Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

Invest In Your Firm Administrator

If you are a managing partner, you know the value of attending your firm association meetings or networking with other CPAs at your state society.

That’s why I am so surprised to hear that many CPA firm administrators do not get the support of the managing partner for attending the association meetings that are vital to their continuing career growth and success of the firm.

I attended the Ohio Chapter of CPAFMA last Friday and attendance was disappointing. I often speak at CPAFMA Chapter meetings around the country and their #1 concern is attendance at the chapter meetings.

CPAFMA_Name_PantoneWhen you dig deeper, you find out that some firm administrators don’t even ask the MP if they can attend. They take it for granted (because of their experiences inside the firm) that the MP would NOT want them to be out for a day or half day.

There are 21 chapters around the country. If your firm administrator is a member of CPAFMA, please support their attendance at chapter meetings and at the national conference. If you are a firm administrator ASK… No, inform the partners that you will be attending.

Most chapters have a roundtable discussion after the speaker has finished. Everyone brings a list of topics they want feedback on. Here’s an example from the Ohio meeting: Leadership development training, Skype, Credit Card use, 7216 & E/L’s, pay increases, retention, electronic signature procedures, super forms, cyber liability, billing rate changes, HR systems, bad debt write-offs, scanners/printers.

I bet you would like to know more about some of these topics – CPAFM provides a wealth of information to run your firm more efficiently.

  • I am learning all the time. My tombstone will be my diploma.
  • Eartha Kitt

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

Keep Your Eye On The Ball

Managing partners and other partners in CPA firms sometimes have challenges when it come to focus.

While it is good to be involved in the community, in your firm association, state society or the AICPA, be careful not to ignore what is going on at the firm. The outside involvement, especially in the community helps the firm grow and prosper.

Some partners, as they accumulate wealth, begin investing in outside businesses. They seem to spend a lot of time outside the firm tending to these businesses. Again, be careful not to ignore what is going on at the firm.

If you are a partner (owner) in an accounting firm, I hope it is your #1 priority. It is a treasure, a valuable resource that needs constant attention. I have known some prominent CPAs that have suffered greatly from taking their eye off the ball (the firm). Some have even lost their firm.

I always advise, don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

  • A fox should not be on the jury at a goose's trial.
  • Thomas Fuller

Monday, November 16th, 2015

Sacred Cows

Sacred Cow – definition:

One that is often unreasonably immune from criticism or opposition. Someone or something that has been accepted or respected for a long time and that people are afraid or unwilling to criticize or question.

If you are involved in merger discussions and are acquiring a firm, be sure to ask: What are your sacred cows?

When leaders of a firm want to be “merged-in” they might shy away from talking about their sacred cows until after the deal is done. Too late. The firm that is acquiring cannot facilitate the transition if they are not aware of the sacred cows.

cowWhat I usually observe is that it is a long-time employee who cannot be terminated. CPAs are kind and loyal. They keep some long-time employees just because “she has been with the firm for 25 years, even though she hasn’t adapted to our technology” or “he’s a partner, even though his performance hasn’t been up to par for many, many years.”

Sometimes it is tax software. “We will not change our tax package.” Period.

Remember, you are running a business. Why wouldn’t you negotiate a nice departure package and hire someone at half the salary who loves technology? Why wouldn’t you negotiate a retirement timeline and make departure easy?

As for technology and software, the entire firm should be using the exact same software and following the exact same procedures. That way any team member can work for any partner or office at any given time via remote connectivity. The same goes for basic office procedures. Of course, offices have some minor nuances and personality differences but the work gets done the same way and to meet firm-wide quality standards.

  • I don't want any vegetables thank you. I paid for the cow to eat them for me.
  • Douglas Coupland

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

Fewer CPA Firms

This is one of those on-my-mind type blog posts.

Yesterday I was reading about the latest mergers happening in the world of public accounting. Well, actually, everyday I read about the latest mergers and it has been happening for the last several years.

I wonder if anyone is keeping track of the real number of CPA firms and how that number must be dwindling.

I have heard the experts (association leaders, other consultants, etc.) say that there are approximately 43,000 accounting firms out there and that the firms of any size at all number around 2,500 and the rest are sole practitioners. The 500th largest firm has 20 CPAs.

The AICPA separates the largest 500 firms into two groups the G100 and the G400. I am sure that the list of top 500 firms has changed significantly in the last five years.

Almost every firm I talk with has talked to another firm about a merger or is currently in active talks about merging.

Has your partner group honestly discussed where your firm is headed? It’s time to talk about it.

  • Your life does not get better by chance. It gets better by change.
  • Jim Rohn

Monday, October 26th, 2015

Thoughts On Multitasking











I have blogged about multitasking a few times in the past. I keep writing about it because more and more studies tell us about the negatives associated with it. I keep writing about it because so many people working inside CPA firms believe that the answer to efficiency is to multitask.

There is a good article written by Courtney E. Martin about the Myth of Multitasking. Here are some snippets for you to ponder when dealing with multitasking for yourself and those you mentor:

  • At the end of a day spent flitting around the Internet without committing to one task for an extended period of time, I often feel jittery, as if I’ve been throwing back espressos on an empty stomach. In fact, according to Daniel J. Levitin, author of The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, multitasking actually creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop “effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation.”
  • Psychiatrist Edward M. Hallowell called multitasking “mythical,” and Levitin takes it a step further, describing it as “a powerful and diabolical illusion.” Study and study after study shows that multitasking is not just unhealthy and unsatisfying, but ineffective.
  • Before reading up on this literature, I have to admit, I thought multitasking was exhausting, but mostly benevolent — like that very high-energy friend that you can’t be around all the time, but in smaller doses, can be fun.
  • Nothing else. You can keep your Wi-Fi. You can keep your productivity experts. I’ll take flow over flitting any day.

In positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

  • It is by being fully involved with every detail of our lives, whether good or bad, that we find happiness, not by trying to look for it directly.
  • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

The Difference Between Managing and Leading

ZMLBPIOGTDInside CPA firms, we usually call the person holding the highest leadership position the Managing Partner. I believe you need a Leading Partner rather than a Managing Partner.

There is a big difference between managing and leading. Think about it. Does the “President” of your accounting firm lead or manage….. or neither?

Be sure your managers are managing. Truthfully, most of your partners are managers or followers, not actually leaders.

In the field of CPA firm management, many are focused on doing what other firms are doing. Partners, COOs, firm administrators, IT managers and marketing directors go to conferences where they can learn something we call best practices. Then they return and try to convince the partner group to do it – whatever “it” happens to be.

The role of Leader is about identifying a direction for the firm – – specific for your firm and that can’t happen if you are imitating someone else’s best practice. You are not leading your are following.

Successful leaders create value and drive the firm toward something new. Many managing partners fall back on the usual solutions or quick fixes. They are reactive rather than proactive.

A great leader studies their own firm. A Leading Partner listens to everyone and spends time simply thinking. They read extensively and not just tax and audit updates – they read current events and a wide variety of books and novels. Reading sparks ideas!

Leave the managing to your COO/Firm Administrator. As of today, become the LP (leading partner)!

Read more about this topic from Mark Lukens on Fast Company, click here.


  • True leadership is specific, substantial, and sets its own course. If you want to truly lead, following familiar patterns is rarely ever enough.
  • Mark Lukens

Friday, October 16th, 2015

I’ll Give You October 16th….

The last of the major “due dates” was yesterday – the final extension date for individual tax returns.

In many accounting firms across the USA partners and teams are taking the day off. If not, they are coming in late and leaving early. They are tired, wore-out, stressed and all those kinds of words. They deserve a day-off – maybe even a 3 day weekend and I urge you to take it.

On the other side of the ledger, 2015 is rushing by. What have you done so far this year to define your vision, initiate change, explore future opportunities, develop a culture of communication, offer more transparency to your people and so on?

Don’t procrastinate for the remainder of 2015 – get busy on Monday! Ask your people for their ideas and opinions, develop a short Action Plan for the remainder of the year, assign responsibility for each action and implement by December 31.

Here’s my Action Plan for you:

  1. Relax today
  2. Enjoy the weekend
  3. Carve out quiet time to think.
  4. Begin taking action on Monday, October 19th
  • Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.
  • Stephen King

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

The Badge of Honor For Accountants – Busyness

I was recently reading about the leadership qualities of Pope Francis. One aspect is that he manages his time and energy and keeps a schedule that is healthy. He has even criticized other Catholic leaders for their busyness.

It is my observation that way too many CPA firm owners delight in demonstrating busyness. It’s almost like an addiction. They have numerous arguments for their demanding schedules: We don’t have enough people. We don’t have the right people. Our people don’t have the skills. The clients are too demanding. The clients force me into last-minuteness and so on.

If you are a skilled leader you fix these things. You focus on managing your business not remaining in the never-ending squirrel cage of busyness.

  • Beware the barrenness of a busy life.
  • Socrates

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

Over 60 – Under 40

40U40_logo.5417688fda47dThis morning I was thinking about the recently announced “40 Under 40” by CPA Practice Advisor. Congratulations to all of them. I was so pleased that I know several of them.

I was also contemplating how many people, probably over 60, had (or have) influence in the careers of these younger, successful people working in the accounting profession.

If you are over 60 and working in the CPA profession (and I know there are a huge number of you – yes, it includes me), why not make a special effort to mentor someone under 40?

The ones over 40 and under 60 are probably doing okay for themselves right now but think of the wonderful relationship that could be built between the over 60s and under 40s. They can learn from each other.

So today I encourage you if you are “under 40” to seek out new mentors or enhance your current relationship with someone “over 60”.

If you are “over 60”, it’s time to give back. Identify one of those “under 40s” who have already proven they have something special and help them grow it.

  • Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.
  • Samuel Ullman

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

How Skilled Are Your People At Business Writing

“I’m an accountant, I’m expected to know numbers!” – I bet you have heard that before or maybe even said it yourself. It’s a good excuse for poor grammar and spelling.

I have seen some amazing spelling mistakes via CPAs! I’m not an expert at grammar and spelling myself, so I am not pointing fingers. But I do try to improve and often do research on grammar and spelling because I write a lot!

LynnI like to read the business writing blog by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston. About Lynn.

Here’s an example of one of her posts. It is titled: Ignore These 10 Always-Never Rules.

She explains that sometimes we hold on to “rules” we learned in our younger years or from others in our work world. The rule usually starts with “Never” or “Always”.

Her advice IGNORE these 10 Always-Never Rules: (Read more about each one by following the link, above.)

  1. Never us a comma before and.
  2. Always use a comma before quotation marks.
  3. Always spell out numbers that are less than 10.
  4. Never start a sentence with because.
  5. Never end a sentence with a preposition.
  6. Never split an infinitive.
  7. Always include the other person’s name before using me.
  8. Never start a sentence with I in business writing.
  9. Never use a contraction in business writing.
  10. When using bullet points, always have at least two.

One of the most popular in-house CPE sessions we had at my firm was during the summer when a high school English teacher came in and did a writing workshop.

  • Spel chekers, hoo needs em?
  • Alan Bean