Archive for the ‘Firm Administrator’ Category

Monday, November 28th, 2016

Let Your Admin Do the E-file Tracking

sample-form-8879Sometimes, inside busy CPA firms, partners and managers do too much of what the admin team should be doing (led by a qualified firm administrator).

Sometimes, inside busy CPA firms, if you have the right admin team, they can do so much more than mindless, routine duties.

If you do not have the right admin team, that’s your fault.

E-filing (and tracking the e-filing) is a great example. When it is their responsibility, they take it very seriously and are sticklers for following policy.

Here’s what some experienced firm administrators had to say when asked about their e-file tracking process:

Sarah Galley, Firm Administrator, Pohlman & Talmage CPAs, Inc.

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.

Tammy Boring, Firm Administrator, Snyder & Company

Our admin staff does all of our e-filing of both returns & extensions. We use GoFileRoom, so all of our due date monitoring is done through there.

Karen Farino, Firm Administrator, Pasquesi Sheppard, LLC

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.

  • Accuracy builds credibility.
  • Jim Rohn

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

Run Your Firm Like A Business

“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.
  • John D. Rockefeller

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

Sit In The Front

“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.
  • Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

Firm Administrators…. Keep Your Momentum Going

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.
  • Thomas Jefferson

Monday, August 29th, 2016

Keep It Simple

I am sure if:

  • 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.

band

  • In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Friday, August 12th, 2016

High Priority: Hire A Firm Administrator/COO

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.

For inspiration, Read this article that features Sharon Trabbic, COO of William Vaughn Co. in Maumee, Ohio.

  • Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, August 1st, 2016

You Have The Power

“For myself, I am an optimist. It does not seem to be much use being anything else.” – Winston Churchill

I am, and always have been, an optimist.

Optimist:

  • One who usually expects a favorable outcome.
  • Someone who always sees the bright side of any situation.
  • A person with a positive outlook on life.

Robert Noyce, co-founder of Intel said, “Optimism is an essential ingredient of innovation. How else can the individual welcome change over security, adventure over staying in safe places?”

If you are in a leadership role in an accounting firm, I hope you are an optimist. However, I have observed that many people working in accounting firms (leaders and team members) lean a little more to the pessimist side.

Keep this in mind whether you are optimistic or pessimistic – You create your own reality.

I like to remind CPA firm partners that your people watch you with a magnifying glass. They can determine your mood by your body language. They can become unsettled because they observe too many closed office doors on any given afternoon.

Here’s something to keep in mind from Colin Powell:

Powell believes military training is the best preparation for approaching difficult situations with a positive outlook. Here’s what was drilled into Powell:

“Lieutenant, you may be starving, but you must never show hunger. You may be freezing or near heat exhaustion, but you must never show that you are cold or hot. You may be terrified, but you must never show fear. You are the leader and the troops will reflect your emotions.” People must believe that no matter how bad things look, you will make them better.

Of course, there is a limit to optimism. You do need a touch of reality. Here’s another quote from Powell:

“Maybe it can’t be done, but always start out believing it can be done until facts and analysis pile up against it. Don’t surround yourself by skeptics but don’t shut out skeptics who give you solid counterviews.”

For five reasons why optimists make better leaders, read this article on Forbes by Carmine Gallo.

  • I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'if this isn't nice, I don't know what is.'
  • Kurt Vonnegut

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

Perseverance

“If you want to change people’s minds, you need more than evidence. You need persistence.” – Seth Godin

Slide60Recently, when I spoke to the 200+ people at this year’s CPAFMA National Practice Management Conference in Baltimore, I stressed to the firm management leaders that PERSEVERANCE pays off when tackling CHANGE in accounting firms. Yes, PERSEVERANCE and PERSISTENCE are the weapons of change.

Change does not come easy for traditional, conservative, risk-adverse CPAs.

That’s why I wanted to share a blog post from Seth Godin. I periodically share a complete post by Godin and I thought the following one SPOKE to those fighting the War For Change inside accounting firms.

The Flip Is Elusive by Seth Godin

For a generation after people realized that smoking would kill them, many smart, informed people still smoked. Then, many of them stopped.

After discovering that an expensive luxury good is made out of the same materials as a cheaper alternative, many people stick with the expensive one. And then they gradually stop going out of their way to pay more.

After a technology breakthrough makes it clear that a new approach is faster, cheaper and more reliable, many people stick with the old way. Until they don’t.

And inevitably, it doesn’t matter how much people discover about their favorite candidate, they seem impervious to revelations, facts and the opinions of others. For a while, sometimes a very long while. But then, they assert that all along they knew something was amiss and find a new person to align with.

Computers don’t work this way. Cats don’t have a relationship like this with hot stoves. Imaginary logical detectives always get the message the first time.

For the rest of us, though, the flip isn’t something that happens at the first glance or encounter with new evidence.

This doesn’t mean the evidence doesn’t matter.

It means that we’re bad at admitting we were wrong.

Bad at giving up one view of the world to embrace the other.

Mostly, we’re bad at abandoning our peers, our habits and our view of ourselves.

If you want to change people’s minds, you need more than evidence. You need persistence. And empathy. And mostly, you need the resources to keep showing up, peeling off one person after another, surrounding a cultural problem with a cultural solution.

  • If you are going through Hell, keep going.
  • Winston Churchill

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

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  • 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