Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

Unlimited PTO – Things To Consider

“A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you’ve been taking.” – Earl Wilson

I am aware that several firms have now adopted an Unlimited PTO policy. If you are considering this type of policy for your CPA firm, I want to share some very interesting insights from someone who has experienced unlimited PTO first-hand. He is an audit manager with a firm in the western part of the USA. I hope you find his comments helpful if you are considering adding this benefit.

My current firm does not have unlimited PTO, but I have worked at firms that did. I can’t offer a written policy – there really wasn’t one – but I can offer some considerations, most of which you probably are already aware.

First, doing away with traceable measures (PTO available/used) demands reliance on other performance measures to determine whether the unlimited policy is being abused. Partners/managers need to pay closer attention to metrics at the individual employee level.

Regularly reviewing metrics such as individual realization, time-to-completion, deadlines met (or missed) as well as the timing of PTO days taken becomes essential.

Be sure your practice management system can provide that information before enacting the unlimited policy. Also, the policy assumes that everyone will “do the right thing.” Be aware that not everyone will do the right thing and be prepared to take action against those that abuse the system. If you allow unchecked abuse, it will become rampant.

In an unexpected twist, you may need to actually force some people to take PTO. Without the pressure of the old use-or-lose policy, some of those Type A folks will be more inclined, or more pressured, to work instead of taking time off. I’m sorry I can’t cite a specific study, but there is some evidence that the unlimited PTO policy actually results in less time away from the office.

Finally, be aware that some states (California and Washington, for example) have passed legislation regarding required sick leave. This is a number that may, by law, require tracking and that might throw a wrench in your unlimited policy. There are typically exceptions if your leave policy is more permissive. And the standard disclaimer: check with your state or your employment law attorney before changing your policy.

  • Isn't it amazing how much stuff we get done the day before vacation?
  • Zig Ziglar

Monday, February 11th, 2019

Performance Standards

“Performance standards help to set expectations and provide consistency.” – Sharlyn Lauby

When a new hire enters your firm or even if it is a short-term intern, do they really understand what is expected of them?

Of course, you provide a detailed job description, maybe not to an intern but to a full-time new hire. What if you communicated even more clearly?

I believe some clearly defined Standards of Performance are in order. Why not rename and reformat your job descriptions into performance standards?

If you want a sample of Standards of Performance for accountants working in a CPA firm, just let me know, I am happy to share.

Here’s a good article titled, Employees Become Successful When They Know What Success Looks Like, from Sharlyn Lauby, @hrbartender.

  • The true measure of any business leader and manager is performance.
  • Brian Tracy

Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

The Hiring Challenge

“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” – Vince Lombardi

I was reading an article via the Journal of Accountancy titled, Small firm spotlight: How I recruit and hire new accountants. Cheryl Meyer interviewed Kenneth Cerini, the managing partner at Cerini & Associates.

I could certainly relate to much of what Mr. Cerini divulged.

Recruiting and hiring is an art, not a science. When you are hiring people, you can’t cram a square peg into a round hole. We’ve brought people in from bigger accounting firms and realize they are not the right fit overall. We have much smaller clients, and our clients need more handholding. That’s why I love interns. I’d rather invest more money in the training and be able to bring on people at a younger level and help them grow within our atmosphere. You learn a tremendous amount during your first two to three years in public accounting.

At my firm, we found that hiring a 5-year person from a big four firm was not a very smart move. We had many small business owners and our 5-year people were so much more knowledgeable on many types of situations. It seemed to us that a 5-year person working at one of the big national accounting firms just did a one-year person’s duties five times.

However, that being said, firms are often very successful in training smart people no matter what their background. Often it is the training programs that need attention and, of course, the experienced new hire’s attitude is key.

  • Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.
  • Helen Keller

Friday, February 1st, 2019

Engage Your Team Members With Benefits & Perks

“The main thing that you have to remember on this journey is, just be nice to everyone and always smile.” – Ed Sheeran

I recently read an interesting article in CPA Practice Advisor. It is titled, Virginia CPA Firm Launches Extensive Employee Benefits and Perks Program. 

Some of their benefits and perks are things I have observed often in other firms. On the other hand, some of their benefits and perks are way ahead of many firms.

In this age of hiring, developing and retaining talented young professionals, you need to review your benefit package often and keep pace with current trends.

Read the article and see how your benefits stack-up.

My observation and experience tell me that a long list of perks won’t keep talented professionals at your firm if your leadership group is dysfunctional and doesn’t set an inspiring, professional example.

  • It is nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice.
  • John Templeton

Friday, January 25th, 2019

Managing Your Time

“Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed.” – Peter Drucker

How well do you manage time?

In the CPA profession, we talk about time, worry about time and track time. Yet, how many CPAs have ever taken a time management course?

It doesn’t matter if you value price or bill by the hour, how much time do you waste?

Here’s an interesting viewpoint on time from LeadershipFreak.

  • The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.
  • Leo Tolstoy

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019

State of the Firm (SOTF)

“Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality. – Dalai Lama

When I was working inside a successful, growing firm, we did a state of the firm event every year. We brought everyone together from our three offices for a full morning of information and fun. It was a great time for people from different offices to see and talk to each other face-to-face. Our team seemed to enjoy hearing about the progress of the firm and news about what might happen in the future. It was held in the Spring, usually in May. We had just over 100 people.

This morning I read an article about Withum’s annual SOTF event where they bring together over 1,000 people! They hold theirs in January. Read all about it here.

Is it worth it? Absolutely.

It is my observation that people working in an accounting firm want to be included. They want to know what’s going on and how the firm is doing. It is a great recruiting and retention tool. Your people read about these events at other firms and probably wonder why their firm isn’t doing it.

  • An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.
  • Benjamin Franklin

Monday, January 21st, 2019

It’s Healthy to Stand

“If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.” – H. G. Wells

I noticed a news article about a firm unveiling new offices in a new market.

The firm, Lutz,  offers accounting services including tax, bookkeeping, and business consulting to individuals and organizations in a variety of industries. The company was founded by Ralph Lutz in 1980 in Omaha as the CPA firm of Lutz, Kinsey, Friedman & Meyers. They also have offices in Grand Island, Lincoln, and Hastings, Nebraska.

Check out the picture of two of their accountants utilizing the stand-up desk option. Are you offering the option to your team members yet?

standup

  • Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
  • Winston Churchill

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

The Battle Inside You

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

“The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

I read this somewhere many years ago. It is so true. I have read this fable before and, you can find lots of good posts using it on the web. In your work life, it is very tempting to focus on the negative.


I believe that you become who you associate with. Jim Rohn once said, You‘re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

 
Haven’t you ever found yourself beginning to think and talk negative most of the time and then suddenly realize that you have been hanging around negative people most of the workday? I bet you can quickly name the people in your firm who always seem to feel sorry for themselves, who poke fun at others and seem to feel pleasure from getting even.

My advice: Don’t walk away from negative people……. RUN!!

Try this tip I learned at a conference many years ago. Put a rubber band on your wrist. If you suddenly realize you are talking negatively to another person, SNAP the rubber band (stretch it way out) against your wrist so that it stings, just as a reminder. Wear the rubber band all week and see how many stings you feel.

Focus on feeding the good wolf. The good wolf likes positive self-image, kindness, understanding, positive attitude, tolerance, and laughter. Even during this busy time of year, take time to count your blessings. Smile more, it makes people wonder what you are up to.
 

  • Your hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of your life. Keep going. Tough situations build strong people in the end.
  • Roy T. Bennett

Monday, January 7th, 2019

Herb Kelleher

I was sorry to learn of Herb Kelleher’s passing. I have always admired his unique approach to being a company leader.

“Your employees come first. And if you treat your employees right, guess what? Your customers come back, and that makes your shareholders happy. Start with employees and the rest follows from that.” – Herb Kelleher

That quote inspired me and many CPA firms to begin to focus more on keeping employees happy and engaged.

If you ever attended one of my presentations, you probably saw a slide I used very often. To me, it said so much about the functioning of so many CPA firms. You see, I think CPAs often make things way too difficult, especially when it comes to managing their firms.

They spend days talking about and drafting a strategic plan that gets distributed to staff and is never seen again. Here’s some advice from Herb. R.I.P.

Kelleher

  • You don't hire for skills, you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills.
  • Herb Kelleher

Friday, January 4th, 2019

You Are Running a Business

“If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives.” – Lemony Snicket

I talk to so many CPA firm leaders who are struggling with very important decisions. I can listen, suggest and advise but I can’t do it for you.

  • What are you afraid of? Why do you often postpone some simple business decisions because you just might hurt someone’s feelings?
  • Why do you procrastinate on dealing with poor performers because you might hurt someone’s feelings?
  • Why do you allow several clients to use your firm like a bank? They owe you money, they don’t pay and you just let it “go” for a very long time.

You are running a business and your people and your clients should expect you to make timely, and sometimes difficult, business decisions.

Are these types of things happening at your CPA firm? If so, make a decision to deal with them, beginning immediately.

  • Just say yes and you'll figure it out afterwards.
  • Tina Fey