Archive for the ‘Helpful Information’ Category
Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014
Inside your busy accounting firm, how do your people really feel? Do they trust the firm’s leaders? Do they feel valued? Do they feel like a team…. a family?
I was watching CBS Sunday Morning last weekend and they did a segment on the challenges faced by a supermarket chain in New England when employees walked out because the boss they liked was fired by Chairman of the Board (his cousin) who wanted more money to go to shareholders and less to employees. Guess what? The employees won the battle. One of the signs carried by employees on the picket line said, “Don’t reward greed.”
But, more than that, this segment features companies that continually make the Fortune magazine 100 Best Places to Work list. These companies are consistently more profitable than other companies. Robert Levering, one of the creators of the list says, “too many companies are mediocre.” The segment went go on to feature Whole Foods – a company that has made the list every year since it was created in 1998 and Radio Flyer, the maker of the little red wagons.
It’s worth your time to watch this video.
I meet and talk to representatives of many, many firms every year. There are some who really work at employee engagement and many more where it’s still about chargeable time, realization and hitting deadlines.
By the way, accounting firm Plante Moran has made the list for 16 years. In 2014, they rank #23, up from #25 in 2013.
Gallup estimates that actively disengaged employees cost U.S. businesses up to $550 billion dollars per year. Gallup says that only 3 out of 10 employees are engaged.
I like the story in the video about the Radio Flyer wagon company. They ask employees to live by the Little Red Rule: Every time we touch people’s lives they will feel great about Radio Flyer.
Their employees, called Flyers, have a good time (fun and games). But, the point is to make sure that nothing gets in the way of the business of fun and games.
So, think about your firm. Do your team members think the partners are greedy? (I have heard this mentioned numerous times among groups of CPA firm employees.) Do your team member feel like they get enough recognition? Many simply want to hear the words “thank you” more often.
I have always thought that accounting firms really are great places to work. However, I think owners need to be more open and active in engaging their workforce and focusing on positives and downplaying the negatives.
When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.
Thursday, August 28th, 2014
My newsletter went out yesterday. Did you get your copy?
It’s official name is “Solutions For CPA Firm Leaders” but I’m rethinking that.
I like to call it CPA MAP Talk (with Rita Keller).
Why? Because my newsletter, this blog (every business day for almost 10 years), my business Facebook page (and some of my personal page), My Google+ posts, my tweets, my LinkedIn posts and the message in all my in-person presentations is all about MAP.
By the way, how are you doing with Managing an Accounting Practice?
I hear stories. Oh boy, do I hear stories!! Many of you are puzzled, confused, stressed, disgusted – yet… passionate, determined, ambitious and caring.
I hope you will sign-up for my newsletter and follow me on the other venues. I lived through what you are living through. Never a dull moment when you are dealing with MAP. Believe it or not, most of what you are experiencing (successes and challenges) haven’t changed that much over my many years working in the profession – that’s what makes me sad. Use all of these free resources to help you PUSH your firm forward.
Twitter – @cpamanagement
Facebook – business page
Facebook – I have lots of personal and business FRIENDS.
Instagram (mostly for fun).
Also, check out my Flickr page. Click on Albums to find “Is That You With Rita?” Maybe you will see a picture of YOU.
As Margaret Mead said:
We all agree that your theory is crazy, but is it crazy enough?
Tuesday, August 26th, 2014
If you are a member of The Association For Accounting Administration, you know Roman Kepczyk. One of the most common phrases I have heard AAA members say is, “I love Roman!” So do I.
Roman has been advising CPA firms on technology topics and needs for many years and when I visit a firm they usually tell me: “Roman has been here.”
Via the AAA newsletter Roman has published 2014 information about 8 trends for CPA firms:
- Cloud Apps/Hybridization
- Big Data/Little Data
- Workflow Integration
- Security by Design
Read the full article and learn about each of these trends.
That’s a throwback picture of Roman and Ralph Hendrix at an AAA National Practice Management conference quite a few years back. Ralph is a past National President of AAA and is the COO of MACPAGE in Portland, Maine.
Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.
Monday, August 25th, 2014
It’s almost September. We are entering the third trimester of yearly CPA firm life.
- First Trimester – Busy season (the I don’t delegate very well season)
- Second Trimester – Recover season (performance reviews, vacations and CPE season)
- Third Trimester – Gear-up season (end extension season and get ready for busy season)
Somewhere during these seasons you set some goals for yourself. For partners it is usually on a calendar year and for employees it is probably on a “performance” year – May thru April.
I rarely talk to a firm where goal-setting is not part of everyone’s performance plan. The challenge I notice is not the ability to set goals, it’s the ability to achieve them. One of the “seasons” noted above always gets in the way. The usual excuse is “I’m too busy.”
Want to explore your goal-setting approach. Visit Mindtools and take their short goal-setting quiz to learn about some of the obstacles that can get in your way.
If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.
Friday, August 22nd, 2014
Whether you are an actual owner, principal, firm administrator, marketing director, HR director or a talented up-and-comer inside your CPA firm, the fact that you are following this blog means that you deeply care, and worry about the firm, the client and your team members. But what about YOU, personally?
Many of us in CPA firm management are servant leaders; we think of others first. That is what makes us good at what we do. I firmly believe that we should all put the good of the firm above any one person or group of people. If the firm does well, we all do well.
That being said, I also believe that YOU must not forget about each individual and their career success. Most progressive CPA firms have worked through a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats), crafted a vision statement and documented beliefs to live by.
Have you, as a leader in your firm, done this personally? This is something I sometimes use in my individual coaching sessions and you can do it for yourself. Give it a try and see what develops. You might identify and clarify a path to where YOU are going and how you are going to get there.
Each person, no matter what their level inside a CPA firm, that continually improves their performance helps the firm to continually move forward and become more successful and an engaging place to work.
If you need a sample form (matrix) to use, just let me know.
If someone is going down the wrong road, he doesn't need motivation to speed him up. What he needs is education to turn him around.
Tuesday, August 19th, 2014
Most of what I write about is based on real-life observation. This is one of those topics.
New clients, at many CPA firms, are accepted without a very specific conversation about fees. It seems the CPA partners (the people responsible for those upfront conversations) are afraid. CPAs afraid? Yes, definitely.
- Afraid of scaring the prospective client off
- Afraid the potential client won’t grasp the value of the services
- Afraid of not being able to explain exactly why the services are so vital (and expensive)
- Afraid of confrontation
Some of this fear is based upon the fact that CPAs are humble and quite often don’t even perceive the value of their knowledge and expertise. Comments like, “I can’t bill the client for that, it only took a few minutes.” Or, “I’m not sending an invoice for that advice, I knew the answer right away.”
I believe the upfront conversation could eliminate so many uncomfortable moments later on. As you work with clients it is very important to develop and practice “fee talk” skills as you advance in your accounting career..
A blog post that my friend and CPA consultant, Steve Erickson, did a few years back is still very helpful. It is right on target for what I witnessed over many years inside my firm. Here are the points about talking to your clients about fees:
Stop quoting fee ranges – This is a very common practice. CPAs will tell the client that their annual work will cost between $8,000 and $10,000. The client immediately thinks and expects $8,000 and the CPA is actually thinking $10,000 (or more).
Initiate the conversation about fees with all your clients – Provide a general letter about fees and share the Firm Credit Policy. I recommend a general “welcome” letter to new clients from the firm administrator or the CEO that includes a copy of the firm credit policy.
Negotiate the scope of work not your fees – If a client wants to pay less, explain the services you can provide for that amount – negotiate and provide examples of what many clients do that increase the fees (messy records, lack of response, etc.)
Stop extending excessive credit – get retainers (you won’t have to wait until August or later to get paid for work you did in March).
Call before sending an unexpected bill – I have seen partners shy away from a phone call that could save headaches down the road. If the work is expanding, stop and call the client before you have your staff proceed with the work.
Perhaps a better answer is to move to value pricing where you have the upfront conversation every year. Read my blog post about Pricing On Purpose.
There is no victory at bargain basement prices.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Monday, August 18th, 2014
I was so pleased, when talking with the managing partner of one of my clients firms recently when he mentioned that since my visit last year they have accomplished so much.
I have several clients like that. But, I have to be honest the majority of the accounting firms I work with and talk to during my travels, have major struggles with implementation.
While I often write and talk about the dangers of procrastination inside CPA firms, perhaps I don’t share enough of the good-news stories. This particular MP shared the following great news:
- We used the retreat with you to act as the backbone of our plan.
- We have accomplished implementation the AICPA core competencies.
- We have accomplished a successful first-year of an acquisition.
- We have formed a Next Gen Council comprised of people under the age of 35. They meet monthly and identify things to make the firm better and present their ideas to management.
- We have begun a “make friends” initiative stressing the importance of knowing other people. It involves personally networking and making “friends” who can help them grow in their career.
Imagine what a difference it would make at your firm if you simply accomplished one or two internal initiatives each year.
One of the most important things the managing partner mentioned during our conversation…. we are doing lots of things to help the firm grow because if we do not grow staff will leave.
Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.
Friday, August 15th, 2014
In some firms, when you become a partner, a lot of the restraints and expectations don’t seem to be as important as they were when you were climbing the ladder.
As a team member, you had to set goals and achieve them each year. As a partner, in the best firms, you need to continue that practice with even more gusto!
In profitable, growing firms, the MP manages the other partners and it is a very important job. Leave the day-to-day operations and administration to the COO or firm administrator.
Of course, partner goal achievement is tied to the compensation system. Once the goals are set, I like to see the MP meet with each individual partner, one-on-one at least every other month JUST to talk about progress on the goals. Often during these conversations, the MP identifies ways that he/she can help the partner achieve the goals.
August Aquila gave us some great advice in his most recent newsletter on the Eight Key Goal Areas For Partners.
- Production Goals
- Business Development Goals
- Competency Improvement Goals
- Self-improvement Goals
- Strategic Planning Goals
- Client Service Goals
- Fir Leadership Goals
- Process Improvement Goals
Follow the link, above, to read the entire article and learn more about each area. You can sign-up for his newsletter here.
Happiness is not a goal, it's the by-product of a life well lived.
Monday, August 11th, 2014
There are some topics I address often. I do it because the topics are a continual pain… and frustration for CPAs.
One such topic that has been python-like in squeezing the life out of CPAs is handling the daily deluge of email. I came across a post on the HBR blog site titled, How To Delegate Your Email to an Assistant by Alexandra Samuel. It immediately clicked with me because I have heard excuses from CPA partners over and over again:
- I can’t let an assistant see my email because of the need of confidentiality when other partners send me emails.
- I can’t let an assistant see my email because it contains personal correspondence.
- I can’t let an assistant see my email because some of my clients and business associates send inappropriate stuff, as jokes.
You can probably add to this list and secretly wish that you could really delegate email. You can! As opposed to old-days of email (where many CPAs established their habits relating to email), there are tools available now that can help. But, I believe that you still must have an assistant that you trust. If you don’t trust the people on your CPA firm administrative team, that’s a bigger issue!
If you are hesitant in delegating email management, know that you don’t need to give someone full access to your email in order to get meaningful help. A lot of it depends on how much support you have available, on your working style and on your relationship with your assistant and your office culture.
Here’s the questions to ask yourself before you decide how much to delegate to whom you want to delegate email access:
- How much skill and discretion can you expect?
- What kind of relationship do you have with this person?
- What’s normal in your office?
Once you determine who will help, you need a system that will allow you to manage your inbox collaboratively.
- Use a delegation service
- Create a second email address
- Specify your reply protocol
- Draft sample replies
Be sure to read the entire article to learn more about each bullet-point and to help you decide if it is finally time to get some help with email management. For CPAs it is a time-consuming administrative task that you should strive to reduce so that you have time for the value-added activities that can result in practice growth.
Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.
Wednesday, August 6th, 2014
On behalf of my friends at AICPA/PCPS, I urge you to take part in the National MAP Survey…..
Ready…set…GO, CPAs: This is the final push to gain the most reliable benchmarking survey data; we need to reach as many Public Accounting Firms as possible. If you want to compare your firm’s performance to other firms like yours, take a couple hours to complete the 2014 AICPA PCPS/TSCPA National MAP Survey which is closing August 15th.
Use the personalized results to pinpoint what it will take for your firm to perform “above average” in the categories most important to you. The information gathered benefits the profession as well – please participate if you haven’t already and ask your peers to do the same.
When you control the mail... you control information.
Newman, on Seinfeld