Archive for the ‘Firm Administrator’ Category

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

Monday, May 6th, 2019

Everyone Loves Them

“Safety and comfort come with complacency, and that’s never a good place to be working from.” – Elijah Wood

Many firms are already providing stand-up desks to their team members. Most of what I have heard has been very positive. While I don’t have one myself, I have visited several clients and checked them out first-hand. It seems they are greatly appreciated.

If you want to provide them to your people, you can do it in phases to make it more affordable. Big surprise, certain partners got them first but now firms are even providing them to the entire admin team.

Here’s a real-life report from Karen Farino, Firm Administrator at Pasquesi Sheppard LLC, Lake Forest, Illinois:

“I definitely recommend the sit/stand desks. If you can I highly suggest purchasing a sit to stand desk rather than a unit that sits on top of the desk.

We have replaced 90% of our desks over the last two years with Sit to Stand desks from Haworth. They are “L” shaped and we had them custom made. It is really very affordable. Everyone here LOVES them. Our managing partner likes his so much that we bought one for his home too.

standupdeskThe L desk is 69” in each direction from the corner, and 29” deep. You can custom size them smaller. I am attaching a photo – it isn’t the greatest but will give you an idea as to what we did.

Our admin staff is stuck with the Varidesk units on top of their desks. They like them but don’t love them because when you are standing there is still a lot of items that are on the desk that they have to access which means it is inconvenient and you have to bend down. Not optimal. They also all have two monitors (by choice). If they had three the Varidesk units would not work. I’ve yet to see a decent three monitor sit-to-stand desktop unit. Each admin has their own printer and scanner at their desk.”

How about an office refresh project for your firm this summer?

  • Instead of being 'heads down' we should be 'heads up' so we can spot trends.
  • Josh Linkner

Thursday, April 11th, 2019

Get A New Job

“To find joy in work is to discover the fountain of youth.” – Pearl S. Buck

It has been a stressful, busy and maybe frustrating few months. In a few days, it will be over. You can recuperate for a week or so and then it will be on to new deadlines and responsibilities. Sometimes, we get burned out and our attitude slips downward.

I found this fascinating excerpt from Seth Godin’s book, Linchpin. I recommend it highly.

When I first read the following chapter, I immediately thought of the CPAs, firm administrators and the entire administrative team. It could apply to anyone working inside a CPA firm.  I have posted it before, several years ago, but I think this is a good time to read it again. See what you think:

Getting a New Job Without Leaving

One day, Binny Thomas stood up.

She stood up, spoke up, and started doing a new job.  She didn’t leave her organization, didn’t even get a new title or new responsibilities.  Instead, she started doing her old job in a new way.  Binny stopped going to meetings with the goal of finding deniability or problems to avoid. Instead, she started leaning in and seeking out projects where she could make a difference.

Suddenly, Binny was inspired. She was looking for opportunities instead of hiding from blame. She was putting herself on the line, pushing through the dip, and making things happen. The fascinating (and universal) truth is that the opportunities came after she was inspired – she wasn’t inspired by the opportunities.

Binny’s old job was just fine. She did it extremely well. She followed the map, followed instructions, did what she was told and got paid what she was worth.  Binny wasn’t in danger of losing her job, but she had already given up her soul. She had plateaued, this was the end. Then she changed her mind.

Six weeks later, she got a huge promotion and another, even better new job than the new job she had given herself. Binny is now running a worldwide program of motivated scholars. All it took was a choice. Binny didn’t ask for permission to do her job better; she merely decided to.

Are you looking to others to make your job better, more enjoyable?  Are you sometimes in denial? Are you doing an adequate job but feel like you have plateaued?  Read the last sentence of the chapter, above, again.

 

  • Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.
  • Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, April 5th, 2019

A Refresher On The Overtime Rules

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” – Colin Powell

An administrative assistant in your office receives a great performance evaluation and then asks you if they can be put on salary. In many CPA firms, it sometimes becomes a dilemma.

Be sure you are abiding by the federal overtime rules. Here’s a link to an article that owners, firm administrators and HR managers might need to read. It could also be shared with your entire team. Your CPAs all need to be able to advise clients when this topic arises.

Don’t work too many long hours this weekend. Next weekend you should be all done – no working! Many firms are able to do this when the due date falls on a Monday.

  • My first job at Gleason's Bar in Cleveland was $800 a week, when I was making $92 a week with overtime at the automobile plant.
  • Chuck Berry

Wednesday, March 6th, 2019

The Welcome Letter

“To me, a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.” – Helen Keller

A new client is landed by one of the firm’s partners. They met several years ago at Chamber of Commerce business event. The client knows the partner but how much does he/she know about the firm?

It is important that clients become attached to the firm and not just the partner – for various reasons that some of you know all too well. You don’t want clients to leave the firm just because one person leaves.

Begin building the relationship with the firm at the beginning. In some firms, the first written piece of information a client gets fro the firm is an invoice.

Progressive firms, after a new client is added to the client list, send out a warm and friendly welcome letter. Make it different, put it in writing, on paper and mailed (USPS) to them. It should have a real, written signature on it.

It should come from the managing partner or firm administrator. This helps the client know that there is another person they can contact right away if needed. Eventually, they will get acquainted with the engagement team and build relationships with several people at the firm. However, in the very beginning, they may have many questions and not feel somewhat lost.

Express your appreciation for them joining the firm. It is also a great time to make sure they are aware of your billing and collection policies. Most new clients always wonder about that but have been hesitant to ask.

If you are not doing this or something similar and need a sample, let me know.

  • The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.
  • Emily Dickinson

Monday, January 28th, 2019

Improving Your Processes

“Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.” – – Alfred Adler

In 2018, after busy season, you and many others in your firm worked very hard to focus on your internal processes. Many firm administrators have explored, revisited, revamped, documented and rolled-out improved processes for the 2019 busy season.

Of course, there will need to be tweaking and modification along the way. One of the biggest hurdles for many CPA firm leaders is that they think procedures need to be perfect before they make changes to the old way. Nothing is ever perfect. My most important piece of advice for making your firm better is DO THINGS!

As your team works through the new, improved processes, make adjustments immediately if the process isn’t working as expected. Never be afraid to fail. You will never move ahead if you don’t have failures.

Be sure you have clearly defined and communicated each process or procedure. Make sure everyone knows exactly what is expected.

I like to share this sample – it is an excellent example of clearly defined steps. It is how to make coffee. Never again can someone in your firm, who left an empty pot on the burner, say, “I don’t know how to make coffee.”

While this is on the lighter side, think about how using this format could help your people more clearly define all of the processes in your firm.

You don’t have to wait until April to work on Action Plans for many of your processes, have the administrative team get started as they come upon challenges during busy season. January through April is also a good time for your tech team, your HR manager and marketing director to better define and clearly document the processes in their areas.

 

  • Do the hard jobs first. The easy jobs will take care of themselves.
  • Dale Carnegie

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Square Feet Per Person

“There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” – Jane Austen

A firm administrator, managing partner or a firm owner faces many things as they try to effectively and profitably manage a growing, successful accounting firm.

One question that might arise is how much office space do we need? It is usually computed via using square feet per person. Of course, now it is even more complex because you have many people working remotely.

Nevertheless, I thought some numbers might be of interest to you. Here are some examples I gathered a few years ago from some actual firms.

  • Firm #1 – 295 sq. ft. per person
  • Firm #2 – 270
  • Firm #3 – 224
  • Firm #4 – 253
  • Firm #5 – 290
  • Firm #6 – 280
  • Firm #7 – 254
  • Firm #8 – 282
  • Firm #9 – 275
  • Firm #10 – 300
  • Firm #11 – 178
  • Privacy is not something that I'm merely entitled to, it's an absolute prerequisite.
  • Marlon Brando

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

Firm Administrators – Make Sure to Participate

CPAFMA Logo for Web

 

I hope you will take a few minutes to participate in the CPA Firm Management Association Annual Salary Survey. Click the link below.

Annual Salary Survey
It’s time for the CPAFMA’s 2018 Salary Survey data collection. While technology allows us to enhance the survey and receive more data, we have opted to maintain the survey’s reputation of being efficient, accurate and providing the most vital information to our member firms.
As always, confidentiality is our priority.By clicking the button below, you will enter the on-line survey which will take no more than 7 minutes to complete, including the time it has taken to read this email. We are encouraging ALL members to respond by the deadline of November 19, 2018. The more participants, the more valuable the results. Note that the information is collected and compiled by a third party as confidentiality is imperative.

The results will be summarized and shared with members the second week of December 2018.
      SURVEY
  • Positivity, confidence, and persistence are key in life, so never give up on yourself.
  • Khalid