Archive for the ‘Process’ Category

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

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