Archive for the ‘Firm Administrator’ Category

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2021

Your Influence & Focus

“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.” – John Maynard Keynes

Summer is here and you have a mix of priorities on your work and life calendars. Usually, firms are doing performance feedback sessions and assessing what needs to be improved before the next busy season. You are also, personally, planning some stress-relieving vacation time.

As a managing partner, firm administrator, HR director, etc., I urge you not to lose sight of some important activities. Be sure to use your influence and focus on key firm issues. Here’s a listing for you to consider:

  • I'm open for possibilities. I'm open for choices. I always welcome new ideas. I'm always eager to learn. I'm never going to close my mind to learning
  • Cesar Millan

Thursday, June 17th, 2021

Firm Administrators – Be Calm

“One leads by calm.” – a French maxim

I don’t need to say this to you, but life inside a busy, growing CPA firm can be hectic and stressful. There are always looming due dates, other “hot” jobs, and various tasks to handle for the partner group.

Your team can always sense when you are NOT calm. They know when you are worrying or even when you are depressed. They are naturally influenced by you. Be sure your entire partner group is fully aware of how closely they are being watched by staff.

Maybe it is a good time to take advantage of some of the apps that help you practice mindfulness and meditation. There is one called Calm that is very popular.

There are many great quotations about being calm:

“Calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence so that’s very important for good health.” – Dalai Lama

“You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.” – Dan Millman

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, it empties today of its strength.” – Corrie ten Boom

My advice to CPA firm leaders: Without calm, you won’t last as a leader.

I watch a lot of British mysteries, etc. It seems like every time someone has to solve a problem they say, “I’m going to take a walk to clear my head.” Maybe you should be taking more walks. Even my Apple watch reminds me to “Breathe” and I often stop and do it!

  • Step outside for a while - calm your mind. It is better to hug a tree than to bang your head against a wall continually.
  • Rasheed Ogunlaru

Tuesday, June 15th, 2021

Are You A Firm Administrator? Are You Wondering What A Firm Administrator Does?

“Focus on being productive instead of busy.” – Tim Ferriss

Today, I want to remind you about a one-hour session I am doing tomorrow for the newly formed Missouri Chapter of CPAFMA and the Missouri Society of CPAs.

Are you new to the role of firm administrator? Are you an experienced administrative professional but have never worked in the CPA profession? Are you thinking about hiring a firm administrator? Do you wonder what value a firm administrator can bring to your firm?

Join me and your peers tomorrow. More information here.

  • Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.
  • Leo Babauta

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