Archive for June, 2017

Friday, June 16th, 2017

Lighten Up – Summer Fridays

“Laughter is an instant vacation.” – Milton Berle

fullsizeoutput_4085I am going to take my own advice. I’m doing things other than working all day on Fridays! Like last Friday, for example, I enjoyed watching my grandkids paddle board for the first time.

So, this summer I will not be writing a new blog post on Fridays.

On most Fridays this summer, I will be simply posting a link to a previous blog post that I think is important for you to read.

This Friday:

Here’s one from June last year (2016): My View – Casual Dress.

Have a great weekend.

  • A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in.
  • Robert Orben

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

AICPA Top Issues Survey 2017

“My main job was developing talent. I was a gardener providing water and other nourishment to our top 750 people. Of course, I had to pull out some weeds, too.” — Jack Welch

Every other year, the AICPA/PCPS conducts a top issues survey. Some of the findings from the 2017 Top Issues Survey were released yesterday.

Finding qualified staff was the No. 1 issue in every firm-size segment except sole practitioners where it ranked No. 3. Likewise, retaining qualified staff was a Top 5 issue in every grouping except sole practitioners. Recruitment and retention were leading concerns last time the survey was conducted in 2015, too, but the challenge appears steeper as the profession continues to gain strength in a growing economy.

Besides staffing, other common Top 5 issues this year include succession planning, acquisition of new clients, workload compression and keeping up with tax law complexity.  One former top issue, retention of current clients, has fallen out of the top issues for all groups.

So, no big surprises here. Just keep focused on developing a firm culture where people will want to stay and develop their career in public accounting. If you want to know how to do that, just browse through many of my past blog posts!

  • The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.
  • Harvey S. Firestone

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

How Dangerous is a Handshake?

“Getting in touch with your true self must be your first priority.” – Tom Hopkins

This week I read an article about banning handshaking in hospitals.

I think I get that one. Hospital acquired infections are a serious issue.

I have observed that many people are beginning to use the fist bump as an alternative greeting and a protection from passing along so many germs.

In business, the handshake has always been important:

A handshake is more than just a greeting. It is also a message about your personality and confidence level. In business, a handshake is an important tool in making the right first impression. While the art of handshaking does vary within cultures, in the United States the “rules” are pretty universal.

In the CPA profession, we often have to teach our beginners the importance of the handshake and how to do it properly, creating a favorable first impression.

Think about all the hands you shook when you attended that recent conference or local business networking event. Did you feel like you were endangering yourself?

For me, I enjoy the connection made by a proper handshake. I am assuming that the person I am greeting has at least washed their hands in the last 24 hours… whereas, a door handle to my favorite coffee shop probably hasn’t been properly washed in months, if ever! How many public doors have you opened lately? And don’t even think about all the things you touch with your finger-tips during a trip to the grocery!

  • Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet.
  • Plato

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

Toxic Behaviors

leadershipfreak“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” – Warren Bennis

If you are a regular reader, you know that I follow Dan Rockwell, @Leadershipfreak – his tweets and his blogs.

This morning, I read his blog titled, The Complete List of Toxic Behaviors That Poison Teams. Sadly, so many things on his extensive list I see happening inside CPA firms. Many of them apply to the partner group and a lesser amount apply to the entire team.

Here are just a few that I see happen most often, along with my specific comments. Please follow the link and read all the behaviors that are toxic. You might be surprised how many you see inside your own firm.

Assume silence is agreement – When I facilitate partner retreats and a tough issue comes up for discussion, I notice that some partners “look at their lap.” They avoid eye contact and remain silent. Other partners assume the silent partners are in agreement and usually they are not.

Allow power-mongers to drone on and on – You know them, the more powerful partners who believe everyone wants to hear what they have to say – over and over again and again. No one stops them!

Invite the same people to the table, year after year – Invite outsiders to your partner meetings – mix it up by inviting one or two managers, then some seniors. Involve a local advisor, like an attorney you trust or a professional outside marketer and use a facilitator familiar with the CPA profession

Solve every problem and address every imaginable contingency before you try something – Accountants are too risk adverse and too comfortable in status quo to risk trying new ideas.

Discuss, but don’t decide – I don’t think I have to explain this one. The most common comment I hear, “Let’s put that on the agenda for next year.”

  • In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday, June 12th, 2017

Accounting Firm Interns

fullsizeoutput_4028“If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.” – Chinese Proverb

The larger firms, who can afford full time HR professionals, have programs dealing with interns fairly well developed. However, mid- to small firms, if they hire an intern, often treat them like an extra administrative person.

Here are some tips and ideas regarding interns:

  • Treat them like full time hires.
  • Give them structured orientation (like a new hire).
  • Provide a job description – expose them to both tax and A&A.
  • Keep in mind that they don’t know the CPA lingo – teach them.
  • Give them real work – it has always been amazing to me how quickly interns can get up to speed on individual tax returns and even smaller business tax returns.
  • They love going in the field. Expose them to visits to the clients’ sites, in person.
  • Praise their efforts and keep in mind they are beginners – what they learn in college doesn’t relate to what they will do inside your firm.
  • Don’t give them administrative work – no shredding, no mindless data entry.
  • Provide them with business cards and take their picture when presenting the cards to them (after all, it is usually their FIRST business card). Send the picture to them and suggest they share it with their parents.
  • Challenge them to give away their business cards and keep track of the efforts. This makes them aware, right from the beginning, that marketing is important. At my firm, we had a give your card away game – you need at least two interns for this game. They give them to whoever…. grandma, mom, dad, dentist, college friends – how many can they give away in five days. They must keep good records. The winner gets a gift card.
  • Teach them to put their business card in restaurant fish bowls when they go to lunch – and place them in the bowl so the firm name shows!
  • I hire people brighter than me and I get out of their way.
  • Lee Iacocca

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

Best Accounting Firms For Women – 2017

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” – Vince Lombardi

The Accounting MOVE Project has released their Best Public Accounting Firms for Women list for 2017.

Thanks to Isaac O’Bannon of CPA Practice Advisor for summarizing the results in his recent article.

Top Trends From the 2017 Accounting MOVE Project

  • Transparent career paths enable women to anticipate work-life conflicts and proactively propose solutions.
  • Firms whose leaders continually communicate with rising women make many small course adjustments to retain women in the partnership pipeline and to ensure that they are offered key growth opportunities.
  • A few firms, including Moss Adams, are breaking down firmwide measurements for advancing women to to practice areas and offices. That injects immediacy to the overarching initiative and equips office and practice leaders with context for creating fresh ways to retain and advance women.

The top 12 firms are:

  1. BeachFleischman
  2. The Bonadio Group
  3. Brown Smith Wallace
  4. BPM LLP
  5. Clark Nuber
  6. CohnReznick
  7. Frazier & Deeter
  8. MCM CPAs and Advisors
  9. Moss Adams
  10. Plante Moran
  11. Novogradac
  12. Rehmann

Be sure to read the entire article to learn what each individual firm is doing to facilitate the professional growth of women in accounting.

From a personal viewpoint, firms appear to be lowering the bar in many ways. The words alternative, limited equity, reframing business development, shared wins, mutual accountability, etc. bother me some.

I have observed, over many years, that hard work, dedication and making yourself so valuable to the firm that they don’t want to lose you proves you are partner material whether you are male or female. When I say work hard, I don’t mean workaholic. I have known many workaholic females and most were not partner material.

  • It is hard to beat a person who never gives up.
  • Babe Ruth

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

Hiring a Marketing Person and More

“There’s no lotion or portion that will make sales faster and easier for you – unless your potion is hard work.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

I enjoyed a recent blog post by Sarah Johnson Dobek about when to hire a marketing person for your CPA firm. Much like Sarah, I often get questions about when to hire a dedicated marketer. I also am asked when do we need a firm administrator, an HR person, a Controller (rather than a bookkeeper)?

sarahPer Dobek, the 2016 AAM Budget Survey indicated that most firms invest early. The highest growth firms employ one marketing professional for every 34 employees, while the average firm employs one marketing professional for every 54 employees. I usually recommend hiring a full-time marketer when a firm reaches 45 employees, so I guess I am in the ballpark according to the AAM survey.

As for the other professional support positions, I have observed that growing firms hire or designate a full-time, professional firm administrator when the have 12-15 people, although I see very successful firm administrators in much smaller firms. When the firm administrator becomes saturated with work, an HR professional should be added, usually at 70 to 80 people. A CPA controller is a huge benefit to a growing firm when it reaches 80 to 100 people. The former firm bookkeeper might then be designated the assistant controller.

As a firm grows, adding non-CPA, degreed, support professionals is a necessity.

  • To me, job titles don't matter. Everyone is in sales. It's the only way we stay in business.
  • Harvey Mackay

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

Strategic Plans and Fairy Tales

“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.” – Henry David Thoreau

I really enjoyed a recent post by Jeffrey Gitomer titled, Business Plans, Five-Year Spreadsheets, and other fairy tales.

How about your strategic plan? Have you looked at it recently? Have all your partners looked at it often over the last year and talked among themselves about how well you are doing with the plan? I bet not.

What about the business plans for a new niche inside your firm? You had a young partner anxious to specialize in business valuation, for example. You asked him to bring a business plan to the partner group for discussion and approval. The group like it, approved it and…. it hasn’t been looked at since. It hasn’t been monitored nor has it been followed. Perhaps, it was just a fairy tale!

I think you will enjoy Gitomer’s article. Much of it sounds familiar to those of you working in a CPA firm. He also includes some great suggestions.

  • Plans are nothing; planning is everything.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Good Intentions…. No Implementation

“Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

I write about implementation often, it is one of my favorite, and sometimes frustrating, topics.

Summer conference season is upon us. You (a CPA firm leader), will go to a conference to gather new ideas and learn about current trends in the CPA profession. While at the conference, you begin to actually get excited about some of the ideas and begin to visualize how the ideas could work in your firm.

You gather more ideas, make numerous notes, meet some very interesting people and begin to really get a sense of renewal, optimism, and think: “We can do this at our firm!”

What happens when you return to your office? Many leaders immediately get BUSY with the day-to-day fire-fighting and soon the notes you took and the excitement you felt begin to fade. You think to yourself, “I’ll bring it up at our next partner/management meeting.”

Don’t allow yourself to become demotivated. Try some of these practical steps….. Wait! Don’t “try.” DO THESE THINGS:

  • Summarize your notes, identify the best and most critical ideas that your firm could use.
  • Meet with the key management leaders and explain the ideas verbally to them.
  • Send the summary to every parter and other internal management leaders and specifically ask them to read the summary. Let them know you will be talking to them individually about the points.
  • Give them one week and then begin making brief visits to each partner.
  • Share your excitement and stress the points that you believe are critical to the firm.
  • After this is done, ask that the points be put on the next partner meeting agenda and push for at least one or two to be approved.
  • Make an Action Plan (specific steps) that needs to happen and assign the steps to specific individuals.
  • Then take action! You can’t do it alone, enlist others to help you.
  • Have you got a problem? Do what you can where you are with what you've got.
  • Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

Think About Quality

“The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best but legendary.” – Sam Walton

Many firms proclaim, “We provide quality client service.”

A recent post by Seth Godin caused me to think about quality service in a more critical light.

Is your firm simply meeting client expectations? Or, are you exceeding client expectations? Do dare go for service that is even higher?

socksYear ago at Accountants Bootcamp, we learned that the goal should be much more lofty than meeting expectations.

I you want to distinguish yourself from other accounting firms, aim high and aim to provide awesome client service – you might call it “Knock your socks off client service.”

  • Every great business is built on friendship.
  • J. C. Penney