Archive for the ‘Firm Administrator’ Category

Thursday, March 1st, 2018

Decide Who Will Decide

“It is not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” – Roy Disney

When your firm was first founded, probably one, two or three partners (owners) made all the decisions. Somehow, as the ranks of partners grew, they all thought that they should be part of every decision. That’s why the role of the firm administrator was created and the joke that resulted was, “How many partners does it take to decide which copier to buy?”

The theory was that administrative and operational aspects of the CPA firm would be under the umbrella of the firm administrator. Still, many partners thought that they should be allowed to have an opinion and weigh-in on the decision to buy anything that cost more than $100!

That decision-making format lasted with 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10 partners. Then an Executive Committee was formed of 3 or 5 partners who still thought they should be involved in daily operations.

Progressive firms decided that the Managing Partner should actually manage the firm with a chief-of-staff type person – the firm administrator or COO. Of course, owners are kept informed but their job is to take care of client relationships, mentor younger staff and bring in business.

Is it time for your firm to actually operate like a business? Is it time for your owners to “decide who will decide”?

  • He that has a choice has trouble.
  • Dutch proverb

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

In Public Accounting There Are Always Extra Hours

 “I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before. But it’s true–hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don’t love something, then don’t do it.” – Ray Bradbury

Soon it will be March. In CPA firms, that usually means even longer hours must be worked now until April 16, to properly serve the clients.

It’s crunch time and if you are working in public accounting you should not be surprised. When you majored in accounting and then joined a CPA firm, you knew there would be a busy season.

In progressive firms, busy season now, unlike the old days, is much more flexible. Team members are able to work those extra hours whenever and wherever. It doesn’t mean sitting in a cubicle for 60 hours per week.

After April 15, it becomes a 40 hour per week job. We used to always be concerned about how to find enough work for team members as the rest of the year unfolded. Most firms have solved that problem and now we seem to have a second busy season during September and October.

Yes, if you work in public accounting there will almost always be extra hours at peak times but you are working most of those extra hours when it is winter. Hopefully, that makes it a little better.

Firm partners, be sure you have an adequate scheduling system so that certain people are not completely overloaded. Firm administrators, be sure you are providing some enjoyable distractions during those dark, dreary, cold, often snowy winter months.

  • Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work
  • Peter Drucker

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Make Background Checks Part of the Hiring Process

“People are not your most important asset. The right people are.” – Jim Collins

You are working in the CPA profession. You are honest, trustworthy and dependable. You sometimes take it for granted that everyone in the profession or entering the profession is the same.

That’s why so many CPA firms make a background check a routine part of the hiring process. I have observed that CPA firms use a variety of vendors and there are a lot of reputable ones out there.

Here’s a good article about hiring nightmares from Sharlyn Lauby – HR Bartender.

If you need some information about background checking companies to use, contact the CPA Firm Management Association (CPAFMA).

  • Hiring people is an art, not a science, and resumes can't tell you whether someone will fit into a company's culture.
  • Howard Schulz

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Cancel Some Meetings

“Being aware of your fear is smart. Overcoming it is the mark of a successful person.” – Seth Godin

Occasionally, I repost – word for word – something that Seth Godin has posted. He posts everyday and I encourage you to follow him.

Here’s the message I want all my CPA tribe to hear:

All those meetings you have tomorrow–they were just cancelled. The boss wants you to do something productive instead.

What would you do with the time? What would you initiate?

If it’s better than those meetings were going to be, why not cancel them?

  • One reason I encourage people to blog is that the act of doing it stretches your available vocabulary and hones a new voice.
  • Seth Godin

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

Starting and Stopping

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” – John D. Rockefeller

In many firms, decisions, even some minor ones, are a full partner group activity. A  decision is discussed at a partner meeting and then deferred until later. It is a start and stop, do and don’t type of management culture.

As accounting firms grow, there is a need to empower management with more freedom to actually manage.

Allow your managing partner and firm administrator to take full control over the day-to-day operations of your firm. Develop a need-to-know policy. What specific things do all partners need to be involved in? If you have a competent, professional firm administrator, the managing partner does not have to even be involved in every little decision.

I have observed that when fully discussed, all partners actually need to be involved in very little. Of course, they need to be fully informed on a regular basis. That’s why monthly partner meetings are a must, especially for smaller and mid-size firms.

Where you order office supplies is not a topic for a partner meeting.

  • Inspiration does not come to me, I go halfway to meet it.
  • Sigmund Freud

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Tax Return Ranking – A Consistency Issue

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” – Jim Rohn

If you work in a CPA firm, you probably know what I mean by the title of this post – tax return ranking. It means the level of difficulty of a particular tax return.

It is one of those procedural type issues that I probably don’t cover as much as I used to. Yet, these little things can play havoc with consistency and efficiency at your firm.

Here’s the story:

Partners are asked to assign a level of difficulty to tax returns before they are selected (or assigned) for preparation. Some firms use grades like A, B, C and some firms use a numeric ranking like 1-5, with 5 being the most difficult.

Staff and interns then select (or are assigned) returns that are appropriate to their experience level. Beginners and interns might be given the “simple” returns and more experienced tax preparers get the more complex returns.

The issue is that some partners might think a certain return is a Level 2 and another partner thinks it’s really a Level 1. They have not established guidelines as to what actually constitutes a #1 from a #3 return. It is just assumed that a #3 is more difficult than a #1. Take the guess work out of this process by better defining what each level means.

Susan Flynn, Office Manager at Gallagher, Flintoff & Klein in Lansing, Michigan has kindly agreed to share their ranking system. I though it might help other firms better define their own ranking systems.

Tax Return Rankings

0 – Business/Trusts

1 – Simple: W-2, Sch. A, No Sch. C, E or K-1s.

2 – Average: Includes a Sch. C, E or simple K-1s.

3 – Complex: One or more of the following: Sch. C, D, E, K-1s, B w/large brokerage statement, multi-state.

4 – High Touch: High-level preparer required.

Before January 1 rolls around, review your system and determine if it needs to be better defined.


  • For every disciplined effort there is a multiple reward.
  • Jim Rohn

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

I’ve Been in Meetings All Day

IMG_4125I hear it all the time when I talk to people in the CPA profession.

Sorry I didn’t get back with you…

Sorry, I didn’t get to work on that initiative….

Sorry I missed our call…

—-“I’ve been in meetings all day!”

I love this line from Seth Godin’s blog post today“A $30,000 software package is actually $3,000 worth of software plus $27,000 worth of meetings.”

He talks about “crisp” meetings and what they are. “The crisp meeting is one of a series. It’s driven by purpose and intent. It’s guided by questions.” He lists the questions. Be sure to take a couple minutes to read his post.

Then – “If it’s not going to be a crisp meeting, the professional is well-advised to not even attend.”

I have observed, in CPA firms, that leaders keep the accounting staff well-focused on billable work. Sometimes they don’t have enough meetings with the entire staff.

It’s the management and supervisory staff that seem to waste a huge amount of time in meetings… partner meetings, manager meetings, scheduling meetings, marketing committee meetings, HR committee meetings, technology committee meeting and so on. Develop a management structure, a CEO and a COO, maybe an executive committee. Have fewer committees and fewer meetings with fewer people.

  • The biggest difference between great work and pretty-good work are the meetings that accompanied it.
  • Seth Godin

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

Upgrade Your Reputation On The College Campus

“If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.” – Red Adair

Want to hire that all-star student? It’s not always about money.

At my firm we liked to joke about a goal – hiring the President of Beta Alpha Psi. Each year, it seemed, the President of Beta Alpha Psi was hired by the Big Four.

Why did this happen? From our local firm viewpoint it was fairly obvious. The Bigs had the resources to be on campus weekly. They hosted parties, showered the students with gifts and had the professors in their pocket. Not staying that is all true, but ask any local firm and they will probably feel the same way.

Finally, one year we hired a very bright and articulate student and yes, he was the President of Beta Alpha Psi. We celebrated! How did we compete? We became more visible and involved on campus. One way was to give two annual scholarships to accounting students.

This all came to mind today when I read an blurb via Accounting Today about one of my clients, Rodman CPAs of Waltham, Massachusetts awarding a scholarship to John Tran of Suffolk University in Boston.

Way to go, Jennifer Minor! Jennifer and John Tran, pictured below (picture from Accounting Today).


  • If you hire people just because they can do a job, they'll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they'll work for you with blood, sweat and tears.
  • Simon Sinek

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

Hiring a Marketing Person and More

“There’s no lotion or portion that will make sales faster and easier for you – unless your potion is hard work.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

I enjoyed a recent blog post by Sarah Johnson Dobek about when to hire a marketing person for your CPA firm. Much like Sarah, I often get questions about when to hire a dedicated marketer. I also am asked when do we need a firm administrator, an HR person, a Controller (rather than a bookkeeper)?

sarahPer Dobek, the 2016 AAM Budget Survey indicated that most firms invest early. The highest growth firms employ one marketing professional for every 34 employees, while the average firm employs one marketing professional for every 54 employees. I usually recommend hiring a full-time marketer when a firm reaches 45 employees, so I guess I am in the ballpark according to the AAM survey.

As for the other professional support positions, I have observed that growing firms hire or designate a full-time, professional firm administrator when the have 12-15 people, although I see very successful firm administrators in much smaller firms. When the firm administrator becomes saturated with work, an HR professional should be added, usually at 70 to 80 people. A CPA controller is a huge benefit to a growing firm when it reaches 80 to 100 people. The former firm bookkeeper might then be designated the assistant controller.

As a firm grows, adding non-CPA, degreed, support professionals is a necessity.

  • To me, job titles don't matter. Everyone is in sales. It's the only way we stay in business.
  • Harvey Mackay

Friday, March 24th, 2017

CPAFMA – The CPA Firm Management Association

I hope you are a member of CPAFMA. I also hope you have the opportunity to attend chapter meetings that happen around the country.

Here is where you can find a chapter near you.

I recently attended the Ohio Chapter of CPAFMA, hosted by the Ohio Society. To help you understand the value, I am listing the topics that were discussed in the after-lunch roundtable discussion. In the morning we had an amazing update about employment law, always an important topic for firm administrators, COOs, and HR Directors.

  • Practice Management Software
  • CCH Engagement vs. Thomson EngagementCS
  • Employee recognition
  • Fun things during tax season
  • Banking verifications (confirmations)
  • Competition
  • Thomson UltraTax (problems and issues)
  • Partner retirement
  • MP Transition
  • Helping partners find their seat on the bus
  • Employee time off during busy season.

If you need some answers and some quality advice from others facing the same issues – join CPAFMA.

  • It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.
  • Napolean Hill