Thursday, October 27th, 2016

Run Your Firm Like A Business

“Insecurity expresses itself as a need to know everything.” – Dan Rockwell (Leadership Freak)

As firms grow, things must change.

Years ago we urged firms to move to a more formal managing partner and firm administrator led firm.

In those days, every partner had to be involved in every decision. I can remember hearing consultants and other speakers lamenting that it took four partners to decide which photocopier to purchase, which local courier service to use or which type of bond paper to be used at the firm!

As a partner, do you still have a strong need to know EVERYTHING that is happening in the management/operational side of the firm?

Is it because of a lack of trust? Is it because you want to second guess specific decisions? Is it because the MP and FA are not communicating effectively? Is it because you don’t have the right people in those roles?

I certainly hope you are not insecure.

Discuss and decide on a policy that gives the MP/FA control over certain decisions and identify the few instances where every partner has to be involved. It is a step toward truly running your firm like a real business.

  • "Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great."
  • John D. Rockefeller

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

Forget About The Goof-Ups.

“Inspiration does not come to me, I go halfway to meet it.” – Sigmund Freud

Many of you working at accounting firms have recently been through some sort of performance feedback process. While I urge firm leaders to provide feedback more frequently, most still have a once-a-year, larger, more significant feedback session.

While these sessions are supposed to happen in May or June, they usually get delayed and are often not wrapped up until September. These conversations almost always focus on what you can improve. That’s a good thing to know and it should be valuable information for you to receive. Hopefully, you also received some praise for what you are doing well.

So, while that performance conversation is still rather fresh in your mind, begin preparing for next time.

Begin now – today – tracking the positives. Track the good things, the wins, the great learning moments, the times you helped someone else… the new technology you mastered… all the skill enhancing moments that occur on a daily basis.

I mean it. Keep a long list of the positive moments. Spend less time making note of minor setbacks. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Be prepared to share all of this good news during your next performance conversation and also be the one that identifies some areas where you need to improve. Be the one to guide the conversation.

You are the one who owns your career-enhancing journey. Make it a positive one!

  • "Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above them."
  • Washington Irving

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

Listening Is A Magical Skill

“Be here now. Be someplace else later. Is that so complicated?” — David M. Bader

Have you ever found yourself explaining something to another person or asking a specific question about something work related and you can tell that they are only half-listening or are completely focused on something else?

I recently observed a conversation between a grandchild and a grandfather that demonstrated the magical power of listening. You could easily observe how much the child loved and wanted to always be near the adult. The child delighted in exploring rocks, weeds, flowers and even dirt while accompanied by the grandfather.

I think that this close relationship developed because the grandfather always listened intently to what the grandchild said. During a story the child was telling about a swimming outing, the grandfather focused his eyes and complete attention on the child. He frequently asked questions… “Did you get your hair wet? Did daddy help you float? Did you wear your new bathing suit? And then what happened? And then what happened?”

Have you ever tried to talk to a partner, across the desk from them in their office and their eyes keep darting away to their computer screen (to see what the latest email might be about or who it was from)? Have you ever asked for information from a supervisor and they pace and focus on looking at the floor? Have you ever tried to explain something to a direct report and they do not maintain eye contact and fidget with something in their pocket or on their desk?

Developing close working relationships and building an amazing, responsive team takes work. Make time for conversations and practice your listening skills. Then focus on what they are saying, look directly at their face, show emotion (surprise, curiosity, pride, happiness, amazement). Ask leading questions. They will admire and respect you for it and might always want to be working with you.

  • "If you want to be listened to, you should put in time listening."
  • Marge Piercy

Monday, October 24th, 2016

Discussing Your Fee

“The man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone.” – Ayn Rand

When pursuing a new prospect, when do you talk about your fee? How straight-forward are you? Do you talk as little about fees as possible and maybe even wait until a client complains (or inquires about an invoice) before you are transparent about how you bill?

I have observed that many CPAs are very reluctant to talk about fees with prospective clients and even sometimes with long-time clients. Many, even in the engagement letter, provide a fee quote in the form of a fairly broad range.

That’s the best thing about a Fixed Price Agreement. The client knows exactly what the fee will be for the specific service that is to be provided. Even an FPA can be a problem if the client requests additional services and the CPA does not then issue a change order informing the client that there will be additional fees due.

I have also observed that many CPAs don’t believe they are “worth it.” They become friends with clients and simply want to be helpful. I urge my clients to be proud of their knowledge and not discount the value that performing a routine task or answering a simple question brings to the client.

You have spent years accumulating specialized knowledge. You are special in that you can answer complex questions with little effort.

Don’t discount your own expertise – you are worth it!

  • "Only a fool thinks price and value are the same."
  • Antonio Machado

Friday, October 21st, 2016

The Number Of CPA Firms In The U.S.

Many of us working in the CPA profession always seem to be interested in the various statistics about CPA firms.

I’ve been “hearing” for decades that there are about 45,000 CPA firms in the U.S. and that only a very small percentage have more than 20 CPAs.

Here are the latest numbers from an article via Accounting Today:

  • There are about 42,000 accounting firms in the United States.
  • The #1 firm has revenue of about $16 billion and about 65,000 people.
  • Number 100 has revenues of $35m with 175 people.
  • Number 300 has revenue of $8m
  • Number 400 has $3m with about 20 people.

So, the next 41,600 firms fall into the “small” firm category. Most of these firms are really small, with less than four or five people and revenues less than $600,000.

Read Ed Mendlowitz’s entire article about how bright the future is going to be for these small firms.

I work with many very small firms and I can attest that they have vast opportunities!

  • "Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens."
  • Jimi Hendrix

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

Life Is Not Fair. So Keep Moving Ahead

You are leading, managing and/or administering a growing accounting firm. The management team (partners, firm administrator, HR director, marketing director, etc.) decide on:

  • Unveiling a contest to reward team members who obtain the most new business referrals.
  • Offering a special perk to make life easier for employees with families.
  • Offering assistance with a gym membership.
  • Or some other similar employee benefit.

One person grumbles that Ted always wins any kind of “sales” contests. It’s not fair!

Two people complain that family people get more benefits than single people.

One person moans about the fact that they are not interested in a gym membership and asks what the firm is going to do for them.

Too often, “the firm” back-steps and doesn’t follow through because they want to avoid any sort of confrontation.

Confrontation and open, honest conversation about issues can be a very healthy thing. Keep moving forward.


  • "Never wish life were easier, wish that you were better."
  • Jim Rohn

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

Do You Possess Self-Belief?

Self-belief is a critical key to success. It’s the bridge between your personal attitude and enthusiasm, and your ability to transfer confidence to your client.

Without belief in what you do your ability to engage your client or a prospective client and get additional business from them will be low.

The common thread among all thought leaders, philosophers, and personal development experts is their consistent writing on the subjects of positive thinking and self-belief.

Dale Carnegie, author of the timeless How to Win Friends and Influence People said, “If you believe in what you are doing, let nothing hold you up in your work. Much of the best work of the world has been done against seeming impossibilities. The thing is to get the work done.”

See what I mean? Well, is that you? How deep is your belief?

Timeless quotes are truths that have stood the test of time. The challenge with quotes is that most people (not you of course) see them at a glance, fail to realize their power and fail to take any action. Or worse, they don’t want to face reality.

The reason these quotes and truths don’t take hold is that they require you to come to grips with yourself. They make you think about where you are, and where you seek to grow.

Among hundreds of powerful thoughts and pearls of wisdom, Napoleon Hill, in his epic self-help book Think and Grow Rich said, “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe it can achieve.”

See the trend?

Here’s a quote I like from Maxwell Maltz, author of Psycho-Cybernetics, “Within you right now is the power to do things you never dreamed possible. This power becomes available to you just as soon as you can change your beliefs.”

How about you? Do you believe enough to succeed?

Here are some “core beliefs.”

Belief in your firm. Believe that your ethics are high and your people are great. Beliefs that support is superior and the dedication to clients and to excellence is at the top of the firm’s core values and principles.

Belief in your service. All clients need service; the real issue is how you respond. If your firm supports clients and considers loyalty as key, you are on the right track.

Belief in yourself. This is where the rubber meets the… brain. Your thoughts precede your words and actions. If you are unsure, that will be evident to those around you.

The belief that your clients are better off. This is the part that tests your real belief. You believe that the firm’s clients are better off because they are being served by you and the entire firm team.

  • "Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact."
  • William James

Friday, October 14th, 2016

You Were Salary, Now You Are Hourly

I imagine you have read a lot about the U.S. Department of Labor ruling that changed the overtime rules under the FLSA. The new rules go into effect on December 1, 2016.

I also imagine you have already been preparing to deal with this issue inside your accounting firm.

When it comes to converting a salaried individual to hourly status, it’s often a very sensitive area. I have heard and read, over and over again, that many people truly feel like it is a demotion.

I can remember when I first became a salaried employee. I thought I had “made it!” Over my many years of supervisory responsibility, I had numerous individuals plead with me to be put on salary. It has become somewhat of a status symbol in the workplace.

Sharlyn Lauby (HR Bartender) notes, “I know employees will not like this decision. Many organizations don’t like it either. But we have to follow the law.”

Read this blog post by Lauby, I think you will find it familiar and helpful.


  • "How an employee is paid doesn't change their value to the organization."
  • Sharlyn Lauby

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

Sit In The Front

“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” – Henry Ford

Over the years, I have spoken to so many groups of CPAs and groups of people who work for them.

I have to admit that I am disappointed that so many people always want to sit in the back of the room. Is it because they want an easy escape route in case I am overly boring? Is it because they actually want a place to sit and surf on their mobile device? Is it because they know it all already?

Actually, I think it is one of those weird human nature things. Just like going to church, the back pews always fill-up before the front pews.

I urge my session attendees to always set up front when they are attending CPE sessions or other learning opportunity sessions. I have actually observed some of them taking my advice the next time they are in one of my sessions.

Why sit up front? I have always done this because I want to observe the speaker up close. I want to hear every word. I want to contemplate their body language. I want to have them look me in the eye. Afterwards, I always would introduce myself to the speaker, maybe ask a question and always thank them for sharing their thoughts.

Why do I do this? Because they will remember me. And maybe if I have a question when I return to the office, they will answer my email. Maybe the next time they see me they will remember my name and face. Maybe they will enjoy having a one-off conversation with me and just maybe they will ask my opinion on some topic.

Want to be known as an expert? Hang out and get to know other experts.

Build your personal brand, one opportunity at a time. Sit in the front.

  • "Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing."
  • Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

Grammar, Spelling, And Punctuation

Sure, you are an accountant. So, people look to you to understand (and enjoy working with) numbers. They believe all of you are good at math and can do advanced calculations in your head.

You are a CPA, so clients take it for granted that you have prepared their tax return or performed their audit correctly. Your clients (and others) judge you on other things. Mostly, on lots of little things.

One thing, that is not so little in my mind, is how you write. If you are a CPA, or work in a CPA firm, grammar, spelling and punctuation are very, very important when you start typing out communications on that keyboard (or mobile device).

I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to read a lot of things written by CPAs and accountants. Most of it is in the form of communication, to me, and to others. Here are the common mistakes I notice:

  • Improper use of commas.
  • Lack of any punctuation at all, at times, even the use of periods at the end of a sentence.
  • Lack of capitalization – everything is typed in lower case.
  • Confusion between chose and choose; spelling chose when they actually mean choose.
  • Improper use of there and their.
  • Improper use of to and too.
  • Using your when they should be using you’re.

When I first started working in public accounting, I had the opportunity to work with a CPA (partner), who excelled at the written word. His vocabulary was way beyond my experience. I kept a dictionary close by. I learned so much!

I also, during the same time, worked with some accountants that made me wonder if they actually graduated from college based on their spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

Just be aware of how you may be judged. Take your time when writing. I think some of the poor punctuation and grammar is simply laziness or because you are in too much of a hurry.

  • "Your grammar is a reflection of your image. Good or bad, you have made an impression. And like all impressions, you are in total control."
  • Jeffrey Gitomer