Archive for the ‘Partner topics’ Category

Monday, September 17th, 2018

Due Date Decisions

“You’ve done it before and you can do it now. See the positive possibilities. Redirect the substantial energy of your frustration and turn it into positive, effective, unstoppable determination.” – Ralph Marston

The extended due date is here.

You and your team have been working very hard during a time of year when you should not have to work so hard.

You have those fire-drill clients that almost always hold you hostage right up until the drop-dead extension deadline. It is frustrating. Your team wonders why you put up with these clients.

Why do you? Putting extra strain and frustration on your employees in times where employees are valuable and new ones are difficult to cultivate doesn’t seem like a good plan.

Use this client retention analysis form to help you sort out which clients to outplace.

Or, just ask your employees to vote for 5 clients that they would enjoy seeing gone from the client list.

 

  • Hope fills the holes in my frustration in my heart.
  • Emanuel Cleaver

Thursday, September 13th, 2018

GOFER or NOT?

 “In business, what’s dangerous is not to evolve.” – Jeff Bezos

Is your firm administrator (aka, Practice Manager) a gofer or a take-charger?

Many CPA firms have various titles for the person this person. Often it depends on the size of the firm. It could be an office manager, executive assistant, firm administrator, director of administration, chief operating officer, practice manager, and others.

No matter what the title, the mission is the same, to save partners valuable time. What the partners do with that “saved” time is a topic for another day.

It is an executive position and, over time, takes complete responsibility for the operations of the firm. This means everything that goes on behind the scenes. Most Practice Manager job descriptions are quite expansive and include processes, procedures, human resources, financial activities, marketing, facilities, and technology. If you need a sample job description, let me know.

If your managing partner is using this person as a gofer (someone who just does what they are told and immediately reports back), you’ve got it all wrong.

It is a take-charge position and if you have someone who is happy being a gofer, you’ve got the wrong person.

If you are in this role and not operating at a take-charge level, don’t hesitate to speak up and ask for more responsibility, training, and education. So much is available via the CPA Firm Management Association.

  • Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.
  • Steve Jobs

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

Trust Those Around You

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” – Ernest Hemingway

Trust is a word that is thrown around the CPA profession all of the time. “Most Trusted Advisor” is familiar to most of you. CPAs have been claiming that mantra for many years now.

I see that the AICPA even has a Trusted Client Advisor Toolbox and Workshop.

Let’s explore trust a little deeper as it exists inside accounting firms. Here’s a familiar story about firm administrators. The administrator is an experienced professional. He/She takes over most of the day-to-day operations of the firm from the partners and implements procedures to make processes flow smoothly inside the firm. Soon the managing partner is distanced from the details (a very good thing) and can focus on managing the partners. The managing partner trusts that the firm administrator will take care of things.

Trust imparts obligation. The firm administrator takes that responsibility very seriously and works diligently to not disappoint the partners.

In my consulting work, I have experienced many situations where staff members do not trust the partners (owners). Building trust that goes both ways is a continual activity in a firm with a healthy culture. Not there yet? Keep working at it.

  • Trust is the lubrication that makes it possible for organizations to work.
  • Warren Bennis

Thursday, September 6th, 2018

Three Factors in Effective Firm Management from Koltin

“If the role of managing partner isn’t valued, don’t give up your day job.” – Alan Koltin

KoltinLast evening I watched a short video via the Journal of Accountancy by Alan Koltin. He is so right-on, I loved it. I hope you’ll take just two and one-half minutes to learn about three factors in effective firm management.

I have observed that so many firms have little respect for the role of managing partner. Some even think that it is something the person designated should do in their spare time.

There are many factors of success in managing an accounting firm but Koltin has featured the big three:

  1. Talent
  2. Setting management up for success (authority)
  3. Valuing the role

Watch the video or read the transcript here.

  • Instead of being a speedboat, often you are like the Titantic.
  • Alan Koltin

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018

Fire Drill Clients

“Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others.” – Tom Robbins

September 15th is approaching rapidly. You are so unhappy with those clients that ignore all of your requests for their information. Once the fire drill is over, take time to review your client list and decide on the ones that simply must go.

According to Arvid Mostad, President of Mostad & Christensen, Inc., a well-known supplier of quality marketing materials to the CPA profession, here are the 15 habits of bad clients:
  1. Slow paying or non-payment of fees.
  2. Write-downs always exceed write-ups.
  3. Client frequently complains about billings.
  4. Client is unwilling to pay for added services.
  5. Not profitable when compared to other clients.
  6. Personality conflict with partners and staff.
  7. Client conduct makes staff uncomfortable.,
  8. Client is abusive to staff, even if civil to partners.
  9. Client fails to cooperate or provide information on a timely basis.
  10. Client doesn’t listen to advice given, then complains about results.
  11. Client projects are always on a crisis time schedule.
  12. Client expresses lack of trust in the firm’s work.
  13. Client is less than truthful.
  14. Client has taken on new ventures outside the firm’s area of expertise.
  15. Client’s activities expose the firm to liability.

Use this list to help identify the clients that need to be referred elsewhere.

  • 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

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

Emergencies

“Great emergencies and crises show us how much greater our vital resources are than we had supposed.” – William James

I don’t often use a complete post by Seth Godin. However, this one hits so close to home for CPAs that I just had to share it right here – so you will read it!

Another important due date is approaching. So many of you tell me that much of the stress is caused by clients who fail to provide information. Then it becomes a fire drill to complete their tax return by the due date causing stress and frustration for the entire team. His first paragraph is exactly you. 

You must charge a significantly higher fee for emergencies. If those tardy clients won’t pay it then let them go elsewhere. Quit complaining about these clients and take steps to solve the situation.

Emergencies Cost Extra

If you work in a field where things need to be delivered by date certain, with zero defects, with high consequences if you make a mistake—then you need to charge a premium for exposing yourself to emergencies.

It doesn’t matter what something in a non-emergency situation costs. If someone wants the standard version, let them buy that.

The buyer is offered to pull it off the shelf, see if you like it. If it doesn’t satisfy you, take a different one.

Emergencies (or even the risk of emergencies) cost extra. Yelling at us costs extra. Panic costs extra.

Your entire organization (and your entire day) revolves around preventing the emergency or recovering from it when it occurs.

The reason custom work costs more is no longer a matter of production efficiency. Computers are happy to customize things.

Big companies that serve other big companies spend at least 80% of their overhead on being ready (or dealing with) meetings and emergencies.

The reason to charge more is all about ensurance, insurance and emotional wear and tear.

If that’s the sort of work you want to do, charge appropriately.

  • History is a relentless master. It has no present, only the past rushing into the future. To try to hold fast is to be swept aside.
  • John F. Kennedy

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018

Fight Your Urge to Procrastinate

“Indecision and delays are the parents of failure.” – George Canning

You are working your way through some strategic planning with your partners. An item comes up that has been discussed on many occasions. One or more participants might say:

  • “Let’s put that one in the parking lot for later.”
  • “It is too late in the year to take that one on.”
  • “We can’t deal with that now, let’s wait until after tax season.”

It is the procrastination dance that many accountants know all too well.

From Psychology Today:

Everyone puts things off until the last minute sometimes, but procrastinators chronically avoid difficult tasks and deliberately look for distractions. Procrastination in large part reflects our perennial struggle with self-control as well as our inability to accurately predict how we’ll feel tomorrow, or the next day. “I don’t feel like it” takes precedence over goals; however, it then begets a downward spiral of negative emotions that deter future effort.

Procrastinators may say they perform better under pressure, but more often than not that’s their way of justifying putting things off. The bright side? It’s possible to overcome procrastination—with effort. Perfectionists are often procrastinators; it is psychologically more acceptable to never tackle a task than to face the possibility of falling short on performance.

I hope you quickly address items that need to be resolved. Either deal with it or take it off the table permanently.

  • Procrastination is the bad habit of putting of until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.
  • Napoleon Hill

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018

Client Service

“There are two paths, really: “I will serve just enough to make the maximum profit” or “I will profit just enough to provide the maximum service.” – Seth Godin

Managing an accounting firm means juggling a lot of balls.

I have observed that often, firm leaders permit client service to gradually slip down the list of priorities.

New clients get so much attention. They are courted throughout the pursuit process. They receive lots of information from the firm. They are continually in touch with the partner assigned and several other team members who are serving them. Their calls are always taken or at least returned within a couple hours. They are special and you want them to feel that way.

Often, long-term, loyal clients seem to be forgotten. Of course, they receive good service during the annual engagement. But how often do you “touch” them throughout the year? Do they get recognized because they always pay on time? Do they receive links to articles about their industry from you? Does the firm acknowledge special life events for clients like a child’s graduation or marriage?

I have modified an old saying for you – – – “Get new clients but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold.”

  • 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

Monday, August 13th, 2018

Cul de sac

“If your job is a cul-de-sac, you have to quit or accept the fact that your career is over.” – Seth Godin

Cul de sac is a dead-end street. It goes nowhere. Seth Godin talks about cul-de-sac jobs in his book The Dip.

If you are working in a CPA firm, no matter what your title, you might find yourself in a cul-de-sac job. You work and you work and nothing much happens. It doesn’t get better, it doesn’t get worse. It just is.

Get off the cul-de-sac – why invest your life in something not getting any better.

Some of you work in cul-de-sac firms. There is a lot of talk about how things will get better but nothing much seems to happen. Years pass by.

Some of you are in cul-de-sac partner groups. Same as above, lots of talk but not much really happens. Years pass by.

Move your firm and/or yourself out of the cul-de-sac.

 

  • People settle. They settle for less than they are capable of.
  • Seth Godin

Thursday, August 9th, 2018

Outsourced Accounting

“Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.” – Anton Chekhov

CPA firms are seeing amazing growth in the area of outsourced accounting services. It not only is of immediate value to clients, it also provides the accountant with the ability (and information) to become even more of a trusted advisor.

Recently, Bill.com released the results of a survey they did regarding the use of outsourced accounting services. They have furnished a report on their findings – What Businesses Really Think of Client Accounting Services. You can download the report here.

In the introduction, Bill.com founder, Rene Lacerte, notes:

We are a nation of outsourcers.

In our personal lives, we outsource both simple and complex tasks—everything from grocery shopping to planning for retirement. We aren’t lazy or incapable, but we know that if we let the experts handle these tasks, they will be done right and allow us time to focus on what matters most. Outsourcing reinforces our priorities.

Businesses, too, are well acquainted with outsourcing. Disciplines ranging from IT to customer support to HR have all found their ways to hire experienced professionals outside of the corporate structure. Now, outsourcing all accounting is gaining traction.

The accounting profession has talked about client accounting advisory services (CAS) for a decade, speculating on the best ways a firm can solicit and handle all of a company’s accounting and finance department needs. For accountants, holding the reins to the company’s financial performance gives them unparalleled insight into the business and the ability to surpass a transactional state in favor of strategic advice and planning. It creates the platform for impactful contributions.

While accountants understand the benefits of CAS, what do businesses think about outsourcing their accounting? If you’re considering starting or expanding your CAS practice, it is good insight to have before you begin.

In this survey with CPA.com, we asked more than 1,700 small and medium-size businesses to share their opinions on outsourcing accounting. The results are summarized in the following pages. Respondents told us how much they’re outsourcing today, what they’d like to outsource, what they appreciate about it, and how it benefits their customers.

The survey data underscores just how important CAS can be to both firms and their business clients and how it will continue to grow and gain even greater value in the accounting world.

  • Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.
  • William Shakespeare