Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Be Creative In Motivating Your Valuable Team Members

DSC_0018CPA firm leaders are continually seeking ideas on ways to RETAIN top performers. It is almost like a competition among firms as to who can shower their millennials with the most gifts and perks.

Most people think that spending money on physical things makes them happy – that a physical object will last longer so it makes us happy over a longer time than a one-off experience like a concert or a vacation. According to recent research – that assumption is completely wrong.

A study by a professor at Cornell tells us that rather than buy a BMW you’ll actually get more happiness for spending money on experiences – art exhibits, outdoor activities, learning a new skill or traveling.

Haven’t you noticed that the McMansions of the world have diminished and the new trend is smaller, more compact dwellings with furniture that is dual purpose? Young professionals seem to no longer want a big house but no furniture because they can’t afford it.

Apply this to you team members. Be creative! How can you give them experiences rather than things?

Yes! That’s me in the white helmet.

  • "Plunge boldly into the thick of life, and seize it where you will, it is always interesting."
  • Van Goethe

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Cultivating A Successful Firm Culture

I write about the importance of culture a lot. This post will be very brief.

First, if you aren’t guiding, molding, designing, enforcing your culture you have one anyway…. and it might not be very pretty – it forms on it’s own.

Second, take this example of a Credo from Tom Peters and make it your own:

“Our Credo … We are dedicated to and measure our success to a significant degree by our unwavering commitment to the extreme personal growth of every one of our employees.”

Want to attract and keep top talent – embrace this Credo.


  • "Almost all quality improvement comes via simplification of design, manufacturing, layout, processes and procedures."
  • Tom Peters

Monday, March 30th, 2015

Recruiting Tactics From The Top 100 Firms

atThe talent wars are raging. It’s time to take a look at your recruiting tactics that might be out of date. Thanks to Accounting Today for sharing recruiting tactics from some of the Top 100 firms.

1. Job Fairs – It’s not just attending the annual fall job fair – it’s a year round activity.

2. Diversity Recruitment – Form an alliance with minority organizations. Lack of diversity is a big issue in the CPA profession.

3. Campus Programs & Organization Search – Get involved on campus. Interact and share information with freshmen and sophomores.

4. Summer Visit – Provide a summer introduction event for college students where they can learn more about the firm and the profession.

5. Donate – Many Top 100 firms make a point to donate to university accounting departments where they recruit.

6. Social Media – Get involved and stay in contact with alumni via social media.

7. Expand Your Recruiting Team – Top firms are hiring people specifically for recruiting. Many firms have more than one person handling this important activity.

8. Task Force – One firm created a Young Professionals Taskforce to encourage networking.

9. Show Them the Money – If a current staffer refers a candidate and they are hired, give them a bonus. One firm gives $7,500.

10. Pay for Things – Reimbursements are an attractive tool for recruiting both college students and experienced hires. CPA exam reimbursements and tuition reimbursements are both very popular.

  • "I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious."
  • Albert Einstein

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – Astronaut Reid Wiseman

This weekend – take just a couple of minutes, put on your headphones and look at this!

It’s from NPR – Cmdr. Reid Wiseman is an astronaut, and a photographer and a pro at Twitter. He shares his favorite shots from space.

I love the picture of Italy and his explanation of the red dot – – I’m not going to tell you about the red dot – you have to watch to find out what it is!



  • "Hardest thing in space? Folding a shirt neatly before putting it away. #Impossible."
  • @astro_reid

Friday, March 27th, 2015

The Problem Is Never The Problem

You face many problems as you manage a busy, successful, growing CPA firm.

What I have often observed during my many years in CPA firm management is that, when faced with a problem, we quickly focus on a solution without anticipating what could eventually happen down the road.

I like Tom Peters‘ comment about problems:

The problem is never the problem.

The response to the problem is almost always the real problem.

When faced with a problem, don’t try to sweep it under the rug. Always be honest. Make your response positive and quick.

Trying to come up with ways to cover-up a problem never works. I think Richard Nixon taught us that.


  • "I am not a crook."
  • Richard Nixon

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Sway With The Punches

This is a very busy time inside CPA firms right now.

I have talked with hundreds of people working at CPA firms during the last year – CPAs, HR professionals, firm administrators, technology gurus, and marketing professionals.

Whether you are a CPA fighting the battle first-hand or a support professional facing the continual comment from the CPAs: “I’m too busy!” (to write an article, to attend a networking event, mentor an intern, provide timely performance feedback….), you might let what happens at work “get to you”.

What do you do when you feel like you are about to “lose it”? Here’s some advice I found when I was reading The Snowman by Jo Nesbo, that might apply:

“Do what boxers do, sway with the punches. Don’t resist. If any of what happens at work gets to you, just let it. You won’t be able to shut it out in the long term anyway. Take it bit by bit, release it like a dam, don’t let it collect until the wall develops cracks.”

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

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

Message to Emerging Leaders – Experience Counts!

I rarely go on a rant. I’m passionate and energetic about the CPA profession and helping CPA firms stay on the path of continued growth and success. However, when I continually hear older, more experienced people degraded, bashed, etc. I am sad.

In the CPA profession today, public accounting firms are extremely focused on young talent. Focused on helping them learn and grow in accounting and tax knowledge. Most firms are bending over backwards right now to keep people, young people. Let’s ignore the old people and maybe they will retire.

I believe I am fortunate to work with CPAs and in the CPA profession because there is a certain degree of respect for the amazing amount of knowledge and experience that comes to CPAs as they gain exposure to multiple client situations. It takes years to be able to quickly assess a tax planning opportunity or operational issues faced by clients. It also takes years to become a seasoned, wise advisor to younger, less experienced accountants.

So when someone on social media asks, “Why did they have the old guys broadcasting the Super Bowl?” or, when I see a video advertisement that stresses the message, “I don’t use that software (or whatever), that’s what my Mom uses.” – – it irks me.

Inside your CPA firm, I hope you respect and treasure the experience and knowledge owned by the more mature accountants. They are the mentors. Life-long learning is the banner of the CPA profession. Invest in the success of all your people. Those over 50 must also continually improve their skills.

The scariest part is that a 22-year old’s “Mom” is probably in her 40s and those twenty-somethings will be there before they know it.

  • "At age 20, we worry about what others think of us. At age 40, we don't care what they think of us. At age 60, we discover they haven't been thinking of us at all."
  • Ann Landers

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

Simplify Your Performance Reviews – Deloitte Is Redesigning Theirs

I talk about it often. If you are a CPA firm leader, I know you might feel like I am nagging you about revising your old fashioned performance evaluation system. Once again, here I am, trying to offer alternatives.

This time we have Deloitte as a guide. Their story is featured on the HBR site – Reinventing Performance Management.

Deloitte did a public survey and found that more than half of executives questioned (58%) believe that their current performance management approach drives neither employee engagement nor high performance.

What do you honestly think about your performance feedback approach? I have found that almost everyone dreads performance feedback time inside CPA firms – the people giving them and the people getting them. Make this the year you refresh yours – simplify!

I find that firms spend way too much time “rating” people, writing comments about what they are doing right and wrong and not enough time giving them frequent verbal feedback.

Deloitte found that creating ratings consumed close to 2 million hours a year. Keep in mind they employ 65,000 people.

Deloitte, rather than asking more people for their opinion of a team member (in 360-degree or an upward-feedback survey, for example), they will ask only the immediate team leader to respond to four future-focused statements about each team member at the end of each project or on a quarterly basis.

I highly recommend you read the article to get the entire picture. Then consider how how you might modify your own system. If you need to talk or need help, you can contact me via my website.

  • "Our life is frittered away by detail... simplify, simplify."
  • Henry David Thorequ

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

Remodeling Your CPA Firm Office This Year?

Your office design might actually be bumming people out. I am hearing lots of talk in CPA circles about the need to downsize office space. In many firms, fewer people are actually working in the office. Many are working remotely and it makes sense to share space.

If this is the year you are upgrading your space or remodeling, there are some important things to consider.

According to an article on Fast Company, if you’re making people sit in poorly lit, scrunched-together spaces with no potential for chance encounters, it’s time to rearrange.

From a book by Rex Miller, Change Your Space, Change Your Culture, today’s average worker is working in a space with a 1960s design and most organizations can’t connect the dots between office design and innovation. CPA firm leaders need to do their research and modernize – – most are still the very traditional lay-out that was used in the 1980s (and before).

Here’s a few ideas from the article. Be sure to read the entire article if you are planning a move or remodel this summer.

Lighting is important – experts tell us we need a different kind of lighting in the morning as opposed to the afternoon.

Walls block out natural light – tear down the drywall and have glass walls. I have seen this done in several progressive firms. The partners offices are on the interior with glass walls and the open, cubicle space is on the outside walls where more light can filter in.

Fixed tables in brainstorming areas – give people options to change their environment and use rooms for collaboration (not just for meetings…. do less of those). The large, polished, impressive conference table needs to go. Rooms need movable, adaptable furniture.

Desks in between other desks – Everyone hates the middle seat on an airplane. Don’t make your people feel the same.

Spend the most money on public spaces – I sure see this in CPA firms – the lobby, client conference room and partner offices are definitely high-end, beautiful, etc. The leaders need to share the wealth – it can be a major contributor to your culture.

Separating departments – According to the experts, it’s a bad idea for departments to feel secluded from one another. I see this one in CPA firms, too…. “Oh, the audit department is on the floor above.” If you have to separate – be sure to use open stairs and make floors more “connected.”

Refreshing your office, even simply repainting, upgrading some furniture or new flooring makes people feel “refreshed.” Don’t get into the trap of thinking that they don’t care about their personal space in the office. I believe that when a potential employee walks into your office their first reaction should be “Wow!” because your firm’s office “looks” successful, modern and generous.


  • "To be far from the maddening crowd is to be mad indeed."
  • A.E. Coppard, author

Saturday, March 21st, 2015

Lighten-Up – – It’s March Madness – – In Two Ways For CPAs!

udDuring March, the numerical athletes that prepare your taxes, I’m talking about your all-star CPA, experiences a March madness of their own.

First, there is the March 15th due date (business tax returns). It’s a crazy time hitting that deadline – long hours and hard work. It is immediately followed by the countdown until April 15th when individual income tax returns are due. Those of us who have worked through those busy times, year after year, often call it March Madness.

However, the actual March Madness (NCAA basketball tournament) is somewhat of a relief for accountants because it diverts their attention to something more fun and exciting. When I was working full time in a firm, we always had a bracket contest. A local law firm had a two-day open house during the first Thursday and Friday of the tournament and business people could stop by for refreshments and viewing of the games – plus the camaraderie.

Check out this story from NPR: March Madness: Keeping Society Sane Since 1908. The opening picture has an amazing shot of Oscar Robertson rebounding in 1959.

Interesting facts from the article:

  • The original March Madness started in 1908 with a boys’ high school tournament in Illinois.
  • Before our current madness, a handful of teams from Kentucky high schools call the “Sweet Sixteen” drew sold out crowds.
  • A former Illinois high school coach, Henry V. Porter, first coined the term in a 1939 essay, “March Madness.” Quote: “A little March madness may complement and contribute to sanity and help keep society on an even keel.”

This year, American Gaming Association projects that 40 million Americans will fill out more than 70 million brackets.

Now, to make you smile and lighten up for sure: Urologists reported a national increase of up to 50% in the number of vasectomies scheduled on the days preceding the tournament. (So, they can stay home and watch the games.)

I think you will enjoy the article – be sure to click it above (and lighten-up).

By the way…… I live in Dayton!!

  • "Anything that I felt good about, my mom and dad felt better about. Everything that I did was supported. I think this type of sustenance had a lot to do with me being confident as an adult. "
  • Mike Krzyzewski