I have been talking and writing about the need to keep women in public accounting for years (and years).
It is once again in the spotlight mostly because of Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. Because of her high profile, success in the business world and I guess you could say her clout – people pay attention. They read her book. They like it or they hate it. They criticize or applaud via social media. Once the hoopla dies down, life will go on, especially inside CPA firms.
What matters to me most about women’s initiatives in public accounting is the fact that while there is a need, there is also a need for retaining young men in public accounting.
If you are not familiar with The Shriver Report, take a few minutes and read the executive summary. The report describes how a woman’s nation changes everything about how we live and work today. For the first time in our nation’s history, women are half of all U.S. workers and mothers are the primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of American families. This is a dramatic shift from just a generation ago. The Shriver Report is not just a woman’s story.
In today’s families, both parents work. Both need flexibility because they are raising their families and taking care of households as a team.
I think it can be described best by what a female CPA said to me during one of my presentations, “When we have a sick child, we flip a coin to see who stays home.”
In the “old days” men did the yard work, took care of the car, coached the little league team and did handyman duties around the home. Women shopped, cooked, cleaned, did laundry and, if they worked outside the home, they stayed home when a child was sick.
Dads are so much more involved on the home front these days. So, don’t forget that male CPAs also need flexibility while they are building their careers in public accounting. I would like you to establish a flexibility initiative, a family initiative or simply a “life” initiative to support your team members, both married and single, who have other priorities outside of the office.
I love this Tide commercial. While you might think this is a stay-at-home Dad, I like to think that he does the laundry and is also a CPA with a full-time job outside the home.
It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.
My friend, Rebecca Ryan is a member of The Advisory Board, along with Gary Boomer, Gary Shamis and Allan Koltin. Many of you managing CPA firms have heard Ryan speak on the topic of employing and retaining the next generation of worker. She definitely makes you think! Some call her a human spark plug.
Her new book, ReGeneration, is coming out in June. It’s about the future of America, and it’s based on key trends. It’s not targeted at CPA firms…but towards leaders who want to make a difference and be out ahead of trends. The most innovative CPA firm leaders will get a lot out of it.
It’s the, “If I don’t succeed here quickly, I’ll just quit and move on” mindset. The fact is this mindset simply doesn’t work in public accounting. You learn by experience, by never-ending learning and it takes time.
If you are a new hire in public accounting, be bold and seek counsel from the partners in the firm, individually. Have them tell you their success story. They have spent years enhancing their skills and their career and they are doing very, very well.
Inside CPA firms, we have many generations of people (and work styles) working together to serve clients. The variety of work styles might cause friction at times. My advice is to be understanding of what makes different people more productive and comfortable while getting the work completed in a timely and complete manner.
Some firms are proud of the fact that they can offer every accountant a private office. Some firms are proud of the fact that they offer open seating and the ability for easy collaboration. Some firms have redesigned office space so that cubicles are on the outside with window access and the offices are on the interior walls with glass doors and fronts to enable the daylight to reach them. Many firms have remained with the traditional set-up – partners and managers’ offices on the outside with windows and cubes taking up the interior.
When I walked into my first CPA firm many years ago, it was a culture of absolutely no radios and no excessive talking. I would describe it as quiet and contemplative. On a summer afternoon it was very difficult not to doze off!
I’ll weigh-in: I think earbuds are great – they give you some privacy when there really isn’t any. It is easy for those who love to work listening to music to do so and those who don’t to do the same.
I found the TV comment interesting. Many firms now do have TVs in the lobby (tuned to the financial stations) and even in each individual partner office. Personally, I love the lobby TV and do not like the personal partner TV idea.
A final comment, in most offices people want their computer monitor with its back to the door so passers-by and visitors can’t see it. They are adamant about it. It always makes me wonder what they are really looking at on that screen.
Those who dance are considered insane by those who cannot hear the music.
As a CPA firm leader, how are you doing communicating with your staff and truly mentoring and teaching them during this critical time of year?
I like to compare it to parenting.
I have found that there are two kinds of parents (grandparents). First, there are the ones who, when their babies become toddlers, simply put all the pottery, glass vases, and other beautiful things up high or store them in a closet for a few years where young, clumsy hands can’t touch them. It just seems to be too much trouble to teach the youngster not to touch.
Then there are the ones who say (in a stern voice with a serious expression), “No, no, no. Do not touch.” They have to say, “No, no, no” about a thousand times or more. It takes time, attention and extra, on-going effort. The toddler finally gets it and you are so proud of him/her.
As an experienced accountant with great knowledge to share and the opportunity to take on the role of dedicated teacher, do you dodge the opportunity and wait for the inexperienced team members in your firm to help each other get through the growing-up years? Why not take advantage of every opportunity to say, “No, no, no, you do it this way and here is why.”
I am so clever that sometimes I don't understand a single word of what I am saying.
We have been hearing it from the AICPA, state societies, consultants, writers, etc. for many years now. Baby Boomers are hitting age 65 at the rate of 8,000 per day – beginning in 2011 and continuing for 18 years.
Are you in this group? Are you 60 or older? If so, I bet retiring (or not) is on your mind from time to time.
Alan Weiss, consultant, speaker and author of Million Dollar Consulting (and many other books) described his feelings about turning 67 on his blog recently. I think you might enjoy reading how he looks at it. Here are some highlights but be sure to read the entire blog post.
“I have always tried to live life to the fullest. You may ask what alternative we have, but daily I see people throwing their lives away in part and by pieces, which to me is the equivalent of simply taking more time to end it. I don’t believe we’re here to stick our toes in the water. I believe we’re here to make waves.”
“I do know that so long as I’m on top of my game, I’ll keep doing what pleases me. When that’s no longer the case, then I’ll leave that particular stage. Sandy Koufax knew how to do that. Frank Sinatra did not.”
The question for you, as a Baby Boomer CPA, is are you staying on top of your game?
Whether you want to admit it or not, your “game” has changed significantly in the last few years and continues to change at a rapid rate. Are you active with social media? Do you communicate via text with your most important clients? Are you attracting younger business owners and CEOs as clients? Is your firm retaining bright, passionate, flexible people? Or, do you have partners stuck in the “I’m doing it the way I’ve always done it” world?
Women may be the one group that grows more radical with age.
It’s an on-going issue inside CPA firms, getting young accountants to pass the CPA Exam.
One of the most important things you can do, when hiring, is to set the expectation right away. When I was working inside a successful, growing firm, we only interviewed college students who had the necessary 150 hours. We called them “exam ready” candidates. Our managing partner personally took an interest in their progress and openly declared, “We are a CPA firm. We need CPAs.”
Our friends at Bisk Education have developed an infographic that you might want to share with those in your firm who have not yet passed the exam.
Once a week, every week, during busy season, it is important to get your entire team together. Many firms have quick “status” meetings on Saturday mornings or perhaps a Monday morning team briefing. The meeting should be short (stay on time), on-point (don’t waste people’s valuable time, make them glad they showed-up) and a dash of fun.
WithumSmith+Brown (WSB) has once again produced an amazing team video. Check out Withum’s 2013 State of the Firm Music Video – WS+B Jump On It – to see what accountants are really like. Also, here’s a link to their January 2012 video.
This Saturday or maybe next Monday – first thing in the morning, gather your team, show the video and have some fun.
Also, think about today’s quote. Don’t be one of those stuck-in-the-past accountants who can’t hear the music!
Those who dance are considered insane by those who cannot hear the music.
For the last several years in the accounting profession we have been talking about succession. We have been talking about succession so much (I’m thinking maybe too much) because so many public accounting firm owners are in that Baby Boomer category.
The oldest Baby Boomer turned 65 on January 1, 2011. What’s following is that every day after that for the next 19 years 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65.
I’ve talked about the challenges of succession often on this blog. Click on the Succession Planning category on the right side of this blog to read more.
One comment I hear from CPAs is, “I love what I do. I don’t know what else I would do, I don’t have any hobbies.” – - etc., etc., etc.
I love this quote from a Marc Freedman article on the HBR site, “Don’t Leave a Legacy; Live One” about meaningful work after you reach 60: “A pitcher cries for water to carry and a person for work that is real.”
It will soon be January 1, 2013. Many of you will be facing retirement in the next 17 years. Read the article about two ladies who did greater things after “retiring” than they did before. The article also talks about Tom Cox, an attorney age 68, who won the 2012 Purpose Prize. Here’s his story:
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.