Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Thursday, November 17th, 2022

Relentless Problems

“Relentless problems feel like driving around with garbage in the backseat. You wonder if the journey’s worth it.” – Dan Rockwell (@Leadershipfreak)

Do you have ongoing, relentless problems that seem never to get solved? If you work in a CPA firm, I bet you do.

Dan Rockwell recently did a post titled, Don’t pretend things smell good when they stink – Instead Shift Focus.

I have observed that people inside a CPA firm, including leaders, seem to aggressively avoid dealing with these problems. They don’t seem to mind “driving around with garbage in the backseat”.

Read the article. It gives you a lot of good solutions on how to deal with stinky problems. Don’t pretend things smell good when they stink.

  • When someone walks into your office with a bag of garbage ask, “What strengths do you have that enable you to seize this opportunity?"
  • Dan Rockwell

Wednesday, November 16th, 2022


“There is nothing more likely to start disagreement among people or countries than an agreement.” – E. B. White

Often I write about employment agreements and partner agreements. Neither is my favorite. However, I do have some favorite agreements – The Four Agreements. I have written about them before on this blog, but I think it is important to bring it to your attention again, especially with another busy season nearing.


The Four Agreements is a book by Don Miguel Ruiz. I read this book years ago and still do my best to follow the agreements. Every few years, I read it again. I believe that these four simple statements can make a difference in the culture of your CPA firm. Before tax season, make time to read this book. It is a quick read.


Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.


Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.


Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.


Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

  • Unless both sides win, no agreement can be permanent.
  • Jimmy Carter

Tuesday, November 15th, 2022

Focus On The Positive

“Don’t waste words on people who deserve your silence. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can say is nothing at all.” – Mandy Hale

If you were a fly on the wall inside many CPA firms, you would hear people complain.

Sad to say, many of those complaints are about people. People complain about the partners, mostly about one or two specific partners. People complain about clients or the people who work for clients. People complain about their peers. People complain about people who clean the office.

In a novel I read recently, the main character is my kind of guy because – – “He really did like people because most people were pretty likable.”

One of the reasons I have worked in the CPA profession for so many years is the fact that most of the people working in the CPA profession are pretty likable.

So, the next time you start to complain about some person in your work life, stop and think. Are they really “pretty likable”?

On the other hand, if you have a legitimate complaint about a person, don’t do what happens most often in CPA firms. You are unhappy with Sally (she made a minor mistake), so you voice that complaint to Sue. Soon everyone knows you are unhappy with Sally except Sally. Don’t practice triangulation. So, if you have an issue with someone, talk only to them and don’t involve a third party.

  • Watch out for the joy-stealers: gossip, criticism, complaining, faultfinding, and a negative, judgmental attitude.
  • Joyce Meyer

Friday, November 11th, 2022

If You Want To Grow Or Merge Up, You Need To Be Ready – Flashback Friday

“The secret of success is to be ready when your opportunity comes.” – Benjamin Disraeli

When I talk to practitioners, I always stress that if you plan to merge up, you must still pay attention to the health of your firm. Acquirers want a profitable, efficient firm. They don’t want one that hasn’t kept pace with change.

Read this Flashback post to learn what you must do.

Have a great weekend!

  • I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.
  • Winston Churchill

Thursday, November 10th, 2022

What We Are

“Regardless of what we think we’re teaching, we teach what we are.” – Nathaniel Branden

I hope today you will think about the above quote. I think it says a lot about the CPA profession.

We thought Gen-X would change the way CPA firms operated. But, they were taught by the older generation and that older generation taught what they knew. “We teach what we are” certainly applied.

Those two generations taught the millennials and those three generations are teaching Gen Z.

I believe major changes have certainly happened in some firms but there are many CPA firms operating today much as they operated twenty years ago.

Many people have said, in slightly differing ways, that you become who you surround yourself with.

Have you broken this model? Are you continually acknowledging change and accepting it? Are you teaching what could be rather than what you are now?

  • Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.
  • Mark Ambrose

Tuesday, November 8th, 2022

What They Remember

“Life is for service.” – Fred Rogers

You deal with clients daily. Some clients are constantly using your services, and many clients you see just once a year. What do these clients think of your service? Do they think it is just routine, or do they think it is extraordinary?

Your job as a firm leader is to teach your team the difference between good and awesome client service. Just like you have a marketing plan, a sales plan, or a succession plan, you need a client service plan. You determine what would make the biggest impression on the client.

You want clients to think your service is memorable. Think about the best restaurant service you have ever experienced. I am sure it was memorable. When I think of customer service, I always remember an experience I had at a Ritz Carlton hotel in St. Louis. I have shared the story many times!

Develop a plan for your firm’s client service. What would make a CPA firm client say, “Wow!”? I know from the sessions I have had with staff members they can come up with many great ideas on how to make your clients say, “Wow!” Get them involved in creating your client service plan.

Will your clients’ stories about your client service be shared many times?

  • Men are rich only as they give. He who gives great service gets great rewards.
  • Elbert Hubbard

Monday, November 7th, 2022

The On-Going Dress Code Saga – Crop Tops

Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” – Rachel Zoe

Over the years, I have heard CPA firm administrators ask the question repeatedly – what does your dress code specify?

I thought we solved the dress code issue when we all accepted “business casual” years ago.

Soon, it became, what does business casual encompass? We fought the open-toe shoes (sandals) topic but gave in. We accepted jeans on Friday, which soon became jeans every day. Getting people back to the office after COVID we accept shorts now (but not short shorts?)

The latest is how to wear a crop top that is office acceptable. So, are you modifying your dress code once again to accept a new trend, crop tops?

I try to accept all this as simply amusing. People who are seriously building their careers know that people judge you immediately on first impressions.

  • You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.
  • Edith Head

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2022


“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” – Bruce Lee

This is the month.

To me, November has always been “the month.” It is a critical month in the cycle of CPA firm life.

When I suggest change, I have heard the following from CPAs for decades!

  • December – I am too busy with tax planning, doing engagement letters, and getting organizers out the door.
  • January – It is W-2, and 1099 time; we are too busy.
  • February – April – We are too busy .
  • May – We need a break. We have to unwind. I am taking a vacation.
  • June – We have to do performance reviews.
  • July – Mid-August -Too many people are on vacation.
  • August – Sept. 15 – We have extensions to do!
  • Sept. 15 – October 15 – We have to focus on 1040s.
  • October 15 – Oct. 31 – Again, another time to de-stress.
  • November……It is the month you need to focus on the health of your firm.

I call it what goes on behind the black curtain. It is the things the client doesn’t see.

It is all about identifying and improving processes and procedures. It is all about identifying and improving the things that cause your employees to be engaged and loyal or not. It is about embracing new ideas and accepting the fact that change must happen if you are to remain relevant to your employees and important to your client base.

Don’t waste this month! Create an Action Plan and accomplish as much as possible. Too bad you have waited until November. Don’t waste time this month!

  • Time is one of your most valuable commodities and how you spend it determines what your life will be. You can either waste it, invest it or give it away.
  • David Khalil

Tuesday, November 1st, 2022

Billable Hours

“It’s not that there’s a lack of credible, successful and even intelligent candidates out there looking for work. It’s the fact that CPA firms haven’t changed their models.” – Lorrine Beste

I hope you have read a recent article via Accounting Today. It is titled Confessions of a tax manager: CPA firms just aren’t getting it.

If not, here’s what it is all about. Like most experienced tax managers, the author, Lorraine Beste, has been inundated with contacts from various recruiters. She works for a small firm and has enjoyed work/life balance for many years. The unbelievable salaries being offered inspired her to do some research.

The recruiters seemed absolutely overjoyed when she replied. The firms seeking a tax manager seemed to offer all the “bells and whistles” that make their firm a great place to work.

The one question they did not divulge, but Beste sought out, was – How many billable hours do you require? She was shocked by the consistent answer – 55 to 60 (or higher) in tax season and early fall.

She will stay at her small firm. Be sure to follow the link above, and read the interesting article. Consider what work/life balance really means at your own firm.

  • You can't do a good job is your job is all you do.
  • Katie Thurmes

Monday, October 24th, 2022


“Mistakes should be examined, learned from, and discarded, not dwelled upon and stored.” – Tim Fargo

Here’s a real-life story from inside a CPA firm.

Tim was going through his first tax season with the firm. He was doing well, and then on one client engagement, he made a fairly significant (and stupid) mistake. From that day on, managers and partners in the firm just couldn’t forget about Tim’s mistake. He would be assigned to a project, and the comment would be, “Remember when he made that stupid mistake!” Regarding scheduling, a manager would say to the scheduler, “I need a Senior on this job, but don’t give me Tim.”

Tim went on to be successful and stayed at the firm, but probably for five years; his first-year mistake would come up in conversations. CPAs have long memories.

I have heard similar stories from multiple firms. Has this ever happened at your firm? That is why today’s quote at the beginning of this post made me think of a CPA firm.

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