Archive for the ‘Millennials’ Category

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Good News Story – Give Your Next-Gen People A Voice


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.
  • William James

Friday, August 8th, 2014

Work On Your Culture. Start With Feedback.

Experienced CPA firm leaders usually hire some awesome new college graduates.

During the courting process (college recruiting) these young, future CPAs are talked to, listened to, entertained – - yes, much like the dating process – firm leaders are on their best behavior.

The young, high-potential graduate enters the firm and usually is greeted with silence. Sure they go through training but often it’s do-this, do-that, follow-this guideline and so on.

When young people enter your accounting firm, keep the conversations going – - not some sort of formal feedback session after 60-days or 90-days – talk to them daily. Create a culture of communication – clear, concise, honest and often.

Seth Godin says, the best way to change long-term behavior is with short-term feedback. The opposite is not true. We rarely change short-term behavior with long-term feedback.

There is a lot of whining surrounding performance evaluation systems inside CPA firms. It creates a culture of dread. If you want to change your culture and attract top talent – start with feedback.

  • 'How was your day?' is a question that matters a lot more than it seems.
  • Seth Godin

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – Helicopter Parents – An Example

I love this short video from the folks at Robert Half.

As, I talk with CPAs around the country, most of them seem amazed that helicopter parents are actually calling “bosses” at CPA firms in inquire or complain about something on behalf of a young staff person. Larger firm are developing programs to deal with the parents who show up with their young person for the job interview!

Does your firm have a way to connect with parents? Remember, most young people entering your firm have had intense parental support. Build on that.

Because this depiction is extreme, it makes you smile – yes, lighten-up, it’s the weekend!


  • My heroes are and were my parents. I can't see having anyone else as my heroes.
  • Michael Jordan

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Winning The CPA Talent Wars – Gather Information and Study It

Want to create a culture of employee engagement? That means a culture where people are passionate about their work and their firm. They care. They feel like owners whether they are actually an equity owner or not.

As a leader, owner, partner.. how well do you know your people? Sometimes I think that firm administrators and HR managers are much better at knowing the people who work at the firm much better than the owners.

If you are a boss (partner, manager, firm administrator) inside a CPA firm, employees working for the firm want to know you better AND they want to be noticed by you. Yes, you are busy with your “outside” clients but you can’t serve them very well without your “inside” clients.

Develop a list of questions that are appropriate for your firm and use it with every person to get to know them better. Sales people use such question lists to know their clients better than their competition knows their clients. Harvey Mackay even developed a listing o 66 questions (you can download his version) for sales people.

Here’s some suggestions for a CPA firm version:

  • Name
  • Hire date
  • Where they live 
  • Where they grew-up
  • Spouse name 
  • Names of children:
  • Firm anniversary date
  • High school – year graduated 
  • College – year graduated 
  • Sports participated in at college 
  • College fraternity or other activities 
  • Military service 
  • Spouse’s occupation 
  • Spouse’s interests 
  • Previous employer 
  • What community/charitable organizations interest them 
  • Favorite place for lunch
  • Favorite place for dinner 
  • Hobbies or recreational activities 
  • Favorite type of music
  • Favorite place to vacation 
  • Favorite professional/college sports teams 
  • What kind of car do they drive

Do other firms, trying to hire this person away from you, have better information than you do?

The work begins after you gather all the information. Now you must study it and be able to ask them about their family, comment on their sports team winning or losing, ask them to lunch and go to their favorite place and so on. This list and your behavior could make your firm a place where people are truly engaged, passionate, productive and proud.

  • If you wish others to believe in you, you must first convince them that you believe in them.
  • Harvey Mackay

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Help Your Young CPAs Become Successful

I love to hear real-life stories of how young, CPA professionals developed, improved, grew professionally, worked hard and became a partner in their CPA firm.

Marc Rosenberg shared some wonderful information on a recent blog post. He featured three (young) partners on a panel and asked them how they succeeded and how some experienced partner/mentors helped them.

I’ve been on a roll lately about mentoring  (all my posts a couple of weeks ago were about mentoring).

One question Rosenberg asked these young partners was, “What are some techniques used by your mentors to help you learn and grow?

The 3 young partners replied:  Although we are improving at it, none of us made our mark by being a rainmaker.  But our partners did two things to help us along.  First, they understood that it’s easier to grow a book of business if you have one to begin with.  Partners delegated clients to us, allowing us to capitalize on our strong client relationship skills to develop more business with existing clients through expanded services and referrals.

Second, when clients called the senior partners and left a message, they would forward the message to us, fill us in on the details, give us some “talking points” and have us return the clients’ calls.  It didn’t take long for the clients to start calling us first.

Common thread:  the partners were proactive in helping us advance.

If you want to be a better mentor, re-read the reply above!  Kudos to them, Marc Rosenberg and to the partners at Weiss & Company, Pasquesi Shepard and Mowery & Schoenfeld.

  • The state of your life is nothing more than a reflection of your state of mind.
  • Dr. Wayne Dyer

Monday, May 12th, 2014

Reverse Graduation Speech That Will Help You Better Mentor & Manage Millennials

If you follow this blog and attend my sessions at various conferences for the CPA profession, you know that I talk and write a lot about the Millennial generation and how they impact the CPA profession.

From 2006 until 2009 I received many requests for information on generational understanding inside CPA firms. I thought we had it covered. Wrong. I am once again getting many requests for more information on how build on generational understanding, rather than fight it, inside CPA firms.

That’s why I enjoyed a recent HBR blog post by Lauren Stiller Rikleen: The Commencement Speech Parents Need to Hear. Please follow the link to read it. Also, read some of the comments posted below the article.

Here are just a few highlights that I hope will entice you to read the entire article:

  • To retain Millennials and develop their leadership potential, set aside preconceived notions and, instead, pay attention to what truly will motivate young employees.
  • Often we tag Millennials as “entitled.” Actually, it is usually self-confidence and self-respect that you, parents, have instilled in them.
  • Pay greater attention to workplace dynamics, particularly around technology.
  • Recognize that research consistently documents that Millennials are committed to a life in which family responsibilities are not overshadowed by work. This is no longer a woman’s issue alone, desire for flexibility has become a gender-neutral issue.

As CPA firm leaders, keep in mind that the Millennial generation is a huge and powerful weapon that will help you propel your firm into future profitability, growth and success.

  • I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times.
  • Everett Dirksen

Monday, May 5th, 2014

Mentoring – Make It More Meaningful Inside Your Accounting Firm

I’ve been helping CPA firms establish and/or renew mentoring programs for years. Back in 2008, The Journal of Accountancy featured one of my articles on mentoring for CPAs. The interesting thing is that mentoring is the foundation of the CPA profession:

An older, more experienced accountant teaches a younger, newer accountant how to be a CPA.

That’s how I’ve seen it work for years and years inside CPA firms. Yet, so many experienced CPAs ask me:  What do I say? Where do we meet? How long do we meet? Do I help them set goals? Do I help them achieve goals? What if I don’t know the answers?

This week’s blog posts will be all about mentoring in the CPA firm world. Let’s start with a history lesson.

The Story of Mentor – Greek Mythology

The story of Mentor comes from Homer’s Odyssey. Odysseus, king of Ithaca, fights in the Trojan War and entrusts the care of his household to Mentor, who serves as teacher and overseer of Odysseus’ son, Telemachus.

After the war, Odysseus is condemned to wander vainly for ten years in his attempt to return home. In time, Telemachus, now grown, ventures in search of his father. Athena, Goddess of War and patroness of the arts and industry, assumes the form of Mentor and accompanies Telemachus on his quest. Father and son reunite and cast down would-be usurpers of Odysseus’ throne and Telemachus’s birthright.

The word Mentor evolved to mean trusted advisor, friend, teacher and wise person. History offers many examples of helpful mentoring relationships: Socrates and Plato, Hayden and Beethoven, Freud and Jung. Mentoring is a fundamental form of human development where one person invests time, energy and personal know-how in assisting the growth and ability of another person.

One thing that Mentor said to Telemachus might apply to some situations inside your accounting firm as you truly begin to mentor your less-experienced accountants:

“You must not keep acting like a chid – you’re too old for that now. You are fine and strong, I see. You should be brave, so people born in future years will say good things of you.” – - Mentor

Stay tuned this week for more on mentoring. I will be sharing some practical steps and examples/samples that are focused on both roles:  The Mentor and the Mentee.

  • Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.
  • Margaret Mead

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

To Keep Top Talent At Your CPA Firm, Ask Them To Stretch

You arrive at the office on Friday morning and immediately you hear the news from one of your partners, your firm administrator or the HR director….. “Sally gave her notice late yesterday afternoon!”

Sally has become a key person on your team. She had just been promoted to Supervisor and was not only building some strong client relationships, the younger team members were requesting to be assigned to her jobs.

Yes, she got a great offer from another firm, an offer that was almost too good to be true. And, yes, you have been stalling on promoting her to manager because you already have 12 managers and are not sure what the future truly holds for her at the firm. You have delayed talking to her about all this and even though she has been asking questions about her career path.

How do you replace her? You are thinking about the recruiter fees you will be paying to get someone with her experience. WAIT…. don’t you have an internal mobility plan?  If not, you should begin one now.

Although promoting from within is a common practice inside of firms, I often hear, “we don’t have anyone ready to handle her accounts, no one is experienced enough.”

Before you go outside to hire, consider asking your Seniors to stretch a little and fill the role of Supervisor. Ask your associates to stretch a little and fill the role of Senior. You get the idea.

Your best performers (at whatever level) are looking for career advancement and career development. They will step-up and go above and beyond if you present the opportunity. They are waiting for you to ask and they don’t want you to bring a stranger in from the outside.

Besides, your own internal candidates already know your culture, procedures and quirks. Give them a chance. You might be surprised at how eager they are to stretch…. if you give them the opportunity.



  • Success is due to our stretching to the challenges of life. Failure comes when we shrink from them.
  • John C. Maxwell

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