Archive for the ‘CPAFMA’ Category

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, June 15th, 2021

Are You A Firm Administrator? Are You Wondering What A Firm Administrator Does?

“Focus on being productive instead of busy.” – Tim Ferriss

Today, I want to remind you about a one-hour session I am doing tomorrow for the newly formed Missouri Chapter of CPAFMA and the Missouri Society of CPAs.

Are you new to the role of firm administrator? Are you an experienced administrative professional but have never worked in the CPA profession? Are you thinking about hiring a firm administrator? Do you wonder what value a firm administrator can bring to your firm?

Join me and your peers tomorrow. More information here.

  • Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.
  • Leo Babauta

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

Elevating & Embracing Your Role – Firm Administrators & Practice Managers

“Attitude is a choice. What you think you can do, whether positive or negative, confident or scared, will most likely happen.” – Pat Summitt

The newly formed Missouri Chapter of CPAFMA, supported by the Missouri Society of CPAs, has invited me to speak to their roundtable group virtually on Wednesday, June 16 from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. (Central time). If you are outside of Missouri you are invited to attend. Contact Liz Schaetzel at the Missouri Society to register – lschaetzel@mocpa.org.

CPAFMA is so fortunate to have the support of so many state societies such as MOCPA. I know first-hand how much the Ohio and Indiana Societies help and support the Ohio and Indiana Chapters of CPAFMA.

This session (Elevating & Embracing Your Role) is especially helpful if you are new to the role and new to the CPA profession. It also works to motivate and inspire firm administrators even if you have been one for twenty years! I hope you will join me next Wednesday.

Here’s the invitation from the Missouri Society of CPAs:

During this roundtable, we will hear from Rita Keller, an award-winning and widely respected voice to CPA firm management, who will present Elevating and Embracing Your Role. She will discuss: who in your firm supports and encourages the managing partner? Who is the conscience of your firm, the person who always places the firm above their own personal agenda? Is there someone in the firm who enables the partners and staff to be better and more successful CPAs? Join Rita Keller and your peers to explore what a professional, well-trained firm administrator/practice manager can do. It’s time to elevate and embrace your important role.

Click here to register. We’d love to “see” you. Missouri members, as a reminder, you are invited to stay connected with your fellow firm administrators through MOCPA’s firm administrator online Connect Community and virtual roundtables. Click here for more details.

  • None of us can change our yesterdays, but all of us can change our tomorrows.
  • Colin Powell

Wednesday, March 31st, 2021

Attend a CPAFMA Chapter Meeting

“Connecting with others is rewarding; it makes us feel like we are not alone in the world.” – Jonah Berger

Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of connecting and learning from others in the profession of CPA firm management. The CPA Firm Management Association chapter meetings are a great way to continually learn and also a way to share your successes. When I was a beginner, many years ago, I learned so much at the first chapter meetings I attended. I continued learning by attending the CPAFMA National Practice Management Conference each year. I made important connections and obtained wonderful life-long friends.

The best thing about CPA firm management is that it is continually expanding and changing. It forces you to keep pace and enables you to never stop growing and learning. I am still learning after over 30 years of attending chapter meetings.

Here’s more from Ronda Lawson of the Northern California Chapter on how they plan their meetings.

We were struggling a bit to get people to attend what used to be quarterly meetings.  We sent out an invite for a Zoom call to discuss how we were all handling the pandemic and those who attended loved it so we’re now trying to do it monthly. I send the notes to all of our Chapter members, so that even if they can’t attend they have some information.  I’m hoping they will find the notes helpful enough to want to attend when they can, and that we can build more Chapter participation!

I am particularly enjoying hearing what other firms are doing about employee engagement and trying to maintain their culture, and think some of the ideas for virtual events have been really fun and creative. And, as always, it is such a comfort to know that we’re not alone and that many of my colleagues have the same challenges!

For what it is worth, here are a few of the things I am doing to try to keep the roundtables effective:

–I prepare a list of questions ahead of time.  Sometimes they are the same ones, but it’s nice to gauge what has changed inside the firms.

–When I send out the invite for the meeting, I try to include a “teaser” question or two to give them an idea of what we’d be discussing.

–I definitely moderate the conversation, and try to make sure we aren’t talking over each other, or that some participants haven’t been heard from.

–I encourage, as much as possible, the use of the camera as well as audio for the calls.  I think it helps when we can see each other, and start to build relationships.

–As I said, I take notes (not attributing them to a certain participant so that everyone is comfortable having them distributed), and send them to everyone in the Chapter.

  • Connecting is the key to Influence. Influence is the key to Leading. Leading is the key to Success!
  • John Maxwell

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021

Keep Connecting

“Perhaps the secret of living well is not in having all the answers but in pursuing unanswerable questions in good company.” ~ Rachel Naomi Remen

One of the most beneficial career boosters for CPA firm administrators, practice managers, COOs, HR directors and, managing partners is the practice of networking and connecting with others working in CPA firm management.

The CPA Firm Management Association has nineteen chapters around the country that provide an excellent opportunity to network, connect and continue to learn the best practices in CPA firm management.

For the last year it has been more challenging to keep those important connections alive and well. Of course, Zoom meetings has helped tremendously. Various chapters have tried different methods to keep those professional relationships strong.

I recently heard from Ronda Lawson of the Northern California Chapter about their efforts to facilitate information sharing.

Rita – You are so wonderful about sharing information with all of us, so I thought you might be interested in these notes from our recent NorCal Chapter Roundtable.  We are having a Zoom call monthly, primarily discussing life during the pandemic.  Let me know if you would like to see notes from our future meetings!  – Ronda

I like that they schedule their meetings every month. Even if you have only six or eight people in attendance, the chance to learn from others and share your own challenges is very valuable. The meetings don’t have to take a lot of time. They could be only one or two hours long.

Here are the topics discussed at a NoCal Chapter recent meeting:

  • Are you currently working in the office? Allowing clients in the office?
  • What precautions are you taking to keep the workplace safe?
  • How are you promoting employee engagement for your remote workers? What are you doing to help employees with their mental and emotional health during the pandemic?
  • How are you monitoring productivity for your remote workers?  What are you doing to help managers manage remote workers?
  • How are you handling your administrative team during the pandemic?  Are they working in the office or remotely?  Can they work remotely?
  • What are your plans for reopening if you haven’t already? What criteria will you use to determine when to reopen? Will you continue to have some remote work even when the office reopens?
  • What affect has the pandemic had on your staffing plans?  Have you had lay-offs, salary freezes, furloughs?  Has this changed your hiring plans?  Will you be doing campus recruiting?  Will you be bringing on interns?
  • What changes has your firm made because of the pandemic?  Are they positive?  Will they continue?
  • Other than the ongoing pandemic, what are the biggest challenges your firm is facing right now?

Check back tomorrow to learn more about how this chapter is handling their meetings. I am hopeful that it will prompt you to not ignore your chapter meetings just because you can’t connect in person.

I believe that having virtual CPAFMA Chapter meetings will continue to thrive after COVID. It is an economical and less time-consuming method of meeting (no commuting!). I know that the Ohio Chapter had people driving three hours one-way to attend some of the Chapter meetings.

  • The most important things in life are the connections you make with others.
  • Tom Ford

Monday, March 15th, 2021

Sharing Information

“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.” – Margaret Fuller

One of the ways I progressed in my career in public accounting was to network with others working in the public accounting profession (firm administrators, managing partners, marketing directors, HR directors, IT directors, etc.). We shared information.

Most of this experience came from networking in the Association of Accounting Administration, now called The CPA Firm Management Association (CPAFMA), and attending management conferences sponsored by state societies and the AICPA.

I also learned so much from the speakers at conferences. These people were usually CPA management consultants. I got to know them and they helped guide me in my early years of consulting. I soon became a speaker and management consultant myself thanks to so many who mentored me.

I became the first female member of the New Horizon Group, a group of experienced CPA management consultants. We met annually to share best practices, etc. Those early members were: August Aquila, Allan Boress, Steve Erickson, Chris Frederiksen, Allan Koltin, Bob Martin, Jeff Pawlow, Marc Rosenberg, Don Scholl, Steve Weinstein and Jim Metzler. I learned so much because we shared information.

That golden opportunity, of learning from others is available to you today if you take advantage of it.

Now, when I encourage people in management positions in CPA firms to attend meetings and conferences, the problem I encounter is the fact that so many people say they are too busy and some people think they already know it all. If you know it all, it is your responsibility to share (and no one ever knows it all).

If you get a chance to attend a CPAFMA Chapter event. Set a goal to attend other management conferences such as the AICPA ENGAGE conference. This year the CPAFMA annual management conference is in conjunction with ENGAGE.

Never stop sharing information and learning from others. After all these years, I am still learning (and sharing).

  • Sharing knowledge is the most fundamental act of friendship. Because it is a way you can give something without losing something.
  • Richard Stallman

Thursday, January 21st, 2021

Getting Better

“To learn about excellence you must study it.” – Marcus Buckingham

You want your firm to get better and better. You want it to gain more and more visibility and to continually build and enhance the firm reputation.

How do you and your firm get better? You learn from others.

Inside your firm, your team members continually learn and improve. This applies to new college graduates, the administrative team, your support professionals, and very experienced CPAs. All of these people learn so much from more experienced people.

Your firm also gets better by learning from other CPA firms that are growing, profitable, and over-all successful.

When I was new to CPA firm management, I attended all of the CPA firm management conferences that I could. There I met people from successful firms. These people would describe how they were doing this or that and if it was something I wanted to pursue, I got acquainted with the person from that successful firm. Over the years, I have made lifelong, personal friends from my contacts in other CPA firms.

When attending these events (in person or virtual now), reach out to others with more experience. CPA management conferences are filled with people who are willing to share their successes and help you and your firm get better.

One of the best resources is The CPA Firm Management Association. Join and learn. The members share their experiences and you can post questions on their discussion board and get immediate answers and advice.

So, to get better, reach out to others and also share your successes and failures with the others you meet. As today’s quote (above) says, “To learn about excellence you must study it.

  • We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
  • Aristotle

Monday, December 7th, 2020

CPAFMA Digital Survey

“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” – Kofi Annan

The CPAFMA Paperless Benchmarking survey is back and is titled: The 2021 DIGITALLY DRIVEN FIRM SURVEY.

In recognition of the evolving trends in digital operations, the CPAFMA 2021 Digitally Driven Firm Survey – formerly the CPAFMA Paperless Benchmarking Survey, the longest running paperless benchmarking survey in the accounting profession – is being conducted as an update to the Association’s 2019 survey. This important resource will be updated to provide you with the valuable, consistent benchmarking that we’ve all come to rely on through CPA Firm Management Association. Results of the survey will be included in future CPAFMA articles and resources, including a MAPCast in January 2021. Participants will be provided with an advanced copy of the results. Your participation as a firm management professional is crucial.

Please submit your responses no later than
Monday, December 21, 2020
The survey takes between 10-15 minutes.

SURVEY HERE.

  • Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.
  • Mitch Kapor

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

Upcoming Webinar

“Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it.” – Katherine Whitehorn

Save the date! – – Wednesday, December 9, 2020.

Guy Gage and I will be presenting an informative webinar for The CPA Firm Management Association (CPAFMA). Here’s the scoop:

Interview to Hire the Best Candidates

Date: Wednesday, December 09, 2020
Time: 03:00 PM EST / 02:00 PM CST / 01:00 PM MST / 12:00 PM PST
Presenter(s): Guy Gage, III LPC and Rita A. Keller
Objective: In this 60 minute MAPCast on how to interview to hire the best candidates, participants will learn:

• The three common mistakes that interviewers make;
• Questioning techniques that uncover what you want to know; and
• Examples of situations that demonstrate interview proficiency.
Field of Study: Personnel/Human Resources
Program Level: Basic
CPE Credit: 1 Credit Hour

No advanced preparation or prerequisites are required for this course.

Click here for the course description.

Click here to register.

  • Never wear a backward baseball cap to an interview unless applying for the job of umpire.
  • Dan Zevin

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020

Hiring & Managing People

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” – Richard Branson

I certainly enjoyed being involved in the CPAFMA Accelerator Sessions this week. It was such an honor to be on the agenda both days with some very awesome people. The Accelerator sessions caused me to think about my own list of current issues and trends.

  • The digital transformation of work has finally arrived. It is amazing how much firms accomplished in such a short time.
  • Firm leaders have realized that a hybrid model that combines in-person and remote work actually works well and it will permanently lower the number of people in the office.
  • It has been widely discussed that firms will be reducing the amount of office space. Some have already begun this process. See the next bullet.
  • About 77% of respondents to the third-quarter AICPA Business & Industry Economic Outlook Survey said they planned to keep their office square footage. Only about 18% planned a reduction, despite the potential savings.
  • The pandemic caused us to reset and rethink the ways we hire and manage people. A demand for thorough hiring that is probably different from how you have always done it. Interview questions that provide you with meaningful information will become more important. You will need to train your interviewers.
  • Hiring & managing remote people should be done in a consistent manner. You might soon see a new position in your firm “Head of Remote Work” – larger firms already have positions like chief people officer or chief culture officer.
  • Look for people who can self-manage
  • Prospective employees may be talented – people are born with various talents – but are they able to use their talent to build the skills necessary to be successful in public accounting?
  • Trust on both sides – partners & staff – will become even more important.
  • CPA firms are looking for experienced people. One reason is that they aren’t prepared to hire new college grads who are completely green – they haven’t developed a plan on how to train them yet. Some firms have already mastered this!
  • Don't criticize, condemn, or complain.
  • Dale Carnegie