Archive for the ‘Firm Administrator’ Category

Tuesday, April 13th, 2021

Where The Buck Starts in Many Firms

“If you are passing the buck, don’t ask for change.” – David Gerrold

Dan Hood, in his post on April 1st asked, “Where does the buck start?” He was referring to innovation inside accounting firms. I have an answer to that question that applies to many firms. In a lot of accounting firms, innovation has been, and is, started with the firm administrator or COO.

Large firms can afford and have hired, chief innovation officers. In the majority of small to medium-sized accounting firms, this role has been embraced by the firm’s experienced firm administrator or COO. The person in this role is not distracted by providing services to clients. They live and breathe adding efficiency to the firm’s internal processes. Their personal mission is to keep the firm on pace with current trends.

I have observed that the firm administrator is the one who recognizes the bottlenecks and faces the extreme challenge of getting partners to step out of their comfort zone and embrace new ideas.

The firm administrator attends the CPA Firm Management Association conferences and chapter meetings. They network with other firms via the CPAFMA discussion board. They read CPA firm management publications, blogs, and newsletters. Again, they have time for this because the firm is their ONLY client. They are the ones who play a major role in implementation.

The FA leads a team of internal professionals and this group, supported by the managing partner is where the “buck starts” in many small to medium-size firms that are recognized as the best places to work.

  • The best job goes to the person who can get it done without passing the buck or coming back with excuses.
  • Napoleon Hill

Wednesday, March 31st, 2021

Attend a CPAFMA Chapter Meeting

“Connecting with others is rewarding; it makes us feel like we are not alone in the world.” – Jonah Berger

Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of connecting and learning from others in the profession of CPA firm management. The CPA Firm Management Association chapter meetings are a great way to continually learn and also a way to share your successes. When I was a beginner, many years ago, I learned so much at the first chapter meetings I attended. I continued learning by attending the CPAFMA National Practice Management Conference each year. I made important connections and obtained wonderful life-long friends.

The best thing about CPA firm management is that it is continually expanding and changing. It forces you to keep pace and enables you to never stop growing and learning. I am still learning after over 30 years of attending chapter meetings.

Here’s more from Ronda Lawson of the Northern California Chapter on how they plan their meetings.

We were struggling a bit to get people to attend what used to be quarterly meetings.  We sent out an invite for a Zoom call to discuss how we were all handling the pandemic and those who attended loved it so we’re now trying to do it monthly. I send the notes to all of our Chapter members, so that even if they can’t attend they have some information.  I’m hoping they will find the notes helpful enough to want to attend when they can, and that we can build more Chapter participation!

I am particularly enjoying hearing what other firms are doing about employee engagement and trying to maintain their culture, and think some of the ideas for virtual events have been really fun and creative. And, as always, it is such a comfort to know that we’re not alone and that many of my colleagues have the same challenges!

For what it is worth, here are a few of the things I am doing to try to keep the roundtables effective:

–I prepare a list of questions ahead of time.  Sometimes they are the same ones, but it’s nice to gauge what has changed inside the firms.

–When I send out the invite for the meeting, I try to include a “teaser” question or two to give them an idea of what we’d be discussing.

–I definitely moderate the conversation, and try to make sure we aren’t talking over each other, or that some participants haven’t been heard from.

–I encourage, as much as possible, the use of the camera as well as audio for the calls.  I think it helps when we can see each other, and start to build relationships.

–As I said, I take notes (not attributing them to a certain participant so that everyone is comfortable having them distributed), and send them to everyone in the Chapter.

  • Connecting is the key to Influence. Influence is the key to Leading. Leading is the key to Success!
  • John Maxwell

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021

Keep Connecting

“Perhaps the secret of living well is not in having all the answers but in pursuing unanswerable questions in good company.” ~ Rachel Naomi Remen

One of the most beneficial career boosters for CPA firm administrators, practice managers, COOs, HR directors and, managing partners is the practice of networking and connecting with others working in CPA firm management.

The CPA Firm Management Association has nineteen chapters around the country that provide an excellent opportunity to network, connect and continue to learn the best practices in CPA firm management.

For the last year it has been more challenging to keep those important connections alive and well. Of course, Zoom meetings has helped tremendously. Various chapters have tried different methods to keep those professional relationships strong.

I recently heard from Ronda Lawson of the Northern California Chapter about their efforts to facilitate information sharing.

Rita – You are so wonderful about sharing information with all of us, so I thought you might be interested in these notes from our recent NorCal Chapter Roundtable.  We are having a Zoom call monthly, primarily discussing life during the pandemic.  Let me know if you would like to see notes from our future meetings!  – Ronda

I like that they schedule their meetings every month. Even if you have only six or eight people in attendance, the chance to learn from others and share your own challenges is very valuable. The meetings don’t have to take a lot of time. They could be only one or two hours long.

Here are the topics discussed at a NoCal Chapter recent meeting:

  • Are you currently working in the office? Allowing clients in the office?
  • What precautions are you taking to keep the workplace safe?
  • How are you promoting employee engagement for your remote workers? What are you doing to help employees with their mental and emotional health during the pandemic?
  • How are you monitoring productivity for your remote workers?  What are you doing to help managers manage remote workers?
  • How are you handling your administrative team during the pandemic?  Are they working in the office or remotely?  Can they work remotely?
  • What are your plans for reopening if you haven’t already? What criteria will you use to determine when to reopen? Will you continue to have some remote work even when the office reopens?
  • What affect has the pandemic had on your staffing plans?  Have you had lay-offs, salary freezes, furloughs?  Has this changed your hiring plans?  Will you be doing campus recruiting?  Will you be bringing on interns?
  • What changes has your firm made because of the pandemic?  Are they positive?  Will they continue?
  • Other than the ongoing pandemic, what are the biggest challenges your firm is facing right now?

Check back tomorrow to learn more about how this chapter is handling their meetings. I am hopeful that it will prompt you to not ignore your chapter meetings just because you can’t connect in person.

I believe that having virtual CPAFMA Chapter meetings will continue to thrive after COVID. It is an economical and less time-consuming method of meeting (no commuting!). I know that the Ohio Chapter had people driving three hours one-way to attend some of the Chapter meetings.

  • The most important things in life are the connections you make with others.
  • Tom Ford

Monday, March 15th, 2021

Sharing Information

“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.” – Margaret Fuller

One of the ways I progressed in my career in public accounting was to network with others working in the public accounting profession (firm administrators, managing partners, marketing directors, HR directors, IT directors, etc.). We shared information.

Most of this experience came from networking in the Association of Accounting Administration, now called The CPA Firm Management Association (CPAFMA), and attending management conferences sponsored by state societies and the AICPA.

I also learned so much from the speakers at conferences. These people were usually CPA management consultants. I got to know them and they helped guide me in my early years of consulting. I soon became a speaker and management consultant myself thanks to so many who mentored me.

I became the first female member of the New Horizon Group, a group of experienced CPA management consultants. We met annually to share best practices, etc. Those early members were: August Aquila, Allan Boress, Steve Erickson, Chris Frederiksen, Allan Koltin, Bob Martin, Jeff Pawlow, Marc Rosenberg, Don Scholl, Steve Weinstein and Jim Metzler. I learned so much because we shared information.

That golden opportunity, of learning from others is available to you today if you take advantage of it.

Now, when I encourage people in management positions in CPA firms to attend meetings and conferences, the problem I encounter is the fact that so many people say they are too busy and some people think they already know it all. If you know it all, it is your responsibility to share (and no one ever knows it all).

If you get a chance to attend a CPAFMA Chapter event. Set a goal to attend other management conferences such as the AICPA ENGAGE conference. This year the CPAFMA annual management conference is in conjunction with ENGAGE.

Never stop sharing information and learning from others. After all these years, I am still learning (and sharing).

  • Sharing knowledge is the most fundamental act of friendship. Because it is a way you can give something without losing something.
  • Richard Stallman

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

Interruptions

“We must stop regarding unpleasant or unexpected things as interruptions of real life. The truth is that interruptions are real life.” – C. S. Lewis

It never seems to end, the constant parade of people outside the door of the managing partner or firm administrator, often standing in line just to ask a quick question. During COVID times, people are seeking a quick Zoom meeting with you. And then, there is the dreaded, huge number of emails in your inbox.

Do you sometimes think this is crazy and it must be something you are doing wrong? I used to think the same thing. However, over the years I’ve developed a new perspective on this “take a number” circus that surrounds a great many firm administrators (or managing partners).

Some of the highest level CEOs in the country have the same challenges with an “open door” for those that depend on them for guidance and they are operating daily with constant interruptions. Just like a CEO of a large company, your people depend on YOU.

Firm administrators, you have built your reputation inside the firm as the “go-to person.” The successful, smooth, day-to-day operation of the firm must constantly be nourished. You have the responsibility of nourishing it via your administrative and support team. It might be a quick 10-minute conversation with the Technology Manager, a 5-minute chat with the firm’s Controller, or even an unscheduled one-hour meeting with the Marketing Director. These interruptions that might drive some managers crazy are the lifeblood of your day.

We all have good intentions of MBWA (managing by wandering around), but how often do we actually work it into our busy schedules? If people aren’t coming to your office – – go find them!

If you are working remotely, don’t wait for people to come to you. Randomly, check-in on people who report to you. It can be done quickly. Ask them, “What do you think?” “How can I help.”

  • Do one thing every day that scares you.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

Training New Staff Virtually

“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly is the ultimate competitive advantage.” – Jack Welch

CPA firms have come a long way since last March. While working remotely is now a fact of life, some aspects of surviving in a virtual world have been more challenging. Firms are sometimes struggling with things like interviewing, orientation, onboarding and training.

In a recent discussion on the CPAFMA discussion board, the question was asked about how to train new team members virtually.

Jen Zarins, Director of Learning & Development for the Tidwell Group in Columbus, Ohio graciously allowed me to share her response. I hope you find it helpful in structuring your firm’s virtual training process.

We utilized zoom a ton.   We keep zoom meeting rooms open all day so they can ask questions for the first few days.   Monitoring their timesheets to verify they aren’t spinning wheels too long is needed in the beginning. We utilize Slack for instant messaging and it seems the recent college grads are way more comfortable sending IMs instead of emails or picking up the phone. The interns also have a Slack channel to ask questions. We have the seniors monitoring the channel and answering questions more timely than emails to folks who are in meetings.

Screen sharing and going thru their first couple sets of review comments instead of just them reading tone in them also helps. I think it is important that they show their face on the screen to read the expressions to see if they are really understanding. If they are shy on camera, we have found playing a few online games with zoom open was a great ice breaker.

  • The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.
  • Credited to Henry Ford

Friday, February 5th, 2021

Titles & Leaders – Flashback Friday

“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” – Publilius Syrus

You have many leaders in your firm. You can’t tell who they are by their titles.

A title doesn’t make you a leader. Read more….

  • The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.
  • Tony Blair

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

Safe

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” – William Shedd

Are you a follower firm?

So many accounting firm leaders play the safe game, the waiting game. They hear about new software, a new process, or a new employee benefit from reading/hearing an online discussion or attending a CPE session. Then they play it safe, they wait and see what other firms find out, and then dip their toe in the water.

This is not all bad. You learn so much from others and that should definitely continue. But, once in a while, listen to a new idea suggested by staff or by the firm administrator and go ahead and implement it. Try it!

I always recommend you “test it.” Never be afraid to try something new and then determine it just doesn’t work for your firm. Don’t hesitate to tell your team, “That was worth a try but it just doesn’t work. Let’s forget about it and try something else.”

Referencing the above quote, you can always stay in the safe harbor and never progress. Doing things the way you have always done them feels very comfortable (and safe). Show your creativity and become one of those firms that other firms follow!

  • Ironically, in a changing world, playing it safe is one of the riskiest things you can do.
  • Reid Hoffman

Thursday, January 21st, 2021

Getting Better

“To learn about excellence you must study it.” – Marcus Buckingham

You want your firm to get better and better. You want it to gain more and more visibility and to continually build and enhance the firm reputation.

How do you and your firm get better? You learn from others.

Inside your firm, your team members continually learn and improve. This applies to new college graduates, the administrative team, your support professionals, and very experienced CPAs. All of these people learn so much from more experienced people.

Your firm also gets better by learning from other CPA firms that are growing, profitable, and over-all successful.

When I was new to CPA firm management, I attended all of the CPA firm management conferences that I could. There I met people from successful firms. These people would describe how they were doing this or that and if it was something I wanted to pursue, I got acquainted with the person from that successful firm. Over the years, I have made lifelong, personal friends from my contacts in other CPA firms.

When attending these events (in person or virtual now), reach out to others with more experience. CPA management conferences are filled with people who are willing to share their successes and help you and your firm get better.

One of the best resources is The CPA Firm Management Association. Join and learn. The members share their experiences and you can post questions on their discussion board and get immediate answers and advice.

So, to get better, reach out to others and also share your successes and failures with the others you meet. As today’s quote (above) says, “To learn about excellence you must study it.

  • We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
  • Aristotle

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

Naming Your Intranet

“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.” – Oscar Wilde

A vibrant firm intranet that provides various useful and necessary information for your team members is a must.

Some firms realized this years ago and have an intranet that has evolved and gained prominence as a crucial tool for research and guidance.

Some of my clients have made updating their intranet a high priority for 2021, especially with a remote workforce being something that is here to stay.

My question for you today is did you name your intranet? I have heard some very creative ones. I think it gives the resource center a personality and keeps it’s value in the minds of the team.

If you don’t have a name for your intranet have a contest for the team to name it. One company named their intranet Dwight (the employee know-it-all from The Office).

Here is a helpful article about the importance of naming your intranet and it gives you several examples.

  • Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth.
  • Oscar Wilde