getting worse.”

  • "Desire is what takes the hot water of mediocrity and turns it into the steam of outstanding success."
  • Zig Ziglar