Archive for the ‘Helpful Information’ Category

Monday, June 19th, 2017

Keeping You Informed About Blockchain

“I’ve spent a ton of time studying blockchain the last three years, and it’s about getting connected to the right resources.” – – Gary Boomer

As I talk with practitioners this summer, I am finding that many are still not educating themselves about blockchain.

I have blogged about it before and today I am reminding you once again to learn all you can about blockchain.

There is a very helpful article via The Journal of Accountancy, posted recently – Why CPAs need to get a grip on blockchain.

The article covers a presentation by Gary Boomer, CPA/CITP, CGMA, of Boomer Consulting, at the recent AICPA ENGAGE conference in Las Vegas.

Boomer highlighted a number of crucial concepts that helps explain blockchain and gives insight into its value propositions for the accounting profession:

  1. Blockchain is secure and immutable
  2. Think of blockchain as the internet of value
  3. Blockchain data will create new business opportunities
  4. Studying up on blockchain will pay off

Read the entire article and more about each crucial concept here.

  • Accountants who get a grip on blockchain today will be the ones who successfully pivot their services tomorrow.
  • Gary Boomer

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

AICPA Top Issues Survey 2017

“My main job was developing talent. I was a gardener providing water and other nourishment to our top 750 people. Of course, I had to pull out some weeds, too.” — Jack Welch

Every other year, the AICPA/PCPS conducts a top issues survey. Some of the findings from the 2017 Top Issues Survey were released yesterday.

Finding qualified staff was the No. 1 issue in every firm-size segment except sole practitioners where it ranked No. 3. Likewise, retaining qualified staff was a Top 5 issue in every grouping except sole practitioners. Recruitment and retention were leading concerns last time the survey was conducted in 2015, too, but the challenge appears steeper as the profession continues to gain strength in a growing economy.

Besides staffing, other common Top 5 issues this year include succession planning, acquisition of new clients, workload compression and keeping up with tax law complexity.  One former top issue, retention of current clients, has fallen out of the top issues for all groups.

So, no big surprises here. Just keep focused on developing a firm culture where people will want to stay and develop their career in public accounting. If you want to know how to do that, just browse through many of my past blog posts!

  • The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.
  • Harvey S. Firestone

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

How Dangerous is a Handshake?

“Getting in touch with your true self must be your first priority.” – Tom Hopkins

This week I read an article about banning handshaking in hospitals.

I think I get that one. Hospital acquired infections are a serious issue.

I have observed that many people are beginning to use the fist bump as an alternative greeting and a protection from passing along so many germs.

In business, the handshake has always been important:

A handshake is more than just a greeting. It is also a message about your personality and confidence level. In business, a handshake is an important tool in making the right first impression. While the art of handshaking does vary within cultures, in the United States the “rules” are pretty universal.

In the CPA profession, we often have to teach our beginners the importance of the handshake and how to do it properly, creating a favorable first impression.

Think about all the hands you shook when you attended that recent conference or local business networking event. Did you feel like you were endangering yourself?

For me, I enjoy the connection made by a proper handshake. I am assuming that the person I am greeting has at least washed their hands in the last 24 hours… whereas, a door handle to my favorite coffee shop probably hasn’t been properly washed in months, if ever! How many public doors have you opened lately? And don’t even think about all the things you touch with your finger-tips during a trip to the grocery!

  • Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet.
  • Plato

Monday, June 12th, 2017

Accounting Firm Interns

fullsizeoutput_4028“If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.” – Chinese Proverb

The larger firms, who can afford full time HR professionals, have programs dealing with interns fairly well developed. However, mid- to small firms, if they hire an intern, often treat them like an extra administrative person.

Here are some tips and ideas regarding interns:

  • Treat them like full time hires.
  • Give them structured orientation (like a new hire).
  • Provide a job description – expose them to both tax and A&A.
  • Keep in mind that they don’t know the CPA lingo – teach them.
  • Give them real work – it has always been amazing to me how quickly interns can get up to speed on individual tax returns and even smaller business tax returns.
  • They love going in the field. Expose them to visits to the clients’ sites, in person.
  • Praise their efforts and keep in mind they are beginners – what they learn in college doesn’t relate to what they will do inside your firm.
  • Don’t give them administrative work – no shredding, no mindless data entry.
  • Provide them with business cards and take their picture when presenting the cards to them (after all, it is usually their FIRST business card). Send the picture to them and suggest they share it with their parents.
  • Challenge them to give away their business cards and keep track of the efforts. This makes them aware, right from the beginning, that marketing is important. At my firm, we had a give your card away game – you need at least two interns for this game. They give them to whoever…. grandma, mom, dad, dentist, college friends – how many can they give away in five days. They must keep good records. The winner gets a gift card.
  • Teach them to put their business card in restaurant fish bowls when they go to lunch – and place them in the bowl so the firm name shows!
  • I hire people brighter than me and I get out of their way.
  • Lee Iacocca

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

Hiring a Marketing Person and More

“There’s no lotion or portion that will make sales faster and easier for you – unless your potion is hard work.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

I enjoyed a recent blog post by Sarah Johnson Dobek about when to hire a marketing person for your CPA firm. Much like Sarah, I often get questions about when to hire a dedicated marketer. I also am asked when do we need a firm administrator, an HR person, a Controller (rather than a bookkeeper)?

sarahPer Dobek, the 2016 AAM Budget Survey indicated that most firms invest early. The highest growth firms employ one marketing professional for every 34 employees, while the average firm employs one marketing professional for every 54 employees. I usually recommend hiring a full-time marketer when a firm reaches 45 employees, so I guess I am in the ballpark according to the AAM survey.

As for the other professional support positions, I have observed that growing firms hire or designate a full-time, professional firm administrator when the have 12-15 people, although I see very successful firm administrators in much smaller firms. When the firm administrator becomes saturated with work, an HR professional should be added, usually at 70 to 80 people. A CPA controller is a huge benefit to a growing firm when it reaches 80 to 100 people. The former firm bookkeeper might then be designated the assistant controller.

As a firm grows, adding non-CPA, degreed, support professionals is a necessity.

  • To me, job titles don't matter. Everyone is in sales. It's the only way we stay in business.
  • Harvey Mackay

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

Strategic Plans and Fairy Tales

“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.” – Henry David Thoreau

I really enjoyed a recent post by Jeffrey Gitomer titled, Business Plans, Five-Year Spreadsheets, and other fairy tales.

How about your strategic plan? Have you looked at it recently? Have all your partners looked at it often over the last year and talked among themselves about how well you are doing with the plan? I bet not.

What about the business plans for a new niche inside your firm? You had a young partner anxious to specialize in business valuation, for example. You asked him to bring a business plan to the partner group for discussion and approval. The group like it, approved it and…. it hasn’t been looked at since. It hasn’t been monitored nor has it been followed. Perhaps, it was just a fairy tale!

I think you will enjoy Gitomer’s article. Much of it sounds familiar to those of you working in a CPA firm. He also includes some great suggestions.

  • Plans are nothing; planning is everything.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Good Intentions…. No Implementation

“Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

I write about implementation often, it is one of my favorite, and sometimes frustrating, topics.

Summer conference season is upon us. You (a CPA firm leader), will go to a conference to gather new ideas and learn about current trends in the CPA profession. While at the conference, you begin to actually get excited about some of the ideas and begin to visualize how the ideas could work in your firm.

You gather more ideas, make numerous notes, meet some very interesting people and begin to really get a sense of renewal, optimism, and think: “We can do this at our firm!”

What happens when you return to your office? Many leaders immediately get BUSY with the day-to-day fire-fighting and soon the notes you took and the excitement you felt begin to fade. You think to yourself, “I’ll bring it up at our next partner/management meeting.”

Don’t allow yourself to become demotivated. Try some of these practical steps….. Wait! Don’t “try.” DO THESE THINGS:

  • Summarize your notes, identify the best and most critical ideas that your firm could use.
  • Meet with the key management leaders and explain the ideas verbally to them.
  • Send the summary to every parter and other internal management leaders and specifically ask them to read the summary. Let them know you will be talking to them individually about the points.
  • Give them one week and then begin making brief visits to each partner.
  • Share your excitement and stress the points that you believe are critical to the firm.
  • After this is done, ask that the points be put on the next partner meeting agenda and push for at least one or two to be approved.
  • Make an Action Plan (specific steps) that needs to happen and assign the steps to specific individuals.
  • Then take action! You can’t do it alone, enlist others to help you.
  • Have you got a problem? Do what you can where you are with what you've got.
  • Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, May 26th, 2017

Increase Your Firm’s Value

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.” – Albert Einstein

There are some very basic things that CPA firm leaders need to do to continually increase the value of their firm. Of course, CPAs must be technically competent, good communicators and committed to client service. You are in a service business, just like a hotel or restaurant.

Beyond those basics, a couple more foundational items are needed to create firm value.

Culture – You (and your partners, if you have some) should devote your attention to creating a culture in which you want to work, providing your employees with a clear picture of acceptable behaviors that exemplify your core values. A culture built around consistent and strong core values will attract people with those same core values. If you discover employees who do not embrace your core values, they should be encouraged to go elsewhere.

Processes – Another foundational item thing you can do to increase the value of your firm is to implement processes, procedures and policies that are well-documented in writing.  This means the success of your firm is not solely on your shoulders and not dependent on just a few people. Having written processes and procedures ensures that you can easily get new employees up to speed quickly.

  • A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.
  • Charles Darwin

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

What Else Can You Do?

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” – Henry James

Recently, I read an article via Fast Company about a commencement address by Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa, founders of Walby Parker.

When they graduated from college, they felt the way a lot of new grads do – extremely well-educated in a narrow range of really specific things.

It’s a lot like that with the accounting profession. You are college-educated about accounting and then you enter public accounting where you are required to earn more education (CPE) about the accounting (and tax) each year.

When do you have time to learn other stuff? Sure, you can do taxes…. but what else can you do?

Blumenthal and Gilboa learned much along the way on their journey as entrepreneurs. I think you can learn from three of their tips

  1. Presume Positive Intent – It’s human nature to presume the worst – don’t do it. Commit to getting better every day.
  2. Speed-walk, Don’t Cliff-Dive – Committing to something doesn’t mean jumping out of a plane without a parachute. Speed-walking is constantly moving forward by taking deliberate step after deliverate step. Conquer fear by minimizing risk, not eliminating it.
  3. Treat Others The Way THEY Want to be Treated – Your business journey is enriched through exposure to a variety of perspectives. Seek to understand different points of view. Treating people the way YOU want to be treated does not always apply, people are complex and different.

One of the things that really impressed me with their story is their focus on kindness. They stated, “Kindness enables success while being the success we seek: a kind world. Let us all be proliferators of kindness.”

If you are not sure where to begin, start with a simple question. Ask yourself, “What can I do to make someone’s life better?”

Read the entire article.

  • No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
  • Aesop

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

Summer is a Good Time to Think

“Training your mind to think is a process not just an activity – it gets better over time and through repetition.” – Jennifer Gluckow

Busy season is over. Perhaps, things are just a little slower in your work life. Plus, summer is a perfect time to do more thinking.

I have often reminded you to THINK. I want to remind you again today.

Jennifer Gluckow is an amazing sales resource. You can learn all about her here. She recently wrote about “Thinking About Thinking” and that reminded me of you – CPA firm leaders and CPA firm employees.

How often are you thinking strategically about your business, your sales, your clients, your future? How often are you thinking about your life? I imagine you rarely take time to slow down, relax and simply think (away from electronics of any sort).

Gluckow recommends ways to maximize your effectiveness at thinking:

  • Schedule time on your calendar.
  • Clear your head before you begin.
  • Drain your brain before you begin.
  • Be totally alone.
  • Maybe some music.
  • Create a peaceful thinking place.
  • 15 minutes a day.
  • Write them down.

Read more about each one of these tips in her article here.

  • Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself.
  • Plato