Archive for the ‘Process’ Category

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

Practice Management Software

“The perfect is the enemy of the good.” – Voltaire

I often receive questions about the pros and cons of practice management software. Which one should we be using? Is one better than the rest? What’s the best one for a small firm? What’s the best one for a large firm?

Recently, Accounting Today published A Comparison Guide To Vendors’ Offerings.

Per the article accompanying the Guide…. Looking at the accompanying comparison chart, you will notice that different vendors have taken very different approaches with their application. That’s a good thing, as it offers a wider variety of capabilities that will hopefully sync up with your firm’s needs without providing lots of unneeded functionality.

You will find the article here and from it you can access the Comparison Guide.

  • No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can't produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.
  • Warren Buffett

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Show Appreciation by Utilizing Stay Interviews

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving forward.” – Albert Einstein

Some accounting firms have been utilizing stay interviews for a while. However, I have observed that there are still many firms that haven’t embraced this excellent tool.

Anytime you devote individualized attention to one of your team members, asking them for advice and feedback, it’s a positive exercise for both sides – management and staff.

Elizabeth (Bitsy) Watson, PHR, the HR Manager for Mahoney, Ulbrich, Christiansen & Russ shared the process they use for stay interviews. It would be a good best practice for you to emulate. Her comments follow:

BitsyWe started out with results from our recent engagement survey and identified about five areas where we wanted more insight, such as, if we felt our scores for recognition could be stronger or we wanted more insights into what aspects of compensation were most important to staff.

We then came up with some questions related to these areas and others (about 10 total). A few examples were:

  • What types of recognition are most meaningful to you?
  • What opportunities for development would you like that you may not be getting?
  • What type of work do you find most motivating or interesting?
  • Of the compensation and benefits we offer, what aspects are most important to you and what could be improved in this area?

We used a representative sample of our employees to participate in the stay interviews. I kept the names confidential. After the meetings were completed, our next steps were to summarize the overall themes and share the summary with the partners, not sharing names. I also included three recommendations for changes or new programs to implement. We’ll then share these new initiatives with the interview group. We want them to know that we really valued their opinions.

I tried to be as transparent as possible with everyone involved on what we were trying to accomplish and how valuable their feedback is. We received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from the interviewees. They mentioned feeling like it was helpful to have a channel to be asked questions they might never have been asked. I think the most interesting thing that came from this was bringing to light some wrong assumptions we, as management, had been making.

Our plan is to do this annually utilizing a different group of employees each year.

  • Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
  • Thomas Edison

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Be Efficient With Your Email

“I’m really good at email.” – Elon Musk

It’s that old devil – the inbox! So many accounting firm citizens, from all levels inside the firm, lament how difficult it is to keep up with emails.

I have even heard partners talk about the number of emails they received in almost a bragging tone! “I get 100 emails a day!” “Well, I get almost 200!”

Don’t let email run your daily life. Don’t make it your default, open page on your desk top. Don’t feel compelled to reply immediately.

I have read lots of articles about how to deal with email and have shared several on this blog. I also practice what I learn! I do not continually check my email. I close my email window when I am getting real work done, etc.

AnthonyThis week I read a post by S. Anthony Iannarino, speaker and author about how he processes his email. I think you will find it very helpful.

He does not live in his inbox.

He works in 90 minute segments (without checking email).

He does a quick scan for anything urgent (that’s your challenge… what is urgent and what really isn’t urgent?)

There are really not very many emails that actually need an IMMEDIATE response. If you have one, then respond to it.

Every Wednesday morning he processes his email (he has five inboxes) and gets them all to zero.

I think you will enjoy reading his helpful, brief blog post. If you can’t give all of his tips a try at least try a few of his recommended actions.

If I let myself, I could sit and process email continually all day long! My method is to check email first thing in the morning, around noon and then again late afternoon. I rarely look at email after 5:00pm. My clients have top priority. I answer their emails first (but not always immediately).

Commit to a new practice for handling email and making your day more productive.

When you visit Anthony’s site, you might also learn some things to help with sales, after all Anthony’s site is thesalesblog.com.  And he has a book titled The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need. 

  • The perfect is the enemy of the good.
  • Voltaire

Monday, February 13th, 2017

“Do As I Say” Does Not Work

“Example is leadership.” – Albert Schweitzer

Your firm management group (includes partners, managers, and the firm administrator) works hard at defining and establishing the procedures that most efficiently enable the firm to provide excellent client service.

Your HR professional or firm administrator spends a significant amount of time and effort to update the firm handbook, the one that outlines the expected behaviors of all people working at the firm. It is approved by all partners.

You have job descriptions that document the duties of all levels of employees, including partners, at the firm.

At a staff meeting, the managing partner, speaking on behalf of all partners, explains a new policy or procedure and asks for everyone to get on board with implementation.

Do as I sayAll of this can be summed up as “Do as I say.” Then….

A couple of partners and a manager short-cut some of the documented processes or procedures.

Several leaders openly disregard a certain topic in the personnel handbook.

As far as job descriptions, we often find partners doing manager work and managers doing senior work.

Several partners procrastinate on visibly implementing the “new” procedure.

All of this completes the familiar saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

This phrase should not be part of your firm culture. The leaders’ actions are obvious to the employees and probably an on-going topic of conversation or even ridicule. What can you do about it now? What more can you do after April 15? Think about it.

  • A person always doing his or her best becomes a natural leader, just by example.
  • Joe DiMaggio

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

Keep Fighting That Procrastination Habit

“Last year I joined a support group for procrastinators. We haven’t met yet.”

When I am speaking to CPA firm groups, I like to tell the story of the classic procrastination scenario inside of a busy CPA firm. It goes something like this:

It’s tax season, we can’t possibly take the time to update our performance feedback process. It’s April 16, we desperately need time to recover from tax season. I call this the after-tax-season coma that you are in for about two to four weeks. It’s late May, early June, we can’t possibly work on the performance system because it is time to begin this year’s reviews. Our process will last at least through July. It’s August, too many people are on vacation. It’s September, we have extensions. It’s October, we have extensions. It’s December, we have tax planning appointments. So, that means you have November to catch-up on all the initiatives and projects you have talked about for years.

Any of this sound familiar? Don’t procrastinate this year begin NOW. Take it in small steps and just keep moving forward with your initiatives even is you have a lot of various excuses not to.

  • A year from now you may wish you had started today.
  • Karen Lamb

Monday, January 16th, 2017

Focus On Your Destination

“You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.” – Jim Rohn

Think about this meaningful quote from Jim Rohn. Can you see how it applies to you and how you go about improving and growing your accounting firm?

For example, you finally agree that you need to be TRULY paperless and become a digital firm. – – That’s the destination.

You work with your people to develop a roadmap on how to get there. You start down that road. Something happens (I won’t use the other “S” word), but things do happen. You get delayed, you encounter an unexpected obstacle. Some of the things you planned don’t work well.

By all means, change your approach. Learn from those who have gone before you and adopt some different ways to arrive at your destination.

But, do not give up. Keep focused on results and reach your destination.

Then set a new destination!

  • I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.
  • Jimmy Dean

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

For Your CPA Firm & For Your Clients – Take Sexual Harassment Seriously

“Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.” – George Washington

Well-managed CPA firms got the sexual harassment message a long time ago. But, have you continually educated your new team members and your long-time team members about the importance of a sexual harassment policy and how it works?

Your CPAs are advising your small business clients on many topics and making them aware of the need for a sexual harassment policy should be one of those topics.

david-lewis-headshotSometimes small businesses (like CPA firms and their clients) have a very casual, almost collegiate culture. There is nothing casual about sexual harassment.

David Lewis, President/CEO of OperationsInc, one of the Northeast’s largest Human Resources Outsourcing and Consulting firms, was recently interviewed about sexual harassment policies on MSNBC.

Lewis suggests:

  • Start with awareness and training.
  • Adopt a policy and be sure it is well communicated.
  • Be sure your people understand what sexual harassment is and what is suppose to happen if it occurs.
  • Always follow your policy.

Address sexual harassment before it occurs and you must adopt a zero tolerance policy. Many small businesses don’t want to upset their casual culture and try to ease into some sort of sexual harassment policy. There is no easing in – no middle ground. Let everyone know that going forward there will be zero tolerance for sexual harassment.

If you have a policy and don’t follow it, it is a killer – lawyers love it.

Watch the brief, informative interview here.

  • Be civil to all, sociable to many, familiar with few, friend to one, enemy to none.
  • Benjamin Franklin

Friday, December 9th, 2016

The Importance With Setting A Good Example

Over the years I have observed that many accountants, as they move up the ladder inside growing CPA firms, actually believe that once they become a partner, they will have it made.

As a partner, they will be able to do what they want and will not have to experience those horrible performance evaluations and goal setting sessions.

Maybe this viewpoint applied in the “old” days and perhaps inside some firms it still appears that partners have the privilege of doing things their own way and not being held accountable for following firm processes and procedures.

Inside the best firms, this is no longer the case. Partners hold the weight of the entire firm, it’s clients, it’s people and their families on their shoulders.

maister

 

 

Inside the best firms, the managing partner coaches the other partners. They receive performance feedback, and they are expected to set goals and achieve them every year. In these firms, there are consequences for poor partner performance.

 

dynamosRemember, inside your firm, per David Maister, you have two types of partners.Which one are you?

If you are a partner, which one are you?

If you work for partners, you might be able to divide them into these two categories.

  • Things work out the best for those who make the best of how things work out.
  • John Wooden

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

Smaller Firms

“To this day, I don’t like people walking on stage not looking good. You have to look good. If you feel special about yourself then you’re going to play special.” – Benny Goodman

Are you a smaller firm or are you looking for one to acquire?

Here’s something to think about from the recent AICPA Private Companies Practice Section and Succession Institute LLC survey:

Considering that our profession has roughly 44,000 firms, with about 600 having 21 professionals or more, we believe that the merger market for small firms is about to heat up in the short term, and the marketplace is likely to get very soft towards the end of that five-year period because of the increase in the number of firms in play.

If you think you will “merge up” when the time comes, you better get your house in order.

I have the good fortune to work with many smaller firms and these firms are focused on streamlining processes, training, technology and profitability no matter if they intend to remain independent or are preparing to merge up.

  • No matter how great the talent or efforts, somethings just take time. You can't produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.
  • Warren Buffett

Monday, November 28th, 2016

Let Your Admin Do the E-file Tracking

sample-form-8879Sometimes, inside busy CPA firms, partners and managers do too much of what the admin team should be doing (led by a qualified firm administrator).

Sometimes, inside busy CPA firms, if you have the right admin team, they can do so much more than mindless, routine duties.

If you do not have the right admin team, that’s your fault.

E-filing (and tracking the e-filing) is a great example. When it is their responsibility, they take it very seriously and are sticklers for following policy.

Here’s what some experienced firm administrators had to say when asked about their e-file tracking process:

Sarah Galley, Firm Administrator, Pohlman & Talmage CPAs, Inc.

Our admin is responsible for this process. They ensure we receive the signed 8879 forms back and then they file the returns. We track these using GoFileRoom. If we are having trouble getting an 8879 form back they track the client down. We try to keep the partner out of it.

Tammy Boring, Firm Administrator, Snyder & Company

Our admin staff does all of our e-filing of both returns & extensions. We use GoFileRoom, so all of our due date monitoring is done through there.

Karen Farino, Firm Administrator, Pasquesi Sheppard, LLC

Efiling the tax returns is done by the partner. Extensions are e-filed by partners and staff. Our admin staff releases tax returns to e-file once 8879s are received, then they check for the acceptance. Extensions are also checked by admin staff for acceptance. Everything is tracked in CCH Practice. We rely on the information in CCH and have never had a problem. We also check the e-file system for rejections and any returns that are in the e-file system but haven’t been released just to make sure.

  • Accuracy builds credibility.
  • Jim Rohn