Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

Thursday, August 6th, 2020

2020 Turnover

“Turnover can be one of the most expensive problems at a company.” – Shawn Achor

As usual, within the CPA profession, there is no one answer to a management question. Recently, on the topic of turnover, I am hearing lots of stories.

We are all reading about firms, especially the larger firms, who are taking the opportunity related to COVID to downsize their workforce to save money and to get rid of people not meeting the firm’s expectations.

On the other side of this story, I am hearing directly from some practitioners that they have been able to hire some experienced (and skilled) CPAs who are in the job market right now for various reasons.

Recently, one firm shared with me that they have had no turnover and another firm reported that they have experienced several departures.

Here are just a few reasons people leave:

  • CPAs of all ages have no difficulty obtaining another job.
  • In many firms, team members are awaiting salary increases and other perks that were cut-back during COVID.
  • Some are tired of the long hours with few rewards and recognition.
  • Your clients are also looking for good people and they know you have them.
  • Many accounting firms are not embracing the new workforce, the partners exclude them rather than include them. Communication is an issue.
  • The pay is better elsewhere.

Some reasons people stay:

  • Firms have generously rewarded their entire team because they went above and beyond during an unusual and challenging busy season.
  • The transition to work-from-home (WFH) was easy because the firm was already completely paperless and the firm was very supportive in meeting the needs of establishing a home office.
  • Communication from the partners has actually improved in recent months. Team members are well-informed even when remote.
  • WFH will be an on-going option for many team members.
  • Team members are thanked and recognized for their contributions.

Another good reason to retain top talent – Some studies (such as SHRM) predict that every time a business replaces a salaried employee, it costs 6 to 9 months’ salary on average. For a manager making $40,000 a year, that’s $20,000 to $30,000 in recruiting and training expenses.

  • The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.
  • Max Depree

Monday, August 3rd, 2020

Act Upon Your Ideas

“Without hustle talent will only carry you so far.” – Gary Vaynerchuk

It is so exciting to go to a conference (or attend virtually) and obtain all kinds of ideas that spark your own ideas. You are invigorated, enthused, and committed to meeting with others on your team and sharing your ideas and intentions.

Then you get sidelined. The phone rings and a client or two or three need something and that seems more important than your idea. You will take care of these clients needs and then work more on that great idea.

Then you get sidelined. Your partners remind you that you have to get that selection of a new software finalized. You have to deal with performance feedback sessions and then you will work more on that great idea.

Someone else in thee firm talks about a great idea that is similar to yours. They work on getting others involved and soon that great ideas is becoming reality.

They found the time to get it done. You did not. They made it a top priority. You did not. You intended to do it but they made the time and succeeded.

Have you ever, in a meeting, a class or a training session, whispered a great comment to the person sitting next to you, and then they raise their hand and vocalize the great comment? It happened to some of us in high school or college. It happened to some of us in a staff meeting. It makes you feel sad and resentful.

Next time, raise your hand, speak up, and take action. You have the time, you just did not make it a top priority. Intending to get it done someday is no longer an option.

  • The dream is free. The hustle is sold separately.
  • Steve Harvey

Thursday, July 30th, 2020

Lack of Communication

“Communication works for those who work at it.” – John Powell

July is winding down. Maybe you aren’t as inspired and invigorated as you were a few weeks ago. You have relaxed after the July due date and maybe taken a few days off.

It seems really difficult to focus on what to do next. Don’t let this temporary lag result in a lack of communication. Your team and your peers still need to hear from you and see you (via video).

When communication disappears or lags, a positive culture can quickly turn into a negative one. Guard against this at your firm. Communicate and inspire your team. Give them some good news. Compliment them. Thank them. Challenge them. Inspire them. And, never stop doing it.

  • Communication is your ticket to success, if you pay attention and learn to do it effectively.
  • Theo Gold

Wednesday, July 29th, 2020

Client Accounting Services

“If our true intent is to differentiate CAS from our previous bookkeeping services, we need to offer unique services that tie people directly to our firm and create loyalty.” – Bill Reeb

The growth and success of CAS makes me very happy.

I can remember when accounting services (or bookkeeping as some partners always called it), was the very bottom level of the client services menu. Many firms even quit providing these services because they were simply not profitable enough (and new CPAs thought this work was below them). In addition to that, qualified, skilled bookkeepers were more difficult to find than accounting grads.

There is a good article via the Journal of Accountancy featuring Bill Reeb and his observations about the success of CAS. He identified issues that can prevent CAS from becoming successful.

  • The CAS service line leader and their manager are not in alignment.
  • Partners haven’t bought in.
  • The CAS practice is inadequately staffed.

One other problem is that in many firms the entire CAS operation is on the shoulders of just one highly motivated individual.

How is your CAS division doing? Are you giving it enough support? Are you bragging about it to all your clients?

  • A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.
  • Jeff Bezos

Friday, July 24th, 2020

Is It Time To Retire? – Flashback Friday

This week, for Flashback Friday, I have selected a post from February, this year. It was before the you-know-what hit the fan. Maybe retirement is now on your mind more than ever.

Here’s the post:

IS IT TIME TO ACTUALLY RETIRE?

In yesterday’s blog post I mentioned that I had recently re-read Tuesdays with Morrie.

One of Morrie’s wise sayings was:

“Don’t let go too soon, but don’t hang on too long.”

He was talking about life. To me, because I have worked with so many Baby Boomer CPAs over the years, it is something that applies to their retirement.

Many are in denial about retirement. They plan to work until they drop. Very short-sighted, indeed. There is so much more in life to experience if you wish it so.

Several situations I know about involve partners retiring but they do not quit working at the firm.

A couple of others involve 80-somethings continuing to come into the office even though they are not able to use the technology any longer.

My advice: Don’t hang on too long.

  • It's not too late to develop new friendships or reconnect with people.
  • Morrie Schwartz

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020

Helping

“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” – Maya Angelou

The above quote is another one that immediately reminded me of CPAs.

When you are a recent college graduate with an accounting degree you just want to get hired and begin to explore your career in public accounting. It is an exciting time, a stressful time. You work hard, and often long hours, to become more knowledgeable and to gain skills in dealing with clients, peers and bosses. It takes both hands… and a lot more.

Helping is a word to keep in mind as you advance in your career. When you began, you soon discovered that you were needed to help others. You became the person that new hires came to with questions and depended on for guidance.

When you became a manager and then, perhaps, a partner, you found that you had matured and began to think more like the above quote. You do not sell something to clients, you help them become more successful. You still use one hand to advance your own success but you never forget to use the other hand to mentor and coach your team and to advise and guide your clients.

  • No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.
  • Charles Dickens

Thursday, July 16th, 2020

Need A Degree?

“Just because I don’t have a college degree doesn’t mean I am not smart.” – Emma Stone

Are you only hiring people for your CPA firm who have a degree?

I have observed that in many accounting firms there are many people who do not have a college degree. On the other hand, I have also observed, in some accounting firms, even the administrative people have a degree.

I was surprised by this statement from Barry Melancon a few years ago: Today we are a profession of CPA-led firms, not CPA firms. Two-thirds of the employees in all firms are non-CPAs.

I found this stat to be quite eye-opening. Clients need all kinds of services to help their businesses grow and prosper, not just what a licensed CPA can provide. Many of you are already providing pension administration, M&A consulting, employee benefits, HR consulting, technology services, and so on.

With Client Accounting Services (CAS) becoming more and more lucrative, many firms are desperate for experienced bookkeepers and they are almost always people without a four-year degree.

Does it really require a degree to do much of the work inside a CPA firm?

You may have noticed that many college graduates are being hired to do jobs that their parents could get right out of high school.

Read this informative article via Inc. – Why Your Barista Probably Has a College Degree

  • I don't have a college degree, and my father didn't have a college degree, so when my son, Zachary, graduated from college, I said 'My boy's got learnin'!
  • Robin Williams

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020

How Do You Come Across?

“Let us be more simple and less vain.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

I recently read an eye-opening article via HBR titled, “Working with People Who Aren’t Self-Aware.” Guess what? It describes many people I have met in the CPA profession!

How many of your partners are not self-aware? HBR discovered that although 95% of people think they are self-aware, only 10 to 15% actually are.

A staff person in a client firm described a partner as being un-self-aware. The partner talked too much, just constant chatter about his ideas and opinions that were more important than anyone else’s. In a two-person conversation with this partner, you could turn your back, go back to work on your computer and the partner would simply continue to talk, talk, talk, never realizing that you had heard enough!

Some of your un-self-aware team members can be helped. First, find out how others feel so you can determine if they are really unaware.

Here’s a list from the article:

  • They won’t listen to, or accept, critical feedback.
  • They cannot empathize with, or take perspective of, others.
  • They have difficulty “reading a room” and tailoring their message to their audience.
  • They possess an inflated opinion of their contributions and performance.
  • They are hurtful to others without realizing it.
  • They take credit for successes and blame other for failures.

There is a big difference between the unaware and the Aware-Don’t-Care individuals. Read the entire article to see if you can help the people in your firm who are not self-aware. You might not cure them but you can minimize their impact.

I believe most CPAs are self-aware and care about others. The people who are Aware-Don’t-Care people usually don’t last long in an accounting firm.

  • Humility is nothing but truth, and pride is nothing but lying.
  • St. Vincent de Paul

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

People Problems

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.” – Kurt Vonnegut

I wrote the following article for the June issue of my newsletter. If you are not on the mailing list, you can sign-up here.

If you are on the mailing list and are not receiving my newsletter, check your spam folder. Some people are reporting that is where they find their issue.

I heard from several readers that they really enjoyed this article and could definitely relate. Here are some of the comments:

I just wanted to send you a note, I usually don’t get to read your newsletter the same day you send it, but boy am I thankful I did…..the People Problems – that’s me!!!!!!!!

I LOVE your article!!!  It made me roll with laughter.  I resemble the PM in the role as the’ air conditioner adjusting monitor’.  Had I only had the fortitude to be more like the maintenance person. 

So true. As a firm administrator that also takes care of
our 25 person office, I can relate so much! Smiles for the day!

People Problems

You got the job! You are now the CPA firm’s Practice Manager (COO/Firm Administrator). You will be “in” on all the management activities of the firm, deal directly with all the partners and be on the front line dealing with operations and people. You know you will be good at it because you really like people.

A year later, you finally admit you really don’t like people! 

Of course, this is an exaggeration. But, the people game is a very complicated and frustrating game inside accounting firms.

As Practice Manager (and sometimes it is the managing partner), you deal with problems and, most of these problems are caused by people. The vast majority of the problems are not anything serious. Actually, most problems are rather petty. 

Here’s a classic story (and a true one). It’s a story of trying to please everyone and, as you know, that’s not possible!

In a mid-size CPA firm, the bookkeeping department (or CAS as they call it now) is staffed by five females ranging in age from thirty to fifty-five. The members of this group cannot agree on the room temperature. It is always too hot or too cold. They continually complain to the Practice Manager about the heating/air conditioning. 

One member of the team says it is too cold in their area. The Practice Manager asks the building maintenance man to adjust it for them. So he brings in a ladder, opens a section of the ceiling and, adjusts the heating/cooling for that area. They agree that it is much better and they are all happy, for a while.

A week or two later, a different member of that team reports that it is way too hot in their area. The maintenance man goes through the same exercise. Over the period of six months, he repeats it several times and after each adjustment for a while, they are all happy.  

The Practice Manager is kept in the loop by the maintenance man. Finally, the PM asks, “Don’t you get aggravated with having to adjust the heating/cooling all the time with that group?” His reply, “I don’t adjust anything. I just get up in the ceiling and pretend I’m doing something, then they are all pleased for a while.”

Practice Managers in accounting firms have similar and unique personalities and characteristics. They enjoy the challenge of dealing with problems, solving them and, also dealing with the many people problems with patience and perseverance. And yes, they really do like people.

The problem in this example was, at least temporarily, solved by having everyone working remotely. They could control their own thermostats. Many new and unforeseen problems and challenges are now being faced by the practice manager as the firm begins to bring people back into the office.

The following quote is attributed to the poet John Lydgate and later adapted by President Lincoln: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”

Monday, June 29th, 2020

Things That Don’t Matter

“It’s frustrating to keep doing things that don’t matter anymore.” – Dan Rockwell

It is amazing how many things have changed just during the last four months. March, April, May and June 2020.

You went into March just as you do for any March in tax season. Then things changed. Schools closed, universities moved all classes to online. Businesses and restaurants closed yet, work continued for accounting firms. They are essential.

You also sent your employees home and asked them to work remotely. You did it quickly and for many firms it was efficient and easy.

Now you are moving your team, in stages, back into the office. Not all will come back, they will continue to work remotely.

You have learned that it doesn’t matter anymore where people sit to do their work.

A big question you need to contemplate now is what have you always done that you no longer need to keep doing? Don’t force people back into behaviors, processes, and/or procedures that no longer seem logical.

  • I still catch myself feeling sad about things that don't matter anymore.
  • Kurt Vonnegut