Archive for the ‘Helpful Information’ Category

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

Technology – Return On Investment (ROI)

“A nickel isn’t worth a dime anymore.” – Yogi Berra

I have heard firm leaders discuss return on investment relating to technology costs at many partner retreats and meetings. It always seems to be an elusive number and a never-ending conversation. In most cases, these conversations end with the comment partners apply to many things inside a CPA firm – “It costs too much.”

randyRandy Johnston has a very informative article on ROI via CPA Practice Advisor. He shares what should be in the calculations made regarding technology expenditures.

He also reminds us that there are a few key ideas behind what he discusses. Below are the key ideas. Follow this link to read the worthwhile article.

  1. That you have a technology plan and budget. Our latest National CPA Firm Survey data indicates that only 14% of CPA firms have an IT budget. Firms “spend what is needed” which may or may not be true.
  2. That each project should have an estimated return. Understand that some projects are dependent on other projects. For example, it is hard to implement eSignature if you don’t have your paperless project pretty far along.
  3. That you don’t have to implement the latest technology to be successful. However, you won’t gain a significant competitive advantage if you are a technology laggard.
  4. That, not every technology is for you.
  • Too many people spend money they earned to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like.
  • Will Rogers

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

They Accepted Your Offer – Begin Onboarding Immediately

“Human Resources isn’t a thing we do. It’s the thing that runs our business.” – Steve Wynn

We all know the talent wars are raging in public accounting. You have identified a top student and you landed them. They have accepted your offer. Begin the onboarding process immediately. After all, you not only want to hire the best and brightest, you want to RETAIN them, long-term. Onboarding is different from orientation. Orientation is the formal, get me signed-up, type activities. Onboarding is a year-long process to facilitate a new hire’s success and build a positive working relationship with the firm and other team members.

Here are some little things you can do, as part of onboarding, that can make a big difference. Let’s say the candidate/new hire is named Robert and he’s finishing up his last year of college.

Send a gift basket to his parent’s home welcoming Robert and his family to your firm’s family.

Provide an advance on Robert’s salary ($1,500 or so) to buy new clothes, to use for a deposit on an apartment or down payment on a new car.

Connect with Robert immediately via social media. He probably already has an online presence. Use it to introduce him to all of the firm’s online communities and keep him connected to people at the firm while he awaits his actual starting date.

Have his Guide text him periodically just to touch base.

Let technology handle many aspects of onboarding. Let Robert complete all of the hiring paperwork online. This is not only what young people are used to; it is what we have all become comfortable with.

 

  • The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.
  • Theodore Roosevelt

Monday, July 11th, 2016

Don’t Do It Later – Do It Now!

Some of you remember when we had a physicalletter-mail-mailbox-postbox-medium “In” and “Out” box on our desk. The daily U.S.Mail would land in our inbox along with various client “jobs” that were flowing through our office and perhaps memos from other people in the office.

We would go through the inbox a few times a day and throw some stuff away. We would write someone’s name on some other items and place it in our outbox. An admin person was the culprit for putting stuff in our inbox and the hero for taking things away from out outbox.

The time management killer was when we put something from the inbox into a “I’ll deal with this later” stack of papers, mail, memos, etc. sitting on another corner on our desk. This stack had a life…. it grew. Much of it was important stuff that we intended to deal with later. We would periodically go through the stack and maybe deal with one or two things. Sometimes, important things would eventually make their way to the bottom of the stack to be discovered days (or weeks or months) later.

This same process has evolved with our current, digital in-box usually called email in a CPA firm. Many accountants use their email as a to-do list and some things are “touched” (read) many times before we actually deal with it!

To help remedy this productivity killer years ago, I learned the TIO method (touch it once) in a time management course. Do it. Delegate it. Trash it.

Do it does not mean you have to do it completely right at that moment. The point is to decide immediately how it will be handled. With our tech tools today, it could mean adding it to our Task List.

Again, the point is…. decide right away how the email should be handled. Do not re-read it later in the day, the next day, the next week, etc.

  • Because the mail never stops. It just keeps coming and coming and coming. There's never a letup. It's relentless.
  • Newman (on Seinfeld)

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

Please Pay Attention To Security Issues! A Message From Barry Melancon

I received the following press release from the AICPA.  This is very important for firms.

NEW YORK (July 6, 2016) – Cyber crime has emerged as a leading financial and operational risk for all organizations of all sizes in all sectors. “With that in mind, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) is taking a multifaceted approach to cybersecurity through the work of the Assurance Services Executive Committee and the Center for Audit Quality. This work will allow CPAs to take a leadership role,” AICPA President and CEO Barry C. Melancon, CPA, CGMA, explains in a new video.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has acknowledged publicly that the accounting profession’s experience with integrating data, reporting and assurance puts CPAs in a unique position to assist organizations as they address their cybersecurity concerns. “But this is not just a public company issue,” said Melancon. “It affects businesses of all types, shapes, and sizes.”

The AICPA is already seeing explosive growth in the need for cybersecurity-related services that build on the foundation for Service Organization Control, or SOC, reports. “This demand is driven by market forces, not a government mandate. And the market is asking us to do more, from both the advisory and assurance perspectives,” Melancon observed.

In response to the cyber challenge, the AICPA is taking action on many fronts:

  • First, the Institute is developing timely tools and education for CPAs to successfully address risk in a number of areas. Simultaneously, various areas of the AICPA are working to help CPAs as they address cybersecurity concerns through services like advisory, assurance, tax and management accounting.
  • Second, the AICPA is looking at how the profession can address cybersecurity as a natural extension of the platform of services CPAs already perform. The Institute is developing new examination engagements for members in public practice that are specific to cybersecurity. One is on an entity’s cybersecurity risk management program; another covers supply chain management for vendors and business partners to assess and manage their cybersecurity risk.
  • Third, the Institute’s advocacy team is closely monitoring cyber-related legislative and regulatory developments in Washington so it can respond appropriately and keep members informed.

“We see numerous roles for CPAs in the battle against cyber crime,” Melancon went on to say. “Within their businesses, CPAs must present their own front line against cyber attacks, implementing controls that help protect data and prevent service disruptions. CPAs in business can use their knowledge of the organization to advise their employers on administering a cybersecurity risk management program and provide the best cyber solutions.  CPAs in pubic practice, or public accounting, can assist their clients in an advisory capacity, as they grapple with cyber concerns and provide assurance when needed.”

For more information, visit the AICPA’s Cybersecurity Resource Center:

http://www.aicpa.org/InterestAreas/FRC/AssuranceAdvisoryServices/Pages/cyber-security-resource-center.aspx

 

  • If you want total security, go to prison. There you're fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking... is freedom.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower

Friday, July 1st, 2016

Sam Allred…. Class Act

IMG_7518Yesterday, CPAFMA (formerly AAA) wrapped up it’s 33rd  National Practice Management Conference in Baltimore. It was my 30th consecutive conference.

In all those years, I have never been disappointed in the content and educational atmosphere of this annual event. It is absolutely the best conference focused exclusively on CPA firm practice (and self-improvement). I only wish more managing partners would attend. It was such an honor this year to be one of the featured keynote presenters – thank-you CPAFMA!

The concluding keynote session this year featured Sam Allred of the Upstream Academy. If you are involved in CPA firm management you already know Sam. He began by jokingly noting that an attendee said she was “staying until the bitter end” so she could hear Sam. To me, even jokingly, Sam was not the bitter end – he was “save the best for last.”

CPAFMA asked him to focus his comments on this: If I could start from scratch to create the perfect firm, what would it look like?

Can we create a firm…….

Where there are minimal politics

That has a very low turnover

That has a very high morale and high productivity

That has strong organic growth but nobody feels pressured to sell anything

That has no artificial harmony

Where everyone is encouraged (and even expected) to speak their mind

Where all the partners are admired and respected

Where partners believe it is a privilege (not a right) to be part of the ownership group

Where everyone is helped to play to their strengths

Where there’s no parity (everyone is allowed to progress as fast and and far as they are able)

Where every discussion and decision is made with the firm’s best interest in mind

Sam elaborated on all of theses with wonderful insights and advice. I will feature more about all of this in future blogs.

For today, read this list of highlights a couple of times and give them some thought as you enjoy the long week-end.

IMG_7127I also had the wonderful opportunity to catch-up with Georgia Cummings of Upstream and to meet Sam’s handsome son, Jason.

Above, Sam Allred, is that you with Rita? And….. Georgia Cummings and Jason Allred, is that you with Rita?

 

  • You want to create a firm where your people think Monday is their favorite day of the week.
  • Sam Allred

Monday, June 27th, 2016

Excuses

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” – Jim Rohn

April 16th – We can’t tackle revising our performance feedback system, we have to have some downtime for a while after April 15th.

May 1 – We can’t work on the new orientation/onboarding project now because everyone is taking some vacation since tax season is over.

June 1 – We can’t tackle revising our performance feedback system, it’s time to do them and we’ll have to wait until this year’s process is over.

July 1 – We can’t right now… too many people on vacation.

August 15th – We can’t do an upward partner feedback survey, it’s time to focus on the September 15th due date.

September 16th – We can’t possibly work on that organizational alignment project, we have to focus on the October due date.

October 17th – We’ll work on our succession plan after the partner retreat.

November 1 – Let’s see what we can get done in November!

December 1 – We’ll have to put a halt on that workflow project because we are so busy in December with tax planning.

January 1 – We’ll have to wait until after April 15th.

Sound familiar?

  • When you know what you want, and you want it bad enough, you'll find a way to get it.
  • Jim Rohn

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

My View – Casual Dress

“Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.” – Machiavelli

Most of you know, I worked for 30 years at a growing, profitable CPA firm. Most of those years, I believed that the CPA profession was a world of professional men and women who had the great responsibility of advising successful business people. I believed that I worked in a professional office and was delighted to dress in what the world then called professional dress. Our offices were beautiful, tasteful, high-class. I believed in making a great first impression. Why wouldn’t we, as individuals, want to be viewed the same?

Of course, years ago, the firm moved to business casual. We called it “dress appropriate” which meant the same thing that is being talked about now… dress for your day. But then business casual meant no jeans and always a collared shirt for days in the office and professional dress for client/prospect meetings, business networking events, etc.

Of course, business casual slowly became more casual and we had to enforce our dress code. That was certainly not a fun task!

I held out for years about females not wearing panty hose with skirts and dresses. A wonderful mentor of mine finally said to me, “Rita, get over it” and I did. That being said, I still cringe when I see an overweight, young female attorney walking down the street in a suit or short skirt with pasty-white legs. Oh, well.

Now, guess what? I’m “over it” with a lot of things. The world is more casual and the professional business world is more casual and I am certainly more casual in my dress.

It is all about what I continually urge you to do… embrace change! Institute a “dress for your day” policy that allows jeans. Close your office on Friday. Times have changed and CPAs must adapt more quickly than they have in the past.

If you want to attract and keep talented people, stay abreast of current trends and make changes quickly, as needed. Crowe did a survey of their workforce last fall, casual attire was ranked the most important workforce amenity.

  • One key to successful leadership is continuous personal change. Personal change is a reflection of our inner growth and empowerment.
  • Robert E. Quinn

Friday, June 17th, 2016

CPA Management Newsletter

My newsletter went out yesterday. Here are the stories I included in this edition:

  • The Latest On Issues Being Faced By Firms
  • Keep The Feedback Flowing – Video Interview
  • Need To Talk?

I hope you received your copy. Be sure to check your spam filter. If you are not on my mailing list, you can sign up for my newsletter here.

 

  • By the time we've made it, we've had it.
  • Malcolm Forbes

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

A True Story About Launching A New Service

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” – Albert Einstein

Have you been thinking of launching a new service? Have you been thinking of how to better serve your clients via cloud accounting? I have observed that many CPA firm leaders are debating these topics during their partner meetings and management retreats.

sarahSarah Johnson Dobek of Inovautus Consulting posted a great feature story recently about how one firm launched a service around cloud accounting.

Highlights:

  • Clients were requesting better access to their books in real-time with mobility.
  • The old desktop versions of accounting software were a problem.
  • The firm wanted to offer more non-traditional services.
  • The growth has been higher than any other area of the firm.
  • The workflow is different than traditional tax and audit services.
  • Required a change in the pricing model.

Dobek advises:

  • Launching a new service can be daunting – develop a plan.
  • Be prepared for some things to not go as planned.
  • It always takes longer than you expect.
  • Define what success looks like.

Read this entire interesting story about launching a new service via Inovautus, here.

  • The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

Hiring – Take Your Time. Firing – Hurry up.

My advice to CPA practitioners about hiring is fairly simple: Hire Slow, Fire Fast.

By hiring slowly, I mean both the firm and the candidate should be thoroughly convinced that it’s a good fit.

Be completely honest with the candidate about the culture of your firm and the expectations you have for your people. Truthfully tell them what busy season is really like at your firm.

Involve people from all levels in your firm in the interviewing process. They are the people who will have to train, hand-hold and work side-by-side with this person going forward. Firms using this very honest, inclusive interviewing process have found it to be very successful.

Now for firing fast. Think about a recent situation at your firm. A new person arrives. I bet that you (partners, managers, seniors) can tell within a week whether the person will do well or not. Caution – I do think you should give every new hire a chance and in public accounting that means a full year, maybe two.

However, when I suggested two years to one practitioner he told me they usually give people eight years! Yes, he was exaggerating but he made a good point. CPAs hate to fire people. They procrastinate while continually hoping the person will improve and sometimes that goes on for years! It is not fair to the firm nor to the employee. They could be building their career elsewhere.

If you tolerate mediocre people you will become a mediocre firm.

 

  • You need to have a collaborative hiring process.
  • Steve Jobs