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
Fun things during tax season
Banking verifications (confirmations)
Thomson UltraTax (problems and issues)
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.
“There is a fundamental distinction between strategy and operational effectiveness.” – Michael Porter
Do you have a firm administrator? Do you wish you had a firm administrator?
If you do have one, be sure they are a member of the CPA Firm Management Association (CPAFMA). If you don’t have one, join the Association to learn more about how you can find one and how you could be saving your accountants a significant amount of time by having someone else take care of firm operations.
Today, I will be attending the Ohio CPAFMA Chapter meeting to learn a lot about what’s new in employment law, something all of you should be learning. Be sure to follow my tweets today.
There are many chapters around the country. If you are a managing partner or if you are responsible for any part of firm operations (what goes on behind the scenes), join CPAFMA and attend chapter meetings.
The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.
“We are a full-service accounting firm serving clients throughout the area, dedicated to providing our clients with professional, personalized services and guidance in a wide range of financial and business needs.”
“Since 1984, our Certified Public Accounting firm, has been providing quality, personalized financial guidance to local individuals and businesses. Our expertise ranges from valuable tax management and accounting services to more in-depth services such as audits of financial statements, preparation of financial statements, consulting and financial planning.”
Do the above descriptions sound like something that is on your website? They are typical of what I see as I visit CPA websites from across the country. Although I have been urging you to get creative with your website for years, I still find many that look the same way they did in 1997 (or earlier).
While your accountants are busy for the next couple of months, it’s time for your firm administrator or marketing director (coordinator) to get busy updating your website.
Make it friendly to the first-time visitor. On the home page, tell them how you can help THEM and not so much about YOU. Save the information about your firm for a subsequent page. Some things you need to convey:
Immediate resources for the visitor
Your energy, enthusiasm, and excitement about what you do
“So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don’t sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we’ve satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late.”
You can, you should, and if you're brave enough to start, you will.
“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.” – Stephen R. Covey
In an accounting firm, you need great partners and great managers.
Partners have the vision, they are the role models and they steer the firm in the direction of the strategic plan. Managers follow their example but have much more responsibility to get the work done. They supervise all of the staff members, teach them, encourage them and accomplish the various, identified goals.
Your firm needs great partners and you especially need great managers. In many firms, the firm administrator is an excellent example of a great manager, carrying out the wishes of the partners and working to keep the team focused on the work.
So, if you promise every young person joining your team that “they can be a partner someday,” are you telling the truth? Probably not. A firm full of partners with no managers and staff would not be building something for the long-term.
Per Gallup, great managers look inward. They look inside the firm, into each individual, into the differences in style, goals, needs and motivation of each person. Managers guide people toward the right way to release each person’s unique talents into performance.
Great leaders look outward. They look at the competition, out at the future, out at alternate routes to follow. They focus on broad patterns, finding connections, cracks, and then press home their advantage where the resistance is weakest. They must be visionaries, strategic thinkers, activators.
How is your leader and manager groups doing? Maybe it is time to realign, rethink and refocus on the proper roles for each. Both are valuable. Read the Gallup article here.
The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided.
Our admin is responsible for this process. They ensure we receive the signed 8879 forms back and then they file the returns. We track these using GoFileRoom. If we are having trouble getting an 8879 form back they track the client down. We try to keep the partner out of it.
Efiling the tax returns is done by the partner. Extensions are e-filed by partners and staff. Our admin staff releases tax returns to e-file once 8879s are received, then they check for the acceptance. Extensions are also checked by admin staff for acceptance. Everything is tracked in CCH Practice. We rely on the information in CCH and have never had a problem. We also check the e-file system for rejections and any returns that are in the e-file system but haven’t been released just to make sure.
“Insecurity expresses itself as a need to know everything.” – Dan Rockwell (Leadership Freak)
As firms grow, things must change.
Years ago we urged firms to move to a more formal managing partner and firm administrator led firm.
In those days, every partner had to be involved in every decision. I can remember hearing consultants and other speakers lamenting that it took four partners to decide which photocopier to purchase, which local courier service to use or which type of bond paper to be used at the firm!
As a partner, do you still have a strong need to know EVERYTHING that is happening in the management/operational side of the firm?
Is it because of a lack of trust? Is it because you want to second guess specific decisions? Is it because the MP and FA are not communicating effectively? Is it because you don’t have the right people in those roles?
I certainly hope you are not insecure.
Discuss and decide on a policy that gives the MP/FA control over certain decisions and identify the few instances where every partner has to be involved. It is a step toward truly running your firm like a real business.
Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.
“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” – Henry Ford
Over the years, I have spoken to so many groups of CPAs and groups of people who work for them.
I have to admit that I am disappointed that so many people always want to sit in the back of the room. Is it because they want an easy escape route in case I am overly boring? Is it because they actually want a place to sit and surf on their mobile device? Is it because they know it all already?
Actually, I think it is one of those weird human nature things. Just like going to church, the back pews always fill-up before the front pews.
I urge my session attendees to always set up front when they are attending CPE sessions or other learning opportunity sessions. I have actually observed some of them taking my advice the next time they are in one of my sessions.
Why sit up front? I have always done this because I want to observe the speaker up close. I want to hear every word. I want to contemplate their body language. I want to have them look me in the eye. Afterwards, I always would introduce myself to the speaker, maybe ask a question and always thank them for sharing their thoughts.
Why do I do this? Because they will remember me. And maybe if I have a question when I return to the office, they will answer my email. Maybe the next time they see me they will remember my name and face. Maybe they will enjoy having a one-off conversation with me and just maybe they will ask my opinion on some topic.
Want to be known as an expert? Hang out and get to know other experts.
Build your personal brand, one opportunity at a time. Sit in the front.
Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.
I had the pleasure of meeting so many talented firm administrators, human resource professionals, and partners when I spoke at the June CPAFMA National Practice Management Conference in Baltimore.
What I most enjoy about these gatherings of “professionals managing accounting firms,” is the positive comments I hear about what the attendees would like to achieve when they return to their own CPA firm. I always advise not to try to accomplish too much right away. Just select one or two ideas and get busy implementing. Inside most firms, I find that if people try to implement several ideas, few if any of those worthwhile ideas actually get accomplished.
Here’s a great message from Jim Fahey, Past-Chair of CPAFMA about keeping the momentum going after you have returned to your office.
Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.
You are a CPA firm leader, that you have high expectations for all your team members.
You are a CPA firm partner, you have high expectations for your other partners.
You are a CPA firm COO/Firm Administrator, you have high expectations for the administrative assistants and other support professionals that report to you.
You work at a CPA firm, no matter what your position, you have high expectations for the firm.
One way to help yourself and others to meet expectations is to try your best to keep things simple.
My son, the high school band director, had one bit of advice for his 8th grade through 12th grade marching band members as they embarked on their road trip for the first Friday night football game this weekend:
Be responsible for you.
At your CPA firm, when it comes to yourself and others one of the best things you can do is be responsible for you.
Here’s what is posted in the band room – maybe it applies to your firm.
In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.
It’s an old topic but continues to be a very important one.
Right now, I am hearing from so many CPAs say:
I am so busy.
We are so busy.
We won’t be able to get to that project this year.
We have good ideas but fail to implement them.
We have been talking about the same things at our retreat for 5 years!
Whether you are a sole practitioner, a 3-partner firm or a 33-partner firm, your managing partner (and partner group) needs a strong, right-hand to carry out initiatives. You need someone who has only one client – your firm!
Call them office manager, practice manager, firm administrator, chief operating officer, director of operations….. even an executive assistant.
I know many CPA practice managers who truly run the firm.
Free-up all partners from administrative projects and tasks. A COO can immediately save the MP ten hours per week. At an MP billing rate of $300/hour, that’s $3,000. Experienced CPA COOs save partners 40 hours per week and more.
Don’t have one? Have one but they are not performing at a high enough level? Deal with it now so you can go into busy season with an advantage.