Archive for the ‘Helpful Information’ Category

Wednesday, March 6th, 2019

The Welcome Letter

“To me, a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.” – Helen Keller

A new client is landed by one of the firm’s partners. They met several years ago at Chamber of Commerce business event. The client knows the partner but how much does he/she know about the firm?

It is important that clients become attached to the firm and not just the partner – for various reasons that some of you know all too well. You don’t want clients to leave the firm just because one person leaves.

Begin building the relationship with the firm at the beginning. In some firms, the first written piece of information a client gets fro the firm is an invoice.

Progressive firms, after a new client is added to the client list, send out a warm and friendly welcome letter. Make it different, put it in writing, on paper and mailed (USPS) to them. It should have a real, written signature on it.

It should come from the managing partner or firm administrator. This helps the client know that there is another person they can contact right away if needed. Eventually, they will get acquainted with the engagement team and build relationships with several people at the firm. However, in the very beginning, they may have many questions and not feel somewhat lost.

Express your appreciation for them joining the firm. It is also a great time to make sure they are aware of your billing and collection policies. Most new clients always wonder about that but have been hesitant to ask.

If you are not doing this or something similar and need a sample, let me know.

  • The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.
  • Emily Dickinson

Friday, March 1st, 2019

Procrastination Might Have Paid Off

In 2015, I did a post about the new trend of having an open office environment. During that year and in years prior, I featured more posts about the increased collaboration that happens with an open office.

Scratch that.

Things change. Researchers are now telling us that open offices kill teamwork. It seems that a large percentage of people working in open offices cocoon themselves with headphones and they simply text each other.

“If you’ve ever sought refuge from the goldfish bowl of an open-plan office environment by cocooning yourself with headphones, or if you’ve decided you’d rather not have that challenging conversation with a colleague in front of a large group of your peers, and opted to email them instead, then these findings will come as little surprise.” – Christian Jarrett

So, if you procrastinated on adopting an open office plan it might have just paid off. Please don’t procrastinate on other important decisions!

Read more about the findings here.

  • Give yourself more opportunities for privacy, when you are not bombarded with duties and obligations. Privacy is not a rejection of those you love; it is your deserved respite for recharging your batteries.
  • Wayne Dwyer

Thursday, February 28th, 2019

Pass The CPA Exam This Year

“Striving for success without hard work is like trying to harvest where you haven’t planted.” ~ David Bly

Are you experiencing your first year working for a CPA firm? I imagine one very important thing is on your mind…. passing the CPA Exam!

There are a lot of questions still on your mind about the Exam and how to pass it. A recent blog post by Canopy provides an amazing amount of information about the Uniform CPA Examination®. It is titled, Everything Graduating Students Need to Know About the CPA Exam.

The blog post answers ten of the most relevant questions students have about the exam.

Thanks to Canopy for featuring some of my comments in this helpful post. 

If you have already passed the Exam – share this with the newbies in your firm!

 

  • Having the Certified Public Accountant designation is one of the most prestigious things you can accomplish in your professional life. Nothing worthwhile is easy.
  • Rita Keller

Friday, February 22nd, 2019

Personal Connection

“Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure.” – Tony Robbins

Many studies are now telling us that the way to fully engage employees is all the usual things like compensation and flexible work hours and also human connection.

Maybe you have observed that accountants are not always the “warm and fuzzy” type. Most are technical, traditional, knowledgeable, professional and conservative in their actions and words.

As firm leaders, it is up to you to help develop a firm culture of caring and trust. Don’t forget to have some fun in your culture, too.

CPAs in public practice are very concerned with time. This sometimes leads to them not devoting enough time to develop a personal connection with their own employees. They seem to do better with relationships with clients because they see that as part of their job.

Often, new college graduates enter a firm and they immediately begin on a regime of grinding out work and putting in the hours it takes in busy season.

There is no time for the warm and fuzzy stuff. Leaders must get past this scenario. That’s one reason why firms need to immediately focus on mentoring relationships with new hires. Each employee needs someone who cares about them professionally and personally.

Fulfillment is the new standard for employee engagement, according to a separate PwC report. The results showed that the hallmark of a positive employee experience is a sense of belonging, progress toward a goal and personal growth.

Read more about this topic and about various studies that support it.

  • It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of pursuit.
  • Denis Waitley

Monday, February 18th, 2019

Twitter – Use it to learn and gain knowledge

“Social media is not a media. The key is to listen, engage, and build relationships.” – David Alston

I first began using Twitter in April 2008. Hard to believe that it has been that long ago.

I continue to use Twitter every business day. Why? Because I find it very helpful and, hopefully, my followers find that what I tweet helps them. As of yesterday, I had made 16,641 tweets.

I believe that a constant stream of informative and positive tweets helps me know more, learn more and stay connected to current events in the CPA profession.

I try to tweet about 6 or 7 times per day and I read tweets only 2 or 3 times per day – usually early morning and late afternoon. When I see a tweet that is relevant and helpful to CPAs, I often retweet it.

My advice is to not follow TOO many people. Select people who are involved in the CPA profession. I also like to follow people who communicate about leadership. I follow a news source (NPR) but not many others because news becomes so negative. Still, you need to be aware of current events. Of course, I also follow some friends and family.

Try using a tool like Hootsuite to consolidate your Twitter streams. It makes it easy to quickly scan through the Twitter users you follow and retweet them if you like.

I know, you don’t want another distraction, but used cautiously it can keep you in the know. I often follow various management conferences and I feel like I am actually there.

So, if you do not have a Twitter account, sign-up now. You don’t have to tweet anything, just use it to read what others are saying. I never follow anyone who is negative or political – I strictly use it to keep up with current trends in leadership and the CPA profession. Visit my Twitter page and you can see who I follow.

I hope if you do have a Twitter account that you will follow me@cpamanagement.

  • Conversations are happening whether you are there or not.
  • Kim Garst

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