Archive for the ‘Helpful Information’ Category

Tuesday, April 20th, 2021

Decisions

“Do it once, move on.” – Seth Godin

The following is a post from Seth Godin posted a couple of years ago. I am sharing it with you today because the year is passing by quickly.

CPAs are famous for delaying decisions. “Let’s wait and see what other firms do.” “Let’s put that on the agenda for next year’s retreat.” “Let’s not decide right now, let’s wait until we are not so busy.”

What you are doing is hitting the Snooze Button. You hit snooze on emails and even on major decisions. Don’t do it.

SNOOZE IS A TRAP

There’s a button on my email program that allows me to postpone an incoming email to a future day.

Sort of like a snooze button.

The snooze button is a trap. It’s a trap because not only do you have to decide later, but you just expended time and energy to deciding to decide later.

Do it once, move on.

‘Decide once’ is a magical productivity commitment.

There is a certain class of decision that benefits from time. Decisions where more information is in fact useful.

But most of the time, we’re busy making decisions that should be made now or not at all. You end up with a ton of decision debt, a pile of unanswered, undecided, unexplored options. And you’re likely to simply walk away.

If you open an email, you’ve already made the commitment to respond and move on. Not to push it down the road.

In or out, yes or no, on to the next thing.

Snooze is not for you.

  • If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you'll never get it done.
  • Bruce Lee

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

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021

Keep Connecting

“Perhaps the secret of living well is not in having all the answers but in pursuing unanswerable questions in good company.” ~ Rachel Naomi Remen

One of the most beneficial career boosters for CPA firm administrators, practice managers, COOs, HR directors and, managing partners is the practice of networking and connecting with others working in CPA firm management.

The CPA Firm Management Association has nineteen chapters around the country that provide an excellent opportunity to network, connect and continue to learn the best practices in CPA firm management.

For the last year it has been more challenging to keep those important connections alive and well. Of course, Zoom meetings has helped tremendously. Various chapters have tried different methods to keep those professional relationships strong.

I recently heard from Ronda Lawson of the Northern California Chapter about their efforts to facilitate information sharing.

Rita – You are so wonderful about sharing information with all of us, so I thought you might be interested in these notes from our recent NorCal Chapter Roundtable.  We are having a Zoom call monthly, primarily discussing life during the pandemic.  Let me know if you would like to see notes from our future meetings!  – Ronda

I like that they schedule their meetings every month. Even if you have only six or eight people in attendance, the chance to learn from others and share your own challenges is very valuable. The meetings don’t have to take a lot of time. They could be only one or two hours long.

Here are the topics discussed at a NoCal Chapter recent meeting:

  • Are you currently working in the office? Allowing clients in the office?
  • What precautions are you taking to keep the workplace safe?
  • How are you promoting employee engagement for your remote workers? What are you doing to help employees with their mental and emotional health during the pandemic?
  • How are you monitoring productivity for your remote workers?  What are you doing to help managers manage remote workers?
  • How are you handling your administrative team during the pandemic?  Are they working in the office or remotely?  Can they work remotely?
  • What are your plans for reopening if you haven’t already? What criteria will you use to determine when to reopen? Will you continue to have some remote work even when the office reopens?
  • What affect has the pandemic had on your staffing plans?  Have you had lay-offs, salary freezes, furloughs?  Has this changed your hiring plans?  Will you be doing campus recruiting?  Will you be bringing on interns?
  • What changes has your firm made because of the pandemic?  Are they positive?  Will they continue?
  • Other than the ongoing pandemic, what are the biggest challenges your firm is facing right now?

Check back tomorrow to learn more about how this chapter is handling their meetings. I am hopeful that it will prompt you to not ignore your chapter meetings just because you can’t connect in person.

I believe that having virtual CPAFMA Chapter meetings will continue to thrive after COVID. It is an economical and less time-consuming method of meeting (no commuting!). I know that the Ohio Chapter had people driving three hours one-way to attend some of the Chapter meetings.

  • The most important things in life are the connections you make with others.
  • Tom Ford

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021

Digital Rainmaking

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” -Thomas Edison

Times have changed dramatically. The old ways of business development inside CPA firms are gone (for now and maybe forever).

I imagine many firms are not comfortable with pursuing new business in the digital world.

Sarah Dobek, Inovautus Consulting, is offering practitioners the opportunity to invest in digital marketing training.

The training involves four sessions: Session 1: The Intersection Between Traditional + Virtual BD, Session 2: Networking Virtually, Session 3: Best Practices for Integrating Video into the Sales Process, and Session 4: Social Selling.

Don’t sit on the sidelines, get involved with digital marketing. Get more information about this training and the sessions here.

  • The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.
  • Thomas Paine

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021

Be An Encourager

“We can improve our relationships with others by leaps and bounds if we become encouragers rather than critics.” Joyce Meyer

Young accountants coming into the world of public accounting might be surprised at the number of critics they encounter.

It seems, in many firms, the experienced CPAs have fallen into the habit of teaching by criticism. Too often, their expectations are not adequately communicated and yet they become critical when new college recruits struggle with the tasks they are assigned.

I have heard many new recruits say, “I never learned any of this in college.” I suppose that is the case with many new graduates entering any profession.

The next time you are writing review notes for a new hire, be sure to consider if you communicated your expectations, clearly and concisely, at the beginning of the assignment. Actually discuss the review notes verbally with the team member and be sure to offer words of encouragement.

When a new hire receives seemingly harsh, written review notes without any personal communication or encouragement, it can be very demotivating and disheartening.

Encouragement builds relationships that can result in long-term career progress. Encouragement keeps people at your firm and prevents them from seeking job satisfaction elsewhere. Read the above quote again.

  • Your talent determines what you can do. Your motivation determines how much you’re willing to do. Your attitude determines how well you do it.
  • Lou Holtz

Monday, March 1st, 2021

Succession Planning

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near one.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

There are many different ways to address succession planning and client transition. This topic is often discussed inside accounting firms. Some firms have elaborate and formal succession plans that are well-documented.

I have observed that many firms, especially small to medium-size firms have not dedicated the time and effort to define a more formal plan.

This topic was discussed recently on the CPAFMA Discussion Board. If you are not a member, you should be.

One member admitted that they did not have a formal document but they do have a list to guide their planning for partner retirements. Tricia Duncan, CPA with Jones & Roth shared their firm’s method. I think you will find this plan helpful if you do not have a formal plan. This one is simple, yet effective. Here is Duncan’s comment on the topic:

We don’t have a formal document – we generally start 3-4 years out from the retirement year.  We develop a plan for each individual that addresses:

  • Client relationship
  • Technical expertise
  • Firm responsibilities
  • Community/Niche/Referral relationships
  • Mentor/Team Responsibilities

Generally, start the planning and execution 1-2 years out.  We try to have client relationships transitioned 1 year out so the last year the Partner is on board is more as an advisory role if questions come up. Our new CRM manages the entire relationship.  This has been critical for us.

We’ve successfully transitioned 5+ partners in the last 5 years.


  • If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.
  • Yogi Berra

Thursday, February 25th, 2021

Managing a Hybrid Environment

“Workers will fit into new personas, such as a homesteader, office dweller, and coffee shop traveler, and managers will need to properly manage distributed teams.” – Jeff Schwartz, Deloitte Consulting

By now, you have all realized that having a hybrid environment for your workforce will be needed going forward. Some firms have already made great strides and the need will increase once vaccines are available to everyone.

In a recent article via Fast Company, Stephanie Vozza directs us to a book written by Jeff Schwartz, founding partner of Deloitte Consulting’s Future of Work practice.

It is no longer work/life balance. Work and life have become fully integrated and being able to offer choices and manage hybrid workers is a necessity for partners and managers.

You will need to determine what works best for each individual worker and be flexible so that they can change their minds depending on personal situations.

Read the article here. It is only a four-minute read. You should also read Schwartz’s book, Work Disrupted: Opportunity, Resilience, and Growth in the Accelerated Future of Work.

  • Now as we think about what it means to go back to the office, we can’t use an old map to explore a new world.
  • Jeff Schwartz

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

It Is Inside Every CPA Firm

“Solve drama. Don’t create it.” – Dan Rockwell, @Leadershipfreak

When doing presentations to CPA audiences, I will often ask, “You don’t have any drama inside your firm, do you?” Sad to say, this would get a big laugh from the audience.

What does that say about your firm?

Stay on track to a successful career by following these six rules for keeping your work-life drama-free.

Rule #1: If You Did it When You Were 15, Don’t Do it Now. – It is easy to catch yourself doing things that are more worthy of high school hallways than the office.

Rule #2: Save the Venting for Outside the Office. – Resist the urge to talk about your co-workers and boss while you are in the office.

Rule #3: When in Doubt, Wait to Reply. – An email can set you off! Don’t reply immediately. Wait. Think.

Rule #4: Know When It’s Time to Talk it Out. – To avoid unnecessary drama, you have to realize the point at which it’s better to simply talk to someone, in person.

Rule #5: Have (and Use) a Go-to Escape Phrase. – To avoid getting roped in to a drama situation, be prepared with a go-to-escape phrase. (“I can’t help you with that.” “I’ve got a deadline, I need to get back to work.”)

Rule #6: Never Assume Negative Intent. – To avoid drama, simply work under the assumption that your co-workers and manager are there to help you, support you, and challenge you to do even better work.

These rules come from an article by Katie Douthwaite Wolf, “6 Basic Rules You Need to Follow if You Truly Want to Avoid Office Drama”.

Read the entire article to learn much more about each rule. You might even change it into a No Drama policy to officially adopt for your firm.

  • Don't waste words o people who deserve your silence. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can say is nothing at all.
  • Mandy Hale

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

Do They Like You?

“People prefer to say yes to those that they like.” Robert Cialdini 

I hear stories, all kinds of stories.

Working and interacting with hundreds of accounting firms over the last thirty years I, of course, hear stories. I hear, from the partners, what a great firm they have, how progressive they are, and how they do so much for their people. I do believe most of this.

I hear from the professional support team and the accounting staff how, while it is a good firm, they struggle with getting questions answered, getting changes approved and dealing with some of the partners. I do believe most of this.

The question for you to ponder today, as a shareholder, is influenced by the above quotation. Do your people actually like you?

If you are friendly, smile often, show caring/concern for individual team members, and are approachable, they will like you. They will work harder for you and strive to meet your expectations. They will respect you.

I remember when I was new to a CPA firm. One CPA partner would occasionally ask how I was doing and would ALWAYS say thank-you when I completed various tasks for him. That partner’s tasks always ranked higher on my to-do list than the other three partners.

The old English proverb, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, means that it is much easier to get what you want by being polite rather than by being rude and insolent.

  • Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.
  • Albert Schweitzer

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

Safe

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” – William Shedd

Are you a follower firm?

So many accounting firm leaders play the safe game, the waiting game. They hear about new software, a new process, or a new employee benefit from reading/hearing an online discussion or attending a CPE session. Then they play it safe, they wait and see what other firms find out, and then dip their toe in the water.

This is not all bad. You learn so much from others and that should definitely continue. But, once in a while, listen to a new idea suggested by staff or by the firm administrator and go ahead and implement it. Try it!

I always recommend you “test it.” Never be afraid to try something new and then determine it just doesn’t work for your firm. Don’t hesitate to tell your team, “That was worth a try but it just doesn’t work. Let’s forget about it and try something else.”

Referencing the above quote, you can always stay in the safe harbor and never progress. Doing things the way you have always done them feels very comfortable (and safe). Show your creativity and become one of those firms that other firms follow!

  • Ironically, in a changing world, playing it safe is one of the riskiest things you can do.
  • Reid Hoffman