Archive for the ‘Process’ Category
Monday, November 28th, 2016
Sometimes, 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.
Monday, November 14th, 2016
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.
Thursday, October 27th, 2016
“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
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.
Tuesday, August 16th, 2016
“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.
Monday, August 15th, 2016
“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.
Tuesday, July 26th, 2016
“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.
Friday, July 15th, 2016
“You seek too much information and not enough transformation.” – Sai Baba
Many CPA firms are struggling with change. It has been going on for years.
I am amazed by this because:
- Change is part of the character of a CPA firm.
- Change is forced upon CPAs all the time.
- The government forces changes on CPAs and they get educated and deal with it.
- CPAs eagerly attend CPE sessions to learn about the new tax “whatever” or to be absolutely positive that they understand the new audit “whatever.”
- So, why do so many lag behind when it comes to internal changes that can make the firm more profitable and competitive in the future?
Now is not the time for making small changes to how your firm operates. It is not the time to defend your daily routine by thinking what you have been doing has worked for years so why change.
Time is running out. More and more of your experienced leaders are nearing retirement. The firm will be forced to address trying to pass the firm down to the next generation or to merge-up in the hopes of solving the problem more quickly.
It’s not time for simple change. It is time for major TRANSFORMATION. Because your firm will not be attractive to people within your firm or to the acquiring firms if you don’t transform your firm.
From the market’s viewpoint all CPA firms look a lot alike. They offer tax, accounting and auditing services. As Seth Godin puts it, “You can buy this from anyone and we’re anyone.”
Don’t just be an “anyone” firm!
It’s Friday. It’s July. Summer is passing by quickly. Think about it this weekend and take proactive steps on Monday to begin your transformation process. Let me know if I can help.
Nothing happens until the pain of remaining the same outweighs the pain of change.
Monday, July 11th, 2016
Some of you remember when we had a physical “In” and “Out” box on our desk. The daily U.S.Mail would land in our inbox along with various client “jobs” that were flowing through our office and perhaps memos from other people in the office.
We would go through the inbox a few times a day and throw some stuff away. We would write someone’s name on some other items and place it in our outbox. An admin person was the culprit for putting stuff in our inbox and the hero for taking things away from out outbox.
The time management killer was when we put something from the inbox into a “I’ll deal with this later” stack of papers, mail, memos, etc. sitting on another corner on our desk. This stack had a life…. it grew. Much of it was important stuff that we intended to deal with later. We would periodically go through the stack and maybe deal with one or two things. Sometimes, important things would eventually make their way to the bottom of the stack to be discovered days (or weeks or months) later.
This same process has evolved with our current, digital in-box usually called email in a CPA firm. Many accountants use their email as a to-do list and some things are “touched” (read) many times before we actually deal with it!
To help remedy this productivity killer years ago, I learned the TIO method (touch it once) in a time management course. Do it. Delegate it. Trash it.
Do it does not mean you have to do it completely right at that moment. The point is to decide immediately how it will be handled. With our tech tools today, it could mean adding it to our Task List.
Again, the point is…. decide right away how the email should be handled. Do not re-read it later in the day, the next day, the next week, etc.
Because the mail never stops. It just keeps coming and coming and coming. There's never a letup. It's relentless.
Newman (on Seinfeld)
Wednesday, June 15th, 2016
“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” – Albert Einstein
Have you been thinking of launching a new service? Have you been thinking of how to better serve your clients via cloud accounting? I have observed that many CPA firm leaders are debating these topics during their partner meetings and management retreats.
Sarah Johnson Dobek of Inovautus Consulting posted a great feature story recently about how one firm launched a service around cloud accounting.
- Clients were requesting better access to their books in real-time with mobility.
- The old desktop versions of accounting software were a problem.
- The firm wanted to offer more non-traditional services.
- The growth has been higher than any other area of the firm.
- The workflow is different than traditional tax and audit services.
- Required a change in the pricing model.
- Launching a new service can be daunting – develop a plan.
- Be prepared for some things to not go as planned.
- It always takes longer than you expect.
- Define what success looks like.
Read this entire interesting story about launching a new service via Inovautus, here.
The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.
Ralph Waldo Emerson