Friday, February 5th, 2016

Engage & Retain Talent With Mentoring

I have talked about, written about and helped firms implement mentoring programs for years. Still, I am receiving lots of feedback about the lack of dedicated mentoring inside CPA firms.

I contend that mentoring is the foundation of the CPA profession. An older, more experienced accountant guides and teaches a younger, less-experienced accountant. It has been going on for decades. It is how young CPAs have always learned their trade.

Take that basic approach and incorporate more recognition, honest feedback, skilled listening and career advice and you have a mentoring program.

Engaging and retaining talent is a hot topic for the accounting profession. Mentoring can be an important tool.

Experienced CPAs question me…. Where do we meet? How often do we meet? What exactly do I say? What do they expect of me? It will take too much time…. on and on.

Please keep in mind, when it comes to actually implementing a mentoring program, KISS – Keep It Simple Sweetheart. You can actually mentor and guide someone with two words. Here’s how, from a presentation I did for Boomer Consulting:

  • "I am not a teacher, but an awakener."
  • Robert Frots

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

Will Much Of What You Do Be Replaced By Machines?

All of us, in the business world, have been dealing with significant changes in the way we work. Accountants have been automating many of their tasks for years now. Remember the first “portable” computers we used in accounting firms? They weighed about 30 pounds but we still thought they were cool.

I am sure that, by now, you have been reading about the massive changes that are continuing to come our way. McKinsey & Co. estimates that 45% of all activities humans perform in the workplace can be done by software or machines.

McKinsey also estimates that somewhere between 85% and 100% of the labor, in 5 categories of jobs, can be done by machines rather than humans. Here are those 5 categories. Take note of #2.

  1. Production workers
  2. Bookkeeping, accounting, auditing and billing clerks
  3. Mechanics and automotive technicians
  4. Construction equipment operators
  5. Bakers and butchers

Maybe the talent shortage in the CPA profession will lead CPAs to more quickly move down the road to automation.

Read more about this topic here.

  • "The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that man may become robots."
  • Erich Fromm

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

New To The Firm? – – Be A Volunteer

If you are a beginner at an accounting firm, be a volunteer.

If you are not new to the firm, share this blog post with a beginner.

It is my observation that most partners thoroughly enjoy working with a beginner who shows an interest in learning as much as possible. Many partners have told me….. “I would love it if they would just stick their head inside my door and ask if there was anything they could help me with.”

Listen to what is going on around you. Has a new large client recently been added to the firm? Ask if you can be assigned to the job.

Does the marketing person need someone to represent the firm at a community event? Volunteer to shadow a partner or manager.

Sometimes the marketing person needs someone to fill-in for a partner or manager at a charitable luncheon event. They love to invite beginners to fill these spots. IF (and that’s a big if), they are dressed professional enough to attend. This one is a big issue because of very relaxed dress codes. Volunteer to keep some dress clothes at the office for a quick change.

Does the firm administrator or HR person need an extra body to staff the firm booth at a local campus? Volunteer.

Firm leaders are impressed with people who have initiative. They are impressed with people who have a great attitude. They are impressed with people who are not afraid to speak-up and volunteer.


  • "Wherever a man turns he can find someone who needs him."
  • Albert Schweitzer

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

Exit Interviews Are Important

IMG_1192Being a consultant to CPA firm management, I hear a lot of stories. If you work in a firm, you can just imagine. Many of them sadden me, yet many also bring me joy. This is a “what was he thinking?” type story.

A firm administrator performed the usual exit interview with a departing employee. The employee was not fired, he left after several years building his career at the firm. Many of the remarks made by the exiting employee, according to the firm administrator, were fairly critical, yet true. When the comments were reported to the partners, one partner stated, “We don’t care what Joe thinks, he never did get with the program.”

Exit interviews can be very beneficial to both the firm and the person departing. Employees leave for a reason. Finding out why can help you plan for changes that need to be made.

  • Employees quit their boss, not their job.
  • Employees leave when they lose confidence in their leaders.
  • Employees leave because of issues with workplace culture.
  • Employees leave because they don’t see opportunity for career advancement and growth in compensation.

The person conducting the interview should be experienced in crucial conversations with employees, follow an established process or checklist. The interview should be conducted in a truly caring and non-threatening manner. Remember, the employee will most likely be dreading the interview and needs to be put at ease.

After you gather information from exit interviews, take the comments seriously and determine what actions need to happen to make your firm a place where talented people want to stay and build their careers.

  • "And now, gentlemen, like your manners, I must leave you."
  • Dylan Thomas

Monday, February 1st, 2016

Battle For Talent: Will Denim Daily & Other Enhanced Benefits Win Out?

I see lots of professional young men and women on CPA firm Facebook pages still dressing professionally – most are business casual but they still look professional to me.

All that is changing as the battle for talent heats up. It’s going to be jeans for every day.

News From GoingConcern:

Baker Tilly’s announcement: Baker Tilly Makes Everyday Denim Dreams Come True:

The Chicago-based accounting firm has launched a pilot program allowing its professionals to wear jeans any day of the week they deem it appropriate. No longer will denim be confined to Friday, a fairly common practice in the profession, or purchased as a one-off dispensation for a $5 charitable donation.

Such a practice is fairly unusual in the buttoned-down profession. “If Baker Tilly is jeans every day, they’re probably leading the way on that,” said Todd Shapiro, president and CEO of the Illinois CPA Society in Chicago.

The official name for this pilot program is “Dress for Your Day” and it is effective immediately for all offices. Naturally, BT employees still have to dress professionally for client meetings but otherwise, they can rock denim every day. Just be aware that some people have strong feelings about tuck/no-tuck.

A few days later (via GoingConcern), Crowe Horwath joined the movement:

Not be outdone by their crosstown1 rivals,Crowe Horwath announced earlier this week that not only can their employees wear whatever they want, they can work wherever they want, too (subject to approval of course):

The firm’s new mobility strategy, which was rolled out in December, includes two policies integral to the firm’s approach to attracting and retaining the profession’s best talent. The first initiative, “What to Wear,” dictates that if you’re in the office and aren’t meeting with clients, you can keep it casual and wear jeans any day of the week. The second, “Where to Work,” allows personnel to work wherever it’s convenient and they’re most productive, with support from their performance manager.

Then there is paid maternity leave and unlimited vacation time via CPA Practice Advisor:

The accounting profession is no different. Brown Smith Wallace, a nationally ranked top-100 accounting firm, added new features to its employee benefit package in an effort to recruit and retain more Millennials. As of January 1, 2016, the firm offers paid maternity leave and increased personal time off—including unlimited vacation for managers and principals—based on years of service at the firm.  

Dear CPA friends….. Times They Are A Changin’

  • " better start start swimmin' or you'll sink like a stone, for the times they are a changin'."
  • Bob Dylan

Saturday, January 30th, 2016

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – A Time For Something Off-Topic, Humorous Or Even Weird

Most of us have read the very well-known book Robinson Crusoe by Daniel DeFoe. If not, you at least know about it and have probably seen movies based the the shipwrecked premise.

Per Wikipedia, the novel was first published on April 25, 1719. The first edition credited the work’s protagonist Robinson Crusoe as its author, leading many readers to believe he was a real person and the book a travelogue of true incidents.

The other day, while in a book store, I found a book that provided humor by fantasizing about what some editors of famous authors’ books might have noted for the author. I hope the following makes you smile and lighten-up this weekend.


  • "It is better to have a lion at the head of an army of sheep, than a sheep at the head of an army of lions."
  • Daniel Defoe

Friday, January 29th, 2016

Upward Feedback – A Growth Source For Partners

When was the last time you did an upward feedback exercise for your partners? Most CPA partners tell me it has been a very long time and some say they have never asked their valuable team members to provide any kind of critique about the partners.

I am sure most of your younger team members can give you quite a humorous view of the partners. I used to always take the interns to lunch a couple of times during tax season just to chat, no formal agenda. At these lunches I heard some hilarious stories and descriptions of partners.

An upward feedback survey is not intended to be comical. It is intended to give the partners honest feedback on what they should keep doing and what they should focus on for improvement. It can also be a goal-setting tool for the managing partner to use with the other partners.

Your team will be wondering what to do.

  • Do they tow the company line, if they know it?
  • Do they show agreement with the partners activities, whether or not they actually do?
  • Or, do they express their honest opinion, whether it is flattering or not?

If you do an upward feedback survey in 2016, be sure you send a clear message to your employees that you want them to be open and honest.

Use an outsider to gather the information and report it back to the managing partner. People are often more honest with an outsider.

One of my favorite activities (services) is facilitating upward feedback surveys for CPA leaders. Plan now for an upward feedback survey in the spring.  Learn more here.

  • "Truth is the breath of life to human society. It is the food of the immortal spirit. Yet a single word of it may kill a man as suddenly as a drop of prussic acid."
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Blogs To Follow

I am always encouraging you to read, read, read. I want you to read books, articles and, of course, blogs.

If you are trying to find some good blogs to follow. Here’s Ambir Technologies Top 10 Blogs To Follow for Accounting & Financial Tips for Your Small Biz. 

Some of them might be very helpful for your clients, too.

Take note of #10 – Thank-you Ambir!

  • "If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads."
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Good Leader – Bad Leader

leadershipfreakThere are many people inside CPA firms that are leaders. Partners, of course, are role models and leaders but so are managers, COOs, firm administrators, marketing directors, HR directors, etc.

Are you, as a leader, inspiring people to perform at their best and advance their careers or, to them, do you appear to be all about the numbers?

According to Dan Rockwell (Leadership Freak), it is simply all about attitude. “Lousy leadership begins with self-protective attitudes not lack of skills, intelligence or talent.”

As Rockwell states, “Lousy leaders can’t serve others because they serve themselves.”

Here’s his list about lousy leaders:

  1. Need to know more than others.
  2. Can’t explore for fear of being wrong.
  3. Won’t ask obvious questions for fear of looking dumb.
  4. Need their egos stroked.
  5. Wonder who’s out to get them.
  6. Fear high performers; they need the spotlight.
  7. Struggle to collaborate.
  8. Won’t change their minds.
  9. Feel isolated and alone.
  10. Sacrifice long-term success for short-term profits.

Here’s his list of traits of great leaders:

  1. Humility.
  2. Optimism.
  3. Curiosity.
  4. Endurance.
  5. Tenacity.
  6. Compassion.
  7. Responsibility.

How do you stack-up?

Read his entire blog post on this topic.

  • "Leaders matter most when they help others learn to help others."
  • Dan Rockwell, Leadership Freak

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

Gigantic, Combined Conference For 2017

For a long time, I was a committee member and a a committee chair for the AICPA PractitionersTECH+ Symposium. I have also had the honor of being a featured speaker at the event for many years.

I’ll be in Vegas, June 5-8 this year for the annual event. My presentation will help you understand, document and roll-out an appropriate mentoring program for an accounting firm. I hope to see you there.

But, get ready, the event will take on a whole new personality for NEXT YEAR – 2017. The AICPA is planning to host a combined financial planning and accounting conference in 2017 called AICPA Engage.

The conference will combine five (yes FIVE), of the AICPA conferences into a single, co-located event – June 12-15, 2017 at the MGM Grand in Vegas.

Here’s the line-up:

  • Advanced Estate Planning Conference
  • Advanced Personal Financial Planning Conference
  • Conference on Tax Strategies for High-Income Individuals
  • National Advanced Accounting and Auditing Technical Symposium
  • Practitioners Symposium/TECH+ Conference

You can get more info at and read more details at AccountingToday.

Remember to register for this year’s event and be sure to take a younger CPA, or two, with you.

  • "To get something done a committee should consist of no more than three people, two of whom are absent."
  • Robert Copeland