Archive for the ‘People/HR’ Category

Wednesday, April 6th, 2022

Insights From the CEO of GM

The best way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing” – Walt Disney

Mary Barra is the CEO of General Motors. In her 38 years at GM, Barra has been an executive assistant, plant manager, product developer, and HR leader, among other roles before she became CEO.

In an interview with Adam Grant at The Wharton School, she shared some insights on leadership at a past Wharton People Analytics Conference.

  • Ask for feedback from your staff
  • Meet to discuss, not to disseminate information
  • Simplify your message
  • Remember to effect change: Benefits>Effort
  • Know your business
  • Win both hearts and minds
  • Align on values
  • Lead culture with behaviors

This list alone should be helpful to you but be sure to read the article to learn about her comments on each of these insights.

I admire leaders who work their way up in an organization. I believe they have greater insight and knowledge about the people and the organization they now lead.

  • Believe you can, and you’re halfway there.
  • Theodore Roosevelt

Thursday, March 31st, 2022

AICPA Survey Results About Recruitment and Retention Struggles

“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.” — Napoleon Hill

The following is a press release from the AICPA.

Impact of Unfilled Jobs: Staff Restructurings, Delayed Projects and Deferred Expansions

AICPA & CIMA Survey Polled U.S. Executives on Recruitment and Retention Struggles

NEW YORK (March 30, 2022) – Almost one in four U.S. business executives said the ongoing impact of unfilled jobs had forced them to restructure staff to protect core operations or limited the pursuit of new projects or bids, according to an AICPA & CIMA survey.

A dearth of skilled job candidates had been a top concern for businesses for years before the pandemic and quickly reemerged as the recovery progressed. Business leaders list “availability of skilled personnel” as a challenge second only to inflation in the latest AICPA Economic Outlook Survey, which polls CEOs, CFOs and other senior-level CPAs and management accountants in the finance function. Top-line results of the quarterly survey were released earlier this month.

Some 82% of business executives said their organizations were having at least some difficulty with recruitment and retention, with 17% characterizing it as extreme difficulty. The latter is actually an improvement from the fourth quarter last year, when it stood at 25%.

Some 31% of survey takers said mid-level staff openings have been the most difficult to fill, while 28% said the problem is across the board. One in four identified entry level positions as the most challenging category to recruit.

While 40% of business executives said unfilled jobs have not had a significant impact on operations, a majority said the problem had manifested itself in several ways within their organizations. The most common outcomes (survey takers could choose more than one):

  • Restructured staff to protect core operations (24%)
  • Limited new projects or bids (23%)
  • Delayed service expansions (16%)
  • Slowed customer/client acquisition (9%)
  • Reduced hours of operations or  work shifts (7%)
  • Closed some work locations (3%)

“We know from our survey that 57% of business executives report they have too few employees,”  said Ash Noah, CPA, CGMA, vice president and managing director of CGMA learning, education and development for the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, representing the AICPA and CIMA. “Pandemic-related trends such as the Great Resignation have complicated an already difficult hiring situation, and that can exacerbate burnout and disaffection among remaining staff if the situation isn’t managed carefully.”

To combat the tight labor market, companies have adopted a number of recruitment and retention strategies, principally higher wages and more flexible work arrangements, although the former has been driven in part by inflationary pressures. Signing bonuses are also increasing as a tactic to attract new talent.


The first-quarter AICPA Business and Industry Economic Outlook Survey was conducted from Feb. 2-23, 2022, and included 461 qualified responses from CPAs who hold leadership positions, such as chief financial officer or controller, in their companies. The overall margin of error is less than 3 percentage points. A copy of the report can be found on

  • Don’t feel entitled to anything you didn’t sweat and struggle for.
  • Marian Wright Edelman

Tuesday, March 29th, 2022

Salary Growth

“You don’t get paid for the hour. You get paid for the value you bring to that hour.” – Jim Rohn

I have thought for years that CPA firm starting salaries have lagged behind the rest of the world. Maybe the lack of interest in majoring in accounting and entering the field of public accounting reflects this line of thought.

Here are some excerpts from an article on Bloomberg:

According to Robert Half salary guides, average starting pay for first-year auditors in 2022 was $55,000—unchanged from 2011 despite 10 years of slow but steady inflation growth.

“Students are making economically rational decisions,” Almer said. Faced with mounting housing costs and student loan debt, they opt to pursue other fields, she said.

Read the article titled, Accounting Faces Reckoning After Years of Sluggish Pay Growth via Bloomberg.

I have mentioned it before – – starting salaries I am hearing and reading about for new college graduates entering public accounting is barely above what my firm offered in 2008!

  • A lot of people quit looking for work as soon as they find a job.
  • Zig Ziglar

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2022

Which Side Are You On?

“Being cool is when you win, you don’t get too happy; and when you lose, you don’t get too mad.” – Ice T

You have all read and heard about the great resignation. On one side, firms are losing people and on the other side, firms are attracting people. Be the “attractive” firm; the one where people want to work.

You can do this by building a brand. What kind of brand have you built over the years? If you are not known for being a premier firm with top-notch people and premier clients, you are behind in the talent game already.

When I was actively working inside a growing CPA firm it was our ongoing goal to be the “cool and progressive firm” in our marketplace. We had client parties with themes like The Future’s So Bright You Gotta Wear Shades and gave everyone sunglasses with the firm name on the stem. At the firm’s 50th anniversary party we used the theme Fifty Years And Still Rockin’. We dressed in poodle skirts and white t-shirts with black leather jackets. An Elvis impersonator met everyone at the door and had their picture was taken which we later mailed to them in a special card.

Set a goal to become known as the cool firm in your market. Become the firm that attracts people rather than the firm losing people. It’s not easy and it takes constant focus. Start now!

  • It seems like once people grow up, they have no idea what's cool.
  • Bill Watterson

Wednesday, March 16th, 2022

Salary Increases

“Of course, it is not the employer who pays wages. He only handles the money. It is the product that pays wages and it is the management that arranges the production so that the product may pay the wages.” – Henry Ford

I get a lot of questions about salary increases and when I talk to CPA firms, year after year, they disclose that their average salary increase will be 5%. Year after year. Yet, they often provide a disclaimer…. “we do give 10% or higher to some top performers”.

You might find the BDO 2022 Salary Increase Budget Survey Report interesting. 5% looks pretty good.

  • Note to salary setters: Pay your people the least possible and you'll get from them the same.
  • Malcolm Forbes

Thursday, March 3rd, 2022

You Speak The Language

“Accounting is the language of business.” – Warren Buffett

Recently, I read a quote that made me smile. It was in an article I read via AccountingWEB. The article is titled, The Changing Face of the CPA Profession Del Wright, Corporate Outreach Coordinator for the Illinois CPA Society.

The quote comes from a young accountant who was hesitant to even think about passing the Exam until she learned how much it was valued from her professors and during her internship.

Here is her comment that I want to share with you today.

“I think the profession is ever-changing,” she says. “Accountants are no longer just recordkeepers, they’re analysts and translators. Accounting is the language of business, and accountants are the most fluent in it.”

You probably heard similar statements when you were majoring in accounting but have you thought about it in recent years? Be sure to remind your young accountants how much they are learning about the world of business as they work on client engagements. It is so much more than tax returns and using Excel.

Be sure to read the entire article.

  • If you want an accounting of your worth, count your friends.
  • Merry Browne

Tuesday, March 1st, 2022

Wanting To Be Served

“We live in the age of entitlement, as opposed to enlightenment.” – Bill Bailey

Do you need to listen to a parenting expert? Yes.

As John Rosemond, a widely-read parenting expert wrote this a few years ago:

People with high self-esteem want to be paid attention to and served. They believe in their entitlement. On the other hand, folks with high regard for others pay attention to others and look for opportunities to serve them.

It is unarguable that culture is best served, preserved, and advanced by folks who fit into the latter category. Entitlements weaken, and a culture-wide entitlement mentality weakens the entire culture. Along these lines, every single manager, employer, and supervisor with whom I’ve talked in the last decade or so has told me that today’s young college graduates, by and large, are not looking for work; rather, they are looking for benefits packages (i.e. entitlements).

I must admit, I have heard from many CPA firm partners that they have some partners who are definitely on the high self-esteem wagon, demanding attention and not caring about the feelings of others. Think about the future if ALL of your partners were without humility and a sense of caring for others.

Set the example for your entire team by always demonstrating a high regard for others. Counsel others, if you need to, about their attitude of entitlement (wanting to be served).

  • It is true that, when an entitlement begins to be enjoyed by people, they like to keep it.
  • Jon Kyl

Thursday, February 24th, 2022

Many Concerns

“The best way to escape from a problem is to solve it.” – Alan Sporta

One of the most educational and helpful activities I have experienced in building my knowledge of CPA firm management was the opportunity to meet with groups of managing partners from various firms across the country and listen to them discuss their biggest concerns. I did this when my firm was a member of a CPA firm association and also when I spoke at many of the various CPA firm association meetings. If your firm is not a member of a firm association, you should explore the opportunity.

Experienced managing partners (and firm administrators) have the best insight into what makes a CPA firm tick; what makes it successful and what doesn’t work so well. They also always have a list of concerns. Right now, of course, for most firms finding and hiring talent is at the top of most lists.

Here are some other concerns that I often hear about:

  • Succession
  • Efficiency and inefficiency in processes
  • Partner burn-out
  • Identifying future leaders
  • Training future leaders
  • Losing people to other firms
  • Women’s issues and other diversity issues
  • Dealing with cultural issues after a merger
  • The rapid evolution of technology and funding it
  • Deciding whether to stay independent or merge-up

I am sure you can add to this list. For now, keep a list like this and gather your partners immediately after tax season, discuss the issues, prioritize the issues and, get busy solving the issues.

  • You aren't famous until my mother has hear of you.
  • Jay Leno

Thursday, February 3rd, 2022

Over Paying

“There is no way I can justify my salary level but I am learning to live with it.” – Drew Carey

Many firms have acknowledged that they are willing to overpay when pursuing new, hard to find, talent. Where will it end? When will it end? Who knows?

I have two concerns. First, will new, unproven, maybe less skilled employees be making more than proven, long-time team members? How that plays out can cause severe headaches for management.

My other concern is, in response to the situation mentioned above, firm leaders will increase salaries for ALL team members. This could result in significant increases for less-than-stellar performing employees.

I still think that pay for performance applies. Not everyone needs to be treated the same. Top performers should make top wages and get extra perks.

In the CPA world, firm owners worry about what “the other” team members will think and how will they react. They will be complaining loudly.

Don’t ignore the complainers. Talk to them immediately and honestly. Explain to them that Jessica All-Star makes more and receives more because she is a top performer. Then, explain to them exactly how they can become a top performer and thus, make more money. Set goals and challenge them.

You have probably read where KPMG is allocating $160M in salary increases for their 35,000 employees. Their CEO said:

“This increase in salaries embodies our commitment to quickly recognize the value our people create for our clients and firm in times of change,” said Knopp in a statement. “Moreover, it reflects our appreciation for their resilience and consistent dedication to serving our clients and the capital markets with quality.”

Your team members have probably read about this, too.

  • The more they applaud, the bigger our salary will be.
  • Anna Held

Tuesday, February 1st, 2022

Working On Saturday

“Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need.” – Khalil Gibran

An interesting topic was mentioned on the CPA Firm Management Association discussion board. Many CPA firms are “open” on Saturdays and expect that CPAs work on Saturdays during tax season. So, if the office is open for a half-day on Saturday and some salaried employees do not work on a particular Saturday, do they have to take PTO for those 4 hours? I was surprised by some answers. I have always believed that PTO was for vacation, sick time, and/or personal time pertaining to the 40 hours, M-F work week. Saturday work is something that is negotiated with individuals.

I was pleased to see Kathryn Jordan’s reply. She is the Operations Manager at Pohlman, Talmage, Brown & Campbell in Dayton, Ohio. She allowed me to share her reply:

From another perspective, our professional staff has unlimited time off and we do not track PTO for exempt employees.  We have had very few issues with abuse of this policy during busy season.  Additionally, we do not have mandatory hours or Saturdays for any employees (exempt or non-exempt) during busy season.  While everyone does work overtime, letting the staff determine how that best fits in their schedule has been very successful and helps staff maintain some work-life balance, even during busy season.  Some choose to work very long days M-F and just a few hours on weekends, some work shorter days M-F and longer weekend days, some work a traditional M-Sa busy season, and some work Su-F.  We just ask that everyone update their Outlook calendar and status notes on their Right Networks homepage to let others know when they plan to be on the clock.

I am hearing of a few firms that do not require weekend work during tax season. I think we will see more and more firms follow this trend in an effort to hire and retain top talent.

  • If we expect others to rely on our fairness and justice we must show that we rely on their fairness and justice.
  • Calvin Coolidge