Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Tuesday, August 11th, 2020

Getting Started

“I learned a long time ago that there is something worse than missing the goal, and that’s not pulling the trigger.” – Mia Hamm

Think back to when you were a child. Part of growing up is exploring your world. A child sees a creek and wades in to cross it. A child sees a tree and doesn’t hesitate to climb it. There is no fear of failure.

Accountants have a reputation for being careful, cautious, and conservative. As a leader, do you always begin cautiously, avoiding risk at all costs? Does indecision prohibit you from action?

We are living in a bold new world. As the old saying goes, “he who hesitates is lost.”

We are going into fall. It is a time for reflection and, more importantly, a time to take action to prepare your firm for 2021. Modify that accountant reputation – – Be careful, cautious, conservative and yet, decisive and bold

  • Eighty percent of success is just showing up.
  • Woody Allen

Friday, August 7th, 2020

Putting Out Fires – Flashback Friday

“Really, most of us just focus on what’s in front of us. We’re too busy putting out the fires of everyday life.” – Aidan Quinn

This week’s flashback is focused on a recurring challenge that faces managing partners and, especially, firm administrators.

Have a great weekend.

  • You get to decide where your time goes. You can either spend it moving forward, or you can spend it putting out fires. You decide. And if you don't decide, others will decide for you.
  • Tony Morgan

Thursday, August 6th, 2020

2020 Turnover

“Turnover can be one of the most expensive problems at a company.” – Shawn Achor

As usual, within the CPA profession, there is no one answer to a management question. Recently, on the topic of turnover, I am hearing lots of stories.

We are all reading about firms, especially the larger firms, who are taking the opportunity related to COVID to downsize their workforce to save money and to get rid of people not meeting the firm’s expectations.

On the other side of this story, I am hearing directly from some practitioners that they have been able to hire some experienced (and skilled) CPAs who are in the job market right now for various reasons.

Recently, one firm shared with me that they have had no turnover and another firm reported that they have experienced several departures.

Here are just a few reasons people leave:

  • CPAs of all ages have no difficulty obtaining another job.
  • In many firms, team members are awaiting salary increases and other perks that were cut-back during COVID.
  • Some are tired of the long hours with few rewards and recognition.
  • Your clients are also looking for good people and they know you have them.
  • Many accounting firms are not embracing the new workforce, the partners exclude them rather than include them. Communication is an issue.
  • The pay is better elsewhere.

Some reasons people stay:

  • Firms have generously rewarded their entire team because they went above and beyond during an unusual and challenging busy season.
  • The transition to work-from-home (WFH) was easy because the firm was already completely paperless and the firm was very supportive in meeting the needs of establishing a home office.
  • Communication from the partners has actually improved in recent months. Team members are well-informed even when remote.
  • WFH will be an on-going option for many team members.
  • Team members are thanked and recognized for their contributions.

Another good reason to retain top talent – Some studies (such as SHRM) predict that every time a business replaces a salaried employee, it costs 6 to 9 months’ salary on average. For a manager making $40,000 a year, that’s $20,000 to $30,000 in recruiting and training expenses.

  • The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.
  • Max Depree

Thursday, July 30th, 2020

Lack of Communication

“Communication works for those who work at it.” – John Powell

July is winding down. Maybe you aren’t as inspired and invigorated as you were a few weeks ago. You have relaxed after the July due date and maybe taken a few days off.

It seems really difficult to focus on what to do next. Don’t let this temporary lag result in a lack of communication. Your team and your peers still need to hear from you and see you (via video).

When communication disappears or lags, a positive culture can quickly turn into a negative one. Guard against this at your firm. Communicate and inspire your team. Give them some good news. Compliment them. Thank them. Challenge them. Inspire them. And, never stop doing it.

  • Communication is your ticket to success, if you pay attention and learn to do it effectively.
  • Theo Gold

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

Billing Clients

“Never take your eyes off the cash flow because it’s the life blood of business.” – Richard Branson

Billing clients should be routine. It should be a well- established habit. It’s not difficult so don’t make it so.

Document your billing guidelines and then live by them. Much of the task of billing clients can be automated now. Your admin team can assist in making the process easier.

Billing clients was a recent discussion on the CPAFMA discussion board. If you are not a member, the discussion board by itself is worth the annual dues.

Victoria LeStrange, is the firm administrator for Heymann, Suissa & Stone P.C. of Rockville, MD. The process she shared is very similar to what I recommend. Teach your partners how to use the software! In this day and age, partners must be computer proficient.

Here’s Ms. LeStrange’s firm’s process:

Each partner does their own billing from soup to nuts.   It’s all done onscreen with CCH AXCESS…we typically bill business clients on the 16th of each month and most all bills are done and emailed by the end of the day. Individual tax returns are often billed upon completion.

Many firms bill weekly, especially during busy season. Again, the software and the admin team facilitate the process. Individual tax returns should be billed immediately upon delivery.

An efficient billing and collection process speeds up cash flow. That should be very important to your partner group.

  • Entrepreneurs believe that profit is what matters most in a new enterprise. But profit is secondary. Cash flow matters most.
  • Peter Drucker

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020

Fake Deadlines

“How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?” Seth Godin

Every so often, I feature a complete post from Seth Godin. I do it because I feel like it has special meaning for those of you involved in the management of a public accounting firm.

Have you ever established a fake deadline for tax due dates? I know some of you have. Here is Godin’s post titled Fake Deadlines:

FAKE DEADLINES

Slack enables systems to function with more efficiency. That’s because unavoidable delays and errors compound in a system that doesn’t have enough buffer space.

But fake deadlines don’t solve this problem. Fake deadlines exist when we can’t trust others (or ourselves) to be clear about our progress or prioritize honestly. So we invent a date before we actually need something to arrive.

The challenge is that fake deadlines compound. Once someone on another project realizes that they’ve been outfoxed by a fake deadline, they’ll simply escalate their urgency as well. Or perhaps the provider realizes that we’ve been faking the deadlines, and so now there’s a whole new level of guessing about what the real deadline is.

Professionals don’t need fake deadlines and don’t respect them. Instead, we have the chance to build in appropriate slack, get our priorities straight and keep our promises.

  • Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.
  • Seth Godin

Thursday, July 16th, 2020

Need A Degree?

“Just because I don’t have a college degree doesn’t mean I am not smart.” – Emma Stone

Are you only hiring people for your CPA firm who have a degree?

I have observed that in many accounting firms there are many people who do not have a college degree. On the other hand, I have also observed, in some accounting firms, even the administrative people have a degree.

I was surprised by this statement from Barry Melancon a few years ago: Today we are a profession of CPA-led firms, not CPA firms. Two-thirds of the employees in all firms are non-CPAs.

I found this stat to be quite eye-opening. Clients need all kinds of services to help their businesses grow and prosper, not just what a licensed CPA can provide. Many of you are already providing pension administration, M&A consulting, employee benefits, HR consulting, technology services, and so on.

With Client Accounting Services (CAS) becoming more and more lucrative, many firms are desperate for experienced bookkeepers and they are almost always people without a four-year degree.

Does it really require a degree to do much of the work inside a CPA firm?

You may have noticed that many college graduates are being hired to do jobs that their parents could get right out of high school.

Read this informative article via Inc. – Why Your Barista Probably Has a College Degree

  • I don't have a college degree, and my father didn't have a college degree, so when my son, Zachary, graduated from college, I said 'My boy's got learnin'!
  • Robin Williams

Tuesday, July 14th, 2020

Take Care of Your People

“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

I have often written about Herb Kelleher and I used his quotes often in the many presentations I did over the years. The reason is…… he believed in taking care of your people!

It has been very trying times. Your people have done the best they could with the situation that was forced upon them. They worked (and are working) diligently to serve clients fully and passionately.

As a firm leader, it your job to not only take care of clients but also take care of your people. Don’t put them at a lower position on your priority list.

Let them know you care. Let them know you appreciate how hard they are working. Let them see you… use video chats. Some employees would be simply amazed if they got a video invitation from the managing partner.

Other non-CPA professionals… marketing directors, HR directors, firm administrators, technology leaders… touch base with individual team members whenever possible. It would be good for them and also good for you. You don’t want them to forget you exist!

Show your team (and our peers) your passion for life and work. Show them your kindness, your sense of humor and your sense of true teamwork.

How about just simply sending individual emails to team members thanking them for being on your team?

  • Power should be reserved for weightlifting and boats, and leadership really involves responsibility.
  • Herb Kelleher

Thursday, July 9th, 2020

A Strong Foundation

“In order to achieve great results, you first need to do the deep inner work to build a solid foundation that can support your success.” – Chris McClure

Building a strong foundation, personally, is very important. It will be the guiding light that supports your success and leads you to even greater heights. As mentioned in the quote above, you have to do deep inner work.

This same theory applies to your busy accounting firm. You let yourself get so busy that the firm just molds itself around you (and your partners).

For over one-half of this year, you have been busy, busy, busy. You have quickly reacted to build a remote work environment to serve clients and to get you through the pandemic. It didn’t matter if the foundation was solid or shaky, you had to get the work done – you are essential.

Soon it will be July 15th, that new magical due date. Hopefully, you will have some time to really contemplate the foundation of your firm. Your processes and procedures are the foundation of your firm. You must be prepared to inform current staff and new staff “How we do it here.”

Perhaps you had some well-developed processes but they all went by the wayside during the last few hectic months. Refocus. Seek input from your people and your clients. Shore-up your foundation so you are prepared to move forward into the new normal.

Foundational pieces of an accounting firm, in addition to how your complete engagements and handle workflow, are: HR policies, internal accounting (billing and collection, monthly firm financial statements, etc.), technology processes, training, and marketing/sales activities.

Remember, from the quote above, “In order to achieve great results, you first need to do the deep inner work to build a solid foundation.”

  • Successful people begin where failures leave off. Never settle for 'just getting the job done.'" Excel!
  • Tom Hopkins

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

It Is Not Easy

“Don’t join an easy crowd: you won’t grow. Go where the expectations and the demands to perform are high.” – Jim Rohn

The above quotation certainly applies to the CPA profession. It applies if you are the managing partner of the firm or if you are the Director of First Impressions.

If you work in the accounting profession, you are not part of “the easy crowd.”

It is a demanding business. So many clients to serve with so many problems. Due dates that always seem to be looming on the horizon. A technical work product that must be absolutely, positively correct.

Appreciate where you are and what you are doing. Always step-up to the challenge and you will continually grow in knowledge, expertise and reputation.

Personally, I have always felt like I did my best when the demands and expectations were high. I enjoy a culture where there is a sense of urgency and where you know that what you do makes a positive difference.

I hope you feel that way, too. Sure, there are times when you are tired, over-worked, and cynical. But let those moments be just fleeting moments and be proud of what you are accomplishing.

  • If you expect nothing from anybody, you're never disappointed.
  • Sylvia Plath