Archive for the ‘Firm Administrator’ Category

Tuesday, February 15th, 2022

Role Models

“Parents are the ultimate role models for children. Every word, movement, and action has an effect. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than the parent.” – Bob Keeshan

In a public accounting firm, there are a lot of young people, new college graduates, just beginning their work life.

“Partners are the ultimate role models for new college accounting graduates just entering the workforce. Every word, movement, and action has an effect. No other people or outside force has a greater influence on a new hire than the partners.” – Rita Keller

You can see what came to mind when I read the quote by Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo).

It is true. I have observed that interns, within two weeks, can tell you the way this partner wants something and the way that partner wants something. I have seen, first-hand, how skilled interns are at doing personal imitations of certain partners for the entertainment of their peers.

When in discussions with CPA firm team members, talking about the importance of clearly defined policies and procedures, I always ask, “Who doesn’t follow the firm’s procedures?” The immediate answer is always the same, “The partners!”

If you are a partner, a manager or other leader in a firm never forget that you are being watched with a magnifying glass. Yes, you are the ultimate role model.

  • Each person must live their life as a role model for others.
  • Rosa Parks

Tuesday, February 1st, 2022

Working On Saturday

“Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need.” – Khalil Gibran

An interesting topic was mentioned on the CPA Firm Management Association discussion board. Many CPA firms are “open” on Saturdays and expect that CPAs work on Saturdays during tax season. So, if the office is open for a half-day on Saturday and some salaried employees do not work on a particular Saturday, do they have to take PTO for those 4 hours? I was surprised by some answers. I have always believed that PTO was for vacation, sick time, and/or personal time pertaining to the 40 hours, M-F work week. Saturday work is something that is negotiated with individuals.

I was pleased to see Kathryn Jordan’s reply. She is the Operations Manager at Pohlman, Talmage, Brown & Campbell in Dayton, Ohio. She allowed me to share her reply:

From another perspective, our professional staff has unlimited time off and we do not track PTO for exempt employees.  We have had very few issues with abuse of this policy during busy season.  Additionally, we do not have mandatory hours or Saturdays for any employees (exempt or non-exempt) during busy season.  While everyone does work overtime, letting the staff determine how that best fits in their schedule has been very successful and helps staff maintain some work-life balance, even during busy season.  Some choose to work very long days M-F and just a few hours on weekends, some work shorter days M-F and longer weekend days, some work a traditional M-Sa busy season, and some work Su-F.  We just ask that everyone update their Outlook calendar and status notes on their Right Networks homepage to let others know when they plan to be on the clock.

I am hearing of a few firms that do not require weekend work during tax season. I think we will see more and more firms follow this trend in an effort to hire and retain top talent.

  • If we expect others to rely on our fairness and justice we must show that we rely on their fairness and justice.
  • Calvin Coolidge

Monday, January 31st, 2022

Be Generous

“You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sometimes I am puzzled by CPA firms. I know, you are probably laughing out loud right now! After so many years working with CPA firms, you would think I would have a complete understanding of what makes CPA leaders tick. I guess it could be described this way: I know how they think and what they think but sometimes it amazes me WHY they think the way they do.

The talent wars are here to stay. Your firm becomes who you hire and who you retain. These people help form your culture and your brand in your marketplace.

I frequently hear CPA firm administrators and HR directors talk about their various personnel policies. PTO is often a topic. What I often observe is that many firms are somewhat frugal with their PTO. Here is where I ask WHY?

Maybe to justify, I need to give you real-life experience. At the CPA firm where I worked for so many years, fourteen years ago when I left we were offering starting salaries that are very much in line with what I am hearing TODAY – 2022!

When it comes to PTO, progressive firms are generous – 2 weeks PTO to new college grads the day they walk in the door. An example from one firm regarding PTO: All accounting staff with 0-2 years of service received 15 days. Staff with 3-5 years received 20 days and all staff with 6+ years received 25 days. Several firms I know are offering unlimited PTO.

I am still hearing that new hires, in many firms, become eligible for  PTO (or vacation) after one year of service and maybe 10 years before they get 3 weeks and never for 5 weeks.

Why are firms being generous, why are they keeping in tune with market trends and attempting to hire the best talent?

There is a very simple answer and one you should heed: Your competition is doing it!

  • A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you've been taking.
  • Earl Wilson

Friday, January 28th, 2022

Being Successful – Flashback Friday

“Learning is not watching a video, learning is taking action and seeing what happens.” – Seth Godin

Being successful as a CPA is not easy. Here’s a flashback post from way back in 2014. Amazing how it still applies today.

  • Do you want to know who you are: Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.
  • Thomas Jefferson

Friday, January 21st, 2022

Silence Often Helps – Flashback Friday

This week’s Flashback comes from 2018. Asking questions is VERY important but do you ask too many, too often?


“Sometimes you don’t have to say anything. Silence speaks it all.” – Disha Patani

During each day, you get an enormous amount of questions.

You are the firm administrator. It seems like people are lined up outside your office door continually as the day evolves.

You are the managing partner. A client calls and expects an answer on the spot. A partner stops you in the hall and asks a question. Your firm administrator needs an answer right away!

Partners and managers get questions from staff. Staff members get questions from each other. It seems everyone asking questions thinks YOU must have an easy and quick answer.

Try a little silence. In appropriate situations, just remain silent and the person asking the question just might answer it themselves.

If you are stopped in the hallway and asked a question say: “Let me think about that and I’ll get back to you.” Often, people catch you off guard and it is much safer to deflect, think and then reply.

Delay doesn’t mean days or weeks, it means minutes or hours.

One of the main insights I receive from staff is that they often wait on answers from partners (mostly regarding client work) for days, weeks, and sometimes months.

  • He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.
  • Elbert Hubbard

Tuesday, January 18th, 2022


“Great leaders don’t succeed because they are great. They succeed because they bring out the greatness in others.” – Jon Gordon

I have often talked about my belief that people working in CPA firm management need to have grit. So many successful firm administrators, HR directors, marketing directors, and managing partners I have met seem to have it.

I think the following from Jon Gordon is a good visual for these people.

Demonstrate your grit as you move through this busy season!

  • There's nothing more powerful than a humble person with a warrior spirit who is driven by a bigger purpose.
  • Jon Gordon

Tuesday, January 4th, 2022

High School Interns

“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” — Bob Proctor

I have often suggested, for an accounting firm, to utilize some high school interns. I think it is important to introduce the world of public accounting to a younger audience. Plus, I encourage practitioners to get involved in high school career days. If you have elementary children, why not volunteer to talk to their class about the accounting profession?

Maybe you will be encouraged to hire some high school interns by the following comments from Timothy Allen, MBA, Chief Operating Officer of Reilly, Penner & Benton in Milwaukee, Wisconsin:

“We started with high school interns this past tax season. We hired one as a tax administrative intern doing tax assembly, scanning, and other admin duties. She did such a fantastic job we hired her back as a tax intern this tax season. We have also started hiring college freshmen and sophomores as administrative interns with the intention of having them come back as juniors/seniors as full interns.

Going forward, CPA firms need to be creative and adventurous in their hiring practices. Add high school interns to your action plan.

  • Learning is finding out that you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, and teachers."
  • Richard Bach

Monday, December 27th, 2021

A Troubling Activity

“From a certain point of view our real enemy, the true troublemaker, is inside.” – Dalai Lama

I am attempting to take some time off this week so I will be posting some flashback posts. Here’s one from December 2020. It is about an activity that I hope is NOT happening in your firm.

In progressive, future-focused CPA firms, the partners have committed to core values and they live them. They have documented policies and procedures so that everything is clearly communicated to their valuable team members. If a question comes up, team members can almost always find the answer on the firm intranet. The partners always strive for transparency in what “the firm” believes and stands for. About the only secret is the actual amount of partner salaries.

In old-school firms, I still hear about some troubling activities. Here’s an example (I simply made this up but I’m sure it might sound familiar to some.)

At John Doe & Company, a team member (Sally Smith) is studying for the CPA Exam. Sally inquires about what the firm will pay for and how the firm will support her efforts. The firm administrator puts the question before the partner group at the next partner meeting. They decide that they will reimburse Sally Smith for 50% of her cost of the study materials and a $500 bonus when she passes. The firm administrator asks if this will apply, in the future, to all Exam candidates. A partner replies, “No, we don’t want to put anything in writing. We don’t want to be pinned down.”

There might be more troubling activities inside your firm. Hunt them down and get rid of them!

  • Nothing is permanent in this wicked world - not even our troubles.
  • Charlie Chaplin

Tuesday, December 21st, 2021

Firm Administrators Facing A New Year

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” – W. Edwards Deming

2020 and 2021 have been very challenging years for everyone and accounting firms are no exception.

The Firm Administrator (or person with a similar title) has been on the frontline fighting the efficiency and operational battle since that second week in March 2020. I commend you for your stamina and your problem-solving skills.

The challenges continue right up to the current day and 2022 will also be a STORM TO SURVIVE.

The following also applies to other support professionals such as marketing directors and HR directors.

I saw the following saying on a pendant in a catalog and I made my own version for firm administrators:

  • Survival can be summed up in three words - never give up. That's the heart of it really. Just keep trying.
  • Bear Grylls

Monday, December 20th, 2021

Thoughts on Why

“Some men see things as they are, and say why. I dream of things that never were and say why not. – Robert F. Kennedy

Why are some firms not having a serious people shortage and others are desperately looking for people?

  • It might be about your brand and reputation.
  • Are you the cool firm in town or are you the old school firm?
  • Do you have team members who you should have let go about five years ago?
  • Do you have abusive clients who you can never simply “pull the plug” on?
  • Do you close the week between Christmas and New Years?
  • Do you fully fund and support team members efforts to pass The Exam?
  • Do you aggressively delegate work downward or just keep doing it yourself?
  • Do you have (and reward) a qualified, professional firm administrator?
  • Do you invest in coaching and training for your firm administrator?
  • Do you provide the needed training so managers can actually manage and excite their direct reports?
  • Do you struggle with managing remote employees?

Early January is a good time to do a management review of your own firm? Gather your leaders and identify the pros and cons of working for your firm? Where are the pain points? What have you been ignoring for years?

  • Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present.
  • Bil Keane