Saturday, December 20th, 2014

Lighten-Up – Here’s How You Get In The Christmas Spirit!

A 30 year tradition coming to an endDarlene Love singing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) on the David Letterman Show. Now, we’re rockin’ – Wow!  If you don’t feel good after this there is something seriously wrong.

  • "The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live."
  • George Carlin

Friday, December 19th, 2014

The Good Old Days Are Now – Busy Season Survival Tips

Photo on 12-19-14 at 6.40 AMEarlier this fall, I was delighted when Corey Butler, Communications Coordinator for the Minnesota Society of CPAs contacted me to write an article for their Footnote magazine.

Corey asked if I could share ideas with their readers on creative ways to shed some of that stress that builds during busy season. I have found that CPA firms are very active and creative when it comes to showing their appreciation and helping their teams make it through the busiest time of the year.

I like to say, “the good old days are now” because when I began my career in public accounting, we received one “goody bag” from a local bank (it contained headache medicine, mints, gum and the like) and we were treated to lunch at the country club on April 16th. Of course, we made progress! I was so proud as the firm grew and expanded over the years and became the “cool” CPA firm to work for in our market. Like many firms, we realized the value of retaining top talent.

Thanks to many of my clients and friends for contributing to the article by sharing their activities with me. Also thanks, to Carolyn LaViolette, Communications Manager at MNCPA for sending me some copies of the magazine.

Want some good ideas for this busy season? You can read the article here.

  • "Our best thoughts come from others."
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Association For Accounting Administration Paperless Survey – Due Friday!

Every year the Association for Accounting Administration conducts a survey assessing the evolving trends in paperless operations inside CPA firms.

Attention, firm administrators and other AAA members – the cut-off for participating in the survey is Friday, December 19th. Here is the link for the survey.

AAA Vice President, Jim Fahey, shares why it is important and has an idea on how to deliver returns in a paperless manner. Be sure to watch until the end!

  • "You haven't seen a tree until you have seen its shadow from the sky."
  • Amelia Earhart

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Tired Of Seeing A Tree or A Bird?

I still enjoy receiving holiday cards – paper and digital. I am especially delighted when I can tell that someone actually took time to provide a card that is creative and represents their personalities.

So many Christmas and Holiday cards depict a beautiful scene, thus… a tree or a bird. Yes, I love trees and birds but how about something more unique (and fun).  It might be too late this year BUT prepare for next December and design a card that will delight your clients and referral sources.

Here’s the card sent out by my friends at Moore Stephens North AmericaSteve and Alexandra.

Very cool.

steve alex

  • "There are no strangers here; only friends you haven't met."
  • William Butler Yeats

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

Significant Change

Quite often, I address the unwillingness for many accounting firm leaders to accept change. In fact, many of you, as CPAs,  might be tiring of me nagging you about it. I don’t plan to stop asking you to embrace change any time soon!

Notice that today’s title is SIGNIFICANT change. That’s what many CPA practitioners are facing now and in the future.

This quote from Tom Peters, is important for CPA firm leaders to contemplate:

“Gamers’ instinctively ‘get’ the idea of lot of trials, lots of errors, as fast as possible; for this reason among many, ‘the revolution’ is/will be to a very significant degree led by youth.”

In many firms, the percentage of younger CPAs is growing and becoming more demanding. Eventually, they will force change. I hope this happens before too many of them exit public accounting.

  • "The journey is the reward."
  • Chinese proverb

Monday, December 15th, 2014

Solution to Succession – “Sell Out”

I was reading the story on Crain’s Chicago Business about a smaller firm “selling out.”

The MP and his partner are nearing retirement and no one at the firm was ready to take over. Sound familiar?

They talked to a similar size firm (15 people) and decided that a combination wouldn’t solve their problem. So they “sold out” to a firm about six times bigger than their firm.

A common story, you say. Yes, that’s right.

Todd Shapiro, president and CEO of the Illinois Society was quoted: “If you don’t have your succession plan by age 50, you’re going to sell your firm.” Just think how many firms are in this boat!

Here’s the part, from the managing partner of the smaller firm, that made me sad. I have heard similar comments by scores of small firm MPs.

The managing partner says he not only expects to adjust to his new role as one member of  the larger firms 13-person partner group, but he also welcomes the chance to focus on client work rather than management. “I’m not going to miss it,” he says.

My wish is that more CPA firm managing partners would make a heroic effort to learn more about management, read more about management, experiment with exciting trends, learn from their mistakes, engage with their people, quickly make decisions for “the good of the firm” and come to love managing their firm and be proud of their management accomplishments.

The managing partner of the larger firm, that has acquired 10 firms in the last eight years, was quoted as saying, pertaining to finding the right acquisitions, “I kiss a lot of frogs.”  Don’t let your firm be a frog.

  • "Life is like a movie. Write your own ending."
  • Kermit the Frog

Saturday, December 13th, 2014

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – Total Cloud Inversion of Grand Canyon

A reminder for new followers, almost every weekend, I post something off-topic, interesting, humorous or even weird. Throw-off those CPA firm management shackles for a few minutes and lighten-up.

This week, on Thursday, something rare happened. The Grand Canyon nearly filled-up with clouds. It has happened before but is rare and only lasts a few minutes. Here’s a 1-minute video (no sound) recorded by the National Park Service.

When I first visited the Canyon decades ago, I was somewhat disappointed because, from the top (South Rim) the Canyon was so immense that it actually didn’t seem real to me. I felt like I was looking at a gigantic picture. Then years later I rafted (motorized raft) through the Grand Canyon for 6 days, exploring side canyons, sleeping on beaches and enjoying the thrill of the rapids. At one point, our guide said, “Look up, at this point it is one mile to the top.” That trip made it all real to me.

Here is a stunning photo taken by Maci MacPherson National Park Service.  Appreciate the wonders around you this week-end – even if it is the busyness of holiday shoppers!


  • "The earth has music for those who listen."
  • George Santayana

Friday, December 12th, 2014

AccountingWEB Live – Shocking Comment From An Accountant

Twitter_logo_blueOn Thursday December 11th, AccountingWEB hosted an event – AccountingWEB Live 2014.

Simply following the tweets and reviewing them this morning, gave me great insight and value. I say that because I want to once again stress to all CPAs, accountants and other leaders inside accounting firms – the value of Twitter.

At most of my live presentations, where I have many CPA firm leaders in the room, I ask, “How many of you are on Twitter?” Very, very few hands go up!!

One live comment from yesterday’s AccountingWEB Live was shocking:  “I’m an accountant, I don’t need to tweet anything.”  Oh, my….

Today, but tomorrow at the latest, set up a Twitter account and just READ. That’s how you begin. Follow a few people (like me @cpamanagement) and others who provide advice, education, news and even humor to the accounting profession. All the major CPA publications tweet, the AICPA tweets, your state society tweets, national and local news sources tweet. I use it to get all my news, each morning, in a quick and simple format.

Find other CPAs who are tweeting and see how they are using it to not only advise clients but to attract more.

Here’s a link to How To Set Up A Twitter Account - a few simple steps.

When you do begin tweeting, tweet meaningful stuff. The following quote is good advice.

  • "I will count to ten before tweeting."
  • Valerie Trierweiler

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Grades Or Grit

I like to work with people who have grit.

To me that means:

  • They are not hesitant to say what’s on their mind.
  • They continually give honest feedback and encouragement to those around them.
  • They don’t “walk on egg shells” because some people they work with are very sensitive or very explosive.
  • They also continually and positively push people to do their best.

When you are hiring or when you are assessing your fleet of interns to identify future hires, it is not about their GPA. Experts tell us that when a young person is about 5 years into their career, all the grades and academic credentials in the world don’t mean anything anymore.

I have observed that first-hand over my career. If you are a leader in your firm I bet you have observed it, too. So… work with that.

Leaders with grit create team of doers not talkers.

Here’s a book to use as a resource – The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success by Rich Karlgaard.

Being a Baby Boomer, when I hear the word “grit” I think of John Wayne. How about you?

  • "In the real world, smarts isn't about looking for the next star student with a 4.0 or having an IQ that can boil water. Instead, it's about the importance of hard work, of perseverance and resilience. Call it grit."
  • Rich Karlgaard, author of The Soft Edge

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

What Are Your CPA Firm Employees Saying

Glassdoor has revealed the winners of its 7th annual Employees’ Choice Awards. The awards honor the 50 Best Places to Work in 2015. While these awards are for employers with 1,000 employees or more, there are lessons to be learned by even the smallest accounting firm.

The results are entirely based on employee feedback. Here’s a sampling (click here for the entire list):

#1 – Google “Great people, great value.”

The benefits and care of employees is obviously world class, and compensation is almost unmatchable. But the company attracts some of the best talent and best people to work with in the world, which is the most important bit.

#2 – Bain & Company “Hands down awesome”

Incredible culture – people work really hard, but they enjoy doing it; Incredible people – mix of intelligence but also humility that you don’t find at the other top consulting firms; Amazing exit opportunities – the Bain network is not only big, it’s incredibly strong. Ex-Bainies will almost always help out another Bainie without fail. This is truly a remarkable place.

#3 – Nestle – “Best place I have ever worked”

The corporate culture is second to none. Strong midwestern roots, stability and friendly environment; coupled with the vast opportunities that come with an international giant parent company. There is a tremendous amount of mutual trust and respect for others within Nestle. A drawback is that no one leaves so it limits upward mobility somewhat.

#9 – McKinsey & Co. – “Rigorous focus on professional development”

No other organization places as much emphasis on professional development. It is a really amazing set of people – caring, challenging and whip smart

#22 – Apple – “Paradise of jobs”

Apple offers crazy benefits, and competitive salary. By competitive I don’t mean a couple grand more in a year, I’m talking about a 2X / 2.5X salary. This place is a sea of knowledge. Never seen a more dedicated group.

#23 – LinkedIn – “Genuinely thrilled to work here”

I work with some of the smartest, most collaborative, and humble people in the world. I relish every day I get to enjoy coming to work at LinkedIn. Great perks, but more importantly great people!

The only Big Four firm to make it was EY at #49 (out of 50).

My questions for accounting firms (and some things for you to consider):

Do you have a rigorous focus on professional development? Maybe this is why there is so much worry about succession. Why not be more generous with education dollars for your younger staff.

Have you attracted and retained the smartest (best) people? Many of the comments were appreciative of working with smart, successful, creative, hard-working people. Do the majority of your people fit this description? Do you keep too many mediocre performers?

Do your young all-stars have vast opportunities? Or, do they have to wait 10 years to become a manager?

Do you reward your best performers with salaries beyond being competitive? Or, do you try to get by with the minimum of just keeping pace with average firms?

  • "Transparency. Trust. Compassion. Food"
  • Comment about working for Facebook