Archive for the ‘Process’ Category

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

Monday, November 14th, 2016

Commitment

Duty is what one expects from others; it is not what one does one’s self. – Oscar Wilde

When I read the above quotation by Oscar Wilde, I immediately thought of accounting firm partners and their behavior after participating in a partner planning retreat.

Think about how you felt immediately after your last retreat. Fall is a busy time for me and I have been involved in several of these beneficial planning sessions. Usually, during the wrap-up conversations partners and other attendees feel relieved, enthused, optimistic even happy. How long does that last?

You return to the office and there are voice messages and emails that need attention. There are team members awaiting your return so they can ask questions or obtain your opinion and there are family and other personal commitments you must meet. That is why I strongly urge you to develop specific action steps that will help you accomplish the FEW important initiatives identified at your planning retreat.

Everything is changing so rapidly that it is difficult to really comprehend what your firm will need to do two years from now. To keep your firm moving forward, identify two or three initiatives, document the steps it takes to accomplish each one and commit to getting them accomplished in 12 to 18 months.

It is each participant’s duty to actively participate. See the quotation below. If you don’t commit, there are only promises and hopes, but no plans.

  • Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.
  • Peter Drucker

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

Friday, October 14th, 2016

You Were Salary, Now You Are Hourly

I imagine you have read a lot about the U.S. Department of Labor ruling that changed the overtime rules under the FLSA. The new rules go into effect on December 1, 2016.

I also imagine you have already been preparing to deal with this issue inside your accounting firm.

When it comes to converting a salaried individual to hourly status, it’s often a very sensitive area. I have heard and read, over and over again, that many people truly feel like it is a demotion.

I can remember when I first became a salaried employee. I thought I had “made it!” Over my many years of supervisory responsibility, I had numerous individuals plead with me to be put on salary. It has become somewhat of a status symbol in the workplace.

Sharlyn Lauby (HR Bartender) notes, “I know employees will not like this decision. Many organizations don’t like it either. But we have to follow the law.”

Read this blog post by Lauby, I think you will find it familiar and helpful.

 

  • How an employee is paid doesn't change their value to the organization.
  • Sharlyn Lauby

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

Unappreciated, Low-Value Work

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

I have coached many managing partners and firm administrators, the two people usually charged with “running” the firm properly.

I have often found that they try very hard, almost desperately hard, to please others. Often they end up doing many tasks that no one really appreciates or even needs.

“I run so many month-end reports out of our practice management system and I doubt if anyone even looks at them,” a statement I have heard from multiple firm administrators over the years. Do you wonder if your partners look at the month-end, miscellaneous reports you furnish them?

Simply stop producing reports that you think no one looks at. The sad thing that usually happens is that no one even notices you stopped producing the reports!

You can also develop a one-page recap of important KPIs at the end of the month and eliminate furnishing all the detailed reports.

This also applies to all the individual tax organizers you might still be printing and mailing (I hope you aren’t still doing this but….). The organizer comes back to you, unopened, with their year-end paper documents. Consider establishing a rule that only clients that ask for (or opt-in for) a printed organizer will receive one. The default is “no organizer.”

If you want to work at a higher level and take on more important work with more responsibility, get rid of the “busy work” no one cares about.

  • If you want to conquer fear, don't sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.
  • Dale Carnegie.

Monday, August 15th, 2016

Beginners Do Appreciate Review Notes

“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.” – Frank A. Clark

One of the services I provide to CPA firms is facilitating upward feedback surveys. I usually begin by conducting an upward feedback survey for partners in a firm. Then most of my clients continue on with asking for feedback on managers and supervisors.

One of the interesting things these surveys disclose is that people beginning their career in public accounting value review notes that are expertly communicated in an educational manner.

Many respondents, from many firms, have mentioned that a particular boss (partner, manager or supervisor) provides excellent review notes and often go on to describe how helpful the review notes are and how they learn from them.

Don’t think that this is the entire story! Many respondents, from many firms, also don’t hesitate to mention when a particular boss does not provide clear and concise (and helpful) review notes.

Review notes are such a common practice inside busy firms that we sometimes don’t even think about how helpful it would be if the firm had some sort of standard for writing review notes. If your firm has documented guidelines for writing review notes, maybe you would be open to sharing them with me via email.

One firm, when staff noted that sometimes review notes seemed harsh, actually changed the name of their Review Notes to Learning Points.

Also, don’t forget that people like some verbal feedback to go along with the written review notes.

  • 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

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

Digital Tools Are Part Of Onboarding

“The future depends on what you do today.” – Gandhi

It’s a new world and if you are not keeping pace, your new hires will notice immediately.

It is also a digital world and online activities and resources are such an important part of your firm. Keep this in mind as you overhaul your orientation process. Orientation has evolved into onboarding and onboarding is a process that can last up to a year or more.

I believe that first impressions STILL make a difference in how you are perceived. I always stress this with students aiming to make accounting their career.

While a prospective employee strives to make a good first impression, the firm is also being viewed with a magnifying glass. Be aware of the first impression your firm is making with prospects. I still hear horror stories of new hires arriving on their first day and it seems like almost a surprise. Their cubicle is not ready, they have no computer, etc.

To move from orientation to onboarding, begin with automating all of the initial paperwork. Most of it can be completed online before the new hire even arrives at the office.

Next, review what a new hire experiences in their first year. How can you make it more enriching? How can you convince the new hire that their career development is a top priority? You are probably doing many of the necessary things to help them succeed but you have not formalized it and communicated it very well.

Young professionals want to know immediately what their career path will look like and what it takes to succeed at the firm.

  • Share the steps involved for initial training.
  • Explain the formal CPE they will receive during the first year.
  • Communicate how the Guide, Coach, Mentor, and Sponsor Program works and what it means to them during the first year.
  • Provide an explanation of all of the firm’s services.
  • Explain how they will rotate through working in many types of service areas.
  • Explain how they will rotate working with a variety of people – partners and managers.
  • Provide them job descriptions for all levels of staff at the firm.

This is just a beginning list. Determine all of the activities, assignments, and learning experiences that a new hire will experience at your firm. Now is the time to rebrand from orientation to onboarding.

  • Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right.
  • Henry Ford