Archive for the ‘Trends’ Category

Friday, September 25th, 2015

PCPS Top Issues Survey Results

Not sure if you saw the release this summer, but 2015 is the year that the AICPA PCPS does their Top Issues survey.

I think it is helpful to see what the issues are in your size firm.  Here’s the summary:

top issues survey aicpa

  • I don't like to commit myself about heaven and hell.. you see, I have friends in both places.
  • Mark Twain

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

Embrace Excitement – Do Not Fear Some Risk

It has to be right.

Accountants are trained in the art of being accurate… being right.

From day one, young accountants have their work reviewed and reviewed again. They receive multiple review notes about what to re-do and correct. Sadly, in many firms they don’t even know what they did wrong, their work is corrected by a reviewer and passed along the review and production pipeline to “get it out the door.” Eventually, they learn that they are making mistakes…. So, they adopt an “avoid risk and over-work the project” work style.

706BA1163FYes, being accurate with client work is very important but it doesn’t apply to everything that is going on inside a CPA firm. Forming a supportive culture, embracing new ideas on efficiency, empowering your firm administrator, working in the Cloud, modifying HR policies, training people, hiring people are all initiatives that continually need to evolve and keep pace with trends.

Inject some excitement in your firm, try things…. Do things… If it proves unsatisfactory just change it again.

Changing things inside your firm feels very risky. Status quo feels very comfortable.

Get over it and remember:  Being alive is a risk.

  • Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
  • T. S. Eliot

Monday, July 6th, 2015

What If You Are Paying Too Much?

Many firms have long-time administrative people, good performers, and just because of their annual wage increases over many years they are significantly above the pay scale for administrative people in the firm’s geographic area.

Some firms only give cost of living increases. Some firms have even capped wages completely.

I do encounter this issue in many CPA firms. What I always ask is, “Are they doing more than they did last year?”

By more I mean something out of their routine assignments they have been performing for years. Have they read a book that could enhance their skills, have they tried and completed Microsoft Office User accreditation (Google MOS Certification to find more info), have they participated in cross-training and any other proactive activities?

If they are participating in goal-setting each year and achieving goals than some reward is appropriate. However, what I usually find is that these long-time administrative people are “protected.” Meaning that they have been with the firm so long and loyal to a partner so long, that they will never be pushed to step-up or step-out. In fact, many are sometimes still resisting all of the technology that is available.

Another goal you might consider is to ask administrative employees to join IAAP (International Association of Administrative Professionals) and attend local chapter meetings (of course the firm should support them by covering expenses). There is a certification available via IAAP, also.

After all of this rambling, I guess the short answer is, as their supervisor you should be aggressive in asking them to continually improve and do more or work more efficiently to earn a pay increase. Keep in mind you are running a business and keeping salaries “at market” is always something to strive for.

I strongly recommend always paying for performance. If an admin person or even a partner is simply doing what they have always done, not expending time and effort to gain new knowledge or skills, why should they get a pay increase?

  • Aren't we all striving to be overpaid for what we do?
  • Will Ferrell

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

CPACA Releases New Succession Survey Findings

I am honored to be a member of the CPA Consultants’ Alliance, a group of management consultants serving the CPA profession. We join together to share trends and practices so that we can better serve our clients: CPA firms, their leaders and their teams.

We are pleased to release the findings of our Succession Survey. Here is our press release and a link to where you can download the article.

CPACA Releases New Succession Survey FindingsFirms struggle most with procrastination and lack of “bench strength” 

Overland Park, KS, June 2015 – The CPA Consultants’ Alliance (CPACA), released the findings from their new succession survey in an article entitled CPA Firms Face Considerable Succession Challenges.  With input from 337 mostly owner and non-equity partner respondents across a cross-section of small, medium and large firms, the survey indicates that firms have considerable challenges with succession.  According to CPACA President and survey chairperson Terry Putney of Transition Advisors, “our profession has a long way to go to get ahead of the considerable wave of retirements facing us.”

Key survey findings conclude that firms:

•       Are procrastinating or are in denial about succession with 26% of respondents citing “other priorities” as the reason succession planning gets short shrift in their firm and 51.7% blaming procrastination or denial.

•       Lack significant “bench strength” to plan transition around, particularly at smaller firms. While 48% of responding partners in firms with 100-plus employees “definitely agree” their firm has adequate talent on hand, over half are not fully confident in their bench strength. Fewer than two-thirds of all responding partners in small firms say they have the right talent to replace retiring owners in the next five years, and one-third are not ready at all.

•       Do not have a systematic way to identify and develop talent into future partners. Just under half of surveyed partners in midsize firms say they do not have a system in place for developing internal talent. 35% of all survey respondents indicate their firms do not have a system in place and are not working on one.

•       Lack plans for client transition.  Only 25% of firms have a client transition plan they are confident will work, although over 40% of those who do not have a plan in place say they are working on one.

•       Are uncertain about their buy/sell arrangements. Nearly 25% of the large firm respondents and 50% of small firm respondents don’t know what their agreement says and more than 75% of all firm respondents lack complete confidence they can handle future partner retirement obligations.

•       See a sale or merger as their most likely succession plan, which was indicated by half of the respondents in firms with less than 10 employees and one in five in firms with 10 to 24 employees.

“This survey’s purpose is to shed light on a topic that is clearly on the back-burner in firms.  By highlighting the challenges and providing suggested solutions, we hope to help firm leaders take steps to plan for and execute transition,” continued Putney.

Download the article at DOWNLOAD SUCCESSION SURVEY.

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.

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:

Visit our Website


  • A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.
  • Greek proverb

Friday, June 5th, 2015

Sole Practitioner/Small Firm Concerns

IMG_5009If you are a regular subscriber to this blog, you know that last week I had a wonderful opportunity to work with a group of partners/owners comprised of small firms and sole proprietors. It was a beautiful setting in southern Ohio.

The entire two days was focused on MAP and yes, small firms must pay very close attention to all the details and management challenges, just like larger firms.

As a result of the meeting, I came away with a list of concerns from CPA firms with under 20 people.

  • Practice growth
  • People – attracting & retaining
  • Client touches (via Cloud/Virtual)
  • Determining when to hire more people
  • Leverage
  • Exit strategy
  • Keeping people busy from May to December

If your firm, no matter what the size, is facing similar challenges, I hope you will attend some MAP sessions at conferences this summer, learn about some new solutions and then implement them at your firm. I also want to urge managing partners and firm administrators to take other partners along to MAP events. I hope to meet many of you at next week’s AICPA/AAA/AAM conference in Orlando.

  • Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.
  • Helen Keller

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