Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

Monday, July 9th, 2018

Is It A Rule or A Guideline?

I have three rules: Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people you care.” – Lou Holtz

Sometimes we get our inspiration from strange places. When I read the following quote from Ghostbusters, it made me think CPAs.

“I make it a rule never to get involved with possessed people… Actually, it’s more of a guideline than a rule.” – Bill Murray, Ghostbusters

It also made me think of my grandson when he was very small. If he was corrected because of some action, he would ask, “Is that a rule?” If we said yes, he was okay with that. I think it is something he learned in preschool. If it is a rule, you follow it.

Inside your firm, do you have rules or guidelines? Maybe we need to actually use the term “rule” more often.

  • It is a rule that every partner must bill out all WIP over $500 by the 2nd day of the following month.
  • It is a rule that our people are punctual in relation to their own behaviors and in serving clients.
  • It is a rule that we send accounts receivable statements to all clients every month, no exceptions.
  • It is a rule that we don’t voice our issues with others, except to them directly and in private.

Then we maybe we have some guidelines:

  • We have a guideline that says we return a client’s phone call the same day.
  • We have a guideline that says we stop work if a client is 90 days past due on payment.

I think you probably have more guidelines than rules. Should some of your guidelines actually be rules? Do you demand that all staff follow the documented workflow processes but partners don’t follow the rules?

Help your staff understand this complicated scenario. How are you dealing with it or are you ignoring it?

One time a CPA firm technology director said to me, “At our firm we have guidelines but we manage by exception.” I usually observe that inside CPA firms, there are way too many exceptions.

 

  • The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

Billing For Administrative Time

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” – Leo Tolstoy

One practice management question that has been asked many times over the years is whether administrative team members should charge their time to a client.

If your firm is still billing by the hour, all employees whether admin team or accounting team should record any time expended on behalf of a client. Whether it is billed or not is up to the discretion of the biller, usually a partner. I have observed that in many firms, most, if not all, of this time is billed.

The accounting firm administrative team spends a great deal of their time on client work. They are providing service on behalf of a client. Serving the client is a valuable and important activity.

Some clients are more “needy” than others and often much of that neediness for service falls to the admin team.

I have also observed that administrative team members focused on client work are usually only about 30-40% chargeable.

 

  • Time has more value than money. You can get more money but you cannot get more time.
  • Jim Rohn

Friday, June 29th, 2018

Flashback Friday – Are You Making Excuses?

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” – Jim Rohn

Do you procrastinate? Be honest.

Read this flashback post from June 2016.

  • I am convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.
  • Steve Jobs

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

Motto or Tagline

Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.
– Henry David Thoreau

Most firms have them. Many firms have them prominently displayed on their website. I am referring to the firm motto or tagline. Most are rather boring. They are things like the following:

  • A Century Strong
  • Improving the lives of our staff, clients and community with innovation, trust and integrity.
  • Collaborative Approach.Practical Advice
  • Go Beyond
  • Serving clients since 1931
  • Strategy Meets Challenges
  • Helping You Meet Your Financial Goals
  • Experience, Financial Clarity and Confidence
  • Uncommon Expertise, Incomparable Service

Read more here. 

Some firms tout their longevity, some their client service and some have just copied something another firm has used. I remember hearing a very prominent managing partner from a very prominent and forward-thinking firm do a presentation on developing core values for his firm. We, the audience, were all very impressed with the list of six or so values and the meaning behind each one. Privately, in a later conversation, I asked him, “How did you come up with the values and meaningful descriptions?” He replied, “Oh, I just found them on the internet.”

Mottos and taglines are also used internally to motivate your entire staff. Maybe you need a different kind of motto for internal use, something that will actually motivate staff, something not so stiff, formal and vague. Here’s a motto, intended as a family motto, that I recently read in a magazine. I love it and think it would be a great motto for your CPA team:

Be kind. Have fun. Work hard. Learn a lot.

Whatever your motto – to make it relevant and truly alive inside your firm you must use it repetitively. Make posters and display them around the office. Engrave it on a paperweight for each person’s desk. Put it on t-shirts and give them out at the firm summer picnic.

My continuing message to all of you: Be kind. Have fun. Work hard. Learn a lot.

  • My motto is: Contented with little, yet wishing for more.
  • Charles Lamb

Monday, June 18th, 2018

Get Moving!

“A plan that starts next week is a comfort to stagnation.” – Dan Rockwell

It is past mid-June. You have conducted your after-tax-season debriefing. You made a list of things to work on for next year. Action steps were discussed.

Many partner groups have already had their retreats. You came out of that session excited about the future and with some definite action steps.

How many steps have you taken? Have you taken even one? Get moving – summer is flying by.

  • I will prepare and some day my chance will come.
  • Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

Grace and Radical Kindness

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” – Fred Rogers

You have heard it and read it over and over again. I am talking about news and conversations about arguments, disagreements, biases, hate, and lack of understanding. Like many, I am very tired of the whole thing. I’m tired of people who can’t seem to tolerate anyone who thinks differently than them.

On a smaller scale, how are things inside your CPA firm? How’s morale? Are people happy? Are there certain people you know NOT to approach at certain times because they are in a bad mood? Are there bossy people, closed-minded people and people who simply don’t want to rock the boat when it involves change? Are there egotistical people or even greedy people?

Maybe it is time for Radical Kindness. That’s the term the Director of the new documentary about Mister Rogers uses to describe him. Here’s an excerpt from a recent article I read in the Dayton Daily News about the film. The director is the filmmaker Morgan Neville:

“I’ve thought a lot about why the film moves people. Fred kind of digested his message down to what I call radical kindness, but Fred himself called it grace. And to him, grace was an idea that could be expressed as – Be good to others, even if they don’t deserve it.”

“Fred saw life as a struggle between fear and love. What we see today, rage and anger and resentment, are the byproducts of fear. What he tried to do was quell that fear in children, to keep them from manifesting those toxic emotions. Fred chose love, and that is his legacy.”

Here is a link to the trailer for the documentary. There is also a movie in the works about Fred Rogers, starring Tom Hanks. It is to be released in 2019.

For now, I hope you act with grace and practice radical kindness.

  • There's no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are."
  • Mister Rogers

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

Lack of Sleep

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.” – Robert Frost

If you are working for a CPA firm, you are working hard. Often, it is fast-paced, challenging, stressful and frustrating – but not all the time. Sometimes, it is slow and boring – but that is rare (my opinion).

You get up early so you can get to the office early so you can have some quiet time before the crowd arrives. Then, you also often stay late for the same reason. You still have home duties and want to spend time with your family so you probably stay up later than you should. You rise at 4:30 or 5:00 and get to bed at 11:00, 11:30 or 12:00. You are definitely not getting enough sleep.

All of this affects your productivity. Some experts have actually noted that showing up for work sleep deprived can be the equivalent of showing up to work intoxicated!

Experts also tell us that you should be getting 7 – 9 hours of sleep per night. I know when I worked in a growing firm, I usually got about 5-1/2 to 6 hours of sleep – for years. Now that I work from home, I can attest that getting 7 hours sleep per night makes a big, positive difference.

Lack of sleep not only affects your productivity at work, it affects your health.

Here’s a good article to share with your team via Fast Company: Why We Can’t Sleep And What It’s Doing to Our Work.

 

  • Sleep is the best meditation.
  • Dalai Lama

Monday, June 4th, 2018

The History of Your Firm

“History never really says goodbye. History says, ‘See you later.'” – Eduardo Galeano

Last week, I was on vacation in Gettysburg, PA. We have always liked history vacations and have done many and it usually involves visiting national parks. The Gettysburg National Military Park is one of our favorites.

We have been to Gettysburg numerous times and we always learn something new and see things we have never seen before. It is because they are continually updating the park and making it more like it was in 1863. They want to make it “real” for visitors.

How much do your people know about the history of your firm? Many firms do have a summary on their website and many do not. Why not make it more real for them?

To help your people better understand the firm and its leaders, try a timeline exercise at your next full-firm meeting (or do a lunch and learn).

Get a large roll of paper and affix a long sheet to a wall in the staff room – make it about 15 to 20 feet wide. Draw a long line and put the date of the firm’s founding at the beginning on the left. Note the current date (month) at the other end of the long line. Then have everyone (using markers) mark on the sheet when they joined the firm. For many firms, it will span several decades. Then have random people talk about “what it was like” when they joined the firm and encourage people to ask questions.

Some very interesting discussions will follow!

Follow this up with another session a month or so later and talk about something even more important – the future.

 

  • I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.
  • Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, May 30th, 2018

Young CPAs – Start Sooner!

“Life is short, and it is here to be lived.” – Kate Winslet

If you are not a young CPA – I hope you share this blog post with young CPAs.

You are fairly new to your CPA career. You graduated with a history of good grades. You landed an entry-level job, right out of college, with a prestigious, growing public accounting firm.

Major accomplishment: You passed the CPA exam and are now a twenty-something CPA – congratulations, you have the momentum going for you!

You have been working on a variety of client engagements. You may be focused on tax and you may be focused on the audit side of things. You might be in a small to mid-size firm and have the opportunity to work in both areas and will probably soon declare your future focus.

You are focused on the work. You are getting better and better at the work. It seems the partners are happy with your technical abilities and the way you complete the work.

Wait! There is so much more to becoming a successful CPA than just knowing how to do the work. You must be:

  • A great conversationalist
  • A “reader” of people
  • An interesting dinner (or lunch) companion
  • A good speaker
  • Known as a “professional”
  • A contributor to your community
  • Good at time management
  • Good at motivating other people
  • Good at setting the perfect example for subordinates and peers
  • Thinking about the future
  • Able to change and evolve with the times and influence the firm to do so
  • And more – –

Don’t wait years and years to get started on this list. Learn the success skills as you are learning the technical skills. Life is short – get busy!

 

  • Life is short and the older you get, the more you feel it. Indeed, the shorter it is. People lose their capacity to walk, run, travel, think, and experience life. I realize how important it is to use the time I have.
  • Viggo Mortensen

Monday, May 14th, 2018

Do You Like Working In Public Accounting?

“Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen.” – Conan O’Brien

I was recently reading an article about things to consider when you feel unhappy at work. I applied the items to the CPA profession and from what I observe, I think most people working in public accounting do really like their work.

Do you like what you do for work? Most staffers tell me that they really enjoy the work. They love working with clients and feel satisfied that they are actually helping people with their financial challenges.

Do you feel like you have ownership at work? Firms have come such a long way in involving team members in firm decisions and initiatives. People are encouraged to contribute ideas and efforts to keep the firm on the leading edge of technology and work environments.

Are you encouraged to learn at work? This is definitely a yes if you are working in a CPA firm. You are encouraged and supported in passing the CPA exam and receive formal, firm-paid CPE annually plus the day-to-day learning that comes with client engagements.

Do you feel appreciated at work? If you don’t feel appreciated working at a CPA firm these days, maybe you are working for the wrong firm! I always almost beg young accountants, if they are not happy in public accounting, to try working at another firm before they drop out and go private.

Contemplate the pluses and minuses of working at your firm. I bet the pluses out-weigh the minuses. I also think, that if you stick it out and gain experience, the reward and satisfaction gets better and better as the years pass.

  • If we magnified blessings as much as we magnify disappointments, we would all be much happier.
  • John Wooden