Archive for the ‘Firm Administrator’ Category

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

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

Old Friends

I think the old saying, “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold” applies to all of us. It certainly does to me. I love my new friends (clients, neighbors, business associates) and I sincerely treasure the old friends, especially the ones I have made through Triple-A, now called: CPAFMA (CPA Firm Management Association).

Those CPAFMA friends are spread across the country. But, there is a special group that are (or were) members of the Indiana Chapter of AAA. It is where I first met other people called firm administrators back in the late 1980s. In those early years, we also had joint meetings with the Illinois Chapter. Many of those former members are very near and dear to me, too.

Roman Kepczyk, of Right Networks, is one of those members I met very early on, even though he was in Arizona. He has been an advisor to the national CPFMA organization for many years. He was coming to Indianapolis to speak to the Chapter this last Friday. So, with Virginia Lowery’s urging, I contacted several old friends and we arranged a reunion so we could all visit with Roman again on Thursday evening before his presentation to the Chapter on Friday.

We had a wonderful evening and shared so many great memories of many, many national conferences. We had FIVE past national presidents/chairs in attendance. You can see the entire president list here.

Pictured from left front and around the table: Bill Leach, Virginia Lowery, Colleen Endres, Peggy Burnstein, Anita Goetz, Me, Treva Olson, Donna Cimino, Bill’s wife Nancy, and Roman. (Treva’s husband Ric also attended but is not in the picture.)

I know many of you are members of CPAFMA. Keep those old friends near and dear – they are gold. The quote, below, certainly applies to CPAFMA members.

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  • Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'
  • C. S. Lewis

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

Partners Doing Partner Work

“Too many people spend money they earned..to buy things they don’t want..to impress people that they don’t like.” –Will Rogers

Many CPA firm partners do manager work, client service manager work. Many CPA firm partners do internal management/administrative work, firm administrator/COO work.

Don’t get caught in these traps.

Some partners use management/administrative work to fill idle time when they should be:

  1. Bringing in new business
  2. Training/Mentoring/Sponsoring younger team members
  3. Building stronger client relationships

Your COO/Firm Administrator should be continually taking non-billable work away from the managing partner and the other partners.

Here’s how much money a COO could save partners annually. The BIG issue is, the partners must use the saved hours to create revenue!

Save Ptr money

  • Money often costs too much.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, July 11th, 2019

The Importance of the Firm Administrator

The majority of people in the accounting profession operate at Levels I and II. – Gary Boomer

There is a good article by Gary Boomer via Accounting Today – Leadership, Management, and Administration: What’s the difference”

Here are some tidbits:

Boomer refers to Jim Collins’ five levels of leadership from his book “Good to Great.” He defines the levels as:

  • Level I: Capable individual
  • Level II: Contributing team member
  • Level III: Competent manager
  • Level IV: Effective leader
  • Level V: Executive

Administrative personnel are often expected to have all the skills, especially in smaller firms that have a part-time managing partner or CEO. This is a monumental task, and often people are set up to fail in the role of firm administrator. People in these positions require professional development, peer networks, and management resources to succeed. The biggest risk is they are viewed by many accountants, including some partners, as overhead, rather than as a strategic asset.

It’s a great article – Read the entire article here.

  • People leave firms because of bad managers, not because of the firm.
  • Gary Boomer

Friday, May 24th, 2019

A Lesson For CPA Firm Partners/Managers

You are the managing partner of a CPA firm. You are the PIC (partner-in-charge) of audit, tax, consulting or an office of the firm. You are a COO or Practice Manager. What do your employees call you? Don’t you ever wonder what they call you behind your back? Do they say you are a good boss?

You might think Steve Jobs was a fearless leader yet he’s described as egotistical and abrasive. Not exactly in line with the title: Good Boss

Jim Henson, on the other hand, by all reports was a Good Boss (his employees did call him “fearless leader”).

  • His former employees say working for him was the best job they ever had.
  • His son, Brian Henson, says: He taught me to identify a person’s talent, nurture that talent, and encourage them to look to themselves for a solution.
  • His agent says Henson rarely spoke above a whisper.
  • His wife says he was so patient that she sometimes wanted to kick him!
  • He was a good listener, accepted ideas from others and used them.
  • If he thought something hadn’t been done well, he would never say that. He would say, “Hey, I wonder if we just should try…….”

A good boss, like a good teacher, empowers their employees. This is easy to say and very hard to actually do. Most of us have egos that get in the way.

 

As for Henson, no one ever saw him angry. Far from lazy, he worked harder than anyone in his company. He rarely slept. He was not fearful. Never afraid to try something new.

Instead of miserly. Henson was generous, going well over budget in order to give others the time and space to create.

I routinely encounter accounting firm leaders who are miserly (only spend CPE dollars on technical education, won’t send their firm administrator to a conference that could bring huge pay-back to the firm, won’t spend any education/training dollars on their administrative team and support team, etc.).

Read this full article about Henson on Fast Company. It contains so much information to absorb and contemplate. How do you stack up?

  • Life is like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending.
  • Jim Henson

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

Just Ask!

“One common thing about great achievers is that they keep asking useful questions every day. They ask questions like; “What do I want and what do I need to do to get it?” 
― Israelmore Ayivor

Over the years, I have had the following conversation with many firm administrators, marketing directors, HR directors, IT directors and others working in an accounting firm.

Rita: “Are you going to attend (fill-in the blank) conference this year?”

     Team member: “No, I won’t be able to go. It is too expensive and my partners would never   approve it.”

     Rita: “Did you actually ask them?”

     Team member: “Well, no. But I know they would never allow it.”

Please don’t assume. Prepare your case and then present it to the managing partner. Explain the benefits for you and the firm. Networking with people in your position at other firms and attending presentations by well-known CPA profession leaders has a pay-back much bigger than the expenses incurred.

Don’t delay – just ask!

 

  • The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.
  • Thomas Berger

Friday, May 10th, 2019

Finding the Best Person for the Job

“We need constant change, technological innovation capability, and high productivity to survive in the fiercely competitive environment.” – Joe Kaeser

Firms merge, people leave, people retire and a new firm administrator (Practice Manager) is needed. The role is a very critical one for an accounting firm. The person in this role can make all the difference in how the firm moves into the future, how staff turnover is reduced, how training is developed and presented and how the owner group operates.

If you are a Practice Manager, Office Manager, Firm Administrator or COO here are the characteristics and actions that will make you successful. If you are searching for a new person to fill this role in your firm, use these attributes in your hiring decision.

18 Attributes of an Effective Practice Manager, Firm Administrator or COO

  1. Technical knowledge of the area being managed.  They learn the area, hone skills and stay on top of technological developments.  It earns respect from subordinates and peers.
  2.  Cheerleader.  They are adept at motivating all people.
  3.  Educated to help deal with peers and colleagues.  They have a solid educational background (many firms require a bachelor’s degree now) and continue learning through seminars, webinars, trade journals, newsletters, online research, and reading Rita Keller’s Blog.
  4.  Innate managerial mentality.  This includes being alert, dependable and willing to carry out a commitment.
  5.  Team player.  Grandstanders are not allowed.  He/She solves problems in other departments, as well as in administration because the objective should be collectively beneficial.
  6.  Ability to anticipate potential problems.  He/She is painfully aware of Murphy’s Law (If anything can go wrong, it will).  Contingency planning is a key tool for practice managers.
  7.  A natural sense of fairness and integrity and emotionally well balanced.  Natural is the keyword.  If he/she has to consult a manual to know what’s fair, frustration will be constant.  Also, immature managers can hurt the employees and the firm they represent.
  8.  Courageous, resolute, strong convictions and socially conscious.  He/She works with management and staff with an overall goal of quality client service.   They often deal with egotistical personalities and partners unwilling to “let go.”
  9.  A good follower, not resentful of instructions or constructive criticism.  Anyone secure enough to demonstrate mature leadership will understand the reasons for recognizing the proper chain of command.  Observing protocol demonstrates respect for the system.
  10.  Have initiative and be creative, imaginative and resourceful.  Preventing problems is the most sublime form of problem-solving.  Successful practice managers act without being told to do so.
  11. Energetic.  The practice manager sets the pace.  Most work 2,300 hours or more per year (that number includes PTO, holidays, CPE, etc., working the hours required to get things done.
  12. Reliable, even temperament.  You can’t constantly change your personality.  Nothing goes right all the time, and if you care, you’re going to get upset once in a while.  You don’t have to be apologetic for losing your cool when provoked.
  13. Competitive, unafraid of conflict.  A competitive person is not afraid to set standards never before attained, nor is he or she afraid to fail.  Such a person realizes there can be growth in failure if there is learning.  In managing conflicts, the effective practice manager must know how to come out on top or graciously back off.
  14. Positive.  A positive attitude is a catalyst for creativity.
  15.  Excellent communication skills.  A successful practice manager should be able to write clearly and crisply, speak articulately and succinctly and listen intently.
  16.  Logical, capable of making decisions.  Managers must make tough decisions without fear of making a mistake.   Procrastination could be worse than the decision made.
  17.  Appreciation of technology and social media.  Successful practice managers see technology and social media as tremendous resources and continually lead the firm to advance in these areas.
  18.  Organized, self-disciplined.  Orderly thinking results in orderly living and managing.
  • Most of life's actions are within our reach, but decisions take willpower.
  • Robert McKee