Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

Friday, March 6th, 2020

Stay Home When You Are Sick

“I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” – Fannie Lou Hamer

It is tax season. There is a lot of pressure to work extra hours and keep the work flowing through the office and out the door by March 15 and April 15.

I worked in a CPA firm for many years and I rarely missed a day. It was very unusual for a “professional” to call in sick. Sometimes people would drag themselves in, persevere for part of the day and then go home early. This, of course, just help spread the germs throughout the office.

Even if management urged people to stay home when they were sick, it made little difference. Tax season meant you must be at work unless you were drastically sick.

Thank goodness, times have changed. Progressive firms have enabled everyone to do their work remotely. Yet, I still talk with firm leaders who do not offer connectivity to EVERYONE.

A recent study found that 90 percent of the American workforce admits to coming into work when they are not only feeling under the weather but know they are contagious.

Make sure your team members believe you when you tell them to stay home when they are sick.

  • There is one consolation in being sick; and that is the possibility that you may recover to a better state than you were ever in before.
  • Henry David Thoreau

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

Be Prepared for a Pandemic

“All firms should implement is a remote access technology that allows firm personnel to continue to communicate and collaborate if they must stay home.” – Roman Kepczyk

What would happen if you had several employees become sick or have to stay home with a sick relative, especially during tax season?

So much has been in the news about the current Coronavirus. Roman H. Kepczyk, CPA.CITP, CGMA has written a very helpful and informative article on preparing for a pandemic.

Natural disasters and cybersecurity concerns have pushed most firms to develop a disaster response plan in the event of a catastrophic office or systems loss, but few have considered the potential impact of a massive influenza outbreak, such as the current Coronavirus epidemic.

Read the article here.

  • The minute you think you've got it made, disaster is just around the corner.
  • Joe Paterno

Wednesday, February 26th, 2020

I Call It the Bad Apple

“To keep poor performers in place is to risk the future of the firm.” – Ron Baker

Recently, I read a great article by Ron Baker (you all know Ron Baker!).

His title for the article is Negative human capital and how it affects your firm. I simply call it The Bad Apple and have blogged about it several times. That being said, you MUST read Baker’s article.

Here’s an excerpt:

We do people no favors when we let them languish in a job they are not capable of performing well, or for which they have no heart. The philosophy, “hire slow and fire quick,” is sound advice. How do you know when it is time to let someone go? Ask yourself if you would hire this person again. Think how you would feel if this person came to you and said he or she was leaving to pursue another opportunity.

It is simply unacceptable to other team members to keep people in the firm who are not meeting expectations. The negative morale effects are significant, and will ripple throughout the company. Poor performers are not good role models, do not make good mentors, and may even be damaging customer relations. If the leaders don’t make these tough decisions regarding the most important form of intellectual capital in their firms, who will?

In my consulting work, I have observed that partners make excuses upon excuses for why they can’t let some go even when the entire staff would breathe a sigh of relief. Even when the person has caused repeated turnover because people cannot put up with their bullying.

It only takes 7 minutes to read the entire article.

  • We do people no favors when we let them languish in a job they are not capable of performing well, or for which they have no heart.
  • Ron Baker

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020

Pay Attention to Collections

“Debt is normal. Be weird.” – Dave Ramsey

During my consulting and advisory work with firms, the collection policy topic comes up on a regular basis. I have posted about this before but I think it might be time to revisit this topic.

Collections are one of those things inside a CPA firm that is fairly simple but that seems to become complicated when you are dealing with multiple partners. My message to CPAs: You are running a business and effective collections is a basic business activity.

Here are my thoughts on CPA firm collections.

A documented, widely published Collection Policy is the foundation for good cash flow.

  • It must come from the top – all owners.
  • They need to meet, discuss all of the options and arguments then come to agreement on what they can truly live with, for the good of the firm.
  • Management drafts the document and all owners review and approve.
  • The written policy is communicated to all team members and is posted on the firm’s Intranet.
  • Everyone involved – managers, staff, controller, administrative assistants, firm administrator thoroughly understands and monitors compliance with the policy
  • AR statements should be mailed monthly to ALL unpaid accounts, with no exceptions.
  • Your collection administrator should routinely write notes/requests on the AR statements when a client is slow to pay.
  • A service fee should be applied for balances over 30 days.
  • I recommend that collection activities should be performed by a part-time administrative person (collection administrator) who is skilled in client communication and has no other priorities. This person’s role is also defined in writing and they operate within certain parameters.
  • They begin calling (not emailing) at 31 days. Some say 45 days but it is better to do it sooner. Often the client has just misplaced your invoice.
  • When the collection administrator exhausts all avenues with a particular, difficult client or when it ages beyond 90 days, it goes back to the partner in charge of the client account for collection, along with Managing Partner involvement. Work stops at the 90-day point.

Also, consider having your firm administrator send a welcome letter to every new client that includes a copy of your collection policy.

The bottom line – all partners must agree to follow the published procedures, if they cannot, they must keep working on the policy until they CAN all agree.

  • If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments.
  • Earl Wilson

Friday, February 21st, 2020

Your Future Will Be Limited

I follow John C. Maxwell on Twitter. Yesterday, he posted the following tweet:

If you’re not identifying the leaders of tomorrow whom you will train up, your potential and your future will always be limited. 

It a simple, short message that speaks volumes to CPAs working in public accounting.  Owners of firms should have heeded this advice many years ago.

Here’s another recent tweet from Maxwell that hits home with CPAs:

No matter what it costs you, the return you receive will eclipse the price. Developing leaders is the most impacting and rewarding thing you can do as a leader.

Baby Boomer CPAs, nearing retirement, have been warned over and over again but few have acted upon the advice and now, their futures are limited. For some, it is merge-up or close-up.

  • Don't let what's uncertain be what defeats you. Instead, let it be what motivates you to keep reaching toward what's possible.
  • John C. Maxwell

Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

Thoughts on Committees

“A committee is a thing which takes a week to do what one good man can do in an hour.” – Elbert Hubbard

“To get something done a committee should consist of no more than three people, two of whom are absent.” – Robert Copeland

If you are working in the CPA profession, I am sure you have been involved in committees. There are various firm committees and you also donate your time and talent to civic and charitable committees and boards.

This is just my opinion, so be forewarned. I don’t like to see TOO MANY committees inside a CPA firm and I do not like to see partners/owners on many, if any, committees.

Having a Tax Committee and an A&A Committee makes sense to me. It is a long-standing activity and I see the value. A partner is the chair of the committee – he or she is responsible for the well-being of the firm in these areas. They involve staff at all levels. It is a good way to give younger team members experience and a voice.

As firms grow, there will come a time when they need an executive committee and a partner compensation committee. Both of these are for larger firms where it is unproductive to have all partners involved in these issues. The membership of these committees rotate and are chaired by the managing partner.

Various committees to focus on the management of the firm are unnecessary. The managing partner and the firm administrator (COO, Practice Manager, etc.) are charged with efficient and effective firm management. You do not need other partners involved. Yes, informed, but not involved. This management team reports to the Board of Directors (the partner group, as a whole).

I have observed that some firms have an HR committee, a technology committee, a marketing committee and so on. They have partners serving on all these committees and it usually becomes a huge waste of time. Let the people charged with firm management, manage. The leaders of HR, technology and marketing report to the management team. Client service partners should be maintaining client relationships, bringing in business and mentoring younger, less experienced staff.

Do you ever become restless in a long-winded committee meeting because it goes on and on and no decisions actually get made? Don’t let this happen inside your firm.

 

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

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

Every Firm is Hiring

It is common knowledge in the profession of public accounting, every firm is hiring.

They are looking for top, young talent. It seems every firm is looking for the exact same candidates.

Here’s something from Peter F. Drucker that you should think about:

“Determine whether your organization is betting on young people, older people, or immigrants. Make sure you have a plan for the gradual decrease in the youth market and the increase in newcomers and the aged.” – Peter F. Drucker

What is your plan for the future? If you are a partner, you should be developing two talented people to replace you. That should be your number one priority. Or, your partner group needs to admit that selling-out or merging-up are on the horizon.

Either way, you must have an attractive culture and be progressive and efficient. No one wants a firm that is not thriving and growing.

  • The best way to predict the future is to create it.
  • Peter F. Drucker

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

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 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

Tuesday, February 11th, 2020

What Are You Reading?

Even if you are always busy, find time to read. Of course, read the most beneficial and motivational business books. But, don’t stop there. Read for enjoyment and meaning.

While on a winter get-away, I found a copy of Tuesdays With Morrie in the villa we rented. I’m sure you have heard of it. I hadn’t read it in years so I re-read it. It’s an easy read.

Here is just one takeaway:

“Find someone to share your heart, give to your community, be at peace with yourself, try to be as human as you can be.”

If you are “too busy” to read the book, read these 14 inspiring quotes.

  • If you really want it, then you’ll make your dream happen.
  • Morrie Schwartz

Thursday, February 6th, 2020

Quit Making Excuses

“Never make excuses. Your friends don’t need them and your foes won’t believe them.” – John Wooden

When talking with accounting firm owners and working with new clients I often hear lots of excuses when I suggest new ways to do things and the importance of keeping up with current trends in the CPA profession. I hear “Yes, but…” over and over again.

I hear:

  • Yes, we have heard other firms are doing that, but at our firm…..
  • Yes, we tried closing on Fridays, but….
  • Yes, we thought about allowing more people to work remotely, but…
  • Yes, as partners, we know we could delegate more to our staff, but….
  • Yes, the partners want to do paperless billing, but….
  • Yes, all of our partners agree that the managing partner needs to delegate more clients to other partners, but….
  • Yes, we would love to have more female partners, but….
  • Yes, we need some up-and-comers, but……
  • Yes, we have some below-average performers, but….

Are you thinking and saying, “Yes, but…” too often?

  • Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.
  • George Washington Carver