Archive for the ‘Recruiting’ Category

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

AICPA Top Issues Survey 2017

“My main job was developing talent. I was a gardener providing water and other nourishment to our top 750 people. Of course, I had to pull out some weeds, too.” — Jack Welch

Every other year, the AICPA/PCPS conducts a top issues survey. Some of the findings from the 2017 Top Issues Survey were released yesterday.

Finding qualified staff was the No. 1 issue in every firm-size segment except sole practitioners where it ranked No. 3. Likewise, retaining qualified staff was a Top 5 issue in every grouping except sole practitioners. Recruitment and retention were leading concerns last time the survey was conducted in 2015, too, but the challenge appears steeper as the profession continues to gain strength in a growing economy.

Besides staffing, other common Top 5 issues this year include succession planning, acquisition of new clients, workload compression and keeping up with tax law complexity.  One former top issue, retention of current clients, has fallen out of the top issues for all groups.

So, no big surprises here. Just keep focused on developing a firm culture where people will want to stay and develop their career in public accounting. If you want to know how to do that, just browse through many of my past blog posts!

  • The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.
  • Harvey S. Firestone

Monday, June 12th, 2017

Accounting Firm Interns

fullsizeoutput_4028“If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.” – Chinese Proverb

The larger firms, who can afford full time HR professionals, have programs dealing with interns fairly well developed. However, mid- to small firms, if they hire an intern, often treat them like an extra administrative person.

Here are some tips and ideas regarding interns:

  • Treat them like full time hires.
  • Give them structured orientation (like a new hire).
  • Provide a job description – expose them to both tax and A&A.
  • Keep in mind that they don’t know the CPA lingo – teach them.
  • Give them real work – it has always been amazing to me how quickly interns can get up to speed on individual tax returns and even smaller business tax returns.
  • They love going in the field. Expose them to visits to the clients’ sites, in person.
  • Praise their efforts and keep in mind they are beginners – what they learn in college doesn’t relate to what they will do inside your firm.
  • Don’t give them administrative work – no shredding, no mindless data entry.
  • Provide them with business cards and take their picture when presenting the cards to them (after all, it is usually their FIRST business card). Send the picture to them and suggest they share it with their parents.
  • Challenge them to give away their business cards and keep track of the efforts. This makes them aware, right from the beginning, that marketing is important. At my firm, we had a give your card away game – you need at least two interns for this game. They give them to whoever…. grandma, mom, dad, dentist, college friends – how many can they give away in five days. They must keep good records. The winner gets a gift card.
  • Teach them to put their business card in restaurant fish bowls when they go to lunch – and place them in the bowl so the firm name shows!
  • I hire people brighter than me and I get out of their way.
  • Lee Iacocca

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

Hiring a Marketing Person and More

“There’s no lotion or portion that will make sales faster and easier for you – unless your potion is hard work.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

I enjoyed a recent blog post by Sarah Johnson Dobek about when to hire a marketing person for your CPA firm. Much like Sarah, I often get questions about when to hire a dedicated marketer. I also am asked when do we need a firm administrator, an HR person, a Controller (rather than a bookkeeper)?

sarahPer Dobek, the 2016 AAM Budget Survey indicated that most firms invest early. The highest growth firms employ one marketing professional for every 34 employees, while the average firm employs one marketing professional for every 54 employees. I usually recommend hiring a full-time marketer when a firm reaches 45 employees, so I guess I am in the ballpark according to the AAM survey.

As for the other professional support positions, I have observed that growing firms hire or designate a full-time, professional firm administrator when the have 12-15 people, although I see very successful firm administrators in much smaller firms. When the firm administrator becomes saturated with work, an HR professional should be added, usually at 70 to 80 people. A CPA controller is a huge benefit to a growing firm when it reaches 80 to 100 people. The former firm bookkeeper might then be designated the assistant controller.

As a firm grows, adding non-CPA, degreed, support professionals is a necessity.

  • To me, job titles don't matter. Everyone is in sales. It's the only way we stay in business.
  • Harvey Mackay

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

Why Top Performers Leave Your Firm

“Culture is to recruiting as product is to marketing.” – HubSpot’s Culture Code

Thanks to Lisa Benson for making me aware of an article on LinkedIn – Why Millennials Keep Dumping You: An Open Letter to Management.

It addresses the issue of millennials leaving jobs but I think that it applies to every top performer in CPA firms, no matter what their generation.

Public accounting needs millennials, they are going to be the majority of the workforce in just a few short years. It’s time to take keeping them more seriously.

Here’s a summary of the article. It is a message for management about what is really behind a top performer’s resignation letter:

You tolerate low-performance. – CPA leaders you are SO guilty of this. It is very demotivating to a high-achiever to see Lazy Lily tolerated. You have heard this from me before – a bad apple can spoil the whole barrel.

ROI is not enough for me. – I want to do the best possible job for our client. I even spend weekends thinking about solutions. Then on Monday I hear about billable hours and realization. I want you to talk to me about how WE make a difference in the success of the firm clients.

Culture is more than free Panera. – Don’t confuse culture with collateral. I appreciate and enjoy the free food, etc. but more importantly I want to be surrounded by people who are on fire for what we’re doing.

It’s ok to get personal. – Treat me like a number and I’ll return the favor. I will think of my job/career as a way to make a rent payment. I am desperate for you to show me that work we do here matters but I am NOT doing it to help you get a new Mercedes.

Creating a culture where people are inspired and excited is much more than focusing your energies on the bottom line.

PLEASE follow the link above and read the entire article. It is worth your time. Thanks to the author Lisa Earle McLeod.

  • We have a culture where we are incredibly self critical, we don't get comfortable with our success.
  • Mark Parker, CEO, Nike

Friday, May 26th, 2017

Increase Your Firm’s Value

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.” – Albert Einstein

There are some very basic things that CPA firm leaders need to do to continually increase the value of their firm. Of course, CPAs must be technically competent, good communicators and committed to client service. You are in a service business, just like a hotel or restaurant.

Beyond those basics, a couple more foundational items are needed to create firm value.

Culture – You (and your partners, if you have some) should devote your attention to creating a culture in which you want to work, providing your employees with a clear picture of acceptable behaviors that exemplify your core values. A culture built around consistent and strong core values will attract people with those same core values. If you discover employees who do not embrace your core values, they should be encouraged to go elsewhere.

Processes – Another foundational item thing you can do to increase the value of your firm is to implement processes, procedures and policies that are well-documented in writing.  This means the success of your firm is not solely on your shoulders and not dependent on just a few people. Having written processes and procedures ensures that you can easily get new employees up to speed quickly.

  • A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.
  • Charles Darwin

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Create Turnover – Keep People Moving!

“Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.” – George S. Patton

Think about it. Your firm turns people over on a regular basis. I don’t mean that you have people resigning from the firm. I mean they change jobs inside the firm.

They go from intern to staff. From staff to senior. From senior to manager and so on. The best thing you can do is to clearly define the roles in your firm so that people don’t have to leave the firm to get a new challenge or to enjoy a new opportunity.

A warning, you need to be sure there really is a difference between what a staff person does compared to a senior, and so on. In many firms, I find partners doing manager work, managers doing senior work and seniors and staff looking for work.

This summer, explore the options and do your research. Then better define the duties of each level. Once they can proficiently perform the duties of a staff accountant, they can take on a completely new job as a senior accountant.

Spread the word among clients, the business community and on the college campus that there is a clear, well-defined career path in public accounting at your accounting firm and team members don’t have to change employers, lose seniority, start over accruing benefits to achieve it.

  • Managers tend to blame their turnover problems on everything under the sun, while ignoring the crux of the matter: people don't leave jobs; they leave managers.
  • Travis Bradberry

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Be Active In Spring Recruiting

“Human resources isn’t a thing we do. It’s the thing that runs our business.” – Steve Wynn

Many years ago, CPA firms didn’t begin their recruiting efforts on the college campus until September. We waited for the students to get back to campus and begin classes and then interviewed in late September into October.

Now, you must recruit, on the college campus, continually. You are competing with the large national firms. They are visible on the college campus every week!

Right now, be sure you are contacting the students on your prospect list before they leave campus for the summer. Stay in front of them.

Now that your interns have returned to campus, be sure you communicate with them before they leave for the summer. Hopefully, you have offered some of them part-time work throughout the summer months.

Be planning for the next campus job fair. Will your firm stand-out from the pack?

Here’s a unique idea from one of my favorite clients. Invite the students to play some putt-putt as they participate in the job fair.

Fluence Golf

  • I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.
  • Lawrence Bossidy

Monday, April 24th, 2017

Maybe a Sabbatical Program Would Make Your Firm Unique

“The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

In the accounting profession, we have been talking about sabbaticals for years. Few firms offer this benefit.

Some firms established a sabbatical program for partners, urging them to take six weeks away from the office with NO CONTACT. The mission being to prove to the partner that they could get along just fine without them and client service would not suffer. These types of programs were a half-hearted attempt at succession planning. Honestly, I haven’t heard of many firms offering sabbaticals in any form. It seems CPAs love to work!

Rather than focusing on partners, why not establish a sabbatical program for your team members. Maybe it would differentiate you from your competitors and help retain top talent.

Kabbage_logo_wo_tag_vertKabbage®, the pioneering financial services technology, and data platform, out of Atlanta is offering a unique benefit to its employees. Perhaps, you can learn from them.

Kabbage is now offering a sabbatical option for team members who have been with the company for 5+ years. And it’s quite the package – a 6-week sabbatical that is fully paid plus the company gives a $6k stipend to encourage its employees to do something memorable ( a trip of a lifetime?)

Check out their career webpage. They offer:

Dynamic Environment
Daily catered lunches, ice cream freezer & snacks
Dog-friendly office
Cold/brewed coffee & beer on tap
Onsite fitness & meditation classes
Adjustable sit/stand desks

Competitive Benefits
Unlimited PTO
Equity in the company
Full coverage of individual health benefits
Six-week sabbatical program
Free parking
Annual bonus

Learning & Development
Shadowing program
More than 20 onsite courses
Interactive career development
Leadership development
Mentoring program

All of this makes me ask the big question. How does your firm’s career webpage stack up?

  • Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.
  • Jim Rohn

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

Virtual Employees Made Easier

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is equivalent to magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke

In case you missed it, I wanted give you a link to an article in the latest issue of Accounting Today – Rise of the robot. It’s pretty cool.

We have been talking about remote and virtual employees and how to deal with them for several years now. Things continually evolve and firms are learning how to manage the ever-changing world of employee engagement and retention.

beam_pro_sizedOne firm, Navolio & Tallman featured in the article, is now using a machine called the Beam mobile presence system as their mobile conference set-up for individuals working virtually.

Think of the episode of Big Bang where Sheldon wants to protect his body from the hazards of the world and begins using a virtual presence machine.

Check out the article and the pictures. It also proves that you don’t have to be a humongous firm to do some very creative things. N&T has 3 partners and 18 people.

The firm’s work-from-home culture is thriving. They have a compressed work week, after April 15. Employees work 9 hours a day Monday through Thursday, and work from home Friday with the day ending at noon. During tax season, staff members do work on Saturdays, but they can do that from home as well.

I believe the best message for retaining top talent is simple. Invest in technology.

 

  • It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.
  • Albert Einstein

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Give Them A Weekend!

“I’m not driven by killer ambition. I’m not a workaholic. I’m a good team player. I don’t have to be captain, but I do want to play on a winning team.” – Jane Pauley

FullSizeRenderAs March 15th nears, every year, I think of all the people I know working inside growing, successful accounting firms.

They have been working tirelessly beginning more slowly in January picking up speed (and extra hours) throughout February and putting renewed effort leading up to the March 15th due date.

CPA firm leaders, please consider giving your entire staff a real weekend on March 18 and 19 – the first weekend after the March 15th due date.

We did this at my firm for years and it was greatly anticipated and appreciated by our people.

Now, the good news is that many accounting firms have eliminated Saturday work during tax season completely (except for those die-hard partners that always work weekends).

Your team will come back to work on Monday morning with renewed vigor to focus on the tasks ahead, leading up to April 18. Their families will also be very happy.

  • There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.
  • Aristotle