Archive for the ‘Partner topics’ Category

Monday, December 18th, 2017

Frustrated With The Annual Performance Review?

“Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change.” – Tom Peters

I am so pleased to be part of the lead article for the December issue of the Journal of Accountancy. The article is by Anna Reitman.

It is titled: Want to jettison the annual performance review? – Here’s how some organizations are making the change.

As I have often stated, in many CPA firms, the reviewers and those being reviewed have come to dread the annual ordeal. This article examines changes that firms have made, the pitfalls they have encountered, and the results of their efforts.

I hope you find it helpful if your firm is considering making a change. Contact me if you need help.

 

  • I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.
  • Elon Musk

Friday, December 15th, 2017

It’s Not a Time For Procrastination

Procrastination under the guise of preparation is stagnation. – Dan Rockwell

Certified Public Accountants working in public practice are known for their very well-developed procrastination skills.

Sometimes, entire partner groups seem to become frozen in time.

It probably would seem strange to outsiders, but some of it comes from success. We’ve worked hard. We’ve done well. We are making great money. Our clients are happy. Let’s cruise for a while! We will think about “those” issues and address them next year.

Firms with that mentality (and there are a lot of them), will not find their way into the future. 2018 could be a key turning point, or not, for many smaller firms.

Plan now to make 2018 an action year.

  • The really happy people are those who have broken the chains of procrastination, those who find satisfaction in doing the job at hand. They're full of eagerness, zest, productivity. You can be, too.
  • Norman Vincent Peale

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

It Won’t Be The Same Tomorrow

“Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.” – Arnold Bennett

If you are retirement age, working in a CPA firm, it might be a good time to actually retire.

Here’s an informative, brief blog titled, “What is an Accountant? It Won’t be the Same Tomorrow” by Todd Cheney.

So much of what you have done (or supervised) during your professional life will be done by automation. Young people will need to be equipped to do consulting work much sooner. Almost half of your new hires won’t be accountants. Very soon – NOT the distant future – you will have to change your work skills drastically.

But, there is such opportunity if you are will to invest in drastic change. Mark Belfance, a Managing Partner at the accounting titan EY, sees it as a positive for both clients and employees. “When you take away the mundane, we get the opportunity to give our people differentiated experiences and they become those business advisors sooner. That’s what our clients want.”

If you struggle with accepting change and if you and your firm are really good at the mundane, it’s a rocky road ahead.

  • Action is the foundational key to all success.
  • Pablo Picasso

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

Maybe You Are Lazy

“I can’t relate to lazy people. We don’t speak the same language. I don’t understand you. I don’t want to understand you.” – Kolbe Bryant

I often refer to Seth Godin and some of his amazing blog posts. I hope you are following him, too.

Today, he posted about “modern laziness.” I have observed modern laziness inside so many CPA firms. I bet you have, too!

From Godin: “The original kind of lazy avoids hard physical work. Too lazy to dig a ditch, organize a warehouse or clean the garage. Modern lazy avoids emotional labor.”

As a team member in a CPA firm:

  • During a training session, do you refrain from raising your hand and asking a question? Do you wait on someone else to ask?
  • Do you follow what was done last year (SALY) on a client engagement rather than discuss with your supervisor something that confuses or puzzles you?

As a CPA firm leader:

  • Do you dodge those tough phone calls from clients about their recent invoice?
  • Do you hide out in your office and hope no one bothers you with questions?
  • Do you ask someone else to discuss an issue of poor performance with a team member rather than doing it yourself?

These are the kinds of things that require emotional labor. To me, it falls under the category of Emotional Intelligence. Accountants have a reputation of NOT having it!

Whether your are a recent accounting graduate or a long-term partner in an accounting firm, work on your EQ and don’t be lazy!

  • People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals - that is, goals that do not inspire them.
  • Tony Robbins

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

What’s Ahead For 2018

“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.” – Neil Armstrong

As the new year approaches, Accounting Today asked a panel of industry thought leaders and experts to paint a picture of what accountants can expect from the next 12 months in terms of important trends, big surprises and key initiatives to undertake.  

Thanks to Dan Hood and Accounting Today for including me in this group of thought leaders!

The question: What trends should accountants keep an eye out for in 2018? 

Read the entire article here with my comments and great insights from: Jim Boomer, Angie Grissom, Steve Mankowski, Erik Asgeirsson, Gary Bolinger, and Joel Sinkin.

  • There's always something in the game you wish you would have done different. That's why players improve, because they learn from what they did before. They might have been guessing before, but now they know.
  • Gordie Howe

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

Programs to Advance Women to Leadership Roles in CPA Firms Seen as Bolstering Talent Acquisition, Survey Finds

“Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.” – Marilyn Monroe

Here’s a recent press release from the AICPA. Since “women in accounting” are very important to me, I wanted to be sure to share this with my readers. I have bolded some points that were important to me.

CHICAGO (Nov. 9, 2017) – U.S. CPA firms that use advancement programs for promoting women to leadership positions overwhelmingly view them as effective tools in recruiting and retaining talent, according to new research by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).

Mentorship is by far the most popular advancement program, with 45 percent of firms using it, the 2017 CPA Firm Gender Survey found. Sponsorship, in which influential firm leaders take a more formal role in guiding promising employees to career opportunities, professional development and promotions, is used by 12 percent of firms.

“There are two important takeaways here: 1) firms that use these programs have seen a beneficial impact on attracting and retaining talent,” said Melissa K. Hooley, CPA, CGMA, chair of the AICPA Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee. “And 2) firms that are taking active steps to promote women and minorities likely will have a competitive advantage when it comes to securing talent.”

Advancement Program

Percentage of Firms Using It

Of That Group, Those Who Say It Has an Impact on Attracting or Retaining Talent

Mentoring

45%

87%

Sponsorship

12%

97%

Gender Initiative

11%

85%

Minority Initiative

2%

90%

Combined Diversity & Inclusion

6%

90%

Women comprise nearly half of all accounting graduates entering the profession, but remain underrepresented at the partnership level and other leadership positions. The survey shows little change in this area from studies done in years past, which have typically found less than one-quarter of the partnership ranks made up of women. As was the case two years ago – the last time the CPA Firm Gender Survey was conducted – the percentage of women partners was found to be highest at smaller firms.

Firm Size

Percentage of Women Partners

Two to 10 CPAs

42% (43%*)

11 to 20 CPAs

30% (39%)

21 to 99 CPAs

26% (27%)

100+ CPAs

21% (20%)

*Results in parentheses from 2015 CPA Firm Gender Survey

Among other findings of the survey:

  • An analysis of job titles found that women maintained parity or better with men in CPA firms through the senior manager level, after which the ratio declines
  • The larger the firm, the greater the gender gap in equity ownership
  • Only 47 percent of firms have a succession plan and only two percent have a formal gender component in those plans
  • Some 89 percent of firms say they have instituted some form of modified work arrangements, with flextime and reduced hours being the most prevalent

Survey methodology:  The CPA Firm Gender Survey was conducted online by MKTG Incorporated for the AICPA’s Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee from Aug. 3 to Sept. 11, 2017. Some 492 qualified respondents, drawn from CPA firms of varying sizes and regions within the United States, participated.

For more information about gender initiatives and other resources, visit aicpa.org/womenlead.

  • Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, “She doesn’t have what it takes.” They will say, “Women don’t have what it takes”
  • Clare Boothe Luce

Friday, November 10th, 2017

Level 5 Leaders

“The purpose of bureaucracy is to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline.” – Jim Collins

I certainly hope, by now, you have all read Good to Great by Jim Collins. In it he introduced us to the concept of Level 5 leaders. He found that truly great companies had what he coined as Level 5 leaders.

Level 5 leaders have humility. They don’t seek success for their own recognition. They see success as necessary so that the team and the firm can thrive. Level 5 leaders share credit for success and accept blame for failures.

Something interesting to me is that Collins found that these Level 5 leaders were often shy but fearless when it came to making decisions. Level 5 leaders possess fierce resolve with personal humility. That’s something rare to find when considering your next managing partner!

The Level 5 leaders also have the the skills of the other 4 levels of leadership. Here’s a link to a short video from HBR that explains Level 5 leadership.

  • Great vision without great people is irrelevant.
  • Jim Collins

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

Cheating

“I would prefer even to fail with honor than win by cheating.” – Sophocles

A headline via Fast Company caused me to ponder a familiar situation in an accounting firm. The headline – Is Your Workplace Encouraging Employees To Cheat?

Here’s the lead in paragraph:

Your company prides itself on having a culture of high performers who thrive under pressure. But could that very culture be encouraging employees to cheat?

Leaders of CPA firms, I ask you that question.

Think about it, if you reward the way many firms have rewarded employees for years, they are probably cheating. Of course, in the CPA world we don’t come right out and call it cheating.

If you reward for chargeable hours, they will give you more chargeable hours. (They record more hours than it actually takes them to complete the client work.)

If you reward for improved realization, they will give you improved realization. (They record fewer hours than it takes them to complete the client work.)

The result is that you never have a real picture of the effort (and time) it takes to complete a client’s engagement. On top of that, your employees are really uncomfortable and feel pressure to give you what you want.

It’s a common issue. The solution is to become better managers of our people. If you do still bill based on time (and many of you do), Ask for honesty and lighten up on the pressure.

  • In athletics there's always been a willingness to cheat if it looks like you're not cheating. I think that's just a quirk of human nature.
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

Make A Commitment

“If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.” – Jeff Bezos

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, here is an example of a Mutual Commitment Statement that I often share. Simply customize it to fit your firm.

Our Mutual Commitment Statement

I, Sally Partner, and the entire team at (name of firm) want your experience with us to be the best it can be.  We offer the following commitments to you:

  • You will be respected and never taken for granted.
  • We will act with integrity, honesty and openness in everything we do for you and with you.
  • We will absolutely respect the confidentiality of our working relationship with you.
  • We will return phone calls and answer email within 24 hours.
  • We will meet the deadlines we set. In the case of circumstances beyond our control, we will notify you and discuss with you immediately.
  • Our services will rarely, if ever, be the least expensive. They will, though, always be of exceptional quality and designed to help you obtain significant value.
  • You have the right to know our fee structure in advance of any engagement.
  • You are the sole judge of our performance. If anything we do falls short of your expectations, we – without question – will respect your right to simply pay for whatever you feel the service was worth.

To facilitate our efforts in providing the highest level of service, we ask the following of you.

  • You will be open, frank and honest with us at all times. You will let us know immediately of any concerns you have about our work together.
  • You will give us all the information we need to complete our assignments.
  • You will meet mutually agreed upon deadlines. In the case of circumstances beyond your control, you will notify us immediately of the situation.
  • You will pay our fees per our engagement letter. If you cannot pay, you will call and talk to us immediately.
  • You will give consideration to referring us to at least one other business that might benefit from our services.

 

  • If you take care of your people, your people will take care of your customers and your business will take care of itself.
  • JW Marriott

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

Fear and Trust

 “The glue that holds all relationships together–including the relationship between the leader and the led–is trust, and trust is based on integrity.” –Brian Tracy

Some accounting firms continue to have an under-current of fear running through their culture. Many team members fear that if they provide their true feelings about the partners there will be repercussions.

The partners say, as a group, that there will never be negative repercussions if a team member provides honest feedback. Yet, people still fear that individual partners do not necessarily buy into that position.

Some accounting firms have purposely moved their culture, over time, to one of trust. Partners trust their team members to do good work. Team members trust that partners keep their word.

If your firm needs to move toward a culture of trust, begin now. Review your policies and determine if some of them are still old-school, making team members feel the lack of trust. Get people involved in the process and make the changes that need to be made. Trust is built and maintained by many small actions over a period of time – take baby steps if you must!

  • It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.
  • Warren Buffett