Archive for the ‘Trends’ Category

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

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – Helicopter Parents – An Example

I love this short video from the folks at Robert Half.

As, I talk with CPAs around the country, most of them seem amazed that helicopter parents are actually calling “bosses” at CPA firms in inquire or complain about something on behalf of a young staff person. Larger firm are developing programs to deal with the parents who show up with their young person for the job interview!

Does your firm have a way to connect with parents? Remember, most young people entering your firm have had intense parental support. Build on that.

Because this depiction is extreme, it makes you smile – yes, lighten-up, it’s the weekend!


  • My heroes are and were my parents. I can't see having anyone else as my heroes.
  • Michael Jordan

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Engaging Your People & Improving Everyone’s Health

My good friends at prominent New Jersey firm Wilkin & Guttenplan (managing partner Ed Guttenplan and firm administrator Janine Zirrith) never cease to amaze me. They are truly focused on listening to their people, engaging them and including them in decisions.

This year, along with many other interesting and fun activities, they have tweaked their exercise program by offering T25 classes twice per week.

Janine was kind enough to send me a picture, that’s her on the far right and yes, they are holding the managing partner, Ed Guttenplan.

Having fun at your CPA firm right now?


  • The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
  • Agatha Christie

Friday, January 10th, 2014

Don’t Always Believe It

I try to provide CPAs and all the people working inside CPA firms with helpful information via my presentations, workshops, newsletter, consulting activities and this blog.

Much of it comes from my many years of actual experience working inside a growing, profitable CPA firm. Some of it also comes from my extensive reading…. of books, articles, newsletters, blogs, tweets, and so on.

There is so much great information out there now via the internet. Just a word of caution, as you probably already know – – not all of it is true. I’m trying to be very careful in what I pass along and I want you to also be very careful when you hear about or read about certain trends, strategies and best practices.

My mission today is to simply share an example.

photoOn the topic of goal-setting, I have read about and heard about a study conducted by Harvard Business School over a 10-year period. The study reported that only 3% of Harvard MBAs actually write down their goals – 97% do not. The study also reported that the 3% ended up being much more successful and, over the 10-year period, were making ten times as much as the other 97% combined.

This study eventually was discovered to be fiction. Here’s the answer to an inquiry made to Harvard “Ask a Librarian” site:

I think you are referring to the “Harvard Goals Study,” reports of which periodically surface in motivational literature. We have been asked repeatedly about this research, but we have never been able to find such a study. It is frequently cited as having transpired at Yale, but librarians there have not found a trace either. 

Read the entire Harvard response here.

You can also read more about this goal-setting story here. I found it quite interesting.

The moral of the story? Be careful out there!

  • Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt

Monday, December 30th, 2013

The CPA Firm Partner Compensation Process…. Or, Should I Call It An Ordeal?

Yes, I call it the PCO – Partner Comp Ordeal. It happens at most CPA firms in December.

All partners received adequate salaries during the year (which need to be set using logic and historical information – not every partner gets the same amount). Then in December, the remaining profit needs to be allocated to the owner group (with some extra usually going to non-owner owners – an oxymoron to me anyway).

There is no exact one-way to do CPA firm partner compensation – – it has to align with the desires and needs of the actual owners and the size of the firm and number of partners. As for my opinion, it is the same as my opinion on a lot of things inside a CPA firm – Keep It Simple – as it relates to your size firm and PAY FOR PERFORMANCE.

I have several good friends and colleagues in the CPA firm consulting world who offer lots of good advice on this topic.

IMG_1902Marc Rosenberg’s blog post, ‘Tis the Season – The Comp Committee Season – is very informative and features 10 tips on how to run a Compensation Committee. Here just a few of the numbered topics in his post:

#1 – Communicate. If the partners don’t understand how the Compensation Committee works, and don’t understand how their income was determined, it will fail.

#3 – Align compensation with what the firm needs from each partner.

#5 – Resist the temptation to equalize final distributions. Only through a quirk of fate will all partners be equal contributors to the firm’s performance.

#7 – Make sure that the managing partner’s input on overall partner performance has more impact on income allocation than any other single partner, including Compensation Committee members.

#8 – Reward for more than production (management, mentoring staff, teamwork, loyalty).

#9 – Resist the temptation to adjust the final income allocation to avoid a War with a problem partner who will go ballistic if he/she sees an income number that fails to meet expectations.

I strongly urge you to re-read #9. Don’t, annually, avoid the obvious. Partners who are not role models, who are childish and who go ballistic should be gone. Make a plan for that in 2014.

rak gla 2002Gary Adamson of Adamson Advisory offers The Partner Compensation Checklist. I think you will find it very helpful. I agree with his point that partner goal-setting and results are a very important item on the checklist.

Many firms still rely on formulas. I once knew a firm administrator who spent the majority of her time tracking the partner compensation formula stats throughout the year.

I like to quote Allan Koltin on partner compensation formulas: “Numbers ARE deceiving! Show me a formula and I’ll show you how to beat it. Trust leadership to make the call.”IMG_2335

On the topic of trust, I want to share a comment from David Maister in an interview about partner compensation:

“Recently, I was advising a firm on its compensation system. They didn’t like my recommendations. Finally, one of the partners said, ‘David, all your recommendations are based on the assumption that we trust each other and trust our executive and compensation committees. We don’t. Give us a system that doesn’t require us to trust each other!'”

Final thought… what do your people think? It’s not extremely important that you are one of the firm founders. It’s more about how you rated on the partner upward evaluation survey, the partner peer survey and the client satisfaction survey.

  • The only way you motivate people and change them is one-on-one. Everything else is window dressing.
  • David Maister

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Hosting Your Firm’s Holiday Party

Year after year, the same old thing. The annual CPA firm holiday party – a dinner event at a local hotel ballroom or perhaps a country club. Yep, boring.

Firms are getting more and more creative. Some have entertainment that is not the same old “dinner/dance” theme. Who wants to dance in front of your co-workers??? We all remember Elaine’s famous dance style on Seinfeld.

I read an article this morning about Gleason & Associates, a Pittsburgh firm, who outgrew their usual restaurant and ended up at the James Gallery and Frame Foundry.

How about hosting your event at the local art museum, historical society, maybe even at one of your clients sites?

One year we had a ventriloquist. It was different, that’s for sure, and a lot of fun.




  • You find out your mistakes from an audience that pays admission.
  • Edgar Bergen

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Women In Accounting, What Are You Wearing?

Many, many of you reading this blog post know me, you have been reading my “stuff” for a long time (I’ve been blogging daily since January 2006), you have heard me speak in person, worked with me via CPA firm associations or state CPA associations/societies….. You know I can’t help it.  I have to speak my mind!

Why do so many women in accounting look like drab, boring technicians?

Sure, for special occasions they put on a suit or a dress and jacket, let their pasty legs show and just maybe wear some heels rather the flat, school-teacher-ish shoes they usually wear daily.

I do notice that CPA women working in public accounting dress slightly better than those working in private industry. Is it because they do have more actual client contact? Probably.

I’m not going to leave the men out of this…. CPA firm male leaders, maybe if you took the females along on business lunches and to meet with clients, they might have a reason to dress more stylishly. Also, a reminder for the men – – professional men, wearing business casual with no socks is so 1980s!

All of this came to mind because of some comments I read about Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer.

Read this article on the Vogue site about Mayer and her style.

Another interesting article (the one that first caught my attention) is on the Forbes site – To Heal Or Not To Heel: They Question For Ambitious Women by Bonnie Marcus. To me this one addresses the female CPA puzzle – – – do I wear the business suit costume and try to look like the males? That’s the Baby Boomer business culture where I “grew up” in public accounting. Now we have more choices and can still dress with power AND style.

Check out this picture of Sandberg on the cover of time.

Check out this article in Vogue – What would Marissa Mayer Wear? – A Workweek guide to office dressing. Click through the five days and see what you think.

I was always told, “dress like the position you aspire to.” If you are happy, dressing like an office worker-bee, nose to the grindstone, cranking out the work (the numbers), then I guess you are happy dressing in flats, black slacks and a cardigan.

All of this is food for thought… for men and women professionals working in the CPA profession. I hear so many male AND female leaders in CPA firms say, “I think our business casual dress policy has gone too far in the wrong direction.”

As one female said to me many years ago, “We aren’t going to adopt a business casual policy at our firm, the women would have to dress-up to get there.”

  • Career progression often depends upon taking risks and advocating for oneself - traits that girls are discouraged from exhibiting.
  • Sheryl Sandberg