Archive for the ‘Firm Administrator’ Category

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

Wednesday, December 16th, 2020

Who Challenges You?

“I don’t run away from a challenge because I am afraid. Instead, I run towards it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your foot.” – Nadia Comaneci

You are a leader in your firm. You may be new to the role or perhaps you have been in a position of power for quite a while. Especially, if you are the managing partner, you need a challenging cheerleader.

This person cares enough about you to tell you the truth and not just what you want to hear.

If you are a team leader (head of tax, audit, or operations), you need someone for the same reason. As you move up the leadership ladder it becomes difficult and even awkward for your team members to be brutally honest with you. Find your challenging cheerleader.

In many firms, this person for the managing partner is the firm administrator, practice manager or chief operating officer. They know enough about the firm and the profession to give you valuable feedback. Plus, they will usually have a different approach to some of the problems you face. They will keep you grounded and take the risk of telling you exactly where you may be wrong.

I know many CPA firm CEOs and COOs who have worked this relationship well over many years. The bottom-line is that the firm has benefitted from their collaboration.

Many firms are now welcoming new managing partners. The baby boomers are retiring and passing the torch. If you are a new leader, find that person who will challenge you, be brutally honest and do it because they care about you and the firm.

Good article on this topic here.

  • The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.
  • Chinese Proverb

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

Head of Remote

“The mark of higher education isn’t the knowledge you accumulate in your head. It’s the skills you gain about how to learn.” – Adam Grant

Last year at this time, could you ever visualize needing a person with the title Head of Remote Work?

Darren Murph is Head of Remote for a software firm that has been all remote since 2012. He lives near the Outer Banks in North Carolina and the 700 other employees of the firm are sprinkled around the country. He believes that his title might be the next evolution of the COO (or, in the CPA world, the Practice Manager).

He wears many hats and what he does daily sounds a lot like what a current CPA firm practice manager (firm administrator) does. Other companies are also hiring people who can help the company make the transition to remote work.

What about your firm? For most, it seems, it will become a hybrid model where some work remotely all the time and some work remotely part of the time. It might make sense to have someone devoted to helping and coordinating remote workers so that the firm’s practice manager has more time to focus on the on-site workers and over-all firm initiatives.

It would take somebody with an HR background, strong communication skills and they need to also be highly skilled at technology.

Maybe it is something you should be thinking about. Read the informative article via The Washington Post.

  • Soft skills get little respect, but will make or break your career.
  • Peggy Klaus

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

Upcoming Webinar

“Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it.” – Katherine Whitehorn

Save the date! – – Wednesday, December 9, 2020.

Guy Gage and I will be presenting an informative webinar for The CPA Firm Management Association (CPAFMA). Here’s the scoop:

Interview to Hire the Best Candidates

Date: Wednesday, December 09, 2020
Time: 03:00 PM EST / 02:00 PM CST / 01:00 PM MST / 12:00 PM PST
Presenter(s): Guy Gage, III LPC and Rita A. Keller
Objective: In this 60 minute MAPCast on how to interview to hire the best candidates, participants will learn:

• The three common mistakes that interviewers make;
• Questioning techniques that uncover what you want to know; and
• Examples of situations that demonstrate interview proficiency.
Field of Study: Personnel/Human Resources
Program Level: Basic
CPE Credit: 1 Credit Hour

No advanced preparation or prerequisites are required for this course.

Click here for the course description.

Click here to register.

  • Never wear a backward baseball cap to an interview unless applying for the job of umpire.
  • Dan Zevin

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020

Hard Work

“A dream does not become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.”  – Colin Powell

As part of the CPAFMA Strategy Leadership & Growth Accelerator Session yesterday, I was asked to talk for just 10  minutes about TALENT. Because I am again speaking today on TALENT, I decided to approach it from a different angle for the Strategy session  If you want to hear more of the nitty-gritty about hiring, interviewing, and retaining employees, please tune in today when I will be part of the Talent & People Accelerator.

We hear Talent talked about so much in the CPA profession. Let’s explore what we really mean by the word “Talent.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, when larger firms were shedding people (mostly poor performers), I anticipated that more qualified people would be in the job market and firms below the Top 100 might attract some people who were experienced and capable.

What I am seeing is that didn’t happen. All of my clients and other firms in my sphere tell me that they are trying (several, almost desperately) to find more people with the skills and desire to work and succeed in public accounting.

Recently, I listened to a Ted talk by Suzanne Lucas @realevilhrlady. She writes and advises on HR topics. The subject of her Ted talk was FORGET TALENT AND GET TO WORK. I agree with her viewpoint on this and feel like it is an issue in the CPA profession. It is only 8 minutes long, you should listen to it.

She talked about Talent and the use of the word in hiring. Sometimes the words we use distort our intentions. We don’t talk about people anymore. We talk about Talent. Look at the titles of many of the webinars you have attended and articles you have read!  We talk about talent management and talent assessment and we moan about talent shortages.

For example, here are some titles of articles in CPA publications:

  • The Accounting Profession: Talents that Matter
  • How to Motivate & Retain Your Talent (JofA)
  • How to Win the Game of Talent (JofA)
  • Where Should You be Looking for Top Talent (AT)
  • I have spoken and written on the topic of Hiring and Retaining Top Talent numerous times!

We seem to think that talent is something you are born with. That a 4.0 GPA means you have talent. In our world, what talent means is you have the above-average ability to master accounting firm work very rapidly.

The definition of the word is: A special often athletic, creative, or artistic aptitude. b : general intelligence or mental power : ability. 2 : the natural endowments of a person. 

If we believe that music requires talent and that we could never do it – we are wrong. We probably could.

People that made a true impact in the world did it through hard work. Yes, Mozart composed his first piece of music at age 5, and, yes he was talented. Lin-Manuel Miranda says it took him about seven years to write Hamilton. It took him one year alone to write the second song in the show, “My Shot.” He did it through hard work and dedication.

What we really seek are people who are trainable and can develop skills. Skill is something you gain through hard work and dedication.

Could I learn to paint or learn to play the piano? Of course. I don’t have natural talent but I could do it through a lot of hard work.

I never did the hard work to be able to run a marathon – I could have but I preferred ice cream and long leisurely walks.

When we are hiring, we need to ask, “Can this person learn what we have to teach?” Does she have the determination to learn hard things? We all know that fresh college accounting graduates can’t do the work in public accounting right away but do they have the grit to learn? Have they worked hard in the past? Have they failed and then succeeded?

I have heard many, many very successful CPA partners say “I certainly didn’t have a 4.0 GPA.” The average student (not considered top talent) has often become an expert and a very highly-compensated CPA firm partner.

Just about anybody can learn just about anything if they are willing to work hard.

Google asked what makes great employees and perfect grades were not at the top of the list. What was? Listening, critical thinking and problem solving.

It isn’t all about being endowed with natural talent, it is about the hard work of building skills.

CPA firms should be more willing to make significant investments in quality training & development. If more focus was put on training/development you might find that you have more productive and skilled people working at your firm, formerly considered average performers. I still hear horror stories about new hires more or less being thrown to the wolves, so to speak.

Many years ago, I began to talk about team members rather than using the words staff or employees. I thought if we used the word TEAM enough we might actually become one. Why not put more focus on seeking team members who are willing to work hard and develop the skills necessary to be CPA and not stress the word TALENT so much?

I still believe that it takes grit and perseverance to become successful in the public accounting world. Look for people who have demonstrated passion and dedication followed by hard work to build skills. They will succeed.

  • Men die of boredom, psychological conflict and disease. They do not die of hard work.
  • David Ogilvy, advertising business tycoon