Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

As You Progress In Your Career, Gather Mentors

I love to walk along the beach at Hilton Head and not only observe the birds, ocean, sky and ships but also observe the people.

As I walked yesterday, my thoughts turned to mentoring and how having multiple mentors is a valuable thing. Many firms are realizing the benefit of formal mentoring programs and are working hard to build strong mentoring cultures.

A question I am almost always asked during my mentoring training sessions is, “Can you have more than one mentor?” I like to compare it to people collecting sea shells as they walk along the beach.

Consider people walking along the beach in the early morning, like me this week, collecting sea shells.

They continually scan the shore for “perfect ones.” As most of the shells here are in pieces, the whole, undamaged ones are rare and precious. Even if people have many perfect shells, they will pick up the undamaged ones. They just can’t resist.

Mentors are like that. As you walk the beach of your professional life, you come across people who have it all together. They are rare and precious. They are undamaged. Search for these people in your life and ask the for help. I have been so fortunate in having had many in my life and certainly more than one at a time.

Some of your best advice and counsel come from these people. I have had bosses as mentors, teachers as mentors, friends as mentors, business acquaintances as mentors and paid mentors/coaches… who became friends… collect them all!

When you are considering a mentor, think of seashells – – when you meet a person who “has it all together” – latch on to them!

If you are a mentor in your CPA firm, please keep in mind that younger accountants are searching for role models, leaders, people who will give them honest feedback and career guidance. Keep your own professional life “together” so you can be an inspiration for the next generation of accounting firm leaders.

  • I am not a teacher, but an awakener.
  • Robert Frost

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Yes, You Can Manage Your Clients!

Preventive Medicine AvatarYes, clients can be trained. I know that you are thinking that the client is king/queen and whatever they want you need to provide, referring to it as QCS (quality client service).

Yet, firms that learn to manage and train their clients are not only able to attract more clients, they are able to create a culture where talented people will stay and build their careers.

Of course, talented people staying at your firm is the answer to the succession problem that continually gets so much attention.

Clients that drive your staff crazy (you all have them) should go. Immediately, partners say to me, “They pay us $100,000 per year!” It seems that many CPAs don’t really think that assisting difficult clients is an issue of client service, they look at it more honestly as I just mentioned…”they pay us a lot of money!”

I’ve known and talked extensively with many CPA partners over the years and here’s my assessment of what they are truly THINKING but not saying out loud to their partners: “Yes, we need to out-place a few very difficult and challenging clients… but those are NOT MY clients.”

Here’s what to do. Meet with your partners and identify the clients that give you headaches and heartburn; the ones that continually frustrate your team members. (I have a form I share for identifying that type of client.)

You have probably already done that… several times. But, that where it stalls – partner do not take action. This time take the next step. Set-up a meeting with those clients and have an honest conversation with them about what you and your firm expects from them in the future.

Try using a commitment statement – – identify the things you (your firm) will do and also define the things you expect from them, the client. (I also have a sample of this that you can use.)

After you have the face-to-face conversation with the client and discuss your expectations, if they are not willing to comply – let them go. Better yet, help them go.

Why not simply say, “We have valued you as a client but we don’t seem to be a good match any longer. Let me help you find a CPA firm that would be a good match for you.”

Next, set-up an on-boarding system for clients that clearly defines your expectations and give them a timeline for submitting their information. Preventive medicine is the best.

Okay, you have out-placed a few difficult clients. Now, maybe your team members can work less extended hours this coming busy season.

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

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

This Blog – I’m On Vacation

As you know, I rarely miss a day doing a blog post. Last week I prepared the blog posts and scheduled them ahead of time, before I left for a nature-focused vacation in beautiful Australia. There hasn’t been much internet access. So, for the next two weeks, I’ll just post when I have the connectivity and the time.

We spent a couple of days near Mossman in the rain forest and here is a picture of Darrell and I on our way to the Great Barrier Reef on Saturday.  It was quite a day!


  • To cherish what remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope of survival.
  • Wendell Berry

Monday, October 27th, 2014

This Blog & My Adventure

Just a heads-up to my many loyal readers. I might miss a few posts over the next few weeks. Since 2006, I have been posting every work-day about CPA firm management. I have rarely missed a day, even when I am on vacation.

Keep reading everyday – I’ll be able to post most days while I am gone.

But, if you want to follow my adventure and see some pictures head on over to my Keller Advisors Facebook page – add your “like” while you are there.

  • Carry the sun inside you and reach out for the dreams that guide you. You have everything you need to take your where you want to go then.
  • Dainere Anthoney

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Would Your Employees Cheer If You Eliminated Formal Performance Evaluations?

Why not do away with formal performance reviews inside your busy, growing accounting firm? Go ahead….. contemplate it, research how to do it, talk it over inside your firm with lots of people and then give it a try.

I’ve been an advocate of simplifying performance feedback for quite some time. It has been my observation that firms often make their process way too complicated and labor intensive. Too many people end up providing feedback on too may people. I have talked to partners who are filling out rating forms (with comments) on ten or more people. That’s a huge time investment. Eventually, the people providing the feedback dread “evaluation time” and the people receiving the feedback dread it, too.

Some of my clients are now trying the Keep Stop Start method and it is working well for them. But wait, many experts are now asking, why not do away with formal performance feedback sessions altogether?

There have been some heated debates about the merits of eliminating performance reviews but one large company has done it – Adobe, with over 11,000 people.

Adobe moved from yearly performance rankings to frequent “check-ins” where managers provide employees targeted coaching and advice. What a concept, managers continually talk to people!

When Adobe was considering the move away from formal feedback, the company posted a blog on the company’s intranet about the topic. Employees devoured the post, making it one of the most-read pieces in the history of Adobe’s intranet. Company-wide discussions ensued about the employees’ dissatisfaction with the review process.

Adobe’s VP of People and Places (Donna Morris) thought it was time for some disruptive change. Since the change, managers have more say in their people’s salaries and merit increases. The company’s aim is to give managers the skills, authority and responsibility so they can act much as if they were running their own business. Take some time and read more about the Adobe story here.

What do your accounting firm team members actually think about your process? Why not ask them and begin a conversation on how to make the process better and the managers better, all while providing dialogue to help the employee advance their career. It might be time for some disruptive change inside your firm.


  • One key to surviving in a world of disruption, where the external environment is changing at lightning speed, is to change the game internally.
  • Randy Ottinger

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Talent Spotting – Is Your CPA Firm Stuck In The Past?

“We need an experienced tax senior/manager.” I hear it over and over as I move about the country consulting with firms and speaking at various association/society events.

When I ask a them if they are hiring, most practitioners, firm administrators and HR managers working at accounting firms tell me “Yes, but we can’t find the people we need.” It seems everyone is looking for a tax or audit senior or manager, someone with 3 to 5 years of experience and deep knowledge of their specialty area.

I hear the same story when it comes to succession. Many current, aging partners say they aren’t able to transition their clients to “up & comers” because the firm doesn’t have anyone who 1) who shows the skills and expertise to be a partner and/or 2) has the desire to become a partner.

IMG_4016Times have changed, Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, author of the HBR article, “The Big Idea: 21st-Century Talent Spotting,” believes we are now in the fourth era of talent spotting. With 30 years of experience in evaluating and tracking executives and studying the factors of their performance, he considers potential the most important predictor of success at all levels.

The first era, lasted for thousands of years – – humans made choices about one another on the basis of physical attributes. If you want to build a pyramid, you picked someone big and strong.

The second era, which occurred during the baby boomers lives, emphasized intelligence, experience and past performance. Verbal, analytical type skills were the basis for assessing talent.

In the 1980s, the third era evolved and still rules. The way to spot talent is driven by the competency model. We even began considering emotional intelligence as an important competency.

The fourth era is dawning. Here’s a paragraph from the article that, to me, speaks to many of our challenges inside CPA firms:

Now we’re at the dawn of a fourth era, in which the focus must shift to potential. In a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment (VUCA is the military-acronym-turned-corporate-buzzword), competency-based appraisals and appointments are increasingly insufficient. What makes someone successful in a particular role today might not tomorrow if the competitive environment shifts, the company’s strategy changes, or he or she must collaborate with or manage a different group of colleagues. So the question is not whether your company’s employees and leaders have the right skills; it’s whether they have the potential to learn new ones.

The work environment for CPAs is changing. The way we communicate has changed. Social media, focus on specialty services, flexible work cultures and more have proved to be challenging for many accountants. It’s all about the last sentence in the paragraph, above: So the question is not whether your company’s employees and leaders have the right skills; it’s whether they have the potential to learn new ones.”

One powerful aspect is the fact that companies are not properly developing their pipelines of future leaders. It’s not just in accounting. In PWC’s 2014 survey of cEOs in 68 countries, 63% of respondents said they were concerned about the future availability of key skills at all levels.

What I find interesting is that many successful, high-earning, CPA partners are looking for talent that attained a high GPA in college, have outstanding technical skills and are personable, outgoing and able to bring in business…. when they admit that they, themselves, could not be described the same way.

Take the time to read this important article. Use it as a discussion tool for your partner group. This topic is retreat-level in importance.


  • Setting the bar high in our approach to hiring has been, and will continue to be, the single most important element of our success.
  • Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO

Friday, March 21st, 2014

What Really Matters Inside Your CPA Firm?

Do you ever think about it? I’m referring to today’s title: What really matters inside your CPA firm, in your family, in your life?

At work some things don’t matter much. Like the size of your office, the size of your cubicle, the kind of coffee your serve, the brand of soft drinks you stock, the time you get to work or the time you leave.

The problem with people is they often make decisions based on things that don’t really matter much.

More things that don’t matter that much:  The kind or color of the car you drive or the fact that your office is a few sq. feet smaller than the partner next to you. How big are things like this in the scheme of life?

I recently read a passage in a book titled, “The Secret Life Of Bees.”  Does the color of a house matter? How big is that in the scheme of life. But lifting a person’s heart – now that matters. The problem with people is they know what matters, but they don’t choose it.

Inside your CPA firm, are you making decisions based upon things that really matter? As an employee inside a CPA firm are you making decisions based on what really matters?

I hope all of you are lifting people’s hearts.

  • The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Phone Calls – Put Yourself In The Place Of A Prospect

Some of you might remember attending Accountants’ Bootcamp many years ago and learning many client service methods via Paul Dunn.

One thing that I remember and one thing that we immediately implemented at our firm was the practice of NOT interrogating people who called our firm. We stopped having the person who answered our main line always ask, “May I ask who is calling?”

These days many callers use your direct dial number or your mobile number. That’s a good thing. However, if you have clients and prospects calling your main number, please don’t have your director of first impressions give them the third degree!

What you are saying (what the caller is thinking) is “Are you important enough for me to put this call through to one of our partners or staff?”

For many years, I thought that asking who is calling was the proper thing to do. As our firm embraced the “not asking” method, it became so much more comfortable and made our firm seem so much more approachable.

Now when I call CPA firms (and I do it often), I just cringe when I get the third degree… May I ask who is calling?  What is this about? It happened yesterday. Just to clarify, I do call many firms that do not ask, they put me right through to the person I ask for.

Just put yourself in the shoes of a prospective client – – don’t make them feel like you are important and they are not.

I did a blog post in 2012 that goes into more detail and gives you suggestions – check it out.

  • We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It's our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.
  • Jeff Bezos, CEO Amazon

Friday, November 29th, 2013

What Would You Pay For the Secret To Success?

JPMorgan-YoungAt your CPA firm, things are hectic. You have many priorities and you often find yourself running in circles.

I love this story that I learned from Tom Peters (you should follow his writings. Plus, he gives away so much great information for free!).

Here’s the story:

A man approached J.P. Morgan, held up an envelope, and said, “Sir, in my hand I hold a guaranteed formula for success, which I will gladly sell you for $25,000.”

“Sir,” J.P. Morgan replied, “I do not know what is in the envelope, however if you show me, and I like it, I give you my word as a gentleman that I will pay you what you ask.”

The man agreed to the terms, and handed over the envelope. J.P. Morgan opened it, and extracted a single sheet of paper. He gave it one look, a mere glance, then handed the piece of paper back to the gent.

And paid him the agreed-upon $25,000 …

The formula:

  1. Every morning, write a list of the things that need to be done that day.
  2.  Do them.




  • The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.
  • J. P. Morgan

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Partner Compensation, Partner Compensation, Partner Compensation

Do you get tired of hearing about the topic of partner compensation? Do you, as a firm leader, continue to read about it, talk about it, attend conferences about it, hire consultants to advise you about it and and yet never feel like you have the right partner compensation system in your firm?

Join the club. There are a bunch of you out there.

Who’s worth more, the partner who serves clients expertly, builds relationships and has above average technical knowledge or the partner who is best at pursuing prospective clients and landing them? The age old question continues.

As far as current trends for 2013, what I am hearing is pretty much what I have heard for many years. #1 – rainmaking, #2 – firm management and #3 – technical expertise.

As we move ahead into 2014 and beyond, I am desperately hoping that another HUGE factor becomes prevalent in CPA firm partner compensation – talent development. I have already heard about one, large, prominent firm that asks their partners: Who did you recruit to the firm? Who would say they are here because of you? How are you developing those people?

Many managing partners think that if they can learn how other firms are doing partner compensation then they can do the same thing and all their worries will disappear. Wrong.

Partner compensation and all CPA firm compensation is highly dependent on geographic location. Partner compensation depends on the wants, desires and opinions of ALL of your partners and the culture your particular partner group has adopted over the years.

If you are considering revamping, updating and revising your partner compensation (and many firms out there need to undertake such a journey), it means lots of discussion and investigation into what your own group of partners think and care about. Of course, you should also build in accountability – goal-setting for partners and rewards based upon achieving those goals. Firm after firm tells me, “we have no accountability.”

If you need some resources:

Partner Compensation Checklist from Gary Adamson of Adamson Advisory.

CPA Partner Base Salary Guidelines from Marc Rosenberg of Rosenberg & Associates.


  • Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems.
  • Brian Tracy