Archive for the ‘Helpful Information’ Category

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

QuickBooks Online & The CPA Firm

As I talk with CPA practitioners and their teams around the country, the minute QBO is mentioned (QuickBooks Online), the whining begins. I’m talking serious whining here!

I think you know by now, I am here to convey honesty and insight into the world of CPA firm management. I try to offer solutions and alternatives to every issue. That’s why I am addressing this QBO issue.

For years and years I have heard anguish and pain about the different “versions” of QB and how difficult it is to keep CPA firm clients on the most recent version of QB. Some firms report that they must keep a significant number of QB versions active on their servers just to serve the clients. Some firms have even adopted a policy to force all clients to stay current on versions.

All of that, of course, would be solved with an online version and the phasing out of all desktop versions. That is what Intuit is doing.

It doesn’t seem to be going so well, so far.  Users and practitioners are stirred-up and very negative. The most positive comment I have heard about QBO  is “Well, it has its limitations.”

Please note, I am not a user. I cannot do anything but communicate what I am hearing and reading and offer possible solutions.

As with most issues involving significant change, people (users) will get used to it. But, for now, this move to the cloud does not seem like an enjoyable experience.

Yesterday on AccountingWeb, Nate Stewart wrote, “Why QuickBooks’ Cloud Bet Matters To Everyone.” He notes that Intuit says, “QuickBooks Online is the future and it’s better to go with the tide than against it.”

Here’s a review by PC Magazine and it compares similar products.

When I read articles like these online, I always view the comments (I urge you to do the same). Sometimes they are very insightful. One comment seemed to be aligned with what I actually hear from CPA firm users, “With 15 years experience using Quickbooks both online and PC/MAC versions, I can honestly say avoid the online version like the plague.”

I’m sure it will get better, so be patient but I also recommend exploring options like Xero and others.

  • Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.
  • A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Reminder About CPACA Succession Survey

CPA_LogoThis week, things at your firm just might be a little less hectic than they have been in recent weeks.

Back in September, I invited firms to respond to a survey that is being conducted to determine how partners in CPA firms view their firm’s ability to address the succession of their partners primarily as they approach retirement.

Because of the fall tax due dates, we are offering extended time to complete the survey. Thanks so much to those of you who have already completed the survey and for all others, now you have more time! The survey will now close on October 31.

The survey consists of 15 short, simple statements to which respondents will enter their level of agreement. It should take no more than 10 minutes to complete. We will be releasing our findings in the form of an article that will include ideas and practical advice your firm can apply. All survey participants who supply us with contact information will receive a copy of the article as well as access to interviews we are doing with CPA firm leaders and emerging leaders.

Here is a link to where you can complete the survey.


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

Monday, October 20th, 2014

The Chairman of PwC – Insight On Engaging The Millennials

Bob Moritz, the Chairman of PwC, in an article via Harvard Business Review, talks about how the firm has changed and what they must now do to engage (and retain) their young, Millennial workforce.

I have been attempting to help CPAs better understand Millennials for almost a decade and I believe that many CPA firm leaders have embraced proven trends in hiring and keeping top talent (which are Millennials and many of them female).

I think you will find Moritz’s comments very interesting – I know most of you keep an eye on what the Big Four are doing.

Some tidbits from Mr Moritz follow…. but please read the entire article here.

  • Things have definitely changed in the three decades I have been with the firm.
  • Bigger bonuses and promotions went to those who sacrificed more of their personal lives, whereas our current HR policies primarily reward quality and value the work and life needs of every person.
  • Millennials are vocal and extremely globally oriented – they know and care much more about what’s going on all over the world than I did at their age.
  • PwC’s Millennials don’t only demand to know the organization’s purpose – its reason for being – but are prepared to leave the firm if that purpose doesn’t align with their own values.

PwC studied their Millennials and have made significant changes in their HR practices. PwC Boomers accepted the notion of making partner as the reward and justification for years of long hours in service to clients. But their current studies revealed that the allure of someday becoming partner is no longer enough to spark high levels of engagement.

Again, follow the link and read the article – it is very interesting and informative.


  • I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.
  • Mother Teresa

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Productivity Hack of the Week

Fast-Company-Logo“To help you work smarter instead of harder, we’re hitting you with a productivity hack each Friday. Check out our hacks here.” – – this is from Fast Company.

If you are confused by the word hack, used in this context, learn more here.

I thought the Productivity Hack Of The Week for October 10, 2014 just might interest many accountants working in public accounting. You know…. the place where in most firms you track every single minute of your day! (Except for the very progressive firms where they have embraced the value pricing model.) Of course, whether you are tracking time or not – you can end up wasting a lot of time browsing the web.

Taking a Facebook break or reading a few blogs that you follow everyday (and find helpful… hopefully like mine), can still be good for you and also be productive, within limits. It is still very clear that there is only so much time you can spend with these browsing activities.

That is why, when I read about how to track how much time you waste, I thought it would certainly pique your interest.

There is an app that runs in the background while you work on your computer or smartphone that tracks each second you spend on applications and websites and gives you weekly reports and data based on your activity.

Then there is another app that helps you, after you have decided how much time you want to cut back (a productivity extension for Google Chrome) that allows you to restrict the amount of time you can spend on time-wasting websites. If you lack self-control completely and need to put yourself on a productivity lock down, you can block specific sites completely using Chrome.

All this is interesting. I need to dig a little deeper and see if it could benefit me. I know that I get sucked into reading a post and following a link, then another link and end up reading, reading, reading….. which is good for my knowledge and expertise but I often have other more important priorities!

As mentioned above, Fast Company provides a productivity hack every week – read them here.

  • Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.
  • Stephen King

Monday, October 13th, 2014

Challenging Conversations – Don’t Avoid Them

When I was working inside a busy, growing accounting firm, I would often have someone come to me and say, “Could you talk to Sally (or Joe or whoever), she……. (fill in the blank).”

Usually, it was something that needed to be discussed, however, some accountants are uncomfortable with confrontation so they would try to “pass the buck” to someone else.

Maybe you have a performance conversation coming up and maybe you will need to give some negative feedback. Don’t be afraid. Be honest.

Photo on 10-8-14 at 9.34 AMI recommend you consider sending your key communicators to Crucial Conversations Training. We sent key people from our firm and they reported “it changed my life.” You can even get one of your own people certified to be a trainer for your entire organization.

Formally trained or not, read the book and then you can take steps to become more comfortable when those challenging conversations need to happen.

Read this article on Fast Company, 5 Strategies to Prepare For A Difficult Conversation At Work, to help you prepare.

Focus on the other person – enter the conversation from the perspective of how you can help the person get better.

Think through your opening – Be direct, “here’s what I want to help you with.”

Practice out loud beforehand – Practice what you will say in the car while driving to work.

Call a peer for help – Some people get defensive. Practice with a peer on how you might address objections. It will boost your confidence and help you stay calm.

Don’t fear emotions – They might respond emotionally, that is a good thing because strong conversations can be a turning point in their career.

Follow the link, above, to read the entire article – then practice!


  • This is a breakthrough book. I found myself being deeply influenced, motivated, and even inspired.
  • Stephen R. Covey

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Preparing Your CPA Firm For The Future

I was delighted to be part of a special blog post on the SmartCenter Blog. Thanks to William Hamilton of SmartCenter for reaching out to me.

They asked 9 thought leaders one question:

“What do modern tax & accounting firms need to do to prepare for the future.”

It was very difficult to offer just one idea!

Click here to read all the great comments and download some very helpful tools from SmartCenter.


  • Have you taken time to identify your ideal client?
  • Jason Blumer

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Women’s Initiatives Are Important Now And Into The Future

IMG_1077Yes, they are very important inside your CPA firm right now. They, more than likely, produce much of the work and play a key role in supporting CPA firm partners as they provide services to the firm’s important clients.

I was browsing a CPA firm’s website this morning (something I do very often… I look at a lot of CPA websites). This activity often generates an “on my mind” type blog post.

Something visual I noticed about this one will maybe impress upon you the importance of supporting female CPAs in their career growth, in helping them develop leadership skills, and taking them along as shadows as you network in your business community.

The website belongs to a nice size firm, big but not huge. It is located in a secondary city but not a small city.

Here’s roll call:

Partners:  14 –  (10 men, 4 women)

Senior Managers:  10 – (8 women, 2 men)

Managers:  10 – (9 women, 1 man)

According to the new Rosenberg Survey, the percentage of female partners in 2013 are as follows, by size of firm:

Over $20M – 20.3%

$10-$20M – 17.8%

$2-$10M – 15.5%

Under $2M – 16.0%

Think about your future leaders. How are you supporting them in their career growth? Young women AND men in the CPA profession need to be mentored… they need to benefit from the knowledge of more experienced CPAs.




Friday, September 26th, 2014

It’s Rosenberg Survey Time!

photoYes, September brings the release of The Rosenberg Survey. It is a National MAP Survey of CPA Firm Statistics.

CPAs love statistics!

When you receive your copy, look on Page 11 for my comments (thanks so much to Mr. Rosenberg for including me!).

My advice, if you are part of the survey….. NEVER settle for average.

Order your survey here.

  • Say you were standing with one foot in the oven and one foot in an ice bucket. According to the percentage people, you should be perfectly comfortable.
  • Bobby Bragan

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Gaining Respect and Getting Results As A New Leader In Your CPA Firm

Throughout this year, I have had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people who are in the process of assuming leadership roles in a CPA firm. Some are moving up to Senior, some to Manager and some to Partner. It takes hard work to achieve success as you begin to become a role model for others.

It is a challenging task whether you have worked your way up inside your current firm or if you have recently joined a firm after working for another accounting firm.

There is a helpful post on the HBR blog network by Jeanne DeWitt – 5 Tips for New Team Leaders. I, of course, have put a CPA firm “spin” on it.

Communicate, communicate, communicate (Yes, over-communicate) – As I have mentioned numerous times in writing and in my live presentations, the bottom-line issue when there are difficulties inside an accounting firm is when someone drops the communication ball. Today’s workforce (no matter what their age) want to know what’s going on. Beware of the perception that the leadership group is keeping secrets and acting mysteriously. Regarding most issues and challenges, your people can weigh-in and actually help you solve the problem.

Ask Questions and Listen – Don’t forget MBWA (manage by wandering around). In the morning when you get your coffee, take a stroll around the office and briefly ask several people: How are you progressing on that assignment? Are you on track to have it done per the timeline? Is there anything you need from me? Take a few staffers to lunch a couple times a month….. and listen to their conversation and respond to their questions.

Don’t just wonder what your people really want… ask them! Ask them face-to-face where they want to take their career. Ask them via surveys. Ask them in roundtable sessions. They want someone to care about them and help them reach their career goals.

Lead by example. Do you know how to do the work they do? Has it been so long since you have done hands-on work that you don’t know how to use the software? That doesn’t work in our paperless, digital work environments. Learn about social media. Educate yourself to talk their talk. Want them to be responsive? Then you must be responsive yourself. The biggest complaint I hear about is “I am waiting on the partner to get back to me”.

Make decisions. One time a partner in a multi-partner firm told me, “We simply do not make decisions, we are terrible at it. We just let things unfold.” As a partner group, don’t fear change. Don’t fear making a mistake. Be decisive. There is too much procrastination inside firms. It makes the leadership group (and the individuals in it) look weak.

  • The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.
  • Jim Rohn

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Sabbatical – Make a Plan for 2015

IMG_3327_2Definition of sabbatical (noun) a period of time during which someone does not work at his or her regular job and is able to rest, travel, do research, etc.

I have been writing about CPA firm sabbaticals for years. I first mentioned it in a blog on April 17th 2006 then wrote more specifically about it on September 13th 2006. 

The idea is nothing new for accounting firms, however, very few have embraced it over the years. I think the reason it hasn’t been embraced is it was originally described (for CPAs) as two months off or something slightly longer or shorter.

The more practical plan for CPAs is four consecutive weeks away from the office. Citrin Cooperman has a four-week paid sabbatical after six years’ employment.

For over ten years, Plante Moran’s sabbatical program has required all partners to take a mandatory four consecutive weeks’ leave every seven years. This year, Gordon Krater, took his second sabbatical and his first as managing partner.

Most CPAs think (and say), I could never do that…. I can’t be away from the firm and my clients for that long. I say, it can be done.

Begin making plans now so that you can implement your firm’s sabbatical program in 2015. Will it be for partners only? Should you include other key leaders? How much contact should be absentee have with the office and clients? All of this has become somewhat more complicated in our culture of constant connection.

I urge firm leaders to base their program on seniority… any CPA working full-time for the firm with seven years of seniority must take a month off every seven years. Plus, they are still expected to take their normal vacation during those years.

If someone has been at your firm for seven years it means they are a top performer and a real asset to the firm. If they are not…. and you think they haven’t earned the sabbatical perk, why are they still at the firm?

In a way it is also part of a leadership and succession program. If a leader is gone for a full-month, the people supporting that person MUST stretch to handle responsibilities.

Here’s some additional reading on the topic:

Sabbaticals: Does It Pay to Give Paid Time Off?

Journal of Accountancy – The Virtues and Challenges of a Long Break



  • Disconnect with your work self on a sabbatical and you'll reconnect with who you really are.
  • Corbett Barr