Archive for the ‘Helpful Information’ Category

Friday, February 15th, 2019

New State Electronic Filing Requirement

“You have to learn the rules of the game, and then you have to play better than anyone else.” – Albert Einstein

One of my clients recently talked to me about the 10 business day rule for state electronic filing. I was unaware.

Since then, I have talked to several more of my clients and most of them were not aware of this new “rule.” The new requirement has been implemented for every software company and is intended to reduce the error rate of returns filed without the latest update(s).

Via CCH: The requirement mandates that “users/customers of this product who attempt to e-file 10 or more business days after a production release will be required to download and apply the product update.”

Read more about it here via CCH and also here via Accounting Today.

  • There are no rules here - we're trying to accomplish something.
  • Thomas Edison

Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

Unlimited PTO – Things To Consider

“A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you’ve been taking.” – Earl Wilson

I am aware that several firms have now adopted an Unlimited PTO policy. If you are considering this type of policy for your CPA firm, I want to share some very interesting insights from someone who has experienced unlimited PTO first-hand. He is an audit manager with a firm in the western part of the USA. I hope you find his comments helpful if you are considering adding this benefit.

My current firm does not have unlimited PTO, but I have worked at firms that did. I can’t offer a written policy – there really wasn’t one – but I can offer some considerations, most of which you probably are already aware.

First, doing away with traceable measures (PTO available/used) demands reliance on other performance measures to determine whether the unlimited policy is being abused. Partners/managers need to pay closer attention to metrics at the individual employee level.

Regularly reviewing metrics such as individual realization, time-to-completion, deadlines met (or missed) as well as the timing of PTO days taken becomes essential.

Be sure your practice management system can provide that information before enacting the unlimited policy. Also, the policy assumes that everyone will “do the right thing.” Be aware that not everyone will do the right thing and be prepared to take action against those that abuse the system. If you allow unchecked abuse, it will become rampant.

In an unexpected twist, you may need to actually force some people to take PTO. Without the pressure of the old use-or-lose policy, some of those Type A folks will be more inclined, or more pressured, to work instead of taking time off. I’m sorry I can’t cite a specific study, but there is some evidence that the unlimited PTO policy actually results in less time away from the office.

Finally, be aware that some states (California and Washington, for example) have passed legislation regarding required sick leave. This is a number that may, by law, require tracking and that might throw a wrench in your unlimited policy. There are typically exceptions if your leave policy is more permissive. And the standard disclaimer: check with your state or your employment law attorney before changing your policy.

  • Isn't it amazing how much stuff we get done the day before vacation?
  • Zig Ziglar

Monday, February 11th, 2019

Performance Standards

“Performance standards help to set expectations and provide consistency.” – Sharlyn Lauby

When a new hire enters your firm or even if it is a short-term intern, do they really understand what is expected of them?

Of course, you provide a detailed job description, maybe not to an intern but to a full-time new hire. What if you communicated even more clearly?

I believe some clearly defined Standards of Performance are in order. Why not rename and reformat your job descriptions into performance standards?

If you want a sample of Standards of Performance for accountants working in a CPA firm, just let me know, I am happy to share.

Here’s a good article titled, Employees Become Successful When They Know What Success Looks Like, from Sharlyn Lauby, @hrbartender.

  • The true measure of any business leader and manager is performance.
  • Brian Tracy

Thursday, February 7th, 2019

Mergers 2019

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” – Colin Powell

My firm did its first acquisition/merger in 1993. It was a fast way to grow and to enter a new market. It worked for us and the firm did several more over the years. The firm also acquired non-traditional firms such as an employee benefits firm and a TPA company when it was very unusual to do so.

Things have certainly evolved in the CPA firm M&A market since 1993. During our first merger, all we could think about was not losing clients of the acquired firm. We did not lose clients but we lost employees. We learned from that experience and for the next acquisition around 1996 and going forward, we focused on retaining talented people. It had become more important to retain people than clients.

Daniel Hood of Accounting Today recently interviewed several CPA consultants who focus on M&A. There are major changes ahead for M&A. Valuations of firms are declining. It is becoming a buyer’s market. Acquirers are more selective and do not necessarily want more compliance clients. The cost of technology, going forward, is also an issue, especially for smaller firms.

Be sure to read the interesting article. I know many of you are experiencing a succession dilemma.

  • The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a man's determination.
  • Tommy Lasorda

Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

The Hiring Challenge

“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” – Vince Lombardi

I was reading an article via the Journal of Accountancy titled, Small firm spotlight: How I recruit and hire new accountants. Cheryl Meyer interviewed Kenneth Cerini, the managing partner at Cerini & Associates.

I could certainly relate to much of what Mr. Cerini divulged.

Recruiting and hiring is an art, not a science. When you are hiring people, you can’t cram a square peg into a round hole. We’ve brought people in from bigger accounting firms and realize they are not the right fit overall. We have much smaller clients, and our clients need more handholding. That’s why I love interns. I’d rather invest more money in the training and be able to bring on people at a younger level and help them grow within our atmosphere. You learn a tremendous amount during your first two to three years in public accounting.

At my firm, we found that hiring a 5-year person from a big four firm was not a very smart move. We had many small business owners and our 5-year people were so much more knowledgeable on many types of situations. It seemed to us that a 5-year person working at one of the big national accounting firms just did a one-year person’s duties five times.

However, that being said, firms are often very successful in training smart people no matter what their background. Often it is the training programs that need attention and, of course, the experienced new hire’s attitude is key.

  • Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.
  • Helen Keller

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

CES Top Techs

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” – Tolstoy

Every year, my good friend Roman Kepczyk does his review of the Top Techs and Innovations from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

He focuses on what the various new technologies mean to those of you working in a CPA firm.

Read his article here.

  • The real danger is not that computers will begin to think like men, but that men will begin to think like computers.
  • Sydney Harris

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

An Effective Way to a Coach Person

“It’s not hard to find smart people. It’s hard to find people who inspire and motivate.” – David Maister
If you never heard David Maister speak in person, you lost out on a memorable experience. He was vibrant and very direct.  He often would stop himself and say, “Okay, I’ve got to calm down.”
One lesson from Maister that I have never forgotten is an example he used in explaining the effective way to coach a person (a partner in a CPA firm, for example). The method is called “the pigeon story” and he presented it in a humorous and logical fashion.
I’ll try to summarize it briefly. If you want a pigeon (partner) to progress to another “place” that is too distant from them, they can’t do it in one huge step. You draw a line very close in front of them and draw them there. You coach them by saying, “Come on Pigeon, you can do it, I will help you.” When they get there you celebrate and then draw another line, not too far in front of them. Same with people (partners). It is too hard to make a gigantic leap to an annual goal – it is too far in the distance. Instead, set a goal that is a small step away and continually repeat, “Come on partner, you can do it, I will help you.” After seven or eight lines (small steps, 9 or 10 for tax partners), they arrive at the larger goal.
  • The way to get rich is don’t get sucked into doing dumb stuff for people you don’t like.
  • David Maister

Friday, January 25th, 2019

Managing Your Time

“Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed.” – Peter Drucker

How well do you manage time?

In the CPA profession, we talk about time, worry about time and track time. Yet, how many CPAs have ever taken a time management course?

It doesn’t matter if you value price or bill by the hour, how much time do you waste?

Here’s an interesting viewpoint on time from LeadershipFreak.

  • The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.
  • Leo Tolstoy

Thursday, January 24th, 2019

Client Service Is Your Best Marketing

If you are doing what everyone else is doing, if you are inside the band of common, then it’s not an approach that will move you forward.  – Seth Godin

What is your firm known for? Accuracy, understanding, caring, knowledge, maybe expensive?

Has anyone said that you have the best client service? I believe that if a CPA firm focused intensely on client service they would become the leading firm in their market. If a CPA firm did extensive training with their people on making client interactions satisfying and even fun, they would become the leading firm in their market.

Some examples from Seth Godin:

A b2b insurance agency spent two million dollars ripping out voice mail from their agency. Every call gets answered by a human every time. It paid for itself in four months. That’s a strategic investment, not a cost-cutting shortcut.

When Fedex was building relationships with busy businesspeople who would become the backbone of their customer base, they answered the phone on the first ring, every time.

Has anyone at your firm ever answered the phone on the first ring? Do any of your partners actually dodge calls from some clients? Read: Your Customer Service Strategy.

  • You can treat your customers like they don’t have a choice, but in the long run, customers always have a choice.
  • Seth Godin

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019

State of the Firm (SOTF)

“Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality. – Dalai Lama

When I was working inside a successful, growing firm, we did a state of the firm event every year. We brought everyone together from our three offices for a full morning of information and fun. It was a great time for people from different offices to see and talk to each other face-to-face. Our team seemed to enjoy hearing about the progress of the firm and news about what might happen in the future. It was held in the Spring, usually in May. We had just over 100 people.

This morning I read an article about Withum’s annual SOTF event where they bring together over 1,000 people! They hold theirs in January. Read all about it here.

Is it worth it? Absolutely.

It is my observation that people working in an accounting firm want to be included. They want to know what’s going on and how the firm is doing. It is a great recruiting and retention tool. Your people read about these events at other firms and probably wonder why their firm isn’t doing it.

  • An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.
  • Benjamin Franklin