Archive for the ‘Firm Administrator’ Category

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

The Rosenberg Survey Is Now Open

It’s that time of year again! Here’s the scoop:
 The 20th annual Rosenberg Survey is underway and we would like to cordially invite you to participate. For two decades this survey has proven to be the financial benchmarking standard for CPA firms. The Rosenberg Survey provides highly relevant in-depth analyses and serves as a resource for firms to better understand how to drive profitability.

  

Why is The Rosenberg Survey Valuable?
  • Our results are reviewed for accuracy and validity by three top CPAs including acclaimed industry consultants, Marc Rosenberg and Charles Hylan.
  • We deliver clear, valid and unique statistics not available in other industry surveys.
  • We provide a reliable year-to-year comparison with a return rate of over 82% from the previous year’s participants.
  • A robust pool of 350 participants makes our data relevant to firms of all sizes.
  • We display data by firm size for easy comparisons.
Participate in this year’s survey to obtain a great benchmarking tool that can be used in the coming year. The final deadline to complete the survey is Monday, July 16th.

Monday, April 9th, 2018

A Functional, Consolidated Internal Management Team Is A Necessity

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.” – Jim Rohn

My consulting work is mostly with the internal management team at CPA firms. I call this team the IMT for short. Who are they?

  • CEO/Managing Partner
  • COO/Firm Administrator
  • Marketing Director
  • IT Director/Manager
  • HR Director/Manager
  • Training & Development Director/Manager
  • Controller/Finance Manager

Their titles varying depending on the size of the firm. In smaller firms one person may play multiple roles. As my firm was growing, I served in all these roles, except CEO.

I often find that this team suffers from the Five Dysfunctions of a Team (made famous by author, Patrick Lencioni). There is 1) An absence of trust, 2) Fear of conflict, 3) Lack of commitment, 4) Avoidance of Accountability and 5) Inattention to results.

As with most things, in a CPA firm, it is all about communication, or the lack thereof.

Why should firms facilitate, train, encourage and demand teamwork from this group, even if the team is comprised of just two people, the managing partner and the firm administrator? It creates momentum to keep the firm moving forward. Simple as that.

In some firms, if there is not a strong administrative and support leader (COO/FA) working at the proper level, these managers work independently, maybe reporting to the MP or to “the marketing partner” or the “technology partner,” and so on.

In firms where there is a strong MP/FA team, working collaboratively and leading the IMT members, things get done. When this team is dysfunctional and disjointed problems creep in and then pour in.

Some may ask, “What does technology have to do with marketing?” “What does marketing have to do with HR?” If you think for just a moment, it will become clear. The problem is, in many firms, leaders don’t take the time to simply stop and think. The MP is too busy with a huge client load and solving dysfunctions between partners.

Marketing can be a huge benefit to HR (and has been during the last several years when the hunt for good people was high on the to-do list). Finance helps the entire IMT understand and prepare budgets. HR helps marketing, finance and technology educate the entire team about topics in their areas. And, technology is the foundation for most activities and tasks in all of these areas (websites, digital newsletters, processes and procedures, remote connectivity, portals for client service, on and on). Leading, coaching, coordinating and holding all of these people responsible is the firm administrator or COO.

If your IMT people are disconnected, even if it is just two (MP and FA), it’s time to switch to a “connected” model.

Begin having weekly or bi-weekly meetings involving the COO and the IMT team. Once a month or so, the MP should also be involved in the meetings. Develop an IMT Pipeline (things that need to be done and the progress that is being made).

In smaller firms and with new firm administrators, I always urge frequent meetings between the MP and FA (with a shared to-do list). In both models, frequent communication and teamwork will help the entire firm move forward

  • Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.
  • Jim rohn

Thursday, March 1st, 2018

Decide Who Will Decide

“It is not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” – Roy Disney

When your firm was first founded, probably one, two or three partners (owners) made all the decisions. Somehow, as the ranks of partners grew, they all thought that they should be part of every decision. That’s why the role of the firm administrator was created and the joke that resulted was, “How many partners does it take to decide which copier to buy?”

The theory was that administrative and operational aspects of the CPA firm would be under the umbrella of the firm administrator. Still, many partners thought that they should be allowed to have an opinion and weigh-in on the decision to buy anything that cost more than $100!

That decision-making format lasted with 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10 partners. Then an Executive Committee was formed of 3 or 5 partners who still thought they should be involved in daily operations.

Progressive firms decided that the Managing Partner should actually manage the firm with a chief-of-staff type person – the firm administrator or COO. Of course, owners are kept informed but their job is to take care of client relationships, mentor younger staff and bring in business.

Is it time for your firm to actually operate like a business? Is it time for your owners to “decide who will decide”?

  • He that has a choice has trouble.
  • Dutch proverb

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

In Public Accounting There Are Always Extra Hours

 “I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before. But it’s true–hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don’t love something, then don’t do it.” – Ray Bradbury

Soon it will be March. In CPA firms, that usually means even longer hours must be worked now until April 16, to properly serve the clients.

It’s crunch time and if you are working in public accounting you should not be surprised. When you majored in accounting and then joined a CPA firm, you knew there would be a busy season.

In progressive firms, busy season now, unlike the old days, is much more flexible. Team members are able to work those extra hours whenever and wherever. It doesn’t mean sitting in a cubicle for 60 hours per week.

After April 15, it becomes a 40 hour per week job. We used to always be concerned about how to find enough work for team members as the rest of the year unfolded. Most firms have solved that problem and now we seem to have a second busy season during September and October.

Yes, if you work in public accounting there will almost always be extra hours at peak times but you are working most of those extra hours when it is winter. Hopefully, that makes it a little better.

Firm partners, be sure you have an adequate scheduling system so that certain people are not completely overloaded. Firm administrators, be sure you are providing some enjoyable distractions during those dark, dreary, cold, often snowy winter months.

  • Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work
  • Peter Drucker

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Make Background Checks Part of the Hiring Process

“People are not your most important asset. The right people are.” – Jim Collins

You are working in the CPA profession. You are honest, trustworthy and dependable. You sometimes take it for granted that everyone in the profession or entering the profession is the same.

That’s why so many CPA firms make a background check a routine part of the hiring process. I have observed that CPA firms use a variety of vendors and there are a lot of reputable ones out there.

Here’s a good article about hiring nightmares from Sharlyn Lauby – HR Bartender.

If you need some information about background checking companies to use, contact the CPA Firm Management Association (CPAFMA).

  • Hiring people is an art, not a science, and resumes can't tell you whether someone will fit into a company's culture.
  • Howard Schulz

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Cancel Some Meetings

“Being aware of your fear is smart. Overcoming it is the mark of a successful person.” – Seth Godin

Occasionally, I repost – word for word – something that Seth Godin has posted. He posts everyday and I encourage you to follow him.

Here’s the message I want all my CPA tribe to hear:

All those meetings you have tomorrow–they were just cancelled. The boss wants you to do something productive instead.

What would you do with the time? What would you initiate?

If it’s better than those meetings were going to be, why not cancel them?

  • One reason I encourage people to blog is that the act of doing it stretches your available vocabulary and hones a new voice.
  • Seth Godin

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

Starting and Stopping

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” – John D. Rockefeller

In many firms, decisions, even some minor ones, are a full partner group activity. A  decision is discussed at a partner meeting and then deferred until later. It is a start and stop, do and don’t type of management culture.

As accounting firms grow, there is a need to empower management with more freedom to actually manage.

Allow your managing partner and firm administrator to take full control over the day-to-day operations of your firm. Develop a need-to-know policy. What specific things do all partners need to be involved in? If you have a competent, professional firm administrator, the managing partner does not have to even be involved in every little decision.

I have observed that when fully discussed, all partners actually need to be involved in very little. Of course, they need to be fully informed on a regular basis. That’s why monthly partner meetings are a must, especially for smaller and mid-size firms.

Where you order office supplies is not a topic for a partner meeting.

  • Inspiration does not come to me, I go halfway to meet it.
  • Sigmund Freud

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Tax Return Ranking – A Consistency Issue

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” – Jim Rohn

If you work in a CPA firm, you probably know what I mean by the title of this post – tax return ranking. It means the level of difficulty of a particular tax return.

It is one of those procedural type issues that I probably don’t cover as much as I used to. Yet, these little things can play havoc with consistency and efficiency at your firm.

Here’s the story:

Partners are asked to assign a level of difficulty to tax returns before they are selected (or assigned) for preparation. Some firms use grades like A, B, C and some firms use a numeric ranking like 1-5, with 5 being the most difficult.

Staff and interns then select (or are assigned) returns that are appropriate to their experience level. Beginners and interns might be given the “simple” returns and more experienced tax preparers get the more complex returns.

The issue is that some partners might think a certain return is a Level 2 and another partner thinks it’s really a Level 1. They have not established guidelines as to what actually constitutes a #1 from a #3 return. It is just assumed that a #3 is more difficult than a #1. Take the guess work out of this process by better defining what each level means.

Susan Flynn, Office Manager at Gallagher, Flintoff & Klein in Lansing, Michigan has kindly agreed to share their ranking system. I though it might help other firms better define their own ranking systems.

Tax Return Rankings

0 – Business/Trusts

1 – Simple: W-2, Sch. A, No Sch. C, E or K-1s.

2 – Average: Includes a Sch. C, E or simple K-1s.

3 – Complex: One or more of the following: Sch. C, D, E, K-1s, B w/large brokerage statement, multi-state.

4 – High Touch: High-level preparer required.

Before January 1 rolls around, review your system and determine if it needs to be better defined.

 

  • For every disciplined effort there is a multiple reward.
  • Jim Rohn

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

I’ve Been in Meetings All Day

IMG_4125I hear it all the time when I talk to people in the CPA profession.

Sorry I didn’t get back with you…

Sorry, I didn’t get to work on that initiative….

Sorry I missed our call…

—-“I’ve been in meetings all day!”

I love this line from Seth Godin’s blog post today“A $30,000 software package is actually $3,000 worth of software plus $27,000 worth of meetings.”

He talks about “crisp” meetings and what they are. “The crisp meeting is one of a series. It’s driven by purpose and intent. It’s guided by questions.” He lists the questions. Be sure to take a couple minutes to read his post.

Then – “If it’s not going to be a crisp meeting, the professional is well-advised to not even attend.”

I have observed, in CPA firms, that leaders keep the accounting staff well-focused on billable work. Sometimes they don’t have enough meetings with the entire staff.

It’s the management and supervisory staff that seem to waste a huge amount of time in meetings… partner meetings, manager meetings, scheduling meetings, marketing committee meetings, HR committee meetings, technology committee meeting and so on. Develop a management structure, a CEO and a COO, maybe an executive committee. Have fewer committees and fewer meetings with fewer people.

  • The biggest difference between great work and pretty-good work are the meetings that accompanied it.
  • Seth Godin

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

Upgrade Your Reputation On The College Campus

“If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.” – Red Adair

Want to hire that all-star student? It’s not always about money.

At my firm we liked to joke about a goal – hiring the President of Beta Alpha Psi. Each year, it seemed, the President of Beta Alpha Psi was hired by the Big Four.

Why did this happen? From our local firm viewpoint it was fairly obvious. The Bigs had the resources to be on campus weekly. They hosted parties, showered the students with gifts and had the professors in their pocket. Not staying that is all true, but ask any local firm and they will probably feel the same way.

Finally, one year we hired a very bright and articulate student and yes, he was the President of Beta Alpha Psi. We celebrated! How did we compete? We became more visible and involved on campus. One way was to give two annual scholarships to accounting students.

This all came to mind today when I read an blurb via Accounting Today about one of my clients, Rodman CPAs of Waltham, Massachusetts awarding a scholarship to John Tran of Suffolk University in Boston.

Way to go, Jennifer Minor! Jennifer and John Tran, pictured below (picture from Accounting Today).

Jennifer

  • If you hire people just because they can do a job, they'll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they'll work for you with blood, sweat and tears.
  • Simon Sinek