Archive for the ‘Helpful Information’ Category

Thursday, May 16th, 2019

Client Service and Technology

“The team at your firm needs to know how to provide excellent client service. It should be clear to them what the firm’s expectation is and that you enable each person to provide excellent client service.” – Randy Johnston

I believe that excellent, over-the-top, client service is your best marketing strategy. Your clients will brag about you to others because that kind of client/customer service is rare these days.

I usually visit two groceries on a regular basis. One is huge and offers everything you could possibly need in the grocery category. The other is also a chain but a small, specialized type. The large one offers self-checkout and a few full-service lanes are open even though they have numerous ones that are always closed. The smaller one has no self-checkout. The clerks in the large one rarely talk to you and almost never smile. The clerks in the smaller one are always friendly, talkative and helpful. The large one has cheaper prices. The smaller one is usually slightly higher in price. Which one do I visit the most? You guessed it. Friendly, caring, engaging customer service out-weighs pricing.

Today,  am sending you to an article by Randy Johnston via CPA Practice Advisor. He gives us lots of technology tools to help with awesome client service.

He notes: But most of you who have been in business for a while recognize right away that there is a difference between academic smart, book smart, certification smart, common sense, clever, innovative and practical. 

And: How can we use technology to enable great client service? First, we should define what we want as our client service deliverable. Technology tools can make each client service interaction easier, more seamless and professional.

 

  • Just having satisfied customers isn’t good enough anymore. If you really want a booming business, you have to create raving fans.
  • Ken Blanchard

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019

Firing a Pregnant Person

“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.” ― Tom Bodett

I am often consulted about various HR issues inside an accounting firm. I’ve received questions of many types and some of the same questions over and over again. I am not a legal law attorney. So, I may give you advice as to how many accounting firms have handled various problems but I strongly advise you to check with your attorney before you proceed in some troubling situations.

One repeated question is basically, can we fire a female who is pregnant? Experts tell us you can fire a pregnant person but not because they are pregnant. Here is a very interesting and educational article for you to read. Please read it. If the issue hasn’t come up at your firm, sometime in the future it will

It’s from Inc. and written by Suzanne Lucas @RealEvilHRLady, titled: 7 Lawsuits Claim Amazon Fires Pregnant Women.

  • Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.
  • George Carlin

Monday, May 13th, 2019

What About Your Elephants?

“Productive conversations turn conflict into collaboration, reduce costly mistakes and create a culture of accountability.” – Marlene Chism

It’s the beginning of partner retreat season for public accounting firms.

From my experience and from many conversations with CPA partners and practice managers, during these retreats, there always seem to be an “elephants in the room.”

Elephant in the room definition from the urban dictionary:  n. A very large issue that everyone is acutely aware of, but nobody wants to talk about. Perhaps a sore spot, perhaps politically incorrect, or perhaps a political hot potato, it’s something that no one wants to touch with a ten-foot pole. 

From my experience in pre-retreat preparation, partners will individually tell their facilitator that they want the elephant in the room topic to be approached and solved but as a group, they want to avoid it completely.

The staff also are aware of the elephant in the room topic. It is difficult to address for various reasons, including power structures and cultural issues but putting it on the back burner time after time is even more disruptive.

This year actually discuss your elephant in the room. Here’s a helpful article from Marlene Chism – The undiscussables: How to address the elephant in the room. The article will also help you better express your concerns when you are giving performance feedback.

You can follow Marlene on Twitter: @StopYourDrama

  • Knowing your feelings won't change the facts, but knowing the facts can change your feelings.
  • Marlene Chism

Thursday, May 9th, 2019

Unplug

 “Tired minds don’t plan well. Sleep first, plan later.” – Walter Reisch

If you work in a public accounting firm, you probably took some time off immediately after April 15th. For many, it is just a day or two and for others, it might be a full week or more. It is something you do every year.

If you are not one of those people, you are probably still intending to take some time off soon. How did (or how will) you spend your time off?

Studies have shown us that to really renew your zest for work, you should unplug from being part of our hyper-connected world even if it is for a few minutes. Did you know that your blood pressure rises when you talk on a mobile phone?

Research has revealed that intensive use of cell phones and computers can be linked to an increase in stress, sleep disorders and depressive symptoms in young adults. Follow the link to the research and read the list of findings. The list contains many points that describe what young adults in CPA firms are asked to do.

So, when you take that mental break to relieve tax season stress, or when you go on your family vacation, unplug from computers and mobile devices for a few hours or an entire afternoon. Better yet, go off the grid for a full day!

  • I can think. I can sleep. I can move. I can ride my bide. I can dream.
  • Bill Walton

Wednesday, May 8th, 2019

Make Your Website (and your Brand) Unique – Here’s a Great Example!

“If you want success, be unique.” – Natalie Massenet

Occasionally, I like to share CPA firm unique websites. I see so many that are static, boring and usually blue. Last year, I featured Bernie & Jason Ackerman of BNA CPAs & Advisors, one of my favorites. I love how they tell visitors to their site how they deliver a tax return in 3 days.

Logo

This year, I just had to share the site of my good friends at Barton CPA & Associates. Their light-hearted and fun approach to business is simply refreshing.

When you get to their homepage, page down to see a picture of their lobby – tasteful, contemporary and colorful. Keep paging down to see other pictures: Part of their team, their conference room and a team picture at some kind of celebration. It sure looks festive and I don’t use the word “festive” about CPA firm websites often – well, never!

Check out the pictures on Greg Barton’s Twitter site. I love the March 23 tweet showing Greg in his office. Does your office look this good (and clean)?

Browse around the site. They have an Instagram account and Facebook, of course. I hope it gives you some ideas for taking action soon to update your site and inspiration to not take yourself too seriously.

A big thanks to Greg and Dee Dee for allowing me to share their excellent branding efforts and their uniqueness!

  • Uniqueness is what makes you the most beautiful.
  • Lea Michele

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019

The Benefits of the Cloud

“Who cares about the clouds when we’re together? Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.” – Dale Evans

I often talk to firms who are still hesitating on whether to be “in the Cloud” or not. Most are still nervous about where their data will be and how it can be safer than it is on their own servers.

Roman Kepczyk has seen it all when it comes to CPA firm technology and has over thirty years of experience advising firms on technology matters. In his recent article via AccountingWeb, he gives you Seven Reasons Firm Workflow Should be in the Cloud.

Here are the seven reasons…. read the article to learn more about each reason:

  1. Remote Access
  2. Data Centralization
  3. Improved Collaboration
  4. Reduced Maintenance
  5. Improved Support
  6. Managed Cost
  7. Security

Conclusion: Firm owners need to educate themselves on how digital workflows and cloud technology can improve teamwork and client service. Discussing the seven items above before renewing any software license will allow the firm to focus more clearly on the optimal solutions that cloud provides.

  • Cloud computing is often far more secure than traditional computing, because companies like Google and Amazon can attract and retain cyber-security personnel of a higher quality than many governmental agencies.
  • Vivek Kundra

Monday, May 6th, 2019

Everyone Loves Them

“Safety and comfort come with complacency, and that’s never a good place to be working from.” – Elijah Wood

Many firms are already providing stand-up desks to their team members. Most of what I have heard has been very positive. While I don’t have one myself, I have visited several clients and checked them out first-hand. It seems they are greatly appreciated.

If you want to provide them to your people, you can do it in phases to make it more affordable. Big surprise, certain partners got them first but now firms are even providing them to the entire admin team.

Here’s a real-life report from Karen Farino, Firm Administrator at Pasquesi Sheppard LLC, Lake Forest, Illinois:

“I definitely recommend the sit/stand desks. If you can I highly suggest purchasing a sit to stand desk rather than a unit that sits on top of the desk.

We have replaced 90% of our desks over the last two years with Sit to Stand desks from Haworth. They are “L” shaped and we had them custom made. It is really very affordable. Everyone here LOVES them. Our managing partner likes his so much that we bought one for his home too.

standupdeskThe L desk is 69” in each direction from the corner, and 29” deep. You can custom size them smaller. I am attaching a photo – it isn’t the greatest but will give you an idea as to what we did.

Our admin staff is stuck with the Varidesk units on top of their desks. They like them but don’t love them because when you are standing there is still a lot of items that are on the desk that they have to access which means it is inconvenient and you have to bend down. Not optimal. They also all have two monitors (by choice). If they had three the Varidesk units would not work. I’ve yet to see a decent three monitor sit-to-stand desktop unit. Each admin has their own printer and scanner at their desk.”

How about an office refresh project for your firm this summer?

  • Instead of being 'heads down' we should be 'heads up' so we can spot trends.
  • Josh Linkner

Tuesday, April 30th, 2019

Snooze Is Not For You

“The cost of being wrong is less than the cost of doing nothing.” – Seth Godin

On rare occasions, I provide a complete post by Seth Godin. Today is one of those days. Why? I observe so many CPA firms that delay decisions and then delay them again and again.

I also observe that CPAs have an email Inbox that houses hundreds of emails. I once knew a tax manager that had thousands of emails in her Inbox. That is when we began limiting the digital space that accountants could use for their email. Please consider small, everyday decisions and larger partner group decisions as something you should deal with and then move on!

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.

  • How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable.
  • Seth Godin

Monday, April 22nd, 2019

Time to Participate in the Rosenberg Survey

Busy season is history and now it is time, once again, to participate in the annual Rosenberg MAP Survey. The information you receive is a valuable tool in helping you manage your firm successfully. Here’s more information:

The 2019 Rosenberg Survey is well underway and so far, we’ve received a great response.
Do you know which key statistics drive profitability? Do you know how your firm is performing relative to like-sized firms in similar markets? Participate in the 2019 Rosenberg Survey to find out!
For over two decades, The Rosenberg Survey has proven to be the benchmarking standard for mainstream accounting firms across the US and Canada. The Rosenberg Survey provides highly relevant and in-depth analyses and serves as a guide to help your firm make strategic decisions.
See how valuable The Rosenberg Survey is for yourself! The deadline to complete the survey is Monday, July 15th.

 

  • Most firms are still stuck managing the compliance services at the expense of the advisory work.
  • Jeff Pawlow

Monday, April 15th, 2019

What Are The Minimum Hours You Expect Staff To Work?

“Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.” – William Shakespeare

The number of hours you expect your team members to work, throughout the year, is something that should be clearly communicated. Some firms expect significantly increased hours during February, March and half of April and also during the Fall busy season. More and more firms are adopting a four-day workweek during the summer months.

Kimberly Hawkins of Thomas, Head & Greisen (Anchorage AK), allowed me to share how their “Seasonal Schedule” works. I think it is rather creative and very reasonable compared to most CPA firms.

At the bottom of this page is more information from Kim about how they handle holidays, PTO days, etc.

We have what we call a seasonal schedule. Our work weeks range from 50 hours during tax season, to 32 hours during the summer and late fall. During our 32 hour work weeks, staff schedule a day off, which is typically a Monday or a Friday. This is our schedule for this year:

Seasonal Schedule 2018-2019-Minimum hours we would like someone to work due to the seasonal nature of our business:

Wk # Begin Date End Date Std Hrs
1        10/1/2018 10/6/2018           50
2        10/7/2018 10/13/2018         50
3        10/14/2018 10/20/2018       40
4        10/21/2018 10/27/2018       32
5        10/28/2018 11/3/2018         32
6        11/4/2018 11/10/2018         32
7        11/11/2018 11/17/2018       32
8        11/18/2018 11/24/2018       32
9        11/25/2018 12/1/2018         32
10       12/2/2018 12/8/2018          32
11       12/9/2018 12/15/2018        32
12       12/16/2018 12/22/2018      32
13       12/23/2018 12/29/2018      32
14       12/30/2018 1/5/2019          32
15       1/6/2019 1/12/2019            40
16       1/13/2019 1/19/2019          40
17       1/20/2019 1/26/2019          40
18       1/27/2019 2/2/2019            45
19       2/3/2019 2/9/2019              45
20       2/10/2019 2/16/2019          50
21       2/17/2019 2/23/2019          50
22       2/24/2019 3/2/2019            50
23       3/3/2019 3/9/2019              50
24       3/10/2019 3/16/2019          50
25       3/17/2019 3/23/2019          50
26       3/24/2019 3/30/2019          50
27       3/31/2019 4/6/2019            50
28       4/7/2019 4/13/2019            50
29       4/14/2019 4/20/2019          40
30       4/21/2019 4/27/2019          40
31        4/28/2019 5/4/2019           40
32       5/5/2019 5/11/2019            40
33       5/12/2019 5/18/2019          40
34       5/19/2019 5/25/2019          40
35       5/26/2019 6/1/2019            40
36       6/2/2019 6/8/2019              32
37       6/9/2019 6/15/2019            32
38       6/16/2019 6/22/2019          32
39       6/23/2019 6/29/2019          32
40       6/30/2019 7/6/2019            32
41       7/7/2019 7/13/2019            32
42       7/14/2019 7/20/2019          32
43       7/21/2019 7/27/2019          32
44       7/28/2019 8/3/2019            32
45       8/4/2019 8/10/2019            32
46       8/11/2019 8/17/2019          40
47       8/18/2019 8/24/2019          45
48       8/25/2019 8/31/2019          50
49       9/1/2019 9/7/2019              50
50       9/8/2019 9/14/2019            50
51       9/15/2019 9/21/2019          40
52       9/22/2019 9/28/2019          45
53       9/29/2019 9/30/2019            8
Year End Total                             2080

If a holiday is on a Monday and that is the day staff take their Seasonal Day, they can choose another day in the same week (Sunday – Saturday).  Staff can only have one Seasonal Day in a week.  I’ve also attached our Seasonal Variance Schedule.  If staff work on different projects, for example, 990’s, they may choose to take their Seasonal Days in different weeks, with approval.  Our staff takes PTO by days, so if they are on vacation during a 32- hour week, they only have to release 32 hours of PTO.  Once staff has selected their day off we add them to our vacation calendar and also to ProStaff.  ProStaff pushes an appointment to our Outlook calendars, blocking off our Seasonal Days.  We add this to the vacation calendar so we can easily see at a glance everyone out of the office that day.  Our staff also update their status in PM showing they are taking a Seasonal Day.

  • If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
  • Henry David Thoreau