Archive for the ‘Firm Administrator’ Category

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

It Is Not Easy

“Don’t join an easy crowd: you won’t grow. Go where the expectations and the demands to perform are high.” – Jim Rohn

The above quotation certainly applies to the CPA profession. It applies if you are the managing partner of the firm or if you are the Director of First Impressions.

If you work in the accounting profession, you are not part of “the easy crowd.”

It is a demanding business. So many clients to serve with so many problems. Due dates that always seem to be looming on the horizon. A technical work product that must be absolutely, positively correct.

Appreciate where you are and what you are doing. Always step-up to the challenge and you will continually grow in knowledge, expertise and reputation.

Personally, I have always felt like I did my best when the demands and expectations were high. I enjoy a culture where there is a sense of urgency and where you know that what you do makes a positive difference.

I hope you feel that way, too. Sure, there are times when you are tired, over-worked, and cynical. But let those moments be just fleeting moments and be proud of what you are accomplishing.

  • If you expect nothing from anybody, you're never disappointed.
  • Sylvia Plath

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

People Problems

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.” – Kurt Vonnegut

I wrote the following article for the June issue of my newsletter. If you are not on the mailing list, you can sign-up here.

If you are on the mailing list and are not receiving my newsletter, check your spam folder. Some people are reporting that is where they find their issue.

I heard from several readers that they really enjoyed this article and could definitely relate. Here are some of the comments:

I just wanted to send you a note, I usually don’t get to read your newsletter the same day you send it, but boy am I thankful I did…..the People Problems – that’s me!!!!!!!!

I LOVE your article!!!  It made me roll with laughter.  I resemble the PM in the role as the’ air conditioner adjusting monitor’.  Had I only had the fortitude to be more like the maintenance person. 

So true. As a firm administrator that also takes care of
our 25 person office, I can relate so much! Smiles for the day!

People Problems

You got the job! You are now the CPA firm’s Practice Manager (COO/Firm Administrator). You will be “in” on all the management activities of the firm, deal directly with all the partners and be on the front line dealing with operations and people. You know you will be good at it because you really like people.

A year later, you finally admit you really don’t like people! 

Of course, this is an exaggeration. But, the people game is a very complicated and frustrating game inside accounting firms.

As Practice Manager (and sometimes it is the managing partner), you deal with problems and, most of these problems are caused by people. The vast majority of the problems are not anything serious. Actually, most problems are rather petty. 

Here’s a classic story (and a true one). It’s a story of trying to please everyone and, as you know, that’s not possible!

In a mid-size CPA firm, the bookkeeping department (or CAS as they call it now) is staffed by five females ranging in age from thirty to fifty-five. The members of this group cannot agree on the room temperature. It is always too hot or too cold. They continually complain to the Practice Manager about the heating/air conditioning. 

One member of the team says it is too cold in their area. The Practice Manager asks the building maintenance man to adjust it for them. So he brings in a ladder, opens a section of the ceiling and, adjusts the heating/cooling for that area. They agree that it is much better and they are all happy, for a while.

A week or two later, a different member of that team reports that it is way too hot in their area. The maintenance man goes through the same exercise. Over the period of six months, he repeats it several times and after each adjustment for a while, they are all happy.  

The Practice Manager is kept in the loop by the maintenance man. Finally, the PM asks, “Don’t you get aggravated with having to adjust the heating/cooling all the time with that group?” His reply, “I don’t adjust anything. I just get up in the ceiling and pretend I’m doing something, then they are all pleased for a while.”

Practice Managers in accounting firms have similar and unique personalities and characteristics. They enjoy the challenge of dealing with problems, solving them and, also dealing with the many people problems with patience and perseverance. And yes, they really do like people.

The problem in this example was, at least temporarily, solved by having everyone working remotely. They could control their own thermostats. Many new and unforeseen problems and challenges are now being faced by the practice manager as the firm begins to bring people back into the office.

The following quote is attributed to the poet John Lydgate and later adapted by President Lincoln: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

You Are Public. You Are a Professional

“Professional is not a label you give yourself – it’s a description you hope others will apply to you.” – David Maister

Here’s a recent tweet by @LeadersBest:

Every time you open your mouth to speak in public, you are representing yourself and displaying your character. Choose words carefully. Say what you mean… Mean what you say. Be clear and concise.

You are a CPA (Certified PUBLIC Accountant). You are not a CPA but you work in a CPA firm (not certified yet, accountants, administrative, HR, marketing, sales, training, etc.). Never forget that you are in the public eye. People listen to you when you talk, especially when you talk about your firm. They repeat things they hear about you and your firm.

If you whine to your golf group about your work or the firm, they will tell others. If you complain about a project you were assigned to your parents/spouse or other relatives, they will form an opinion about your firm and repeat it.

Never casually talk about a client to anyone outside your firm. What you say becomes public and people will repeat it and it will probably get back to your client.

CPAs and their team members are held to a higher standard than most. No matter what your role in a firm, you are a professional.

Warn your employees, the ones who frequently go out to lunch together, that they should not discuss a client in a public place where others might overhear what they say.

I like this definition of a professional: To most people, acting like a professional means working and behaving in such a way that others think of them as competent, reliable, and respectful. Professionals are a credit not only to themselves but also to others.

  • The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.
  • Vidal Sasson

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020

Admin – The Super Team

“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” – Phil Jackson

I have always been a strong advocate for the CPA firm administrative team. I have observed that they are often the heart and soul of a firm.

During the last three months I have heard from many firms that the only employees going into the office are the admin team members. They went in to do scanning, take care of mail, distribute supplies, and more. Some firms had drop-boxes outside the office door where clients could drop off their tax information. The admin team checked the drop-box daily and scanned the information needed by the accountants. The firm administrator is often responsible for some technology support activities.

Often, the CPA firm’s admin team is under-appreciated. That is why it made me happy to hear the following story from an experienced firm administrator. I am hoping that you are very proud of your admin team, too.

The admin staff and I have been working at the office all through the Pandemic, and have each taken some well-deserved time off since April 15th. The partners recognized that it was the admin team that was taking the biggest risk AND enabling our entire staff and most of the partners to continue to serve our clients while they all worked from home. I bring this up because for the first time ever the admin staff and I all received a really nice bonus on April 15th to show the partners’ appreciation.

Besides doing the firm administration and helping the admin team, I also help everyone with their IT issues. We have a strong IT infrastructure and an outsourced vendor for network support. This is what got us through the pandemic. We also use CCH Axcess which has been such a blessing. I think other firms that are not in the cloud, or don’t have a good infrastructure to allow their staff to work from home are going to have to ramp up their IT spend to stay in the game.

The reason I bring up the admin staff in this email is – as you know, typically firms cherish their professional staff, and the admin staff is not held in the same regard. This has now proven how essential the admin staff is to the firm! I hope other firms recognize this too!

  • If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.
  • Booker T. Washington

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

The Firm Administrator’s Job

“You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” – Jeff Bezos

When I read the above quote I thought of CPA firm administrators.

Firm administrators (or Practice Managers) are at the hub of all the tough management challenges inside a busy CPA firm. Tasks flow out the spokes and when the road becomes bumpy it flows back down the spoke to the hub – the firm administrator.

Recently, they were in the thick of things when it came to getting the firm equipped, very quickly, so that the team members could work remotely to serve clients at the busiest time of year.

They have worked long and hard and they showed they could handle the “hard things well.”

Experience is key. Now that your firm is making its way through a pandemic, the next crisis that arises for your firm will be handled with even more skill and expertise.

Firm administrators are on a constant journey to try and do things well and enhance their reputation. It is a journey that will never end.

The quote above also applies to every team member directly serving clients. Are your clients amazed at how you handle things that seem very hard to them? I hope so.

  • Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder.
  • Mason Cooley

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

Managers, If You See It, Say It

“Be factual and consistent.” – Suzanne Lucas

For firm administrators and practice managers in CPA firms, it is an old familiar story. All of this story is pre-COVID, of course, but much of it still applies to remote workers.

A partner goes to the firm administrator and says that when he arrived this morning at 8:30, he noticed that Susie was standing at Patty’s desk chatting. It bothers him that they have most likely been chatting since 8:00, and they were still chatting at 8:45. He wants you to talk to them.

A tax manager lets you, the firm administrator, know that Bobbi who works in the accounting area is not following the firm’s dress code. She wants you to talk to Bobbi.

Ted, the new staff accountant, was suppose to take some important mail to the Post Office. The manager found out that he didn’t make the trip to the actual Post Office, he just dropped it in the mailbox near his home at the Mall. It wouldn’t be picked up until late morning the next day. The manager wants you to talk to Ted…. because you are so good at it!

In larger firms, the job of communicating this kind of message is often given to the HR Director.

Communicating these kinds of messages – you don’t adhere to the dress code, you don’t use your time wisely or you don’t follow specific instructions – is not a fun task.

In progressive, well-managed firms, whenever possible, the partner/manager should deal with these situations directly. It’s their job to manage people.

Per Suzanne Lucas @RealEvilHRLady: It’s a manager’s job to manage, and part of managing is telling people that their clothes are inappropriate, or that they should shower more often or chew with their mouths shut. Yes, their parents should have taken care of that, but sometimes kids just don’t listen.

Read her interesting article here.

  • We are shaped by our conversations.
  • Robin S. Sharma

Thursday, April 16th, 2020

Don’t Waste Dollars On Coaching

“Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy.” – Wayne Gretzky

Progressive accounting firms invest in their people. They are not stingy when it comes to sending the right people to the right conferences. They are aware of the needs of their team and invest in the proper CPE to help them improve their technical skills. They send their Practice Manager to CPA management conferences such as the CPAFMA annual conference. (This year’s has, of course, been canceled. The next conference will be in Sarasota, November 9-11, 2021.)

These successful, growing firms also invest in individual mentoring/coaching for their partners, managers and others. Especially with partners, these significant dollars are wasted. They have no intention of changing.

There is a great article via HBR titled, 4 Signs an Executive Isn’t Ready for Coaching. Here are the 4 signs – be sure to read the entire article that gives details on each of the signs.

  1. They blame external factors for their problems.
  2. You can’t get on their calendar.
  3. They focus too much on tips and tactics.
  4. They delay getting started with a coach to “do more research” or “find the right person.”
  • Nothing will work unless you do.
  • John Wooden

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

Continuous Testing For The CPA Exam

“Testing leads to failure, and failure leads to understanding.” – Burt Rutan

We are hearing a lot about testing, COVID-19 testing. But here is some good news about testing.

If you have been working in pubic accounting for a while you are aware that the CPA Exam has evolved and changed as society and resources have changed.

Beginning July 1, your firm’s candidates will not be confined to a designated time frame.

This from the Journal of Accountancy:

A new “continuous testing” model for CPA Exam candidates is scheduled to make its debut on July 1, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) announced Tuesday.

Under the continuous testing model, candidates will have the ability to take the exam year-round, without restriction, other than waiting to receive scores from previous attempts of the same section or when there is a major change to the exam.

Continuous testing will replace the existing CPA Exam testing window model, which limits candidates to testing during designated time frames in each quarter during the year.

NASBA is continuing to serve as a resource to the boards of accountancy as they advocate for the legislative changes needed to enable the transition. Of the 55 U.S. accountancy jurisdictions, just one (South Carolina) is expected to be unable to offer continuous testing before 2021.

Read the entire article here.

  • I'm forever testing myself. As a person and as an actor, I have no sense of competition.
  • Michael Caine

Friday, March 6th, 2020

Stay Home When You Are Sick

“I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” – Fannie Lou Hamer

It is tax season. There is a lot of pressure to work extra hours and keep the work flowing through the office and out the door by March 15 and April 15.

I worked in a CPA firm for many years and I rarely missed a day. It was very unusual for a “professional” to call in sick. Sometimes people would drag themselves in, persevere for part of the day and then go home early. This, of course, just help spread the germs throughout the office.

Even if management urged people to stay home when they were sick, it made little difference. Tax season meant you must be at work unless you were drastically sick.

Thank goodness, times have changed. Progressive firms have enabled everyone to do their work remotely. Yet, I still talk with firm leaders who do not offer connectivity to EVERYONE.

A recent study found that 90 percent of the American workforce admits to coming into work when they are not only feeling under the weather but know they are contagious.

Make sure your team members believe you when you tell them to stay home when they are sick.

  • There is one consolation in being sick; and that is the possibility that you may recover to a better state than you were ever in before.
  • Henry David Thoreau

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

Be Prepared for a Pandemic

“All firms should implement is a remote access technology that allows firm personnel to continue to communicate and collaborate if they must stay home.” – Roman Kepczyk

What would happen if you had several employees become sick or have to stay home with a sick relative, especially during tax season?

So much has been in the news about the current Coronavirus. Roman H. Kepczyk, CPA.CITP, CGMA has written a very helpful and informative article on preparing for a pandemic.

Natural disasters and cybersecurity concerns have pushed most firms to develop a disaster response plan in the event of a catastrophic office or systems loss, but few have considered the potential impact of a massive influenza outbreak, such as the current Coronavirus epidemic.

Read the article here.

  • The minute you think you've got it made, disaster is just around the corner.
  • Joe Paterno