Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

Wednesday, December 28th, 2022

The Mechanical Pencil

“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception; it is a prevailing attitude.” – Colin Powell

This brief story is about the importance of a mechanical pencil. I am not sure if the mechanical pencil is still important in the world of public accounting, but it once was.

As the years evolved, when I was working in a CPA firm, accountants and CPAs developed a love for mechanical pencils. Of course, they used pencils because they have erasers! Much of the use of a pencil was to sign off on a route sheet as work flowed through the office. As work moved from hand-calculated depreciation schedules to computerized worksheets, the mechanical pencil still had a starring role.

The accountants always had a favorite (brand or type) of mechanical pencils, and the firm supplied each accountant with their favorite. Not everyone loves the same brand of mechanical pencil. Lively discussions often occurred about which brand/type was the best. If someone lost their pencil, it was panic time. Another must be found of the same exact type and even color.

Now it seems the accountant’s tool, always in their hand, is their iPhone.

My mechanical pencil is on my desk, and I use it daily.

  • Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.
  • Warren Buffett

Friday, December 23rd, 2022

Small-Midsize Firms & The Weather

“What good is the warmth of summer without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?” — John Steinbeck

Today’s low temperatures and blizzard conditions across most of the United States made me think about many smaller CPA firms.

During the pandemic, some small firms continued to come into the office to work. I have no idea how many, but I heard from some who did this.

If you are a small firm, you still need to keep up with technology and be sure that every person on your team can work from home as productively as working in the office.

The same goes for mid-size firms and their admin team. During the pandemic, admin went into the office and did scanning, etc., so that the remote people could work. It is time to have clients submit everything electronically. On days like today, the administrative team needs to be able to work from home, too.

  • A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.
  • Carl Reiner

Wednesday, December 21st, 2022

Too Many Meetings

“There is one kind of robber whom the law does not strike at, and who steals what is most precious to men: time.” – Napoleon

You have heard about it and read about it. Meetings are a dreaded part of work life.

CPA firm leaders are very time conscious. They worry about how much time team members spend on productive work, yet they often waste everyone’s time in meetings.

As you enter tax season, you will have meetings in January to get everyone up to speed on tax issues, internal procedures, etc. Plan now on how you can shorten these meetings, eliminate some of these meetings, and break them into smaller group meetings. Don’t include people in meetings that don’t need to be there. Communicate as much information as possible via your firm’s intranet and through other technology tools.

Investigate other things management does that interrupt people who need to focus on work. Determine what you can do to “fix” these interruptions and then fix them. Your team will thank you.

  • You may delay, but time will not.
  • Benjamin Franklin

Friday, December 9th, 2022

Friday Flashback – Toxic Employees

“Teaching civility is an obligation of the family,” – Stephen Carter

I worry that civility is disappearing in society, in general, and in some workplaces. Here’s a post titled “Toxic & Civility” that I hope you will read. Always set an example for civility in your firm and your life.

  • Play fair. Don’t hit people. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Robert Fulghum, All I Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Thursday, November 24th, 2022

My Annual Thanksgiving Post

“Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.” – Henry Van Dyke

I love Thanksgiving. I ignore all the negative vibes going on in the world (and on social media and in the news). Try take time daily to think about what you, personally, are thankful for.

So, smile. Here’s my annual Thanksgiving post.

  • Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day.
  • Robert Caspar Lintner

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022

Enjoy Your Long Weekend!

“I am happy because I’m grateful. I choose to be grateful. That gratitude allows me to be happy.” – Will Arnett

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

Monday, November 14th, 2022

Do This In November

“If I cut you off, chances are you handed me the scissors.” – Unknown

I have written about it often. You have talked about it often.

It is time to off-board several of your current clients. Make room for new and better clients. You do this because:

  • You can add some great clients without overloading (punishing) your staff.
  • You can finally divest yourself of those clients that are always a collection problem.
  • You can weed out those C and D-level clients who are always getting their information to you at the very last minute (again punishing your staff).
  • It gives you room to really focus on providing exceptional, unique client service.
  • It would help you identify, develop and define a true, specialized niche, something your firm can become famous for.
  • It helps you work with people (clients) you really like and enjoy, not those you just tolerate.

Now, November is a good time to notify those clients. If you want a sample of a client termination letter, let me know.

  • People inspire you, or they drain you – pick them wisely.
  • Hans F. Hansen

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

Tuesday, October 25th, 2022


“Selling out is doing something you don’t really want to do for money. That’s what selling out is.” – Bono

It is a beautiful Fall in Ohio. The trees have been vibrant with color this year, and we have had day after day of beautiful weather, although we do need some rain.

When Fall arrives, it makes me feel like it is time for reflection. It puts me in a “winding down” mood. For CPA firms, after the October 15th deadline, it means it is time for action! November is when you have to finish all of those internal projects that make the firm more efficient and profitable. It is not a time for “winding down” it is a time for gearing up for the busy season that will arrive after the holidays.

As for my reflection, I read this morning that another well-known CPA firm has given up the ghost and merged up into one of the mega firms. It makes me sad. I think about so many firms (dozens of them) I have known and worked with over my many years working in public accounting. They have disappeared and are mostly forgotten. The local/regional mid-size firms have evidently failed to develop the next generation of owners, and they have no choice but to sell out.

  • It's not selling out, it is called making lots of money.
  • Mick Jagger

Monday, October 24th, 2022


“Mistakes should be examined, learned from, and discarded, not dwelled upon and stored.” – Tim Fargo

Here’s a real-life story from inside a CPA firm.

Tim was going through his first tax season with the firm. He was doing well, and then on one client engagement, he made a fairly significant (and stupid) mistake. From that day on, managers and partners in the firm just couldn’t forget about Tim’s mistake. He would be assigned to a project, and the comment would be, “Remember when he made that stupid mistake!” Regarding scheduling, a manager would say to the scheduler, “I need a Senior on this job, but don’t give me Tim.”

Tim went on to be successful and stayed at the firm, but probably for five years; his first-year mistake would come up in conversations. CPAs have long memories.

I have heard similar stories from multiple firms. Has this ever happened at your firm? That is why today’s quote at the beginning of this post made me think of a CPA firm.

  • To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.
  • Elbert Hubbard