Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2021

Knowing The Whole Story

“Fortunate is he who understands the cause of things.” – Virgil

When I read the above quotation in a book I am reading (The Pioneers by David McCullough), I was reminded how CPA firm leaders often misunderstand or are in the dark about “the cause of things.”

If you are working in a CPA firm, you know that the grapevine is usually very active. For example:

  • Three partners meet in one of their offices with the door closed. The grapevine activates.
  • A senior accountant is unusually dressed-up for the day and leaves early. The grapevine activates.
  • An intern claims he is sick two Mondays in a row. The grapevine activates.

Leaders are often faced with challenges that seem straight-forward and uncomplicated. Do you really know the backstory – what led up to the event?

A person gives their notice and seems untroubled and apparently moving on to a better opportunity. Do you know what led up to the departure, the cause?

Sally, the receptionist, is always late. You must address it. Do you know the cause, the backstory?

Are you doing surveys to determine how your people feel about remote work or hybrid work? Some firms are experiencing several resignations (people moving on the what they think are better jobs). Remember, “Fortunate is he who knows the cause of things.”

  • They can because they think they can.
  • Virgil

Wednesday, June 16th, 2021

The Talent Pool Is Shrinking

“The climb might be tough and challenging, but the view is worth it. There is a purpose for that pain; you just can’t always see it right away.” – Victoria Arlen

I received the following press release from the Illinois CPA Society. They are unveiling the findings from research they have done relating to the decline in CPA candidates. If you think finding and hiring future leaders is difficult now, just wait.

How will your firm prepare for the future? It seems that accounting students don’t see the value in devoting the time and energy to become a CPA.

My advice? Share your partners’ salaries with your future CPAs and with college students you talk to or interview. Is it worth it to become a CPA, in public accounting, when average partner compensation in $5 to $20M firms is half a million? In many larger firms, partner compensation is over $1,000,000. Plus, flexible work arrangements make public accounting very attractive.

Illinois CPA Society Releases New CPA Pipeline Report

CHICAGO, June 14, 2021– Unveiling the findings of its previously announced research into the decreasing supply of new certified public accountants (CPAs), the Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS)—one of the largest state CPA societies in the nation—is pleased to release its 2021 Insight Special Feature, “A CPA Pipeline Report: Decoding the Decline.”

The result of an in-depth survey of more than 3,100 accounting students, graduates, and professionals predominantly under age 35, “Decoding the Decline” reveals respondents’ top challenges, perceptions, and influencers impacting their decisions to pursue the CPA credential or not and what, if any, value it may bring to their personal and professional lives. The eye-opening responses—particularly among non-CPAs and those who are still unsure about becoming CPAs—provide invaluable insights the CPA profession and its stakeholders cannot ignore while trying to counter the declining number of first-time CPA exam test takers—which hit a 10-year low in 2018, and further declines are expected when new data becomes available.

“Five years ago, I delivered the warning that a stagnating CPA pipeline is a threat. It’s an issue that will only get worse and grow more troubling without action. Today the issue has, in fact, grown worse and more troubling,” says Todd Shapiro, ICPAS president and CEO. “It used to be that if you earned an accounting degree, earning the CPA credential was the given next step regardless of career paths or time commitments—that’s no longer the case.”

“From this initial survey, we learned that individuals—who we believe should be future CPAs—are not pursuing the CPA credential because they feel they can succeed in their anticipated or chosen careers without it,” explains Kari Natale, CAE, ICPAS senior director of planning and governance, who led the survey’s development alongside Association Management Center, ICPAS’ research partner on the project. “They believe any value the CPA credential holds is outweighed by its lack of relevance to their personal and professional endeavors and the time commitment necessary to obtain it. They do not see the return on investment; they do not see their employers or prospective employers supporting or requiring it; and they see other credentials or specialties as being more valuable to their careers.”

Additional notable findings in “Decoding the Decline” include:

  • The costs associated either with obtaining the additional credit hours to meet the educational/licensing requirements or preparing for and taking the CPA exam were not the top barriers cited by any respondent category.
  • The likelihood of becoming a CPA drops dramatically after age 22.
  • Many respondents do not have an interest in pursuing a credential at all.
  • Accounting, auditing, and tax preparation are the words most associated with the CPA credential, further narrowing the credential’s scope and attractiveness.

“As the survey findings shared in ‘Decoding the Decline’ show, reversing the CPA credential’s downtrend will not be without its challenges,” Shapiro cautions. “The CPA credential and the CPA profession are in a race for relevance, and the time to act is now.”

Decoding the Decline” is available now in PDF and digital formats at www.icpas.org/cpapipeline, and print editions are available upon request. Both Natale and Shapiro welcome reader feedback and are available for further commentary on the factors impacting the CPA pipeline.

  • There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.
  • Beverly Sils

Monday, June 14th, 2021

One Way Street

“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.” – Epictetus

Wise words from Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple when discussing living in the past – a past that one loved and enjoyed:

“I learned what I suppose I really knew already, that one can never go back, that one should not ever try to go back – that the essence of life is going forward. Life is really a One Way Street, isn’t it?”

Maybe you have “good old days” thoughts as you progress through this new normal that we are living – in our business lives and in our personal lives.

As you look back, life at your firm was progressing but was also stable, comfortable and understandable. All that has changed since March 2020.

Now, we must remember that we are on a One Way Street into the future. There is no place to turn around and go backward.

Going forward will be challenging but it will also be exciting and rewarding.

  • There's only one way to have a happy marriage and as soon as I learn what it is I'll get married again.
  • Clint Eastwood

Monday, June 7th, 2021

Fixing People

“Spend more time encouraging high performers. Most leaders spend too much time trying to fix low performers.” – Dan Rockwell (@Leadershipfreak)

The above comment certainly made me think about all the time many CPA firms spend trying to fix people, meaning poor performers.

How many poor performers do you have inside your firm? I bet you can name more than one!

The comment I always hear from firm administrators, HR managers, etc. is “the partners won’t let her/him go. He/She has been here for 15 years.”

If you have a poor performer, they are taking up space that could be allotted to a bright, ambitious, up-and-comer. They are a faulty cog in the wheel of efficiency.

It is not being mean or hurtful to a person. It is about clearly defining expectations and monitoring a person’s progress toward meeting those expectations. This has become even more important with the enhanced need to be technologically savvy when working in the accounting world.

I hear the story over and over again. We need a development plan for Sally. Do you have a sample? I ask, “How long has she been with the firm?” The answer, “Ten years.”

The bright spot I am hearing is that, because of working remotely, many firms have increased the responsibility of their managers. Managers must provide feedback AT LEAST twice a month or even weekly. A person who is not meeting expectations should know that fact before they have been with the firm for years.

  • Leaders set high standards. Refuse to tolerate mediocrity or poor performance
  • Brian Tracy

Thursday, June 3rd, 2021

Interesting Thoughts About Meetings

“People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.” – Thomas Sowell, American Writer and Economist

I occasionally repost a blog in its entirety by Seth Godin. I think this one is something CPAs should think about.

My observation is that people working in a CPA firm would be afraid to NOT attend a meeting called by a partner and especially afraid to admit that a meeting would be a waste of time.

Godin’s post:

MEETING NULLIFICATION

Here are two policies it might be fun to try for a week:

Meeting abstention: Anyone invited to an internal meeting has the power to opt-out. “Send me the summary, please.” If someone abstains, they give up their ability to have a say in the meeting, but most meetings these days don’t actually give people a platform to have a say. And then that person can leave the Zoom room and get back to whatever it is they were doing that was actually productive.

Meeting nullification: If anyone in an internal meeting announces that the meeting is a pointless waste of time, it’s over. The meeting organizer is obligated to send everyone the memo that they probably should have sent in the first place.

If you discover that you’re calling meetings where people abstain, or worse, call for nullification, perhaps you should be more careful about which meetings you call and who you invite.

Does your organization have the guts to try this out? Do you, as an attendee, care enough to abstain?

The fact that even discussing this idea is stressful helps us understand status roles and power.

  • Meetings are a symptom of bad organization. The fewer meetings the better.
  • Peter Drucker

Friday, May 28th, 2021

Which One Are You?

“Reading is departure and arrival.” —Terri Guillemets

Summer is on the way. This weekend is often referred to as our first summer holiday and to me summer means more reading.

For Flashback Friday this week read one of my posts that describes a book you should read. The post asks if you are a Linchpin or a Hurdle? Enjoy the 3-day weekend. Click here to read the post.

  • The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.
  • Dr. Seuss

Thursday, May 27th, 2021

Chill Out – Substitute Fascinated for Frustrated

“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

Working at a growing, busy CPA firm can be frustrating at times. That is not an earth-shaking statement. You know it all too well! I have a light-hearted story for you today.

What do you do to relieve the frustrations that come your way almost on a daily (or hourly) basis? I have a suggestion that might help.

Many years ago I learned a way to reduce the stress of frustrations from a colleague who always looked on the bright side of things. She continually inspired me to be a better leader and to be a better person. No matter the situation, she found a way to take positive value from the experience.

As we went through the ups and downs of our busiest season, I found myself facing way too many frustrations. During one of these moments, my colleague gave me some excellent advice.

She suggested I substitute the word fascinated for frustrated. It is very simple but when I started thinking in this way, it simply took the edge off!

“Isn’t it fascinating that Joe Client drops off his information every year at the last minute and expects us to have it completed within one or two days? I wonder what causes him to demonstrate that behavior? Maybe he struggles with an assistant (or spouse) who isn’t proactive in helping him prepare and organize.”

“It really fascinates me that Sally Sue always leaves a mess in the break room. Perhaps she was raised by a wicked aunt that made her scrub floors every week-end!”

Try working a fascinating story into your frustrations. Yes, I have actually tried this and it helps me smile and de-stress.

  • It is hardly possible to build anything if frustration, bitterness and a mood of helplessness prevail.
  • Lech Walesa

Wednesday, May 19th, 2021

What Do You Think?

“To think that in such a place I led such a life.”

I am in a reflective frame of mind this morning. My granddaughter graduated, summa cum laude, from Miami University (of Ohio) on Sunday. She is off to begin a new life adventure.

The above quote is an inscription on a statue sculpted by a Miami undergraduate. Miami uses the quote extensively and especially at graduation time. I imagine that any new graduate, at any university, could apply the quotation to themselves.

My reflective question for you is, could you apply this thought to your career at your CPA firm? I can.

I hope you can apply the thought not only to your firm but to your home, your neighborhood, and your city or town. As with the college experience, you must often move on and explore new opportunities, maybe in another firm, neighborhood, or town. Hopefully, with good memories. I have.

  • Take care of your memories for you cannot relive them.
  • Bob Dylan

Friday, May 14th, 2021

Persistence

“What you have learned is never enough.” – – Cher Wang

This week for Flashback Friday I want to share what you can learn from a seven-year-old boy.

As a leader in an accounting firm, you should always encourage and demonstrate persistence.

The post about persistence was written in 2010 about my grandson. He was seven. This month he is eighteen and graduating from high school!

  • Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.
  • Bill Bradley

Thursday, May 13th, 2021

How Your Office Might Look In The Future

“The best way to enjoy your job is to imagine yourself without one.” – Oscar Wilde

So many CPA firms have been planning how to return their employees to the office. The, not once long ago, open office layout that was so popular is now a thing of the past. Accounting firms don’t have to worry about that, they never made the switch to an open office anyway. Private offices have always been the dream of up-and-comers in accounting firms.

Private offices for everyone doesn’t seem to be a very workable plan either. Think futuristic and maybe follow some of the ideas Google is implementing. Google’s first office was a cluttered garage (like many tech start-ups).

Here are some of the things Google is doing:

  • Encourage (but not mandate) that employees be vaccinated before returning to the office.
  • Over the next year, they will try out new office designs.
  • They are designing “Team Pods.”
  • Meeting room concepts like Campfire where virtual employees will be joined with in-person employees (check out the article to see a picture).
  • In some areas, around the world, Google is building outdoor work areas.
  • Employees can return to their permanent desks on a rotation schedule to ensure that no one is there on the same day as their immediate desk neighbors.
  • There’s more! Read the full article here and see all the pictures. Be sure to watch the video of the balloon wall! I simply can’t visualize that in a CPA firm.

What is your plan? Don’t feel like you have to make a sweeping change all at once. Like Google, experiment with various options over the next six months or so. Keep your team informed and involved in the experiments. Be creative (and caring).

And, never forget you cannot please everyone.

  • If you take care of your immediate surroundings, the universe will take care of itself.
  • Mahatma Gandhi