Archive for the ‘Helpful Information’ Category

Thursday, December 3rd, 2020

Press On

There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no independence quite so important, as living within your means.– Calvin Coolidge

In my presentations and on this blog, I often talk about the value of perseverance.

The following quote from Calvin Coolidge about persistence says it wonderfully.

When you are facing challenges inside your firm, when all the partners aren’t on the same page, keep telling yourself: Press on.

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and will always solve the problems of the human race.” –Calvin Coolidge

  • You don't have to explain something you haven't said.
  • Calvin Coolidge

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

Upcoming Webinar

“Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it.” – Katherine Whitehorn

Save the date! – – Wednesday, December 9, 2020.

Guy Gage and I will be presenting an informative webinar for The CPA Firm Management Association (CPAFMA). Here’s the scoop:

Interview to Hire the Best Candidates

Date: Wednesday, December 09, 2020
Time: 03:00 PM EST / 02:00 PM CST / 01:00 PM MST / 12:00 PM PST
Presenter(s): Guy Gage, III LPC and Rita A. Keller
Objective: In this 60 minute MAPCast on how to interview to hire the best candidates, participants will learn:

• The three common mistakes that interviewers make;
• Questioning techniques that uncover what you want to know; and
• Examples of situations that demonstrate interview proficiency.
Field of Study: Personnel/Human Resources
Program Level: Basic
CPE Credit: 1 Credit Hour

No advanced preparation or prerequisites are required for this course.

Click here for the course description.

Click here to register.

  • Never wear a backward baseball cap to an interview unless applying for the job of umpire.
  • Dan Zevin

Tuesday, December 1st, 2020

The Source of Truth

“How to give people feedback is one of the hottest topics in business today.” – Marcus Buckingham 

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post about giving and receiving feedback. It is an excerpt from the article, The Feedback Fallacy, via HBR, written by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall.

Just in case you didn’t read the entire article, here is a segment that speaks volumes.

The Source of Truth

The first problem with feedback is that humans are unreliable raters of other humans. Over the past 40 years psychometricians have shown in study after study that people don’t have the objectivity to hold in their heads a stable definition of an abstract quality, such as business acumen or assertiveness, and then accurately evaluate someone else on it. Our evaluations are deeply colored by our own understanding of what we’re rating others on, our own sense of what good looks like for a particular competency, our harshness or leniency as raters, and our own inherent and unconscious biases. This phenomenon is called the idiosyncratic rater effect, and it’s large (more than half of your rating of someone else reflects your characteristics, not hers) and resilient (no training can lessen it). In other words, the research shows that feedback is more distortion than truth.

This is why, despite all the training available on how to receive feedback, it’s such hard work: Recipients have to struggle through this forest of distortion in search of something that they recognize as themselves.

Next summer, when all the unique and unusual circumstances surrounding work has calmed down. Your firm should be ready to give feedback in a new and refreshing way. Do the homework and begin now. Maybe even some new behaviors surrounding feedback should begin happening much sooner than next summer. How about starting January 1st?

  • Just as your doctor doesn’t know the truth of your pain, we don’t know the truth about our colleagues, at least not in any objective way.
  • Marcus Buckingham

Monday, November 30th, 2020

Thrive & Excel


“The key to learning is feedback. It is nearly impossible to learn anything without it.” – Steven Levitt

What kind of feedback are you offering at your firm? Is it an annual performance feedback session, a semi-annual review, or maybe quarterly “touch-base” type feedback meetings? Some firms have eliminated formal performance reviews completely.

Hopefully, firms are offering frequent feedback and keeping the entire process very simple and direct.

No matter what process you are using, be sure you are always searching for better ways to give feedback. Rather than giving people feedback on how they can do better, why not ask “How can we help each person thrive and excel?” This question comes from Marcus Buckingham. If we ask that question, we might just find that the answers take us in a different direction.

Don’t get this feedback confused with actual training type feedback actually called instruction. Per Buckingham, “To be clear, instruction – telling people what steps to follow or what factual knowledge they’re lacking – can be truly useful. That’s why we have checklists in airplane cockpits.”

Also, per Buckingham, there are three theories that we in the business world commonly accept as truths. 

  • Theory of the source of truth
  • Theory of learning
  • Theory of excellence

Read Buckingham’s informative article, The Feedback Fallacy, here.

  • Make feedback normal. Not a performance review.
  • Ed Batista

Friday, November 20th, 2020

If You Are Missing The Office

“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” – Steve Jobs

It’s time for some Friday ramblings. Another week has passed by so quickly and things are changing at that same quick base.

I enjoyed my time with PWB CPAs & Advisors in Minnesota this week. Of course, I wasn’t there in person but speaking to their entire team (via Teams) about CPA firm communication was still a joy for me.

If you are missing your teammates and your in-office routine perhaps hearing the normal background sounds of any office (the printer, the telephone, the coffee machine) might be a pleasant change. You can assemble your audio atmosphere via soundofcolleagues.com.

Have a nice weekend. Stay home and stay safe. Next week is a short work week. Take a walk in the woods.

  • The loudest noise in the world is silence.
  • Theionious Monk

Tuesday, November 17th, 2020

The Rosenberg Survey

“There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.” – Bill Waterson, Calvin & Hobbes

The 2020 Rosenberg Survey is NOW available!

The 4-day Thanksgiving weekend would be a good time to study the Rosenberg Survey. It has so much great information.

The number of firms that have mandatory retirement provisions in their partner agreements remained relatively steady after an upward trend for the past few years. In working throughout the industry, we have noted a general acknowledgment of the importance of mandatory retirement provisions. For more information on partner retirement, purchase The 2020 Rosenberg Survey.

CLICK HERE to Order the Survey!

  • Working people have a lot of bad habits, but the worst of these is work.
  • Clarence Darrow

Monday, November 16th, 2020

Real Skills (Success Skills)

“Some people call these, “soft skills.” That’s because they’re not easy to measure. But for me, they’re real skills. The skills that actually determine how far we’ll go and how it will feel to work with us as we move forward.” – Seth Godin

For many years, in public accounting, we took note of the fact that many accountants dutifully achieved the expert category when it came to technical expertise.

Also, for many years we complained that we employed some very skilled managers but nearly all of them lacked “soft skills.” I like to call them “success skills” because to reach the level of partnership in the firm a candidate had to demonstrate the ability to network in the business community, be a great conversationalist, build relationships, be an adept speaker, manage people and develop personal leadership attributes. I like Godin’s term: Real Skills.

These skills, along with the technical skills, enable a CPA to bring in business to the firm. Some current partners have even developed these skills.

My friend, Guy Gage, @PartnersCoach, has developed the Partner-Pipeline® to assist firm partners to develop the “success skills” necessary to become true firm leaders.

From Guy Gage:

There are five “Contributions” that comprise high-performing partners: strong technical capability; client experience/client relations; new business development; capacity building (talent development), and leadership capability. While no one can be exceptional in all five areas, partner-candidates should be excellent in two and competent in the other three. Since firms have addressed the technical capability, I’ve developed a program that addresses the other four areas.

To learn more about the Partner Pipeline and to download a matrix outlining the program steps that are appropriate for each level in the firm. – Associate, Senior, Supervisor, Manager, and Senior Manager, click here.

It is important to begin the success skills training early in a person’s career so that the firm always has a vibrant and healthy partner pipeline.

  • Firms can only do so much, then it's up to the individual to choose to engage. Teach them HOW with programs and coaching.
  • Guy Gage

Thursday, November 12th, 2020

The CPA Profession 2027

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Peter Drucker

Today, I am sharing a press release from the Illinois CPA Society. I think it will definitely be of interest to those working in the CPA profession. They are providing seven predictions for the future titled, “CPA Profession 2027: Racing for Relevance.”

CHICAGO, Nov. 11, 2020– Unveiling seven provocative predictions for the future of the CPA profession, the Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS)—one of the largest state CPA societies in the nation—has released its 2020 Insight Special Feature, “CPA Profession 2027: Racing for Relevance.”

The result of more than a year’s worth of strategic planning conversations and reviewing countless articles, interviews, reports, studies, and surveys—and conducting some of its own—“CPA Profession 2027” coalesces ICPAS’ findings from these authoritative, and sometimes disparate, sources into a powerful report detailing the underlying trends and challenges driving change in the CPA profession and how they may shape its future.

Inside “CPA Profession 2027,” ICPAS outlines how the CPA profession is facing a pace and type of change unlike any it has experienced before, where the rules of the race are literally being rewritten by technology. Key predictions include outlooks on how artificial intelligence and robotic process automation will forever change accounting, audit, finance, tax, and more;  the ways services are provided to companies and clients, and the ways companies and firms are staffed, will shift dramatically; and how implications of the global pandemic, along with rapidly changing company and client expectations, will demand CPAs change both mindset and skill set. The most provocative prediction of all is that the number of CPAs will decline in the years ahead as technology becomes more pervasive.

“While many strategic plans and reports look just one, two, or maybe three years out right now, we believe we cannot risk being shortsighted given the long-term implications of all that is changing around us,” says ICPAS President and CEO Todd Shapiro. “We understand the risks of making predictions. We acknowledge it’s unlikely each one plays out perfectly. But we firmly believe they’re directionally correct. Our hope is that the insights compiled here will rev up conversations that help us chart a roadmap for ensuring the sustainability, relevance, and growth of the CPA profession for many years to come.”

“CPA Profession 2027” is available now in PDF and digital formats at www.icpas.org/CPA2027, and print editions are available upon request. Shapiro welcomes feedback and is available for further comment.

  • The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020

Hiring & Managing People

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” – Richard Branson

I certainly enjoyed being involved in the CPAFMA Accelerator Sessions this week. It was such an honor to be on the agenda both days with some very awesome people. The Accelerator sessions caused me to think about my own list of current issues and trends.

  • The digital transformation of work has finally arrived. It is amazing how much firms accomplished in such a short time.
  • Firm leaders have realized that a hybrid model that combines in-person and remote work actually works well and it will permanently lower the number of people in the office.
  • It has been widely discussed that firms will be reducing the amount of office space. Some have already begun this process. See the next bullet.
  • About 77% of respondents to the third-quarter AICPA Business & Industry Economic Outlook Survey said they planned to keep their office square footage. Only about 18% planned a reduction, despite the potential savings.
  • The pandemic caused us to reset and rethink the ways we hire and manage people. A demand for thorough hiring that is probably different from how you have always done it. Interview questions that provide you with meaningful information will become more important. You will need to train your interviewers.
  • Hiring & managing remote people should be done in a consistent manner. You might soon see a new position in your firm “Head of Remote Work” – larger firms already have positions like chief people officer or chief culture officer.
  • Look for people who can self-manage
  • Prospective employees may be talented – people are born with various talents – but are they able to use their talent to build the skills necessary to be successful in public accounting?
  • Trust on both sides – partners & staff – will become even more important.
  • CPA firms are looking for experienced people. One reason is that they aren’t prepared to hire new college grads who are completely green – they haven’t developed a plan on how to train them yet. Some firms have already mastered this!
  • Don't criticize, condemn, or complain.
  • Dale Carnegie

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020

Attendance Policy

Do you have an attendance policy? I have observed that many CPA firms do not have a clearly defined policy and if they do have one, it is doubtful that they are enforcing it.

You need to have an attendance policy and enforce it, especially with so many employees now working remotely.” – Suzanne Lucas 

Suzanne Lucas, aka Evil HR Lady, gives us reasons why such a policy is important in a recent article.

She gives the example of an employee who called in to say that they had 40 hours in as of Thursday and they were taking Friday off and not counting it as PTO. Lucas’ advice: “Say no. Honestly, it’s that simple.”

Per this HR expert: “You are within your rights as an employer to set an absentee policy that makes sense for your business. You need work done, and that’s why you hire employees. This does not mean that your employees should devote their entire lives to your business, nor does it mean you let them walk all over you. When you’re talking about attendance, you need a good policy.”

I have observed similar situations within accounting firms and it seems to always cause indecisiveness and even confusion about how to handle these situations. In these times of being almost desperate to retain skilled people, CPA leaders are often simply afraid to say “No” to anything.

The article contains a sample attendance policy and a lot of other good information. Read it here.

  • Be kind and flexible, but make sure your employees know they need to work every day.
  • Suzanne Lucas