Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

How You Learn All About CPA Firm Management

“The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.” – Hubert H. Humphrey

Next week I will be in Baltimore for the CPAFMA (formerly the Association for Accounting Administration) National Practice Management Conference.

If you are a partner in a CPA firm and your firm administrator or COO is not attending, shame on you. You must invest in the education, skill-building, and knowledge of this key role in your firm. The payback is phenomenal.

Notice that the title includes National and Practice Management. It is rare to find a conference, national or otherwise, that is completely devoted to the improved management of an accounting practice (MAP).

This conference is targeted to those responsible for the efficient, profitable operation of an accounting firm. That includes managing partners.

This year, we are seeing many more transitions from long-time managing partners to the new, less experienced managing partner. There is no other place to obtain SO MUCH firm management knowledge and support.

Whether you are attending or not, check out the agenda. One of the best and most appreciated sessions is the break-out by firm size. You don’t get to talk to people working inside a similar size firm from across the United States very often.

Now, firm administrators, shame on you. I have heard many of you say, “I’m not going the conference, it’s expensive and the partners wouldn’t pay it.” I asked, “Did you ask them and provide a value proposition?” The answer, “Well, no, I didn’t ask because I knew they wouldn’t send me.” This situation makes me very sad. BUT, at the conference next week, sure I will speak but I will also learn AND, I will have so much fun doing it!

This is a good example of why I write and speak about the need for improved communication inside accounting firms!

Here are just a fewIMG_3911 pictures of fun and life-long friends!photo (1)IMG_1727 - Version 2IMG_2619


HC my friends


  • One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.
  • Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Expand The Feedback For Your Firm Administrator

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has take place.” – George Bernard Shaw

Here’s the issue: The firm’s long-time, experienced and valuable firm administrator receives their performance feedback from the firm’s managing partner.

Year after year the same person gives feedback to the same person. Very often I hear from firm administrators that they no longer receive formal performance evaluations nor on-going feedback about their performance because they are doing a good job and nothing has changed.

I could give you a very long list of why this is a terrible situation…. for both sides. But, I would rather give you a solution to improving this situation.

Every year, have a different partner gather input and conduct the face-to-face feedback conversation with the firm administrator. If you only have two or three partners, continually rotate this duty.

The value of this activity is two-fold. The “other” partners get to see and hear, first-hand, the volume of duties and challenges faced by the firm administrator and the firm administrator gets to hear comments and advice from several sources within the firm.

The dual-value comes from all partners and the firm administrator getting to know and understand each other better.

  • "Employees who report receiving recognition and praise within the last seven days show increased productivity, get higher scores from customers, and have better safety records. They're just more engaged at work.
  • Tom Rath

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Expanding Your Services To Current Clients

“If you want to be the best salesperson, first you must be the best person.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

We have heard it said over and over again at CPA management conferences – for years! “Don’t forget to ask your clients WHAT ELSE they need from you and your firm.”

The trouble is, they don’t usually know what they need. I find it is much like focusing on improving your own firm. Another well-known saying applies. “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Often, your client doesn’t know what they don’t know.

It is your business to know your client and their business so well that you are able to enlighten them as to what they should do, what they shouldn’t do and how they can make their business more profitable. As a CPA, you are known as the most trusted advisor. Are you living up to that role?

That is where specialization comes into play. Not every CPA in your firm can know everything about every service line. If you are on the auto dealer team at your firm you better know everything about operating a dealership. You are routinely reading dealership management magazines and newsletters and you attend the same conferences that dealership owners attend. Hopefully, someone from your firm is speaking at those industry conferences. The same activities apply to your firm’s non-profit, construction, hospitality, distribution and all other teams.

You should, of course, continue to ask your clients how you can help but you should also be very upfront in telling them about current trends in their industry and what they should be doing to stay competitive and profitable.

  • The key to mastering any kind of sales is switching statements about you - how great you are, and what you do - to statements about them.
  • Jeffrey Gitomer

Friday, June 17th, 2016

CPA Management Newsletter

My newsletter went out yesterday. Here are the stories I included in this edition:

  • The Latest On Issues Being Faced By Firms
  • Keep The Feedback Flowing – Video Interview
  • Need To Talk?

I hope you received your copy. Be sure to check your spam filter. If you are not on my mailing list, you can sign up for my newsletter here.


  • By the time we've made it, we've had it.
  • Malcolm Forbes

Friday, June 10th, 2016

Managing Partner Is Not A Popularity Contest

“I firmly believe that respect is a lot more important, and a lot greater, than popularity.:” – Julius Erving

I’m sure you have noticed that I communicate a lot of observations about CPAs and their firms. It comes naturally to me because I have been observing the CPA profession for 35 years.

The observation I want to share today is that the most successful accounting firms have a strong leader, not a crowd pleaser personality. They have the power to propel the firm forward while understanding that they can’t please everyone all the time. Their partner peer group supports their vision.

Vivek Wadhwa, Director of research, Duke University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Research says, “Business leadership is not a popularity contest; the best companies are run by enlightened dictators.”

Managing partners must listen very carefully to their employees but they have to do what is best for the firm. The best ones give the praise for successful initiatives to others and take the blame for failed endeavors themselves.

A major disappointment for me is when I see firm leaders actually change direction and discard certain policies because one (or maybe two) people voice disapproval. Often, it is disapproval about very important changes that need to be made such as, being absolutely paperless, moving to the Cloud, or being willing to be held accountable for their performance.

I alway advise working with the healthy part of your firm, the people who are excited about the future and have the passion for the firm and the profession. Leave the nay-sayers alone and maybe they will eventually get on board. If they don’t, allow them to build their career elsewhere.

Here’s a good article by Wadhwa on this topic.


  • What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
  • Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

AICPA Practitioners Symposium and TECH+ Conference

“Genius is the capacity to retrieve childhood at will.” – Erik Wahl

Again this year, I am very fortunate to be able to speak at this great conference.

IMG_7017The opening keynote on Sunday afternoon was one of the most amazing presentations I have ever experienced (and I have seen a lot of excellent keynotes!). The presentation titled Unthink was by renowned graffiti artist, Erik Wahl.

His presentation (and message) was unique, different and fun. How about your firm….. is it unique, truly different and fun? Or, do you let fear keep you repeating the status quo?

Here’s Wahl’s take on FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real.

He challenged accountants to use their creative skills, to break the mold and to dare to be unique.

I have observed that CPAs always want to follow the leader; do what every other firm is doing. However, I am seeing a lot of change happening.

You are probably familiar with some of the high-profile firms (of all sizes) that are truly becoming digital firms and providing some very non-traditional services in non-traditional ways.

Just recently I met a couple of additional CPA firm owners who are going down this uniqueness road. I met one in the Las Vegas airport on Sunday and one at an OSCPA meeting. They were both females. That is also an interesting observation!


  • Most of our inspirations for solutions and creativity come from interactions with others.
  • Erik Wahl

Monday, June 6th, 2016

What’s In It For Me? – The Mentor & the Mentee

“If you cannot see where you are going, ask someone who has been there before.” – J. Loren Norris

Tomorrow I will be talking at the AICPA Practitioners’ Symposium & TECH+ Conference about the importance of mentoring and how developing a mentoring culture can help the firm hire and retain talented people.

I usually get a lot of questions about the specifics, such as:

  • How often to we meet?
  • Where do we meet?
  • What exactly should I talk about?
  • What if we are not a good match?
  • How does each side benefit?

Here’s the answer to what’s in it for both sides:

For the Mentor:

Mentoring allows the mentor to give something back to the firm and to the CPA profession. It helps the mentor to become a much better listener. It is a way for the mentor to share some of the good things they have learned from their years of experience and also gives them a chance to share some warnings about bad things that could possibly happen. It gives them the opportunity to “see” the firm through another person’s eyes. Most mentors say they usually gain just as much, or even more, than the mentee.

For the Mentee:

A great mentor will help increase the mentee’s level of self-confidence. The mentee will learn how to say the right thing, when to speak up and when it is best to remain silent. It gives the mentee some direction on handling the feedback they receive on their performance. It provides important networking opportunities and introductions to people who may become influential to their careers. It helps the mentee more quickly understand the organization and even the CPA profession.

Simply put, creating a mentoring culture shows your people that the firm is willing to invest time and money in the success of its people.

  • My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better.
  • Steve Jobs

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

Modern Mentoring Methods

“Our chief want in life is somebody who will make us do what we can.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have been advising CPA firms on mentoring programs for nearly 20 years. Yes, mentoring has changed and evolved greatly over that time period.

I will be updating some of you next week at the AICPA PSTECH Symposium in Las Vegas.

Here are some highlights, just in case you won’t be there!

  • Mentoring is different than supervising
  • Supervising focuses on performance and mentoring focuses on developing insight
  • The mentee owns the goals and the process, the mentor is there for expert support
  • The relationship should be collaborative
  • You can have more than one mentor – seek them out
  • A mentor can even mentor several people as a group
  • The mentee should be able to manage the relationship, called “managing up”
  • Some CPAs believe mentoring is difficult and involved – that is completely wrong, it is easy – keep it simple
  • You can’t force someone to be mentored, they have to be hungry for knowledge and eager to learn
  • Not everyone is naturally a good mentor, don’t force all partners to be official mentors
  • It’s perfectly okay to change mentors

Maybe it is time to update your mentoring program. Times are changing and so has mentoring.


  • A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.
  • Oprah Winfrey

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

The Interviewing Obstacle

“If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” – Thomas Edison

Recently, one of my monthly coaching clients remarked to me, “The person you interviewed is not the same person you hired.”

I’m sure many of you involved with interviewing college recruits and experienced CPAs have had that feeling at times. I think it is pretty much human nature. Think about the times when you have been in a situation that is out of your element. I bet you were on your absolute best behavior, not acting naturally and carefully watching what you say.

If you have had some difficulty hiring successfully, maybe it is time to update your approach to interviewing. Interviewing is the most important part of the hiring process. So, if you are intending to overhaul your hiring process, look at the interview process first.

The old standard question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” is now considered the worst interview question.

Be sure you are asking the right questions, results-oriented questions. Be aware that video screening is being widely used, as well as actual video interviewing.

Another very important step is to keep in touch with the candidates. One statistic tells us that nearly 50% of candidates never hear back after an interview.

The way you interview and hire helps build your brand as a firm. Your reputation will spread on the college campus if you make the interview process an efficient and informative experience.

  • Insist on yourself. Never imitate.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Not Cut Out For Public Accounting

I have heard this said for years, “Not everyone is cut out for public accounting.” What does that means exactly? Have you ever thought about it?

I have and I have even actually used those words on people I have had to “let go.”

What makes a person a good fit for public accounting?

You have to be dedicated to building a career and a business. You have to learn the ropes rather quickly. You have to be a good thinker, a good talker and enjoy people. Along with all of these, you have to be comfortable with life-long learning and keeping current on huge amounts of tough technical details about tax, accounting and auditing. Then comes the characteristics of an advisor. It means really understanding how different businesses work and what makes them successful and then be able to convince clients to follow your advice.

Add to that, when you become a partner in a firm you have to become skilled at managing an accounting firm. It is not as easy as it sounds. It goes way beyond the “numbers” skills that it takes to be a good accountant. You have to be knowledgeable about HR, technology, marketing, administration, etc.

Not every accountant can, or wants, do that. In addition to all of that knowledge you have to acquire and maintain, you have to be willing to work long hours and be dedicated to a life of service. Not every accountant can do that.

However, the pay-off is phenomenal both financially and emotionally.

Almost every long-term CPA partner that I talk to tells me they absolutely love what they do. That’s the big pay-off.

It is a career, not a job. Some accountants just want a job.


  • Careers are a jungle gym, not a laddeer.
  • Sheryl Sandberg