Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
Wednesday, August 13th, 2014
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.
Thursday, July 31st, 2014
“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.
Times 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
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
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
At 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 …
- Every morning, write a list of the things that need to be done that day.
- 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
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.
Tuesday, August 13th, 2013
It really is tough for smaller CPA firms to attract the best and brightest accounting graduates. Even larger local and regional firms have a tough time competing on the college campus.
That’s why it is so important to help accounting majors learn more about some of the unique, challenging, supportive and career-building opportunities open to them inside, what I call, the bread and butter firms. So many of these small to mid-size firms really do offer a culture where “life if good.”
Recruiting on the college campus has changed over the years. Your firm founders might have visited the campus in the fall (September/October) to do on-site interviews with students entering their senior year. A few of the students interviewed made the cut and were invited to the office for a more in depth interview. Official offers, for full-time positions, went out just before Thanksgiving.
These days you can speed that up to about 200 miles per hour. Now, your firm recruiter always makes sure your firm is visible in the spring before the students depart (by hosting a mixer, attending the end of year awards banquets, etc.). In September, firm representatives are ready to go early to interview 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students looking for interns for the upcoming busy season that begins in January. These interns are usually hired by the end of September or very early October – no more waiting until Thanksgiving! In mid-April when they depart, many have received an offer to work for the firm upon graduation, even if it is two years out.
Allen Bolnick of Chicago-area firm Weltman Bernfield had an idea to help his smaller firm compete and four other Chicago-area firms joined in. Unlike the usual intern programs you see in public accounting firms, this program does not expect billable hours from their interns.
This unique accounting intern program is based more on education, collaboration and cultural awareness. Read about this success story in an Accounting Today article by Danielle Lee.
Experience is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does with what happens to him.
Friday, August 2nd, 2013
A female working at a large CPA firm asked me a great question a while back. Here’s the scenario:
Our firm involved a lot of people in deciding what to do and developing an outline for a Women’s Initiative. Many levels of people were involved and all seemed enthusiastic. When it came down to the FINAL approval from the partners, the males backed-off, postponed action, procrastinated. Why are males so hesitant to take action on this topic?
In my opinion, the answer is fairly simple. They do not know enough about it.
I have been doing presentations on the “women’s issues” for years. Men do not attend. I have even stood in the hallway at a break-out session for a firm association and recruited men into my session. A few obliged – most didn’t. It was like they were ashamed to be seen in a “women’s” session.
Retaining top talent in the CPA profession these days means retaining women. All the stats tell us that more women than men are graduating with accounting degrees and entering CPA firms. Men and women need to join forces and talk about the issues that cause women to drop out before they reach partner ranks.
Here’s a phrase from Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg: We need to be able to talk about gender without people thinking we are crying for help, asking for special treatment, or about to sue.
The way male owners of CPA firms will better understand the issues is by attending presentations and discussions on this topic and by reading books on this topic. I hope that the AICPA, firm association and state societies begin to offer workshops, presentations and other educational sessions on women’s initiatives directed toward MEN.
Any coalition of support must also include men.
Monday, July 29th, 2013
Once again, I want to stress the importance of your CPA firm website.
I am still finding some less-than-attractive ones out there for accounting firms. Last week, I found one that was impressive, especially the career pages.
It is interesting how you can learn so many valuable things via social media. I found Watkins Meegan by tweeting. I was attending an Ohio Women’s Initiative Committee meeting and tweeted that fact. I had a reply to my tweet from Watkins Meegan, a CPA firm headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland saying, “We have a women’s initiative!”
So, I checked out their career page and was very impressed. I thought I would share it with all of you today so you can see an example of how to position your firm to compete for top talent. It is becoming more and more important with each passing day. Follow the link to the example and then click on the arrows and take their Campus Recruiting Tour.
I hope that one of the strategic initiatives you identified at your retreat this summer is making your firm a magnet for talent.
While a website helps, it takes a lot more than JUST a website. How’s your culture? How’s your brand? What does your team members REALLY say about the firm? How’s your recruiting program; does it need an update?
Don’t place your firm in the role of playing catch-up. Get busy, fall recruiting season is almost here!
Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be.
Wednesday, July 24th, 2013
It has been discussed over and over again at CPA MAP conferences, state society meetings, firm association meetings and at AICPA events. What is it? It’s the fact that a CPA firm is actually a very profitable business.
It means: CPAs need to run their accounting practice like a real business. I remember reading a comment by the media earlier this year: “Firms seem to be focused on profitability like never before. And they seem to be relying on only three strategies: 1) Timesheets. 2) Timesheets. 3) Timesheets.”
Here are a couple of business lessons:
Lesson #1: Your success is determined by the people you hire.
Make strategic hiring part of your culture. Rather than hiring fast and firing S-L-O-W-L-Y. Reverse it.
Lesson #2: A portion of everyone’s compensation should be based on the firm’s success.
Why do CPA firms annually give people (partners and team members) more than a cost-of-living pay increases when they do nothing new or additional from the year before? Did they attend more networking events? Did they write an article (or more articles) for the business newspaper or the firm newsletter? Did they bring new business to the firm? Did they bring top talent to the firm? Did they retain top talent at the firm? To me it’s simple pay for performance.
A tough lesson in life that one has to learn is that not everybody wishes you well.