Friday, October 11th, 2019

Down to the Wire

“Boredom is a choice. Like tardiness. Or interrupting” – Mike Rowe

Another due date is approaching. Usually, in public accounting, the same thing happens with every deadline, whether it is Spring or Fall.

There is a last-minute push to get that final return out the door. It is hectic and stressful for everyone. Deadlines in most firms are dreaded, especially by the administrative team.

The accountants breathe a sigh of relief. Things are off their desk and it is time for the celebration to begin at 4:30 in the lunchroom. While the party is ramping up and pats-on-the-back are exchanged, the administrative team is still frantically working. They are processing those last returns, they are waiting on Last Minute Larry (client) to stop by to sign something or they must actually get in their car and deliver something to a client.

Progressive firms have worked on this issue and devised a proper scheduling system so that tax returns and other projects do not hit the reviewer’s desk with little time to spare. Reviewers keep the flow moving steadily so that the admin team does not have to rush around at the last minute (and miss the after-party, as usual).

Usually, this scenario is blamed on the client. Why not establish a more aggressive system for obtaining client source data? Why not outplace clients who are repeat offenders? Clients can be trained.

 

  • "An expert is someone called in at the last minute to share the blame."
  • Sam Ewing

Thursday, October 10th, 2019

The Person Fits The Job

“All good performance starts with clear goals.” – Ken Blanchard

It has always amazed me how some CPA firm leaders go to great lengths to avoid firing a person.

Francine, a bookkeeper, has been with the firm 15 years but she has never really embraced the technology that is currently needed for her role.

Fred, a 3-year staff person, has struggled to understand and prepare tax returns.

Bobbi, the administrative assistant focused on the tax area, performs the final processing of tax returns before they leave the firm. Her work has to be continually reviewed “just in case.”

The partners are aware of the shortcomings but rather than be completely honest with the employee, they agree that they should create a different role where Francine, Fred or Bobbi might fit.

Rather than looking at a specific, important role in the firm and finding the appropriate person to fill it, partners struggle to establish a role that a poor performing employee might be able to fill. This way they won’t have to outplace someone.

Are you really doing them a favor?

  • "The highest levels of performance come to people who are centered, intuitive, creative, and reflective - people who know to see a problem as an opportunity."
  • Deepak Chopra

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

Immediate Feedback

“Make feedback normal. Not a performance review.” – Ed Batista

I have been recommending it for years. Many firms seem to have difficulty implementing it (doing what they say they will do). I’m talking about immediate feedback.

Our younger generation of workers wants immediate feedback at the push of a button. They do not want to wait for an annual performance feedback session or even a quarterly feedback session.

That’s why I loved a recent post by Ed Mendlowitz – Uberize Staff Evaluations:

Uber passengers are asked to evaluate their ride as soon as they get out of the car, and the drivers are also asked to evaluate the riders immediately. This seems like it would be a good idea for accounting firms.

Bruce Tulgan calls it “hands-on management.” Managers touch base with those they manage on a daily basis. Accounting firm managers need to improve and be more proactive with their people-management skills. Read Tulgan’s book, It’s Okay to Be the Boss.

As Mendlowitz and Tulgan (and I) suggest, keep it simple. I still hear stories of beginners preparing a tax return and hearing back from a manager or partner three (or more) weeks later that they did something wrong.

  • "To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing."
  • Elbert Hubbard

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

Staying Safe Online

“The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.” – Tacitus

As the old saying goes, “It’s a jungle out there!” It sure seems to apply to the internet.

Jared Clarke, privacy advocate & tech writer, made me aware of his VERY informative article, Ultimate Privacy Guide (How to stay safe online).

Complete privacy on the internet is virtually impossible, and any services that claim to offer it are bending the truth.

However, anyone can improve their privacy online by adapting their on-line habits, like choosing privacy-focused online services and limiting the volume of information, they store on the internet.

In this privacy internet guide, we’ll show you how to protect internet privacy against threats.

As you read the article, be sure to note the top three basic mistakes users follow repeatedly. He also shares his Top 10 Online Privacy Tips.

 

  • "The best safety lies in fear."
  • William Shakespeare

Monday, October 7th, 2019

National Tax Conference – FYI

“It’s income tax time again, Americans: time to gather up those receipts, get out those tax forms, sharpen up that pencil, and stab yourself in the aorta.” – Dave Barry

The quote above is for those of you preparing extended 1040s!

Here’s a press release from the AICPA:

SAVE THE DATE: AICPA National Tax Conference

Washington, D.C. (October 3, 2019) – This November, the American Institute of CPA

s (AICPA) will host its annual National Tax Conference. Press registration includes access both online and in-person access. Please mark your calendars.

WHAT:            2019 AICPA National Tax Conference

WHEN:            November 13-14, 2019                                                          

WHERE:         The Marriott Marquis, Washington, D.C.

INVITED:                   

  • Charles Rettig, IRS Commissioner
  • Michael Desmond, IRS Chief Counsel
  • Rochelle Hodes, Washington National Tax Office Crowe, LLP
  • Tony Nitti, Partner, RubinBrown LLP

TOPICS INCLUDE:

  •  Using Machine Learning to Predict Outcomes in Tax Law
  •  Treasury and the TCJA
  •  Small Business Exceptions and the Tax Shelter
  •  Lessons Learned from the 1st Year of Filing After TCJA                             

CONFERENCE SCHEDULE: Current information about speakers and conference topics including full agenda may be found here

 

Note: AICPA Fall Tax Division Meeting will take place at the Marriott Marquis on November 15th. These meetings are open to the press but not accessible via the internet.

 

  • "I'm proud to pay taxes in the United States; the only thing is, I could be just as proud for half the money."
  • Arthur Godfrey

Friday, October 4th, 2019

Life On A Plateau

“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth.” – Dan Rather

Plateau meaning: to reach a state or level of little or no growth or decline, especially to stop increasing or progressing; remain at a stable level of achievement; level off.

The firm has plateaued. It was once growing steadily, and maybe even rapidly. Firm rainmakers retired and the next generation of owners don’t seem to be as skilled or experienced at bringing in new business. They have been making an extremely comfortable living for the past several years (often many years). So life is good at the top.

The “let’s just get the tax returns out the door” mentality has filtered down to the managers and seniors. The firm is paperless, well almost. The firm is doing so may nice things for the team, but haven’t added anything new lately. We’re not a sweatshop firm, so all is well.

We wonder why several of our new hires have left already. Oh, well.

How boring!! If your firm is not growing, it’s shrinking. Get off of that plateau.

  • "I'm always improving and I want to get better and never hit a plateau. I find it an amazing adventure."
  • Nigel Kennedy

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

Expand Your Phrases

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou

Do you use the same, stale phrases to attempt to motivate people? One of the standards is, “Just do your best.” When you say that it seems like you really don’t expect much and you are abandoning them.

Suzanne Lucas, @RealEvilHRLady, gives us Ten Things to Say Instead of “Do Your Best” in a recent post for Inc.

If you want to motivate people to do the right kind of work, here are ten phrases you should use instead.

  1. I know you’ll do a great job.
  2. Let me know what resources you need to accomplish this.
  3. We have a strict deadline for X. It will be impossible to do this perfectly in this amount of time. I trust your judgment on which corners to cut.
  4. Let me know what help you need to get this project done. I’m happy to help.
  5. I know you’re concerned that you lack the skills to do this, but I know you can figure it out. I’m here as support.
  6. This project is critical, and it needs your top attention. Make it your priority and let me know what you need to drop.
  7. This is new, and we’re not quite sure how to accomplish it, but I know you have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to figure it out. 
  8. This isn’t a huge priority. It does need to get done, but don’t stress out over it.
  9. Give it your best shot, and we’ll correct any errors later.
  10. I just need a rough draft/estimate/outline/whatever.

The reality inside CPA firms is that you do expect a lot from them AND you are not abandoning them. You are there to advise and train.

  • "It's not enough to just do your best. You must continue to improve your best.""
  • Kenneth Wayne Wood

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

Always Too Busy

“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.” Harvey Mackay

You are thinking:

  • I would like to investigate that new niche opportunity.
  • I have heard that XXXXX software has really improved its performance. I should check it out.
  • I need to make phone calls to my top 10 clients every quarter.

BUT, I don’t have time.

Most people DO have time, they just choose to do some things and not others.

Many people desperately need some basic time management education.

Leaders often get caught up in the short term and postpone spending valuable time on long term planning because short term might be more profitable.

Schedule your time. Determine what is essential to your career and firm growth. Find your time-wasters and eliminate them. Re-think your routine and how you can capture more time to do the things you actually WANT to do.

  • "You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it."
  • Charles Brixton

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

PCPS 2019 Top Issues

“If your only tool is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail.” – Abraham Maslow

I should have shared these sooner. 2019 is passing by too quickly.

How does your firm line-up? Hopefully, you have addressed some of these issues this summer.

2019 PCPS Top Issues

Sole Practitioners

  1. Keeping up with changes and complexity of tax laws
  2. Managing privacy / security risks
  3. Keeping up with changes in technology & managing associated costs
  4. Technical training of owners / partners and staff
  5. Seasonality / workload compression

2 – 5 Professionals

  1. Finding qualified staff
  2. Keeping up with changes and complexity of tax laws
  3. Managing privacy / security risks
  4. Seasonality / workload compression
  5. Developing & executing a succession plan

6 – 10 Professionals

  1. Finding qualified staff
  2. Keeping up with changes and complexity of tax laws
  3. Seasonality / workload compression
  4. Managing privacy / security risks
  5. Developing & executing a succession plan

11 – 20 Professionals

  1. Finding qualified staff
  2. Keeping up with changes and complexity of tax laws
  3. Seasonality / workload compression
  4. Retaining qualified staff
  5. Managing Privacy / security tisks

21+ Professionals

  1. Finding qualified staff
  2. Retaining qualified staff
  3. Managing work/life balance initiatives
  4. Owner / Partner accountability & unity
  5. Seasonality / workload compression & Managing privacy/security risks

 

  • "There's no use talking about the problem unless you talk about the solution."
  • Betty Williams

Monday, September 30th, 2019

CPA Firm Marketing

“Marketing is telling the world you’re a rock star. Content Marketing is showing the world you are one.” – Robert Rose

There continues to be a lot of questions from practitioners about marketing – activities, budgets, staffing, etc.

Of course, a big percent of your marketing budget is devoted to salaries. More and more firms are devoting more time and money to online marketing while still continuing much of the traditional methods… sponsorships, etc.

Once again, the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) partnered with the Hinge Research Institute to conduct the bi-annual Marketing Budget Benchmark Study. The purpose of this study was to provide marketing professionals, firm leaders and business developers with the insights needed to determine whether their efforts are effective – especially when compared to the marketing efforts of firms that may be similar in size or with regard to a chosen marketplace.

You can download a summary or the full report here.

  • "Don’t settle: Don’t finish crappy books. If you don’t like the menu, leave the restaurant. If you’re not on the right path, get off it."
  • Chris Brogan