Archive for the ‘Change’ Category

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

To Act is Hard

“To think is easy. To act is hard. But the hardest thing in the world is to act in accordance with your thinking.” ~ Goethe 

Read the above quote again.

Many CPAs working in public accounting will soon be participating in their firm’s annual partner, management or firm retreat.

You will THINK and explore many great ideas.

I urge you – act in accordance with your thinking.

  • You will never plow a field if you only turn it over in your mind.
  • Irish Proverb

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

Profession Update via Melancon

“Attention is a limited resource, so pay attention to where you pay attention.” – Howard Rheingold

Barry Melancon spoke at the BDO Alliance conference this week. Daniel Hood, Editor of Accounting Today communicated many great points from Melancon via Twitter. Twitter is often a great way to learn things – I hope you have a Twitter account and follow @AccountingEdit (Dan Hood) and @CPAmanagement (me).

Here are some of Hoods tweets from Melancon’s presentation. This is IMPORTANT information so you can better lead your firm into the future.

  • For those of you who believe the profession can be insulated from change, that’s a false optimism.
  • Once AI, blockchain, etc. become accepted, they will completely redefine what we think a professional accountant is.
  • Technical skills are table stakes. Finance execs want tech skills, communications skills, and critical thinking/ judgment skills.
  • Technology and the law are changing what tax compliance means.
  • What the world wants now is a combination of tax compliance and tax planning. Tax reform gives us a great opportunity to reposition ourselves this way.
  • The number of U.S. accounting grads hired into public accounting dropped 20% in the last 2 years. But overall hiring at firms was flat – they’re hiring fewer accounting grads.
  • In 2017, a quarter of all CPA firm acquisitions were of non-CPA firms.
  • The digital age in transforming organizations from the traditional pyramid model to more of a diamond, with automation and outsourcing removing a lot of the entry-level staff.
  • We need to start thinking about ‘fat middle’ firms, with more skilled middle-level employees than entry-level staff.
  • In terms of new skill sets, we’re most concerned about mid-career people who need to unlearn what they’ve already learned.
  • The notion of measuring CPE by the hour has to go by the wayside – it’s not about the hours, it’s about the skills learned.
  • The profession can’t say ‘We’re fine.’ No one is, and we’re not exempt. Are we well-positioned for making the changes that go with not being fine? Yes — if we’re willing to change, if we’re willing to take risks, we are very well-positioned
  • The quality of one's life depends on the quality of attention. Whatever you pay attention to will grow more important in your life.
  • Deepak Chopra

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

Workplace Distractions

“By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.” – Christopher Columbus

Udemy’s 2018 Workplace Distraction Report has been released and gives us some valuable information. You can download a full copy of the report here.

Highlights:

  • 70% agree that training can help people get better at blocking out distractions and achieving focus.
  • 36% of millennials/Gen A say they spend 2 or more hours per workday looking at their phones for personal activities.
  • 66% have never talked to a manager about their struggles with workplace distraction.

It is not just technology that distracts people. Chatty co-workers were reported as the number-one contributing factor to workplace distraction (80%).

Read more about the survey and talk about how to cure some office distractions at your firm.

  • Happiness can only be found if you can free yourself of all other distractions.
  • Saul Bellow

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

May Day & Mayday

“Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” – William Shakespeare

May 1 is the 121st day of the year (122nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 244 days remaining until the end of the year. Historically, it originated as a Roman festival honoring the beginning of the summer season (in the northern hemisphere). Many, when they think of May Day, think of people dancing around a Maypole (a pole painted and decorated with flowers, around which people traditionally dance on May Day, holding long ribbons that are attached to the top of the pole.)

Mayday, an international radio distress signal used especially by ships and aircraft, has a more linguistic origin than the pragmatic approach of S.O.S. Although a connection to the month of May might seem likely, it is actually an anglicization of the French m’aidez or m’aider, meaning “help me”.

Where am I going with this as it relates to public accounting?

You have relaxed, taken some time off and recovered from the traditional busy season. May 1st is here and you should celebrate, but you only have 244 days remaining to focus on making improvements to position your firm for success before you are faced with another busy season.

You, as an individual can’t do it alone. Enlist the help of many at your firm. Never hesitate to say, “Help me!”

  • With the coming of spring, I am calm again.
  • Gustav Mahler

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

Problems

“The work is to solve problems in a way that you’re proud of.” – Seth Godin

I love the above quotation from a post by Seth Godin. He is describing what it means to be an entrepreneur.

I believe that this quote describes my mission. I work to help my CPA firm clients solve problems, as the quote says, in a way that I am proud of. Often, it is very challenging, mostly because the problems I am trying to help solve can be solved by a simple solution – change.

You, working in a CPA firm, have the same exact mission. It’s not preparing tax returns or financial statements, it is solving problems for your clients and helping them make needed changes to be more profitable and successful.

Begin looking at your work this way. If you are solving problems, word will spread and you will have more clients. Solving problems is a great way to market.

  • We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
  • Albert Einstein

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

Merger & Acquisition

“I always say, complacency is the kiss of death.” – Shari Redstone

So many firms that I have known over my many years in public accounting have disappeared. Yes, they have merged-up or merged-in. As founders of many firms have moved into retirement they have chosen to merge rather than pass the firm along to others.

Many other firms I know have become the acquirers. With them, the original firm has also disappeared to be replaced by a new name that incorporates names of firms they have acquired (usually if those other firms are large enough that their name carries significant weight).

Then there are the doubters, the undecideds. They want to grow by acquiring other firms or they want to enjoy less stress from management responsibilities by being part of a larger firm. This group wavers and worries especially if it is their first venture into the M&A world. They are afraid of the risk and wonder if they will actually like being part of something bigger. They worry if they will like their new partners. My advice? Get over it and move ahead. Don’t delay too long or some wonderful opportunities might pass you by.

  • The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities.
  • Benjamin E. Mays

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

Urgency

“Progressive improvement beats delayed perfection.” – Mark Twain

The heat is off. That is the way many CPAs are feeling today (even though the IRS gave taxpayers one more day).

Many CPAs working in public accounting will be taking a few days off to recuperate. I call it the after-tax-season coma. They certainly deserve some down time but often it turns into a few days off followed by a few weeks of inactivity.

During busy season, most people working in an accounting firm feel a great sense of urgency and work flows like water out the door. After mid-April, that sense of urgency dissipates.

This year it is even more important to take action on firm management matters sooner rather than later. Big change is approaching and leaders need to make decisions and outline plans for how the firm will grow and evolve into a consulting organization.

Don’t lose that sense of urgency.

  • Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value.
  • Jim Rohn

Sunday, April 15th, 2018

Entry-Level Hiring Is Changing Quickly

“Be Prepared” – The Boy Scout Motto

Be aware. You will not need the same type of talent going into the future. Here’s a brief excerpt from an article by Dustin Hostetler via CPA Practice Advisor:

The convergence of technology (namely more artificial intelligence), along with the gig economy, is going to change the way CPA firms hire entry-level staff in the very near future. Basic compliance work will be automated through technology and what isn’t fully automated will be sourced to the gig economy. The new staff you bring in must demonstrate the ability to grow/develop into a client-facing advisor much earlier in their careers than has historically been the case. They also need to possess more skills in the areas of data analytics, financial analysis and strategic thinking.

Now is the time to plan.

  • Preparedness, when properly pursued, is a way of life, not a sudden, spectacular program.
  • Spencer Kimball

Monday, April 9th, 2018

A Functional, Consolidated Internal Management Team Is A Necessity

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.” – Jim Rohn

My consulting work is mostly with the internal management team at CPA firms. I call this team the IMT for short. Who are they?

  • CEO/Managing Partner
  • COO/Firm Administrator
  • Marketing Director
  • IT Director/Manager
  • HR Director/Manager
  • Training & Development Director/Manager
  • Controller/Finance Manager

Their titles varying depending on the size of the firm. In smaller firms one person may play multiple roles. As my firm was growing, I served in all these roles, except CEO.

I often find that this team suffers from the Five Dysfunctions of a Team (made famous by author, Patrick Lencioni). There is 1) An absence of trust, 2) Fear of conflict, 3) Lack of commitment, 4) Avoidance of Accountability and 5) Inattention to results.

As with most things, in a CPA firm, it is all about communication, or the lack thereof.

Why should firms facilitate, train, encourage and demand teamwork from this group, even if the team is comprised of just two people, the managing partner and the firm administrator? It creates momentum to keep the firm moving forward. Simple as that.

In some firms, if there is not a strong administrative and support leader (COO/FA) working at the proper level, these managers work independently, maybe reporting to the MP or to “the marketing partner” or the “technology partner,” and so on.

In firms where there is a strong MP/FA team, working collaboratively and leading the IMT members, things get done. When this team is dysfunctional and disjointed problems creep in and then pour in.

Some may ask, “What does technology have to do with marketing?” “What does marketing have to do with HR?” If you think for just a moment, it will become clear. The problem is, in many firms, leaders don’t take the time to simply stop and think. The MP is too busy with a huge client load and solving dysfunctions between partners.

Marketing can be a huge benefit to HR (and has been during the last several years when the hunt for good people was high on the to-do list). Finance helps the entire IMT understand and prepare budgets. HR helps marketing, finance and technology educate the entire team about topics in their areas. And, technology is the foundation for most activities and tasks in all of these areas (websites, digital newsletters, processes and procedures, remote connectivity, portals for client service, on and on). Leading, coaching, coordinating and holding all of these people responsible is the firm administrator or COO.

If your IMT people are disconnected, even if it is just two (MP and FA), it’s time to switch to a “connected” model.

Begin having weekly or bi-weekly meetings involving the COO and the IMT team. Once a month or so, the MP should also be involved in the meetings. Develop an IMT Pipeline (things that need to be done and the progress that is being made).

In smaller firms and with new firm administrators, I always urge frequent meetings between the MP and FA (with a shared to-do list). In both models, frequent communication and teamwork will help the entire firm move forward

  • Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.
  • Jim rohn

Thursday, April 5th, 2018

Take Your Vacation

“A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in.” – Robert Orben

I have written a lot about people working in CPA firms not taking all their vacation time. Just type “vacation” in the search box – on the right – and browse the various posts.

The fact remains, many (probably a vast majority of) CPAs and other people working in public accounting firms do not take all of their vacation time. Sure, they can bank some of the time to use down the road for illness or family emergencies. That’s a good thing but studies tell us that vacation time is very valuable.

Here are 10 reasons to take your vacation time:

  1. Going on vacation shows you are competent.
  2. No one is impressed if you don’t.
  3. Your team is motivated.
  4. Your team gets more productive.
  5. Being unavailable helps people develop.
  6. You will be more productive.
  7. You will prioritize better.
  8. You let other people be “important.”
  9. Your company benefits.
  10. You need a break.

I recently read an interesting article via HBR – What One Company Learned from Forcing Employees to Use Their Vacation Time.

The article even states that unlimited vacation policies do not work. Peer pressure is always there. You receive social signals that say you’re a slacker if you’re not in the office.

The company in the article adopted a policy of recurring, scheduled mandatory vacation. After working for seven weeks, you must take a week off. I can visualize how this might work in an accounting firm. Read the article and see if it could be modified slightly to work at your firm.

  • A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you've been taking.
  • Earl Wilson