Each year Vault.com, a company that provides in-depth intelligence on what it’s really like to work within an industry, company, or profession, unveils it’s Vault Accounting 50 – a listing of the 50 best firms to work for.
I’m trying to keep my post short this week (because most of you are very busy), so I won’t ramble on. Click on the link and read the entire article when you have time. However, I want to stress some points that impressed me in the article.
CSH has done what I urge most firms to do. They have clearly defined the career paths inside their firm. Many studies have told us that young people want a clearly defined picture of where their career is going.
Here are the competencies of a Senior: Manage Work | Resolve Conflict | Assure Quality | Tolerate Stress | Coach/Develop Others | Collaborate – Each competency is described in detail for Seniors.
CSH researched and developed a cultural approach that they call “Change-80-5,” where CSH pursues cultural change to increase staff engagement; stronger employee engagement will lead to stronger client engagement with a goal of 80 percent, which should drive the 5 percent organic growth rate the firm has targeted.
I love this quote from Brad Self, Director of Training & Development:
“It was surprising as I met with other firms and talked to people in universities and the academic arena to hear the stigma that hangs around public accounting,” he said. “The academic world is saying that people should use public accounting as a stepping stone to a ‘real career.’ We need to change that. … We want to start talking to these universities about pushing more of a career opportunity — it’s not just the Big Four; don’t go to a firm just to get a name on your resume; go to a firm that aligns with your values and where you’re going to feel like you can grow the most.”
Since belief determines behavior, doesn't it make sense that we should be teaching ethical, moral values in every home and in every school in America?
After busy season your thoughts will more strongly turn to your people. Of course, you continue to think about them and their well-being during busy season but probably won’t take action on any items until after April 15.
Here’s a couple of things that many progressive firms are doing:
Stand-up, Get Moving – – Standing desks reduce health risks, encourage more activity (and we all know that more activity is good for us). Accountants sit way too much! Does your firm offer to provide stand-up desks for everyone? Do you offer ways to be more active during tax season (yoga classes, Zumba, or an office basketball league)?
Here’s some tips for office workers to keep moving (from an article in the Dayton Daily News):
Use a printer or restroom on a different floor
Take the stairs
Leave the office for an afternoon stroll or coffee run (walk to the coffee shop!)
Set a notification on your computer that reminds you to move every 30 minutes
Get up to talk to a colleague instead of sending an email
Have a walking or standing meeting (these are very popular)
Stand while talking on the phone (I’ve seen a lot of partners do this one)
Pause and stretch
Take a quick walk during lunch break (I know a managing partner and firm administrator that often take a walk during lunch hour and talk about operational and HR topics.)
The second thing to consider, that many firms are providing, is closing the office on Fridays (or half-day on Fridays) from June through August. There are a lot of variations:
Close for the entire day on Friday (summer Fridays are fairly “dead” anyway)
Stay open but allow half the staff to be off one week and the other half the next week.
Establish 10 hour work days from Monday through Thursday so that 40 hours are still worked.
Close on Friday afternoons (this one does not eliminate commuting for a day which is a big issue).
Most firms tell me that their clients don’t mind at all if the firm closes on Fridays. Check out the website of Payne Nickles. Look on the left at their hours. “Fridays from May 1 through Labor Day we close at noon.”
The problem is not the problem. the problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand?
It seems that merger mania still reigns. It started with larger firms acquiring smaller firms and evolved to gigantic firms acquiring other gigantic firms and everything in between.
Have you recently been merged into a larger firm? Even though it is all about clients and industry niches, progressive firms still focus on the people side of things. In a merger, some people lose, especially those professional support people in the firm being acquired.
How did the acquiring firm in your situation perform relating to embracing your people into their culture? Did they orchestrate all of the on-boarding activities so that everyone felt included? Do you now have a clear sense of what is going to unfold during the next year? Or, do you feel like there is a dark cloud hanging over your head?
If you joined the right firm, they have a clear plan, well-documented and well-executed for making the people they are merging-in feel part of something extraordinary. They excel at communication.
How do you feel about going into the office this morning?
If you are a regular subscriber to this blog, you know that last week I had a wonderful opportunity to work with a group of partners/owners comprised of small firms and sole proprietors. It was a beautiful setting in southern Ohio.
The entire two days was focused on MAP and yes, small firms must pay very close attention to all the details and management challenges, just like larger firms.
As a result of the meeting, I came away with a list of concerns from CPA firms with under 20 people.
People – attracting & retaining
Client touches (via Cloud/Virtual)
Determining when to hire more people
Keeping people busy from May to December
If your firm, no matter what the size, is facing similar challenges, I hope you will attend some MAP sessions at conferences this summer, learn about some new solutions and then implement them at your firm. I also want to urge managing partners and firm administrators to take other partners along to MAP events. I hope to meet many of you at next week’s AICPA/AAA/AAM conference in Orlando.
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.
David Morgan and Mike Cain have been the poster-children for co-managing partners in CPA firms and have built an amazing firm. They never disappoint when it comes to managing in a first-class style and this “Passing The Torch” video is just another example.
I have had the pleasure of knowing David and Mike personally and have benefitted from their experience and the example they set. Best wishes to Jeffery S. Drummonds, new Managing Partner of LBMC.
March on. Do not tarry. To go forward is to move toward perfection. March on, and fear not the thorns, or the sharp stones on life's path.
I line-up with my good friend, Marc Rosenberg, when he says, “If your partners are truly happy with your system, who cares what other firms do.”
In a recent blog post, Rosenberg address the percentage of ownership issue. Read it here.
As I visit with firms around the country, I have observed the good, bad and ugly of ownership issues. Some firms have equal ownership for all equity partners and in some firms the majority of the ownership rests with one or two individuals. In so many firms, the percentage of ownership has nothing to do with how well the partners actually perform.
What I find is that in most firms, ALL of the partners are NOT truly happy.
In a dictatorship firm, if that majority owner is motivated, passionate and forward-thinking, the firm can be leaps and bounds ahead of competitors. If that person is happy with status-quo, the firm languishes and people leave OR poor performers stay.
In a multi-owner firm where everyone has equal ownership and an equal vote, rarely are ALL partners truly happy. Poor performing partners are allowed to be silos and no one is motivated to “stir the pot”. These partners all make nearly the same amount of money and life seems reasonably good.
This leads back to pay for performance. I urge you to always pay for performance – for everyone from the Director of First Impressions at the front desk to the managing partner.
Sometimes we are all so busy we forget to stop and smell the roses! You’ve heard that saying since you were a child. Do you think about it as an adult?
This week I am working with the CPA Network at the lovely Inn at Cedar Falls in southern Ohio. The group is here for renewal. To renew their own passion and plans and to capitalize on the brain-power of the entire group. The 2-day focus is on MAP issues and how to better manage their firms.
This morning I sat on the back porch of my cottage in the deep woods – no sounds of civilization – just birds, water dripping off the trees and a slight breeze. I waited for daylight (no sunrise views because of the deep woods). I didn’t read… I just let my mind wander (and it traveled a great distance).
I hope you take time this summer to think about your firm. Your culture develops by design or default – – make sure you are in control of the design and are continually guiding it.
The pictures are from my “walk to work” this morning. Ain’t life grand?
Cultivate the habit of early rising. It is unwise to keep the head long on a level with the feet.
An observation: Most CPA firm are pretty much alike. They “follow the leader” when it comes to management practices. They do a great job serving clients and most also deserve acknowledgement for almost bending over backwards for their people.
However, there is a small percentage of firms out there that are truly unique. I am very lucky to have one of those firms as a long-time, valued client – Fluence in Portland, Oregon.
I received an email from them last week and I was surprised to see they were going to be CLOSED for an entire week. I emailed the firm’s CEO to inquire and she told me they were closing the office to take all employees (plus a guest) to Mexico to stay at an all-inclusive resort for a week.
They have always done a week-end get-away for staff & spouse/guest after tax season but this was above and beyond. It is a reward for hitting the firm’s financial goals. Just FYI, they are not a “small” firm.
I always encourage firms to do things that make their team members say, “Wow!” It sure made me think, Wow!
Here’s the email:
I've been around a long time, and life still has a whole lot of surprises for me.
You probably saw it via Accounting Today, but it is worth repeating here (with my own editorial comments). It’s Allan Koltin’s Top Ten Things That Are Holding CPA Firm Back.
You have little or no capital to re-invest in the firm.
My take: Sometimes I think it doesn’t even occur to partners to leave some money in the firm to invest in the future. This is one of those things that should happen if you want to be a future-ready firm.
Your firm is too eager to accept clients.
My take: This is where CPAs get themselves in a squirrel cage. They work like crazy to serve clients that are not in one of their niches and have little future value. Also, they are not eager enough to out-place the D-level clients. Document and commit to a client acceptance policy!
The wrong mix of client service staff.
My take: I am completely in agreement with Koltin on this one – nothing to add (partners doing manager work, managers doing senior work, seniors looking for work and no one doing partner work)
Too much autonomy – or too little.
My take: Partner definitely pick and choose which policies and procedures they will follow. Firms that are future-ready have partners on the same page (or they go elsewhere).
Not enough emphasis on practice growth.
My take: The firm has one or two rainmakers they have relied upon for years. They are retiring and no one left behind is comfortable with rainmaking or even knows where to begin. There is a practice growth role for every person in the firm. “We are a marketing firm that does accounting work!”
Not enough emphasis on profitability.
My take: “We have to keep that rude, messy, slow-paying client. They pay us $75,000 per year!” (Even though we write-off $25,000 – $30,000).
Not enough young super stars.
My take: Often you have them inside your firm but you have not identified them and invested in them because you might hurt an average performer’s feelings. You have to be constantly hiring.
Autocratic leadership – or not enough.
My take: Firms need to not only invest in young super stars, they need to continually invest in partners and managers. No one is too old to learn something new or significantly improve their current skills.
Too many unproductive partners or staff.
My take (tongue in cheek): People in CPA firms would not have to work much overtime at all during tax season if they actually worked 8 or 9 hours per day and didn’t chat too much, get coffee too often, talk about non-work topics, gossip and arrive at the office on time without bringing their breakfast to fix and eat in the lunch room.
Partners aren’t on the same page.
Partners are comfortable. They don’t want to take a chance with upsetting the apple cart by pointing out some partners’ deficiencies.