Archive for the ‘Trends’ Category

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

Remodeling Your CPA Firm Office This Year?

Your office design might actually be bumming people out. I am hearing lots of talk in CPA circles about the need to downsize office space. In many firms, fewer people are actually working in the office. Many are working remotely and it makes sense to share space.

If this is the year you are upgrading your space or remodeling, there are some important things to consider.

According to an article on Fast Company, if you’re making people sit in poorly lit, scrunched-together spaces with no potential for chance encounters, it’s time to rearrange.

From a book by Rex Miller, Change Your Space, Change Your Culture, today’s average worker is working in a space with a 1960s design and most organizations can’t connect the dots between office design and innovation. CPA firm leaders need to do their research and modernize – – most are still the very traditional lay-out that was used in the 1980s (and before).

Here’s a few ideas from the article. Be sure to read the entire article if you are planning a move or remodel this summer.

Lighting is important – experts tell us we need a different kind of lighting in the morning as opposed to the afternoon.

Walls block out natural light – tear down the drywall and have glass walls. I have seen this done in several progressive firms. The partners offices are on the interior with glass walls and the open, cubicle space is on the outside walls where more light can filter in.

Fixed tables in brainstorming areas – give people options to change their environment and use rooms for collaboration (not just for meetings…. do less of those). The large, polished, impressive conference table needs to go. Rooms need movable, adaptable furniture.

Desks in between other desks – Everyone hates the middle seat on an airplane. Don’t make your people feel the same.

Spend the most money on public spaces – I sure see this in CPA firms – the lobby, client conference room and partner offices are definitely high-end, beautiful, etc. The leaders need to share the wealth – it can be a major contributor to your culture.

Separating departments – According to the experts, it’s a bad idea for departments to feel secluded from one another. I see this one in CPA firms, too…. “Oh, the audit department is on the floor above.” If you have to separate – be sure to use open stairs and make floors more “connected.”

Refreshing your office, even simply repainting, upgrading some furniture or new flooring makes people feel “refreshed.” Don’t get into the trap of thinking that they don’t care about their personal space in the office. I believe that when a potential employee walks into your office their first reaction should be “Wow!” because your firm’s office “looks” successful, modern and generous.


  • To be far from the maddening crowd is to be mad indeed.
  • A.E. Coppard, author

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

CPA Consultants’ Alliance – New Leaders and Top Issues

cropped-cropped-cpac-headerI am so proud to be a member of the CPA Consultants’ Alliance. It is such an honor to be among so many knowledgeable people focused on helping CPA firms become even more successful.

Once a year we have an in-person meeting to connect, share and improve our consulting skills. In February, we met in Tampa and elected the new Board for 2015.

Here’s the press release where you can access our perspectives on the most pressing issues for 2015:

The CPA Consultants’ Alliance (CPACA), a working group of thought leaders united in their efforts to further leadership within the CPA profession, recently held its annual meeting in Tampa, FL.

During the meeting, members approved the following slate of new officers:

  • Terry Putney, CPA, CEO of Transition Advisors, LLC– President
  • Tamera Loerzel, Partner in ConvergenceCoaching, LLC– Immediate Past-President
  • Sarah Johnson Dobek,Founder and President of Inovautus Consulting – Vice President
  • Dustin Hostetler, Shareholder, Boomer Consulting– Secretary/Treasurer
  • Rita Keller, President and Founder of Keller Advisors, LLC – Membership Chair
  • Rick Solomon, CPA, CGMA, CEO of Thriving Firm – Deliverables Chair
  • Carrie Steffen, President and Co-Founder, The Whetstone Group –Marketing Chair

In addition, members shared experiences and insights into issues of the CPA profession. Their perspectives on the most pressing issues for 2015 can be found on the website in a new report entitled: People at the Center of CPA Firm 2015 Top Issues

About The CPA Consultants’ Alliance

The CPACA was formed in 2012 with the purpose of exploring leadership issues facing the public accounting profession and developing and sharing solutions that benefit practitioners. Other insights from the group include the article What Drives Happiness at CPA Firms and the whitepaper CPA Firm Leadership: Communication Drives New Possibilities. The group’s vision is to inspire positive change in the CPA profession by collaboratively establishing tools and content that will educate, motivate and increase the wisdom of current and future leaders. Watch for the CPACA’s next report on CPA firm succession coming later in 2015.

The CPACA’s members are successful consultants within the CPA profession. Members’ expertise includes CPA firm strategic and succession planning, leadership and management, growth, sales and marketing, information technology, human resources, coaching, mergers and acquisitions, diversity, leadership development and more.

For more information about The CPACA, its members and to stay connected, please:

Email at:
Visit our Website
Follow us on LinkedIn
Follow us on Twitter

  • A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.
  • John Lennon

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Most People Need Quiet Time

Inside most accounting firms, there is an area that is called the “bullpen.” It is usually an open area containing 10 to 20 cubicles. Many firms I visit have a “tax bullpen” and an “audit bullpen”.

I don’t have a big problem with this arrangement. Younger, newer accountants need to talk to each other as they learn the ropes. Plus, they now use ear buds to keep out excessive noise and listen to music of their choice.

I even like the open office arrangements that some companies have embraced. I like contemporary, so the open, clean look of an Apple store looks great to me, although I’m not sure it lends itself to the concentration often needed in public accounting.

So, if you have a lot of people working in open office space, cubicles or not, maybe they need a micro retreat. In NYC and a few other cities, you can rent a quiet, space to think, write or work for 30 minutes or all day. You can see what I mean at Sometimes you just need to be alone and to stay focused. Call it a micro retreat.

My suggestion is for your firm to set-up a couple of rooms like this at your firm – clean, quiet and sparsely furnished. The people in your firm who do not have an office, can book it for an hour or two if they really need to focus (allow no interruptions). Of course, you will have to have some guidelines so that it is shared and one person doesn’t book it every day!

I use this concept when I travel on business. I try to arrive a half-day early because I can get so much done while I am alone in a hotel room.

  • What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.
  • Ellen Burstyn

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

Women’s Development IS Business Development

Male Allies Gender BalanceThe title, above, should get your attention. Developing women inside your CPA firm is a major step in business development for the entire firm.

Last week at Winning Is Everything, I talked about the important role of male allies helping females succeed in public accounting.

During the presentation I mentioned the Accounting MOVE Project as a possible resource for CPA firm leaders. On the site you can access The Business Case for Advancing Women in Public Accounting.

Here’s some interesting stats…. follow the link to read the entire article.

  • Fewer women are entering public accounting. In 2002/03, women comprised 56% of new accounting grads (B.A. and M.S. combined). In 2012/13, the comprised 48%. (via AICPA 2013 Trends in Supply of Accounting Graduates)
  • Women comprise 61.3% of the 1.814 million American accountants and auditors. (via Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014)
  • Companies with one or more women on their boards deliver a compound return of 3.7% more than those with no women on their boards, since 2005. As well, these companies have a higher return on investment, higher valuations and higher payout ratios. (via Credit Suisse Gender 2000, September 2014)
  • Women managers more effectively engage employees of both genders. Women outscore men on 11 or 12 elements of developing employees, including giving consistent, specific feedback and encouragement, and investment in employees’ development. (via Gallup, October 2014)

Now, here’s a personal observation from my many years in the profession of public accounting… if you have a woman in your firm who DOES NOT engage people and is actually almost the opposite – she frustrates people. She will drive away more talented people than a man who acts the same way.

Make 2015 the year that you seriously address the issue of helping females remain in public accounting. They are key to growth and to succession. Begin with baby steps….. but at least get started.

  • Do one thing every day that scares you.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Predictions and Trends For 2015

img_joeCPA management consultant, Joe Tarasco, had his 2015 predictions featured on the Forbes site last week.

Here’s some brief highlights that I definitely agree with:

  • Career development and leadership training will continue to grow as the need for quality professional staff at the managerial and partner levels turns into a crisis mode.
  • Firms will have no choice but to invest heavily in their best and brightest in all stages of their careers in order to remain competitive and develop succession plans.
  • Firms that have grown through the consolidation of aging practices will begin to deal with intensified succession issues. This will fuel more mergers of mega-firms into larger firms.
  • MPs and Ex Committee members will come under more scrutiny by their partners in their ability to lead and manage successfully. Firms will have to make tough business decisions concerning under-performing partners.
  • More firms will need to hire professional COOs from outside the CPA profession to assist them in managing their organization.

For the complete list and more detail read the article here. Congrats to Joe for being featured on the Forbes site!

  • I was not predicting the future, I was trying to prevent it.
  • Ray Bradbury

Friday, December 19th, 2014

The Good Old Days Are Now – Busy Season Survival Tips

Photo on 12-19-14 at 6.40 AMEarlier this fall, I was delighted when Corey Butler, Communications Coordinator for the Minnesota Society of CPAs contacted me to write an article for their Footnote magazine.

Corey asked if I could share ideas with their readers on creative ways to shed some of that stress that builds during busy season. I have found that CPA firms are very active and creative when it comes to showing their appreciation and helping their teams make it through the busiest time of the year.

I like to say, “the good old days are now” because when I began my career in public accounting, we received one “goody bag” from a local bank (it contained headache medicine, mints, gum and the like) and we were treated to lunch at the country club on April 16th. Of course, we made progress! I was so proud as the firm grew and expanded over the years and became the “cool” CPA firm to work for in our market. Like many firms, we realized the value of retaining top talent.

Thanks to many of my clients and friends for contributing to the article by sharing their activities with me. Also thanks, to Carolyn LaViolette, Communications Manager at MNCPA for sending me some copies of the magazine.

Want some good ideas for this busy season? You can read the article here.

  • Our best thoughts come from others.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

What Are Your CPA Firm Employees Saying

Glassdoor has revealed the winners of its 7th annual Employees’ Choice Awards. The awards honor the 50 Best Places to Work in 2015. While these awards are for employers with 1,000 employees or more, there are lessons to be learned by even the smallest accounting firm.

The results are entirely based on employee feedback. Here’s a sampling (click here for the entire list):

#1 – Google “Great people, great value.”

The benefits and care of employees is obviously world class, and compensation is almost unmatchable. But the company attracts some of the best talent and best people to work with in the world, which is the most important bit.

#2 – Bain & Company “Hands down awesome”

Incredible culture – people work really hard, but they enjoy doing it; Incredible people – mix of intelligence but also humility that you don’t find at the other top consulting firms; Amazing exit opportunities – the Bain network is not only big, it’s incredibly strong. Ex-Bainies will almost always help out another Bainie without fail. This is truly a remarkable place.

#3 – Nestle – “Best place I have ever worked”

The corporate culture is second to none. Strong midwestern roots, stability and friendly environment; coupled with the vast opportunities that come with an international giant parent company. There is a tremendous amount of mutual trust and respect for others within Nestle. A drawback is that no one leaves so it limits upward mobility somewhat.

#9 – McKinsey & Co. – “Rigorous focus on professional development”

No other organization places as much emphasis on professional development. It is a really amazing set of people – caring, challenging and whip smart

#22 – Apple – “Paradise of jobs”

Apple offers crazy benefits, and competitive salary. By competitive I don’t mean a couple grand more in a year, I’m talking about a 2X / 2.5X salary. This place is a sea of knowledge. Never seen a more dedicated group.

#23 – LinkedIn – “Genuinely thrilled to work here”

I work with some of the smartest, most collaborative, and humble people in the world. I relish every day I get to enjoy coming to work at LinkedIn. Great perks, but more importantly great people!

The only Big Four firm to make it was EY at #49 (out of 50).

My questions for accounting firms (and some things for you to consider):

Do you have a rigorous focus on professional development? Maybe this is why there is so much worry about succession. Why not be more generous with education dollars for your younger staff.

Have you attracted and retained the smartest (best) people? Many of the comments were appreciative of working with smart, successful, creative, hard-working people. Do the majority of your people fit this description? Do you keep too many mediocre performers?

Do your young all-stars have vast opportunities? Or, do they have to wait 10 years to become a manager?

Do you reward your best performers with salaries beyond being competitive? Or, do you try to get by with the minimum of just keeping pace with average firms?

  • Transparency. Trust. Compassion. Food
  • Comment about working for Facebook

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Don’t Be Afraid Of Change

It is a time of significant and continual change within the CPA profession.

Some firms are embracing it and rocketing themselves, their firm and their clients into the evolving and rapidly changing business world. Some firms find much of the change they are facing to be very scary (and I don’t blame them). Fear is often a prohibitive factor in the evolution of many firms.

Business owners and individuals need help. They need the advice and counsel of savvy financial professionals to help them navigate the sometimes dangerous financial waters. If your firm is not prepared to provide that advice and counsel, they will find it elsewhere. Simple as that.

Your clients and potential clients need a financial service provider that can grow with them and provide peace of mind.

Like many of you, I DVR’d the new Ken Burns’ documentary, The Roosevelts and have been watching it over the last couple of weeks. Last night we watched the final segment. I have always been a history buff, but I learned so much that I did not know about all three Roosevelts featured.

I have often used quotations (you know how I love quotations) by Eleanor Roosevelt. But one quote they used near the end of the documentary, that I had not read before, caused me to think of all of you – Certified Public Accountants, who are embracing change, conquering it and capitalizing on the excitement of change.

That quote is below.

  • Courage is more exhilarating than fear.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Let’s Talk Teams


In the world of public accounting, I have been talking TEAMS for years and years. From practical experience with “staff” inside an accounting firm, I noticed that when we used the actual word TEAM rather than STAFF or EMPLOYEES it seemed that we began to work more like a team.

An article via the HBR Blog Network by Heidi Grant Halvorson titled:  TOGETHER – Managers Can Motivate Employees With One Word.

Research has determined that human beings are profoundly social. That’s probably not a big surprise to you. We are hardwired to connect to one another and to want to work together. The species would never have survived without our instinctive desire to live and work in groups.

These days, many people work in teams but they are often physically located in different offices, cubicles, or even in different cities and countries. Recent research conducted at Stanford tells us one powerful way to give team members the feeling of working as a team (when they physically aren’t). Use the word TOGETHER. Using this word and planting it in the minds of workers actually leads to better performance.

Enough with all the research talk. Inside your CPA firm, rather than tell someone how to do something and walk away – back to your comfy office, sit down beside them and work through learning experiences WITH them.

In an accounting firm, we hear over and over from new college graduates entering the profession, “We never learned that in school.” Much of what you need your new team members to do is learned via OJT (on the job training) – they learn by doing.

Some of the best training happens when a partner (or manager) actually sits beside a new hire and works through a task with them. Sure, it takes time but once you have done it you don’t have to do it again down the road. The new hire seems to retain it much better and feel more appreciated when you teach by doing things TOGETHER.


  • Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.
  • J. C. Penney

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Summer Fridays For CPA Firms

closedSince it is Monday, I thought I would talk about Fridays. This coming Friday are you going to be in the office for 8 hours? Are you going to be in the office for 4 hours or not at all?

I am finding many firms doing many things with Fridays. Some are closed but, of course, clients can reach their key person via mobile device. Some firms work half-days on Fridays and tell me that clients don’t seem to mind at all because they often take that day off, too or work very little on Fridays.

I know, first hand, that when I was working in a large CPA firm, the activity was minimal on Fridays, although we were never closed. Most partners left at noon, managers and others used PTO to take a half day off. The “flexers” usually did not include Fridays, in the summer, in their work schedules.

Have you been pondering this possibility for several years?  Below are some resources that might help you make-up your mind:

Check-out the website of my good friends at Payne Nickles. Look at the lower left where it indicates hours are Monday to Friday 8:00 to 5:00 AND Friday Closed at Noon Memorial Day thru Labor Day.

More good friends, the Friedman firm headquartered in Manhattan, ranked highly on a recent employee survey – read about the survey here that ranks the happiest accounting firms. The headliner for Friedman was the workplace initiative of its summer schedule. From June through August, there is no work on Friday. Friedman piloted the program back in 2007, and found that output actually exceeded that of a five-day workweek.

Notice how prominently closing on Fridays is displayed on the website of Borgida & Company, a Manchester, CT firm.

Check out “I Know It Can Be Done – Closing On Fridays” a blog post I did back in 2010. I truly believe that if CPA firm team members know they can have Friday off or leave early on Friday, they will work much harder Monday – Thursday. If that is not the case with your team members, perhaps you have deeper problems with your team members.

Here’s a good article on FastCompany, The Good, The Bad, and The Alternatives: What Bosses Really Think About Summer Fridays.

  • The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand?
  • Captain Jack Sparrow