Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010


  • It took $31.8 million in revenue to make the Top 100 this year.
  • The top niche service was business valuation followed closely by litigation support.
  • Many firms achieved significant growth via mergers.

As Bill Carlino puts it, “After weathering one of the roughest economies on record, the 2010 Top 100 Firms are making a gradual transition from implementing austerity measures, such as fee reductions, hiring freezes and in some dire cases, staff cuts, to repositioning themselves to capitalize on a slower-than-expected, but gradual, recovery.”

This year’s report also includes information on the regional leaders (they used to be covered by The Practical Accountant).

It’s good reading for all of you. If you don’t receive Accounting Today, you can obtain a FREE digital edition – click here. Reading and researching, educating yourself in best practices and adding-in your own creative ideas is a real plus for you and your firm.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – – Dr. Seuss

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009


The outlook is rather dismal when it comes to salaries in finance and the public and private accounting arenas for 2010 according to recent surveys released by Robert Half International and Ajilon Professional Staffing.

Ajilon predicted that accounting/finance salaries will decline 0.85 percent in 2010, while chief financial officers and treasurers will have it tougher. Their salaries are expected to drop 7.7 percent when compared to 2009.

Robert Half’s forecast is slightly better. They anticipate salary increases of roughly 2 percent for the upcoming year for everyone in all positions across large, midsized and small firms.

Robert Half notes, it’s not always about the money. According their survey, the primary reason that people leave their jobs is unhappiness with management, followed by limited opportunity for advancement. Compensation ranked third, along with a lack of recognition. CPA firm leaders, please read this paragraph again!

I feel like getting on my soapbox again, but I won’t do that far today. Just browse the archives on this blog for ideas on how to make your firm the cool firm. Recognizing people is cheap (and the polite/mannerly thing to do). Train, train, train your managers how to manage people (call me if you need help). Paint a clear picture of how people can climb the career ladder at your firm and let them know that succession is a huge issue and the owners are looking for their replacements.

As far as public accounting salaries and job opportunities, the outlook is still rather bright. Accountants are still needed. Although public accounting has held its own in the economic downturn, salary increases will be meager. Per Robert Half, tax directors and senior managers will realize a 1.6 percent boost. On the audit side, directors and seniors can expect less than a 0.1 percent increase.

Senior-level positions in public accounting firms will see the largest pay decreases next year while a slight raise will come to lower-level positions like senior accountants and staff, according to Ajilon.

Read the entire article by Liz Gold in the current issue of Accounting Today (12/14/2009 issue in their archives).

Monday, November 30th, 2009


Are you thinking about 2010?

Sure, you are thinking about busy season – January through April 15. I hope you are doing more than thinking about that period of time.

There is still time left in 2009 and at least until January 15, 2010 to take action on things that will make busy season better. It doesn’t have to be huge things, just take baby-steps but take them quickly and remember my battle cry: Do things!

Also, be thinking about what you will need to do immediately after April 15th to improve your firm during economic recovery. What needs your attention? Hiring or re-hiring? Refreshing or improving your brand? Designing a campaign to encourage former clients to come back to your firm? Re-engaging your people to build loyalty and trust? Where are the 2010 high growth opportunities going to be for CPAs?

Many of these ideas were triggered by reading Alan Weiss‘s Monday Morning Memo. I encourage you to read his blog. You’ll get great ideas on how to be a better consultant to your clients.

I am trying to lead by example. I am thinking about 2010 and how I can be a better resource (and consultant) to YOU.

“Many people look forward to the new year for a new start on old habits.” – -Author Unknown

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009


The following are some very important points in an article published yesterday in many newspapers around the country about how Gen Xers (your experienced seniors, managers and your youngest partners) are feeling during this recession.

  • They’re antsy and edgy, tired of waiting for promotion opportunities at work as their elders put off retirement. (If you have been in one of my audiences this year, you hear me STRESS this dangerous fact, your STARS will leave if they see future ownership in the firm being pushed out even farther into the future.)
  • The 32- to 44-year-olds who are wedged between baby boomers and their children, often feeling like forgotten middle siblings – and increasingly restless at work as a result. (I call this group, and many females fit in here, the CPA firm “sandwich generation,” caught-up in taking care of parents (aging partners) and kids (Gen Y fresh off the college campus).

A recent Deliotte study warns of a “resume tsunami” once economic recovery begins, especially among Gen Xers and notes that many executives were largely unaware of employee complaints unrelated to money.

Do you know how your valued, experienced workforce REALLY feels? As a CPA firm leader, do you find your owner group feeling smug about the fact that they don’t have to bend over backwards to please employees at the present moment?

Please read the entire article here.

It’s time to kick-up the communication machine and develop even more ways to LISTEN to your team – at all levels – during these trying times. Also, TALK to them about what the firm leadership is thinking and where the firm is going and be sure they see aggressive actions on continuing to grow the firm.

Now is not the time for leadership to hide in the bunker until the recession is over.

“If you don’t get everything you want, think of the things you don’t get that you don’t want.” – – Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009


Many firms have dabbled in it for years. Partners became CFPs years ago with the intent of focusing on a new niche for the firm and providing clients with assistance in achieving their financial goals.

Some firms excelled. Some firms did not. According to an article by Liz Gold, in the first issue of the newly designed Accounting Today, “market demand and the state of the economy are drawing more CPAs into financial planning.”

Think you are prepared Liz’s article offers these five tips:

  1. Understand your prospects.
  2. Fully understand the costs of your products.
  3. Are you prepared to open a new practice in this economy?
  4. Have you considered a niche practice?
  5. Fully investigate the various types of business available to you.

There are pertinent comments under each of these five in the article. Click here to read it or look on Pg. 20 of your recent issue.

Also included in the issue is the Third Annual Ranking of CPA firms that have a financial planning subsidiary. The first year 89 firms responded to the survey, last year 100 and this year 132 firms responded.

Click here to read it on line. It is broken down into sections: 1) The Wealth Magnet Elite – Billion Dollar Club, 2) The $100+ Million Club, 3) The $50+ Million Club, and 4) The Rising Stars.

“We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful.” – – Warren Buffett

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009


It’s Tuesday and I missed posting yesterday. VERY unusual for me.

I have a great excuse, I’m on vacation at beautiful Kiawah Island Golf Resort in South Carolina. Yesterday morning I was attending a golf clinic rather than blogging and reading emails.

This morning something caught my eye on the web. It is generally acknowledged that business people dress better in a down economy.

In a article, one female reports:
I work in a very casual office and can wear jeans to work, but I absolutely don’t do that now. I want to put the best face on at work that I can. The recession has been a wake-up call, because a lot of people have gotten lazy [with their dress].

Retailer Ann Taylor reported a 24.5% drop in sales in the fourth quarter of 2008 compared with the previous year but saw a hopeful sign in suit sales. In the company’s fourth-quarter conference call with investors, CEO Katherine Krill said, “I didn’t think anybody really needed a new suit, but we are seeing the suit business at Ann Taylor take an uptick, which I think is very encouraging.” She added that the trend is a sign that “people need interview suits.”

In an article from CNN – How to Dress for Success at Work – the story highlights a survey:

  • 41 percent of employers more often promote people who dress better
  • Financial services industry places most emphasis on professional work attire
  • Sixty-four percent of employers surveyed banned flip flops
  • More than one third of companies have sent employees home for unsuitable attire

Where do wardrobes really matter?

According to the survey, dressing professionally is more important in some industries than it is in others.

Financial services is one industry that places the most emphasis on professional work attire. Fifty-five percent of workers in this sector say well-dressed employees are more likely to be promoted than others.

An additional 51 percent of sales representatives say the same thing about the likelihood of promotions in their industry.

Just food for thought. I admit, I’m a huge fan of being well-dressed in the workplace, especially a CPA firm. That doesn’t mean a suit everyday for women and a white shirt and tie for men. It means understanding what business casual really looks like. It also means having a very specific, Dress Appropriate Policy. Let me know if you want a sample copy.

I have always kept in mind something I heard very early on in my career: Dress for the position you want, not for the position you have.

Most importantly in your firm, it means addressing inappropriate dress immediately by talking with the offender face-to-face.

“You cannot climb the ladder of success dressed in the costume of failure.” – – Zig Ziglar

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009


It was my pleasure to collaborate with Jennifer Wilson of Convergence Coaching last week to give the participants at the AAA National MAP Conference “Five HR Nuggets” to take back to their firms and focus on for the remainder of 2009.

Today I will cover #1 and #2 – check back tomorrow for 3, 4, and 5.

1. The economy has a real impact – Firms have been right-sizing their staff to match work capacity and in the process, they are finally letting go of poor performers. The big firms have led the way, however, smaller firms have waited and will most likely work through this process during the next 120 days. It can be compared to a forest fire, while the fire itself is frightening, the result of eliminating the dead wood leaves fertile ground for re-growth. Also, under the topic of the economy, most firms will freeze salaries and eliminate bonuses for all but their best performers (or those solid performers that are already under-market). Most firm plan to honor fall hiring commitments (hoping these people will be the “re-growth”). Some firms may even handle long-standing problems with partners during this difficult economic time, which in sorely needed in some cases.

2. Firms will be tempted to de-emphasize HR – BUT SHOULD NOT. The people shortage has TEMPORARILY loosened. Do not lull yourself into a sense of false security. The people shortage is not over. We caution you to keep the momentum going on all of the “best place to work” strategies that have attracted and retained high-performers. If your firm must make some cut-backs in employee benefits, survey your team for feedback on the importance and value of the current programs. They could rank the benefits either “must have” or “nice to have.”

Number 3, 4 and 5 will be featured tomorrow.

“During this economic downturn, partners have to lead. They should be the first to take pay-cuts.” – – Sam Allred, Upstream Academy at the AAA National MAP Conference

Thursday, June 11th, 2009


Yes, the picture on the cover of The Economist, June 4-12, 2009 issue certainly caught my eye. So did the title of the lead article: Detroitosaurus Wrecks.

So, how do I put the CPA management spin on this one? The last paragraph in the article speaks volumes to me:

It could still be a great business
For all its peculiarities, the car industry is no dinosaur—Toyota, for instance, is a byword for manufacturing excellence. But the unevolved GM deserved extinction. Detroit employed so many people and figured so large in American culture that governments felt they had to protect it; but in doing so, they made it vulnerable to less-coddled competitors from abroad. By trying to keep their car industry big, America’s leaders ended up preventing it from becoming good. There is a lesson in that which all governments would do well to learn.

Here are a few questions for firm leaders:

  • Are you fighting to keep a firm together that really needs to split?
  • Are you fighting a losing battle in trying to herd cats who want to live the life of a sole practitioner inside a team of professionals striving to be a one-firm firm?
  • Does your unevolved firm deserve extinction?
  • By trying to keep your firm big, are you preventing it from becoming good?

I have been talking to several firms lately who lament: We seem to be stuck in the muck. We are at a crossroads. We feel like we have good ideas and we know what to do, but we can’t seem to implement. Partners are not held accountable, so nothing gets done. Our founder is in his 60s and we don’t know who will succeed him.

Any of that sound familiar? Don’t let your firm become a Cpaosaurus. Read the article here.

“The dinosaur’s eloquent lesson is that if some bigness is good, an overabundance of bigness is not necessarily better.” – – Eric Johnston

Monday, June 8th, 2009


I bet this picture has you wondering.

There are plenty of people who argue the pros and cons of using fear as a motivator. While I can’t imagine building an organization via motivation by fear, we are hearing a lot about it in the workplace these days.

I believe, in the CPA firm world, we see very little management by fear. Not, that it never existed. I have been around long enough to remember when it did. However, it has become a thing of the past in well-run firms. We have been able to attract and keep people who have the passion for public accounting, the work they do for clients and the pride they feel in being part of a winning team – all the things I hope brings you to this blog on a regular basis.

What brings this up today? What we are seeing in the workplace is the “fear of lay-off” causing employees to work a little harder, be a little more visible and even more creative and helpful.

I just read an article in the newspaper titled, “For many workers, fear of layoff is a big motivator.” Amazing, how attitudes have changed in just a year.

Bruce Tulgan is quoted in the article: “I’ve started to see a sea change,” Tulgan said. “A growing number of people are saying: ‘I’ve got to roll my sleeves up and do something now.’ They’re finding ways they can identify problems before they happen.”

As the slower summer months approach, I wonder if you will see more people in your firm applying themselves more fervently than in past years? It not only applies to firm team members. What about your partners? We often chuckle that some of them seem to disappear in the summer (golf, gardening, vacation homes).

There are still a lot of unknowns facing firms as 2009 progresses. I hope you, as a leader in your firm, provide forums for lots of communication and dialogue with everyone about the economy, the clients and about what they can do to help the firm to continue to grow. Be clear and concise about expectations, it paves the way for them to be successful.

I have been pleased that the economy has caused firms to actually get back to the basics of running a good business, things like billing and collection, thorough and timely performance feedback, firing D-level clients and developing efficient, documented processes.

Maybe the economy is now motivating individuals to get back to basics, too, doing things they should have been doing more of all along, such as:

  • Volunteering for firm internal projects
  • Being a visible and hands-on manager of people
  • Developing a personal marketing plan and tracking progress via a marketing report
  • Attending charitable and business community events
  • Scheduling frequent lunches with referral sources
  • Picking up the phone and calling clients just to chat
  • Improving your time management and organizational skills
  • Passing the CPA exam quickly
  • Mentoring and coaching the future leaders in your firm
  • Volunteering to help with recruiting and campus activities
  • The list could go on and on…. begin here and add your own bullets!

Click here to read the entire article about fear of lay-off being a motivator.

The following quote from Chet Atkins says it all for me….. “Everything I’ve ever done was out of fear of being mediocre.”

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009


You know, by now, that almost everything I read, I automatically put the CPA spin on it. It just comes naturally after so many years being an observer of CPA firms and how they are managed and led.

I recently read Viewpoint in Fortune magazine by David Gergen. He contends, “Unless corporate leaders take charge of their fate, government will become more and more a master.”

The scandals in corporate America have eroded public trust and this economic crisis has shattered it, per Gergen. Corporate leaders were greedy.

Do you know any CPA firms that have been living a life of extravagance in recent years? It might appear so, simply because times have been very, very good to most firms and owners’ salaries have climbed dramatically.

While most have passed on a significant part of the increased earnings to their employees, by striving to make their firms “the best place to work,” others might have appeared to widen the gap between partners and the rest of the team.

I have heard it said, more than once at conferences and training sessions for those below the partner level: “We are working very hard and putting in long hours just to make more money for the partners.” Do you think anyone on your team ever thought, or even verbalized, that?

The advice for American corporate leaders, could also apply to CPA firm leaders:

Get back to fundamentals. People are longing for leaders who are reliable. People are tired of leaders playing for short-term gain at the expense of long-term achievement. t\They want pay tied to performance.

Embrace the concept of corporate management becoming a true profession like law or medicine.

CPAs have the true profession as it relates to their clients. Winning firms carry that same professional commitment to managing the “inside health” of their own firms.

Read the Fortune magazine “viewpoint” here.

“When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.” – – Abraham Lincoln