Archive for the ‘Helpful Information’ Category

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

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Planning Your 2015 Partner Retreat – What’s Really Important?

About this time of year, many CPA firm leaders make some decisions about when to have your annual retreat, where to have your annual retreat and who should facilitate your annual retreat. That’s all well and good – do that.

Here’s my advice:

  • Keep it simple
  • Focus on fewer initiatives and shorter timeframes.

It is better to identify one important item and get it done in 6 months than to make a list of 6 or 8 important items and not do any of them well.

All partners have “pet” projects, things they would like to see accomplished or implemented. Most of them are important. But, as firm leaders, it is your job to pick the most important and then get it done!

As Michael Porter has said, “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”

  • Take time to deliverate, but when the time for action comes, stop thinking and go in.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Be More Aware Of Your Health & The Health Of Your Team

I really enjoyed hearing about wellness programs inside CPA firms. It was all the rage a few years back. As with many programs inside accounting firms, I wonder if they are all thriving.

I have blogged about the topic of how important standing up is to the health of someone, like you, who sits in front of a computer most of the day. Here’s a couple of my posts on the topic:

Stand Up and Be Counted - June 20, 2014

Less Sit Down Time – More Stand Up Time - July 10, 2013 (with pictures)

Here’s more info and ideas about the benefits of standing:

  • Five or more hours of sedentary sitting is the health equivalent of smoking a pack and a quarter of cigarettes.
  • Studies have shown that our bodies can benefit from simply standing up, contracting muscles and moving. Stand up every 20 minutes (set the timer on your phone).
  • New science shows very persuasively that standing up about every 20 minutes, even for only a minute or two, reduces your risks of developing diabetes and heart disease.

Read more about it here…..

  • If you stand up and be counted, from time to time you may get yourself knocked down. But remember this: A man flattened by an opponent can get up again. A man flattened by conformity stays down for good.
  • Thomas J. Watson, founder of IBM

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

Women’s Development IS Business Development

Male Allies Gender BalanceThe title, above, should get your attention. Developing women inside your CPA firm is a major step in business development for the entire firm.

Last week at Winning Is Everything, I talked about the important role of male allies helping females succeed in public accounting.

During the presentation I mentioned the Accounting MOVE Project as a possible resource for CPA firm leaders. On the site you can access The Business Case for Advancing Women in Public Accounting.

Here’s some interesting stats…. follow the link to read the entire article.

  • Fewer women are entering public accounting. In 2002/03, women comprised 56% of new accounting grads (B.A. and M.S. combined). In 2012/13, the comprised 48%. (via AICPA 2013 Trends in Supply of Accounting Graduates)
  • Women comprise 61.3% of the 1.814 million American accountants and auditors. (via Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014)
  • Companies with one or more women on their boards deliver a compound return of 3.7% more than those with no women on their boards, since 2005. As well, these companies have a higher return on investment, higher valuations and higher payout ratios. (via Credit Suisse Gender 2000, September 2014)
  • Women managers more effectively engage employees of both genders. Women outscore men on 11 or 12 elements of developing employees, including giving consistent, specific feedback and encouragement, and investment in employees’ development. (via Gallup, October 2014)

Now, here’s a personal observation from my many years in the profession of public accounting… if you have a woman in your firm who DOES NOT engage people and is actually almost the opposite – she frustrates people. She will drive away more talented people than a man who acts the same way.

Make 2015 the year that you seriously address the issue of helping females remain in public accounting. They are key to growth and to succession. Begin with baby steps….. but at least get started.

  • Do one thing every day that scares you.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Predictions and Trends For 2015

img_joeCPA management consultant, Joe Tarasco, had his 2015 predictions featured on the Forbes site last week.

Here’s some brief highlights that I definitely agree with:

  • Career development and leadership training will continue to grow as the need for quality professional staff at the managerial and partner levels turns into a crisis mode.
  • Firms will have no choice but to invest heavily in their best and brightest in all stages of their careers in order to remain competitive and develop succession plans.
  • Firms that have grown through the consolidation of aging practices will begin to deal with intensified succession issues. This will fuel more mergers of mega-firms into larger firms.
  • MPs and Ex Committee members will come under more scrutiny by their partners in their ability to lead and manage successfully. Firms will have to make tough business decisions concerning under-performing partners.
  • More firms will need to hire professional COOs from outside the CPA profession to assist them in managing their organization.

For the complete list and more detail read the article here. Congrats to Joe for being featured on the Forbes site!

  • I was not predicting the future, I was trying to prevent it.
  • Ray Bradbury

Friday, January 16th, 2015

Helping Your New Accounting Recruits & Interns Rock Their New Job

Have you checked-out Slideshare? If you are in a leadership position in a CPA firm, you need all the resources you can get. I’m always on the prowl for things that will be helpful to you to build a winning culture and a winning firm.

I really like this slide deck (My First 90 Days), on LinkedIn Pulse that is intended to help newbies make the most of their first 90 days on the job.

Starting a new job can be daunting. It’s time to meet your colleagues, impress your boss, get into the rhythm of your new role. So how should a newbie navigate those first 90 days?

There are only 14 slides that provide links to 8 posts on advice aimed a surviving a new job. The eight titles:

  1. Start working before Day One
  2. You can’t fix it right away
  3. Say yes to everything
  4. Ask your coworkers to lunch
  5. Listen to everyone you meet
  6. Make your boss look good (includes quote from Guy Kawasaki: “Either you rise to the top together, or crash and burn together.”)
  7. Take care of yourself first
  8. Don’t try to be the golden child

This is not just for newbies. CPA partners and managers need to read these posts, too. I frequently remind partners in accounting firms, “Don’t forget what it was like to be the new kid!” Most experienced partners admit they were lost, confused and clueless.

  • Make yourself available, work hard, and over time you will make yourself indispensable.
  • Richard Branson

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

The Ability To Recognize Emotions In Others

I mention emotional intelligence fairly often. That is because CPAs have the reputation for ranking fairly low on the emotional intelligence scale.

The experts tell us (Daniel Goleman, author) that emotional intelligence consists of five competencies:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-regulation
  3. Motivation
  4. Empathy
  5. Social Skills

I urge you to learn more about it and focus on how it plays out inside your busy CPA firm. It is essential to a productive work environment.

It does not mean you are simply nice to everyone and always pleasant. It means that you can confront others in a constructive way when problems arise. It doesn’t mean you are visibly emotional, it means you are in control of your emotions and to recognize emotions in others.

I bet that accountants reading this right now are not liking it much. I find most of them do not want to address the “warm and fuzzy” stuff. Usually, it is the simple fact that accountants think more along the lines of “business is business and personal is personal.”

In a recent article on Fast Company, Yongmei Liu, an associate professor at Illinois State University’s College of Business is quoted as follows. “A leader who has a high degree of emotional intelligence can recognize when his or her followers are not in the right emotional state to perform well.” – That would sure be helpful as you go through tax season!

Read more about it here. – article is titled, Why Emotionally Intelligent People Make More Money (maybe that got your attention).

 

  • It isn't stress that makes us fall - it's how we respond to stressful events.
  • Wayde Goodall