Archive for the ‘Helpful Information’ Category

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

Who Is Responsible? Who Owns That Project?

A while back, when I was reading: My Name Is Mary Sutter: A Novel, one passage spoke volumes to me.

“There is nothing so exasperating as a confused chain of command.”

Does this strike a cord with you as a CPA firm leader… partner… manager… team member?

Many firms seem to lack focus when it comes to establishing a chain-of-command. Some partner groups govern as a committee. Most partner groups govern by consensus. If you have ever been part of a committee you know how slowly things move and how much time is wasted on endless discussions. If you have had the task of gaining complete consensus you also know how frustrating that can be.

Even if the formal management structure is not a committee, client service partners want to be involved in all of the “management” decisions, even things as small as the weight of the paper that is selected for firm letterhead. Yes, it’s 2015 and I still hear these stories!

As more senior partners retire and firms transition to new leadership (a new managing partner), I hope they will better define the chain of command and the organizational structure of the firm. I’ve gone into several firms where it can be described as “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing”.

Consider a firm governance model that is shared throughout the firm.

Publish a firm Champion List. It is a guide that identifies the go-to person for expert advice on each software package used at the firm or for each segment and discipline inside the firm.

Lay-out a simple organizational chart that shows the chain-of-command and where each person “fits” in the firm. It helps newcomers and even more experienced team members understand where the firm administrator fits or how the partner group governs itself. An org chart can be helpful in large firms and small firms alike.

  • Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way.
  • General George Patton

Friday, April 17th, 2015

AICPA Announces A New Resource For Small Business Owners

Most of your firm’s clients probably fall into the category of “small business.”  As you well know, these companies need lots of on-going support and guidance from their CPA.

The AICPA has launched a microsite: to help these millions of small businesses around the country.  The new site is FULL of valuable videos and resource guides beneficial to both new and experienced small business owners.

Be sure to check out the informational videos page. I especially like – Why a CPA! page.

Share this resource with your entire team and have them spread the word to your valuable clients.

  • If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.
  • Booker T. Washington

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Yes, CPAs Can Become Famous – @SportsTaxMan

I always remember the story from management consulting guru David Maister about his early days at Harvard. He was young and inexperienced and was trying to find his path to success. His boss didn’t rush him or pressure him but finally one day asked a simple questions that led to success, “What do you want to be famous for?”

Maister classified partners in a CPA firm into 3 categories: Dynamos, Cruisers and a few Losers. He noted that you would expect accounting firms to be a hotbed of skill building.  But in his observation, that is not the case.

When it comes to partners, he found only 10 – 20% could be labeled “Dynamos” – always working to learn something new, continually building their practices in new and challenging areas. The rest of the partners, except for a very few incompetents, are Cruisers who work hard, do good work and take care of their clients but they don’t stand out as special talents.

Where do you fit? Where do your partners fit? The managing partners needs to ask each individual partner, “What do you want to be famous for?” and work with them to get there.

Robert_RaiolaRobert Raiola of O’Connor Davies is my favorite example. He’s famous for helping high net worth individuals in sports or entertainment deal with taxes. He began tweeting as @SportsTaxMan several years ago and now is often quoted by Sports Illustrated and appears on various television outlets. He’s become famous as a sports tax man.  Click here to see his latest Yahoo News spot about Jordan Spieth and his Masters winnings.

Next, contemplate what you could be famous for. Maybe you are ContractorTaxMan, NonProfitAuditLady or DentistAccountingGuru.


  • The way you get rich is don't get sucked into doing dumb stuff for people you don't like.
  • David Maister

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

Is The Status of Having A Private Office Still Relevant?

Accountants change very slowly. It has long been a tradition that “getting” your own office signals your peers and probably your family, that you have made it, that you are now in an important role.

Even GenX and younger accountants still seem to think this way. It’s the culture they have grown-up in during their working years.

Writers and researchers tell us that younger people like a more open work space where they can enjoy and benefit from collaboration.

I hope CPA firms can get away from the status thing that seems to be ingrained in their employees and the firm partners. I know many partners who believe that the size of their office and location (corner office) seem to paint them as more powerful. My opinion? This fools no one.

I have witnessed, first-hand, cubicle dwellers in CPA firms measure the length of the desk-top in their cube to assure themselves that they have as much space as their next door neighbor. Fascinating.

If you are considering an office update this year, here’s a good article about designing open office space. I think a combination of open and some private spaces for special situations would be an improvement over the public accounting tradition of cubicle “stalls” and way-too-big offices for partners.

  • Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.
  • Helen Keller

Friday, April 10th, 2015

It’s Great When Nice Things Happen – Discount for Excel Training

Most of you know, I love CPAs. My mission is to help CPAs in public practice create successful, progressive, proactive firms where top talent will want to stay and build their careers in public accounting.

I do this in many ways…. writing this daily blog (have only missed a handful of days in 9-1/2 years), providing a monthly, CPA management newsletter, speaking to members of the AICPA, state societies and almost every firm association out there… plus the members of the Association for Accounting Administration. Communicating current trends and helpful information via:

I don’t align myself with any vendors to the profession but I do know and respect many of them. Some are very good friends. I feature vendors and service providers when I think they might be of interest to my audience of CPA firm leaders.

JeffLenning014SqS_250I did that on Wednesday – telling you about Excel University and a really good thing happened. Jeff Lenning, CPA, CITP – author of Excel University emailed me to thank me and to extend an offer of a 20% discount for my readers. All you have to do is use the voucher code: ritakeller

Read more about Jeff here.

  • You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.
  • John Wooden

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

Challenge Your Team To Continually Improve

One successful activity that we used when I was working in a CPA firm was challenging our team members to become HIGHLY skilled in the software tools we used daily – like Microsoft Excel and Word.

Accountants were expected the pass the basic Word and advanced Excel tests that Microsoft offered for their certification programs (MOS). Administrative team members were asked to pass the basic Excel and the advanced Word exams. Most of the study to prepare for these exams was pretty much “on your own.”

eu_text_logoRecently, I became aware of a great resource for accountants – Excel University. It is Microsoft Excel Training specifically for CPAs and accounting professionals.

If you could learn Excel simply and easily at your pace and could learn the features and functions that are relevant and practical to accounting professionals – would you want to? If you are an accounting professional and have taken Excel classes before, you know the pace can be too fast or too slow and the content may not be relevant to your work. Excel University explores relevant features that allow you to get your work done quicker, in a self-paced, fun and engaging way.

Designed by a CPA for CPAs, this series covers functions you need and skips those you don’t.  It is available in two formats: Paperback book and Interactive Online Course.

I like the fact that they offer a “full” and “Lite” version. The full version meets NASBA’s QAS Self-Study standards for claiming CPE Credit. The Lite version is almost the same – – maybe more appropriate for your administrative professionals (non-CPAs). Look for more info under the Training Tab when you visit their website and check-out the testimonials.

I bet many of you are already using Excel University. – – Keep encouraging your team to embrace lifelong learning!

  • If you have a job without aggravations, you don't have a job.
  • Malcolm Forbes

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

Never Be Too Busy To Focus On Your People

Just a short reminder today. Yes, I know, if you are working in a CPA firm you are very busy. Never be too busy to recognize people!

  • If you have a year or two of experience – you advise and counsel the interns and the first-years.
  • If you are a Senior – you supervise the work of the staff accountants.
  • If you are a Manager – your main job is guiding other people.
  • If you are a Partner – You set the tone, the example, influence the culture the most.

All of you should be Managing By Wandering Around. Here’s the reminder, the MBWA 8 – Eight Words That Can Change Your Firm.


  • Life is what happens while you are making other plans.
  • John Lennon

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Be Creative In Motivating Your Valuable Team Members

DSC_0018CPA firm leaders are continually seeking ideas on ways to RETAIN top performers. It is almost like a competition among firms as to who can shower their millennials with the most gifts and perks.

Most people think that spending money on physical things makes them happy – that a physical object will last longer so it makes us happy over a longer time than a one-off experience like a concert or a vacation. According to recent research – that assumption is completely wrong.

A study by a professor at Cornell tells us that rather than buy a BMW you’ll actually get more happiness for spending money on experiences – art exhibits, outdoor activities, learning a new skill or traveling.

Haven’t you noticed that the McMansions of the world have diminished and the new trend is smaller, more compact dwellings with furniture that is dual purpose? Young professionals seem to no longer want a big house but no furniture because they can’t afford it.

Apply this to you team members. Be creative! How can you give them experiences rather than things?

Yes! That’s me in the white helmet.

  • Plunge boldly into the thick of life, and seize it where you will, it is always interesting.
  • Van Goethe

Monday, March 30th, 2015

Recruiting Tactics From The Top 100 Firms

atThe talent wars are raging. It’s time to take a look at your recruiting tactics that might be out of date. Thanks to Accounting Today for sharing recruiting tactics from some of the Top 100 firms.

1. Job Fairs – It’s not just attending the annual fall job fair – it’s a year round activity.

2. Diversity Recruitment – Form an alliance with minority organizations. Lack of diversity is a big issue in the CPA profession.

3. Campus Programs & Organization Search – Get involved on campus. Interact and share information with freshmen and sophomores.

4. Summer Visit – Provide a summer introduction event for college students where they can learn more about the firm and the profession.

5. Donate – Many Top 100 firms make a point to donate to university accounting departments where they recruit.

6. Social Media – Get involved and stay in contact with alumni via social media.

7. Expand Your Recruiting Team – Top firms are hiring people specifically for recruiting. Many firms have more than one person handling this important activity.

8. Task Force – One firm created a Young Professionals Taskforce to encourage networking.

9. Show Them the Money – If a current staffer refers a candidate and they are hired, give them a bonus. One firm gives $7,500.

10. Pay for Things – Reimbursements are an attractive tool for recruiting both college students and experienced hires. CPA exam reimbursements and tuition reimbursements are both very popular.

  • I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.
  • Albert Einstein

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Sway With The Punches

This is a very busy time inside CPA firms right now.

I have talked with hundreds of people working at CPA firms during the last year – CPAs, HR professionals, firm administrators, technology gurus, and marketing professionals.

Whether you are a CPA fighting the battle first-hand or a support professional facing the continual comment from the CPAs: “I’m too busy!” (to write an article, to attend a networking event, mentor an intern, provide timely performance feedback….), you might let what happens at work “get to you”.

What do you do when you feel like you are about to “lose it”? Here’s some advice I found when I was reading The Snowman by Jo Nesbo, that might apply:

“Do what boxers do, sway with the punches. Don’t resist. If any of what happens at work gets to you, just let it. You won’t be able to shut it out in the long term anyway. Take it bit by bit, release it like a dam, don’t let it collect until the wall develops cracks.”

  • For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.
  • Lily Tomlin