Friday, January 3rd, 2014

The Role of The Firm Administrator

Yes, I have been talking about the important role of the firm administrator for about 30 years!

Your firm does not have to be large or mid-size or small. The “right-hand” to the Managing Partner is a key ingredient to the management and administration of a successful firm.

Do you have one? Do you need one? What do they do? How can they help?

You might already have a firm administrator but the person might not have the title. I find that firm administrators (the role) often have varying titles inside CPA firms.

The following is something I often share with practitioners who are contemplating the addition of a firm administrator or the investigation as to the effectiveness of the one they already have in place. I hope you find it helpful. Send me an email if you need more information or want to discuss the role of the firm administrator.

Levels of Responsibility in Firm Administration

Chief Operating Officer
The person in a CPA/consulting firm who is responsible for efficient operations, firm-wide, often in a multi-office environment. Accomplishes the highest-level of performance in Administration, Finance, Human Resources, Marketing and Internal Technology by managing, motivating and evaluating leaders in each of these areas. Is a principal or shareholder in the firm and adheres to personal goals just like all other shareholders. Is a member of all firm partner-level committees, including the executive committee. Is financially rewarded based upon meeting these personal goals, as well as firm goals. Firms who have a COO have adopted the CEO/COO method of management for a CPA/consulting firm. The team of CEO/COO report to the board of directors and is charged with carrying out the firm’s strategic plan.

Director of Administration
Actively involved in all management functions of a CPA firm. Directs all administrative affairs. The Director of Administration operates at the partner level and reports to the managing partner or executive committee. Formalizes finance, personnel and general administration policy. Directs the firm’s recruiting program and is actively involved in hiring accountants. Directs administrative personnel recruiting. Directs orientation, training and/or evaluation of both accounting and administrative staff. Directs and supervises the firm’s financial affairs. Supervises management data and reporting. Responsible for supervision of all administrative personnel and physical facilities. Is an ex officio member of all committees and is an active participant in all partner/executive committee meetings and retreats. Performs controllership functions if firm does not have a controller. May also direct the marketing activities of the firm.

Firm Administrator
Administers the affairs of a CPA firm and reports to the managing partner or director of administration. Meets regularly with the firms shareholders. Formulates annual budgets, prepares and interprets management reports, expends allocated budgets for administrative staff, equipment and supplies; supervises all accounting functions and systems; negotiates for office space, maintains firm insurance; and has final responsibility and authority in administrative personnel matters, including hiring, training, salary advancement, discipline and discharge. May also supervise office managers and administrative supervisors. Depending on the size of the firm, may be responsible for the firm’s marketing efforts and for the firm’s internal technology.

Office Manager
Responsible for the administrative activities of a CPA firm. Reports to the managing partner, administrative partner or director of administration. Generally supervises or conducts the accounting function and exercises direct, day-to-day supervision over the administrative support functions of the firm. May assist in preparing budgets and recommend changes in systems, major purchases and personnel benefits.

Administrative Supervisor
Supervises secretarial, word-processing, filing and other support services, including, copying, library maintenance, reception, telephone and messenger services. Conducts or assists in employment recruiting and interviewing of new administrative staff. Trains new administrative employees, allocates and assigns work, and takes an active role in evaluation of job performance. Responsible for ordering supplies and monitors client due dates. Reports to managing partner, director of administration or firm administrator.


  • "Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go."
  • Oscar Wilde

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