Archive for the ‘Firm Administrator’ Category

Friday, December 13th, 2019

Different Policies For Holiday Closings

“The holidays stress people out so much. I suggest you keep it simple and try to have as much fun as you can.” – Giada De Laurentiis

When holidays fall on a Friday, Monday or mid-week, we often wonder if firms are doing anything more than just the one-day holiday.

When it comes to the December/January holidays – Christmas and New Year’s Day – firms differ on what they offer.

I did a quick survey to see what firms were offering this year for Christmas since it falls on a Wednesday.

  • 18.52% – Close only on December 25th
  • 18.52% – Close 1/2 day on December 24th and all-day December 25th
  • 55.56% – Close all day the 24th and 25th
  • 7.41% – Are closing the entire Christmas week

Most firms are just closing one day for New Year’s Day and allowing people to leave a “little early” on New Year’s Eve.

No matter how much time you get off work, celebrate and have fun with family and friends!

  • Sharing the holiday with other people, and feeling that you’re giving of yourself, gets you past all the commercialism.
  • Caroline Kennedy

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

The Challenge of What Gift to Give Your Employees

“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.” – Andy Rooney

A very common topic this time of year among CPA firm administrators (and partners) is what kind of gift to give the employees for Christmas.

This difficult task usually lands in the COO/Firm Administrator’s or HR Director’s lap. And, it’s a dangerous minefield. Different generations appreciate different things and finding a “one size fits all” can be a daunting task.

Suzanne Lucas, @RealEvilHRLady, gives us a great list this year. She notes: Here are some ideas, gleaned from real, actual humans, and not marketers. You’ll notice some are contradictory. This isn’t bad editing on my part. It’s reality. Get to know your employees!

Here are a few of the suggestions – but, be sure to read the entire list. Money is always a good choice!

  • My husband’s boss gives his managers steak. We have really appreciated that!
  • If anything, something “consumable.” I don’t want or need any more do-dads. Food is good–a nice bottle of olive oil, a good bottle of balsamic vinegar, anything that can be used and enjoyed and then gone!!
  • $100 gift cards to a nice restaurant have always been my favorite.
  • Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won't make it 'white.'
  • Bing Crosby

Thursday, November 14th, 2019

Tone It Down

“Be grateful for what you have and stop complaining – it bores everybody else, does you no good, and doesn’t solve any problems.” – Zig Ziglar

You are in a firm meeting. It could be a partner meeting, a staff meeting, a committee meeting or an admin meeting. Someone complains (gripes.. bitches…) and another person joins in and soon there are several on the bandwagon.

Think about it. It probably happens all too frequently. In some cases, the person running the meeting (a manager, partner, firm administrator) actually joins in. They feel like they are sympathizing and showing support for the concerns.

If you are leading a meeting that suddenly turns into a gripe session, don’t join in. Tone it down! You might think you are building camaraderie but you are actually undermining your own credibility.

Take immediate steps to turn these bitch sessions into productive, problem-solving meetings. You might simply say, “Wait a minute, I hear the problem. Let’s talk about solutions.” Enlist the entire group into voicing possible solutions.

  • Everyone has to make their own decisions. I still believe in that. You just have to be able to accept the consequences without complaining.
  • Grace Jones

Monday, November 11th, 2019

The Problem Might Be You

“Influence means your behaviors matter. The people around you – to some degree – reflect you.” – Dan Rockwell, Leadership Freak

If you are a partner in the firm and it bothers you when people are not punctual yet, you often come into the office late, others think it is okay.

If you are the manager on a review engagement and because you are experienced, you cut a corner or two, others think it is okay.

If you are at the Senior level in a firm and you are not completely accurate and punctual recording your time on jobs, others think it is okay.

If you are the firm administrator and you occasionally take an extended lunch hour for no particular reason, others think it is okay.

No matter what your title, your peers and others observe what you do and are influenced by your actions. What you do and the behaviors you adopt make a difference – you are an influencer.

You can also strive to be a GOOD example. That also influences others.

 

  • Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.
  • Albert Schweitzer

Thursday, October 24th, 2019

Putting Out Fires

“We need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.” – Desmond Tutu

The above quote made me think of CPAs. Of course, almost everything I read makes me think of CPAs!

It has been my observation that inside public accounting firms, a lot of people are constantly “putting out fires.” Firm administrators and some managing partners tell me that they can’t find time to address important firm initiatives because it seems like every day is a fire drill.

Have you ever stopped to contemplate what is causing the fires in the first place?

  • My normal routine is pretty much putting out fires all day.
  • Vera Wang

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

Who Is My Boss?

“There is nothing so exasperating as a confused chain of command.”

I read the above quote in a novel a long time ago. It came to mind recently when I was working with a client. In many CPA firms, there is a partner group and a manager group and it seems all other employees work for all of them.

You have a managing partner. Do his/her directives out-weigh the requests made by other partners? Where does the Firm Administrator or COO fit in the picture? The Firm Administrator is responsible for a smooth workflow and efficient processes and procedures. Is it widely assumed that any partner can by-pass those established procedures?

Many firms seem to lack focus when it comes to establishing a chain-of-command. Some partner groups govern as a committee. Most partner groups govern by consensus. If you have ever been part of a committee you know how slowly things move and how much time is wasted on endless discussions. If you have had the task of gaining complete consensus you also know how frustrating that can be.

Even if the formal management structure is not a committee, client service partners want to be involved in all of the “management” decisions, even things as small as the weight of the paper that is selected for firm letterhead. Yes, I still hear these stories!

As more senior partners retire and firms transition to new leadership (a new managing partner), I hope they will better define the chain of command and the organizational structure of the firm.

Consider a firm governance model that is shared throughout the firm.

Publish a firm Champion List. It is a guide that identifies the go-to person for expert advice on each software package used at the firm or for each segment and discipline inside the firm.

Lay-out a simple organizational chart that shows the chain-of-command and where each person “fits” in the firm. It helps newcomers and even more experienced team members understand where the firm administrator fits or how the partner group governs itself. An org chart can be helpful in large firms and small firms alike.

  • Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way.
  • General George Patton

Thursday, October 10th, 2019

The Person Fits The Job

“All good performance starts with clear goals.” – Ken Blanchard

It has always amazed me how some CPA firm leaders go to great lengths to avoid firing a person.

Francine, a bookkeeper, has been with the firm 15 years but she has never really embraced the technology that is currently needed for her role.

Fred, a 3-year staff person, has struggled to understand and prepare tax returns.

Bobbi, the administrative assistant focused on the tax area, performs the final processing of tax returns before they leave the firm. Her work has to be continually reviewed “just in case.”

The partners are aware of the shortcomings but rather than be completely honest with the employee, they agree that they should create a different role where Francine, Fred or Bobbi might fit.

Rather than looking at a specific, important role in the firm and finding the appropriate person to fill it, partners struggle to establish a role that a poor performing employee might be able to fill. This way they won’t have to outplace someone.

Are you really doing them a favor?

  • The highest levels of performance come to people who are centered, intuitive, creative, and reflective - people who know to see a problem as an opportunity.
  • Deepak Chopra

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

Deal With Toxic People

“If you put good apples into a bad situation, you’ll get bad apples.” – Philip Zimbardo

I am continually amazed at how many accounting firm leaders tolerate toxic employees.

Over the years, it is one of the issues that I discover inside many firms both large and small. It is the classic case where someone’s work product is fine but almost all of their peers dislike them and even fear them. In some cases, the offender ignores firm guidelines and openly belittles people.

They seem to serve the clients okay, but do you know for sure? Have talented people left your firm because you continually protect the “Attila the Hun” personality type?

Now is the time to deal with it before you get into another busy season.

I have blogged about this topic often hoping it will inspire leaders to deal with bad apples. Yet, the situations still seems to flourish. Here’s an informative article from HBR that might convince you to take action – How One Corrupt Employee Can a Whole Team.

  • Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.
  • Epicurus

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019

Stress-Filled Days

Working in public accounting means you absolutely have days that are very stressful. You are chained to due dates and another major one is on the near horizon. The pressure is on everyone at all levels inside the firm. However, the firm administrator usually has “it” coming at them from all directions.

As the Firm Administrator, other people are constantly asking you questions. Your email box is filled with messages that actually require action. Several people have valid questions about HR topics. Everyone wants to know the status of tax returns. Your admin team is doing their best to be responsive to the accountants as the due date nears yet they have complaints and sometimes difficulties working together. Seems like there is always a line of people outside your office door.

Then there are the partners. Each one seems to think that his/her clients are the most important and the most in need of immediate attention. The staff juggles the work and often becomes confused because of conflicting priorities.

That’s why, when I recently read this quote by William Shakespeare, I thought of you!

“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” – William Shakespeare, The Tempest

  • Fair is foul, and foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air.
  • Shakespeare

Friday, September 6th, 2019

Salaries For CPAs

“Waste your money and you’re only out of money, but waste your time and you’ve lost a part of your life.” – Michael Leboeuf

CPAs are accountants but not all accountants are CPAs. There is a big difference and there is also a difference in what kind of salaries are paid to CPAs.

I receive many questions about what kind of salaries firms are paying their employees. Entry-level salaries are always of great interest to CPA firm leaders. Many are wondering what they need to offer to next year’s graduates. Entry-level accountants intending to become CPAs should also realize that their starting salary is “just a drop in the bucket” in relation to what their future earnings can become.

Thanks to Accounting Today, here is a good visual – read the full article here.

salary range

  • Financial peace isn't the acquisition of stuff. It's learning to live on less than you make, so you can give money back and have money to invest. You can't win until you do this.
  • Dave Ramsey