Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Friday, November 17th, 2017

Winning in the Competitive Era of Disruption

“Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.” – James Sephens

Here’s a great video from the Illinois CPA Society about enabling your CPA firm to survive this era of disruption.

Allan Koltin is featured. It’s short and informative – please take 2 minutes to watch and listen.

Winning in the Competitive Era of Disruption.

  • In skating over thin ice our safety is our speed.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Are You Using Technology To Do Things The Old Way?

“The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.” – Warren Bennis

I imagine that many of you have seen this quote from Bill Gates:

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” 

I believe that in many cases, inside CPA firms, you have simply taken the way that paper flowed through your office and replicated it into some wonderful, advanced software program.

For example, I was visiting with a firm recently that had simply taken the steps that they used for moving paper tax returns through the office and inserted the same exact steps into a software program that is capable of doing so much more, without even exploring all of the possible options and efficiencies now available to them.

I find this same scenario playing out in firms over and over again, year after year!

We all become comfortable with status quo, the familiar, the known. Take your firm to the next level – move out of the comfort zone – don’t be afraid! Stop settling for status quo because it is easy. As we get closer to wrapping up another year, look back, contemplate 2017. Has it been another year of just settling for status quo?

  • Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.
  • Edward de Bono

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

Programs to Advance Women to Leadership Roles in CPA Firms Seen as Bolstering Talent Acquisition, Survey Finds

“Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.” – Marilyn Monroe

Here’s a recent press release from the AICPA. Since “women in accounting” are very important to me, I wanted to be sure to share this with my readers. I have bolded some points that were important to me.

CHICAGO (Nov. 9, 2017) – U.S. CPA firms that use advancement programs for promoting women to leadership positions overwhelmingly view them as effective tools in recruiting and retaining talent, according to new research by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).

Mentorship is by far the most popular advancement program, with 45 percent of firms using it, the 2017 CPA Firm Gender Survey found. Sponsorship, in which influential firm leaders take a more formal role in guiding promising employees to career opportunities, professional development and promotions, is used by 12 percent of firms.

“There are two important takeaways here: 1) firms that use these programs have seen a beneficial impact on attracting and retaining talent,” said Melissa K. Hooley, CPA, CGMA, chair of the AICPA Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee. “And 2) firms that are taking active steps to promote women and minorities likely will have a competitive advantage when it comes to securing talent.”

Advancement Program

Percentage of Firms Using It

Of That Group, Those Who Say It Has an Impact on Attracting or Retaining Talent

Mentoring

45%

87%

Sponsorship

12%

97%

Gender Initiative

11%

85%

Minority Initiative

2%

90%

Combined Diversity & Inclusion

6%

90%

Women comprise nearly half of all accounting graduates entering the profession, but remain underrepresented at the partnership level and other leadership positions. The survey shows little change in this area from studies done in years past, which have typically found less than one-quarter of the partnership ranks made up of women. As was the case two years ago – the last time the CPA Firm Gender Survey was conducted – the percentage of women partners was found to be highest at smaller firms.

Firm Size

Percentage of Women Partners

Two to 10 CPAs

42% (43%*)

11 to 20 CPAs

30% (39%)

21 to 99 CPAs

26% (27%)

100+ CPAs

21% (20%)

*Results in parentheses from 2015 CPA Firm Gender Survey

Among other findings of the survey:

  • An analysis of job titles found that women maintained parity or better with men in CPA firms through the senior manager level, after which the ratio declines
  • The larger the firm, the greater the gender gap in equity ownership
  • Only 47 percent of firms have a succession plan and only two percent have a formal gender component in those plans
  • Some 89 percent of firms say they have instituted some form of modified work arrangements, with flextime and reduced hours being the most prevalent

Survey methodology:  The CPA Firm Gender Survey was conducted online by MKTG Incorporated for the AICPA’s Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee from Aug. 3 to Sept. 11, 2017. Some 492 qualified respondents, drawn from CPA firms of varying sizes and regions within the United States, participated.

For more information about gender initiatives and other resources, visit aicpa.org/womenlead.

  • Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, “She doesn’t have what it takes.” They will say, “Women don’t have what it takes”
  • Clare Boothe Luce

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Cancel Some Meetings

“Being aware of your fear is smart. Overcoming it is the mark of a successful person.” – Seth Godin

Occasionally, I repost – word for word – something that Seth Godin has posted. He posts everyday and I encourage you to follow him.

Here’s the message I want all my CPA tribe to hear:

All those meetings you have tomorrow–they were just cancelled. The boss wants you to do something productive instead.

What would you do with the time? What would you initiate?

If it’s better than those meetings were going to be, why not cancel them?

  • One reason I encourage people to blog is that the act of doing it stretches your available vocabulary and hones a new voice.
  • Seth Godin

Friday, November 10th, 2017

Level 5 Leaders

“The purpose of bureaucracy is to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline.” – Jim Collins

I certainly hope, by now, you have all read Good to Great by Jim Collins. In it he introduced us to the concept of Level 5 leaders. He found that truly great companies had what he coined as Level 5 leaders.

Level 5 leaders have humility. They don’t seek success for their own recognition. They see success as necessary so that the team and the firm can thrive. Level 5 leaders share credit for success and accept blame for failures.

Something interesting to me is that Collins found that these Level 5 leaders were often shy but fearless when it came to making decisions. Level 5 leaders possess fierce resolve with personal humility. That’s something rare to find when considering your next managing partner!

The Level 5 leaders also have the the skills of the other 4 levels of leadership. Here’s a link to a short video from HBR that explains Level 5 leadership.

  • Great vision without great people is irrelevant.
  • Jim Collins

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

Cheating

“I would prefer even to fail with honor than win by cheating.” – Sophocles

A headline via Fast Company caused me to ponder a familiar situation in an accounting firm. The headline – Is Your Workplace Encouraging Employees To Cheat?

Here’s the lead in paragraph:

Your company prides itself on having a culture of high performers who thrive under pressure. But could that very culture be encouraging employees to cheat?

Leaders of CPA firms, I ask you that question.

Think about it, if you reward the way many firms have rewarded employees for years, they are probably cheating. Of course, in the CPA world we don’t come right out and call it cheating.

If you reward for chargeable hours, they will give you more chargeable hours. (They record more hours than it actually takes them to complete the client work.)

If you reward for improved realization, they will give you improved realization. (They record fewer hours than it takes them to complete the client work.)

The result is that you never have a real picture of the effort (and time) it takes to complete a client’s engagement. On top of that, your employees are really uncomfortable and feel pressure to give you what you want.

It’s a common issue. The solution is to become better managers of our people. If you do still bill based on time (and many of you do), Ask for honesty and lighten up on the pressure.

  • In athletics there's always been a willingness to cheat if it looks like you're not cheating. I think that's just a quirk of human nature.
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Staff Development

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” – Albert Einstein

Most firms have some sort of coaching program for team members who are in their early years as a staff associate. The transition from campus life to professional work life can be rather overwhelming.

Some firms have buddies, coaches, mentors, sponsors and maybe other levels of on-going staff development activities for everyone at the firm. I believe that partners still need to have a mentor.

While all of that is going on, there is often an experienced person inside the firm, usually a long-time manager, who takes it upon themselves to be a real source of knowledge and support to the younger, less-experienced staff associates.

Often, this person goes unrecognized and maybe the firm does not even allow them some slack in their workload while they informally coach the younger workers.

Sharon_TrabbicThat’s why I love a comment made by Sharon Trabbic, PAFM, Chief Operating Officer of the William Vaughan Company, CPAs in Maumee, Ohio.

“Our coaching program is very similar to other firms. We ask for the coaches and protégés to connect formally four times a year and informally as often as they need to. We have one senior manger that is an excellent coach for staff members and she coaches 9 people. That role is almost as important to the firm as her client work.”

 

  • Confidence comes from discipline and training.
  • Robert Kiyosaki

Monday, November 6th, 2017

You Don’t Need A Crisis

“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” – Abraham Lincoln

Inside a growing accounting firm, there is a lot of work going on. Some of it is performed quickly but a lot of it is slowly making its way through the pipeline. In accounting firms it is called WIP (work-in-process).

Then a crisis appears on the horizon (called a tax due date or an audit client’s board meeting). That due date (or crisis) pushes people forward.

Inside an accounting firm, there is also a significant number of internal improvement projects and strategic initiatives moving a lot more slowly than the client work. I describe it as partners (owners) being very comfortable with status quo. They have been successful over a period of year and have become complacent. “I’m making really good money and doing things that are easy for me, why change?”

It will also take a crisis to speed up these very important tasks. If you procrastinate too long, your competition will leave you behind. The business world is changing rapidly.

I like this advice from Seth Godin: If you’re the kind of person that needs a crisis to move forward, feel free to invent one. 

For the good of the firm and for the future of the firm, create internal deadlines relating to management projects – – don’t allow extensions!

  • My advice is to never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time.
  • Charles Dickens

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

Managers, Are You Ready?

“Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.” – Peter Drucker

Being a manager in a CPA firm is often a thankless experience.

You are caught between the partners and the staff. You seem to be responsible for so many tasks and activities relating to both. Plus, you are responsible for your own productivity. On top of that, the partners want you to help market the firm and bring in new business.

You can only do all of this if you are performing as a true manager and not simply being a worker-bee producing billable work.

As next busy season approaches, are you ready to manage or will you simply be a firefighter putting out fires in reactionary mode, day after day?

Here are some steps to help you be a manager – that means getting things done through other people.

Work on your delegation skills. When a task comes you way, ask yourself, can someone at a lower billing rate do this task? Is there a team member with space on their schedule? Even if it might be difficult for them, let them try. Just because a partner delegates to you, it doesn’t mean you have to do it yourself. YOU have to just be sure it gets done properly.

Do not participate in upward delegation. When a team member has difficulty completing an assignment, for a variety of reasons, don’t take the work back! After assigning the task, check with them every day to see what progress they are making and be available to answer questions. As the deadline approaches, you will know where they stand and might even be able to allow them more time.

Train, communicate, coach and delegate continually. That is how people improve in a CPA firm. They learn by doing and even re-doing. Provide helpful and insightful review notes so they learn from their mistakes. Give them verbal feedback daily. Don’t save up feedback for a formal performance review.

Hold them accountable. How do you do this? By simply asking questions – “Are you having any difficulties with the Jones assignment?” “Are you going to be able to hit the established completion date coming up in three days?” “Do you have any questions for me?”

Being a manager involves so much more than these few things. You must help direct reports establish goals and achieve them. You must encourage them to hit their goals and review their progress frequently. You must be a constant source of encouragement to others. You must also work on your own goals and be a life-long learner.

 

  • Success in management requires learning as fast as the world is changing.
  • Warren Bennis

Friday, October 27th, 2017

Encouragement

“Correction does much, but encouragement does more.” – Goethe

When those young, accounting majors graduate and enter a CPA firm, they sometimes procrastinate on taking the CPA exam.

Often, firms let them procrastinate. Don’t do it!

Studies show that a huge factor in young people passing the CPA exam is encouragement. Tell them boldly, “We are a CPA firm. We need CPAs. We will help you.”

Then be sure you back-up your words with action. Revamp your CPA exam policy (if you have one). Be generous with monetary support. The firm pays for study aids and courses, all fees associated with the exam. Provide generous work time for study time.

When they actually pass the exam, celebrate! When they received their official certificate, have it professionally framed for them. Sometimes, little things make the biggest difference.

  • Nine tenths of education is encouragement.
  • Anatole France