Archive for the ‘Change’ Category

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018

Simple Mission: Set A Good Example

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” – Albert Schweitzer

You are a partner in a CPA firm.

One of the most important things you can do as a leader is set a good example.

When I ask CPA firm citizens who, in their firm, breaks the rules, ignores the established procedures and demands special treatment, the answer is always “the partners!”

Many challenges and frustrations that happen inside a busy CPA firm would be solved if EVERY partner would set a good example.

Sorry, I’ll get off my soapbox now.

  • Example is leadership.
  • Albert Schweitzer

Thursday, October 4th, 2018

Winter Weather

“It is only in sorrow bad weather masters us; in joy, we face the storm and defy it.” – Amelia Barr

It is only October but for those CPA firms in the winter weather advisory sections of the country, it means that ice and snow are just around the corner.

Many firms have snow days or inclement weather policies. I asked advice from several firms from across the country and, as I expected, most firms now expect people to work from home on those days. Firms provide remote access to all employees.

Some firms have made the leap to unlimited PTO and, of course, everyone gets paid for those days they are unable to get to the office. Other firms have put a cap on snow days, allowing one day’s pay.

I found that the firms in the areas where there is always significant snow, rarely close the office. All firms stress the safety of the employees and using common sense about tackling a rough commute.

Here’s my favorite system:

We are no longer closing our office for winter weather.  We let individuals decide if they can make it in and if they can’t they can work from home.  All members of the team have remote access.

 

  • Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.
  • John Ruskin

Monday, October 1st, 2018

I Love Small Firms

“A big business starts small.” – Richard Branson

I have heard the following numbers mentioned by consultants and AICPA leaders many times. I also use them often. I like to make people working in public accounting aware of the numbers.

There are approximately 46,000 CPA firms in the USA and the 500th largest firm has about 20 people and $3M in revenue. Most recently, I read these numbers via Accounting today in an article by Edward Mendlowitz of Withum. He also notes that small firms outnumber large firms 91 to 1.

In the article, I discovered that he and I have something in common. We like to focus our consulting efforts on smaller firms.

Over the years I have worked directly with over 100 firms and advised and spoken to thousands of CPAs, firm administrators, HR directors, marketing directors and, IT managers. I have a large following for my daily blog and tweets. I have found, much like Mr. Mendlowitz, that small firms need help.

These firms, unlike the larger firms, aren’t big enough to justify hiring full-time support professionals such as HR, marketing, and management professionals. They need and are willing to pay for outside resources that will help them manage better and improve operations.

I find leaders of smaller firms interesting, enthusiastic and receptive to new ideas and methods. Yet, much like accountants in larger firms, they find it very challenging to implement.

Be sure to read the article in the link above.

  • I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.
  • Steve Jobs

Friday, September 28th, 2018

The Firm Name

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – William Shakespeare

I read an article in the news this morning about Macedonia’s upcoming vote on whether to change the country’s name. If you are a Macedonian, it is a very big deal.

Of course, to me, it brought to mind the name issue within CPA firms especially in this time of merger after merger.

Two things to remember:

  1. If you are in merger discussions with another firm – talk about the name issue early on in those discussions.
  2. Keep it short and simple.

Some firms have adopted names that do not even reflect a partner’s name, such as Apiro and Fluence.

Here’s some explanation about the Apiro name and here’s some insight about Fluence.

Recently, I heard about a firm that actually used six partners names. If your firm name is something like – Smith, Jones, Adams, Brown & Black – I bet your clients call you Smith Jones. Why not brand it?

  • Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.
  • Oscar Wilde

Thursday, September 20th, 2018

It Arrived! – My Copy of the Rosenberg Survey

fullsizeoutput_42cf“80% of firms never make it to the second generation.” – Marc Rosenberg

I always look forward to the day in September each year when my copy of The Rosenberg Survey arrives. That happened yesterday.

I have always found that public accounting is a fascinating profession. It’s challenging, interesting, never boring and profitable (if your firm is managed properly). For example, this year in the Forward section of the survey, Charles Hylan shows us that the average HIGH partner comp in the largest firms is $1,175,000 and the LOW partner comp in smaller firms is $247,000. That’s quite a spread and shows young accountants the possibilities for their career growth. Use the survey to see where your firm is doing well and where you might need to focus some attention. You can order it here.

Be sure to read my comments, along with several other CPA management consultants, in the Observations section beginning on Page 6.

  • Most firms are still stuck managing the compliance services at the expense of the advisory work.
  • Jeff Pawlow

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

Trust Those Around You

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” – Ernest Hemingway

Trust is a word that is thrown around the CPA profession all of the time. “Most Trusted Advisor” is familiar to most of you. CPAs have been claiming that mantra for many years now.

I see that the AICPA even has a Trusted Client Advisor Toolbox and Workshop.

Let’s explore trust a little deeper as it exists inside accounting firms. Here’s a familiar story about firm administrators. The administrator is an experienced professional. He/She takes over most of the day-to-day operations of the firm from the partners and implements procedures to make processes flow smoothly inside the firm. Soon the managing partner is distanced from the details (a very good thing) and can focus on managing the partners. The managing partner trusts that the firm administrator will take care of things.

Trust imparts obligation. The firm administrator takes that responsibility very seriously and works diligently to not disappoint the partners.

In my consulting work, I have experienced many situations where staff members do not trust the partners (owners). Building trust that goes both ways is a continual activity in a firm with a healthy culture. Not there yet? Keep working at it.

  • Trust is the lubrication that makes it possible for organizations to work.
  • Warren Bennis

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

Working Remotely Works

“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” – Joseph Campbell

I recently noticed a discussion on the CPAFMA discussion board. Someone wanted guidance on designing a remote work policy.  Some firms are really strict about having a documented agreement that outlines the do’s and don’ts of staff working remotely.

I thought a great reply was provided by my friend, Donna Marlarkey, Firm Administrator for KWC in Alexandria, Virginia. The firm doesn’t stress that working remotely is a privilege, it is something offered to everyone. Here is Donna’s reply to the question.

donnaWe have so many staff who work remotely… some even work from other states (we have them in NC, Colorado, North Dakota and Rhode Island). Our staff loves the flexibility of working from home when they need to. We try not to get wound up in whether it is a right or a privilege… as long as the employee is getting their work done.

The courtesy is extended to everyone… from Partners to our administrative staff (to the extent admin staff has work they can do remotely, like billing, setting up new clients, etc.). We are on a cloud and we are mostly paperless, so working from home is no different than working here at the office. We do ask that they update the EIO board to let us know when they intend to work from home so that we can plan for it (the EIO board “electronic in/out” status site that we use to know where our staff are and what their schedule is). 

I had lunch with someone the other day who used to be with BB&T and they worked under the presumption it was a privilege. They made staff sign annual statements that showed their kids were enrolled in daycare, and they had some kind of program that could tell by the lack of keystrokes whether someone was working or not… if someone was home “working” they were supposed to be working, not going to the store, doing laundry, etc.

Our firm takes the position that we want to be competitive, so we want our staff to have options to have work/life balance, so again, as long as the work is getting done, we let them control their schedule. It’s surprising how many of our young staff prefer to work at really odd hours… they will log in at 10:00 at night when they are most productive! 

I wish you all the best with coming up with an agreement that works for you and your firm.

I agree with Donna – I also wish you much success in offering remote work opportunities to your staff.

  • Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.
  • Voltaire

Monday, August 27th, 2018

The Importance of Technology When Talking M&A

Any sufficiently advanced technology is equivalent to magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke

BoomerDuring the 2018 Boomer Technology Circles Summit, Jim Boomer moderated a panel discussion on best practices in mergers and acquisitions regarding technology. I know at my firm, the tech staff were involved early on in any merger discussions and often seemed to work magic.

Boomer has written a great summary of the discussions. THIS IS GREAT INFORMATION for anyone considering a merger. Be sure to read it!

Here are the questions that were explored:

How early does IT need to get involved in the due diligence process? And as an IT professional, how do you push to get involved?

We’ve counseled firms that the technology cost of acquiring a firm runs, on average, $10,000 per person. Is that consistent with your experience?

If there a time of year that’s best for making the integration fast and effective?

There’s a lot of talk about “rip and replace” strategy versus peeling off the bandage slowly. What’s the more effective method in your experience?

How long do you let legacy data ride? And what if the acquired firm’s technology spend wasn’t what you were told?

What are your top three priorities to have implemented on Day 1?

  • The human spirit must prevail over technology.
  • Albert Einstein

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018

Fight Your Urge to Procrastinate

“Indecision and delays are the parents of failure.” – George Canning

You are working your way through some strategic planning with your partners. An item comes up that has been discussed on many occasions. One or more participants might say:

  • “Let’s put that one in the parking lot for later.”
  • “It is too late in the year to take that one on.”
  • “We can’t deal with that now, let’s wait until after tax season.”

It is the procrastination dance that many accountants know all too well.

From Psychology Today:

Everyone puts things off until the last minute sometimes, but procrastinators chronically avoid difficult tasks and deliberately look for distractions. Procrastination in large part reflects our perennial struggle with self-control as well as our inability to accurately predict how we’ll feel tomorrow, or the next day. “I don’t feel like it” takes precedence over goals; however, it then begets a downward spiral of negative emotions that deter future effort.

Procrastinators may say they perform better under pressure, but more often than not that’s their way of justifying putting things off. The bright side? It’s possible to overcome procrastination—with effort. Perfectionists are often procrastinators; it is psychologically more acceptable to never tackle a task than to face the possibility of falling short on performance.

I hope you quickly address items that need to be resolved. Either deal with it or take it off the table permanently.

  • Procrastination is the bad habit of putting of until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.
  • Napoleon Hill

Monday, August 13th, 2018

Cul de sac

“If your job is a cul-de-sac, you have to quit or accept the fact that your career is over.” – Seth Godin

Cul de sac is a dead-end street. It goes nowhere. Seth Godin talks about cul-de-sac jobs in his book The Dip.

If you are working in a CPA firm, no matter what your title, you might find yourself in a cul-de-sac job. You work and you work and nothing much happens. It doesn’t get better, it doesn’t get worse. It just is.

Get off the cul-de-sac – why invest your life in something not getting any better.

Some of you work in cul-de-sac firms. There is a lot of talk about how things will get better but nothing much seems to happen. Years pass by.

Some of you are in cul-de-sac partner groups. Same as above, lots of talk but not much really happens. Years pass by.

Move your firm and/or yourself out of the cul-de-sac.

 

  • People settle. They settle for less than they are capable of.
  • Seth Godin