Archive for the ‘Millennials’ Category

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Women & Non-CPA Professionals – You Can Do It

This morning I am going to take a trip down memory lane in hopes that it might inspire, encourage or ignite many females and non-CPA professionals working in the profession of public accounting. It might also be a heads-up for CPA partners who depend greatly on non-CPAs and women in accounting to help create a profitable, growing, highly-recognized accounting firm.

I was doing some research and came across a self-evaluation I did early in my career for a mentor/coach I was working with. When I saw it I was surprised. I don’t recall making the comment but I can see how it applied to public accounting 30 years ago.

Below is what appeared on the self-eval form for me – by me. It was not seen by “management” in my firm, just by my outside-the-firm coach. Here’s how I felt early in my career.

Question:  1.  Describe the three most important things this person could improve upon in order to increase overall effectiveness.

My self-evaluation answer:  Get a sex change and become a CPA

As I reflect upon it now, the comment seems sad (but true). I am somewhat amazed that I felt this way. At that point in time I could have given up but I didn’t, even though I felt that if I was not a CPA and a man, I could not be effective and successful in the CPA profession.

Now, I know that my thoughts during those early years working in public accounting were wrong. As I look back, I must admit that my path wasn’t easy. It’s still not easy to build a career in public accounting whether you are a male, female, CPA or not.  The fact is, success in business, in general, is not easy. Life is not easy. You must have a passion for what you do and you have to work hard.

  • Don't limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you.
  • Mary Kay Ash

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Update On The Millennials

I’ve been studying and talking about the Millennial generation in CPA firm circles for many years now. It seems amazing how time has passed and Millennials are turning 34 years old this year. I am sure you have many of them working inside your firm.

Sometimes I think we still under appreciate and under-rate them. I like to tell the story of the firm I was with for so many years. When the founder retired, he named his successor. The successor was 32 years old at the time. That’s when our firm took-off on a growth and improvement path and we never looked back. How many firms do you know now that have a 32 year old managing partner?

Recently Pew Research has provided some insight into “Millennials in Adulthood.”

The Millennial generation is forging a distinctive path. They are relatively unattached to organized politics and religion, linked by social media, burdened by debt, distrustful of people, in no rush to marry and optimistic about the future.

Pew Research Center surveys show:

  • 50% now describe themselves as political independents
  • 29% say they are not affiliated with any religion

While they are disaffiliated, Millennials stand out for voting heavily Democratic and for liberal views on many political and social issues.

Another interesting fact on the Millennials, just 26% of the generation is married. When they were the same age, 36% of Gen-Xers were married, 48% of Boomers and 65% of the Silent Generation were married.

The Pew research will give you some valuable insights into the Millennials working inside your firm. Follow the link to the article and read much more on this topic. Share his link with your partners and with your HR people.

Building a great team inside a CPA firm means you need to understand them no matter what generation they are.

  • Parenthood - It's about guiding the next generation and forgiving the last.
  • Peter Krause

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Why You Hire Them & What You Expect

When I was working inside a growing CPA firm, we (the partners) would often remark to each other and to others involved in hiring, “Hire them for the sparkle in their eye.” Then, as you can probably imagine, once hired them we proceeded to grind that sparkle out of them!

The sad part is that the managers and partners directly supervising the young people didn’t even realize they were doing it!

Although we were far from a sweat shop, when we hired them for their personality, their sparkle, we should have done a better job at enabling them to shine along with a reasonable measure of hard work and dedication to quality client service.

All of this came back to me as I was reading an article by Andrew Argue of The Bean Counter, as he gives great advice to young people building their careers in public accounting.

Bosses and employees in public accounting can both gain insight from Argue’s article, Don’t Let Your Boss Keep You Down.

Remember, people don’t leave firms, they leave managers and as Argue notes, the best managers don’t make you feel tiny, they make you grow.

  • The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.
  • Tom Peters

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Millennials – Those 33 and Under Inside Your CPA Firm

Last week Pew  Research released the results of a new study focused on the Millennial generation.

One of the findings could mean a lot inside your CPA firm. The issue of trust:

Millennials have emerged into adulthood with low levels of social trust. In response to a long-standing social science survey question, “Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you can’t be too careful in dealing with people,” just 19% of Millennials say most people can be trusted, compared with 31% of Gen Xers, 37% of Silents and 40% of Boomers.

When I see a group of partners who truly seem to trust each other, their firm excels. If I encounter an administrative team inside a firm that trust each other, they provide amazing service to their internal and external clients.

In the majority of firms I encounter, I do not see an outstanding culture of trust.

In Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, he identifies Absence of Trust as the foundational dysfunction. Trust is the foundation of real teamwork.

One major factor in the lack of trust culture inside CPA firms is the issue of inclusion. Young people are excluded from many management activities and conversations. Partner meet, managers meet and the rest of the accounting team just wonders what they are meeting about.

Include your Millennials. They are the ones 33 and under. They have great ideas and a unique perspective.

  • I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.
  • Nietzsche

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Mentoring Programs Inside CPA Firms

Mentoring continues to be an important topic inside CPA firms and in the business world, in general.

When I talk to MPs or HR leaders at CPA firms they tell me that their program is not really very strong. Some leaders are really great mentors and others are actually quite terrible at it. As we move further into the talent wars, mentoring will once again take on more prominence inside CPA firms. Young people want mentors.

Perhaps one thing that CPA firms could do better is to focus on educating young people about their role in the mentoring process. If you want to have a great mentor you need to be a great mentee. You need to ask for help. Mentors won’t just land in your lap, you must search for them. If you want success, it takes hard work.

Here’s what Sir Richard Branson says about mentoring:

I find mentors inside and outside of Virgin every day. If you ask any successful businessperson, they will always have had a great mentor at some point along the road. If you want success then it takes hard work, hard work and more hard work. But it also takes a little help along the way. If you are determined and enthusiastic then people will support you.


  • Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.
  • Winston Churchill

Monday, March 10th, 2014

How Do You Identity The Millennials Who Will Be Your Successors?

I read an article this week-end on the Forbes site by Robert Sher. He talks about his recent experience judging a high school debate contest.

It brought back some fond memories. When my son was in high school I did the same thing – I went along on several Saturdays to the debate contests and filled the role of judge.

Also, much like the author, I find talented CPA managers and leaders who fall short when it comes to speaking and communication skills. Many are goo at making Power Point slides, and some are good at presenting facts clearly – even recommendations clearly. But few practice, or are aware of the techniques behind moving the emotions of audiences; whether they be in a meeting, or in an all-hands gathering of hundreds of people.

Read the entire article, How To Find The Millennials Who Will Lead Your Company, on the Forbes site.

Maybe it’s time to seek out entry-level accounting candidates who were on the debate team.

  • Don't raise your voice, improve your argument.
  • Desmond Tutu

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Engaging Your People & Improving Everyone’s Health

My good friends at prominent New Jersey firm Wilkin & Guttenplan (managing partner Ed Guttenplan and firm administrator Janine Zirrith) never cease to amaze me. They are truly focused on listening to their people, engaging them and including them in decisions.

This year, along with many other interesting and fun activities, they have tweaked their exercise program by offering T25 classes twice per week.

Janine was kind enough to send me a picture, that’s her on the far right and yes, they are holding the managing partner, Ed Guttenplan.

Having fun at your CPA firm right now?


  • The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
  • Agatha Christie

Friday, February 21st, 2014

Coach or Mentor

There is a lot of confusion inside some CPA firms about the role of a mentor and the difference between coaching and mentoring.

This might help:

  • Coaching is task oriented.
  • Mentoring is relationship oriented.


  • Coaching is short-term.
  • Mentoring is long-term.


  • Coaching is performance driven.
  • Mentoring is development driven.


Read more on the Management Mentors site.

  • Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.
  • Mother Teresa

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

CPA Firm Leaders – I Hope You Are Exhausted

FMBIronton102210I recently read a tweet by my son regarding his 5th grade musicians. “My 5th grade flutes and clarinets just exhaust me. They have so much energy and ask sooooo many questions.” 

In case you don’t know or have forgotten, 5th grade is when children select their first band instrument and began learning from scratch. Of course they will be excited and have lots of questions. While my son might be exhausted, I know he’s very happy about their enthusiasm.

In January and February inside your CPA firm you have quite a few 5th graders. These are the new college graduates going through their very first busy season and your interns who “have so much energy and ask soooo many questions.

As an experienced CPA – a senior, a manager/supervisor or a partner – you might feel absolutely exhausted because of the attention theses newbies demand and need.

A band director invests in the 5th & 6th graders so that when they gradually become very proficient and reach high school age, the band director has a group of very impressive, skilled musicians in the high school marching and concert bands. All along the way, while they work very hard they also have lots of fun.

This is the same investment that CPA managers (at all levels) are making – answer your beginners’ questions with a smile, get them excited and educated about public accounting and 3 to 4 years down the road you will have an impressive, skilled, professional accounting team that works very hard and has lots of fun along the way.

Yes, it is exhausting.

  • If a baseball player strikes out two times, but hits the ball on the third try every time he goes to bat, he's still a great baseball player. But hitting the mark 33 percent of the time isn't good enough for band. In band you have to hit the mark every time you step up.
  • John Mashburn

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Millennials, Innovation and CPA Firms – Strange Bedfellows

When I read a recent article (Fast Company) about the current beliefs of Millennials the phrase, “strange bedfellows” came to mind. Although these days…. strange bedfellows probably means something completely different than my thought process. According to the dictionary it means unlikely companions or allies.

Some interesting thoughts were divulged according to Deloitte’s 2013 Global Millennial Survey. They sought comments about how business can innovate and impact society from those born after January 1982.

65% of respondents, who were located in 16 markets around the world, believe that their company conducts activities that benefit society. Is this just wishful thinking?

Millennials around the world don’t agree on exactly what societal changes are most pressing. Brazilians believe resource scarcity will be the biggest issue. In the U.S. and India they are most concerned about inflation. South African and many Western European millennials are worried about unemployment.

The majority of millennials believe they’re innovative people and they want to work for innovative companies. This is where the strange bedfellows thought entered my mind. Businesses (including CPA firms) that want to attract millennials need to emphasize their innovative ways (and positive societal impact).

I find that inside many CPA firms, leaders simply want to know what other firms are doing and then follow the herd. CPA partners have told me that they discuss the same things year after year at their partner retreat. Some firms have the same retreat facilitator for 10 or 15 years.

Of course, many progressive, forward-thinking firms actually are embracing change and leading the pack. I believe the simple reason is that they are able to implement. As we always said at my former firm… we want to be on the leading edge, not the bleeding edge. How about your firm?

Are your millennials innovative? Do you even ask for their input?  Please don’t squelch their innovative ideas!