Archive for the ‘Firm Administrator’ Category

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

Monday, November 9th, 2020

Don’t Be So Cheap

“Spend at least 10% of your budget on the best professional advice available before you spend a nickel on anything.” – Harvey Mackay

Accountants are often known for being frugal. Your employees might think you (as a group of owners) are actually very cheap.

Here’s the difference – – Cheap people are driven by saving money regardless of the cost; frugal people are driven by maximizing total value, including the value of their time. … Being cheap is about spending less; being frugal is about prioritizing your spending so that you can have more of the things you really care about.

I don’t know how many times I have heard an experienced, competent firm administrator, practice manager, HR director, or marketing director say, “I won’t be able to attend the conference (event, webinar, meeting) because the partners won’t spend the money.”

On the other hand, I have heard those same people, the ones who did attend the conference (event, webinar, meeting) say, “I learned so much and brought so many great ideas back to the firm that the partners said I should attend every year.”

That’s why Harvey Mackay’s quote, above, is so appropriate for those leading CPA firms.

  • Never have a partner retreat without a paid facilitator – someone very familiar with the CPA profession.
  • Don’t hesitate to hire outside mentors and coaches for your partners, firm administrators, marketing directors, etc. Hire them for your partners, too.

Just last week, a client said to me after a fairly brief phone session, “You have given us several valuable nuggets during our conversation! We will act upon them!”

How much are you budgeting for outside, professional advisors?

  • If the price is very cheap then it's almost certainly a fake.
  • David Russell

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020

Attendance Policy

Do you have an attendance policy? I have observed that many CPA firms do not have a clearly defined policy and if they do have one, it is doubtful that they are enforcing it.

You need to have an attendance policy and enforce it, especially with so many employees now working remotely.” – Suzanne Lucas 

Suzanne Lucas, aka Evil HR Lady, gives us reasons why such a policy is important in a recent article.

She gives the example of an employee who called in to say that they had 40 hours in as of Thursday and they were taking Friday off and not counting it as PTO. Lucas’ advice: “Say no. Honestly, it’s that simple.”

Per this HR expert: “You are within your rights as an employer to set an absentee policy that makes sense for your business. You need work done, and that’s why you hire employees. This does not mean that your employees should devote their entire lives to your business, nor does it mean you let them walk all over you. When you’re talking about attendance, you need a good policy.”

I have observed similar situations within accounting firms and it seems to always cause indecisiveness and even confusion about how to handle these situations. In these times of being almost desperate to retain skilled people, CPA leaders are often simply afraid to say “No” to anything.

The article contains a sample attendance policy and a lot of other good information. Read it here.

  • Be kind and flexible, but make sure your employees know they need to work every day.
  • Suzanne Lucas

Thursday, October 29th, 2020

Navigating Your Career & Growing Your Practice Podcast

“If you’re going to have a story, have a big story, or none at all.” –Joseph Campbell

I was delighted recently to connect up with Brad Barbour, Manager, firm Services at AICPA PCPS.

PCPS has been very dear to my heart throughout my years in public accounting. I have met and worked with so many wonderful people at PCPS by speaking at conferences, serving on committees, writing articles, and helping with resources for the PCPS website.

Brad hosts a podcast for PCPS called Small Firm Philosophy and recently interviewed me for one of his podcasts.

I hope you find time to listen to my story and my observations on working in public accounting. Listen to it at one sitting (approx. 30 minutes) or break it up into segments.

I hope some of my comments will be helpful and some will make you smile. Listen to the other podcasts on Small Firm Philosophy, too. Thanks so much, Brad.

  • Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.
  • Robert McKee

Tuesday, October 27th, 2020

Influence

“Leverage your uniqueness.” Bruce Tulgan

Over the years I have worked with and talked with a lot of support professionals working in public accounting.

They are the firm administrators, COOs, practice managers, HR directors, marketing directors, IT managers, training managers, etc.

What I have told firm administrators for years, and it applies to all the others, is that you may not have power but you have influence – make that influence work for you.

Sometimes it seems like an uphill battle but I have observed some awesome initiatives accomplished mostly through the use of influence to guide a diverse group of partners in the right direction!

Bruce Tulgan tells us:

The problem is that too many people believe influence is about playing workplace politics, building personal rapport, or establishing a quid pro quo with others. That’s what I call false influence. Real influence is a generous, other-centered focus based on adding value in every single interaction.

If you understand the mathematics of real influence—and believe in it—you can make yourself incredibly rich in a very potent source of power by dedicating yourself to serving others, moment by moment, in every interaction.

There are four tactics of real influence.

Read this recent article from Tulgan where he shares the four tactics of real influence: 1) Interpersonal influence. 2) Specific commitments. 3) Rational persuasion. 4) Facilitating success.

I hope you read all of Tulgan’s books. I have shared “It’s Okay to Be the Boss” with many clients and friends over the years. I was fortunate to have him sign my dog-eared copy several years ago.

  • Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.
  • Albert Schweitzer

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020

CPAFMA VIRTUAL LEARNING OPPORTUNITY

“The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.” – B.B. King

A great opportunity to learn what’s happening in the world of CPA firm management!

Understanding the challenges firms have faced in 2020, CPAFMA has designed this virtual opportunity to be affordable and inclusive, providing the opportunity for up to five members of the firm’s leadership group to participate for one low price from the convenience of one’s home or office. The two-day educational exchange has something for everyone involved in accounting firm management. The live online event includes high-level keynote sessions to facilitated discussions customized to provide information that can be implemented immediately.

YOU SHOULD ATTEND IF YOU ARE….

  • Responsible for management of an accounting practice
  • Responsible for the quality and profitability of your firm
  • Supervising and/or training staff in an accounting firm
  • Interested inn developing a team of outstanding professionals
  • Ready to promote your firm in today’s marketplace with expanded services and a desire to strengthen client relationships
  • New to the profession or an experienced firm manager, chief operating officer, human resource director or managing partner
  • Ready to deal with uncertainty with confidence

REGISTER HERE

  • Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.
  • W. B. Yeats

Thursday, October 1st, 2020

Performance Management is Evolving

“My motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging.”  – Hank Aaron

A great resource for firm administrators/practice managers, managing partners, and HR directors working in public accounting is Sharlyn Lauby, an HR pro turned consultant. She created HR Bartender so people would have a friendly place to discuss workplace issues. I follow her on Twitter so that I can keep abreast of all the current issues facing HR professionals.

I constantly remind you to focus on the importance of performance feedback and make it a process that is simple, easy, and effective. In light of COVID and the fact that so many team members are working remotely, you have new challenges with providing helpful feedback to a remote workforce. Even before the pandemic, a PWC survey found that about 60% of employees were able to work at least one day a week remotely.

Performance feedback is evolving and the old days of judging a person’s performance based upon chargeable hours is a thing of the past. Firms utilizing value pricing have realized that moving away from a chargeable hour culture is not an easy task. It actually requires managers (and partners) to manage people and processes.

Lauby gives us five performance management activities to consider. The following are my comments on each of the five but please read her article to gain the full impact.

Take performance management online – Many firms have already done this and it is a must when people are not physically working from one location.

Create measurable goals, including stretch goals – I always remind you to ask less experienced staff to stretch and take on more responsibility. Instead of looking to hire a Manager, ask a Senior to step up.

Build a feedback mechanism – Managers and employees should have regular feedback sessions, not just once per year.

Allow multi-rater feedback – I believe most CPA firms are doing this now and obtaining a self-evaluation. However, read Lauby’s comments on this one.

Offer training programs for managers (and employees) – I have observed that accounting firms do not train their managers on how to truly manage people. Firms make a person a manger because they are a highly-skilled technician. Don’t forget the softer skills!

  • If the employee doesn’t understand the goal or the process, it’s difficult to achieve successful performance.
  • Sharlyn Lauby