Archive for the ‘Partner topics’ Category

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

Thursday, October 10th, 2019

The Person Fits The Job

“All good performance starts with clear goals.” – Ken Blanchard

It has always amazed me how some CPA firm leaders go to great lengths to avoid firing a person.

Francine, a bookkeeper, has been with the firm 15 years but she has never really embraced the technology that is currently needed for her role.

Fred, a 3-year staff person, has struggled to understand and prepare tax returns.

Bobbi, the administrative assistant focused on the tax area, performs the final processing of tax returns before they leave the firm. Her work has to be continually reviewed “just in case.”

The partners are aware of the shortcomings but rather than be completely honest with the employee, they agree that they should create a different role where Francine, Fred or Bobbi might fit.

Rather than looking at a specific, important role in the firm and finding the appropriate person to fill it, partners struggle to establish a role that a poor performing employee might be able to fill. This way they won’t have to outplace someone.

Are you really doing them a favor?

  • The highest levels of performance come to people who are centered, intuitive, creative, and reflective - people who know to see a problem as an opportunity.
  • Deepak Chopra

Friday, October 4th, 2019

Life On A Plateau

“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth.” – Dan Rather

Plateau meaning: to reach a state or level of little or no growth or decline, especially to stop increasing or progressing; remain at a stable level of achievement; level off.

The firm has plateaued. It was once growing steadily, and maybe even rapidly. Firm rainmakers retired and the next generation of owners don’t seem to be as skilled or experienced at bringing in new business. They have been making an extremely comfortable living for the past several years (often many years). So life is good at the top.

The “let’s just get the tax returns out the door” mentality has filtered down to the managers and seniors. The firm is paperless, well almost. The firm is doing so may nice things for the team, but haven’t added anything new lately. We’re not a sweatshop firm, so all is well.

We wonder why several of our new hires have left already. Oh, well.

How boring!! If your firm is not growing, it’s shrinking. Get off of that plateau.

  • I'm always improving and I want to get better and never hit a plateau. I find it an amazing adventure.
  • Nigel Kennedy

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

PCPS 2019 Top Issues

“If your only tool is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail.” – Abraham Maslow

I should have shared these sooner. 2019 is passing by too quickly.

How does your firm line-up? Hopefully, you have addressed some of these issues this summer.

2019 PCPS Top Issues

Sole Practitioners

  1. Keeping up with changes and complexity of tax laws
  2. Managing privacy / security risks
  3. Keeping up with changes in technology & managing associated costs
  4. Technical training of owners / partners and staff
  5. Seasonality / workload compression

2 – 5 Professionals

  1. Finding qualified staff
  2. Keeping up with changes and complexity of tax laws
  3. Managing privacy / security risks
  4. Seasonality / workload compression
  5. Developing & executing a succession plan

6 – 10 Professionals

  1. Finding qualified staff
  2. Keeping up with changes and complexity of tax laws
  3. Seasonality / workload compression
  4. Managing privacy / security risks
  5. Developing & executing a succession plan

11 – 20 Professionals

  1. Finding qualified staff
  2. Keeping up with changes and complexity of tax laws
  3. Seasonality / workload compression
  4. Retaining qualified staff
  5. Managing Privacy / security tisks

21+ Professionals

  1. Finding qualified staff
  2. Retaining qualified staff
  3. Managing work/life balance initiatives
  4. Owner / Partner accountability & unity
  5. Seasonality / workload compression & Managing privacy/security risks

 

  • There's no use talking about the problem unless you talk about the solution.
  • Betty Williams

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

Commitments Rather Than Mission Statements

“Just having satisfied customers isn’t good enough anymore. If you really want a booming business, you have to create raving fans.”―Ken Blanchard

I enjoy reading Jeffrey Gitomer’s thoughts, rants, and raves: books, articles and information on his website. If you are not familiar with him, he is a sales guy who has a whole lot to say about business and much of it strongly applies to CPAs. 

Here’s some information, from Gitomer, about client service.

Are you having a fall retreat? Are you going to talk about client retention? It’s a big management concern for CPA firms. It is much more difficult to bring in a new client than it is to retain old ones.

Don’t use your valuable time at a retreat to talk about things you will never do (or live-up to). Focus on the absolute truths you are willing to commit to in relation to serving your clients. I agree with Gitomer in that most mission statements are B.S. Define your future actions on what you REALLY intend to do, not what you wish you could do. 

As Gitomer states, “You might want to compare this list of commitments to what you are doing in your company with and to your customers. And you may want to TRASH your self-serving mission statement that NO ONE could recite even if someone was pointing a gun at them.”

Here are a few items from his customer promise and commitment list. 

We will be friendly.
We will be professional.
We will have what clients want when they want it.
We will answer the phone on the second ring with a live person.
We will be easy to do business with.
We will keep you informed as we progress.
We will recover memorably when an error occurs.
We will kiss ass and we will do it with a smile.
We will lead by example – always walking our talk.
and on and on….. 

Organize a lunch and learn session with your team and add to this list. What are you willing to do? Determine it and then DO THINGS!

  • There is only one boss. The customer―and he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.
  • Sam Walton