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.
Accounting firms all over North America are in a quandary and challenged about how to move forward. Current partners simply don’t see the leadership skills they expect in their firm’s up-and-coming staff and worry about their retirement prospects. While at the same time, emerging leaders are frustrated with a lack of training from above and have no desire to live the hectic life of their older compatriots.
To address these and other succession-related issues, The CPA Consultants’ Alliance (CPACA), a working group of thought leaders united in their efforts to further leadership within the CPA profession has published a new book aimed at helping the CPA profession close the divide between current and emerging leaders.
CPACA members wrote the book, entitled BRIDGING THE GAP: Strengthening the Connection between Current and Emerging Leaders in the CPA Profession as a collaboration.
“This book represents cooperation among leading experts to bring understanding of this complex and important issue to CPA professionals,” said Sarah Dobek, President of Inovautus Consulting and current President of the CPACA.
“I’m proud of what this book represents,” she said. “Not only is it a timely and valuable resource for the profession, it’s been a great learning experience for the CPACA members broadening all our perspectives to make us more informed and better resources for the firms we serve.”
Members of the CPACA collaborated for a year on the content for the book—each bringing a different perspective to the topic and authoring a chapter addressing leadership issues.
The book features 14 chapters worth of insights and examples. In addition, each chapter contains discussion questions to help open conversations among current and emerging leaders in firms to build greater understanding and a common vision for the future. The book is available from Amazon in both Kindle and soft cover form.
Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.
“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” – Voltaire
Sometimes just after busy season you might think you have seen enough of clients for a while. You are wrong about that!
So many times I have heard clients say they wish their CPA was more proactive. What kind of Action Plan do you have in place to continually communicate with clients?
I think it falls under the “this is how we do it here” category.
We take new hires along to client meetings.
We expect every person in the firm to have a role in marketing.
We provide continual performance feedback to our employees.
We close the office on Fridays in the summer.
We acknowledge every team members birthday.
We have a client service plan for “A” clients and a different one for “B” clients.
We send our clients a birthday card.
We thank our clients in different ways for simply trusting us as their financial and business advisor.
Should any of these “this is how we do it here” bullets apply to your firm? What else can you add?
Yesterday, I received some free drink coupons from Southwest. They remembered to thank me. It made me smile. Do you think Southwest has more customers than you do? You could certainly do some little expected things to show your clients that you appreciate them.
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” – Oscar Wilde
Your employee handbook is important to firm leaders AND it is important to CPA firm employees.
Most mid- to large size CPA firms have an employee handbook in place. Many smaller firms also have one in place, too. However, I find that firms without a full-time firm administrator or HR professional haven’t updated, or even read, their employee handbook in ages.
Recently, I reviewed an employee handbook used by one of my newer clients. I opened the pdf copy and immediately recognized something about 20 years old and probably straight out of the old MAP Handbook. It was dated to say the least.
Here’s the point of this post: Employers need to have their policies and procedures documented in writing and have it easily accessible (online) to all employees. Employees need to actually read the entire employee handbook and sign-off.
The trouble is that new employees are over-whelmed when first joining the firm, meeting new co-workers and getting up-to-speed on their duties as soon as possible. Often the reading of the employee handbook gets put on the back burner. They may even sign-off without actually reading the handbook. After all, some handbooks can be 20 to 40 pages long!
Eventually, the firm administrator, MP or HR person will be faced with a situation where an employee has violated a policy. During the ensuing conversation, the employee admits they have not read the handbook.
I recommend that during orientation, one hour be set aside for the new employee to have uninterrupted time to read the firm’s employee handbook.
Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.
“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” – Confucius
It has been my observation that even the smallest of CPA firms not only have interactions with international businesses on behalf of their clients but are also doing work directly for international clients.
Do your youngest team members know the basics about the international cultures of the people they may need to talk to on the phone, or meet in person? Do your experienced team members know? Does your partner group even know?
Maybe you won’t ever meet them in person but you may have frequent video conferences with them. What should you say and not say? What part of your body language might be offensive to a different culture?
My point today? Get some training for ALL you people on dealing with people internationally. You can probably find someone locally. Seek out help from your local Chamber of Commerce.
One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.
“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” – Jeff Bezos
Last week, the Ohio Society of CPAs unveiled their new brand. I love the “Advancing the State of Business” focus and the video that talks about what CPAs in Ohio really do to help Ohio advance the state of business.
CPAs in all states are really doing the same thing.
I want to share the video and I hope you’ll take three minutes to watch it.
Is this the year that your firm needs to rebrand itself? Is your logo stale and out-dated? Winning client opportunities and attracting top talent is ALL about your brand. What are people in your business community saying about you?
Whether you do a rebrand or not, why don’t you do a similar video to help your clients understand how you can help them move their business forward. Put the video on your website and use social media to “drive” people to your website. Mention the video to current clients and ask them to share it with their business friends
If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.
Can you describe your firm’s culture clearly and concisely?
If you want a profitable, growing, progressive, high-profile firm, you have to pay attention to culture. If you don’t continually work on your culture, you will have one anyway. It will develop on it’s own and it might not be something pretty. It might not even be close to your partner group’s vision of and for the firm.
Begin with your core values. Sure, most firm’s have their core values somewhere on their website but can your team members recite even some of them?
I was so impressed with one of my clients recently. One of the first things I saw when I entered their lobby was a lighted, niche wall display with the listing of their core values proudly displayed.
Think about how your core values and the owner’s setting a good example can be good starting points to shape a culture you can be proud of and one that will attract top talent and exceptional clients.
I love this quote from Leadership Freak:
“When it comes to culture, you may aim high, but in the end, you get what you tolerate.”
“If you don’t know where you are going, you are certain to end up somewhere else.” – Yogi Berra
You have spent the last day and one-half with your fellow partners focusing on the future of the firm. Before the group departs, be sure to do some wrap-up steps.
Decisions were made, action items were assigned. Be sure to go over these points during the retreat recap so that everyone is on the same page and clear about the expectations. Everyone leaves the retreat with an understanding of the action steps and is clear about who “owns” each step.
As often occurs with partner retreats, when partners return to the office, managers and staff members ask what happened at the retreat. Everyone wants to know what decisions were made. To effectively handle the onslaught of questions, be sure everyone leaves the meeting with “talking points.” List the key points on a flip-chart. Some items are confidential and should not be shared but most items are not. Once everyone is in agreement, appoint a person to capture the points digitally and send them to the attendees. Once back at the office (immediately) the MP should send out an email including the key points so that everyone gets the message at the same time, in the same manner.
I always urge partners to have a “state of the firm” meeting as soon as possible after the retreat so that the key points and any new strategic direction for the firm can be shared with all.
Finally, ask the attendees what they liked about the meeting and what they did not like. Do this, on-site, while things are fresh in their minds. What bugged you? What did you really like? What could we do better next time? Use the KSS method – For our retreat, what should we Keep doing, what should we Stop doing and what should we Start doing?
Retreats are like other routine office happenings (such as performance evaluations). If you don’t refresh them and do things differently, everyone soon gets bored with the entire experience.
The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.
“To get something done a committee should consist of no more than three people, two of whom are absent.” – Robert Copeland
Meetings, and the need for them, are on my mind currently.
During the last two weeks of April and into early May, I hear from many CPAs and their people. They save a lot up over busy season!
It is also the beginning of conference season. The time when CPAs and their people attend various conferences and gather some valuable and insightful information to help make their firm a better place to work and a better resource for their clients.
Some of these conversations and topics come back to an age old issue. We have too many meetings!!
CPA leaders really do want to include people. Retention of top talent demands that you have an inclusive culture. Younger generations want to be “in the know.” Yes, they want to be heard but they also want to simply listen. But, be aware, they do not want to attend a meeting that turns out to be a big waste of time.
Frequently, teams fail to link the structure (content, frequency, and duration) of their meetings with the job that needs to be accomplished. A one-size-fits-all meeting doesn’t work.
Here are some steps to follow (read the entire article to learn more about each step).
Define the work of the team
Parse the items into different categories so meetings can be tailored to the content
Determine the frequency with which you need to discuss each category
Set the length of the different meetings
Plan for overflow
Get away from the “general” type meetings where you try to cover too many things and include too many people.
This also applies to partner retreats. Don’t try to cover too many topics. Focus on the most important (one or two) and work at getting something accomplished rather than sending people home with the feeling they wasted two days.
Meetings are indispensable when you don't want to do anything.