Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Trust and Making Employees Feel Valued

Inside your busy accounting firm, how do your people really feel? Do they trust the firm’s leaders? Do they feel valued? Do they feel like a team…. a family?

I was watching CBS Sunday Morning last weekend and they did a segment on the challenges faced by a supermarket chain in New England when employees walked out because the boss they liked was fired by Chairman of the Board (his cousin) who wanted more money to go to shareholders and less to employees. Guess what? The employees won the battle. One of the signs carried by employees on the picket line said, “Don’t reward greed.”

But, more than that, this segment features companies that continually make the Fortune magazine 100 Best Places to Work list. These companies are consistently more profitable than other companies.   Robert Levering, one of the creators of the list says, “too many companies are mediocre.”  The segment went go on to feature Whole Foods – a company that has made the list every year since it was created in 1998 and Radio Flyer, the maker of the little red wagons.

It’s worth your time to watch this video.

I meet and talk to representatives of many, many firms every year. There are some who really work at employee engagement and many more where it’s still about chargeable time, realization and hitting deadlines.

By the way, accounting firm Plante Moran has made the list for 16 years. In 2014, they rank #23, up from #25 in 2013.

Gallup estimates that actively disengaged employees cost U.S. businesses up to $550 billion dollars per year. Gallup says that only 3 out of 10 employees are engaged.

I like the story in the video about the Radio Flyer wagon company.  They ask employees to live by the Little Red Rule: Every time we touch people’s lives they will feel great about Radio Flyer.

Their employees, called Flyers, have a good time (fun and games). But, the point is to make sure that nothing gets in the way of the business of fun and games.

So, think about your firm. Do your team members think the partners are greedy? (I have heard this mentioned numerous times among groups of CPA firm employees.)  Do your team member feel like they get enough recognition? Many simply want to hear the words “thank you” more often.

I have always thought that accounting firms really are great places to work. However, I think owners need to be more open and active in engaging their workforce and focusing on positives and downplaying the negatives.

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

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend

On the weekend, think about different things and try new things. Put those Excel spreadsheets and tax projections out of your mind and look at the world from a new viewpoint.

Here’s a science experiment to try with your kids.

  • "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny...'"
  • Isaac Asimov

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Look Around

After this weekend, accounting firms will roll into mini-busy-season, dealing with all of those corporate extensions that have lagged since spring.

When you arrive at the office on Tuesday, take note of the people you hang-out with at work. Maybe even the people who sit nearby.

It’s almost like school. If you sit with the goof-offs, you become like them and adopt an “I don’t care” attitude. You just get-by with doing the minimum required.

If you are surrounded by people who keep focused, work quickly, are friendly yet don’t waste time, they are probably the ones going home at 5:30 rather than burning the midnight oil to hit the deadline. They are also the ones getting the best assignments.

Choosing who you want to be at work also flows downward to those watching you. What do they see? Who do they want to be around?

  • "Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them"
  • James Baldwin

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

CPA Firm Practice Management Newsletter

Newsletter pictureMy newsletter went out yesterday. Did you get your copy?

It’s official name is “Solutions For CPA Firm Leaders” but I’m rethinking that.

I like to call it CPA MAP Talk (with Rita Keller).

Why? Because my newsletter, this blog (every business day for almost 10 years), my business Facebook page (and some of my personal page), My Google+ posts, my tweets, my LinkedIn posts and the message in all my in-person presentations is all about MAP.

By the way, how are you doing with Managing an Accounting Practice?

I hear stories. Oh boy, do I hear stories!! Many of you are puzzled, confused, stressed, disgusted – yet… passionate, determined, ambitious and caring.

I hope you will sign-up for my newsletter and follow me on the other venues. I lived through what you are living through. Never a dull moment when you are dealing with MAP. Believe it or not, most of what you are experiencing (successes and challenges) haven’t changed that much over my many years working in the profession – that’s what makes me sad. Use all of these free resources to help you PUSH your firm forward.

Twitter – @cpamanagement

Facebook – business page

Facebook – I have lots of personal and business FRIENDS.



Instagram (mostly for fun).

Also, check out my Flickr page. Click on Albums to find “Is That You With Rita?” Maybe you will see a picture of YOU.


As Margaret Mead said:


  • "We all agree that your theory is crazy, but is it crazy enough?"
  • Niels Bohr

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

WTTMSW – Do You Remember What This Means?

I talk about WTTMSW during many of my presentations. It is a Tom Peters’ thing – Whoever Tries The Most Stuff Wins – - I’ve blogged about it before.

When you are facing challenges inside your growing accounting firm, I urge you to try things, experiment, test it! So what if it fails, you simply say, “Oh, well – that didn’t work, let’s try something else!”  The most successful CPA firms are always exploring new ways to accomplish their goals.

Right now there is a huge challenge facing firms – We need people! is the battle cry and firms are working diligently to hire top talent.

I received an email from my friends at Wiss & Company, a large New Jersey-based accounting firm. They are hiring, just like most CPA firms I know. Yet, they are trying something different. They are offering a reward to all their contacts.  Here’s a copy of the email:
















They have it on their website, too.

Karma webpage












At your firm, are you coming up with creative ways to find great talent? Are you experimenting with new and different ideas to enhance efficiency, improve communication and RETAIN top talent?  If not, get busy!

Also, check out the Periodic Table from their website.


  • "A person's mind is stretched by a new idea or sensation, and never shrinks back to its former dimensions."
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Roman’s Eight IT Trends Impacting CPA Firms

Roman RalphIf you are a member of The Association For Accounting Administration, you know Roman Kepczyk. One of the most common phrases I have heard AAA members say is, “I love Roman!”  So do I.

Roman has been advising CPA firms on technology topics and needs for many years and when I visit a firm they usually tell me: “Roman has been here.”

Via the AAA newsletter Roman has published 2014 information about 8 trends for CPA firms:

  1. Cloud Apps/Hybridization
  2. Mobility
  3. BYOD
  4. Learning/Collaboration
  5. Globalization
  6. Big Data/Little Data
  7. Workflow Integration
  8. Security by Design

Read the full article and learn about each of these trends.

That’s a throwback picture of Roman and Ralph Hendrix at an AAA National Practice Management conference quite a few years back. Ralph is a past National President of AAA and is the COO of  MACPAGE in Portland, Maine.

  • "Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life."
  • Mark Twain

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Did You Set Goals For 2014? How’s That Going For You?

It’s almost September. We are entering the third trimester of yearly CPA firm life.

  • First Trimester – Busy season (the I don’t delegate very well season)
  • Second Trimester – Recover season (performance reviews, vacations and CPE season)
  • Third Trimester – Gear-up season (end extension season and get ready for busy season)

Somewhere during these seasons you set some goals for yourself. For partners it is usually on a calendar year and for employees it is probably on a “performance” year – May thru April.

I rarely talk to a firm where goal-setting is not part of everyone’s performance plan. The challenge I notice is not the ability to set goals, it’s the ability to achieve them. One of the “seasons” noted above always gets in the way. The usual excuse is “I’m too busy.”

Want to explore your goal-setting approach. Visit Mindtools and take their short goal-setting quiz to learn about some of the obstacles that can get in your way.

  • "If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else."
  • Yogi Berra

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – Coffee Artistry

IMG_1155On a trip to Costa Rica a couple of years ago I experienced my first cappuccino with “art” on top. I was thrilled. Isn’t it amazing, sometimes, how some little thing can make you smile and feel good (remember that inside your CPA firm).

Here’s a picture of my coffee from the cafe at the Humming Bird Sanctuary in Costa Rica.

Lighten-up this weekend and check out this post on Fast Company titled, “#FastFoam: Your Latte Art, By Request“.

Next week, invite one of your valuable team members to join you for a cup of coffee and have an informal chat. Don’t talk about work. This weekend – CPAs – relax enjoy life – have your favorite beverage and take time to THINK.


  • "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."
  • Albert Einstein

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

As A Leader You Worry About Others – But Don’t Forget Yourself!

SWOT Analysis WorksheetKA

Whether you are an actual owner, principal, firm administrator, marketing director, HR director or a talented up-and-comer inside your CPA firm, the fact that you are following this blog means that you deeply care, and worry about the firm, the client and your team members. But what about YOU, personally?

Many of us in CPA firm management are servant leaders; we think of others first. That is what makes us good at what we do. I firmly believe that we should all put the good of the firm above any one person or group of people. If the firm does well, we all do well.

That being said, I also believe that YOU must not forget about each individual and their career success. Most progressive CPA firms have worked through a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats), crafted a vision statement and documented beliefs to live by.

Have you, as a leader in your firm, done this personally? This is something I sometimes use in my individual coaching sessions and you can do it for yourself. Give it a try and see what develops. You might identify and clarify a path to where YOU are going and how you are going to get there.

Each person, no matter what their level inside a CPA firm, that continually improves their performance helps the firm to continually move forward and become more successful and an engaging place to work.

If you need a sample form (matrix) to use, just let me know.

  • "If someone is going down the wrong road, he doesn't need motivation to speed him up. What he needs is education to turn him around."
  • Jim Rohn

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Suffer In Silence. In Accounting Firms We Need More Talking.

New revised slides to useNow is the time to take care of your talented CPAs.

As usual, I am hearing some scary stories about the lack of communication inside accounting firms.

In the summer months and into the fall, many firms are in the midst of performance evaluation/feedback sessions and salary increases.

Notice I said “summer months and into the fall” meaning that it takes WAY TOO LONG in most firms for this process to play-out. It’s time to speed-up this process.

I am reading a lot about doing away with the formal annual performance reviews and holding managers accountable for on-going feedback, mentoring and coaching of employees. Please note that this isn’t happening in many CPA firms. The reason: partners and managers have not been well-trained nor held accountable for the performance of people they supervise.

The real story often goes like this:

  • In May, several supervisors/managers/partners are asked to rate specific employees.
  • Most of these “evaluators” have to be reminded and nagged so that the information is actually accumulated.
  • In June, performance meetings are to be scheduled and the feedback presented to the individual employees.
  • Some meetings get scheduled, then postponed.
  • Some meetings don’t get scheduled at all (waiting on the bosses to review everything, etc.)
  • Before you know it Fall has arrived.

Meanwhile, the employees talk among themselves, wondering about the feedback. Rarely does any team member speak-up and ask the partners (bosses) what’s going on… why the delay?

Meanwhile, the bosses (partners/managers) are too busy to get to the evaluations and never explain why they are delayed or when they will actually happen.

Employees shy away from speaking-up. Partners shy away from speaking-out.

Silence happens.

After the CPA employee suffers in silence for too long or too often – they leave the firm.

  • "Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worse kind of suffering."
  • Paulo Coelho