Monday, January 17th, 2022

A Career For Non-CPAs

“Talent is like electricity. We don’t understand electricity. We use it.” – Maya Angelou

The challenge is really nothing new. A CPA firm has a team member who is an all-star. Learns quickly comprehends the issues, and serves clients efficiently and effectively. If they would only pass that CPA Exam!

Usually, they get the message and move on to work in corporate accounting leaving a significant void in the firm. Historically, firms have even said, “We are a CPA firm, we need CPAs.”

Yes, that is true. But in these changing times, involving a new type of workforce, you need to be creative. Firms need to change. Maybe more young people would major in accounting if they didn’t have to pass the CPA Exam to work in public accounting. The goal of becoming a “partner” simply isn’t as strong with younger accountants as it once was.

One firm has taken a step to solve this problem.

Kimberly Wines, COO of SEK CPAs & Advisors allowed me to share their firm’s approach to this challenging issue.

Our Firm recently added a Client Relationship Manager role to our tier of positions.  It parallels the role of a Manager, however does not require the CPA designation and does not provide for advancement to partner consideration.  These individuals are eligible for the same benefits as a manager. 

The firm has provided the core competencies and contribution points for the role and some valuable team members have embraced it.

As you have heard and read many times, the talent shortage is not going away. It will never be “the good old days” again. As some professional leaders have said, the partnership model no longer works. There are even bigger changes ahead for accounting firms.

  • "Real talent shines through regardless of how many others there are around you."
  • Paloma Faith

Friday, January 14th, 2022

Don’t Get Too Comfortable – Flashback

“A higher rate of urgency does not imply ever-present panic, anxiety, or fear. It means a state in which complacency is virtually absent.” – John P. Kotter

Today’s Friday Flashback is a message from January 2015 that still applies today. Don’t get too comfortable and become a mediocre firm. – Life is Good. Yes! But Don’t Get Too Comfortable.

  • "Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive."
  • Andy Grove

Thursday, January 13th, 2022

Do As You Say

Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.” – William Shakespeare

The above quote certainly applies to public accounting. Do you always do what you say you will do?

You remarked to a client when they dropped off or sent in their tax information, “We’ll have it ready for you in a couple of weeks.” Did that couple of weeks turn into a couple of months?

Do you ever keep clients waiting in your waiting room while you wrap-up a phone call even though it is 10 minutes past their appointment time?

Do clients ever have to contact you to find out the status of their tax returns? When I first started working in public accounting I often heard the remark/advice: Always promise them a date far enough in advance that allows you to get it to them early. That’s one of the little things that keep clients coming back and talking to others about your awesome service.

Inside the firm, as a leader, you also need to do as you say. It often unfolds that the old sarcastic phrase applies, “Do as I say, not as I do!” Staff people watch you through a magnifying glass. If you don’t follow procedures and policies, they won’t either.

Always be on time. Always set a good example. Enough said.

  • "If I have made an appointment with you, I owe you punctuality. I have no right to throw away your time, if I do my own."
  • Richard Cecil

Wednesday, January 12th, 2022

Three Rules For Networking

“The single greatest people skill is a highly developed and authentic interest in the other person.” – Bob Burg

#1 – You must be committed

An effective network is built over time. It’s not immediate gratification. Engage people in conversation. What are common interests? Do your children go to the same school? The magic phrase “tell me about yourself.”

#2 – Develop a relationship

Scanning in biz cards or adding contacts to Outlook isn’t it. Sending your contact a firm brochure or calling to ask for an appointment won’t work. If you find out something you have in common (love of dogs) send them an article.

#3 – Give, give, give

The magic phrase #2: How can I help you? Better to give than receive applies. Perhaps you can make an Introduction. Maybe they need an answer to a question. Become a go-to person.

My story:  How many things did I give away before I ever got paid for consulting?  Hundreds, maybe thousands. It does not happen over night.  It doesn’t have to if you start your young people on the networking trail immediately.

  • "Networking is a lot like nutrition and fitness: we know what to do, the hard part is making it a top priority."
  • Herminia Ibarra

Tuesday, January 11th, 2022

Commandments

“When placed in command, take charge.” – Norman Schwarzkopf

Here is something I used years ago when I was working inside a busy CPA firm.

It might make you smile but maybe you could modify it to fit your firm.

CPA Firm Ten Commandments

  1. Thou shall “Wow” clients
  2. Thou shall not be bigger than the firm
  3. Thou shall covet thy competitors’ clients
  4. Thou shall value bill
  5. Thou shall make collection calls
  6. Thou shall meet revenue goals
  7. Thou shall work smarter – not harder
  8. Thou shall not kill the internal tech guys
  9. Thou shall eliminate procrastinating clients
  10. Thou shall turn in schedules weekly, time daily, and “in/out” hourly

  • "Create like a god, command like a king, work like a slave."
  • Constantin Brancusi

Monday, January 10th, 2022

Don’t Wait

“Act as if. Simply begin. Make things better by making better things. You can always improve it later.” – Seth Godin

The above quotation reminded me of many people working in public accounting.

Right now, the status quo is working pretty well. Financially, firms had great years in 2020 and 2021. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that those good numbers will repeat year after year.

Please don’t procrastinate in taking immediate steps to shape your firm for the future. Hesitating to make important decisions (such as which clients to fire) should not be put off “for a while.”

To elaborate on Godin’s quote – begin making important changes now and you can tweak it along the way. it is not a time to put your head in the sand. To survive, you must act.

Listen to this podcast interview of Allan Koltin by Dan Hood (Editor of Accounting Today). Share the podcast with all your partners. Then discuss what needs to be changed at your firm!

  • "In a CPA firm, change only happens when change is better than status quo. And right now status quo feels pretty good."
  • Allan Koltin

Friday, January 7th, 2022

There Is A Lot to Like

“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need not more.” – Mother Teresa

I love working in the CPA profession. I loved my work inside a firm and love the CPA firm clients that I now advise and coach.

Maybe you should stop and think about all there is to like about being a CPA and working in public accounting. Read this flashback post encouraging you to share all the things you like about your work.

  • "The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things."
  • Henry Ward Beecher

Thursday, January 6th, 2022

Communication Tip For Women

“Brevity is the soul of wit.” – William Shakespeare

In the CPA profession, the main communication tool continues to be email. Males and females often have very different styles in writing emails (or correspondence, in general).

Maybe you have noticed the following examples.

Jane and Tom received an email from an attorney (Mike) about having a lunch meeting on Friday at noon at Local Cafe about the Jones account. He wants to know if that day and time works for each of them.

Jane’s reply:

Hi Mike – Good to hear from you. I have been wondering how you were doing with the Jones account. I would be glad to meet with you and talk about the situation. Friday at 12:00p works well for me. Usually, Friday is a busy day but I do have this Friday free. I always enjoy eating at Local Cafe. I hope you and your family have stayed healthy. Happy New Year, I’ll see you Friday. – My best, Jane

Here’s Tom’s reply:

Hi Mike – Friday, noon, Local Cafe works for me. – Tom

Because of the volume of emails accountants send and receive each day, brevity is important. Just a heads up to those of you who are too wordy for no particular reason. My tip is for females but it also applies to males! I must admit, I have to watch myself at times and strive to keep things brief yet clear and concise.

  • "It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book."
  • Friedrich Nietzsche

Wednesday, January 5th, 2022

Getting Ready For Tax Season

“Be courteous to all but intimate with few and let those be well-tried before you give them your confidence.” – George Washington

There was an interesting article in Accounting Today this week talking about practitioners getting ready for the 2022 tax season.

One comment caught my eye and made me think of all the complaints I hear from my clients and other practitioners, it follows:

“According to the findings of a recent Wolters Kluwer survey of more than 800 professionals from tax and accounting firms, preparers are adapting to a new kind of normal that includes rapid legislative changes, a longer filing season, difficulties in working with the IRS, and the lack of timely information from clients.”

To me, most of these are not “a new kind of normal.” Firms have been facing most of these challenges for years.

If you want to attract and retain talented accountants, this year, focus on solving one of these (to the best of your ability). Train your clients so that the lack of timely information from them is not as big an issue as it has been in the past. Set expectations for them and follow through. Outplace clients who are not willing to meet your expectations. Changing this one “new normal” will help you attract and retain talented professionals.

Want to easily determine which clients should go? Ask each team member to submit the names of five clients who should not be clients. Their answers will probably not surprise you.

  • "By trying to be everything to everybody, you could soon find yourself being a nobody."
  • Michael Sage

Tuesday, January 4th, 2022

High School Interns

“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” — Bob Proctor

I have often suggested, for an accounting firm, to utilize some high school interns. I think it is important to introduce the world of public accounting to a younger audience. Plus, I encourage practitioners to get involved in high school career days. If you have elementary children, why not volunteer to talk to their class about the accounting profession?

Maybe you will be encouraged to hire some high school interns by the following comments from Timothy Allen, MBA, Chief Operating Officer of Reilly, Penner & Benton in Milwaukee, Wisconsin:

“We started with high school interns this past tax season. We hired one as a tax administrative intern doing tax assembly, scanning, and other admin duties. She did such a fantastic job we hired her back as a tax intern this tax season. We have also started hiring college freshmen and sophomores as administrative interns with the intention of having them come back as juniors/seniors as full interns.

Going forward, CPA firms need to be creative and adventurous in their hiring practices. Add high school interns to your action plan.

  • "Learning is finding out that you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, and teachers.""
  • Richard Bach