Archive for the ‘Generations’ Category

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – Helicopter Parents – An Example

I love this short video from the folks at Robert Half.

As, I talk with CPAs around the country, most of them seem amazed that helicopter parents are actually calling “bosses” at CPA firms in inquire or complain about something on behalf of a young staff person. Larger firm are developing programs to deal with the parents who show up with their young person for the job interview!

Does your firm have a way to connect with parents? Remember, most young people entering your firm have had intense parental support. Build on that.

Because this depiction is extreme, it makes you smile – yes, lighten-up, it’s the weekend!


  • My heroes are and were my parents. I can't see having anyone else as my heroes.
  • Michael Jordan

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Winning The CPA Talent Wars – Gather Information and Study It

Want to create a culture of employee engagement? That means a culture where people are passionate about their work and their firm. They care. They feel like owners whether they are actually an equity owner or not.

As a leader, owner, partner.. how well do you know your people? Sometimes I think that firm administrators and HR managers are much better at knowing the people who work at the firm much better than the owners.

If you are a boss (partner, manager, firm administrator) inside a CPA firm, employees working for the firm want to know you better AND they want to be noticed by you. Yes, you are busy with your “outside” clients but you can’t serve them very well without your “inside” clients.

Develop a list of questions that are appropriate for your firm and use it with every person to get to know them better. Sales people use such question lists to know their clients better than their competition knows their clients. Harvey Mackay even developed a listing o 66 questions (you can download his version) for sales people.

Here’s some suggestions for a CPA firm version:

  • Name
  • Hire date
  • Where they live 
  • Where they grew-up
  • Spouse name 
  • Names of children:
  • Firm anniversary date
  • High school – year graduated 
  • College – year graduated 
  • Sports participated in at college 
  • College fraternity or other activities 
  • Military service 
  • Spouse’s occupation 
  • Spouse’s interests 
  • Previous employer 
  • What community/charitable organizations interest them 
  • Favorite place for lunch
  • Favorite place for dinner 
  • Hobbies or recreational activities 
  • Favorite type of music
  • Favorite place to vacation 
  • Favorite professional/college sports teams 
  • What kind of car do they drive

Do other firms, trying to hire this person away from you, have better information than you do?

The work begins after you gather all the information. Now you must study it and be able to ask them about their family, comment on their sports team winning or losing, ask them to lunch and go to their favorite place and so on. This list and your behavior could make your firm a place where people are truly engaged, passionate, productive and proud.

  • If you wish others to believe in you, you must first convince them that you believe in them.
  • Harvey Mackay

Friday, May 16th, 2014

The Old Days vs. Now – CPA Firm Management

Yesterday, I was in Indianapolis where I spent the morning with a group of people working in CPA firm management. Although, the titles varied – chief operation officers, firm administrators, controllers, HR directors, office managers – they are all faced with helping CPA firm partners, shareholders, directors, owners deal with that one-word, dark cloud hanging over the CPA profession – SUCCESSION.

Succession is actually very simple:

  1. Run a good firm (efficient and profitable)
  2. Develop people

To accomplish these two this takes ACTION. Meaning implementation, execution.

Fire Fire FireIn my early days in public accounting I worked for the founder of the firm, a person in what we now call the Veteran (or Mature) Generation – those born before 1946. If we had an issue or challenge he would proceed with Ready, Aim, Fire. We would research solutions (ready), adopt them to fit our size firm (aim) and then implement (fire).

As the Baby Boomers took over leadership of firms or founded firms, many of them seemed to find implementation more difficult – for various reasons. Even today, I observe so many firms that have adopted: Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim……

In today’s rapidly changing environment in public accounting and especially in technology and in the nature of our workforce, practitioners must be able to Fire, Fire, Fire if you want your firm to stay ahead of your competition.

In dealing with succession, many firms are still in the “aim, aim, aim, aim” mode.

  • Execution is the job of the business leader.
  • Bossidy & Charan, Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done

Monday, May 12th, 2014

Reverse Graduation Speech That Will Help You Better Mentor & Manage Millennials

If you follow this blog and attend my sessions at various conferences for the CPA profession, you know that I talk and write a lot about the Millennial generation and how they impact the CPA profession.

From 2006 until 2009 I received many requests for information on generational understanding inside CPA firms. I thought we had it covered. Wrong. I am once again getting many requests for more information on how build on generational understanding, rather than fight it, inside CPA firms.

That’s why I enjoyed a recent HBR blog post by Lauren Stiller Rikleen: The Commencement Speech Parents Need to Hear. Please follow the link to read it. Also, read some of the comments posted below the article.

Here are just a few highlights that I hope will entice you to read the entire article:

  • To retain Millennials and develop their leadership potential, set aside preconceived notions and, instead, pay attention to what truly will motivate young employees.
  • Often we tag Millennials as “entitled.” Actually, it is usually self-confidence and self-respect that you, parents, have instilled in them.
  • Pay greater attention to workplace dynamics, particularly around technology.
  • Recognize that research consistently documents that Millennials are committed to a life in which family responsibilities are not overshadowed by work. This is no longer a woman’s issue alone, desire for flexibility has become a gender-neutral issue.

As CPA firm leaders, keep in mind that the Millennial generation is a huge and powerful weapon that will help you propel your firm into future profitability, growth and success.

  • I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times.
  • Everett Dirksen

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Are You In Demand As A Mentor?

Telemachus_and_Mentor1Many firms are renewing their focus on more formalized mentoring programs.

One step in most programs is asking the mentee to select their mentor. We usually ask them to submit their top 3 choices so that the mentoring workload can be spread-around and balanced. When developing your program, where you have individualized mentoring, be sure not to assign more than 3 mentees to a mentor.

If you are a CPA firm partner or manager, how many people will submit YOUR name on their mentor request list? Do  you have any idea? Have you even thought about it?

To help you contemplate these questions, do some self- examination:

  • In whose career have i taken a personal interest?
  • Whom have I helped to gain important assignments?
  • To whom have I given special coaching?
  • Whom have I counseled about strategies for influencing others?
  • Who has discussed personal problems with me?
  • Whom have I supported when they were criticized by others?
  • Whom have I counseled about the “informal” rules of the firm?
  • Whom have I helped to sort out and prioritize their professional goals?
  • Who seems to regard me as a role model?
  • Who seems interested in my views about the profession?
  • Who confides in me and puts their trust in me?
  • Who asks me about rumors they may hear at the firm?

As you move into a more formal mentoring relationship and program at your firm, do these people seek you out as a mentor? They should….. If they don’t, why don’t they?

  • Truth has no special time of its own. Its hour is now - always.
  • Albert Schweitzer

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – Some Thoughts For Baby Boomers

Those of us working in the CPA profession have been doing a lot of talking and writing about the fact that so many CPAs are Baby Boomers. In 2011, the oldest Baby Boomers began turning 65.

The prediction was (and still is) that 10,000 Baby Boomers would turn 65 each day for 19 years.  

If you are in this group, here are two quotations to help you cope.  Lighten-up!

“Almost half of the people over 40 believe they look younger than they are. This says something important about older Americans: We have terrible eyesight.” – - Dave Barry

“There’s only one alternative to getting older, so suck it up.” – - Whoopi Goldberg

  • You don't stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.
  • George Bernard Shaw

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Update On The Millennials

I’ve been studying and talking about the Millennial generation in CPA firm circles for many years now. It seems amazing how time has passed and Millennials are turning 34 years old this year. I am sure you have many of them working inside your firm.

Sometimes I think we still under appreciate and under-rate them. I like to tell the story of the firm I was with for so many years. When the founder retired, he named his successor. The successor was 32 years old at the time. That’s when our firm took-off on a growth and improvement path and we never looked back. How many firms do you know now that have a 32 year old managing partner?

Recently Pew Research has provided some insight into “Millennials in Adulthood.”

The Millennial generation is forging a distinctive path. They are relatively unattached to organized politics and religion, linked by social media, burdened by debt, distrustful of people, in no rush to marry and optimistic about the future.

Pew Research Center surveys show:

  • 50% now describe themselves as political independents
  • 29% say they are not affiliated with any religion

While they are disaffiliated, Millennials stand out for voting heavily Democratic and for liberal views on many political and social issues.

Another interesting fact on the Millennials, just 26% of the generation is married. When they were the same age, 36% of Gen-Xers were married, 48% of Boomers and 65% of the Silent Generation were married.

The Pew research will give you some valuable insights into the Millennials working inside your firm. Follow the link to the article and read much more on this topic. Share his link with your partners and with your HR people.

Building a great team inside a CPA firm means you need to understand them no matter what generation they are.

  • Parenthood - It's about guiding the next generation and forgiving the last.
  • Peter Krause

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

There’s No Secret Solution To Employee Engagement

In the CPA profession, retaining top talent is critical. Sure, the pressure was off for a few years during the recent economic downturn but now the CPA firm talent wars are back on the front burner.

During my presentations and workshops, I always share with CPA partners, managers and firm administrators, that you must do (what I call) the “warm and fuzzy” stuff. Provide free soft drinks, a popcorn cart, a cappuccino machine, weekly chair massages, ugly sweater contests and so on. Many, many CPA firms try very, very hard to be a “fun-tastic” firm.

But that’s not what keeps great talent. You have to do more. It begins with communication. You must clearly articulate goals and expectations. You must be inclusive! Ask for their opinions. Provide a forum for continually sharing where the firm is going, why the firm exists, and what the owners are thinking. For some reason this is often very difficult for CPA firm partners.

I recently read a blog post on Switch & Shift that outlines Five Employee Questions Every Company Should Answer. They are written from an employee’s point of view.

  1. Why am I here? – How can you expect an employee to “get it” if you don’t communicate a shared sense of purpose?
  2. Why should I trust your leadership? – Open communication builds trust, which is essential to employee engagement.
  3. Why should I be loyal to your company? – Engaged employees know why they are loyal – they are treated with respect.
  4. Why don’t you communicate your company values? – Want to drive people away? Talk about values and then behave in a vastly different way.
  5. Why aren’t you clear about the rewards of working here? – It is amazing how few companies are open about their approach to compensation.

Be sure to follow the link, above, to read the entire article – then practice what you’ve learned.

  • Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.
  • Henry David Thoreau

Monday, March 10th, 2014

How Do You Identity The Millennials Who Will Be Your Successors?

I read an article this week-end on the Forbes site by Robert Sher. He talks about his recent experience judging a high school debate contest.

It brought back some fond memories. When my son was in high school I did the same thing – I went along on several Saturdays to the debate contests and filled the role of judge.

Also, much like the author, I find talented CPA managers and leaders who fall short when it comes to speaking and communication skills. Many are goo at making Power Point slides, and some are good at presenting facts clearly – even recommendations clearly. But few practice, or are aware of the techniques behind moving the emotions of audiences; whether they be in a meeting, or in an all-hands gathering of hundreds of people.

Read the entire article, How To Find The Millennials Who Will Lead Your Company, on the Forbes site.

Maybe it’s time to seek out entry-level accounting candidates who were on the debate team.

  • Don't raise your voice, improve your argument.
  • Desmond Tutu

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Keep The Conversations Going

The CPA profession is facing a very challenging talent shortage. There is no end in sight. With each passing day it becomes more and more important to retain your valuable employees.

Here’s some great ideas I picked up at the annual CPA Consultants’ Alliance meeting yesterday in Nashville. The meeting continues today.

  • There are different generations working inside your firm but please don’t put them in a box! There are some Boomers who think like Millennials and vice versa. There are Gen-Xers who act like millennials and so on. People are people and breaking down the walls between generations is a valuable step to take.
  • Be sure to communicate! That is one of the biggest issues inside CPA firms. Many leaders think they have communicated but in reality they haven’t. Make use of Stay Interviews – - What would have to happen for you to commit to staying at our firm and building your career?
  • Have your managers form groups for communication. Suggest each manager form a Table of Eight (or if you are a smaller firm a Table of Three). These groups get together periodically just to talk about issues and about their careers.  A manager leads the discussion and it could be a manager that people rarely work with.  Be creative with these groups.

Before you leave this page, look to the right. I have added two new pictures to – Is That You With Rita?  Terry Putney of Transition Advisors and Carrie Steffen of The Whetstone Group.  We are having a great time in Nashville.

  • I come from this really small town near Nashville, Tennessee where everything was la-di-da and normal.
  • Miley Cyrus