Archive for the ‘Helpful Information’ Category

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

John Garrett – The Recovering CPA

“Comedy is tragedy plus time.” – Carol Burnett

I enjoyed an interesting conversation recently with John Garrett. John is a CPA-turned corporate comedian on a mission to strengthen teams.

John-Garrett-wpJohn found me via a mutual friend, Rob Nance, who recommended John talk with me. Rob was right, I certainly enjoyed talking with John and learning about what he is doing to improve that age-old stereotype – that accountants work all the time and are basically, boring.

As far as boring goes, I know that is not true. I have been working in the CPA profession for over 35 years and I haven’t been bored one minute!

John’s mission is, through comedy, to help accountants expand their universe and share what they really enjoy doing outside of work. He explores this topic on his Green Apple Podcasts. He talks with rock star professionals who stand out at work by focusing on being different in order to get ahead. Accountants, consultants, lawyers and other professionals are doing some cool things after they leave the office.

Sometimes CPA partners are way too secretive about their personal lives. You can actually do a better job of engaging people by sharing more about yourself and what you are passionate about outside of work.

I hope you will help John with his research on corporate culture by taking part in a brief survey on his Green Apple website – it’s anonymous and it takes less than 2 minutes! Also, check out his homepage and learn about all his speaking activities and more.

John has spoken at many CPA conferences, events and to team members at various accounting firms. Maybe he would be a good addition to your Firm Day agenda.

  • Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.
  • Peter Ustinov

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

Happiness

“Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling.” – Margaret Lee Runbeck

During the month of February, Richard Branson featured many posts on the topic of happiness. He even provided a happiness playlist.

Have you recently thought about how happy you really are?  I recommend it.

Today, I want to talk about the happiness of your team. As a CPA firm leader, are you at all focused on what makes your team happy or are you just trying to keep up with what the competition is doing so you have a good chance at retaining people?

An accounting firm has a variety of roles and a variety of people filling those roles. It can be quite challenging trying to keep people happy.

That doesn’t mean you should stop trying. Make happiness the core of your workplace and begin by listening to your people. Often, some very small things can make them happy – it not always about more financial gain.

I have observed some amazing CPA firms during my many years working in the profession. They offer their people so much – a beautiful office, an outstanding menu of employee benefits, 10 or more paid holidays, four, five or more weeks PTO, competitive salaries, great technology, the chance to work with some really smart people, the opportunity to assist some very successful and innovative clients, recognition in the business community, free continuing education, flexibility and more. But, that’s not enough.

You need to try very hard to always think of new things to keep the team energized and happy. Maybe it’s a chair massage during busy season, a mini-golf outing, a bowling outing, a special catered dinner, theme dress-up days, seasonal parties, etc. Keep trying to surprise them!

The most important thing you can do to keep your team happy is to simply listen. They know what they want and it can be as simple as better communication from the partners or quicker turnaround on review.

This spring, you might want to ask them via an upward feedback survey.

If you recognize people on your team who are not happy at your firm, don’t hide from it – talk to them and if it is something you can’t remedy, help them find a position where they can find happiness in their work – no hard feelings.

  • You must give everything to make your life as beautiful as the dreams that dance in your imagination.
  • Roman Payne

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

If You Still Don’t Think Things Are Rapidly Changing – Take a Look at TALK

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” – John Wooden

Think about it. Things that used to take you hours and hours to complete can now be mastered in a matter of minutes. The CPA’s most important tool is technology.

I shudder because I still interact with some practitioners who are not even PAPERLESS! They still cannot review a tax return ON SCREEN!

Talk_logo_bright_green-07663d94ffbd16b53ca1e60cd21c721aLast week I received information about a new app called TALK. TALK can now do the books for a business owner – you should pay attention to this – for no other reason than to realize that change is coming very fast. To put it briefly, your client could talk to the app and it would do the bookkeeping.

Here’s the press release and below is a link to the website where you can watch a short video.

22 Million Small Business Owners and Sales People Struggle With
Bookkeeping and Mileage Tracking.  It Stops Today.

If you can take a picture of a receipt or sales order and talk into your phone, TALK does your books.

TALK Accounting of Tucson announced a new phone app today that lets anyone, regardless of their accounting skills, to stop worrying about bookkeeping or tax deductions.  

Founder KC Truby says “Because of new voice recognition and artificial intelligence, the process is 10- second simple. The app codes, verifies and post your transactions right into a spreadsheet, QuickBooks or other software.”

To assure accuracy TALK automatically double checks the transaction against your current list of customers, vendors and deductions, right before your eyes.  No more receipts.  No more lost deductions.  No more worries about IRS questions.

What if you forget to TALK in a credit card charge?  No problem.  TALK has partnered with Finicity to review all your credit and debit transactions daily. KC says “if we see you forgot to TALK about something, we’ll send you a notification at the end of the day asking for the missing details, long before you forget.”

Tax returns made easy.  When you get a 1099 or other critical documents in the mail just take a picture and talk about it.  The documents are stored online – ready for your accountant.  No more ‘all-nighters’ on April 15th looking for lost documents. 

IRS ready mileage logs, automatically. TALK has also partnered with Automatic.com to intercept a GPS recording of where your car has been. This is data directly from the vehicle without draining your phone’s battery. After a trip, TALK will quietly ask if you’d like to include a business purpose for the miles driven. Just answer the question in one sentence and you have an IRS ‘bomb proof’ log ready for expense reports or tax returns. 

No learning curve. TALK has teamed up with Fujitsu’s ScanSnap scanner for 1 button push to upload documents whenever needed from a scanner. On the app side, the artificial intelligence codes your transactions for you – that means you don’t need accounting skills, just follow the app’s instructions and you’re left with rock-solid books.

Here’s a link to more information on the TALK site. Be sure to watch the short video at the top of the page.

 

  • Never neglect details. When everyone's mind is dulled or distracted the leader must be doubly vigilant.
  • Colin Powell

Friday, February 24th, 2017

Be Sure to Give Your Employees C.R.A.P.

Kortes“From caring comes courage.” – Lao Tzu

It’s not what you think! This method comes from Jeff Kortes. He is an employee retention speaker, author and expert. Kortes has found that employers don’t give their employees enough C.R.A.P. and it is driving away valuable workers. Here’s the CRAP he’s talking about:

C – Caring

R – Respect

A – Appreciation

P – Praise

I became aware of Kortes this week, visited his blog site and thoroughly enjoyed his posts.

I know that in public accounting you are certainly challenged with attracting, developing and retaining people. Perhaps, the first thing you should do is develop a written employee retention strategic plan. Learn more about it, from Kortes here.

  • Caring about others, running the risk of feeling, and leaving an impact on people, brings happiness.
  • Harold Kushner

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

Signing Bonus

“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.” – Henry David Thoreau

I often get questions about whether firms are offering signing-bonuses to new college graduates. The answer is, yes.

Signing bonuses were a big deal in the early 2000’s, then in 2008 and for a few years afterwards, the signing bonus was actually not needed and many firms discontinued the practice.

As you can imagine with the intense competition for talent, firms have returned to the practice of signing bonuses. I have observed that they usually run from $1,000 to $3,000.

Often, they are an enticement for a quick response to an offer. If you really have an all-star intern, I would think you would pay more than $3,000.

  • Take free money. No matter how in debt you are, if your employer offers a matching contribution on a 401(k) or other retirement vehicle, you must sign up and contribute enough to get the maximum company match each year. Think of it as a bonus.
  • Suze Orman

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