Archive for the ‘Firm Administrator’ Category

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

Elevating & Embracing Your Role – Firm Administrators & Practice Managers

“Attitude is a choice. What you think you can do, whether positive or negative, confident or scared, will most likely happen.” – Pat Summitt

The newly formed Missouri Chapter of CPAFMA, supported by the Missouri Society of CPAs, has invited me to speak to their roundtable group virtually on Wednesday, June 16 from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. (Central time). If you are outside of Missouri you are invited to attend. Contact Liz Schaetzel at the Missouri Society to register – lschaetzel@mocpa.org.

CPAFMA is so fortunate to have the support of so many state societies such as MOCPA. I know first-hand how much the Ohio and Indiana Societies help and support the Ohio and Indiana Chapters of CPAFMA.

This session (Elevating & Embracing Your Role) is especially helpful if you are new to the role and new to the CPA profession. It also works to motivate and inspire firm administrators even if you have been one for twenty years! I hope you will join me next Wednesday.

Here’s the invitation from the Missouri Society of CPAs:

During this roundtable, we will hear from Rita Keller, an award-winning and widely respected voice to CPA firm management, who will present Elevating and Embracing Your Role. She will discuss: who in your firm supports and encourages the managing partner? Who is the conscience of your firm, the person who always places the firm above their own personal agenda? Is there someone in the firm who enables the partners and staff to be better and more successful CPAs? Join Rita Keller and your peers to explore what a professional, well-trained firm administrator/practice manager can do. It’s time to elevate and embrace your important role.

Click here to register. We’d love to “see” you. Missouri members, as a reminder, you are invited to stay connected with your fellow firm administrators through MOCPA’s firm administrator online Connect Community and virtual roundtables. Click here for more details.

  • None of us can change our yesterdays, but all of us can change our tomorrows.
  • Colin Powell

Thursday, May 27th, 2021

Chill Out – Substitute Fascinated for Frustrated

“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

Working at a growing, busy CPA firm can be frustrating at times. That is not an earth-shaking statement. You know it all too well! I have a light-hearted story for you today.

What do you do to relieve the frustrations that come your way almost on a daily (or hourly) basis? I have a suggestion that might help.

Many years ago I learned a way to reduce the stress of frustrations from a colleague who always looked on the bright side of things. She continually inspired me to be a better leader and to be a better person. No matter the situation, she found a way to take positive value from the experience.

As we went through the ups and downs of our busiest season, I found myself facing way too many frustrations. During one of these moments, my colleague gave me some excellent advice.

She suggested I substitute the word fascinated for frustrated. It is very simple but when I started thinking in this way, it simply took the edge off!

“Isn’t it fascinating that Joe Client drops off his information every year at the last minute and expects us to have it completed within one or two days? I wonder what causes him to demonstrate that behavior? Maybe he struggles with an assistant (or spouse) who isn’t proactive in helping him prepare and organize.”

“It really fascinates me that Sally Sue always leaves a mess in the break room. Perhaps she was raised by a wicked aunt that made her scrub floors every week-end!”

Try working a fascinating story into your frustrations. Yes, I have actually tried this and it helps me smile and de-stress.

  • It is hardly possible to build anything if frustration, bitterness and a mood of helplessness prevail.
  • Lech Walesa

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021

Passive Observers

“Passive observers don’t belong at the table.” – Dan Rockwell

Per Dan Rockwell (@Leadershipfreak), once you’ve got 7 people in a decision-making group, each additional member reduces decision effectiveness by 10%.

I have observed, by attending a huge number of partner meetings and retreats, at my own firm and with my many clients, that there are way too many passive observers in those meetings.

When a delicate topic or a confrontation arises, the biggest percentage of the partners in attendance look at their laps. They look down so the facilitator cannot make eye contact and they might not be expected to take a stand.

The same thing happens in other types of meetings in accounting firms. I love the one brave soul on the team who will raise their hand and ask the dumb question. The remainder of the team has the same question in mind but they don’t want take a chance of embarassing themselves.

It is up to you, the leader of the meeting, to run a great meeting. As Rockwell says, “Poorly run meetings offend the talent at the table.”

Here are Rockwell’s 3 words that make meetings great:

#1 – Specific – Two or three action items are enough for most meeting agendas.

#2 – Shorter – Stick to the time allotted, don’t turn a 20-minute briefing into an hour lecture.

#3 – Smaller – No passive observers. Decide and deliver.

Read Rockwell’s post here.

  • Mediocre meetings reflect and produce mediocre organizations.
  • Dan Rockwell

Thursday, April 29th, 2021

Here I Go Again

“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” – Warren Buffett

I have said and written about the following things over and over again for YEARS! The sad part is I continue to observe that these basics of CPA firm management need to be implemented.

  • FIRE CLIENTS who suck up more of your time trying to collect than you do with helping their business.
  • Outplace poor performers more QUICKLY.
  • Update your website so that visitors see timely information that is of IMMEDIATE value.
  • Put partner performance and accountability under the MICROSCOPE.
  • Make it a WIN-WIN for partners who have retired in place to exit gracefully.
  • Spend money on continually educating your people – client service, internal management, and administrative team member. It’s called CPE. Don’t forget the CONTINUING part.
  • Become a MARKETING organization that provides accounting and tax services.
  • Hire a firm administrator/COO who can help the firm MAKE MORE MONEY.
  • Critically assess your PROCESSES.
  • ENFORCE the guidelines, rules, and adherence to the processes OR don’t bother wasting all the time it takes to establish them.
  • EMBRACE change, marketing, technology, social media…..
  • Figure out how your firm can be UNIQUE, different from your competition.
  • Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.
  • Alfred Adler

Tuesday, April 27th, 2021

Having a Bad Day?

“I tried being reasonable, I didn’t like it.” – Clint Eastwood

We all have, what we personally consider, bad days.

I remember in high school the dreaded bad hair day. Things have gotten much more serious than that over the many years I have worked in the CPA world. There were many bad days during each tax season especially April 10th to 15th. Then, all of a sudden after April 15, we had many good days and maybe even some fantastic days as summer unfolded.

Public accounting is like a roller coaster ride. There are many ups and downs. It usually depends on what month it is. Often it happens day to day, depending on what is happening with client engagements or with human resources.

The ups and downs of public accounting life do not usually prove to be reasonable. You can’t always predict what will happen. Much like life. That’s why I identified with the following phrase from an Agatha Christie novel:

“Life is like that! It does not permit you to arrange and order it as you will. It will not permit you to escape emotion, to live by intellect and by reason! You cannot say, “I will feel so much and no more.” Life, whatever else it is, is not reasonable.” – Hercule Poirot

Read the quote again and replace the word life with “public accounting.” See what I mean?

  • Men are rather reasoning than reasonable animals, for the most part governed by the impulse of passion.
  • Alexander Hamilton

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