Archive for the ‘Partner topics’ Category

Monday, December 9th, 2019

Attracting & Developing Top Talent

“Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.” – John Wooden

Everyone is hiring. It used to be a seasonal event for accounting firms. Now, progressive firms have adopted a plan for continuous hiring. Firms are growing and it is important to hire before you have to.

My questions for accounting firms (and some things for you to consider):

Do you have a rigorous focus on professional development? Maybe this is why there is so much worry about succession. Why not be more generous with education dollars for your younger staff. Of course, you must give them technical training but don’t forget about the “success skills” (formerly known as soft skills) if you want them to become business advisors earlier in their careers.

Have you attracted and retained the smartest people? Young people are drawn to public accounting because they appreciate being able to work with smart, successful, creative, and hard-working people. Do the majority of your people fit this description? Do you keep too many mediocre performers?

Do your young all-stars have vast opportunities? Or, do they have to wait ten years to become a manager?

Do you reward your best performers with salaries beyond being competitive? Or, do you try to get by with the minimum of just keeping pace with average firms?

  • Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose.
  • Bill Gates

Wednesday, November 27th, 2019

Three Little Words – But Not “Those” 3 Little Words

“The price of greatness is responsibility.” – Winston Churchill

Don’t you love to hear those three little words?

Sure you do, everyone wants to hear “I love you.” I hope you hear them and say them daily. But wait, that’s not the “three little words” I’m talking about.

The three little words I’m referring to are three you do not want to hear. You probably hide from them and deny them.

I hear the following comment often from CPA firm managing partners, “We don’t have a succession plan. There is just no one at our firm who can take over from me and do what I do.”  I ask them, “Whose fault is that?” And, the answer is three little words – Baby It’s You.

If you are the managing partner at a firm (or a sole proprietor), you are in charge. The future of the firm is in your hands.

  • If your people are not good managers, relationship builders or passionate about the firm
  • If your managers are not coaching less experienced team members
  • If your team spends too much time on the web and social media for personal reasons during the day
  • If they put too much time in a job because they don’t have a budget
  • If they make you cringe some days because of the way they are dressed

The responsibility for all of these kinds of issues comes back to the leader – Baby, it’s you.

  • The task of the leader is to gt his people from where they are to where they have not been.
  • Henry Kissinger

Thursday, November 21st, 2019

Succession Planning – What Are You Forgetting?

“The truest wisdom is a resolute determination.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

CPAs have been immersed in the process of succession planning for years.

As the Baby Boomers have aged and retired succession planning for firms took on a whole new life. How will the firm survive without me? Who will take over my client relationships? And, the continuing statement made by retiring partners, “We don’t have anyone who can replace me!”

When I hear that statement I always ask, “Whose fault is that?”

As you approach succession planning, I am sure you are making sure that your successors have all the experience and technical knowledge that public accounting demands. But, they need more.

According to Bruce Tulgan, a writer specializing in management training and generational diversity in the workforce, “One of the hardest things about succession planning is what I refer to as ‘wisdom transfer’—passing on institutional knowledge and soft skills to new leaders. How are you tackling wisdom transfer in your organization?”

What are you, as a firm and as individual senior partners, doing to be sure that you are making that “wisdom transfer” to the next generation of firm leaders?

  • Foolishness is a twin sister of wisdom.
  • Witold Gombrowicz

Monday, November 18th, 2019

If Mom Says No – Ask Dad

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford

Beware of the age-old behavior that kids use – They want something and they ask their mother. Then, if Mom vetoes the activity, they go behind her back and ask their father (without telling him they already asked Mom). Maybe, just maybe, Dad will say yes and they are very happy and proceed to move ahead.

This occurs in accounting firms. An employee wants to do something a certain way. The partner on the project says, “No, do it according to the firm procedures.” The employee seeks out a different partner, perhaps one they work for more often, and whines about having to do the client project a certain way when they can do it faster “the old way.” The second partner, not wanting to get into a big discussion, just says “Do it however you think is best.”

Owners should be united in many ways even in how work is processed. Of course, they should discuss the processes, modify if necessary but then commit to the processes they helped establish.

Partner unity (in all things) is important in becoming a one-firm firm rather than a group sole-practitioners under one roof. I call those firms silo firms. You can be a silo firm and make decent money but don’t call yourself a one-firm firm if you really aren’t one.

 

 

  • Individual commitment to a group effort--that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.
  • Vince Lombardi

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

Should Sole Practitioners Have Retreats?

“Stop thinking in terms of limitations and start thinking in terms of possibilities.” – Terry Josephson

If you are part of a smaller firm, with one owner or two partners and are reading this blog – my answer is a resounding YES!

Just because you don’t have a multi-partner firm doesn’t mean you should not devote a special time and place for strategic planning. Try involving your entire team in the planning session. When I have facilitated these types of planning sessions, the employees contribute an amazing amount of relevant ideas and suggestions.

Sole practitioners who include their entire team in sculpting the firm’s future are making a positive difference for their firms. I believe it is a tactic that smaller firms should embrace wholeheartedly. It’s not too late to have this type of session in December or early January. It could even be a half-day event with a follow-up session in late April.

  • Take a chance! All life is a chance. A person who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare.
  • Dale Carnegie

Monday, November 11th, 2019

The Problem Might Be You

“Influence means your behaviors matter. The people around you – to some degree – reflect you.” – Dan Rockwell, Leadership Freak

If you are a partner in the firm and it bothers you when people are not punctual yet, you often come into the office late, others think it is okay.

If you are the manager on a review engagement and because you are experienced, you cut a corner or two, others think it is okay.

If you are at the Senior level in a firm and you are not completely accurate and punctual recording your time on jobs, others think it is okay.

If you are the firm administrator and you occasionally take an extended lunch hour for no particular reason, others think it is okay.

No matter what your title, your peers and others observe what you do and are influenced by your actions. What you do and the behaviors you adopt make a difference – you are an influencer.

You can also strive to be a GOOD example. That also influences others.

 

  • Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.
  • Albert Schweitzer

Monday, November 4th, 2019

Be Clear About Your Purpose

“It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something.”  Winston Churchill

The partners go away for a couple of days and come back with a firm mission statement. Does that inspire you? I doubt it. In many firms, it is just another “flavor of the month” and soon no one will even be able to recite it.

I like the new trend in calling it (mission statement) a statement of purpose. What is the purpose of your firm? What are you trying to achieve?

Many owner groups struggle with defining and living, their purpose. Some even copy a purpose from another firm and roll it out to their team as if it has real meaning to the owners.

Per an interesting article via Harvard Business Review, a truly powerful purpose statement is one that achieves two objectives: clearly articulating strategic goals and motivating your workforce.

If you want to find and retain top talent, they must know and understand your firm’s purpose – I mean really, not just some fancy words.

Surveys tell us that a large percentage of employees don’t feel fully connected to their firm’s purpose, they don’t see the value they create and that their jobs don’t allow them to fully leverage their strengths.

This adds up to a crisis of purpose. And, what follows along is a communication crisis. As I continue to say – most problems I encounter inside accounting firms can be traced back to poor, or lack of, communication.

Read and share the HBR article with your firm leaders. It is titled, Why Are We Here? Good question.

  • Workers feel lost. And over time, a lack of direction saps motivation; people begin backing away from the challenges required to achieve the firm’s articulated goals.
  • Sally Blount & Paul Leinwand, authors HBR

Friday, October 25th, 2019

How Proactive Is Your Audit Team?

“If it moves, tick it.” – Audit Senior, Audit Day 1

Things are rapidly changing in the CPA profession and the one area that seems to be changing most rapidly is the audit. Many firms are continuing to perform an audit the way they have always performed audits and that is why you need to make sure that your audit leaders are keeping pace with the current trends.

Be sure to read an article by Bill Curtis via Accounting Today: Why you and your audit team should consider a remote audit next year. Curtis is the partner-in-charge of the Birmingham office of Mauldin & Jenkins.

  • Audits cause a certain amount of disruption and inconvenience for the client.
  • Modern technology allow audit teams to share and receive data with clients from any location.
  • Remote audits save time and money.
  • The audit team will also be more efficient working in their home office environment with all its tools and comforts — multiple monitors, high-speed internet, familiar scanners and copiers and all the rest. The result is fewer hours needed to complete the work, and probably faster turnaround times for the financial statements company leaders are anxious to see.
  • Some audits can take place entirely in the digital realm, but most will still require some on-site time and in-person consultation.

There are a lot more positives about performing a remote audit, for the firm and for the client. Share this article with your audit leaders. Hopefully, your audit leaders are already sharing information like this with everyone in the firm and taking steps to utilize the amazing technology available today.

 

  • Remote audits are a trend that’s gaining traction rapidly, and it’s easy to see why their popularity is growing.
  • Bill Curtis

Monday, October 21st, 2019

Top Heavy

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

When it comes to MAP (Managing an Accounting Firm), one of the many things CPAs have focused on over the years is leverage. Leverage and a well-managed pyramid are key ingredients for a profitable CPA firm.

We have been talking about it for years….. Bill Reeb calls it the Upside Down Pyramid. It’s where partners work and work until they are “full” and then they push down to managers who work and work until they are “full” and only then do they push down to the staff. Meanwhile, staff members are sending emails asking for assignments!

upsidedownMany firms have evolved into a top-heavy culture because:

  • Generational issues, including the Baby Boomer bubble, Gen Xers and Millennials.
  • Lack of a firm-wide people plan with effective, consistent recruiting and staff development processes. Leaders don’t have a process to see enough new faces and they let people hang around too long.
  • Promoting non-partner-track people or sometimes marginal folks to higher positions because “We’re preserving staff continuity” and “it’s best for the client” – – when perhaps it is just the path of least resistance, or you have no one else to fill the role.
  • Partner compensation plans that focus on chargeable time. Partners stay busy first. Managers are doing staff work and no one has an incentive to push work down.
  • It’s just easier to do it myself and, besides, I’m a lot more efficient at it.

Do these sound familiar to you?

  • What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight - it's the size of the fight in the dog.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower

Monday, October 14th, 2019

A Shadow Board

“Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.” ~Erica Jong,

Are you aware of the term “shadow board?” I have been a proponent of the concept for many years but had never heard it called a shadow board.

Per an informative article via Harvard Business Review by Jennifer Jordan and Michael Sorell:

A lot of companies struggle with two apparently unrelated problems: disengaged younger workers and a weak response to changing market conditions. A few companies have tackled both problems at the same time by creating a “shadow board” — a group of non-executive employees that works with senior executives on strategic initiatives. The purpose? To leverage the younger groups’ insights and to diversify the perspectives that executives are exposed to.

Read the success stories in the article about major companies that have had great success with shadow boards.

One of your major tools for engaging your younger team members should be, what I call, a Staff Advisory Board (or Team Advisory Board, TAB). Invite a small group of younger employees to meet with the managing partner or executive committee on a regular basis to provide feedback and ideas about issues facing the firm.

Another idea, to make it more accessible, is to select the participants from an open application process. It might surprise you who applies. Rotate members of the TAB over time, maybe having them serve two-year terms. It depends on the size of your firm.

Provide the TAB with meaningful issues such as how to improve the firm’s scheduling system, or what additional employee benefits might be appropriate. Adjust your Team Advisory Board program as it matures and you learn what works and what doesn’t.

Long-time partners often forget what it’s like to be a 3-year staff person. Plus, times have changed. It’s not the “good old days” any longer.

  • The true secret of giving advice is, after you have honestly given it, to be perfectly indifferent whether it is taken or not, and never persist in trying to set people right.
  • Hannah Whitall Smith