Archive for the ‘Helpful Information’ Category

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Helping Men Understand…. Crying and Other Things

I believe there is a lot of misunderstanding in the CPA profession about the need for some special training and attention to the females working inside CPA firms.  Recently, I have observed some men show bitterness and disbelief when the two words – women’s initiatives – were just mentioned.

Here’s a story of how simple understanding can make a difference….

This story is about a young, male CPA, experienced as a CPA but new to the role of managing partner in a smaller firm (about 20 people). In a smaller, the MP handled all of the performance reviews and other performance and personal related conversations with employees. This led to his first experience with women crying in the workplace and it made him extremely uncomfortable.

Luckily, he had a female firm administrator, he could talk to about his uneasiness.  This is where the understanding part comes into play. The FA advised him, “When women cry, it an emotion they have no control over. Almost all of the time it does not mean a thing – it doesn’t mean they are hurt, mad, fanatical, or sad – it does mean they care about the topic and simply cannot physically escape the tearing-up.” The young MP put a box of tissues on his desk and offered them when tears appeared and just kept going with the conversations.

Most of the time, the above story plays out. However, men often yell when they are angry and women show their anger with tears.

Women – when your emotions show via tears, acknowledge the emotion but don’t apologize, just move on.

Here’s an interesting article about crying in the workplace from Fortune.

What I have often observed is that occasionally a man will let tears flow – others think it is touching, heart-warming, etc. – - “He’s so caring….” When a women cries, she’s weak and emotional.

Inside your firm, DO THINGS to encourage understanding of emotions, work styles, and challenges for (and between) men and women and also between generations.

Here’s a great book to use as a resource: Why Must There Be Dragons

NJ Women Summit

  • Any fool can know. The point is to understand.
  • Albert Einstein

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Clear The Hurdles & Win the Race – Winning Is Everything Conference

In January, I will be speaking at the Winning Is Everything Conference in Las Vegas at the beautiful Aria hotel, January 28-30, 2015.

If you are working in the CPA profession, I’m sure (at least hoping) that you are familiar with this premier practice management conference.

Winning is Everything is not just for large firms and only managing partners. The conference welcomes knowledge leaders and forward-thinking professionals who are ready to learn from other attendees and knowledgeable speakers.  Attendees include managing partners, partners, CFOs, COOs, Firm Administrators, Marketing professionals and HR professionals from firms around the globe.

Meets and Events:  Check out the Agenda.

Clearing the Hurdles: Your Coaches (the speakers)

Enter the race: Register here

I like the 2015 theme: Clear The Hurdles… And Win The Race.


  • Finishing races is important, but racing is more important.
  • Dale Earnhardt

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Kindness, Toughness & Honesty For Women In Accounting

IMG_1112Yesterday, there was a post on the Ohio Society Women’s Initiative Committee LinkedIn site titled, The False Choice Between Kindness and Success.

The topic of women in business being “nice” and “kind” and how it might hold them back, is certainly a valid discussion topic.

I believe that kindness and toughness go hand in hand. If you are kind, build relationships and win people’s loyalty, they will come to understand that some toughness, and honesty, must go along with the kindness. It is the way I have always operated.

The honesty aspect also plays into this topic. This quote from the article says so much relating to the CPA profession:I think people just want straight talk. It saves time and in the end, it is honest. That is the bottom line. Everything else is meaningless if you don’t have honesty. Be honest and true to yourself. And from there, we can do anything.” 

Absolute honesty is often avoided inside CPA firms because it can be a tough discussion. Yet, CPA firm employees crave honesty. I observe so many male (and female) CPAs avoiding being honest because it might lead to confrontation or to uncomfortable conversations. People see right through it – not being completely honest and coming across as self-serving is a losing combination.

To me it is a false choice, as the title of the article reflects. You do not have to choose between kindness and success. In my situation as a CPA management consultant, I know I do not win “jobs” because I am a woman. I have even heard feedback that other, male consultants have actually told potential clients that “Rita is too nice.” Give me honesty and kindness any day and results will follow.


  • Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.
  • Samuel Johnson

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Summer Fridays For CPA Firms

closedSince it is Monday, I thought I would talk about Fridays. This coming Friday are you going to be in the office for 8 hours? Are you going to be in the office for 4 hours or not at all?

I am finding many firms doing many things with Fridays. Some are closed but, of course, clients can reach their key person via mobile device. Some firms work half-days on Fridays and tell me that clients don’t seem to mind at all because they often take that day off, too or work very little on Fridays.

I know, first hand, that when I was working in a large CPA firm, the activity was minimal on Fridays, although we were never closed. Most partners left at noon, managers and others used PTO to take a half day off. The “flexers” usually did not include Fridays, in the summer, in their work schedules.

Have you been pondering this possibility for several years?  Below are some resources that might help you make-up your mind:

Check-out the website of my good friends at Payne Nickles. Look at the lower left where it indicates hours are Monday to Friday 8:00 to 5:00 AND Friday Closed at Noon Memorial Day thru Labor Day.

More good friends, the Friedman firm headquartered in Manhattan, ranked highly on a recent employee survey – read about the survey here that ranks the happiest accounting firms. The headliner for Friedman was the workplace initiative of its summer schedule. From June through August, there is no work on Friday. Friedman piloted the program back in 2007, and found that output actually exceeded that of a five-day workweek.

Notice how prominently closing on Fridays is displayed on the website of Borgida & Company, a Manchester, CT firm.

Check out “I Know It Can Be Done – Closing On Fridays” a blog post I did back in 2010. I truly believe that if CPA firm team members know they can have Friday off or leave early on Friday, they will work much harder Monday – Thursday. If that is not the case with your team members, perhaps you have deeper problems with your team members.

Here’s a good article on FastCompany, The Good, The Bad, and The Alternatives: What Bosses Really Think About Summer Fridays.

  • The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand?
  • Captain Jack Sparrow

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Improving the Culture Inside Your Busy CPA Firm

Gary Boomer, is that you with Rita?Many CPAs ask me, “How can we actually improve our culture?” or “How can we really make things better for our staff while still providing great client service and meeting government deadlines?”

Of course, tax season is one of the most challenging times. If you can make the work environment better during January thru April, you would be a firm where impressive, young talent would stay and build their careers.

That’s why I like a recent article by Gary Boomer in Accounting Today. Well, I like all of Boomer’s articles but this one caused me to reminisce about many of the things I worked on when I was working inside a busy, growing firm.

Boomer talks about the “after tax season review,” assessing what went right and what went wrong. We did it faithfully every April and compiled a list of things to change, improve or tweak. The secret? We made sure that we did actually implement…. we changed, improved and tweaked continually. It was part of our culture.

Here’s Boomer’s 10 Way You Can Make Next Tax Season Better:

  1. Schedule client appointments in advance.
  2. Scan and organize client data into a digital file.
  3. Utilize a digital workflow system.
  4. Implement one-way workflow and avoid loops. You do not have to send work back for training purposes.
  5. Review returns on a timely basis.
  6. Grade preparers on each return to drive out errors at the lowest cost.
  7. Bill and collect with the return.
  8. Reduce cycle time to increase profits.
  9. Utilize portals for aggregation of client data and the delivery of returns.
  10. Utilize a technology surcharge to achieve a return on your IT investment.

How many of the 10 are you doing? Read the entire article here.

  • Providing the right services to the right clients is very important.
  • Gary Boomer

Monday, July 7th, 2014

Monday CPA MAP Talk With Rita Keller – 3 Performance Groups

It’s Monday. You are back from a long holiday weekend. To help get you back in the swing of things…. you know, all of those thought-provoking, interesting, perplexing, challenging, rewarding things about working in public accounting – I thought I would give you the chance to listen today, rather than read so much.

Remember, you have three performance groups inside your firm. You need to deal effectively with all three.

  • There's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.
  • Morpheus, The Matrix

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

In A CPA Firm – It’s All About Your People & Your Culture

Nav Cultural WatersAAASo far in 2014, I have been asked, several times, to talk to CPAs and their team members about creating a culture that counts. Cultural waters, in a growing CPA firm, can be difficult to navigate.

If you ignore creating a culture, you will have one anyway.

It forms on its own and it might turn out to be something that you do not want your firm to represent.

I bet you have heard other CPA firms described as “a sweat shop firm,” or “a country club firm.”

Top talent wants to be part of a lively, successful firm that deals with prosperous, entrepreneurial clients. Hiring experts are encouraging young talent to assess the culture of a prospective employer, to ask direct questions about the firm’s culture.

There is an interesting article on the Forbes site titled, “10 Signs That a Company Has A Serious Culture Problem” by Shane Atchison. Check it out.

Here’s my take on some of the 10 Signs that young people interviewing at your firm might heed:

  • As you enter the office, look along the sightlines. If you see boxes sitting in the aisles, chairs piled with papers or folder, they probably don’t care about their office.
  • A workplace should hum. Some people should be up, moving around, and talking to one another. People should not seem bored or stressed.
  • It’s five o’clock and everyone is buried in work. Schedule your interview late in the day and see how many people are working late. If it is a few, that is okay, but some should be heading home.

Reflect on how people talk about your firm and your culture. You can bet that the spouses of your employees have a description of your firm in their mind.

Leaders can enlist the participation of employees to help create a culture so people talk about your firm as being…. the cool firm, the growing firm, the family-friendly firm, the creative firm, the kind firm, the progressive firm, the diverse firm, the flexible firm or the unique firm…. “They don’t seem like an accounting firm.”

  • When you lavish praise on people they flourish. Criticize, and they shrivel up.
  • Richard Branson

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

Get To Know The People You Know

As you work with people inside your CPA firm, with all of your various clients, the people in your business community, those at your state CPA society, people affiliated with your CPA firm association and so on…. Get to know them better.

IMG_3829Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet and talk with a couple of people you may know – Steve Sacks and Alexandra DeFelice. Steve is Executive Director and Alexandra is a Senior Manager with Moore Stephens North America, a premiere accounting association. I have known them both for several years but I had never really spent much time talking with them and learning more about Moore Stephens and about what their roles really encompass.

I enjoyed our conversation so much (we laughed a lot!), that I wanted to feature them on my blog. So, I asked them to respond to a few questions without seeing each others’ responses. They both have busy, challenging roles and I wanted them to share what it’s like working with each other and handling all of the various duties of a prominent accounting firm association.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

Alexandra: Learning from all the creative, entrepreneurial members both domestically and internationally. Often the most interesting discoveries have nothing to do with their current roles.  Helping people. We have created a system of “rapid response” and our members seem genuinely appreciative of our attentiveness.

Steve: Working with many different personalities and their goals that comprise our membership, and leveraging these differences to develop initiatives that benefit our organization and its member firms

What makes you laugh at work?

Alexandra: I think I crack myself up, because if you can’t laugh at yourself, you take yourself too seriously. Besides, someone has to laugh at my lame jokes and Steve’s are lamer than mine.

Steve: The “what” is really the “who.” That would be my colleague, Alexandra.

What makes your association attractive to members?

Alexandra: People join Moore Stephens for two main reasons: To refer work to one another to compete with the large, national firms, and to share best practices and ideas with one another. It’s a way of extending that trip down the hallway to bounce ideas off one of your colleagues across the nation and the globe. While the firms are independent, our members are quite fraternal and care about the success of each of our firms and the organization as a whole.

Steve: Two things come to mind: 1) The openness and willingness of our members to share ideas with one another – even those who operate in the same geographic market; and 2) the role that headquarters plays in providing rapid, relevant responses and communications and ideas to members to help grow their practices.

Alexandra – describe Steve in two sentences.

Steve is a wonderful boss, colleague and friend. He’s extremely thoughtful and cares about my happiness, both professionally and personally.

Steve – describe Alexandra in two sentences.

Alexandra is an affable, insightful and integral component of the Moore Stephens organization, and her commitment to the organization’s success is unshakeable. She is an excellent communicator who is fun, smart, challenging and sees the big picture.

Why are you two a good team at work?

Alexandra: We can give each other honest, constructive feedback, which almost always leads to a better product, service or end result. We both are extremely devoted to the organization and finding ways to make it the best it can be for our current members and the next generation. We aren’t afraid to get our hands dirty, which is important when you are a small team with limited resources, but we try to focus on our core competencies and delegate work outside of those competencies to those better equipped to handle it. Most importantly, we have fun. Working for accountants may sound dull, but that certainly is not the case for us.

Steve: Despite generational differences, we have an ability to assess situations that involve knowing the different priorities, personalities and approaches, and then reaching agreement on the “how.” While we often disagree —which is a healthy give and take relationship—we find a way to reach a happy medium. This reflects a true complimentary relationship, and I think that its flexibility brings considerable value for the immediate and long-term goals of our organization.

Special thanks to Steve and Alexandra for sharing. I certainly look forward to talking with them again soon.

All of you working inside accounting firms, please take note of the answers to the last question. I hope both Alexandra’s and Steve’s replies sound very much like your working relationship with your partners.

  • Sometimes you have to get to know someone really well to realize you're really strangers.
  • Mary Tyler Moore

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Ohio First State to Allow 10-Minute Incremental CPE For Accountants

I think you will find this press release from the Ohio Society of CPAs interesting.

Columbus, June 17, 2014

Ohio is leading the country in allowing continuing professional education in 10-minute increments. OSCPA President & CEO Scott D. Wiley, CAE announced the change today at OSCPA’s Leadership Summit and Annual Meeting in Columbus. The Accountancy Board of Ohio approved the change at the Friday, June 13 board meeting.

Maryland and other states are working on similar initiatives.

“We are proud of the collaborative relationship we have with the Accountancy Board of Ohio, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy and the AICPA which helped to drive this change,” Wiley said. “Ohio is fortunate to have such strong regulators who are also innovative thinkers.”

“We are excited to work with other state CPA societies to advance the future of learning,” Wiley added. 

Pending approval by the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review, CPAs will be able to take self-study CPE in blocks as short as 10 minutes and accrue it toward the 120-hour CPE requirement. OSCPA is already developing on-demand CPE in incremental blocks that CPAs can take when it is convenient to them. OSCPA’s on demand library is available online and via all mobile devices, enhancing the convenience.

Wiley also announced that OSCPA is the first state CPA society to participate in a national diversity and inclusion survey, with a goal of launching resources to help CPAs drive diversity and inclusion at their organizations.

  • I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same.
  • Martha Graham

Friday, June 20th, 2014

Stand Up and Be Counted

varidesk-dual-black-zoomIf this is the year you are relocating your office or perhaps just doing some remodeling, be sure to ask your team what they prefer.

A growing trend in the business world is also becoming more and more popular inside accounting firms. Many people want to reap the health benefits of standing up while they work. Accountants are tied to computers which translates to sitting at a desk for many hours a day.

In 2011 and 2013, I blogged about specific examples of this trend in the accounting profession. This year as I have been connecting with hundreds of accounting firm citizens I have asked them if they used a stand-up desk and/or provided them to their team members. From what I hear, first-hand, is that yes, more and more people are standing up, at least part of their day, to work.

Yesterday, as I was flying home from the AAA Practice Management Conference in San Diego, I saw an ad in Fast Company magazine for a cost effective solution. Check out Keep your team healthy and happy.

  • Stay strong. Stand up. Have a voice.
  • Shawn Johnson