Archive for the ‘Firm Administrator’ Category

Monday, August 15th, 2022

It takes time

“Some quit due to slow progress, never grasping the fact that slow progress is progress.” – Jeff Olson

Seth Godin makes a good point in a recent post. The point: Some things take time. Here’s an excerpt:

Both The Shawshank Redemption and The Big Lebowski bombed. If “bombed” means that during the first few weeks, no one went to a theater to see them. Since then, tens of millions of people have seen and talked about these movies.

But the events that change our culture often happen over time, distributed across parts of the population too small to notice.

Godin notes, “Drip by drip makes a wave.”

If you need to make some significant changes inside your CPA and you are getting a lot of push-back from some of the partners, you need to take baby steps. Sudden and abrupt change is not something CPAs embrace wholeheartedly.

Another similar phrase I use when making changes inside CPA firms is “constant gentle pressure.” Taking baby steps and applying constant gentle pressure will move the firm forward. Plus, once some forward motion is obtained, change seems to flow more freely and rapidly.

  • Focus on progress not perfection.
  • Bill Phillips

Thursday, June 16th, 2022

An HR Refresher

“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day, you bet on people, not on strategies.” – Lawrence Bossidy 

Maybe your firm is large enough to have a dedicated HR director. In many firms, the firm administrator (practice manager) is the one who fields most HR questions. No matter what size your firm YOU need to be careful what you say or do, especially if you are a partner or manager.

Here’s a good reminder/refresher from Inc. – “If you say one of these 11 phrases at work, prepare to be sued.”

Here are the eleven phrases. Have you ever said them? Read the entire article and share it inside your firm.

  • “I’ll just 1099 this employee.”
  • “He’s salaried, I don’t need to worry about overtime.”
  • “Non-competes are not enforceable, right?”
  • “I’ll handle this EEOC charge on my own.”
  • “This complaint is stupid, I’m not even going to respond to it.”
  • “Aren’t you proud that we have an all-female [or any other protected characteristic] team?”
  • “I’ll just find an employment contract online.”
  • “I’m going to dock your pay if you…[fill in the blank].”
  • “I’m a nice guy, I don’t want to have that conversation.”
  • “Just tell them they are performing fine.”
  • “This employee is a problem, let’s move them to a different role.” 

The article explains each phrase.

  • Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to.
  • Richard Branson

Wednesday, May 18th, 2022

Be Creative – Do Things!

“Creativity is seeing what others see and thinking what no one else ever thought.” – Albert Einstein

I have observed that many CPAs wait for other CPA firms to go first and then they will follow that new idea, software, process, or procedure.

So many partners, over many years, have asked me, “What are other firms doing?” I urge you to enlist your entire team in being more creative. What suggestion does that 2-year person have that might save everyone a lot of time? What has your firm administrator been urging the firm to try for a couple of years? So what if it doesn’t work. Try something else.

Once again, I offer a complete blog post from Seth Godin.

EVERYONE ELSE IS

Well, not everyone. Just most people.

When you do something that everyone else is doing, you’re likely to get what everyone else is getting.

But in almost every population, “everyone” leaves out the people who go first, who change things, who are weird and who challenge the status quo. That’s an option, even when it doesn’t seem that way.

Mass culture gets us more mass culture. It’s not the only choice.

  • A creative life is an amplified life. It's a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life.
  • Elizabeth Gilbert

Thursday, May 5th, 2022

Committees

“I am not a committee.” —Princess Leia, The Empire Strikes Back

As May the 4th was yesterday, the above quote via Princess Leia caught my attention. Can you believe that Star Wars was released 45 years ago on May 25?

Anyway, back on topic. When I hear the word “Committee” in a CPA firm, I cringe. Please keep in mind that your firm is a business, not a non-profit. Trying to manage by committee will just slow you down and create confusion and power struggles.

Establish a management structure with a qualified, inspired Managing Partner and a professional, skilled, efficient Firm Administrator (Practice Manager) to carry out the routine duties of managing the business.

Occasionally, you might need to establish a Task Force to focus on one specific area or initiative. The best thing about a task force is that it is not ongoing. It completes its duty and disbands. Also, keep in mind how much non-productive time many partners spend if you have them on various committees. The pandemic has shown us just how much people hate meetings!

Major issues such as mergers or firing a partner would, of course, require full participation by the ownership group but day-to-day the “other” partners need to be bringing in business, serving clients, and mentoring staff.

  • If you want to kill any idea in the world, get a committee working on it.
  • Charles Kettering

Thursday, April 28th, 2022

Another Season Unfolds

“Do not listen to those who weep and complain, for their disease is contagious.” Og Mandino

The team and partners have been very busy. Now, they have more time to think about what is going on around them. You might hear comments like:

  • I have a lot more charge hours than Joe. I wonder if I am paid more than Joe?
  • How can the firm expect us to do our best work when it is always so hot in the office?
  • How can the firm expect us to do our best work when it is always so cold in the office?
  • I mostly work from home, I miss out on the treats people bring into the office.
  • Sally is always late and then she eats breakfast in the lunchroom before she starts to work.
  • Ted actually exits out the rear entrance at 3:00 when the partners are away from the office.
  • The people working in the office get a lot more training than I do.
  • Why do I have to come into the office two days per week?
  • Susie and Joyce Admin chat at the front desk for a half-hour every morning!
  • The firm does so much for people with families. I am single. What special stuff do I get?
  • Joe Partner always leaves such a mess around the coffee machine.

Tax season is over (for now). It is the Dealing With People Season. It always makes me think of Seinfeld:

Elaine: I will NEVER understand people.

Jerry: They’re the worst.

Some of these complaints might seem extreme to you but I bet you can tell me even better “stories” about people complaining. Good luck with Dealing With People Season!

  • Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, and most do.
  • Dale Carnegie

Friday, April 8th, 2022

How To Keep Things Moving At Your Firm – Friday Flashback

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

Here it is, Friday again. Fridays seem to roll around so quickly, especially in tax season when everyone is so busy.

Read this flashback post to learn how to keep firm initiatives moving forward during busy times.

  • Beware the barrenness of a busy life.
  • Socrates

Monday, March 14th, 2022

A Story Of Life In A CPA Firm

“The way I see it is if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” – Dolly Parton

I was pleased when I was asked by Sons of CPAs to be part of their podcast. They have titled it, Real Life in the Accounting Profession.

I actually like the title because I think one of my strengths is that I have lived in and observed CPA firms for forty years! I have written about it and been interviewed about it for probably thirty years. I am in my 17th year daily blogging about the inside workings of CPA firms.

I really enjoyed talking with Scott Scanaro and Jason Ackerman, two gentlemen who happen to be sons of CPAs. We had a long conversation so you might want to listen in smaller bites. My interview begins at about 2 minutes and 40 seconds into the podcast.

Listen here.

  • If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.
  • Albert Einstein

Thursday, March 10th, 2022

Clients Refusing Technology

“I think that technology is much more mysterious to the people using it than, say, the automobile was. This isn’t an original observation, but a lot of the smart devices people rely on now really do feel like magic to a lot of us.” – Author: Charlie Jane Anders

Firms are finally beginning to see some progress in clients adapting to technology. Clients are (although it has been slow) finally accepting a copy of their tax return via SafeSend and other digital methods.

My clients and other firms I know are still often offering a paper copy if a client requests it. Maybe it is time to stop this practice. The world is becoming more digital.

If your firm is to grow and prosper, it has to have some standards and reap the benefits of the expense they spend on technology. In these times of difficulty finding workers, technology helps you get more done with fewer people. Give your clients a “next year warning.” Something like, “Next year we will not be furnishing paper copies.”

As with almost everything inside a CPA firm, there will be some exceptions – but PLEASE limit the exceptions. If a client is elderly, ask permission to send their return to a relative who can assist with printing. Most computer-adverse older people have someone who helps them navigate technology.

Will you lose a few clients? Probably. But when they go to another CPA firm they will find that firm also delivers only digital copies. (That’s my dream, anyway!)

  • The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
  • Mark Twain

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

Thursday, February 24th, 2022

Many Concerns

“The best way to escape from a problem is to solve it.” – Alan Sporta

One of the most educational and helpful activities I have experienced in building my knowledge of CPA firm management was the opportunity to meet with groups of managing partners from various firms across the country and listen to them discuss their biggest concerns. I did this when my firm was a member of a CPA firm association and also when I spoke at many of the various CPA firm association meetings. If your firm is not a member of a firm association, you should explore the opportunity.

Experienced managing partners (and firm administrators) have the best insight into what makes a CPA firm tick; what makes it successful and what doesn’t work so well. They also always have a list of concerns. Right now, of course, for most firms finding and hiring talent is at the top of most lists.

Here are some other concerns that I often hear about:

  • Succession
  • Efficiency and inefficiency in processes
  • Partner burn-out
  • Identifying future leaders
  • Training future leaders
  • Losing people to other firms
  • Women’s issues and other diversity issues
  • Dealing with cultural issues after a merger
  • The rapid evolution of technology and funding it
  • Deciding whether to stay independent or merge-up

I am sure you can add to this list. For now, keep a list like this and gather your partners immediately after tax season, discuss the issues, prioritize the issues and, get busy solving the issues.

  • You aren't famous until my mother has hear of you.
  • Jay Leno