Friday, May 20th, 2022

We Are Closed On Friday – Flashback

“He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.” – Albert Einstein

It is Friday again and time for my weekly flashback post. This week I am thinking of all of you who are struggling with the decision to close your office on Friday. This post gives you an example of the message one firm sent out to their clients in 2016. Yes, 2016 and some of you are still debating this issue.

Have a great weekend!

  • "We know we cannot plant seeds with closed fists. To sow, we must open our hands. "
  • Adolfo Perez Esquivel

Thursday, May 19th, 2022

Caseware

“To make an embarrassing admission, I like video games. That’s what got me into software engineering when I was a kid. I wanted to make money so I could buy a better computer to play better video games – nothing like saving the world.” – Elon Musk

I am posting this because Caseware was one of the products that enabled our firm to go completely paperless many, many years ago. We started that paperless journey in 1999.

Here is their message:

As part of our commitment to support and drive transformational change in the accounting and audit industry, we have evolved our brand. 

Our new brand is not just a new look and feel, it is our dedication to helping our customers work more effectively, gain deeper insights and see further along the road that leads to change for the better. It is our promise to you that we will be with you every step of the way on your journey to transform insights into impact. 

Welcome to the new Caseware!

  • "Computers themselves, and software yet to be developed, will revolutionize the way we learn."
  • Steve Jobs

Wednesday, May 18th, 2022

Be Creative – Do Things!

“Creativity is seeing what others see and thinking what no one else ever thought.” – Albert Einstein

I have observed that many CPAs wait for other CPA firms to go first and then they will follow that new idea, software, process, or procedure.

So many partners, over many years, have asked me, “What are other firms doing?” I urge you to enlist your entire team in being more creative. What suggestion does that 2-year person have that might save everyone a lot of time? What has your firm administrator been urging the firm to try for a couple of years? So what if it doesn’t work. Try something else.

Once again, I offer a complete blog post from Seth Godin.

EVERYONE ELSE IS

Well, not everyone. Just most people.

When you do something that everyone else is doing, you’re likely to get what everyone else is getting.

But in almost every population, “everyone” leaves out the people who go first, who change things, who are weird and who challenge the status quo. That’s an option, even when it doesn’t seem that way.

Mass culture gets us more mass culture. It’s not the only choice.

  • "A creative life is an amplified life. It's a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life."
  • Elizabeth Gilbert

Tuesday, May 17th, 2022

Civility

“Play fair. Don’t hit people. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.” – Robert Fulghum, author of All I Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

As you become a manager and then a partner in your firm, if you want to be viewed as an inspiring leader, you better be practicing civility.

There is solid research behind this. This is from Christine Porath via HBR:

“For the last 20 years, I’ve studied the costs of incivility, as well as the benefits of civility. Across the board, I’ve found that civility pays. it enhances your influence and performance and is positively associated with being perceived as a leader.”

Leaders need to demonstrate respect. According to recent studies, being treated with respect was more important to employees than recognition, appreciation, inspiring visions, or even learning opportunities.

Be sure to read the informative article.

  • "Politeness is the art of choosing your thoughts."
  • Madame De Stael

Monday, May 16th, 2022

Horse Racing On My Mind

“Remember that the most valuable antiques are dear old friends.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

I was fortunate late last week. I had the opportunity to visit Claiborne Farm in Bourbon County, Kentucky not far from Lexington, KY. Since the Kentucky Derby was still fresh in my mind, I was pleased that two very dear friends arranged the visit. Colleen Endres and Anita Goetz (and I) are all former National Presidents of the CPA Firm Management Association and our friendship goes back at least three decades. We continue to get together once or twice a year.

Claiborne Farm is a thoroughbred horse breeding operation near Paris, Kentucky. It was established in 1910 by Arthur B. Hancock, owner of Ellerslie Stud in Albemarle County, Virginia, and has been operated by members of his family ever since.

Why does this matter to you, leaders in a CPA firm? Just follow the link and you will see their motto/tagline that states their mission. I love it and was impressed. The tour we took certainly lived up to that motto. – Doing the Usual, Unusually Well.

What is your motto, tagline, brand, mission, and belief? Can you state it in FIVE words? Will people relate to it? Will each client, prospect, or business associate believe it after they have an encounter with your firm? Does your team live it every day?

We also visited Old Friends Farm, a non-profit that provides a retirement place for former racing thoroughbreds.

  • "A Thoroughbred racehorse can go from 0 to 40 in a matter of three strides. It’s exhilarating the feeling of power underneath you is incredible. I love to learn what makes a Thoroughbred tick."
  • Chris McCarron

Thursday, May 12th, 2022

Getting Ready To Grow or Merge Up

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” – Henry James

As I have for many years (decades?), I urge every CPA practitioner to get their house in order. That means having a solid foundation to build on. Acquirers don’t want to merge with a firm that is unorganized and/or dysfunctional. Future partners don’t want to buy in to something that is not attractive.

There are some very basic things that CPA firm leaders need to do to continually increase the value of their firm. Of course, CPAs must be technically competent, good communicators, and committed to client service. You are in a service business, just like a hotel or restaurant.

Beyond those basics, a couple more foundational items are needed to create firm value.

Culture – You (and your partners, if you have some) should devote your attention to creating a culture in which you want to work, providing your employees with a clear picture of acceptable behaviors that exemplify your core values. A culture built around consistent and strong core values will attract people with those same core values. If you discover employees who do not embrace your core values, they should be encouraged to go elsewhere.

Processes – Another foundational item thing you can do to increase the value of your firm is to implement processes, procedures, and policies that are well-documented in writing. This means the success of your firm is not solely on your shoulders and not dependent on just a few people. Having written processes and procedures ensures that you can easily get new employees up to speed quickly.

  • "Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions."
  • Dalai Lama

Wednesday, May 11th, 2022

Training

“Learning experiences are like journeys. The journey starts where the learning is now and ends where the learner is more successful. The end of the journey isn’t knowing more, it’s doing more.” – Julie Dirksen

I have been thinking about training.

You attend an internal, tax update training session and you learn so much. Then what? You go to (or attend online), a state CPA society course and you learn so much. Then what? You go to a national conference, spend a lot of money, learn so much, and get so many great ideas. Then what?

When the training is over, it becomes a distant memory, something that occasionally comes to mind.

Some firms tell me that they need to improve the way they train people. The secret is not in the training itself, it is what you do with that training. With new hires, you provide training, lots of it at first. The secret to success is constantly reinforcing that training. Are they practicing what they have learned? You add more training as they become more experienced. Again, you must continually reinforce the training. Focus on the results and give the new hires feedback.

You attend a conference and hear so many good ideas from so many wonderful speakers. You take elaborate notes and are thinking about so many things you need to do when you return to the office. Again, it is not the actual training your receive, it is what you do with it. Do you take action?

Or, do those notes get buried in your training folder or, if paper notes, are they sitting in a pile of other notes in your office. For training to be worthwhile and benefit you and your firm, you must take action.

  • "A "deliverable" isn't worth much, including all training. It's the result of the deliverable, the outcome, that may be valuable (which is seldom true of training when it isn't supported on the job). Most training is just to get a "ticket stamped" on the way to other positions. "
  • Alan Weiss

Tuesday, May 10th, 2022

The Entry-Level Challenge

“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on.” – Sheryl Sandberg

Yesterday I listened in on a “Thought Leader Debrief” from the AICPA. Barry Melancon, Erik Asgeirsson, and Tom Hood spoke about issues affecting the profession. This is their preview of what will be discussed in more detail at this year’s ENGAGE conference.

One discussion point was, of course, attracting talent. Undergraduate enrollment was down by more than 20% in looking at the December 2021 semester. Of course, part of that 20% is accounting majors. I hope your firm leaders are going into high schools and talking about the benefits of becoming a CPA. There are many!

I have observed and the AICPA leaders agree that CPA firms are not offering entry-level salaries that are high enough to attract talented young professionals looking to quickly excel in their chosen career path.

Inside CPA firms, there isn’t much talk about how you become an owner until you have been with the firm for a substantial number of years. This generation will expect the conversation in the first few months of their employment. Or, even before they accept your offer. They want a clear picture of their career path.

  • "Find out what you like doing best, and get someone to pay you for doing it."
  • Katharine Whitehorn

Monday, May 9th, 2022

Mistakes Happen

“The public seldom forgive twice.” – Johann Kaspar Lavater

When I first joined a CPA firm, I was actually amazed at the lengths the partners and staff went to assure that the work they did for the clients was absolutely correct. At that point in my life, my work experience had always demanded: “do it right the first time.”

In the accounting firm, my administrative work was proofed and reviewed. The work performed by the accountants was checked, reviewed, corrected, reviewed again, (corrected again, if need be), quality reviewed, and then checked by a partner before they signed off. I was amazed at the review steps that were part of everyday life in an accounting firm.

I was, and still am, puzzled by the fact that more focus isn’t put on doing it right the first time. When things are checked and reviewed so much, I imagine it is easy to hurry through a task and just hope your reviewer will catch any mistakes.

Once in a great while, a mistake happens. Oh, no! It is a small mistake and you have all experienced them. It is usually the wrong address used when mailing something. A simple typo in a communication to a client. A label affixed to an envelope that is crooked (remember, everything going to a client must be perfect, it is the little things that matter). Have you ever mailed a tax organizer to a dead person? The family is not pleased.

However, rarely, a more major mistake slips through the review process. The client brings it to your attention. You apologize profusely to the client and go about correcting the error. They seem to understand. They are loyal and forgiving. They don’t even consider leaving the firm.

That is why making mistakes when serving CPA firm clients is so rare and why so much caution is applied to the processes. Because if you make another mistake with that same client, you will probably lose the client and damage the firm reputation.

Keep today’s quotation, above, in mind and develop training methods that encourage your team to do it right the first time.

  • "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"
  • John Wooden

Friday, May 6th, 2022

Non-CPA Managers – Flashback Friday

“With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable.” – Thomas Fowell Buxton

The shortage of CPAs wanting a career in public accounting has been on my mind for months, maybe years. Many firms limit the career growth of accountants working at the firm if they have not passed the CPA Exam.

Studies tell us that college accounting majors say they don’t want to be a CPA because they don’t want to pass the exam and they don’t want to work that hard.

If the Exam is a barrier and you have lots of work for qualified accountants already at your firm, you may be able to attract other qualified accountants if you provide a manager-level position for non-CPAs. Here’s a flashback post that shares one firm’s story.

  • "Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best."
  • Henry Van Dyke.