Saturday, August 29th, 2015

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – Feel The Force

When my son was very young, we took him to see the first Star Wars movies. He was just like the young kids depicted in this wonderful commercial by Target. Then the thrill of the Force was passed along to our grandson, just like the kids in this ad.

If this movie has been any part of your life, you will love this commercial. It brought tears to my eyes… really. To all my CPA profession friends, may the Force be with  you. And – remember Yoda’s words below in the quotation.

  • "Do or do not. There is no try."
  • Yoda

Friday, August 28th, 2015

What They Hate The Most – Long Hours

Nick Page photo - FlickrI read lots of articles that mention how much people working in accounting firms, below the partner level, hate the long hours.

When I survey employees and talk to them, they rarely mention the extended office hours during January through April or the occasions when a client really needs to be served.

One thing they don’t like is the emails they receive from partners at 5:00 a.m. or 11:00 p.m. all year long. They read into this that they should be working at 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. They certainly don’t want to be a partner if that is part of the drill. They might not even want to stay very long at your firm at all.

Another long hours challenge is the fact that technology has put the office just a few taps away and I observe that most accountants, at all levels, certainly are tied to their mobile device.

In an article on HBR – “The Research Is Clear: Long Hours Backfire for People and for Companies” – the basic question is: “Does it work?”

I believe that during busy season, more time is wasted than during other time of they year. The mindset seems to be, “I have to log 55 billable hours so I will take my time to be sure I can get 55 billable hours in”.

What if the entire team was working at their utmost efficiency? If your firm has effectively trained people, improved and streamlined the audit tasks and the tax processes, and if partners and managers were managing, coaching and inspiring people, perhaps what actually gets done in 55 hours could be done in 45 or even 35 and the team members could go home earlier.

Beware of the old-fashioned mindset that if we have billed a client for 22 hours of work on their job each year and now we can get it done in 12, we will only be billing for 12 and our revenue will go down!

(Photo by Nick Page – Flickr)

  • "Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them."
  • Dion Boucicault

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

If You Engage Them Maybe They Will Stay.

IMG_1109Most firms do a wide variety of things to keep great people at their firms. It, definitely has become more difficult during the recent talent wars. Every firm you compete with wants your people. Firms across the country want your people. And, these other firms will pay them more.

You have to do the chair massages, special coffee, ice cream socials, bowling events, mini-golf in the hallways….. the list goes on. Oh yes, your real employee benefit menu has to be up-to-date and generous…. great pay, plenty of PTO, holidays and insurance coverage and so on.

Many studies tell us they like all that but what they really want is communication and recognition. They want to know what is going on, what you expect and what their career path really looks like. They want to know someone cares about their development.

Asking one simple question can provide your firm with some very valuable information. Ask them in an individual conversation – What is the one thing we could change that would help you be more successful at your job?

  • "You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late."
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

Why People Stay

One of the answers I receive most often when I ask CPA firm team members why they stay with their firm is, “My work. I like the work that I do”

When I ask CPA firm team members what they would say to partners by finishing this sentence: “I wish you would (fill in the blank).” They say, “….give me more challenging work.”

Yet, in firm after firm I observe partners doing manager work, managers doing senior work and seniors looking for work.  Young, bright accountants progress in their careers by being assigned to more challenging engagements.

They won’t like their work if they continue doing the same engagements year after year. They won’t get more challenging work if partners and managers continue to hoard work.

To keep people at your firm, maybe it is time to revisit your scheduling system.

  • "Share everything. Don't take things that aren't yours. Put things back where you found them."
  • Robert Fulghum

Monday, August 24th, 2015

Accountability

Accountability is discussed often and written about frequently within the CPA profession. Partner accountability ranks as a top issue inside firms of all sizes, yet it continues to be one of those wishful thinking type issues. Most partner groups never come to terms with it.

You cannot hold people accountable if you don’t clearly spell-out the expectations. It even applies to something as basic as a firm courtesy policy. Sad to say, in this day and age, we have to set the expectations for basic good manners. The bottom line is that if you don’t spell out which behaviors are acceptable and which are not, you can’t hold people accountable for them.

For the partner group a partner commitment statement might be needed. For the entire firm, defining a courtesy policy, that applies to everyone, might be in order.

Here’s a sample:

CPA Firm Courtesy Policy
If you have a problem with someone, talk about the problem only with them and in private.

Use positive conversation.
Blame a system not a person.
Apologize and make restitution if someone is upset by your actions.
When you talk about a person who is not present, speak as if they are listening to your conversation. Use the person’s name in each sentence in which you refer to them.
Speak very politely using a person’s name – – ‘please’ & ‘thank-you’ as a minimum.
Greet and farewell everyone by name and with eye contact.
Tell the truth.

  • "You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else."
  • Albert Einstein

Saturday, August 22nd, 2015

Lighten-Up – It’s The Weekend: Time for something off-topic, humorous or even weird

This weekend, take a a minute and a half to watch this tiny dancer. It’s an ad for home insurance. Be sure to check-out her brother’s facial expression.

I found it thanks to Fast Company. I tell all my CPA clients and friends that they should be reading and following this site.  Have a great weekend!

  • "Be to her virtues very kind. Be to her faults a little blind."
  • Matthew Prior

Friday, August 21st, 2015

Clients See Accountants As Reactive Rather Than Proactive

drewRead a good article by Jeff Drew, a JofA senior editor on the JofA site: Competitive edge: The software vendors’ view.

For years we have been talking with practitioners about being proactive. Most tell us they are caught in the “reactive” trap because they are too busy to plan ahead. They are always putting out fires. Poor excuse.

Here’s an excerpt from the article.

Clients will be looking for help interpreting data and developing strategies for success—a view echoed in the most recent report by The Sleeter Group on what small and midsize businesses want from their CPAs, which found that the top reason clients leave their accounting firm is that it did not provide proactive advice. A recent poll of 393 small business leaders by hardware and software provider Wasp Barcode similarly showed that more than 4 in 10 complained that their accountants are more reactive than proactive.

  • "You are what you do, not what you say you'll do."
  • Carl Jung

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

Bridging The Gap

cropped-cropped-cpac-header

I am a member of The CPA Consultants’ Alliance.

During 2015, our membership has taken on a project of publishing a series of 15 blogs, written by individual members, around the central theme of Bridging the Gap-Strengthening the Connection Between Current and Emerging Leaders.

In her August 11th blog post, A Winning Culture Is An Intentional Culture, CPACA member Tamera Loerzel asks you to explore the following primary areas where Millennials are driving (and expect) change in firm culture:

  • Clear vision and direction
  • Engagement by upper-management
  • Leaders willing to change
  • Feedback and the desire to give it
  • Increased transparency – they want to know what, why and how
  • A 100% commitment towork efficiently using the latest IT and standard processes
  • An expectation that they’ll benefit from a learning and development investment
  • Flexibility and anytime, anywhere work (moving away from the time and place paradigm)

Be sure to read this entire blog post and the others in the series. The posts feature real stories from real CPA firms.

  • "Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate."
  • Albert Schweitzer

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Put A Lid On It

lidPublic accounting has been long known as a profession where you will work a lot of hours, especially during January through April and during the fall “extension season.”

More and more firms are discovering that all of those long hours are not really necessary. My observation is that the more hours you require, the slower people work.

Studies have found that productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours and it drops off so much after 55 hours that there’s no point in working any more. People who work as much as 70 hours per week actually get the same amount done as people who work 55 hours. The “extra” hours are wasted.

Reflect back on last “tax” season. How much time was wasted inside your firm? People arrive late because they know they will be staying late. People bring their breakfast with them and spend the first valuable productivity minutes of the day preparing and eating in the lunch room (and chatting with everyone who comes in to get coffee). Non-productive meetings happen during this busy time. The firm provides dinner so everyone will stay longer. Some people stay, just to eat, because they want to be seen.

Why would your younger accountants aspire to be a partner in the firm when they see partners working 60, 70 even 80 hours per week? Partners complain they have no bench-strength. Not a surprise. Times have changed – people work to live…. most do not want to live to work.

Put a cap on hours – no more than 50 to 55 per week. If you get them in during the week – no work on weekends. Some very successful people have proven that shutting down on weekends has immense benefits.

Read more about how successful people spend their weekends via Travis Bradberry on Forbes.

  • "I decided to fly through the air and live in the sunlight and enjoy life as much as I could."
  • Evel Knievel

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Be Sure Your Firm Is Flying!

I read this quote in the Wright Brothers book and I thought of all of my CPA firm friends….

IMG_1568 - Version 2“Keep thy airspeed up, lest the earth come up and smite thee.” – William Kershner, pilot and author of numerous flight manuals between 1958 and 2002 that are regarded as “a must for any person learning to fly.

How are you doing at keeping your firm’s “airspeed” up? Some firms continually struggle with implementation. I almost always tell my audiences that what I am about to share with them is the same thing consultants have been sharing with them for about 20 years! There are some variations and of course some current trends but the basic concepts remain the same. Here are a few:

  • Treat your people well and they will take great care of your clients.
  • Hire the best, don’t settle for mediocre people. As Jack Welch says, “The team with the best players wins.”
  • Embrace change!
  • Embrace practice development (marketing, sales, building relationships).
  • Get rid of the bad apples (they ruin the whole barrel) – – applies to clients and staff.
  • Hold partners accountable.
  • Your admin team can make you or break you.
  • Try things! Do things! Take action!

I want your firm to feel the exhilaration of flight. I don’t want “the earth to come up and smite thee”.

  • "More than anything else the sensation is one of perfect peace mingled with an excitement that strains every nerve to the utmost, if you can conceive of such a combination."
  • Wilbur Wright