Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

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

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

Friday, March 20th, 2015

Do Clients Care About The Value?

Jeffrey Gitomer focuses on sales. If you are a CPA, you are a salesperson! So, learn to be a great one! I hope you follow Gitomer and absorb just some of what he promotes!

I became acquainted with his stuff when, many years ago, I read his book, The Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude. I bought copies for my firm’s entire administrative team. Maybe you should, too.

I have read almost every one of his books since then. Sure, he’s “sales” but what he says certainly applies to CPA professionals and their teams.

I think this video is a great message for YOU.

How do you know when to give up on a prospective client? Do they fail to respond to your proposal?

Keep in mind that you are building a relationship, not just making a sale. Take JUST TWO MINUTES to listen to Gitomer. He’s talking about demonstrating value and about not being defensive when following-up – – be offensive.

Why do they want to buy?  Are you just hoping?

You should already know when they want to buy, how much they want to pay and that you’re “their person!”

  • Leave your prices out of your proposal.
  • Jeffrey Gitomer

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

CPA Managers – Make Time For Face Time

Many of you attended Winning Is Everything in January in Las Vegas. The best part, to me, was the chance to hear and meet Bruce Tulgan in person.

Yesterday, Mr. Tulgan was a contributor to a great article in the WSJ titled, Managers Need to Make Time For Face time.

Accounting is not the only profession/business where it has become difficult to find time to actually meet, face-to-face, with the people you supervise and manage.

Hands-off management carries risks. One high-profile CEO left his corporation amid criticism that he was too detached from his top team.

Sometime I talk to firms where some managers and partners are actually located on a different floor or even a different building. Just my opinion, but I think the managing partner needs to be with the troops.

There is a difference between micro-managing and being hands-on. In these times of talent wars in the CPA profession, your people want to know you care about them. They want access to their leaders (partners and managers).

One of the biggest complaints I see in the upward surveys I facilitate via SurveyCPA is the fact that staffers want more access to the leaders. They are always on the phone, out of the office or have their office door closed – they tell me. Another comment I hear: I give them work to review and it sometimes takes weeks to hear feedback on how I did, if I hear at all.

Be sure to read the article and determine how, as a manager of people, you might be more involved with your people.

  • There are more of them than us.
  • Herb Caen

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

You Should Worry

This week, starting yesterday with Don’t Hide, I am directing my blog posts to the younger, less experienced (and valuable) talent working inside CPA firms.

If you are in your first or second year (maybe a little longer) and you find that your schedule is not often full, it might be an important sign.

I have worked in, and with, CPA firms for over 30 years and have observed the following scenario way too often:

Manager Kathy, or Partner Ted, is preparing to begin an engagement for a new client, an important or even a not so important client. They notify the scheduler (or scheduling team) that they need a 2-year person assigned (or even a Senior assigned) to assist them. Then they add, “But, don’t give me Joe. I would rather have Lisa.”

The scheduler notices that this happens quite often – “Don’t give me Joe.”

Eventually, Joe’s schedule becomes less populated and he’s left behind in the office most of the time when groups go out to do fieldwork. Sometimes Joe sends emails “to all” noting that he has time on his schedule and is willing to assist with whatever.

Joe should worry.

It almost always means that Joe is not performing up to expectations. It also means that the people who should be coaching Joe are avoiding uncomfortable conversations with Joe. If they ignore Joe, maybe he will quit.

Eventually, they will let him go or he will quit on his own.

So, if you are in your first few years at a CPA firm and you notice that you have less and less on your schedule, you should worry.

I suggest that you be very proactive. Ask your various supervisors (partner and managers you have worked for) how you are doing. Ask for their help to get better. Ask them to document a development plan to help you improve. They will be glad to help. If you get the uncomfortable conversation on the table, it might save your career in public accounting.

  • We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.
  • Aristotle

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Don’t Hide

There are a lot of recent college graduates and interns, accounting majors, experiencing their first tax season in public accounting. Are you one of them? If not, send a link to this post to the bright young people at your firm who are.

You were hired because you interviewed well. You asked great questions. You were talkative without being overbearing. You were cheerful and pleasant. You smiled a lot.

Now you have made it to March. In most CPA firms, the days leading up to March 15 and April 15 are intense, fast-paced and somewhat stressful.

During these busy times, you are tempted to simply keep your head down, focus on the work, stay out of people’s way and try to simply blend in. Now is not the time to hide. Don’t quit asking questions.

Often you are not actually as busy as your bosses think you are. Volunteer for assignments. Ask for the difficult tasks. Force yourself to stretch.

The experienced accountants in your firm realize you will make mistakes and they will help you learn as you go.

A partner told me once, “I just wish one of the new kids would simply stick their head in my office and ask me if they could help me. At least I would know they are ambitious.”

Don’t hide. Be visible. Ask questions.

  • You are a possibility that has never occurred before and will never occur again. No one else has had or will ever have your unique combination of talents, experiences and dreams. So don't waste that uniqueness.
  • Patrick Combd

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

They Want Feedback!

This post is about young people wanting feedback – BUT – it is not just about young people. Everyone on your CPA firm team wants feedback from their boss (make that plural inside a CPA firm, where almost everyone has several bosses).

In an article on HBR, NBA hall-of-famer Grant Hill talks about his college coach, the legendary Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski). Hill forgot his shoes for an important away game. Did he get a lecture, did he get yelled at? No, the team lost and there was an ice cream sundae party and another practice to help the team recover from the humiliation of the loss. Coach K’s focus was on teambuilding, not defeat.

According to a 2014 global survey, Millennials said they wanted MORE feedback. They also disclosed that their manager was their #1 source of development, but only 46% agreed that their managers delivered on their expectations for feedback.

Sound familiar? I see this playing out in numerous accounting firms across the country.

Younger workers (under age 35) in your firm want a few simple things:

  • Inspire me
  • Surround me with great people
  • Be authentic

According to author, Tim Gallwey, coaching is about unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their performance. Inside your accounting firm, it is about helping your less-experienced people achieve what they are capable of doing.

  • Leaders have to search for the heart on a team, because the person who has it can bring out the best in everybody else.
  • Mike Krzyzewski

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Too Many Hours, Too Much Drama

Is someone inside your busy firm driving you nuts? Speak up!

While winter marches on, there are many people working crazy hours to serve their clients and comply with the IRS and other regulatory agencies. It’s the CPA and all of the talented people that work in certified public accounting firms across the U.S.

Bad weather is no excuse for not getting the work done.

It’s normal for these people to work long hours from January through April 15. They are professionals. They expect it and adjust accordingly.

If you are one of these people, you might adjust to the long hours and actually enjoy the work. However, you do not enjoy the drama that comes to light during this time of extended, often stressful, hours with your co-workers.

0 Avatar slide for blogSome of their bad habits and annoying behavior drive you nuts! But, what I find with many accountants is that you do not like confrontation and you will suffer (but not in silence).

I bet you have regularly complained to OTHER people about some thing someone is doing that annoys you. If you are a “go to” person inside a firm, think about how many times someone has come to you and pleaded, “Could you talk to Fred about the way he leaves the coffee pot empty on the burner? He does it all the time!”

It’s time to take ownership of the drama – – if you notice something that is annoying or rude go directly to the person and speak to them. Don’t passively accept their inappropriate behavior and then build drama around it so that everyone in the office knows of the offense except the person committing it.

  • The older I grow the more I listen to people who don't talk much.
  • Germain G. Glien

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Let Your Clients Know Your Expectations

This is one of those “back in the day” posts that perhaps younger people in the CPA profession tire of hearing. Yet, I still believe that some of the old ways might be the best ways.

I grew up in public accounting under the stewardship of a highly-professional, disciplined, intelligent, dictator-style managing partner, Luke Ware. Luke “grew-up” in a Big 8 firm and I am just assuming that many of his actions/procedures were developed there. Our firm was small then. It ranged from 11 to about 22 people while Luke was the boss.

Client service was the focus, yet the clients were trained. That’s what we called it. They were trained to be ready when our CPAs arrived for an audit or review. All of the business owners were 1040 clients. They knew when their appointment was each year (yes, they came into the office to meet with the partner/manager) and they brought their organizer and all their documents with them (well, most of their documents).

Notice I said, “trained.” We trained our clients via communicating their responsibilities as part of our relationship. What we really did was clearly communicate our expectations. I hope you are doing the same.

In a busy, growing accounting firm it is the manager’s duty (or the partner) to be sure the client is ready for the auditors when they arrive on the appointed day. It is their duty to be sure the client understands their commitments to the beneficial relationship.

Some steps you might use:

  • Set an appointment date when you expect their data to arrive
  • Teach them how you would like to receive the data
  • Provide reminders as the date nears
  • Talk about these steps with all new clients as you add them to your client list

We sent an appointment card with the organizer (the kind they could stick on their refrigerator). These days you can send an appointment invitation via email. Each 1040 client received a reminder call the day before the 1040 appointment to remind them of the appointment (much like your dentist or eye doctor does now). If they didn’t have “all their stuff,” we told them to come anyway and bring what they did have so we could get started on the return.

As our firm grew, we got away from some of this because of the “time” involved in meeting with the client and the convenience of just having them drop-off or send-in their information. We often use client service to hide the fact that we really want less time in the job. Meeting with a client, even just a 1040, face-to-face once a year often opened the door to additional services – that was part of the plan.

What’s your plan? Do you permit clients to sabotage your schedule? These days I recommend developing a commitment statement between the firm and the client outlining the expectations from both and making it a discussion tool early in the relationship.

I have always believed that clients are impressed by a CPA firm that appears very professional, has defined procedures, communicates effectively and is an example of how you run a highly-successful business.


  • I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'
  • Muhammad Ali

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Using or Avoiding Cloud Accounting Apps?

barryMy longtime friend in the world of public accounting, Barry MacQuarrie, Consultant and IT Director with the KAF firm in Boston can be described as a cloud accounting enthusiast.

As part of his on-going research, via Cloud Accounting Connects, he has just launched the 2015 Cloud Accounting Connects survey to find out if accountants are adopting or avoiding cloud accounting apps. Haven’t you been wondering what other accountants really think about the world of cloud accounting?

It should only take about 5 minutes to complete. Here’s the link to the survey.

MacQuarrie will share results with those who take the survey.

  • Aw, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. Forty percent of all people know that.
  • Homer Simpson