Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Friday, November 18th, 2022

Are You A Hurdle Or A Linchpin?

Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.”
― Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

Here’s a Flashback Friday post from way back in 2017. It definitely still applies today.

In your firm, you have two kinds of people. On the leading end are the Linchpins. On the opposite, following along, dragging their feet, are the Hurdles.

  • Transferring your passion to your job is far easier than finding a job that happens to match your passion.
  • Seth Godin

Thursday, November 17th, 2022

Relentless Problems

“Relentless problems feel like driving around with garbage in the backseat. You wonder if the journey’s worth it.” – Dan Rockwell (@Leadershipfreak)

Do you have ongoing, relentless problems that seem never to get solved? If you work in a CPA firm, I bet you do.

Dan Rockwell recently did a post titled, Don’t pretend things smell good when they stink – Instead Shift Focus.

I have observed that people inside a CPA firm, including leaders, seem to aggressively avoid dealing with these problems. They don’t seem to mind “driving around with garbage in the backseat”.

Read the article. It gives you a lot of good solutions on how to deal with stinky problems. Don’t pretend things smell good when they stink.

  • When someone walks into your office with a bag of garbage ask, “What strengths do you have that enable you to seize this opportunity?"
  • Dan Rockwell

Wednesday, November 16th, 2022


“There is nothing more likely to start disagreement among people or countries than an agreement.” – E. B. White

Often I write about employment agreements and partner agreements. Neither is my favorite. However, I do have some favorite agreements – The Four Agreements. I have written about them before on this blog, but I think it is important to bring it to your attention again, especially with another busy season nearing.


The Four Agreements is a book by Don Miguel Ruiz. I read this book years ago and still do my best to follow the agreements. Every few years, I read it again. I believe that these four simple statements can make a difference in the culture of your CPA firm. Before tax season, make time to read this book. It is a quick read.


Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.


Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.


Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.


Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

  • Unless both sides win, no agreement can be permanent.
  • Jimmy Carter

Wednesday, November 9th, 2022

The Biggest Issue

“You cannot do kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

If CPAs in public practice could become skilled communicators, things would be better for clients and staff.

  • Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.
  • Randy Pausch

Tuesday, November 8th, 2022

What They Remember

“Life is for service.” – Fred Rogers

You deal with clients daily. Some clients are constantly using your services, and many clients you see just once a year. What do these clients think of your service? Do they think it is just routine, or do they think it is extraordinary?

Your job as a firm leader is to teach your team the difference between good and awesome client service. Just like you have a marketing plan, a sales plan, or a succession plan, you need a client service plan. You determine what would make the biggest impression on the client.

You want clients to think your service is memorable. Think about the best restaurant service you have ever experienced. I am sure it was memorable. When I think of customer service, I always remember an experience I had at a Ritz Carlton hotel in St. Louis. I have shared the story many times!

Develop a plan for your firm’s client service. What would make a CPA firm client say, “Wow!”? I know from the sessions I have had with staff members they can come up with many great ideas on how to make your clients say, “Wow!” Get them involved in creating your client service plan.

Will your clients’ stories about your client service be shared many times?

  • Men are rich only as they give. He who gives great service gets great rewards.
  • Elbert Hubbard

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2022


“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” – Bruce Lee

This is the month.

To me, November has always been “the month.” It is a critical month in the cycle of CPA firm life.

When I suggest change, I have heard the following from CPAs for decades!

  • December – I am too busy with tax planning, doing engagement letters, and getting organizers out the door.
  • January – It is W-2, and 1099 time; we are too busy.
  • February – April – We are too busy .
  • May – We need a break. We have to unwind. I am taking a vacation.
  • June – We have to do performance reviews.
  • July – Mid-August -Too many people are on vacation.
  • August – Sept. 15 – We have extensions to do!
  • Sept. 15 – October 15 – We have to focus on 1040s.
  • October 15 – Oct. 31 – Again, another time to de-stress.
  • November……It is the month you need to focus on the health of your firm.

I call it what goes on behind the black curtain. It is the things the client doesn’t see.

It is all about identifying and improving processes and procedures. It is all about identifying and improving the things that cause your employees to be engaged and loyal or not. It is about embracing new ideas and accepting the fact that change must happen if you are to remain relevant to your employees and important to your client base.

Don’t waste this month! Create an Action Plan and accomplish as much as possible. Too bad you have waited until November. Don’t waste time this month!

  • Time is one of your most valuable commodities and how you spend it determines what your life will be. You can either waste it, invest it or give it away.
  • David Khalil

Wednesday, October 26th, 2022

Someone Should Be In Charge

“If you want to kill any idea in the world, get a committee working on it.” – Charles Kettering

Accounting firms operate with the partnership model. I call it the Committee Model – everyone has a voice, and nothing gets accomplished. The most progressive firms have a strong CEO who uses a few close advisors and then makes decisions to move the firm forward. If that person abuses their power, makes poor decisions, etc., they are replaced. How does your firm work? Or, why doesn’t your firm work?

I like to share a Seth Godin post in its entirety occasionally. Here’s one that applies to CPAs.

Perfect might be the enemy of good in group dynamics and choice making

When one person needs to fix a wall, adjust a cabinet or choose what to serve for dinner, they can optimize their choice. Make appropriate trade-offs. Take responsibility for the path chosen.

But when a group of people are asked to do the same thing, it’s easy to err on the side of the pursuit of perfect, or to choose to average things out.

And so the legal team weighs in, and consultants are hired. And so, “but what if?” is always considered, regardless of how rare that outcome might actually be. Entire industries are built around creating deniable, average products and services that are sure to delight no one, cost more than they might and insulate the committee from backlash.

When you find yourself creeping in this direction, it might be worth asking what the risk is of simply suspending the committee and putting someone in charge instead.

  • A committee is a group that keeps minutes and loses hours.
  • Milton Berle

Thursday, October 20th, 2022

Feedback – Then What?

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” – Ken Blanchard

In a CPA firm, the staff would receive performance feedback annually. Thank goodness we have advanced to where feedback is quarterly, monthly, and, as it should be, daily. The new workforce wants to know how they are doing immediately.

Firms are better at giving ongoing feedback, but most firms still have an annual or semi-annual, more formal feedback system.

No matter how you give feedback, what follows? If there is no system of follow-up, the feedback is worthless. I like to see goal-setting as part of any feedback session. What steps are necessary for them to expand what they are good at and enjoy? What steps are necessary for them to improve in some weaker areas? What has happened as a result of their last feedback session? What suggestions and advice (mentoring) accompany feedback sessions?

Give feedback often. Make giving feedback an important of every manager’s performance standards. Your managers are on the front line with staff. They should have meaningful feedback to give.

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

Wednesday, October 19th, 2022

New Ideas

“Ask forgiveness, not permission. But make sure you bring your results with you.” – Amy Jo Martin

I read a tweet by Dan Rockwell (@Leadershipfreak) that describes life inside many CPA firms.

I encounter it often – resistance to new ideas and too much time spent by the firm’s leader asking permission and building consensus. Sometimes it is even the staff trying to get the partners to embrace new ideas and make needed changes. Get real, you will never get everyone to agree. It causes the firm to get stuck. Forward progress halts.

Here’s the tweet from Dan:

New ideas always encounter resistance.

Success requires initiative.

Leaders act without permission.

There’s too much permission-asking in organizations.

You’ve been asking permission all your life. It began when you were a kid.

  • Give yourself permission to do what you've always wanted.
  • Chris Guilebeau

Tuesday, October 18th, 2022

One Firm or Silo Firm?

“Focus on being productive instead of busy.” – Tim Ferriss

I have always advocated becoming a one-firm-firm. What does that mean, and how does it compare to a silo firm? Listen to a clip from my recent podcast with Earmark CEO Blake Oliver for Earmark CPE. If you listen to the entire podcast, it is considered a course, and you get free CPE. Here’s a link to the entire podcast. Now that you are past the October due date, why not spend an hour with Blake and me?

Blake Oliver

Here’s where to listen to and view the brief clip from the podcast.

  • Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.
  • Leo Babauta