Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category
Tuesday, November 26th, 2013
While this is a huge topic inside CPA firms, I just want to cover it in very brief terms today.
The following quote that I read on Brad Lea’s Twitter feed was intended to be motivating, I’m sure. However, it sums up the feelings of many aging CPAs and accountants and it is not always a positive situation for younger partners and staff members at the firm:
“If I ain’t dead…. I ain’t done.”
I hope that your partner group has a plan to deal with this.
Women may be the one group that grows more radical with age.
Wednesday, November 6th, 2013
I believe that CPA firm partners and other leaders should explore, guide and enhance the culture of their accounting firm but avoid imposing culture from the top down.
As a firm leader, you should be concerned about your culture because if you don’t work to identify it and enhance it, it can grow completely on its own and it might not be something you like.
Your culture will attract people and retain people. That’s something you mission statement or company vision probably won’t do.
Great people contribute to a great culture so my advice is to hire the best. And, yes, a bad apple can spoil the whole barrel.
When the apple is ripe it will fall.
Friday, October 4th, 2013
Before making a decision, most CPAs and their clients like to hear all of the options. It never hurts to get a second opinion much like you would do in a medical situation.
Relating to your prospective clients
Many firms have been successful with offering prospective tax clients a “free second opinion.” Try organizing a marketing campaign around it. Let those important prospects know that your firm offers a free “second look” at their past tax returns and will offer comments and suggestions FREE of charge.
Relating to your firm and practice management
Has someone in your firm gone to a conference and heard a great idea from another firm and immediately began the process of implementing it at your firm?
I find this usually happens with managing partners when they attend their CPA firm association managing partners’ annual meeting. It also happens when firm administrators get ideas from other administrators at various meetings and conferences.
Gathering and considering all of those great ideas is a VERY good thing but be sure you think it through and plan carefully to ensure success. What works for your old friend Bob from the California firm (much larger than you) or what works for that progressive firm in NYC might not be exactly what would make a good fit for your firm in rural Indiana.
A lot of great ideas used by other firms and, yes, suggested by consultants like me, might not be compatible with the way your particular group of partners think or act. Just like you would do if you were faced with a serious medical situation, when you are faced with a serious management situation, gather more than one opinion, weigh your options and then proceed.
Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.
Friday, September 27th, 2013
Rita, as she opens the mail: “Hooray, I got my copy of The Rosenberg Survey!”
Rita’s husband: “You’re weird.”
Yes, I admit it, I’ve always been slightly weird. I see joy and humor in things most people don’t notice. I like people who are unique, maybe even quirky. My husband says I attract them. To me, it has certainly enriched my life – for the better.
While getting excited over an accounting practice management survey is rather weird, I know that many of you also look forward to the annual MAP surveys for the CPA profession. The benefits of this year’s Rosenberg Survey follow:
- To make the information useful we have groupings based on firm size, population of market and geographic region
- Executive summary written by Marc Rosenberg
- A 46-page narrative written by Charles Hylan
- Observations and predictions from the top accounting profession consultants
- 80% repeat rate, making year-to-year comparisons highly relevant
- Over 100 benchmarks
- New statistics related to financial service practices
- All information undergoes a thorough review by 3 CPAs
- Benchmarks related to partner compensation, partner buy-in and buy-out and partner retirement plans
- An analysis showing which statistics correlate with firm profitability
- Row-by-row comparisons so the reader can look at each statistic of every participating firm
The Rosenberg Survey, now in its 15th year, reports on the results from 390 accounting firms, most of which range from $2-$20M in annual fees. The survey is well-known and well-respected within the national CPA industry due to is solid reputation for accuracy, thoroughness and high participation rate.
Warning: Please don’t look at the survey and be content if your firm is AVERAGE. Strive to be creative, unique and do things other firms are NOT doing. You have so much creative brain power inside your firm, don’t just do what everyone else is doing. Remember how your Mother warned you against doing that!
To order your copy go to www.rosenbergsurvey.com and fill out an order form.
I think everybody's weird. We should all celebrate our individuality and not be embarrassed or ashamed of it.
Wednesday, September 18th, 2013
There is a World War I era song titled, How Ya Gonna Keep Em Down On The Farm, after they’ve seen Paris (pronounced in the song as Par-ee)? Farm boys had gone off to war in Europe at a time when farm boys knew no other life than the one they were living on the farm. Up to this point in time they stayed on the farm and worked very hard.
The song title over the years seems to have become a slang phrase to express the frustration with being able to keep people in current jobs.
Think about your CPA firm. You want talented people with a solid work ethic to “stay down on the farm”. This issue certainly needs to be on your list of strategic initiatives in light of the steadily growing competitive activities focused on finding, hiring, developing and RETAINING great talent in the CPA profession.
Here’s a summary of an article I read THIS WEEK in my local newspaper that came originally from the Seattle Times. It is titled, Managers Turn To New Tricks To Lure, Keep Employees.
A young female employee’s manager asked them to report immediately to a conference room. As she approached, she noticed that the room’s windows were papered over so that no one could see in or out. She thought to herself, “this must be very serious.”
But her company executives had called her there to express appreciation for her hard work and to give her an iPad Mini. The CEO, later noted, “I felt like Oprah, it was my most fun day of work ever!”
As the economy improves and the job market strengthens, some employers are getting creative to hold on to key employees.
I am hearing from many CPA firm executives that they have been very cautious with salary increases and other perks for several years now and are beginning to wonder what they should do to remain competitive. As you have probably, read many times by now, a Gallup survey found that only 3 of 10 Americans were engaged at work, while 50 percent were “just kind of present” and 20 percent were actively disengaged (or miserable).
As the CEO of the small company in the article noted, she must compete with the bigger, corporate entities for people. She can’t afford the expensive benefits of Seattle’s large, publicly traded companies. So, instead she offers a range of smaller perks.
In public accounting, it will continue to get harder to find top-quality people. You have to sell them on your “life is different inside our CPA firm” story and then you have to actually live the story! As one CEO noted, “Once they’re on board, we have to keep them engaged for the long term.”
At your next partner meeting discuss this question: How we gonna keep them at our firm after they have learned that the firm down the street offers free gym memberships, flexible hours and free iPads for the BEST performers?
(photo by Rita Keller)
One of the first things I bought when I made 'Roseanne Show' money was a farm in Iowa.
Friday, September 6th, 2013
I hear it all the time, CPA firm partners and managers talking out of both sides of their mouth.
On Delegating Work:
Left side of mouth: “These young people, they don’t realize that you have to work hard to serve clients. I give them a job to do. They get it partially done and then they send it back my way (and they go home).”
Right side of mouth: “Our young staff is just too green. They seem unsure and take too long to get something done. It’s so much quicker just to do it myself. My billing rate might be twice as much as theirs but I can do it twice as fast.”
On Performing Administrative Duties:
Left side of mouth: “I don’t try too hard to bring in new clients. I don’t go to many business-networking events. I just don’t have time. If I got a new client, I don’t have time to serve them properly. It would just mean that I would have to work more hours.”
Right side of mouth: “I am the one who takes care of all of our facilities management. I make sure our building HVAC works properly and that our conference room décor makes the proper first impression. I’m the one who has always done it, I can’t give that up.” – - or – - “I’m on the technology committee and have always been responsible for decisions relating to our website and the kind of laptops we purchase.”
I am sure, if you contemplate all of the activities of your firm’s partners and managers, you could add several more examples to this list.
On Delegating Work – It is every partner’s responsibility to train, mentor, coach, nurture, and encourage their replacement(s). Managers need to manage. This is not done very well inside CPA firms. Managers (and some partners) are high-priced technicians. They cling to the client work because they enjoy it, it’s safe and it is in their comfort zone.
On Performing Administrative Duties – The big issue with this is that you are paying someone (a partner or several partners at about $300,000 each), to do the job that a professional, experienced, qualified firm administrator (HR Director, IT Manager, Marketing Director) could do at a significantly lower salary. Again, for some partners, performing administrative responsibilities is an excuse not to market, sell and bring new work and new clients into the firm. They cling to the administrative work because they enjoy it, it’s safe, and it is in their comfort zone.
It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.
Wednesday, September 4th, 2013
This is one of those “on my mind” type posts.
I always try to provide something of value to firm owners to help them better manage their CPA firm. I also try to provide something of value to CPA firm citizens (owners and employees of all types) to help them enjoy and benefit from their career choice as a CPA in public practice or as a non-certified member of the CPA firm team.
As for today’s post, not sure if this will be enlightening to you or not but it really bugs me when CPA firm partners (client service partners NOT the managing partner) belittle or ignore the value of the managing partner, the firm administrator, administrative professionals and other non-certified, functional area leaders.
The management/leadership team (MP and the non-CPA professionals that actually manage the operations, sales, marketing, human resources, technology and administration of the firm), if they are doing a good job, make all the partners a lot of money.
Historically, a handful of people (because they were not planning for succession) took all the money (take it while we have it mindset). The best firms that are now making great money have figured out that great management plays a key role in how much money the owners take home. As my friend Allan Koltin recently said to me, “Leadership trumps everything.”
A firm with great internal leaders, managing the firm proactively focuses on paying close attention to how they find, hire, develop and retain people. They pay attention to budgets and saving the firm money in a variety of areas.
Most of all, an internal management team, being led by a professional firm administrator can save ALL partners time. Then those partners can use that time to focus on billable work and bringing in additional business so that everyone can make more money.
I still see too many client service partners clinging to non-billable administrative work just because it feels comfortable and because they have always done it that way. They don’t want a firm administrator or other support professionals to take this work away from them. Eventually, they will lag behind other firms and perhaps NOT make so much money.
Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.
Wednesday, August 21st, 2013
I was browsing some Tom Peters‘ material and found a slide that spoke volumes to me – - for the CPA profession, in general, and to me specifically relating to things I have observed over my 30 years working with CPAs.
Peters is so gracious in sharing his slides (and thoughts) and I have been using this particular thought in my presentations recently.
In the “old” days, when I first entered the CPA profession I reported directly to the Managing Partner. I observed his style and a lot of other things about him. (Just like YOUR people are now observing YOU – remember, they watch you with a magnifying glass.)
Luke Ware was what you could call “old school.” An excellent CPA and a great mind. He did make plans for the firm and you could describe his process as, Ready, Aim, Fire. I felt he did a good job of preparing/researching (Ready), Deciding (Aim), and then Implementing (Fire). I believe we continued that style as the firm prospered and grew over the years.
As the years moved on and I obtained a much broader exposure to the CPA profession and to what actually goes on inside many CPA firms, I found out (from the people working inside these CPA firms) that their style had become: Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim…….
CPA partners prepared but often failed to make the final decision and carry through with implementation.
TIME HAVE CHANGED! If your firm is to remain competitive in today’s fast-paced, constantly connected business world, you need to adopt a style that is more like: Fire! Fire! Fire!
This applies not only to client service (responsive, quick turnaround) but to everything inside the firm. If you don’t speed-up the way you conduct your people practices such as, hiring, training, promoting, flexibility, providing formal feedback along with immediate, daily feedback on their progress, you will not be a winner in the war for talent.
Below is a picture of the slide – Why not print it out and put it in your workspace where you will constantly see it as a reminder?
Thursday, August 15th, 2013
“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” – - Albert Schweitzer
Inside your CPA firm you need to have guidelines, documented processes, position descriptions, performance feedback systems, discipline - you know, some sort of rules and regulations to guide how the firm works and how you expect your people to behave.
Inside your CPA firm you also need fun committees, social events, holiday parties, family picnics, outings to baseball games, goodie bags with treats to help survive busy season, massages at stressful times and lots of food.
But most of all, you need kindness.
Do you (a leader, a partner, a boss) hold the door for others following? Hold the elevator door for a late comer? Clean up the coffee you spilled on the counter when getting yours? Always remember to say thank-you? Do you often say: Great job! Do you have questions I could answer? I like the way summarized that. That is an excellent question. Do you always say, Good Morning?
It’s up to you to set a good example. Others will follow.
As you enter your fall busy season, let go of negative things and continually demonstrate kindness. Smile more.
My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.
Monday, August 5th, 2013
Many new accounting graduates will be entering CPA firms this fall to begin their career in public accounting. This message is for them and for all the accounting graduates who have ever joined a CPA firm.
Why were you hired? It is very basic. You were hired to do the work of an accountant working in a public accounting firm. It is very simple: You get money; you do work.
You are not expected to be an expert right away. Accounting firms are a hotbed of learning. They give you the opportunity to begin with the basics, practice them, become proficient and then move on to more difficult assignments. You are expected to continually improve over time. That part never ends.
Your employer has provided you with a competitive wage, training, advice and career counseling to improve your skills plus a nice benefit package.
Your firm and its leaders want you to succeed.
You were not hired to fill a category called, “high maintenance.”
I am a greater believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.