Posts Tagged ‘public accounting’

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Let’s Talk Teams

Together

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

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Be Unique – Do Unexpected Things For Your Clients

Nolan GiereI hear many stories from my clients and friends in public accounting.

Sometimes I hear about frustrations and challenges. But, I also often hear some really cool things, such as how firms are serving their clients by doing special things for them. Here’s a great example.

Nolan, Giere & Company CPAs in Troy, Ohio does Shred Day In The Park every year. They arrange for a shred truck to come to the Park and they invite their clients to bring things they need to shred and to join the firm team members for a picnic lunch. The clients love it!

Before and after they promote it on their Facebook page. What are you doing to make your clients smile?

shred

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • One of the nice things about the Senior Tour is that we can take a cart and a cooler. If your game is not going well, you can always have a picnic.
  • Lee Trevino

Friday, September 13th, 2013

Public Accounting Salary Trends

photoI always try to keep my clients informed about trends in salaries in public accounting. Today, I thought I would share some information with all readers of this blog.

Offers to new hires, annual salary increases and various salary ranges are always a hot topic in CPA management circles. But, please remember…. it takes more than money to keep great talent satisfied.

Glassdoor is just one resource I use. I am providing a link to current salary information from Glassdoor. If you follow this link, you will be permitted access without being a Glassdoor member.

Glassdoor often shares salary information specific to CPA firms. Please keep in mind that when assessing your firm’s salary ranges that geographic location is a major factor.

  • For I don't care too much for money, for money can't buy me love.
  • The Beatles

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Public Accounting – More Aspects Of The One-Firm-Firm

photoOn Monday, I blogged about the one-firm firm and the aspect of Loyalty from the writings of David Maister. Today, we’ll continue our exploration of this topic.

Other aspects of the “one-firm” system are:

Downplaying Stardom – Much like loyalty, in one-firm firms, the leaders and other members of the firms view themselves as belonging to an institution that has an identity and existence of its own. This type of firm places great emphasis on its firm history, broadly held values and a reputation that all work to preserve.

Teamwork and Conformity – The emphasis on teamwork and “fitting in” creates an identity not only for the firm but also for the individual members of the firm. This identity, for better or for worse, is readily identifiable to the outside world.

Long Hours And Hard Work – Although great teamwork is emphasized, one-firm firm members are no slouches. Long hours and hard work are the norm. Plus, they “get the job done” and basically take it all in good humor. They truly love what they do.

Sense of Mission – Although loyalty to the institution is part of it, there is also a great sense of “mission,” which is most frequently seen as client service. As I often share with young accountants, “You are in the service business, just like a waiter or housekeeper.”

Client Service – Maister uses a quote from someone at McKinsey, “Everyone realizes that the client relationship is paramount, not the specific project we happen to be working on at the moment.”

In summary, per Maister:  the high-commitment, hard-working, mission-oriented, team-intensive characteristics of one-firm firms are reminiscent of another type of organization: the Marine Corps. Indeed, one-firm firms have an elite Marine Corps attitude about themselves. It is a feeling of, “we do things differently around here, and most of us couldn’t consider working anywhere else.”

Note Picture: Check out my copy of Managing The Professional Service Firm – about fifty sticky tabs, some post-its and many scribbles and highlights. If you haven’t read it, STUDIED IT, and your are part of a CPA firm, I urge you to do so.

  • If I only had three words of advice, they would be, Tell The Truth. If I got three more words, I'd add, all the time.
  • Randy Pausch

Monday, September 9th, 2013

Public Accounting – The One-Firm Firm – Loyalty

photoWhen CPA practitioners gather, usually at management conferences or at state society events, there still seems to be some mystery and confusion about what a One-Firm Firm really is. Another question, or mystery, seem to be, “Is our firm really a one-firm firm and/or do we really want to be one?”

For insight into this topic as it relates to a public accounting firm, I always return to the writings of David Maister. He explored it in his book, Managing The Professional Service Firm, and in other writings.

I’m going to focus this week’s blog posts on exploring this topic because of the constant debate faced by many CPA partner groups… “Are we a one-firm firm or are we a silo firm?” 

I find in many, many cases, firm owners publicly tout that they are a one-firm firm and openly act-out the fact that they are a silo firm.

From the writings of Maister, the first aspect of the one-firm management system is:

LOYALTY 

One-firm firms have a remarkable degree of institutional loyalty and group effort that is clearly a critical ingredient to their success. This is in contrast to firms, who are often very successful, who emphasize individual effort, autonomous profit centers, internal competition and highly decentralized activities.

One-firm firms hire SWANs (people who are Smart, Work hard, are Ambitious, and Nice). While emphasis on the first three attributes is common in most professional service firms, it is the emphasis on the last one that differentiates the one-firm firm from all others. If an individual has ego needs that too high, they can be a very disruptive influence. Sound familiar?

  • It's not hard to find smart people. It's hard to find people who inspire and motivate.
  • David Maister

Monday, August 5th, 2013

You Were Hired To Work

Many new accounting graduates will be entering CPA firms this fall to begin their career in public accounting. This message is for them and for all the accounting graduates who have ever joined a CPA firm.

Why were you hired?  It is very basic. You were hired to do the work of an accountant working in a public accounting firm. It is very simple: You get money; you do work.

You are not expected to be an expert right away. Accounting firms are a hotbed of learning. They give you the opportunity to begin with the basics, practice them, become proficient and then move on to more difficult assignments. You are expected to continually improve over time. That part never ends.

Your employer has provided you with a competitive wage, training, advice and career counseling to improve your skills plus a nice benefit package.

Your firm and its leaders want you to succeed.

You were not hired to fill a category called, “high maintenance.”

  • I am a greater believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.
  • Thomas Jefferson

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Lighten-Up Thoughts About Mergers For Friday

IMG_0084Every where you turn there is something published about the merger frenzy that is occurring in the public accounting profession. Almost every day I read of another combination of firms. Some are larger firms gobbling up smaller firms and many are smaller firms banding together in hopes of survival.

If you are a regular follower of this blog, you know that my mind often drifts into some quirky thinking. I was thinking of all the mergers and this came to mind:

Merger, merger every where,

The number of firms to shrink;

Merger, merger every where,

What are we to think?

Of course, the inspiration for this comes from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It is the longest major poem by the English poet Samual Taylor Coleridge, written in 1797-98 and published in 1798. It’s an interesting story. Read more about it here.

You probably learned the memorable lines as a child, as I did. Here’s a refresher:

Day after day, day after day,

We stuck, nor breath nor motion;

As idle as a painted ship

Upon a painted ocean.

 

Water, water, every where,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, every where

Nor any drop to drink.

The phrase, “an albatross around one’s neck” also comes from this epic poem, meaning a burden which some unfortunate person has to carry.

This sailors was contemplating survival. The Mariner was carrying an albatross.

How about you?

 

  • The Devil knows how to row.
  • from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Surrounding Yourself With Believers

As a leader of a CPA firm or as a new college graduate just beginning your career in public accounting, it is important to surround yourself with people who believe in you and in your personal mission, vision and goals.

Julian Fellowes, the creator of the very successful TV saga, Downton Abbey, said in a recent interview:

“Years ago, after I left Cambridge and went to drama school, my friends who were going on to lead sane lives in banking or the army thought I was crazy. I had to stop seeing them and instead surround myself with people who believed I was talented and that it was all going to happen for me.”

In the world of public accounting, I believe that a “bad apple” or two can truly ruin the barrel. Read my post from March, 2012 about using a subtraction mindset when it comes to bad apples and how Baird has something called the “no asshole rule.”

As a leader of the firm, do you have partners and managers who always seem to be negative. Do you have partners who ALWAYS qualify their complaints with “I’m just playing Devil’s advocate here.” – - What are you going to do about it?

As a young accountant/CPA, have you found yourself in the lunch room whining along with some of the other staff members, complaining about your assignments or mocking the clients? – - What are you going to do about it?

  • Surround yourself with people who take their work seriously, but not themselves, those who work hard and play hard.
  • Colin Powell

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Who Would You Thank?

It’s award season. I guess that’s what you would call the first half of a year when many of the major award shows are televised.

The list is long. Here’s a few of the major ones that are televised:  People’s Choice Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Screen Actors Guild Awards, Academy Awards. I caught a few minutes of the Golden Globe Awards last night (less than 30 min. to be exact). I’m not a big fan of award shows.

However, what I do like about them is most of the winners do remember, in a very public, visible way, to thank certain people who have been influential, helpful, key in the development of their skills and careers. Just my opinion, but most of these “stars” would absolutely not be successful if it were not for the make-up people, the agents, the long list of various “coaches,” costume designers, writers, directors and so on.

Of course, there are various awards given to accountants and other people working in the accounting profession – 40 Under 40, Most Powerful Women, Best Places to Work and so on.

But, what if YOU were named the 2013 Best CPA In A Leading Role in Public Accounting? Who would you thank? Would the people, behind the scenes supporting you, be proud?

  • I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me.
  • Sally Field, accepting for her role in Norma Ray

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Being A Good Manager

Inside CPA firms, the word “manager” is not very clearly defined.

For many firms it is a name they give a person who has developed solid technical accounting, auditing or tax skills over a period of time. I believe the term “manager” applies to partners, managers, supervisors and even seniors inside an accounting firm. After all, they are expected to manage the client engagement and the work of people who are more junior than themselves. They are the boss in many situations.

Google, inside their own organization, decided to explore the question, “What makes a good boss?” and called the the study Project Oxygen.

They discovered that what you might think would be the top characteristic, the ability to write computer code in your sleep, came in last. I imagine that inside an accounting firm, being a great tax mind or having extremely advanced auditing skills would also come in last as an indicator of being a great boss.

Here’s Project Oxygen‘s findings, Google’s “Eight Good Behaviors” of top managers, ranked in order of importance:

  1. Be a good coach. Provide specific, constructive feedback, balancing the negative and the positive. Have regular one-on-ones, presenting solutions to problems tailored to your employees’ specific strengths.
  2. Empower your team and don’t micromanage. Balance giving freedom to your employees, while still being available for advice. Make “stretch” assignments to help the team tackle big problems.
  3. Express interest in team members’ success and personal well-being. Get to know your employees as people, with lives outside of work. Make new members of your team feel welcome and help ease their transition.
  4. Don’t be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented. Focus on what employees want the team to achieve and how they can help achieve it. Help the team prioritize work and use seniority to remove roadblocks.
  5. Be a good communicator and listen to your team. Communication is two-way: you both listen and share information. Hold all-hands meetings and be straightforward about the messages and goals of the team. Help the team connect the dots. Encourage open dialogue and listen to the issues and concerns of your employees.
  6. Help your employees with career development.
  7. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team. Even in the midst of turmoil, keep the team focused on goals and strategy. Involve the team in setting and evolving the team’s vision and making progress toward it.
  8. Have key technical skills so you can help advise the team. Roll up your sleeves and conduct work side by side with the team, when needed. Understand the specific challenges of the work.

CPA firms focus so much time and so many dollars on training their youngest team members. They are sent to Level I, II, III and maybe more for audit training. The firm funds their education in “beginning tax,” “advanced tax” and more. Managers and partners review their work and critique their skills in tax preparation, auditing and accounting. Why not invest in helping accountants become better bosses?

An idea:  Firm owners, why not consider devoting this year’s partner retreat to the topic of how you are going to spend dollars and time training yourselves, your managers and even your seniors on how to be better managers of people? Develop an action plan outlining steps you need to take to become better leaders, as partners, and how you will develop future leaders inside your firm. Some call it succession planning; I call it running a good firm.

In public accounting firms, true leadership training rarely happens. I strongly urge you, plead with you, even beg you – begin leadership training from Day One – just like you do with tax and accounting training.  Contact me if you need help.

 

  • No man goes before his time; unless the boss leaves early.
  • Groucho Marx