Archive for the ‘Crafting Your Career’ Category

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

To Keep Top Talent At Your CPA Firm, Ask Them To Stretch

You arrive at the office on Friday morning and immediately you hear the news from one of your partners, your firm administrator or the HR director….. “Sally gave her notice late yesterday afternoon!”

Sally has become a key person on your team. She had just been promoted to Supervisor and was not only building some strong client relationships, the younger team members were requesting to be assigned to her jobs.

Yes, she got a great offer from another firm, an offer that was almost too good to be true. And, yes, you have been stalling on promoting her to manager because you already have 12 managers and are not sure what the future truly holds for her at the firm. You have delayed talking to her about all this and even though she has been asking questions about her career path.

How do you replace her? You are thinking about the recruiter fees you will be paying to get someone with her experience. WAIT…. don’t you have an internal mobility plan?  If not, you should begin one now.

Although promoting from within is a common practice inside of firms, I often hear, “we don’t have anyone ready to handle her accounts, no one is experienced enough.”

Before you go outside to hire, consider asking your Seniors to stretch a little and fill the role of Supervisor. Ask your associates to stretch a little and fill the role of Senior. You get the idea.

Your best performers (at whatever level) are looking for career advancement and career development. They will step-up and go above and beyond if you present the opportunity. They are waiting for you to ask and they don’t want you to bring a stranger in from the outside.

Besides, your own internal candidates already know your culture, procedures and quirks. Give them a chance. You might be surprised at how eager they are to stretch…. if you give them the opportunity.



  • Success is due to our stretching to the challenges of life. Failure comes when we shrink from them.
  • John C. Maxwell

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Information for “New” or “Nearly” Accounting Firm Partners

brochure jpegI often get questions about training for new or future accounting firm partners.

There are a lot of good programs out there for this group of CPAs in public practice. So, if you are a “new” or “nearly” a partner here’s an upcoming opportunity to learn more from the AICPA about important topics you will be addressing as a partner in a firm.

The AICPA will be offering the Emerging Partner Training Forum on June 23 and 24. You can attend the event at the AICPA offices in New York or Durham. The sessions will be simulcast between Durham and New York and each forum will include both on-site speakers and live broadcasts of speakers at the alternate location.

You can download a copy of the brochure here.

Just keep in mind, there is a lot more to the role of CPA firm partner than you can learn in two days, 2 weeks, 2 months or even 2 years. It used to be a highly billable/great rainmaker role. Now, it is a true leadership/relationship-building role comprised of intelligent people who are also emotionally intelligent and they lead by example.

I hope you are smiling – that last sentence was just a “wish” by me – it’s not reality yet.

  • The more deeply you want the spotlight the more urgently you must turn it on others.
  • Dan Rockwell

Monday, April 21st, 2014

The Offer

When you read the title, above, I bet you thought I was going to give you some helpful advice on making an employment offer to top candidates at the college level or experienced accountants. Wrong. I want you to consider making an offer to someone to leave.

Last week, I read an article on HBR about Amazon copying a practice used for many years by Zappos. Remember, Zappos is now owned by Amazon. It seems Jeff Bezos is adapting a practice developed and used by Tony Hsieh.

Zappos calls it “The Offer” and Amazon is calling their version “Pay to Quit.”

You have probably noticed, unhappy people make for unsuccessful companies (or CPA firms).  I think this commentary from the article could apply to many accounting firms:

As Bezos notes in his letter to shareholders, “in the long run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.” This is not, it should be stressed, an indictment of the organization or people who choose to leave. Great companies are great precisely because they stand for something special, different, distinctive. That means, almost by definition, that they are not for everybody. It takes a certain personality type to thrive in the extroverted almost theatrical, culture of Zappos, or the driven, no-nonsense culture of Amazon. If there isn’t the right fit, it makes perfect sense to quit.

Be sure to read the article, Why Amazon Is Copying Zappos and Paying Employees to Quit and note the last paragraph. How engaged are people at every level of your CPA firm? What would it take to persuade some of them to leave?

  • I don't want just words. If that's all you have for me, you'd better go.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned

Friday, April 18th, 2014

Making Personal Decisions

When you are working inside a busy accounting firm, sometimes it is very difficult to “herd the cats” and reach important decisions.

Actually, whether you are an owner or a first-year staff accountant, personal decisions can be overwhelming.

For some thoughts on decision-making that impacts the firm, check-out yesterday’s blog post. Today, it is about you and your personal decisions.

Many young accountants face decisions, such as: Should I stay with the firm? Should I be more aggressive on seeking that promotion? Do I really want to continue to live in (name of city) for the rest of my life?

More experienced accountants may be contemplating: Should I buy that house because it’s in the upscale neighborhood? Should I talk to that executive recruiter who has been calling me? Do I eliminate my general clients and dig deeper into that specialized niche or segment? Do I seek to become partner and fight the work/life balance issue?

Susie Moore, in an article in the Huffington Post, gives us advice on making the right decision:

It’s important to make considered, well-thought-out decisions, especially when they’re life changing. But lets not confuse fear of failure and chronic over-thinking with decision-making. With some guidance laid out here, and by listening to your intuition, you can make the right choices in your life and feel confident?  Here are five tips:

Stop asking other people.

Trust that your inner voice, your intuition, has all you need to know. You are whole and have the answers, my friend!

Sleep on it.

There’s rarely a real rush to make a big decision, and 24 hours to make one (when there are external factors involved — e.g., your boss is waiting) is always a good idea. A fresh, relaxed mind in the morning is at its most clear.

Take some quiet time.

Whether you meditate, think best while running or simply tune in to your center while sitting on your couch with tea, be still and take an hour or two to connect with your inner wisdom. It surfaces when we allow it to.

Consider both clear outcomes of the decision in mind.

Write them down. Imagine all of a sudden that one of the two outcomes was taken off the table. Scratch it out on the paper. Do you feel disappointed or relieved with what remains? If it feels good, here’s your answer!

Create a personal deadline to making it happen.

No negotiating on this one!


  • Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Women & Non-CPA Professionals – You Can Do It

This morning I am going to take a trip down memory lane in hopes that it might inspire, encourage or ignite many females and non-CPA professionals working in the profession of public accounting. It might also be a heads-up for CPA partners who depend greatly on non-CPAs and women in accounting to help create a profitable, growing, highly-recognized accounting firm.

I was doing some research and came across a self-evaluation I did early in my career for a mentor/coach I was working with. When I saw it I was surprised. I don’t recall making the comment but I can see how it applied to public accounting 30 years ago.

Below is what appeared on the self-eval form for me – by me. It was not seen by “management” in my firm, just by my outside-the-firm coach. Here’s how I felt early in my career.

Question:  1.  Describe the three most important things this person could improve upon in order to increase overall effectiveness.

My self-evaluation answer:  Get a sex change and become a CPA

As I reflect upon it now, the comment seems sad (but true). I am somewhat amazed that I felt this way. At that point in time I could have given up but I didn’t, even though I felt that if I was not a CPA and a man, I could not be effective and successful in the CPA profession.

Now, I know that my thoughts during those early years working in public accounting were wrong. As I look back, I must admit that my path wasn’t easy. It’s still not easy to build a career in public accounting whether you are a male, female, CPA or not.  The fact is, success in business, in general, is not easy. Life is not easy. You must have a passion for what you do and you have to work hard.

  • Don't limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you.
  • Mary Kay Ash

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Read To Succeed

I continue to blog a lot about the value and importance of reading. I ask you, well I actually plead with you, to continually read – not just CPA stuff – all kinds of books, publications, newsletters, articles, blogs and even Facebook pages.

Reading and then using what you have read as reference when you are faced with a future challenge, problem or “situation” can be one of your best time investments.

I’m glad you are reading this blog! Hopefully, you browse the categories and seek out information that may be helpful. I want to also thank all of you who actually open my newsletter and read one or more of the articles.

Remember…. if you want to succeed, you need to read.  Here’s a message from Jeffrey Gitomer about the importance of reading.

  • If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' somebody else's dog around.
  • Cowboy Wisdom

Monday, March 31st, 2014

CPAs – Be Proud Of Your Knowledge, Experience and Skills

My take on CPAs, in general, is that they are very humble.

Of course, there are many who have some egotistical characteristics, mostly demonstrated “inside” the firm. But, when it comes to the amazing resource they are to the firm’s clients, it’s a different story. When they receive a compliment from a client, they usually respond that “It was nothing,” – - “It was no trouble at all.” – - “It was easy to take care of.”

All this brings to light a common communication issue, for CPAs, and for many other people in business. It is also a communication issue in your personal life. It is the issue of deflecting a compliment. If you deflect a compliment, people will stop giving them to you! You have spent a lot of time and money gaining the amazing knowledge you possess, knowledge that you share with your clients. Don’t discount the value of that knowledge.

Some years ago I received some great advice on the topic of receiving compliments. I try to practice it faithfully. It’s very simple and I want to share it with you.

When you receive a compliment simply say, “Thank-you” and move on with the conversation.

  • You know you're old when someone compliments you on your alligator shoes and you are barefoot.
  • Phyllis diller

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Why You Hire Them & What You Expect

When I was working inside a growing CPA firm, we (the partners) would often remark to each other and to others involved in hiring, “Hire them for the sparkle in their eye.” Then, as you can probably imagine, once hired them we proceeded to grind that sparkle out of them!

The sad part is that the managers and partners directly supervising the young people didn’t even realize they were doing it!

Although we were far from a sweat shop, when we hired them for their personality, their sparkle, we should have done a better job at enabling them to shine along with a reasonable measure of hard work and dedication to quality client service.

All of this came back to me as I was reading an article by Andrew Argue of The Bean Counter, as he gives great advice to young people building their careers in public accounting.

Bosses and employees in public accounting can both gain insight from Argue’s article, Don’t Let Your Boss Keep You Down.

Remember, people don’t leave firms, they leave managers and as Argue notes, the best managers don’t make you feel tiny, they make you grow.

  • The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.
  • Tom Peters

Friday, March 21st, 2014

What Really Matters Inside Your CPA Firm?

Do you ever think about it? I’m referring to today’s title: What really matters inside your CPA firm, in your family, in your life?

At work some things don’t matter much. Like the size of your office, the size of your cubicle, the kind of coffee your serve, the brand of soft drinks you stock, the time you get to work or the time you leave.

The problem with people is they often make decisions based on things that don’t really matter much.

More things that don’t matter that much:  The kind or color of the car you drive or the fact that your office is a few sq. feet smaller than the partner next to you. How big are things like this in the scheme of life?

I recently read a passage in a book titled, “The Secret Life Of Bees.”  Does the color of a house matter? How big is that in the scheme of life. But lifting a person’s heart – now that matters. The problem with people is they know what matters, but they don’t choose it.

Inside your CPA firm, are you making decisions based upon things that really matter? As an employee inside a CPA firm are you making decisions based on what really matters?

I hope all of you are lifting people’s hearts.

  • The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

CPA Firm Economics

I enjoyed a post recently by Marc Rosenberg – CPA Firm Economics 101.

Much like Marc, for years I have been urging managing partners to actually teach this class at their CPA firm. One of my favorite clients had me come in and do a session for the entire team including all of the admin team. We paired it with a session on awesome client service because the partners didn’t think that the entire team appreciated and cared about the clients the same way the partners did.

A good reason for the managing partners to teach a session on CPA firm economics is that many employees in mid- to large firms don’t have that much exposure to the MP on a daily basis. In general, I think MPs need to be more in-tune with their people…. you know MBWA!

If you haven’t read Marc’s post, follow the link above and read it. Need help? Let me know.

Hats off to my friend Bill Pirolli of DiSanto, Priest & Co. He has been teaching this for years at his firm and even the partners attend.

I find that some client service partners become rather detached from firm management and operations and this is a good way to get everyone on the same page.


  • We've switched from a culture that was interested in manufacturing, economics, politics - trying to play a serious part in the world - to a culture that's really entertainment-based.
  • Stephen King