While this is a huge topic inside CPA firms, I just want to cover it in very brief terms today.
The following quote that I read on Brad Lea’s Twitter feed was intended to be motivating, I’m sure. However, it sums up the feelings of many aging CPAs and accountants and it is not always a positive situation for younger partners and staff members at the firm:
“If I ain’t dead…. I ain’t done.”
I hope that your partner group has a plan to deal with this.
Women may be the one group that grows more radical with age.
This morning I am in Hannibal, Missouri. I hope it is familiar to many of you as the boyhood home of Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain).
If you are a follower of this blog, you know that I often use quotations from the writings of Mark Twain. I think many of them apply to those of you working in the CPA profession.
Right now, as you are facing the challenge of many of your leaders approaching retirement age, I think this one applies:
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. the greatest thing you can do is keep your mind young.” – - Mark Twain
If you are a Baby Boomer partner in a CPA firm, please keep this quote in mind. I continue to hear from so many people working in firms that senior leadership is very slow to embrace change, to adopt new ways of doing things, new methods of communication and new ways of pursuing practice growth.
Don’t get stuck in the past, rather use it to evolve and build a bright future. Many of Mark Twain’s famous stories were based upon memories of his childhood. Don’t forget what it felt like when you were a young accountant just out of college.
Think back to your very first day in public accounting. How did you feel? What were your expectations? Were you more or less on your own to learn and develop? What steps did you take to gain success?
Put yourself in the place of this fall’s new-hires as they enter the door of your firm. Take proactive steps to help them succeed.
(Photo: Mark Twain boyhood home by Rita Keller)
If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything.
In the business world today, there is a lot of debate and discussion around the topic of multitasking. Some experts tell us that Millennials are good at it and Baby Boomers are not. That’s a very broad statement and dumps a lot of people into the same bucket.
As you study the work habits of the various generations inside your accounting firm, I urge you NOT to do that. You do need to understand the various, general characteristics of the generations working at your firm but always keep in mind….. people are people. Some Boomers have traits common to Millennials and Gen-Xers and vice versa.
On the topic of multi-tasking, recent research has demonstrated that switching from one task to the next takes a serious toll on productivity. To learn more about this, you have to also better define the word “multitasking.”
If you are over-whelmed by your own to do list and believe you have so many things that are equally important, you might want to check out a book I read recently titled, The ONE Thing, by Gary Keller. Keller is the chairman of the board and cofounder of Keller Williams Realty, Inc.
Keller tells his story of trying to do so many things, trying to keep so many balls in the air that he finally ended up hitting a wall. He was failing. Finally, out of desperation, he went small as he could. He asked himself, “What’s the ONE thing I can do this week that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?” He tracked his results and he was much more successful when he narrowed his concentration to one thing.
To achieve more, you need to focus. It’s about doing the right thing, not about doing everything right.
If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.
I hear it all the time, CPA firm partners and managers talking out of both sides of their mouth.
On Delegating Work:
Left side of mouth: “These young people, they don’t realize that you have to work hard to serve clients. I give them a job to do. They get it partially done and then they send it back my way (and they go home).”
Right side of mouth: “Our young staff is just too green. They seem unsure and take too long to get something done. It’s so much quicker just to do it myself. My billing rate might be twice as much as theirs but I can do it twice as fast.”
On Performing Administrative Duties:
Left side of mouth: “I don’t try too hard to bring in new clients. I don’t go to many business-networking events. I just don’t have time. If I got a new client, I don’t have time to serve them properly. It would just mean that I would have to work more hours.”
Right side of mouth: “I am the one who takes care of all of our facilities management. I make sure our building HVAC works properly and that our conference room décor makes the proper first impression. I’m the one who has always done it, I can’t give that up.” – - or – - “I’m on the technology committee and have always been responsible for decisions relating to our website and the kind of laptops we purchase.”
I am sure, if you contemplate all of the activities of your firm’s partners and managers, you could add several more examples to this list.
On Delegating Work – It is every partner’s responsibility to train, mentor, coach, nurture, and encourage their replacement(s). Managers need to manage. This is not done very well inside CPA firms. Managers (and some partners) are high-priced technicians. They cling to the client work because they enjoy it, it’s safe and it is in their comfort zone.
On Performing Administrative Duties – The big issue with this is that you are paying someone (a partner or several partners at about $300,000 each), to do the job that a professional, experienced, qualified firm administrator (HR Director, IT Manager, Marketing Director) could do at a significantly lower salary. Again, for some partners, performing administrative responsibilities is an excuse not to market, sell and bring new work and new clients into the firm. They cling to the administrative work because they enjoy it, it’s safe, and it is in their comfort zone.
It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.
In this time of intense competition for attracting the best and brightest accounting graduates to feed your firm’s talent pipeline, you might need to update your employee benefit program. One of the most important ones is how your firm supports its CPA candidates.
I find that CPA exam policies vary greatly. They range from very little support to extremely generous support.
I urge you to be generous but to also set high expectations. Several years ago when the number of candidates taking the Exam dwindled, many firms re-wrote their policies. Have you kept pace with current trends?
To me, the expectation is: “We are a CPA firm. We need CPAs.”
Here’s an example of a generous policy. In exchange for this generosity, the firm required that new hires pass the exam within two years.
CPA Examination Policy
The firm will pay for 100% of Becker or another review course approved by the firm. This will be paid up front and will be refundable to the firm if you do not complete the review course. Firm provides four hours paid time off, per part, to study the day(s) prior to the exam up to a maximum of 32 hours per year. Exam time will be 100% firm paid with no limit. The firm will pay 50% of exam fees with no maximum. Firm pays $1,000 bonus upon certification from state licensing agency and professionally frames the team member’s certificate.
I think it is important to have your CPA Exam policy actually posted on your website. Firms that are very successful in recruiting the best candidates always do this.
The August edition of Solutions for CPA Firm Leaders went out this week.
This month’s articles:
Do The 20-Somethings Inside Your CPA Firm Get-It?
One question I often hear from CPA firm employees is, “Why don’t the partners get it?” The various generations inside your firm probably have a lot of things they don’t “get.” How about the Twenty-Somethings?
Stand Out As A Great Performer
I usually focus my newsletter articles toward CPA firm leaders. This article is for all of you valuable accounting firm team members out there. What kind of Star are you?
Sadly, I must report, that inside many CPA firms many people do not “get it.” Get-it applies to a wide variety of things, such as how long it takes to get a job done.
Sometimes you just have to laugh. Do you have the 1.5 hour partner? This is one of the several partner-types I hear described over and over again as I work with firms. This partner, when asked how long it should take to do a particular client project (you know, the time budget for this job)…. always replies, “It should take about an hour and a half.”
I could go on and on about what the mature partners inside CPA firms “don’t get.” However, today I want you to consider the things that the 20-somethings inside your accounting firm might not “get.” Share this information with them.
Jason Nazar, a contributor on the Forbes site, highlights 20 Things 20-Year Olds Don’t Get. This is a good read for all ages of professionals working in an accounting firm. Here are the 20 Things – read the article to get advice on each topic.
Time is Not a Limitless Commodity
You’re Talented, But Talent is Overrated
We’re More Productive in the Morning
Social Media is Not a Career
Pick Up the Phone
Be the First In & Last to Leave
Don’t Wait to Be Told What to Do
Take Responsibility for Your Mistakes
You Should Be Getting Your Butt Kicked
A New Job a Year Isn’t a Good Thing
People Matter More Than Perks
Map Effort to Your Professional Gain
Speak Up, Not Out
You HAVE to Build Your Technical Chops
Both the Size and Quality of Your Network Matter
You Need At Least 3 Professional Mentors
Pick an Idol & Act “As If”
Read More Books, Fewer Tweets/Texts
Spend 25% Less Than You Make
Your Reputation is Priceless, Don’t Damage It
The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.
Okay, I admit it, I’m a Baby Boomer – getting older at what seems to be a very rapid rate.
If you follow this blog, you know that I read a lot. Lately what I’ve been reading and hearing in presentations is how the younger generation has actually been delaying adulthood.
Per a recent article on the Forbes site, they are moving back home because they can’t get a job. They are marrying later and starting families later still. Some are even telling them to wait it out (tough times getting a job). They have time. The 20s are for having fun anyway. Real life starts later.
I think I “get it.” I understand that they are going through some tough times, finding jobs worthy of their education, paying-off student loans, etc. I just find it very weird.
When I was in my late teens and early twenties there was a slogan being used…. “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” We thought 30 was very, very old. Interesting how things have changed.
Yesterday, I took a carriage tour of the historic district in Charleston SC. I have been to Charleston many times and have learned much of the history through reading but had never participated in a guided tour.
There is nothing like hearing, directly from a person who knows, stories about the history of a city or other historical site. Charleston certainly has an interesting and varied history.
Now, think of your CPA firm. Sometimes the younger team members actually find it interesting to hear about the “old days” when the firm was first founded or when a very senior partner first began their career in public accounting.
I saw this happen first hand several years ago. It involved one of my firm’s more senior CPAs (came into the firm via a merger and was no longer a shareholder but continued to work part-time until he was in his 80s).
Our firm was in Dayton, Ohio and he began his career in New York City. That was enough to interest our younger staff. He began his career in the 1940s and his stories were definitely a history lesson. A crowd of young people would position themselves around him in the lunch room then listen and learn.
Your young people are probably very curious about what it was really like “back in the day” when Baby Boomer or Veteran generations of partner began their career.
Make the time and the opportunity to tell them (in person – not by reading the history on the website) what it was like, how you learned to be a CPA, what the clients were like in the 60s, 70s, 80s…… Sometimes old stories are worth hearing.
History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.
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.