Archive for the ‘Succession Planning’ Category

Friday, May 12th, 2017

Leaders Set The Tone

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” – Abraham Lincoln

In case you haven’t noticed, there is a lot of M&A activity going on in public accounting.

There are varying reasons but one of the most prominent is the fact that current firm owners have not groomed, trained or mentored people to take over the firm. So, what do you do? You sell-out so you get “something” out of the practice that you have been a part of for 30 years or more.

If you are a managing partner or sole-practitioner and are still several years away from that decision, you are responsible. You are in charge. The future of the firm is in your hands.

If your people are not good managers, relationship builders or passionate about the future of the firm…

If your people usually arrive late in the morning…

If your people spend too much time on a job because they don’t have a clearly defined budget…

If your people make you cringe some days because of the way they are dressed…

You are responsible. It is your responsibility to communicate what is okay and what’s not okay. You are enabling behaviors to continue when they think what they are doing is okay.

Begin planning to have those crucial conversations and maybe you can change your firm future.

  • We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility of our future.
  • George Bernard Shaw

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

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

Don’t Put Off Until Tomorrow….

“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” – Benjamin Franklin

I bet you have heard that quote many times.  It was one I often heard as a child.

It is my observation that many accountants have never, in their entire life, heard this quotation. Just kidding, I know they have heard it but just ignore it.

This came to mind as a read an article via HBR titled, How To Beat Procrastination.

My CPA clients and friends do a great job at making to-do lists. They are great list makers, in general. However, the easy things (like answering email) get crossed off the list and the more important, complex things go untouched – sometimes for months!

Then late October rolls around and firm partners all of a sudden get in a hurry to get BIG things done.

The article stated that the problem is our brains are actually programmed to procrastinate. We struggle with tasks that promise future upside in return for efforts we take now.

The article gives us some tips on how to make the benefits of action feel bigger and more real, such as:

  • Visualize how great it will be to get it done.
  • Pre-commit, publicly. (This works with weight loss!)
  • Confront the downside of inaction.

My advice…. take baby steps. Most of the big changes you need to make to help your firm become future ready can be broken down in smaller steps.

What’s important is to take the first step.

  • You may delay, but time will not.
  • Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

An Important Step In Staff Development

“Mentoring is easy and natural; it does not have to be just another dreaded task on your to-do list.” – Rita Keller

Thanks so much to Accounting Today and Sean McCabe for featuring many of my comments in the article, Molding the Future of the Profession – Mentoring young staff should be a crucial part of the recruiting and retention toolkit of more accounting firms.” 

Follow the link to read the entire article. And, thanks to Edi Osborne for all of her great comments in the article.

Here are some bullet point highlights:

  • Mentoring is just as important as salary and technology.
  • Mentoring requires an investment of time and money.
  • It is about attracting and strengthening future leaders for the profession.
  • Young people will buy into the vision of what it means to be a CPA and stay in the profession longer if they make a solid connection with someone who has already been down that road.
  • CPAs are great at teaching young people the technical skills but fail to impart knowledge about relationship-building and career-building skills.
  • Showing and not telling is vital to the mentor-mentee relationship.
  • Effective mentoring has become a strategic focus for the most progressive and successful firms.
  • You have to water the flowers you want to grow.
  • Stephen Covey

Monday, June 27th, 2016

Excuses

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” – Jim Rohn

April 16th – We can’t tackle revising our performance feedback system, we have to have some downtime for a while after April 15th.

May 1 – We can’t work on the new orientation/onboarding project now because everyone is taking some vacation since tax season is over.

June 1 – We can’t tackle revising our performance feedback system, it’s time to do them and we’ll have to wait until this year’s process is over.

July 1 – We can’t right now… too many people on vacation.

August 15th – We can’t do an upward partner feedback survey, it’s time to focus on the September 15th due date.

September 16th – We can’t possibly work on that organizational alignment project, we have to focus on the October due date.

October 17th – We’ll work on our succession plan after the partner retreat.

November 1 – Let’s see what we can get done in November!

December 1 – We’ll have to put a halt on that workflow project because we are so busy in December with tax planning.

January 1 – We’ll have to wait until after April 15th.

Sound familiar?

  • When you know what you want, and you want it bad enough, you'll find a way to get it.
  • Jim Rohn

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

Addicted to Work

“You shouldn’t have superhuman expectations.” – Mary Blair-Loy

Frequently, it appears to me that some experienced CPAs are addicted to their work.

I think this is a big issue when it comes to succession planning. Sure, the firm’s policy says they must “retire” at age 65. They must relinquish their stock and they do. But many of these “retirees” want to keep working, keep their office, keep their relationships with special clients and not stay at home or pursue other interests.

Most do not have other interests. They believe their career is their life, it defines them. Being a partner at the firm feeds their ego or makes them feel important. Without being affiliated with the firm they feel they have no identity.

There is a great article on this topic on the HBR site. You feel challenged by your work; you’re engaged by it; you’re learning new things; and you have the opportunity to shape other people’s careers. It is extremely rewarding but when you give all your attention to work, you eventually pay a steep price. 

Working long hours, taking few vacations and never truly being “off” (due to digital devices) is harmful to your relationships, your health and your productivity. It is also a bad example to set for your employees. No wonder many younger CPAs have no desire to become an owner.

Read the entire article here. It gives you some tips to overcome your addiction. Take an honest look at yourself, whether you are a retiring partner or a constantly busy accountant of any age working in a CPA firm.

  • There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.
  • Colin Powell

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

Two Informative Webinars – Partner Comp & Succession

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“The trouble with retirement is you never get a day off.- Abe Lemons

CPA Leadership Institute will be hosting two webinars focused on some very timely topics for CPA partners.

The webinars will be presented by my good friend Gary Adamson of Adamson Advisory.

May 17, 2016 – Partner Compensation Methods & Trends.  Register here.

May 18, 2016 – Surviving Partner Succession and Retirement In Your Firm. Register here.

Adamson has over 25 years’ of experience managing a growing and profitable firm. He understands what it is REALLY like managing a firm and multiple partners.

  • There are some who start their retirement long before they stop working.
  • Robert Half

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

Exit Interviews Are Important

IMG_1192Being a consultant to CPA firm management, I hear a lot of stories. If you work in a firm, you can just imagine. Many of them sadden me, yet many also bring me joy. This is a “what was he thinking?” type story.

A firm administrator performed the usual exit interview with a departing employee. The employee was not fired, he left after several years building his career at the firm. Many of the remarks made by the exiting employee, according to the firm administrator, were fairly critical, yet true. When the comments were reported to the partners, one partner stated, “We don’t care what Joe thinks, he never did get with the program.”

Exit interviews can be very beneficial to both the firm and the person departing. Employees leave for a reason. Finding out why can help you plan for changes that need to be made.

  • Employees quit their boss, not their job.
  • Employees leave when they lose confidence in their leaders.
  • Employees leave because of issues with workplace culture.
  • Employees leave because they don’t see opportunity for career advancement and growth in compensation.

The person conducting the interview should be experienced in crucial conversations with employees, follow an established process or checklist. The interview should be conducted in a truly caring and non-threatening manner. Remember, the employee will most likely be dreading the interview and needs to be put at ease.

After you gather information from exit interviews, take the comments seriously and determine what actions need to happen to make your firm a place where talented people want to stay and build their careers.

  • And now, gentlemen, like your manners, I must leave you.
  • Dylan Thomas

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Managers Are Often NOT Doing Manager Work

This is mostly a repeat of a previous post from January 2014. At this time, I feel it is worth repeating!

People with the title of “manager” working inside CPA firms usually are not doing what a “manager” should be doing. Just like many partners, managers get very comfortable actually DOING the work rather than carrying out manager level responsibilities and activities.

Managers play a key role in employee engagement and retention. Remember, people leave bosses not firms.

I once asked a group of CPA firm owners to give me their expectations of a person in the manager role and to keep it very simple. I think the following bullet point job description says it clearly and concisely. How do your managers stack-up?

  • Solid technical skills, with an area of technical expertise that is recognized
  • Good communication skills, both written and verbal
  • The ability to manage and develop team members
  • The ability to manage client relationships
  • The ability to manage multile engagements
  • The ability to manage engagement profitability
  • Executive presence
  • Must be an advocate of the firm
  • Participation in firm marketing activities
  • Participation in personal marketing activities
  • Participation in various firm internal projects
  • Be viewed, by most firm owners, as a candidate for partner status

Addendum for 2016: So many partners declare they have no one who can replace them when they retire. If you want succession to work at your firm you must work with your managers on these key traits. Developing people is a key characteristic of a competent partner.

  • To add value to others, one must first value others.
  • John Maxwell

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

Cannot Afford To Leave

Today’s post is sort of a follow-on to yesterday’s Sacred Cow post (people who are protected, cannot be fired). There’s probably at least one of those inside your firm, probably more.

What about the people who really don’t want to stay at your firm but, over the years, they have performed adequately (but maybe not) and you have given them annual pay increases and now they make a VERY good salary. They are not passionate about the firm any longer (this could even be partners) and are just “putting in their time”.

EGHQ7ZDZI8I hear it all the time….. “There’s no where else in my area where I can make as much as I do here.” And from the other side, “She’s doing a pretty good job for us and it’s so hard to hire people now.”

Develop a “grow your own” culture where you are continually hiring new college grads and developing them. That way there is always someone who can stretch and fill a spot vacated by a more experienced person. People love challenges and promotions.

Identify your middle stars, people who are not all superstars but they are not falling stars either. Many middle stars are passionate about the firm. Challenge them and help them meet your expectations. If they are unwilling, and too comfortable with status quo, offer them the opportunity to work for another firm.

If you have someone who is working at your firm just because of the money – it’s time to deal with it. Give them a nice severance. Long-term, it’s the right decision.

From the other side, if you are that person, working for an accounting firm although it’s depressing, unchallenging, chaotic and poorly managed, don’t stay just for the money. Life is too short.

  • There's no excuse to be bored. Sad, yes. Angry, yes. Depressed, yes. Crazy, yes. But there's no excuse for boredom, ever.
  • Viggo Mortensen