Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Monday, November 9th, 2015

Bad Meetings Are A Reflection Of Bad Leaders

Inside your accounting firm, do you think you have too many meetings? Are they pointless in the eyes of the attendees? Are they boring? Are they unproductive?

Patrick Lencioni (author of Death By Meeting), in his helpful article, urges you to Avoid Death By Meeting. I urge you to read it if you are the leader of your firm and even if you are not the leader, you, as a firm citizen, have influence in your firm. Make others aware that properly defining meetings is what leaders do.

Bad meetings are a reflection of bad leaders and they take a devastating toll on a firm’s success. Perhaps it’s time for your firm to transform meetings into something productive, focused and even energizing.

Lencioni contends that there are two basic problems. Meetings lack drama. Which means they are boring. And, most meetings lack context and purpose. They are a mixture of trivia, administration, strategy, meandering and lack of resolution.

To make meetings more engaging means you need to encourage the drama… the conflict that should exist.

Consider movies and TV shows. The first couple of minutes grab you attention so that you will continue to be engaged.

In your firm and partner meetings rather than putting the tough discussions off until later in the meeting, put them first. Wrestle with the tough issues first and you have a better chance of engaging your attendees.

Lencioni recommends four distinct meetings:

The Daily Check-in (10 minutes – an administrative type meeting to keep team members aligned).

The Weekly Tactical (known as the Staff Meeting – 30 to 60 minutes to quickly review priorities and then decide what should actually be discussed).

The Monthly Strategic – This is the appropriate place for partners to discuss the big issues. It is a time for debate, brainstorming and pursuit of topics that have a long-term impact the firm.

The Quarterly Off-Site Review – A time to step away from the firm and  reassess a variety of issues: team performance, company strategy, morale, competition, possible threats and industry trends.

Take a few minutes to read Lencioni’s helpful article and see how it can apply to your firm. There is no escaping some meetings. Make sure your meetings are lively, interesting and engaging.


  • While it is true that much of the time we currently spend in meetings is largely wasted, the solution is not to stop having meetings, but rather to make them better. Because when properly utilized, meetings are actually time savers.
  • Patrick Lencioni

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

Rita Keller Newsletter

Newsletter pictureAre you on my newsletter list? You can sign up here.

The October issue of my “Solutions For CPA Firm Leaders” newsletter was sent on Friday afternoon.

October featured the following articles:

  • The Difference Between A Managing Partner and A Leader
  • What Your Competition Is Doing To Recruit Top Talent
  • Young CPA Survey – Ask Your Team To Participate
  • Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.
  • Benjamin Franklin

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

The Difference Between Managing and Leading

ZMLBPIOGTDInside CPA firms, we usually call the person holding the highest leadership position the Managing Partner. I believe you need a Leading Partner rather than a Managing Partner.

There is a big difference between managing and leading. Think about it. Does the “President” of your accounting firm lead or manage….. or neither?

Be sure your managers are managing. Truthfully, most of your partners are managers or followers, not actually leaders.

In the field of CPA firm management, many are focused on doing what other firms are doing. Partners, COOs, firm administrators, IT managers and marketing directors go to conferences where they can learn something we call best practices. Then they return and try to convince the partner group to do it – whatever “it” happens to be.

The role of Leader is about identifying a direction for the firm – – specific for your firm and that can’t happen if you are imitating someone else’s best practice. You are not leading your are following.

Successful leaders create value and drive the firm toward something new. Many managing partners fall back on the usual solutions or quick fixes. They are reactive rather than proactive.

A great leader studies their own firm. A Leading Partner listens to everyone and spends time simply thinking. They read extensively and not just tax and audit updates – they read current events and a wide variety of books and novels. Reading sparks ideas!

Leave the managing to your COO/Firm Administrator. As of today, become the LP (leading partner)!

Read more about this topic from Mark Lukens on Fast Company, click here.


  • True leadership is specific, substantial, and sets its own course. If you want to truly lead, following familiar patterns is rarely ever enough.
  • Mark Lukens

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

That Time Of Year – Rosenberg Annual Survey

IMG_5827Just received my copy of the 17th Annual Edition of the Rosenberg Survey. It is one of the most popular and widely respected national surveys of CPA Firm Statistics.

Read more about it and order your copy here.

  • Be careful of reading health books. You may die of a misprint.
  • Mark Twain

Monday, September 21st, 2015

Accounting Dreams & Delusions by Kristen Rampe

FullSizeRenderMy friend, Kristen Rampe, has written a wonderful, light-hearted book about the CPA profession.

It’s titled, Accounting Dreams and Delusions – Scenes from professional paradise, and what really happens in the accounting industry.

When I received a copy in the mail, it made my day. It begins with, “you’ll never believe what my client said…” – continues with “And then my CPA said to me…” closes with “What she said….”. It will make you smile.

Here’s the trailer.

  • You can only be young once. But you can always be immature.
  • Dave Barry

Friday, August 21st, 2015

Clients See Accountants As Reactive Rather Than Proactive

drewRead a good article by Jeff Drew, a JofA senior editor on the JofA site: Competitive edge: The software vendors’ view.

For years we have been talking with practitioners about being proactive. Most tell us they are caught in the “reactive” trap because they are too busy to plan ahead. They are always putting out fires. Poor excuse.

Here’s an excerpt from the article.

Clients will be looking for help interpreting data and developing strategies for success—a view echoed in the most recent report by The Sleeter Group on what small and midsize businesses want from their CPAs, which found that the top reason clients leave their accounting firm is that it did not provide proactive advice. A recent poll of 393 small business leaders by hardware and software provider Wasp Barcode similarly showed that more than 4 in 10 complained that their accountants are more reactive than proactive.

  • You are what you do, not what you say you'll do.
  • Carl Jung

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Be Sure Your Firm Is Flying!

I read this quote in the Wright Brothers book and I thought of all of my CPA firm friends….

IMG_1568 - Version 2“Keep thy airspeed up, lest the earth come up and smite thee.” – William Kershner, pilot and author of numerous flight manuals between 1958 and 2002 that are regarded as “a must for any person learning to fly.

How are you doing at keeping your firm’s “airspeed” up? Some firms continually struggle with implementation. I almost always tell my audiences that what I am about to share with them is the same thing consultants have been sharing with them for about 20 years! There are some variations and of course some current trends but the basic concepts remain the same. Here are a few:

  • Treat your people well and they will take great care of your clients.
  • Hire the best, don’t settle for mediocre people. As Jack Welch says, “The team with the best players wins.”
  • Embrace change!
  • Embrace practice development (marketing, sales, building relationships).
  • Get rid of the bad apples (they ruin the whole barrel) – – applies to clients and staff.
  • Hold partners accountable.
  • Your admin team can make you or break you.
  • Try things! Do things! Take action!

I want your firm to feel the exhilaration of flight. I don’t want “the earth to come up and smite thee”.

  • More than anything else the sensation is one of perfect peace mingled with an excitement that strains every nerve to the utmost, if you can conceive of such a combination.
  • Wilbur Wright

Saturday, August 15th, 2015

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – Time For Something Off-Topic, Humorous Or Even Weird

This week’s “lighten-up” post is more of a reflective nature. I continuously urge you to READ, READ, READ.

It doesn’t have to be books specifically about business. I get much of my inspiration for my writing and speaking from brief passages I read in books of all genres. I read historical fiction, lots of mysteries, some contemporary horror (think Stephen King). Read some books that make you laugh. I cannot read Dave Barry on an airplane because I can’t help laughing out loud (people give you strange looks).

As for business, on the right-side of this page you can select a month from the archive. Go to May, 2013 – Beginning on Monday, May 20th I feature business books on a “book week” post.

IMG_5749I’ve just started reading The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. There was a lot of interesting local news coverage here in Dayton when McCullough was here to research and then launch the book. Here in Dayton we are very proud of the Wright Brothers and I have always been interested in their story. My husband and I have visited the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park many times, the Wright Brothers Memorial and walk weekly at Huffman Prairie.

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

In a speech years later Wilbur would remark that if he were to give a young man advice on how to get ahead in life, he would say, “Pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.”

The brothers were printers/publishers before they became aviators. They published a small community newspaper and selected items from other publications that they judged worthy of the readers’ attention such as “Encourage Your Boy” from Architect and Building News:

Do not wait for the boy to grow up before you begin to treat him as an equal. A proper amount of confidence, and words of encouragement and advice… give him to understand that you trust him in many ways, helps to make a man of him long before he is a man in either stature or years. If a boy finds he can make a few articles with his hands, it tends to make him rely on himself. And the planning that is necessary for the execution of the work is a discipline and an education of great value to him.

It is interesting how the above item, from the Wright Brothers’ newspaper published in 1889, applies to how you treat your young team members as they enter the profession of public accounting.

  • We were lucky enough to grow up in a environment where there was always much encouragement to children to pursue intellectual interests; to investigate what ever aroused curiosity.
  • Orville Wright

Monday, August 10th, 2015

No Email. No Meetings. No Managers. Maybe You Should Think About It?

I know that most CPAs firms live and die by email. Most CPA firms also have way too many meetings.

My mission is to bring you new ideas. Some are a slam-dunk. The idea makes sense to you, you discuss it and give it a try. Sometimes, magic happens!

Some ideas are more “out there” for CPAs (like an open office, no limit vacation policies, 3-word performance review systems and so on). Some are WAAAAAY out there for CPAs, thought-provoking things to at least seriously contemplate and maybe even experiment with.

For instance, no internal email, no meetings, no managers. Just take the time to read this article about a tech company (yes, I know, tech companies are different) – so are CPA firms.

What if you communicated internally in real-time? What if you used a control panel type software that gave you access to all projects (client engagements and other work) and you could see what has been done from beginning to end of the project?

Read about how they eliminated meetings. A meeting is an interruption, usually to find out how everyone is doing on their assigned projects. What if you had fewer interruptions and could continually get more done? You could have a 4-day work week like this tech company.

Then there are the managers. I have long thought that the title manager inside a CPA firm is very misleading. We don’t teach them how to manage. They become a manager because they stay with the firm long enough, doing work they are proficient at. Here’s an excerpt from the article: “Lastly, we determined over a year ago that we wanted to work without managers. Now we do not need someone to control our progress, because everything is online and visible to all of our workmates — which project we are working on, how we are handling it technically, how long it is taking us, what resources we are using, and what results we have achieved.”

Just contemplate what pieces of this, or variations of this, might just fly inside your progressive firm.

  • There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.
  • Peter F. Drucker

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

Always Carve Out Time to Think

With my clients, I continually stress the importance of taking time to THINK. I also blog about it often. I was inspired by the story of Thomas Watson, Chairman & CEO of IBM from 1914 until 1956.

This summer, please take your vacation, take an extended weekend to get away, or occasionally report to the office that you simply won’t be in today… better yet – do all three.

I enjoyed a recent article from Fast Company (by Laura VanderkamIMG_5547) about how to create your own mini-retreat. It’s the story of how an author carved out time for a mini-retreat so she could create, think and work without distractions.

Are you a key leader in a CPA firm? Are you an accountant (young or old) who wants to advance in their career and be a bigger contributor? Then, carve out some time in your busy life to think and create.

Honestly, I am very tired of hearing, “I’m too busy!” every time a great idea needs to be implemented in a growing accounting firm. You choose to be busy, sometimes to avoid the fact that things need to change.

When you carve out some time (even a few hours) here are some tips from the article:

Why? – – Getting away is great but without intention it’s a vacation, not a retreat. Ask yourself what you would like to achieve.

Claim Your Time – – Determine what needs to happen to make getting away for a short time possible. Who will pick up the kids and take care of other daily responsibilities? Mark your personal retreat time on your calendar in advance.

Choose your space – – Check into a hotel alone. Borrow a friend’s vacation house or simply go to a library or to Barnes & Noble for a morning. Maybe your could go fishing or walk on a beach and let your mind wander.

Discipline – – Don’t check your phone. Avoid being disturbed by social media, emails or calls.

Read the entire article here.

  • For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.
  • Lily Tomlin