Monday, April 27th, 2015

One Of The Youngest CPAs

It’s amazing what you might accomplish if you work hard and pursue your dreams.

I enjoy success stories and was fascinated as I read about Belicia Cespedes, CPA. She’s 17 years old and passed the CPA exam last summer.

After graduating from high school at 13, Belicia took a QuickBooks course and enjoyed bookkeeping so much she decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree and study accounting.

As of January 8, 2015, she became the youngest voting member of the AICPA.

Be sure you are challenging and coaching the youngest members of your CPA team. They do not want to be ignored; they crave your attention. Who knows what they might accomplish.

Read more about this amazing young lady’s story on the AICPA site.

  • "The person who is waiting for something to turn up might start with their shirt sleeves."
  • Garth Henrichs

Friday, April 24th, 2015

Beginner At Your Firm? How To Get Noticed.

No excusesMaybe you just joined the firm and maybe you have just survived your first busy season. Are you getting noticed? Are you being assigned to some high-profile clients? Are you being sought out to work with the managers and partners who seem to “get it”?

It’s always important to make a good first impression and often inside CPA firms it might take a year to do that. You might think it is safe to keep your head down and grind through the work. That’s what you have heard gets your noticed by the partners. That’s part of it but not the most important part.

You want the partners and managers to notice you. What I have heard, time and time again from partners, is that they can teach bright, new people accounting and tax, but they want more than that.

Be visible, friendly and respectful – Ask questions but don’t interrupt them constantly. Don’t shy away from a partner when you have a chance to just be friendly.

Pay attention. Be a good listener – Out of the starting gate, don’t get the reputation of “being glued to her mobile device.” Seek conversations and advice where you can look them in the eye and soak it all in.

No matter what you think – how you look matters (especially in public accounting). – Looking professional is one of the easy things you can do to help bridge the generation gap with Boomers and Xers. No, you don’t have to wear a coat and tie (or a pantsuit) to look professional.

Speak-up in meetings. – If you are in a training session inside the firm, don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for more detailed instructions, if you need them.

Show them that millennials are not afraid of hard work. – This is a big misconception with Boomers and GenXers. Research has shown that millennials are willing to devote extraordinary efforts to their work – they just want to do it differently with more flexibility. Explain how you feel and show them with results.

Ask them questions about building your career. – This will show them that you value their experience and want to make the most of being a CPA. If your firm doesn’t have an official mentoring program, informally seek one out. Pick the one you think can help you the most and just ask them.

Be prepared. – Yes, the old Boy Scout motto. Be ready to discuss the review comments you receive on your work. Speak clearly and concisely. Use eye contact and show that you are confident and are willing to absorb feedback and advice.

Be Genuine – This one applies every day. The best possible way to win people over, regardless of their age, is to be yourself. Find ways to open dialogue with all the different partners and managers. Absorb their good habits and build on yours.

  • "Learn how to be happy with what you have while you pursue all that you want."
  • Jim Rohn

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Koltin’s Top Ten Holdbacks

IMG_2335You probably saw it via Accounting Today, but it is worth repeating here (with my own editorial comments). It’s Allan Koltin’s Top Ten Things That Are Holding CPA Firm Back.

You have little or no capital to re-invest in the firm.

My take:  Sometimes I think it doesn’t even occur to partners to leave some money in the firm to invest in the future. This is one of those things that should happen if you want to be a future-ready firm.

Your firm is too eager to accept clients.

My take:  This is where CPAs get themselves in a squirrel cage. They work like crazy to serve clients that are not in one of their niches and have little future value. Also, they are not eager enough to out-place the D-level clients.  Document and commit to a client acceptance policy!

The wrong mix of client service staff.

My take:  I am completely in agreement with Koltin on this one – nothing to add (partners doing manager work, managers doing senior work, seniors looking for work and no one doing partner work)

Too much autonomy – or too little.

My take:  Partner definitely pick and choose which policies and procedures they will follow. Firms that are future-ready have partners on the same page (or they go elsewhere).

Not enough emphasis on practice growth.

My take:  The firm has one or two rainmakers they have relied upon for years. They are retiring and no one left behind is comfortable with rainmaking or even knows where to begin. There is a practice growth role for every person in the firm. “We are a marketing firm that does accounting work!”

Not enough emphasis on profitability.

My take:  “We have to keep that rude, messy, slow-paying client. They pay us $75,000 per year!”  (Even though we write-off $25,000 – $30,000).

Not enough young super stars.

My take:  Often you have them inside your firm but you have not identified them and invested in them because you might hurt an average performer’s feelings. You have to be constantly hiring.

Autocratic leadership – or not enough.

My take:  Firms need to not only invest in young super stars, they need to continually invest in partners and managers.  No one is too old to learn something new or significantly improve their current skills.

Too many unproductive partners or staff.

My take (tongue in cheek):  People in CPA firms would not have to work much overtime at all during tax season if they actually worked 8 or 9 hours per day and didn’t chat too much, get coffee too often, talk about non-work topics, gossip and arrive at the office on time without bringing their breakfast to fix and eat in the lunch room.

Partners aren’t on the same page.

Partners are comfortable. They don’t want to take a chance with upsetting the apple cart by pointing out some partners’ deficiencies.

Visit the Accounting Today site to read Koltin’s comments on each topic.

  • "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving."
  • Albert Einstein

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Millennials Are No Longer Something New To Worry About

Millennials are now mature, experienced and ready to take control.

I have been talking about Millennials for years and urging Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers to embrace them, nurture them and learn from them.

There is some great information for CPA firm leaders in this article on Forbes.  Here’s an excerpt:

Companies have also felt the pressure by millennials to evolve, especially because about one in every three employees in the U.S. will be a millennial by next year, and by 2025 they will become 75 percent of the global workforce.  At some companies, such as EY, millennials already make up 60% of their workforce. Technology has ended the nine to five workday, crushed global communication barriers and create transparent offices. They have forced companies to rethink flexibility, meetings and cubicles. They also believe that business should focus on a societal purpose, not just be in business to make a profit. This is why you see so many millennial become social entrepreneurs or support their local non-profit – they always need to feel like they are touching someone and making an impact, regardless of their job title.

Accounting firms have always recruited on college campuses, sought out the young career beginners to become part of the CPA firm team. Be sure your firm is taking advantage of the millennial goldmine you already have.

  • "It takes a very long time to become young."
  • Pablo Picasso

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

Who Is Responsible? Who Owns That Project?

A while back, when I was reading: My Name Is Mary Sutter: A Novel, one passage spoke volumes to me.

“There is nothing so exasperating as a confused chain of command.”

Does this strike a cord with you as a CPA firm leader… partner… manager… team member?

Many firms seem to lack focus when it comes to establishing a chain-of-command. Some partner groups govern as a committee. Most partner groups govern by consensus. If you have ever been part of a committee you know how slowly things move and how much time is wasted on endless discussions. If you have had the task of gaining complete consensus you also know how frustrating that can be.

Even if the formal management structure is not a committee, client service partners want to be involved in all of the “management” decisions, even things as small as the weight of the paper that is selected for firm letterhead. Yes, it’s 2015 and I still hear these stories!

As more senior partners retire and firms transition to new leadership (a new managing partner), I hope they will better define the chain of command and the organizational structure of the firm. I’ve gone into several firms where it can be described as “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing”.

Consider a firm governance model that is shared throughout the firm.

Publish a firm Champion List. It is a guide that identifies the go-to person for expert advice on each software package used at the firm or for each segment and discipline inside the firm.

Lay-out a simple organizational chart that shows the chain-of-command and where each person “fits” in the firm. It helps newcomers and even more experienced team members understand where the firm administrator fits or how the partner group governs itself. An org chart can be helpful in large firms and small firms alike.

  • "Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way."
  • General George Patton

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Vault Releases It’s Annual Accounting 50 Ranking of Firms

Here are a few headlines from Vault’s press release:

  • For the third straight year PwC ranks No. 1 in the Accounting 50—a ranking of the firms deemed “best to work for.” PwC also ranks No. 1 in Prestige for the seventh straight year.
  • Quality of life for accountants is getting better. At the Big 4 and across the industry, ratings in workplace categories such as hours, work/life balance, compensation, and overall satisfaction are rising. This underscores recent moves by the Big 4—PwC, EY, Deloitte, and KPMG—to create more congenial work environments for their employees.
  • Armanino and Plante Moran are the big winners in our Quality of Life categories, earning six No. 1 rankings each. California-based Armanino takes the top spot in Compensation, Hours, and Overall Satisfaction, among other categories. Michigan-based Plante Moran’s No. 1 rankings come in Work/Life Balance and Firm Culture, among others.

The Top 10 firms in the Vault Accounting 50 based on Vault’s annual Accounting Survey are:

  1. PricewaterhouseCoopers
  2. EY
  3. Deloitte
  4. KPMG
  5. Grant Thornton
  6. BDO USA
  7. McGladrey
  8. Plante Moran
  9. Moss Adams
  10. Crowe Horwath


Click here to see the entire list.

  • "Winning is not everything, but the effort to win is."
  • Zig Ziglar

Saturday, April 18th, 2015

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend!

Actually, this is rather depressing.

We used to walk down the street and actually smile at people. I bet you know many people who need these texting hats. You can’t buy one but their site tells you how to make your own.

Lighten-up, smile at someone you don’t know today, it’s the weekend.

  • "Don't be yourself - be someone nicer."
  • Mignon McLaughlin

Friday, April 17th, 2015

AICPA Announces A New Resource For Small Business Owners

Most of your firm’s clients probably fall into the category of “small business.”  As you well know, these companies need lots of on-going support and guidance from their CPA.

The AICPA has launched a microsite: to help these millions of small businesses around the country.  The new site is FULL of valuable videos and resource guides beneficial to both new and experienced small business owners.

Be sure to check out the informational videos page. I especially like – Why a CPA! page.

Share this resource with your entire team and have them spread the word to your valuable clients.

  • "If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else."
  • Booker T. Washington

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Yes, CPAs Can Become Famous – @SportsTaxMan

I always remember the story from management consulting guru David Maister about his early days at Harvard. He was young and inexperienced and was trying to find his path to success. His boss didn’t rush him or pressure him but finally one day asked a simple questions that led to success, “What do you want to be famous for?”

Maister classified partners in a CPA firm into 3 categories: Dynamos, Cruisers and a few Losers. He noted that you would expect accounting firms to be a hotbed of skill building.  But in his observation, that is not the case.

When it comes to partners, he found only 10 – 20% could be labeled “Dynamos” – always working to learn something new, continually building their practices in new and challenging areas. The rest of the partners, except for a very few incompetents, are Cruisers who work hard, do good work and take care of their clients but they don’t stand out as special talents.

Where do you fit? Where do your partners fit? The managing partners needs to ask each individual partner, “What do you want to be famous for?” and work with them to get there.

Robert_RaiolaRobert Raiola of O’Connor Davies is my favorite example. He’s famous for helping high net worth individuals in sports or entertainment deal with taxes. He began tweeting as @SportsTaxMan several years ago and now is often quoted by Sports Illustrated and appears on various television outlets. He’s become famous as a sports tax man.  Click here to see his latest Yahoo News spot about Jordan Spieth and his Masters winnings.

Next, contemplate what you could be famous for. Maybe you are ContractorTaxMan, NonProfitAuditLady or DentistAccountingGuru.


  • "The way you get rich is don't get sucked into doing dumb stuff for people you don't like."
  • David Maister

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

Look In The Mirror

IMG_4840There are many “bosses” inside a public accounting firm.

You, as a beginner and even as a manager, work for all the partners – that could mean 10 or 12 bosses (or more). Almost every manager, and senior, boss other people. Perhaps even the first-year team members boss the interns.

What kind of boss are you?

I saw a stat this week that was troubling. 65% of the workforce would choose a new boss over a raise. Also, a majority of workers trust a stranger more than their boss.

Thank goodness, I don’t think it is quite this depressing in the CPA profession, however, you need to pay attention if you are a boss. Accounting firms are frantically looking for good people. If you are not a good boss, if you are not encouraging, if you are not friendly, if you are not a good mentor, if you are not a good listener…. younger people will leave. Others are contacting them everyday to win them away from your firm.

If you hear comments like, “You can always talk to Bill, but don’t ever interrupt Ted.” Deal with it.

Retaining people is a top priority. I mean top performers. Sometimes firing poor performers is a great retention action, even if you have to search for a replacement. It tells your top performers that you are a high-performing firm focused on growth so there will be room for advancement.

If people leave your firm after busy season, look in the mirror.

  • "By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day."
  • Robert Frots