Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

What Makes A Great Culture

“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” – Simon Sinek

Culture is what attracts top talent to your firm.

I have observed that many firms really haven’t focused on culture or even thought about it much. The fact is, they have one (a culture) anyway and often it is not a culture that will attract the best talent or even the best clients.

A great culture evolves inside an accounting firm when great people are engaged.  Per Gallup, only about 70% of U.S. workers are working at their full potential.

You can build a great culture by being more inclusive, by involving everyone in planning for the future, by clearly communicating the firm purpose, vision and values, by setting a good example as a leader, by continually giving them more meaningful and challenging work and by taking them along. And, that is just a few of the actions you can take.

Why not make 2017 the year you begin to shape a winning culture?

  • We have a culture where we are incredibly self critical, we don't get comfortable with our success.
  • Mark Parker, CEO, Nike

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

Invest in Yourself

“If YOU don’t believe in YOU enough to invest in YOU then don’t be surprised when others don’t invest in YOU.” – Grant Cardone

I am often disappointed in some less experienced people working in public accounting when I learn that they always EXPECT the firm to pay for ALL of their learning and continuing education.

Some even expect the firm to pay for a book that might help them with self-improvement.

The investment in yourself is the best investment you can ever make. The “firm,” for one reason or another, won’t pay for you to attend a specific conference, seminar or meeting. Maybe you should pay for it yourself if you really believe it will enhance your career advancement. Maybe you should buy some self-improvement books, tapes, podcasts or apps and actually read them and listen to them.

Commuting time could turn into a motivational session.

grantI like this quote from Grant Cardone:

“The best business advice I’ve ever been given was from my mother, who was never actually in business,” the self-made millionaire tells CNBC. “She said, ‘The best investment you will ever make is in yourself.It’s a no lose deal. It will always give you a return. Nobody can take it from you. It’s yours.'”

I’m not your mother but my advice to you – no matter what your age: Invest in yourself!

  • Success will not come knock on your front door. You must go find it.
  • Grant Cardone

Monday, November 21st, 2016

I’m Too Busy

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” – Socrates

Last week during a partner retreat I was facilitating, the “busy” topic came up and was explored.

The participants all indicated that they truly felt they were too busy to focus on some of the important challenges facing the firm. They didn’t like feeling like that, but never the less, they did.

When you dig deep into why you are too busy it usually uncovers the fact that it is because of the choices you make.

Kids these days are scheduled almost 24/7. When do they have time to play outside, wade in a stream or collect beautiful colored leaves in the fall?

Adults have work that is filled with answering emails and attending meetings plus responsibilities on the home front, such as raising children. When do they have time to actually think, daydream, relax and examine the life they are living?

Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” What did he mean by that? Here’s an explanation:

Socrates‘ claim that the unexamined life is not worth living makes a satisfying climax for the deeply principled arguments that Socrates presents on behalf of the philosophical life. The claim is that only in striving to come to know ourselves and to understand ourselves do our lives have any meaning or value.

In your CPA work life, if you are always saying you are so busy or too busy, why would clients and referral sources refer others to you? Make it a rule to never say the “B” (busy) word in the office. Anyone caught saying BUSY must drop $1.00 into the money jar in the break room. Soon you will have enough for a great party!


  • It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about?
  • Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, November 10th, 2016


“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.” – Colin Powell

I am very fortunate to be able to facilitate many feedback surveys for successful, growing accounting firms. What I personally learn from these surveys is extremely helpful to me as I advise my clients on preparing their firm for the future.

Something I often see as I read every single word written by survey participants is that there are several misconceptions, top-down and bottom-up, inside CPA firms.

Here’s one I will comment on today:

Staff thinks that partners should work as much as they do. 

Partners think staff should work as much as they do.

Of course, not all partners and not all staff but I do see these sentiments noted in several different variations.

Some things for both sides to consider…..

Most partners work significantly more than staff. They attend civic, social and charitable events on behalf of the firm (and it’s growth). Partners tend to work many non-busy season weekends in the office with no one there to observe (or disturb) them. Their chargeable time budget is much less than staff because they have extremely important duties in marketing, selling, mentoring and management of the firm.

The current workforce (staff members in CPA firms) has changed and technology is the main reason. They can work anytime and anywhere. They PREFER to work in that fashion. Partners still often assume that if someone is not at their desk, they are not working. Also, partners tend to be in the office at odd hours. Many often return to the office later in the evening or arrive at the office very early. Many staff members prefer to have dinner at home, participate in putting the kids to bed and then work additional time, later at night, from home.

Per the Rosenberg Survey for firms in the $2M-$10M range, partners average about 2500 total hours and staff average about 2300 total hours. Partners have approximately 1200 chargeable hours and staff has approximately 1500 chargeable hours.

  • There is no substitute for hard work.
  • Thomas Edison

Monday, November 7th, 2016


“The way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.” – Charles Schwab

It is November, a month when many people might make time to think about what they are thankful for. How about you, as it relates to your accounting firm and the people who populate it?

This month, leading up to Thanksgiving Day (here in the USA), I hope to remind you about some of the “I am so glad at my firm…..” things.

thinkFor today, set aside some time to THINK.

Here are some past blog posts about the value of actually setting aside some time to THINK and reflect upon who you are, where you are and what your work life means to you. After you think about the many wonderful things and wonderful people in your life…. I bet you will be thankful that you are part of an accounting firm.

Always carve out time to think – from August 2015. I think the word “carve” makes it appropriate for November.

Think it over – from January 9, 2014.

Make November your THINK and THANK month.


  • Gratitude is best and most effective when it does not evaporate itself in empty phrases.
  • Isaac Asimov

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

Run Your Firm Like A Business

“Insecurity expresses itself as a need to know everything.” – Dan Rockwell (Leadership Freak)

As firms grow, things must change.

Years ago we urged firms to move to a more formal managing partner and firm administrator led firm.

In those days, every partner had to be involved in every decision. I can remember hearing consultants and other speakers lamenting that it took four partners to decide which photocopier to purchase, which local courier service to use or which type of bond paper to be used at the firm!

As a partner, do you still have a strong need to know EVERYTHING that is happening in the management/operational side of the firm?

Is it because of a lack of trust? Is it because you want to second guess specific decisions? Is it because the MP and FA are not communicating effectively? Is it because you don’t have the right people in those roles?

I certainly hope you are not insecure.

Discuss and decide on a policy that gives the MP/FA control over certain decisions and identify the few instances where every partner has to be involved. It is a step toward truly running your firm like a real business.

  • Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.
  • John D. Rockefeller

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

Sit In The Front

“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” – Henry Ford

Over the years, I have spoken to so many groups of CPAs and groups of people who work for them.

I have to admit that I am disappointed that so many people always want to sit in the back of the room. Is it because they want an easy escape route in case I am overly boring? Is it because they actually want a place to sit and surf on their mobile device? Is it because they know it all already?

Actually, I think it is one of those weird human nature things. Just like going to church, the back pews always fill-up before the front pews.

I urge my session attendees to always set up front when they are attending CPE sessions or other learning opportunity sessions. I have actually observed some of them taking my advice the next time they are in one of my sessions.

Why sit up front? I have always done this because I want to observe the speaker up close. I want to hear every word. I want to contemplate their body language. I want to have them look me in the eye. Afterwards, I always would introduce myself to the speaker, maybe ask a question and always thank them for sharing their thoughts.

Why do I do this? Because they will remember me. And maybe if I have a question when I return to the office, they will answer my email. Maybe the next time they see me they will remember my name and face. Maybe they will enjoy having a one-off conversation with me and just maybe they will ask my opinion on some topic.

Want to be known as an expert? Hang out and get to know other experts.

Build your personal brand, one opportunity at a time. Sit in the front.

  • Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.
  • Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

Grammar, Spelling, And Punctuation

Sure, you are an accountant. So, people look to you to understand (and enjoy working with) numbers. They believe all of you are good at math and can do advanced calculations in your head.

You are a CPA, so clients take it for granted that you have prepared their tax return or performed their audit correctly. Your clients (and others) judge you on other things. Mostly, on lots of little things.

One thing, that is not so little in my mind, is how you write. If you are a CPA, or work in a CPA firm, grammar, spelling and punctuation are very, very important when you start typing out communications on that keyboard (or mobile device).

I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to read a lot of things written by CPAs and accountants. Most of it is in the form of communication, to me, and to others. Here are the common mistakes I notice:

  • Improper use of commas.
  • Lack of any punctuation at all, at times, even the use of periods at the end of a sentence.
  • Lack of capitalization – everything is typed in lower case.
  • Confusion between chose and choose; spelling chose when they actually mean choose.
  • Improper use of there and their.
  • Improper use of to and too.
  • Using your when they should be using you’re.

When I first started working in public accounting, I had the opportunity to work with a CPA (partner), who excelled at the written word. His vocabulary was way beyond my experience. I kept a dictionary close by. I learned so much!

I also, during the same time, worked with some accountants that made me wonder if they actually graduated from college based on their spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

Just be aware of how you may be judged. Take your time when writing. I think some of the poor punctuation and grammar is simply laziness or because you are in too much of a hurry.

  • Your grammar is a reflection of your image. Good or bad, you have made an impression. And like all impressions, you are in total control.
  • Jeffrey Gitomer

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

Get Rowdy

I have worked with and talked to a fairly significant number of accounting firms. Speaking in general terms, they are almost all doing well (that means the partners are making money). A significant number of them are happy and complacent. That’s what scares me.

They could be doing so much better but status quo is comfortable. So much opportunity is being wasted.

As the old saying goes, someone needs to “stir the pot” in these firms. Yet, I often observe CPA firm partners remain silent when they should speak up. Accountants tend to avoid any sort of conflict or dissension unless things truly become unbearable. Then, some firms hire someone to come in and deal with the unrest rather than address it themselves. Too bad.

Some tension, disagreement, and conflict can be very healthy. It should be a normal part of partner discussions. However, after you have had some healthy arguing and differing viewpoints, come to an agreement as a group and stay united. Only disagree and argue behind closed doors.

I like this quote from Leadership Freak: “Teams without tensions have weak players.” 

You don’t want weak players on your partner team. A weak firm will not attract top talent or strong clients.

  • Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.
  • Rumi, ancient poet

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

Stuff Happens

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” – Albert Einstein

I used to have a magnetic red sign with bold white letters that stated the title of this blog post (Stuff Happens) except it did not say “Stuff.” It was on the side of a filing cabinet where only I could see it. It helped put things in perspective, at times.

Yesterday, I had some troubles updating my WordPress site and had to go to a back-up (from Sept. 6). Thus, I lost my posts for Sept. 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12 and they can’t be retrieved. If you are a subscriber, you have them via the email you receive. I will try to re-post them from that source.

I pride myself on having a post for every business day. Once in a while, I might miss one day but never that may in a row.

When you have some small troubles or inconveniences, take them in stride. Because, as you know, “stuff happens!”

  • It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.
  • John Wooden