Archive for the ‘Partner topics’ Category

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

The New Challenge of Leading People Remotely

“Being supportive is always important—but in times of crisis and separation, it’s critical.” – Dolly Daskal

In my office at work, many years ago, I had a magnetic sign stuck on the side of a metal file cabinet (remember those?) that said in big letters “Shit Happens.” It was where no one could see it but me! One of the partners gave it to me.

That pretty much described my focus back then. I was the firefighter, the policewoman, the physical Wikipedia and lots of challenges came my way. I welcomed the challenges but sometimes it was very frustrating (thus the sign). Things do just happen.

Now, as a leader in your firm (managing partner, HR director, Practice Manager, COO) lots of challenges have come your way (Big S— Has Happened).

If you are seeking help on how to do your management job in a remote environment Dolly Daskal has written an informative post.

Here are some tips:

  • You should be more supportive than ever.
  • You should be more present than ever.
  • You must keep people more informed than ever.
  • Be sure to show that you care more than ever.
  • You should bring more clarity than ever.
  • You should lead by example more than ever.

Daskal gives you more explanation for each of these tips in her post. Be sure to read the entire article.

  • It’s harder to show caring from a distance, but a time like this, when people are feeling anxious and isolated, is when a personal touch is most needed.
  • Dolly Daskal

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

Trust Your Leader

“Leadership means that a group, large or small, is willing to entrust authority to a person who has shown judgment, wisdom, personal appeal, and proven competence.” – Walt Disney

The above quote applies to public accounting firms. The firm has rewarded some employees the role of partner. Partner means owner AND leader in the firm.

The group of leaders has spent time and energy on deciding who should be the managing partner (or CEO) of the firm. This person has won their respect and trust.

Often the managing partner walks a tightrope between what is best for the firm and what is best for any individual partner. It is not an easy job. They must go well beyond client service (which most partners should be focused on). They must study current trends, pay attention to all employees, gather productive methods from other firms, be the face and voice of the firm in the local business community, etc.

So, be sure that you are “entrusting authority” to your MP. If the owner group has doubts if they have the right person, stop complaining, wondering, and second-guessing the person in the role. Trust them and give them authority or select a different MP.

  • Fantasy and reality often overlap.
  • Walt Disney

Monday, March 9th, 2020

Complacency Is Your Biggest Enemy

“Safety and comfort come with complacency, and that’s never a good place to be working from.” – Elijah Wood

Experienced CPAs who have survived, long-term in public accounting work hard. However, they love the work, it’s not a penalty or a chore. They love their clients and helping them survive taxation and other financial challenges. They love helping clients build successful businesses that will provide for a comfortable retirement down the road.

After doing this for many years, they become a partner in a CPA firm and make a lot of money. They love the work and they make great money doing what they love. Life is good.

Sure, at times they do have people challenges… you know, employees and partners. Maybe even at home.

But, over the years they have become complacent. Often, almost unknowingly, they begin to strongly avoid change. They want to maintain the status quo. They are comfortable.

What are they missing? What more could they do for their people, their clients, and even their family?

If this sounds anything at all like you, here’s the question – – Are you comfortable or are you stuck?

  • One day everything will be well, that is our hope. Everything's fine today, that is our illusion.
  • Voltaire

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

Managers Play A Key Role In Engagement

“’No news is good news’ should not be an employee recognition program.” – Sharlyn Lauby

Partners and owners in public accounting firms rely heavily on those experienced employees who have significant experience. They have learned and evolved over the years and are now managers in the firm.

Firm managers are on the frontline when it comes to all the other team members (supervisors, seniors, staff, associates, bookkeepers, etc.) who make up the remainder of the accounting/tax team.

Thus, managers play a key role in the training, development, and motivation of others. They make a big difference in the daily lives of your entire staff.

One big issue I have observed is that owners don’t often provide enough training for managers in the art of actually managing. “The firm” sends them to various CPE courses and encourages them in their online training in the technical skills they need to succeed. In other words, they invest in teaching them tax, audit, and accounting. Learning people skills is left to chance.

Lots of articles and surveys have told us that employees do not leave a company (firm), they leave a manager. So, lessening turnover and increasing employee engagement is the responsibility of the manager.

How can your managers create a great day for employees? Sharlyn Lauby (@hrbartender), an HR pro give us eight tips:

  1. Deliver a learning moment.
  2. Use the employee’s strengths.
  3. Tell employees they made an impact.
  4. Recognize an employee’s accomplishments.
  5. Offer inspiration.
  6. Help employees make progress toward their goals.
  7. Create collaborative opportunities.
  8. Let employees make it theirs.

Read more about each of these eight tips in this recent post from Lauby.

  • The goal is with every interaction to provide employees with an engaging experience.
  • Sharlyn Lauby

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