Archive for the ‘Helpful Information’ Category

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

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

Simplify Your Performance Reviews – Deloitte Is Redesigning Theirs

I talk about it often. If you are a CPA firm leader, I know you might feel like I am nagging you about revising your old fashioned performance evaluation system. Once again, here I am, trying to offer alternatives.

This time we have Deloitte as a guide. Their story is featured on the HBR site – Reinventing Performance Management.

Deloitte did a public survey and found that more than half of executives questioned (58%) believe that their current performance management approach drives neither employee engagement nor high performance.

What do you honestly think about your performance feedback approach? I have found that almost everyone dreads performance feedback time inside CPA firms – the people giving them and the people getting them. Make this the year you refresh yours – simplify!

I find that firms spend way too much time “rating” people, writing comments about what they are doing right and wrong and not enough time giving them frequent verbal feedback.

Deloitte found that creating ratings consumed close to 2 million hours a year. Keep in mind they employ 65,000 people.

Deloitte, rather than asking more people for their opinion of a team member (in 360-degree or an upward-feedback survey, for example), they will ask only the immediate team leader to respond to four future-focused statements about each team member at the end of each project or on a quarterly basis.

I highly recommend you read the article to get the entire picture. Then consider how how you might modify your own system. If you need to talk or need help, you can contact me via my website.

  • Our life is frittered away by detail... simplify, simplify.
  • Henry David Thorequ

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

Remodeling Your CPA Firm Office This Year?

Your office design might actually be bumming people out. I am hearing lots of talk in CPA circles about the need to downsize office space. In many firms, fewer people are actually working in the office. Many are working remotely and it makes sense to share space.

If this is the year you are upgrading your space or remodeling, there are some important things to consider.

According to an article on Fast Company, if you’re making people sit in poorly lit, scrunched-together spaces with no potential for chance encounters, it’s time to rearrange.

From a book by Rex Miller, Change Your Space, Change Your Culture, today’s average worker is working in a space with a 1960s design and most organizations can’t connect the dots between office design and innovation. CPA firm leaders need to do their research and modernize – – most are still the very traditional lay-out that was used in the 1980s (and before).

Here’s a few ideas from the article. Be sure to read the entire article if you are planning a move or remodel this summer.

Lighting is important – experts tell us we need a different kind of lighting in the morning as opposed to the afternoon.

Walls block out natural light – tear down the drywall and have glass walls. I have seen this done in several progressive firms. The partners offices are on the interior with glass walls and the open, cubicle space is on the outside walls where more light can filter in.

Fixed tables in brainstorming areas – give people options to change their environment and use rooms for collaboration (not just for meetings…. do less of those). The large, polished, impressive conference table needs to go. Rooms need movable, adaptable furniture.

Desks in between other desks – Everyone hates the middle seat on an airplane. Don’t make your people feel the same.

Spend the most money on public spaces – I sure see this in CPA firms – the lobby, client conference room and partner offices are definitely high-end, beautiful, etc. The leaders need to share the wealth – it can be a major contributor to your culture.

Separating departments – According to the experts, it’s a bad idea for departments to feel secluded from one another. I see this one in CPA firms, too…. “Oh, the audit department is on the floor above.” If you have to separate – be sure to use open stairs and make floors more “connected.”

Refreshing your office, even simply repainting, upgrading some furniture or new flooring makes people feel “refreshed.” Don’t get into the trap of thinking that they don’t care about their personal space in the office. I believe that when a potential employee walks into your office their first reaction should be “Wow!” because your firm’s office “looks” successful, modern and generous.

 

  • To be far from the maddening crowd is to be mad indeed.
  • A.E. Coppard, author

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

CPA Consultants’ Alliance – New Leaders and Top Issues

cropped-cropped-cpac-headerI am so proud to be a member of the CPA Consultants’ Alliance. It is such an honor to be among so many knowledgeable people focused on helping CPA firms become even more successful.

Once a year we have an in-person meeting to connect, share and improve our consulting skills. In February, we met in Tampa and elected the new Board for 2015.

Here’s the press release where you can access our perspectives on the most pressing issues for 2015:

The CPA Consultants’ Alliance (CPACA), a working group of thought leaders united in their efforts to further leadership within the CPA profession, recently held its annual meeting in Tampa, FL.

During the meeting, members approved the following slate of new officers:

  • Terry Putney, CPA, CEO of Transition Advisors, LLC– President
  • Tamera Loerzel, Partner in ConvergenceCoaching, LLC– Immediate Past-President
  • Sarah Johnson Dobek,Founder and President of Inovautus Consulting – Vice President
  • Dustin Hostetler, Shareholder, Boomer Consulting– Secretary/Treasurer
  • Rita Keller, President and Founder of Keller Advisors, LLC – Membership Chair
  • Rick Solomon, CPA, CGMA, CEO of Thriving Firm – Deliverables Chair
  • Carrie Steffen, President and Co-Founder, The Whetstone Group –Marketing Chair

In addition, members shared experiences and insights into issues of the CPA profession. Their perspectives on the most pressing issues for 2015 can be found on the website in a new report entitled: People at the Center of CPA Firm 2015 Top Issues

About The CPA Consultants’ Alliance

The CPACA was formed in 2012 with the purpose of exploring leadership issues facing the public accounting profession and developing and sharing solutions that benefit practitioners. Other insights from the group include the article What Drives Happiness at CPA Firms and the whitepaper CPA Firm Leadership: Communication Drives New Possibilities. The group’s vision is to inspire positive change in the CPA profession by collaboratively establishing tools and content that will educate, motivate and increase the wisdom of current and future leaders. Watch for the CPACA’s next report on CPA firm succession coming later in 2015.

The CPACA’s members are successful consultants within the CPA profession. Members’ expertise includes CPA firm strategic and succession planning, leadership and management, growth, sales and marketing, information technology, human resources, coaching, mergers and acquisitions, diversity, leadership development and more.

For more information about The CPACA, its members and to stay connected, please:

Email at: info@cpaconsultantsalliance.com
Visit our Website
Follow us on LinkedIn
Follow us on Twitter

  • A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.
  • John Lennon

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

Young Accountants – Don’t Delay Your Marketing Efforts

If you are just beginning a career in public accounting, you have a lot to learn. Most first-year accountants say, “I didn’t learn any of this in school!”

The firm will help you learn, gain experience and provide resources to help you pass the CPA exam.

Of course, passing the exam is the top priority. But, don’t procrastinate when it comes to getting involved in marketing efforts. You will be glad you did.

Start with easy things. Pass out your business card to everyone you know and meet. Attend business networking activities. Ask to go to business networking events. Ask to shadow a partner.

Your firm leaders will be impressed.

  • If you want to achieve greatness stop asking for permission.
  • Unknown

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Don’t Hide

There are a lot of recent college graduates and interns, accounting majors, experiencing their first tax season in public accounting. Are you one of them? If not, send a link to this post to the bright young people at your firm who are.

You were hired because you interviewed well. You asked great questions. You were talkative without being overbearing. You were cheerful and pleasant. You smiled a lot.

Now you have made it to March. In most CPA firms, the days leading up to March 15 and April 15 are intense, fast-paced and somewhat stressful.

During these busy times, you are tempted to simply keep your head down, focus on the work, stay out of people’s way and try to simply blend in. Now is not the time to hide. Don’t quit asking questions.

Often you are not actually as busy as your bosses think you are. Volunteer for assignments. Ask for the difficult tasks. Force yourself to stretch.

The experienced accountants in your firm realize you will make mistakes and they will help you learn as you go.

A partner told me once, “I just wish one of the new kids would simply stick their head in my office and ask me if they could help me. At least I would know they are ambitious.”

Don’t hide. Be visible. Ask questions.

  • You are a possibility that has never occurred before and will never occur again. No one else has had or will ever have your unique combination of talents, experiences and dreams. So don't waste that uniqueness.
  • Patrick Combd

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Most People Need Quiet Time

Inside most accounting firms, there is an area that is called the “bullpen.” It is usually an open area containing 10 to 20 cubicles. Many firms I visit have a “tax bullpen” and an “audit bullpen”.

I don’t have a big problem with this arrangement. Younger, newer accountants need to talk to each other as they learn the ropes. Plus, they now use ear buds to keep out excessive noise and listen to music of their choice.

I even like the open office arrangements that some companies have embraced. I like contemporary, so the open, clean look of an Apple store looks great to me, although I’m not sure it lends itself to the concentration often needed in public accounting.

So, if you have a lot of people working in open office space, cubicles or not, maybe they need a micro retreat. In NYC and a few other cities, you can rent a quiet, space to think, write or work for 30 minutes or all day. You can see what I mean at Breather.com. Sometimes you just need to be alone and to stay focused. Call it a micro retreat.

My suggestion is for your firm to set-up a couple of rooms like this at your firm – clean, quiet and sparsely furnished. The people in your firm who do not have an office, can book it for an hour or two if they really need to focus (allow no interruptions). Of course, you will have to have some guidelines so that it is shared and one person doesn’t book it every day!

I use this concept when I travel on business. I try to arrive a half-day early because I can get so much done while I am alone in a hotel room.

  • What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.
  • Ellen Burstyn

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Amazing Things Can Happen

I grew up in a hard-working family. Both of my parents worked so they could provide the type of life-style they thought was beneficial to our family and also enjoyable for them. When I observe how young families live now it seems very lavish compared to what I experienced as a child.

My parents just expected (no doubt about it) that when I got out of school, I would work hard and never take advantage of any employer.

Maybe that’s why it puzzles me when I hear accounting firm employees whine about, what I call, hard work. Mostly, I think they are whining about the longer hours necessary during certain times of the year. All professions have “busy” times

My personal story is a success story about hard work (and perseverance). I found a position, a job, a career that I loved and I worked hard to improve. It paid off. Simple as that.

If you are in the early part of your career in public accounting, it can be a glorious time – you are in demand! Firms are hiring. Firms are doing many great things to be sure they retain top talent. The work is challenging and interesting and becoming a CPA means you become “a most trusted advisor” to so many interesting businesses and people.

Think about this from Conan O’Brien:

“All I ask is one thing, and I’m asking this particularly of young people: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” – – Conan O’Brien

  • I just want to say to the kids out there watching. You can do anything you want in life. Unless Jay Leno wants to do it too.
  • Conan O'Brien

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

A Change In Overtime & The Average Work Week

How and when a CPA firm pays overtime is something that has been discussed and argued for years. It is not always easy deciding who is “exempt” and who is “non-exempt”.

I have found that most firms are very careful about these rules. I just wanted to give you a heads-up about some new overtime pay protections for low-salaried managers that are in the works.

Here’s the article on CNN Money – be sure you are in the know for your firm and for your clients.

Here’s another interesting fact. According to a Gallup poll from last fall. The average U.S. employee works 46.7 hours per week. So, don’t think it is just the accounting profession that has extended hours.

The best thing about public accounting hours is that, for many accountants, the extra hours occur in winter and when summer arrives it’s a 40-hour work week.

  • Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard.
  • Tim Notke

Monday, February 16th, 2015

Key CPA Firm Issue – Retention. Are You Doing The Right Things Or Just Things?

For years now, in the CPA profession, we have been doing all kinds of warm and fuzzy stuff for our employees.

  • Let’s use Starbucks coffee rather than the grocery store variety.
  • Let’s give them flex hours and core hours so they can sleep late or stay late – their choice.
  • Let’s give them really nice portfolios with the firm logo.
  • Let’s give them firm logo jackets, sweatshirts, t-shirts and coffee mugs.
  • Let’s give them an extra week of vacation.
  • Let’s subsidize their health club dues.
  • Let’s pay them for referral leads.
  • Let’s buy a real popcorn machine for the break room.

Get the picture? Sound all too familiar?

Want to truly engage your people? First step:  Observe, research and solicit information to determine what motivates your BEST performers.

Many studies tell us that engaging millennial employees it is simply being more inclusive. Millennial top performers want to be in the loop, they want transparency AND opportunity. Older, experienced employees in your accounting firm have become accustomed to all the mystery, secrecy and complacency.

Major change is difficult for some CPAs. I like to recommend taking baby steps to improve things inside your firm. It can be a small step but at least TAKE THAT SMALL STEP.

Do this: Take one of your high-profile engagements, one that is challenging and interesting, away from one of your long-time managers (who has had it for years) and assign it to a not-so-long-time millennial (that’s someone under 35 years of age).

That will do more to engage an up-and-comer than all the free bagels you can buy.

 

  • When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.
  • Simon Sinek