Archive for the ‘Change’ Category

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

Wednesday, May 4th, 2022

Together or Apart?

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford

In the world of CPA firm management in a multi-partner firm, the best possible thing that can happen is ALL partners are on the same page.

Sounds simple, right? If you live in a multi-partner firm, you know that it is a distant dream or even a fantasy. It is only natural that individuals have different wants and desires.

If you have two or three partners, things run fairly smoothly. If you have hundreds of partners, they stay out of management and focus on clients and mentoring staff. It is the six to 15 partner groups where I see the most discord.

For years consultants have been advising partner groups that if the majority is in favor of a certain initiative, those not in favor must leave the partner meeting or retreat and act as if they are fully on board with the decision. Does that happen? Rarely.

With two or three partners, decisions are made and acted upon. Four to 15, or so, partners, discord happens. Of course, as the firm expands, it is very important for leadership to know and understand the partners’ preferences and be able to lobby or politic to get the result that is best for the firm.

As the business world has changed, some partners are even outplaced or asked to retire early. I hope things are going smoothly at your firm. Don’t fear confrontation and deal with problems as they arise. The longer you ignore important issues, the quicker your firm will fall behind.

“May the 4th be with you.”

  • Do or do not. There is no try.
  • Yoda

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022

The Last Days

“The digital age was dragging older lawyers like the Boones into the world of paperless files and storage, and not a minute too soon … Why destroy so many trees to produce much paper that becomes useless almost as fast as it is filed away?” – Author: John Grisham

There is a good article via Accounting Today titled, Frontier: The last days of paper.

Almost always, when I talk with clients and prospects they hesitantly disclose that they are only partially paperless. This paperless tend has been evolving for nearly twenty-five years and still some firms are hesitant to fully embrace the digital world.

The arguments are:

  • We have several older partners (and employees) that are just not ready to give up the paper.
  • We have many clients who demand we give them a paper copy.
  • We have many clients who want a digital copy AND a paper copy.
  • Some tax returns are just too complex to review on-screen.
  • And, the classic excuse: I just like the feel of paper.

I am sure you can add some excuses to this list. But, 2022 is the year, the year to fully embrace the digital world. Are you even offering your clients a paperless method of payment? Look at your competitor’s website. I bet they have a “Pay us here” selection where clients can easily pay without writing a check.

Are you still providing paper tax organizers? Paper tax organizers consume a huge amount of paper (and time and effort). Are you paying your bills via Bill.com or something similar? I receive checks from many of my clients issued via Bill.com. Bill.com also recently acquired Invoice2go this past September. There is more information on that acquisition here.

During the last couple of years, you have made great strides in becoming paperless (because you were forced into it). Make 2022 the year to take the final steps into the digital world.

  • There are three classes of men; the retrograde, the stationary, and the progressive.
  • Johann Kaspar Lavater

Monday, May 2nd, 2022

Technology Survey Results

“Once a new technology rolls over you if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.” – Steward Brand, Writer

Every other year the CPA Firm Management Association does a survey of its membership relating to what firms are using relating to technology.

It addresses things like the most used tax software, most used practice management software, and others. It also disclosed that 68% of respondents are in the cloud.

When asked when firm respondents believed that firms would run entirely online without on-premise servers, 33% of respondents estimated it would happen in the next three to five years, while 32% thought it would be less than three years.

Here is a great summary of the findings from the CPA Practice Advisor.

  • If it keeps up, man will atrophy all his limbs but the push-button finger.
  • Frank Lloyd Wright

Thursday, April 28th, 2022

Another Season Unfolds

“Do not listen to those who weep and complain, for their disease is contagious.” Og Mandino

The team and partners have been very busy. Now, they have more time to think about what is going on around them. You might hear comments like:

  • I have a lot more charge hours than Joe. I wonder if I am paid more than Joe?
  • How can the firm expect us to do our best work when it is always so hot in the office?
  • How can the firm expect us to do our best work when it is always so cold in the office?
  • I mostly work from home, I miss out on the treats people bring into the office.
  • Sally is always late and then she eats breakfast in the lunchroom before she starts to work.
  • Ted actually exits out the rear entrance at 3:00 when the partners are away from the office.
  • The people working in the office get a lot more training than I do.
  • Why do I have to come into the office two days per week?
  • Susie and Joyce Admin chat at the front desk for a half-hour every morning!
  • The firm does so much for people with families. I am single. What special stuff do I get?
  • Joe Partner always leaves such a mess around the coffee machine.

Tax season is over (for now). It is the Dealing With People Season. It always makes me think of Seinfeld:

Elaine: I will NEVER understand people.

Jerry: They’re the worst.

Some of these complaints might seem extreme to you but I bet you can tell me even better “stories” about people complaining. Good luck with Dealing With People Season!

  • Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, and most do.
  • Dale Carnegie

Tuesday, April 12th, 2022

Why Do You Stay?

“People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining.” – Stephen Hawking

I have heard a similar story many times during my years of talking with CPA firm team members.

I am often asked to counsel an employee working in a CPA firm. They tell me things. Sometimes I hear things via an upward feedback survey interview or at a conference. It involves a certain team member sharing somewhat of a horror story with me.

They tell me that they never hear a partner say thank you. They are not recognized or appreciated for their hard work and dedication. Any kind of formal feedback never happens. Many leaders are unprofessional, distant, grumpy, unhappy, unappreciative, self-centered, short-tempered, greedy, weird, crazy, and sometimes even worse. They (the leaders/partner) will not change and embrace current trends.

When I ask the obvious question, “Why do you stay?” I get similar and somewhat surprising answers.

  • They don’t mean to be rude.
  • They are really very busy and can’t help themselves.
  • I like the location, it is close to my home.
  • They pay me fairly.
  • I like my co-workers.
  • I like my clients.
  • They do provide some flexibility,
  • I can’t make this much money somewhere else.

I wonder if they just like to complain. At one time, I had one of those “No Whining” signs in my office because I really heard more whining than complaining.

Has it just become part of the firm culture? And, the validity of those complaints can’t be serious or why would they stay?

Be sure to work on the culture at your firm. If you don’t focus on it and continually work on it, it will form on its own and might not be something you are proud of.

  • That I be not as those are who spend the day in complaining of headache and the night in drinking the wine which gives the headache!
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Monday, April 11th, 2022

More Clarity About PTO & Remote Workers

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

Recently, there was a discussion on the CPAFMA discussion board. Someone wanted guidance on how firms are managing PTO as it relates to remote and flexible schedules for team members.

I thought a great reply was provided by my friend, Donna Marlarkey, Firm Administrator for KWC in Alexandria, Virginia. Her comments and answers to questions follow:

We do not have required days in the office, yet, we make it known that the ability to work remotely is not a right; rather it is a privilege, and if they are not getting their work done, or there are performance issues those will be dealt with, even if that means requiring them to come into the office for more supervision. Also, having the privilege of a private office requires a commitment to come into the office at least 3 days a week. We have some office sharing and use a calendar reservation system for offices designated as a hotel, which has worked out well. Here are answers to your specific questions:

  • Have you updated any PTO policies regarding sick time?  Do you allow employees to simply be remote now where in the past they would have had to take a PTO day? ANS:  We have not updated our PTO policies.  People use PTO when they are unable to work due to sickness or need to take care of personal stuff.  
  • Do you allow employees to flex their time (e.g. take time off for a midday appointment and make it up at a later time that same week) or do you require PTO?  ANS:  We allow employees to flex their time as long as they keep their supervisor in the loop; we also put notes in our electronic EIO board which reflect our schedules for when we expect to be in the office or not… it’s all about communication and letting people know when you are available.  Some people do their best work after 10:00 pm… or at 4:00 am… so far we’ve not had trouble allowing them to choose the schedule that works best for them as long as they get their work done. 
  • Have you changed your PTO policy or adjusted the number of PTO hours available since moving to a hybrid model? ANS:  No.
  • Do you allow employees to pick and choose remote days or do you require a consistent schedule?  ANS:  They pick and choose. We do, however, have certain days of the week where certain teams are encouraged to be in the office for collaboration purposes. Also, we moved our staff meetings to completely remote – we conduct them once a month using Zoom Webinar.  We use Microsoft Teams a LOT to stay in touch both for video calling and for screen sharing for training and supervision.  

It is important to hold onto your staff any way you can, but also get work done. One last thought is that we have an AMAZING admin team, and for the most part they need to come into the office to do their tasks, but even with the admin team, as long as they have work they can do remotely (e.g. billing, electronic tax return assembly or organizing scanned materials), we do not have heartburn if they do some of that work from home. We’ve had one administrative person who has been fully remote since 2008!

  • Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.
  • Stephen Covey

Tuesday, March 29th, 2022

Salary Growth

“You don’t get paid for the hour. You get paid for the value you bring to that hour.” – Jim Rohn

I have thought for years that CPA firm starting salaries have lagged behind the rest of the world. Maybe the lack of interest in majoring in accounting and entering the field of public accounting reflects this line of thought.

Here are some excerpts from an article on Bloomberg:

According to Robert Half salary guides, average starting pay for first-year auditors in 2022 was $55,000—unchanged from 2011 despite 10 years of slow but steady inflation growth.

“Students are making economically rational decisions,” Almer said. Faced with mounting housing costs and student loan debt, they opt to pursue other fields, she said.

Read the article titled, Accounting Faces Reckoning After Years of Sluggish Pay Growth via Bloomberg.

I have mentioned it before – – starting salaries I am hearing and reading about for new college graduates entering public accounting is barely above what my firm offered in 2008!

  • A lot of people quit looking for work as soon as they find a job.
  • Zig Ziglar

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2022

Don’t Look Back

Here is today’s quotation. It is by Agatha Christie in a Miss Marple story Please contemplate it.

“I suppose I really knew already that one can never go back, that one should not ever try to go back – that the essence of life is going forward. Life is really a One Way Street, isn’t it.”

Accountants have a job to do. A lot of it is looking back. A tax return and a financial statement are just pictures of what happened in the past.

For years, we have referred to CPAs as historians simply recording a client’s activities in the past. Now, you are expected to be a coach, advisor, and visionary to your clients. This evolution began many years ago but some have remained in the past and continued to depend almost entirely on compliance work. That is why embracing change is so important.

Most things will be digital. Many employees will be remote. Being a focused manager of people will be necessary. As comfortable as the past sometimes is, you can never go back. Life is a One Way Street.

  • I believe you win the race by looking forward, not behind.
  • Payal Kadakia