Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Tuesday, April 12th, 2022

Why Do You Stay?

“People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining.” – Stephen Hawking

I have heard a similar story many times during my years of talking with CPA firm team members.

I am often asked to counsel an employee working in a CPA firm. They tell me things. Sometimes I hear things via an upward feedback survey interview or at a conference. It involves a certain team member sharing somewhat of a horror story with me.

They tell me that they never hear a partner say thank you. They are not recognized or appreciated for their hard work and dedication. Any kind of formal feedback never happens. Many leaders are unprofessional, distant, grumpy, unhappy, unappreciative, self-centered, short-tempered, greedy, weird, crazy, and sometimes even worse. They (the leaders/partner) will not change and embrace current trends.

When I ask the obvious question, “Why do you stay?” I get similar and somewhat surprising answers.

  • They don’t mean to be rude.
  • They are really very busy and can’t help themselves.
  • I like the location, it is close to my home.
  • They pay me fairly.
  • I like my co-workers.
  • I like my clients.
  • They do provide some flexibility,
  • I can’t make this much money somewhere else.

I wonder if they just like to complain. At one time, I had one of those “No Whining” signs in my office because I really heard more whining than complaining.

Has it just become part of the firm culture? And, the validity of those complaints can’t be serious or why would they stay?

Be sure to work on the culture at your firm. If you don’t focus on it and continually work on it, it will form on its own and might not be something you are proud of.

  • That I be not as those are who spend the day in complaining of headache and the night in drinking the wine which gives the headache!
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Thursday, April 7th, 2022

Dress Appropriately

“Elegance is a question of personality, more than one’s clothing.” — Jean-Paul Gaultier

People are beginning to return to offices. They have become accustomed to wearing sweatpants, flip-flops pajama bottoms, etc. Now they are faced with wearing something that doesn’t have an elastic waist!

I recently discovered that Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, when she was HR leader at the company, reduced their several-page dress code to two words: Dress appropriately.

If you are a plumber, you dress appropriately for your work. If a plumber showed up at my door dressed to run a marathon. I would not be impressed.

I went to see a dentist once, in an emergency situation, he was not dressed like my regular dentist dressed and he actually seemed creepy to me.

Many CPA firms before the pandemic embraced a dress appropriately policy. I think that is a good policy and should be continued. But, has “appropriately” changed in light of the remote work world? Try to determine what your clients will think of you and dress appropriately.

  • The way you dress is an expression of your personality.
  • Alessandro Michele

Monday, April 4th, 2022

Does This Non-Word Apply?

“Anytime you see a turtle up on top of a fence post, you know he had some help.” – Unknown

Occasionally, I reprint a blog post from Seth Godin. Today is one of those days. To me, it has meaning to those of us working for or with CPAs.

ANYTIMED – by Seth Godin

It’s not a word, but perhaps it should be.

If a competitor goes after your customers by offering them faster service, all day and all night, you’ve been anytimed.

And if your boss, fearing that event, or simply trying to boost output for free, pushes you to be available all hours of the day and night, you’re being anytimed as well.

The market wants convenience and speed and price. Anytimed is a side effect of that race.

Do you want to be anytimed by your clients? Maybe part of onboarding a client is the time to set some boundaries.

Are you anytimed by your boss (partner or manager)? So many CPA team members feel like they are actually “on-call” day and night, 7 days per week, especially in tax season. Maybe it is time for employers to establish boundaries and stick to them.

  • Anywhere, anytime ordinary people are given the chance to choose, the choice is the same: freedom, not tyranny; democracy, not dictatorship; the rule of law, not the rule of the secret police.
  • Tony Blair

Tuesday, March 29th, 2022

Salary Growth

“You don’t get paid for the hour. You get paid for the value you bring to that hour.” – Jim Rohn

I have thought for years that CPA firm starting salaries have lagged behind the rest of the world. Maybe the lack of interest in majoring in accounting and entering the field of public accounting reflects this line of thought.

Here are some excerpts from an article on Bloomberg:

According to Robert Half salary guides, average starting pay for first-year auditors in 2022 was $55,000—unchanged from 2011 despite 10 years of slow but steady inflation growth.

“Students are making economically rational decisions,” Almer said. Faced with mounting housing costs and student loan debt, they opt to pursue other fields, she said.

Read the article titled, Accounting Faces Reckoning After Years of Sluggish Pay Growth via Bloomberg.

I have mentioned it before – – starting salaries I am hearing and reading about for new college graduates entering public accounting is barely above what my firm offered in 2008!

  • A lot of people quit looking for work as soon as they find a job.
  • Zig Ziglar

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2022

Which Side Are You On?

“Being cool is when you win, you don’t get too happy; and when you lose, you don’t get too mad.” – Ice T

You have all read and heard about the great resignation. On one side, firms are losing people and on the other side, firms are attracting people. Be the “attractive” firm; the one where people want to work.

You can do this by building a brand. What kind of brand have you built over the years? If you are not known for being a premier firm with top-notch people and premier clients, you are behind in the talent game already.

When I was actively working inside a growing CPA firm it was our ongoing goal to be the “cool and progressive firm” in our marketplace. We had client parties with themes like The Future’s So Bright You Gotta Wear Shades and gave everyone sunglasses with the firm name on the stem. At the firm’s 50th anniversary party we used the theme Fifty Years And Still Rockin’. We dressed in poodle skirts and white t-shirts with black leather jackets. An Elvis impersonator met everyone at the door and had their picture was taken which we later mailed to them in a special card.

Set a goal to become known as the cool firm in your market. Become the firm that attracts people rather than the firm losing people. It’s not easy and it takes constant focus. Start now!

  • It seems like once people grow up, they have no idea what's cool.
  • Bill Watterson

Monday, March 21st, 2022

Comfort Leads To Complacency

“Comfort is the refuge of the average.” – Brad Lea

The majority of CPAs have been very comfortable for many years. Business has been good, profits have steadily increased and partner salaries have grown. All of this leads to complacency. Complacency has been a hurdle in the path of change for many accounting firms.’s definition of complacency is “a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc.”

To me, it seems like many CPA partners have fallen in line with Alfred E. Newman’s slogan, “What, me worry?”

It is a wonderful feeling when you enjoy your work, are comfortable with your colleagues, and are proud of your firm. But, a culture of complacency will not carry your firm into the future.

Here are five signs of complacency:

  1. You are no longer striving to do your best.
  2. You are not staying up to date in your field and industry.
  3. You are not seeking or taking advnatage of new opportunities.
  4. You are not maintaining or building your network of business contacts.
  5. You don’t risk sharing your opinion or ideas.

Read more about each one of these signs in this article via Forbes. Then shake off complacency and get busy changing many things to take your firm into the future. Top talent will not stay at a complacent firm.

  • Complacency is the last hurdle standing between any team and its potential greatness.
  • Pat Riley

Tuesday, March 8th, 2022

Exceptions & Rules

“I follow three rules: Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people you care.” – Lou Holtz

You expended a lot of effort in establishing the firm’s paperless processes/procedures. Most of your partners follow the rules. For some partners, you do this and that – print things off, provide paper, etc. How will you get ahead by making so many exceptions to the rules?

My grandson, Sam, when he was at that pre-school age always had a question. That question was, “Is that a rule?” For example – Grandma says, “Sam, please put your shoes in the closet.” Sam asked, “Is that a rule?” When I say yes, it was a rule. He mildly said, okay and put his shoes in the closet. Evidently, his mom and dad stressed that there were certain rules for behavior.

There are certain rules for behavior in CPA firms, too. Is it a rule that we review on screen? Yes, it is a rule. Is it a rule that we have our time in by 9:00 am the following day? Yes, it is a rule. Is it a rule that we have our billings done by the 5th of the month? Yes, it is a rule. You get the drift.

Firms make too many exceptions. Once my IT Manager said something that has stuck with me over the years. He said, “We are governed by rules but we operate by exception.” Oh, my! Don’t operate your firm by exception.

I advise my clients to not establish rules if they are going to break them. Partners will agree in a meeting to a specific process/procedure/guideline and then some leave the meeting with no intention of following that “rule.” A prime example is: We will stop work at 90 days if a client has not paid our fee. If partners cannot truly agree don’t establish the rule – policy – procedure.

I love the quote, above, by Lou Holtz. I had the wonderful experience of hearing him speak several years ago. It was one of the most motivating speeches I have ever heard.

  • If you obey all the rules you'll miss all the fun.
  • Katherine Hepburn

Monday, March 7th, 2022

Too Busy

“Those who are wise won’t be busy, and those who are busy can’t be wise.” – Lin Yutang

It’s that time of year, time for my BUSY post. I hear it over and over again, “I’m too busy.”

You don’t like feeling like that, but nevertheless, you do.

When you dig deep into why you are too busy it usually uncovers the fact that it is because of the choices you make.

Kids these days are scheduled almost 24/7. When do they have time to play outside, wade in a stream, collect colorful leaves in the fall or spot the first crocus peeking out of the soil in the spring?

Adults have work that is filled with answering emails and attending meetings plus responsibilities on the home front, such as raising children. When do they have time to actually think, daydream, relax and examine the life they are living?

Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” What did he mean by that? Here’s an explanation:

Socrates‘ claim that the unexamined life is not worth living makes a satisfying climax for the deeply principled arguments that Socrates presents on behalf of the philosophical life. The claim is that only in striving to come to know ourselves and to understand ourselves do our lives have any meaning or value.

In your CPA work life, if you are always saying you are so busy or too busy, why would clients and referral sources refer others to you? Make it a rule to never say the “B” (busy) word in the office. Anyone caught saying BUSY must drop $1.00 into the money jar in the break room. Soon you will have enough for a great party!

As for partners, when young accountants observe the VERY long hours you work, why would they ever want to become an owner in a CPA firm?

  • It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about?
  • Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2022

Client Service

“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” Jeff Bezos

Don’t let your focus on finding workers cloud your focus on client service. I worry about this and so should you.

You have probably experienced it. You go to a favorite restaurant that used to be widely known for its great food and customer service. Now, the service is mundane at best. You assume it is because they can’t find a great chef or competent servers. Perhaps you’ll try a different restaurant next time.

You might visit a retail store and have to wander around to find someone to answer a question. You are patient, but not happy because you assume they can’t find people to hire. Perhaps you’ll try some other store.

Almost every restaurant, store, and other business has “We are hiring” signs posted.

In your mind, you continue to make excuses for their lack of expertise because we all know that there is a major shortage of workers nationwide.

How do your best clients view your firm right now? Don’t complain to clients that you are SO busy. Don’t let them know that you are desperately seeking more employees. Don’t let your client service culture backslide. Maybe your best clients will consider going elsewhere.

Many firms have outplaced clients that don’t fit their menu and culture so that they can better serve their “A” clients. Working your employees longer hours is not the answer. Progressive firms are researching and establishing what they want their client experience to be.

  • Happy customers are your biggest advocates and can become your most successful sales team.
  • Lisa Masiello

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022

Trying To Improve

“He who stops being better stops being good.” – Oliver Cromwell

I know so many excellent firm administrators (practice managers, office managers, COO’s, etc.) who really care about their CPA firm. Notice I say “their” because most of them really think and act like they are owners in the firm. By the way, most of them are not owners. I will also include HR Directors and marketing directors in this group. They are all professionals supporting other professionals.

These key players in the firm want the firm, and its people, to continually improve. They read about or hear about a new way of doing something, they research, weigh the pros and cons, and then recommend the new process to the partners. The partners agree and the new process is announced to the entire staff. The firm provides an adequate amount of training and the new system is embraced. Well, almost.

One, maybe two, partners or managers simply refuse to follow the new procedure. They are comfortable with the old way and cling to it desperately.

Then the firm administrator and/or the managing partner also becomes desperate and begins to nag the offenders. This goes on for a while. To the firm administrator, one or two people are breaking the law. They are criminals. They don’t support the team or the firm. Nagging stops and significant frustration sets in. After all, they are only trying to introduce efficiencies that will result in less stress and in the firm making more profit. They believe the new way will improve everyone’s work life.

A quote from Agatha Christie is what I am offering today to those of you who are very frustrated and disappointed in a situation like this.

“You might be wanting to improve everyone’s life for them. But nobody can do that. If people want to improve their life, they have to do it themselves.”

Rather than suggest and nag, you have to prove to them how it will benefit them, personally. Evidently, they do not care how it helps the firm. Early in my consulting career, I suggested that “you have to get all your partners on board.” I soon came to realize that it is rare to be able to get ALL your partners on board. Keep working with the healthy part of your firm and wait for the slow adapters to eventually drag themselves along.

  • To succeed in this world, you have to change all the time.
  • Sam Walton