Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Thursday, August 11th, 2022

Talking Points

“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.” – Maya Angelou

  • The partners have just returned from their retreat. Everyone is wondering what significant decisions were made if any. What new initiatives were agreed upon? Has the strategic plan been updated?
  • A new performance evaluation system has been researched, studied, modified, and will soon be unveiled to the staff.
  • Betty, a long-time manager with the firm, has decided to take a position with a competing firm across town.
  • Some new software has been selected. Everyone in the firm will need to know about it and will be expected to use it. What training will be offered? When will it go into effect?

When something happens or changes are made at the firm and the partners and other leaders have been involved in the decision or activity, and it has now been announced to the team, there will be questions. Certain people will go to certain partners and want to know all about it and what is “really” going on.

That is the time to have your talking points ready and distributed to all partners (and other leaders if they are involved). You want everyone to get the same message.

Often, in firms, Joe Tax Partner, Diane Audit Partner, Frank Long Time Partner, and Terry the Managing Partner will have different ways of communicating with team members individually when they are asked probing questions. A brief list of talking points will take a lot of pressure off the partners and help spread the message in a positive, consistent, and informative way.

  • Consistency is always the best teacher.
  • Stephon Marbury

Friday, August 5th, 2022

Simplify vs. Complicate

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius

Here’s a Friday flashback post from 2013 that still applies today. Thoreau said: Simplify! Simplify!

CPAs tend to: Complicate! Complicate!

Have a great weekend!

  • This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.
  • Dalai Lama

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2022


“I write the music; produce it, and the band plays within the parameters that I set.” – Sting

CPA firms have become VERY flexible and allow employees to do just about anything they want to do regarding how and where they work.

What your team members really need is simply some guidance and boundaries. Communicate to them! Help everyone understand expectations by setting some parameters.

If you do not communicate and leave them to their own devices, life at your firm could become chaotic. One mentor told me long ago: “Most people don’t do what we tell them to. They do what we let them get away with.”

I like to call it setting some boundaries. Of course, with today’s workforce, we must allow a great deal of freedom. But I also think we need to let them know there is a line they do not cross.

It goes back to the fact that young people entering your firm want to know what is expected of them. They want to know what their career path looks like and how they can advance as quickly as possible. Be sure you have defined career paths so you can talk to new hires during their orientation.

Many firms have been adopting remote work policies. These policies set some parameters for working remotely. I hope you have yours in writing by now.

  • I don't control the movies that are offered to me, but I make choices based on certain parameters.
  • Andy Garcia

Monday, August 1st, 2022

Are Partners Earning Their Pay?

“If you are in the world of business, that means you are in the business of making money.” – Stephen A. Smith

How do you decide if Joe Partner should get a bigger salary increase (or bonus) than Jim Partner?

To me, partner compensation should be just like compensation for your staff. If they do more and learn more, they are more valuable than those who do the same thing repeatedly, year after year. You might even have some partners who have more or less retired in place.

Why do CPA firms annually give people (partners and team members) more than a cost-of-living pay increase when they do nothing new or additional from the year before?

  • Did they attend CPE sessions that result in new ideas for the firm?
  • Do they continually learn new things or methods?
  • Did they attend more networking events?
  • Did they write an article (or more articles) for the business newspaper or the firm newsletter?
  • Did they lead a special firm initiative and guide it to success?
  • Did they bring new business to the firm?
  • Did they bring top talent to the firm?
  • Did they retain top talent at the firm?

To me, it’s simple: Pay for performance.

  • A tough lesson in life that one has to learn is that not everybody wishes you well.
  • Dan Rather

Thursday, July 28th, 2022


“Disconnect from technology and reconnect with each other.” – Rosemary Wixom

WilkinGuttenplan is a great firm. I am honored to know Ed Guttenplan personally and am always impressed with the progressive way he manages the firm.

They have been named a New Jersey Best Place to Work, Best Firms to Work For by Accounting Today, and Best of the Best Firms by Inside Public Accounting.

To cultivate a healthy work-life balance, the firm will be providing Days of Disconnect – July 29 – August 1. See the announcement below. What are you doing for your people?

To our valued clients and members of our community,

WG takes pride in cultivating a healthy work-life balance and in an effort to acknowledge the hard work and dedication exemplified by our employees, we will be providing our staff with a well-deserved break to fully disconnect and recharge. We will be closing our offices from July 29th through August 1st. We will resume regular business hours on Tuesday, August 2nd. Staff will not be available during this time, however, if an emergency occurs, please reach out to the Partner on your account.

We appreciate your ongoing support of our team and our firm and look forward to continued success together.

Thank you,


  • Work is important, but you also need to disconnect, to unplug at times, in order to be even more concentrated when you do work.
  • Massimiliano Allegri

Tuesday, July 26th, 2022

What Is Your Why?

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” – Simon Senek

Simply giving people more money and perks will not necessarily improve your employee engagement. To motivate, inspire, and retain employees, clearly define why you do what you do.

In many accounting firms, the staff believes they are there so the firm can earn more money and the partners can grant themselves larger salaries.

Sorry to state that fact, but I have heard this opinion from people in firms large and small over the many decades I have worked in the CPA profession.

The big issue for you is whether YOUR people think that is the reason your firm exists.

In reality, CPA partners, having many years of experience, believe that they are there to help people as a firm. Doctors help people. Lawyers help people. CPAs help people, too, in a way to secure financial success.

Sure they help business owners with accounting and tax, but they also act as a business coach and mentor to help the owners and their companies become more successful. Maybe to put it more concisely, CPAs help businesses survive and prosper. Maybe you should adopt the Vulcan greeting as a message to your clients, “Live long and prosper.”

Surveys tell us that people are leaving their current employers because they are questioning the purpose of their day-to-day job.

“An inspired employee comes to work lit up about what they’re doing because they feel they matter, their work matters, and the impact they’re having matters. What burns people out is when they don’t have a sense of the impact or contribution and that it matters,” says Stephen M.R. Covey, author of Trust & Inspire: How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others. 

Has your partner group agreed on your firm’s WHY? If not, you have some work to do because you need to figure it out and share it with your team before more people leave your firm to live long and prosper elsewhere.

  • The miracle is this - the more we share, the more we have.
  • Leonard Nimoy

Monday, July 25th, 2022

What Are You?

“You teach what you know, but you reproduce what you are.” – Howard Hendricks

Partners and managers teach younger, less experienced CPAs. They teach them tax, audit, and accounting. They guide them in gaining the technical knowledge to advance in their careers.

Old Bob, the firm’s ancient tax guru partner, helps younger CPAs better understand tax. Yet, everyone knows he’s off-limits when it comes to participating in the mentoring program. He rarely leaves his office. He doesn’t market, sell or participate in community and charitable events. Do you want a bunch of Bobs as partners?

So, re-read the quotation above. It applies to many CPA leaders (who are role models). Yes, they have accumulated great knowledge and experience over many years, and they strive to teach that technical knowledge to the young people entering the firm.

Here comes the BUT! But, do they set a good example to go along with their technical abilities. Here are some things that partners do that puzzle the interns and new hires:

  • They don’t have a set schedule and are often absent from the office.
  • They do a lot of personal business during work hours, such as taking care of their “other” businesses and handling financial activities for relatives (non-paying relatives).
  • Play golf quite often in the summer with non-clients.
  • Don’t return client phone calls promptly.
  • They say they have an open door policy, but their door is often closed.
  • They never attend firm functions such as the holiday party or summer picnic.
  • They work from home more than the staff does.

As a firm leader, think about what you are and not just about what technical knowledge you have.

  • The greatest reward for your actions is not the respect you gain from others but the respect you gain for yourself.
  • T Jay Taylor

Thursday, July 21st, 2022

One Way To Describe CPA Leaders

“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.” – Peter Drucker

Just a quick thought for you today. Don’t let this happen at your firm!

  • The single largest pool of untapped resource in this world is human good intentions that never translate into action.
  • Cindy Gallop

Monday, July 18th, 2022

Remote Is Remote

“What if wages drop? What if no one is willing to pay New York City wages for people who work in Idaho?” – Suzanne Lucas 

Just some thoughts today about remote workers. Also, some questions for firm owners.

CPA firms have survived during the last couple of years by being able to utilize remote workers. Their talented accountants worked from home, and to the surprise of many partners, it worked well. Firms have had a couple of years of significantly increased profits.

Now, many firms would prefer their people to return to the office. But, many of their most talented employees do not want to.

Per an article via Inc., the Pew Research Foundation found that 61 percent of the people working from home were doing so by choice — not because there wasn’t an office to go to.

With most of your people mainly working remotely, how will you identify people for promotion? How will you identify people who deserve a larger salary increase than other employees? How will you know what kind of relationships they are able to build with clients? How will you observe their executive presence and many other characteristics you look for in your next generation of owners? Will you judge your workforce solely on their production numbers? That sounds like taking a step backward.

If you are going to have work done remotely, why not jump into the offshore outsourcing world and save a lot of money? Qualified people will prepare your tax returns (and many other tasks) for much less money. Do you begin to pay more to the people who come to the office and less to those who work remotely?

Read this article via Inc. titled – Holland to Make Remote Work the Law. This May Backfire, then think about what the future will look like for your firm.

  • Companies don't give job security. Only satisfied customers do.
  • Jack Welch

Wednesday, July 13th, 2022

Next July

“It is really a cool perk.” – Alan Sobel

I recently read that Sobel, a 190-person CPA firm in New Jersey, closed their office and gave their entire staff the week of July 4th off.

Here’s a quote from the article by Tom Bergeron:

You might be surprised – what with him serving as the managing member of an accounting firm – but Alan Sobel said he didn’t break out any spreadsheets or enter any figures into a calculator to determine just how much giving his entire staff at Sobel Co the entire week off would cost the company.

That’s not what this was about.

Yes, Sobel acknowledges it is a cool perk but it is also a way to thank their team for all their hard work. They notified clients and others of the office closing via all the social media outlets. None of their clients seemed to mind, they seemed to understand.

I have heard of a few other firms also closing the week of July 4th each year. Maybe it is something for you to consider for next year. July 4th in 2023 is on a Tuesday. You would probably close on Monday anyway. Read the entire article. It might convince you to do the same. Think about it!

  • If our doing this leads other companies to think about doing the same thing, that’s great. But that’s not why we did it. This was about saying, ‘thanks,’ to our people.
  • Alan Sobel