Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

It’s Bigger Than Engaging Your People

Okay, so you know I love quotations. I am not a purest about them…. I realize there are many mis-quotes out there or pure quotes attributed to the wrong person. That doesn’t bother me a great deal. If I find a few words that inspire me, make the think or even cause me to take action – that’s good enough for me. Some even inspire me to write a blog post for people working at CPA firms!

“Love life. Engage in it. Give it all you’ve got. Love it with a passion because life truly does give back, many times over, what you put into it.” – - Maya Angelou

In my work with accountants (CPAs), I often find that to them… work is life. They truly love their work. They can be completely absorbed and captivated by a tax issue. They can become obsessed with the organization, planning and carrying-out of an audit.

Of course, I am speaking in generalities. They love their work with a passion. But, do they love life with a passion? Many enjoy amazing monetary pay-back for their efforts and passion for work. But is that engaging in life? I know many who never take all of their vacation time. Many who never read fiction or biographies for enjoyment. They are too busy.

I have been consistent in my message to accountants about engaging their people. People like to work for people they like. People come to like people they know.

How involved are you, as a CPA firm leader and role model, with the people who work for you and your firm?

Succession planning, strategic planning, practice growth, partner unity – and even more issues facing CPA firm leaders could be solved if leaders were more engaged with their people and their peers.

People (the best talent) would stay with firms and become owners in the future if they felt engaged with leaders who demonstrate that they are engaged in life.

  • If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.
  • Maya Angelou

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Just Another Due Date

IMG_4340I guess you could call it the last major tax return due date of the year for certified public accountants.

Most business people are well aware that March 15th is the tax due date for corporate tax returns, April 15th is the due date for individual income tax returns. The filing of corporate returns can be extended until September 15 and individual returns until October 15. This creates a very busy time inside most CPA firms leading up to 3/15 and 4/15 and another (mini busy season) leading up to 9/15 and 10/15.

Working with and talking to CPAs across the country (and the people who work for them), I hear so much frustration and observe an immense amount of finger-pointing about why these due dates cause so much stress and unhappiness.

Yet, I find bright spots! I also hear (a very few) stories about Mary or John (partner in the firm) who never has to work so many extra hours as a due date approaches nor do they put excessive demands on the people who help them deliver client services.

What has Mary or John done differently than their other partners?

Simple. They trained their clients. 

I have seen it happen first-hand. It is possible.

  • It's easier to go down a hill than up it, but the view is much better at the top.
  • Henry Ward Beecher

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Status Quo Could Mean Failure

cpa logoI admire CPAs. They are smart, professional, traditional, conservative and cautious when making decisions. They have manners. That says a lot these days!

I only wish they would welcome change. When I work with CPA firm leaders, I often advise…. “It’s time to stir the pot.” I imagine you get the picture. The managing partner usually replies enthusiastically, “You are right!”

In the world of public accounting, if you are not growing, you are shrinking. Status quo eventually leads to failure.

Observe your surroundings. CPA firms are growing again. CPA firms are hiring again… continually seeking top talent (they want your people!). CPA firms are offering services in different ways than they have ever done in the past. CPA firms are investing in niches and becoming well-known for their expertise.

If you are slow to embrace current trends and to make necessary changes, this excerpt from a Seth Godin blog post might apply to you very soon:

“The thing is: failure almost always arrives in a whimper. It is almost always the result of missed opportunities, a series of bad choices and the rust that comes from things gradually getting worse.”

  • Desire is what takes the hot water of mediocrity and turns it into the steam of outstanding success.
  • Zig Ziglar

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Don’t Be Afraid Of Change

It is a time of significant and continual change within the CPA profession.

Some firms are embracing it and rocketing themselves, their firm and their clients into the evolving and rapidly changing business world. Some firms find much of the change they are facing to be very scary (and I don’t blame them). Fear is often a prohibitive factor in the evolution of many firms.

Business owners and individuals need help. They need the advice and counsel of savvy financial professionals to help them navigate the sometimes dangerous financial waters. If your firm is not prepared to provide that advice and counsel, they will find it elsewhere. Simple as that.

Your clients and potential clients need a financial service provider that can grow with them and provide peace of mind.

Like many of you, I DVR’d the new Ken Burns’ documentary, The Roosevelts and have been watching it over the last couple of weeks. Last night we watched the final segment. I have always been a history buff, but I learned so much that I did not know about all three Roosevelts featured.

I have often used quotations (you know how I love quotations) by Eleanor Roosevelt. But one quote they used near the end of the documentary, that I had not read before, caused me to think of all of you – Certified Public Accountants, who are embracing change, conquering it and capitalizing on the excitement of change.

That quote is below.

  • Courage is more exhilarating than fear.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Communicating Your Firm Values

Several years ago, almost every CPA firm went through an exercise to pinpoint their firm values, what the believed in when it came to practicing public accounting.

Seems like this is becoming a thing of the past. After doing some browsing, I found that the larger, more well-known firms don’t even make a statement about values on their website. When I did find them stated they were very similar:

Passion, Respect, Integrity, Teamwork, Excellence, Community – - these words show up over and over as accounting firm value statements.

There is something on Slideshare from Netflix, called Netflix Culture.  The following slides contain a message that I think is meaningful when it comes to the values you demonstrate.

Slide:  Many companies have nice sounding value statements displayed in the lobby, such as:

  • Integrity
  • Communication
  • Respect
  • Excellence

Slide: Enron, whose leaders went to jail, and which went bankrupt from fraud, had these values displayed in their lobby:

  • Integrity
  • Communication
  • Respect
  • Excellence

Slide: The actual company values, as opposed to the nice-sounding values, are shown by who gets rewarded, promoted or let go.

Slide: Actual company values are the behaviors and skills that are valued in fellow employees.

Check out the slideshow here.

  • Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.
  • Warren Buffett

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Better Client Service

HostetlerDustinLeanCPA-1023It just makes sense to me that the more efficient you are, the better service you can provide your clients. However, it is sometimes difficult for CPAs to get past the mindset that the faster you complete the engagement services the bigger the chance of doing something wrong.

Dustin Hostetler, the founder of Flowtivity and the lead consultant for Lean4CPAs by Flowtivity is a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt with extensive experience working inside a large regional CPA firm and has taken proven Lean techniques from the manufacturing floor and tailored them to bring value to public accounting firms.  Hostetler thoroughly addresses the issue of delivering better client service in a recent blog post and I wanted to share his remarks with all of you.

He notes two misconceptions about process improvement initiatives:

# 1 – You can’t be more efficient without negatively impacting quality

#2 – By undertaking a process improvement initiative, we could negatively be impacting our client service.

He explains client satisfaction via three different customer services “curves.” They are, Basic, Performance and Delighter services.

Read more about it here.


  • We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It's our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.
  • Jeff Bezos, CEO Amazon

Monday, September 8th, 2014

It’s My Passion

I’ve said it, have you? – - It’s my passion!

CPA firm management is something that I get excited about, want to learn more about, never tire of reading about…. always trying to improve.

Does your CPA firm and the profession of public accounting make you feel the same way? Sometimes, at first, we are truly excited and then as time goes on we seem to lose the magic.

If you ever feel like you are losing your passion for your work. If you feel like you are trying SO hard to make others in your firm feel the passion, read this post by Leadership Freak: 3 Ways To Bring The Dead To Life.

Do your team members seem to be going through the motions like the walking dead? Do they have empty eyes and hanging hands?

The post gives you 5 reasons why passion dies, how you kill passion and how to ignite passion.

I think you will enjoy the blog post and hopefully it will inspire some action steps for you to take.

  • Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.
  • Theodore Roosevelt

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Your Employees Are Interested In The Financials

Share infoI read one of Harvard Business Reviews (HBR) management tips that reminded me of an issue that I haven’t seen many CPA firms address.

Here’s the title (follow the link to read the entire Tip):

Engage Employees by Sharing Your Financials

“Why are owners more engaged in the business? It’s not just because they’re in charge; it’s because they’re players in the game – they know the rules, they make decisions, and they watch the numbers (score).”

The topic of sharing financial information has often been discussed in CPA management circles. I have talked to firms that share all financial information with some team members (usually not ALL team members), but they steer away from how profitable the firm is and how much the owners actually make.

Would your firm’s top talent want to work hard and become a partner in a firm where the owners make $145,000, or would they prefer to work very hard and become a partner in a firm where the owners make $545,000?

Share more information with your team. At least give them some key financial numbers to track firm success over a period of time. They ARE interested.

  • The entrepreneur builds an enterprise; the technician builds a job.
  • Michael Gerber

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

They Called Him “Fearless Leader”

JulyAugust 025You are the managing partners of a CPA firm. You are the PIC (partner-in-charge) of audit, tax, consulting or an office of the firm. You are a firm administrator. What do they call you? Don’t you ever wonder what they call you behind your back? Do they say you are a good boss?

You might think Steve Jobs was a fearless leader yet he’s described as egotistical and abrasive. Not exactly in line with the title: Good Boss

Jim Henson, on the other hand, by all reports was a Good Boss (and yes, his employees called him “fearless leader”).

  • His former employees say working for him was the best job they ever had.
  • His son, Brian Henson, says: He taught me to identify a person’s talent, nurture that talent, and encourage them to look to themselves for a solution.
  • His agent says Henson rarely spoke above a whisper.
  • His wife says he was so patient that she sometimes wanted to kick him!
  • He was a good listener, accepted ideas from others and used them.
  • If he thought something hadn’t been done well, he would never say that… he would say, “Hey, I wonder if we just should try…..”

A good boss, like a good teacher, empowers their employees. This is easy to say and very hard to actually do. Most of us have egos that get in the way.

As for Henson, no one ever saw him angry. Far from lazy, he worked harder than anyone in his company. He rarely slept. He was not fearful. Never afraid to try something new.

Instead of miserly. Henson was generous, going well over budget in order to give others the time and space to create.

I routinely encounter accounting firm leaders who are miserly (only spend CPE dollars on technical education, won’t send their firm administrator to a conference that could bring huge pay-back to the firm, won’t spend any education/training dollars on their administrative team and support team, etc.).

Read the full article about Henson on Fast Company. It contains so much information to absorb and contemplate. How do you stack up?

  • Please watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody. It's a good life, enjoy it.
  • Jim Henson

Friday, August 1st, 2014

CPA Partner Conversations And Communications

Official_Portrait_of_President_Reagan_1981This is one of those “my observation and on my mind” type posts.

I find that most CPAs are not what you would call great communicators. Those of you old enough might remember that Ronald Reagan was known as “The Great Communicator.” Why?

He used folksy anecdotes that ordinary people could understand – - - (Do you keep it simple for your clients and you inexperienced team members?)

He had a gift for optimism – - - (Is there too much, “the sky is falling” vibes inside your firm?)

He always spoke of the future – - - (Are you asking too many questions like why didn’t we hit our chargeable hour goals last month?)

Although he was an older man, he spoke to a younger generation – - - (Have you learned the art of sucking down, managing by wandering around and so on?)

He exuded a sense of country – - - (Are you proud of and very passionate about the brand and image of your firm?)

It was not that Reagan was in America, America was inside of Reagan – - - (Is your firm more than just you? Have you built a lasting organization?)

Reagan was known for talking about substance but he kept his message basic and simple. Keep in mind that your clients and your team members are not all as experienced as you.

I love some of the famous Reagan quotations. Here’s an example:

  • I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of national emergency, even if I'm in a cabinet meeting.
  • Ronald Reagan