Archive for the ‘Helpful Information’ Category

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Show Appreciation by Utilizing Stay Interviews

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving forward.” – Albert Einstein

Some accounting firms have been utilizing stay interviews for a while. However, I have observed that there are still many firms that haven’t embraced this excellent tool.

Anytime you devote individualized attention to one of your team members, asking them for advice and feedback, it’s a positive exercise for both sides – management and staff.

Elizabeth (Bitsy) Watson, PHR, the HR Manager for Mahoney, Ulbrich, Christiansen & Russ shared the process they use for stay interviews. It would be a good best practice for you to emulate. Her comments follow:

BitsyWe started out with results from our recent engagement survey and identified about five areas where we wanted more insight, such as, if we felt our scores for recognition could be stronger or we wanted more insights into what aspects of compensation were most important to staff.

We then came up with some questions related to these areas and others (about 10 total). A few examples were:

  • What types of recognition are most meaningful to you?
  • What opportunities for development would you like that you may not be getting?
  • What type of work do you find most motivating or interesting?
  • Of the compensation and benefits we offer, what aspects are most important to you and what could be improved in this area?

We used a representative sample of our employees to participate in the stay interviews. I kept the names confidential. After the meetings were completed, our next steps were to summarize the overall themes and share the summary with the partners, not sharing names. I also included three recommendations for changes or new programs to implement. We’ll then share these new initiatives with the interview group. We want them to know that we really valued their opinions.

I tried to be as transparent as possible with everyone involved on what we were trying to accomplish and how valuable their feedback is. We received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from the interviewees. They mentioned feeling like it was helpful to have a channel to be asked questions they might never have been asked. I think the most interesting thing that came from this was bringing to light some wrong assumptions we, as management, had been making.

Our plan is to do this annually utilizing a different group of employees each year.

  • Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
  • Thomas Edison

Friday, February 17th, 2017

CPA Firm Management Association – A Great Resource

“There is a fundamental distinction between strategy and operational effectiveness.” – Michael Porter

Do you have a firm administrator? Do you wish you had a firm administrator?

If you do have one, be sure they are a member of the CPA Firm Management Association (CPAFMA). If you don’t have one, join the Association to learn more about how you can find one and how you could be saving your accountants a significant amount of time by having someone else take care of firm operations.

Today, I will be attending the Ohio CPAFMA Chapter meeting to learn a lot about what’s new in employment law, something all of you should be learning. Be sure to follow my tweets today.

There are many chapters around the country. If you are a managing partner or if you are responsible for any part of firm operations (what goes on behind the scenes), join CPAFMA and attend chapter meetings.

  • The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.
  • Michaelangelo

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Be Efficient With Your Email

“I’m really good at email.” – Elon Musk

It’s that old devil – the inbox! So many accounting firm citizens, from all levels inside the firm, lament how difficult it is to keep up with emails.

I have even heard partners talk about the number of emails they received in almost a bragging tone! “I get 100 emails a day!” “Well, I get almost 200!”

Don’t let email run your daily life. Don’t make it your default, open page on your desk top. Don’t feel compelled to reply immediately.

I have read lots of articles about how to deal with email and have shared several on this blog. I also practice what I learn! I do not continually check my email. I close my email window when I am getting real work done, etc.

AnthonyThis week I read a post by S. Anthony Iannarino, speaker and author about how he processes his email. I think you will find it very helpful.

He does not live in his inbox.

He works in 90 minute segments (without checking email).

He does a quick scan for anything urgent (that’s your challenge… what is urgent and what really isn’t urgent?)

There are really not very many emails that actually need an IMMEDIATE response. If you have one, then respond to it.

Every Wednesday morning he processes his email (he has five inboxes) and gets them all to zero.

I think you will enjoy reading his helpful, brief blog post. If you can’t give all of his tips a try at least try a few of his recommended actions.

If I let myself, I could sit and process email continually all day long! My method is to check email first thing in the morning, around noon and then again late afternoon. I rarely look at email after 5:00pm. My clients have top priority. I answer their emails first (but not always immediately).

Commit to a new practice for handling email and making your day more productive.

When you visit Anthony’s site, you might also learn some things to help with sales, after all Anthony’s site is thesalesblog.com.  And he has a book titled The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need. 

  • The perfect is the enemy of the good.
  • Voltaire

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Working a Flex Schedule Doesn’t Mean Your Are Stuck

“The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who’s going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand

I was delighted to read a recent article from the Journal of Accountancy by Yasmine El-Ramly and Anita Dennis titled, Rising to the top on a reduced schedule.

The article features two female partners at Grant Thornton. Yes, partners who work a flex schedule – Flexible Work Arrangement (FWA).

The partners are Debbie Smith, CPA and Erica O’Malley, CPA. They built a thriving employee benefit plan audit practice while working a 70% schedule.

Some lessons featured in the article:

Lesson 1 – A flexible work arrangement can pave the way

Lesson 2 – A foundation built on teamwork and trust

Lesson 3 – Focus on results

Lesson 4 – With flexibility comes responsibility

Lesson 5 – Time management and organizational skills stand out

Lesson 6 – Plan to be flexible

These are great lessons for anyone struggling with working a flexible schedule or for firms contemplating implementation of an FWA that can even include partners.

I hope you read the entire article to learn more about each lesson.

  • Women are the real architects of society.
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

How Visible Is Your Firm On Campus?

“A baby has brains, but it doesn’t know much. Experience is the only thing that brings knowledge, and the longer you are on earth the more experience you are sure to get.” – L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

I hope you have read Rosenberg’s recent post about accounting interns‘ lack of knowledge about public accounting.

He interviewed a group of accounting interns working for local firms in Chicago. The sad result is that their perception of the CPA profession – hours worked by staff, hours worked by partners, earnings of partners – is sadly off-target.

Read my post from 2009 to learn about my experience with college students. They did not know anything about local firms, they only knew about the Big Four. Why? Because the national firms are visible on campus EVERY week.

There is much smaller firms can do.  My firm was recruiting on campus when I joined the firm and we only had nine people! So, big firm or small firm, be visible on the college campus.

  • No man's knowledge can go beyond his experience.
  • John Locke

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

CPA Consultants’ Alliance

“Let no one think that flexibility and a predisposition to compromise is a sign of weakness or a sell out.” – Paul Kagame

Today will be fun for me. I will be joining Jeff Phillips of Accoutingfly and Tamera Loerzel of Convergence Consulting to film a video podcast.

All the members of the Alliance will be involved in filming these brief video podcasts on different topics to help practitioners with specific areas of concern.

Our group today will be addressing the value of a flexible workplace and how to address many of the issues in implementing it into your culture.

Stay tuned for more information about this CPACA project in the Spring.

  • You must always be able to predict what's next and then have the flexibility to evolve.
  • Marc Benioff

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

Keep Fighting That Procrastination Habit

“Last year I joined a support group for procrastinators. We haven’t met yet.”

When I am speaking to CPA firm groups, I like to tell the story of the classic procrastination scenario inside of a busy CPA firm. It goes something like this:

It’s tax season, we can’t possibly take the time to update our performance feedback process. It’s April 16, we desperately need time to recover from tax season. I call this the after-tax-season coma that you are in for about two to four weeks. It’s late May, early June, we can’t possibly work on the performance system because it is time to begin this year’s reviews. Our process will last at least through July. It’s August, too many people are on vacation. It’s September, we have extensions. It’s October, we have extensions. It’s December, we have tax planning appointments. So, that means you have November to catch-up on all the initiatives and projects you have talked about for years.

Any of this sound familiar? Don’t procrastinate this year begin NOW. Take it in small steps and just keep moving forward with your initiatives even is you have a lot of various excuses not to.

  • A year from now you may wish you had started today.
  • Karen Lamb

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Parental Leave

“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” – Benjamin Spock, M.D.

A few months ago I surveyed a small number of CPA firms across the country. I was curious about the kind of parental leave they offered as an employee benefit.

To my dismay, paid maternity leave is almost non-existent. CPA firms seem to approach it with a combination of actions. The employee (the mother) is encouraged to save and/or carry over PTO to be used and they combine it with short term disability options.

As far as any type of paid leave for new Dads, it seems truly non-existent.

Here is a good article from FAST Company – How Paid Parental Leave Changed in 2016. 

Some progress has been made, in general, but 2016 was not an impressive year for paid parental leave. A quarter of new mothers go back to work just 10 days after giving birth.

Just so you know, in 2016, EY announced a new policy to expand its parental benefits to over 35,000 U.S. employees. Both new mothers and fathers are eligible for up to 16 weeks of fully paid parental leave for birth, adoption, surrogacy, foster care, or legal guardianship.

If you want to attract and retain young, top talent. An impressive paid parental leave policy might just be the answer.

 

Friday, January 6th, 2017

Skill Gap

Do we have a skill gap in public accounting? Yes, I believe we have SOMEWHAT of a skill gap in that CPAs with more longevity are not as nimble with technology. They are certainly not slugs either.

The bigger issue is that they have an aversion to change. Often forming a major roadblock to change inside their own firm. One managing partner told me, “We LIKE paper.”

With younger accountants, the skills gap seems to be mostly with communication.

Watch the short video, below, via IFAC, as Mark Koziel, Executive Vice President, Firm Services, AICPA expertly explains these gaps.

 

  • A lot of people are afraid to say what they want. That's why they don't get what they want.
  • Madonna

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

For Your CPA Firm & For Your Clients – Take Sexual Harassment Seriously

“Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.” – George Washington

Well-managed CPA firms got the sexual harassment message a long time ago. But, have you continually educated your new team members and your long-time team members about the importance of a sexual harassment policy and how it works?

Your CPAs are advising your small business clients on many topics and making them aware of the need for a sexual harassment policy should be one of those topics.

david-lewis-headshotSometimes small businesses (like CPA firms and their clients) have a very casual, almost collegiate culture. There is nothing casual about sexual harassment.

David Lewis, President/CEO of OperationsInc, one of the Northeast’s largest Human Resources Outsourcing and Consulting firms, was recently interviewed about sexual harassment policies on MSNBC.

Lewis suggests:

  • Start with awareness and training.
  • Adopt a policy and be sure it is well communicated.
  • Be sure your people understand what sexual harassment is and what is suppose to happen if it occurs.
  • Always follow your policy.

Address sexual harassment before it occurs and you must adopt a zero tolerance policy. Many small businesses don’t want to upset their casual culture and try to ease into some sort of sexual harassment policy. There is no easing in – no middle ground. Let everyone know that going forward there will be zero tolerance for sexual harassment.

If you have a policy and don’t follow it, it is a killer – lawyers love it.

Watch the brief, informative interview here.

  • Be civil to all, sociable to many, familiar with few, friend to one, enemy to none.
  • Benjamin Franklin