Archive for the ‘Process’ Category

Friday, October 11th, 2019

Down to the Wire

“Boredom is a choice. Like tardiness. Or interrupting” – Mike Rowe

Another due date is approaching. Usually, in public accounting, the same thing happens with every deadline, whether it is Spring or Fall.

There is a last-minute push to get that final return out the door. It is hectic and stressful for everyone. Deadlines in most firms are dreaded, especially by the administrative team.

The accountants breathe a sigh of relief. Things are off their desk and it is time for the celebration to begin at 4:30 in the lunchroom. While the party is ramping up and pats-on-the-back are exchanged, the administrative team is still frantically working. They are processing those last returns, they are waiting on Last Minute Larry (client) to stop by to sign something or they must actually get in their car and deliver something to a client.

Progressive firms have worked on this issue and devised a proper scheduling system so that tax returns and other projects do not hit the reviewer’s desk with little time to spare. Reviewers keep the flow moving steadily so that the admin team does not have to rush around at the last minute (and miss the after-party, as usual).

Usually, this scenario is blamed on the client. Why not establish a more aggressive system for obtaining client source data? Why not outplace clients who are repeat offenders? Clients can be trained.

 

  • An expert is someone called in at the last minute to share the blame.
  • Sam Ewing

Thursday, June 20th, 2019

Keep It Simple

“Simplify, simplify.” – Henry David Thoreau

Recently, we joined a group of friends for dinner at a nearby restaurant. It was one of those restaurants that provided a menu that weighed about two pounds and seemed like a coffee table book. The hostess seemed to struggle to carry eight of them as she led us to our table. These types of restaurants always make me wonder who they are trying to impress.

This visit was different.

They have a new, simple menu that you open, lay it flat and that’s it. A front cover, two facing pages inside and more choices on the back. Most of the offerings we were used to were included.

Maybe restaurants are trying to impress people with their expensive looking menus but I was more impressed with the simplicity and ease of ordering.

How many things are you making more complicated in your firm just because you have always done things a certain way? Now is the time to simplify! Technology will make it happen.

  • Customers require the effective integration of technologies to simplify their workflow and boost efficiency.
  • Anne M. Mulcahy

Thursday, June 13th, 2019

Small Firms Can Also Use AI for Audit

“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” – Mother Teresa

I work with a lot of smaller firms. They are always looking for ways to stay competitive and to take advantage of as much technology as possible. Sometimes small firms assume they can’t compete with what the big national and regional firms are doing.

In a recent article via The Journal of Accountancy, Samantha Bowling, CPA, CGMA tells the story of how her 15 person firm is using artificial intelligence to identify high-risk transactions as part of its auditing process.

One line caught my attention. It is an important issue for small CPA firms. Do you still have servers on site? Bowling says, “We used to have seven servers on-site. Now everything is in the cloud. We used to be able to remote in to our servers before, but it was slow. The remote access is much better in the cloud. It’s night and day. I’m excited because I’ve never had access to this much technology.”

Just because you are a small firm doesn’t mean you have to think small! Read this article!

  • Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.
  • Vincent Van Gogh

Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

After Tax Season Debriefing

“Questions are never indiscreet, answers sometimes are.” – Oscar Wilde

Every year, in late April or early May, CPA firms have a debriefing to uncover the good, the bad, and the ugly of tax season. What worked well, what was a disaster and how do we do better next year? You can read some suggestions on my blog of several years ago.

This year, Roman Kepczyk, Director of Consulting for Right Networks shares a Tax Season Debriefing Checklist in his article in CPA Practice Advisor.

Maybe this checklist will help you structure your debriefing in a more production format.

  • Some men see things as they are and ask, 'Why?' I dream things that never were and ask, 'Why not?'
  • Robert F. Kennedy

Monday, April 15th, 2019

What Are The Minimum Hours You Expect Staff To Work?

“Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.” – William Shakespeare

The number of hours you expect your team members to work, throughout the year, is something that should be clearly communicated. Some firms expect significantly increased hours during February, March and half of April and also during the Fall busy season. More and more firms are adopting a four-day workweek during the summer months.

Kimberly Hawkins of Thomas, Head & Greisen (Anchorage AK), allowed me to share how their “Seasonal Schedule” works. I think it is rather creative and very reasonable compared to most CPA firms.

At the bottom of this page is more information from Kim about how they handle holidays, PTO days, etc.

We have what we call a seasonal schedule. Our work weeks range from 50 hours during tax season, to 32 hours during the summer and late fall. During our 32 hour work weeks, staff schedule a day off, which is typically a Monday or a Friday. This is our schedule for this year:

Seasonal Schedule 2018-2019-Minimum hours we would like someone to work due to the seasonal nature of our business:

Wk # Begin Date End Date Std Hrs
1        10/1/2018 10/6/2018           50
2        10/7/2018 10/13/2018         50
3        10/14/2018 10/20/2018       40
4        10/21/2018 10/27/2018       32
5        10/28/2018 11/3/2018         32
6        11/4/2018 11/10/2018         32
7        11/11/2018 11/17/2018       32
8        11/18/2018 11/24/2018       32
9        11/25/2018 12/1/2018         32
10       12/2/2018 12/8/2018          32
11       12/9/2018 12/15/2018        32
12       12/16/2018 12/22/2018      32
13       12/23/2018 12/29/2018      32
14       12/30/2018 1/5/2019          32
15       1/6/2019 1/12/2019            40
16       1/13/2019 1/19/2019          40
17       1/20/2019 1/26/2019          40
18       1/27/2019 2/2/2019            45
19       2/3/2019 2/9/2019              45
20       2/10/2019 2/16/2019          50
21       2/17/2019 2/23/2019          50
22       2/24/2019 3/2/2019            50
23       3/3/2019 3/9/2019              50
24       3/10/2019 3/16/2019          50
25       3/17/2019 3/23/2019          50
26       3/24/2019 3/30/2019          50
27       3/31/2019 4/6/2019            50
28       4/7/2019 4/13/2019            50
29       4/14/2019 4/20/2019          40
30       4/21/2019 4/27/2019          40
31        4/28/2019 5/4/2019           40
32       5/5/2019 5/11/2019            40
33       5/12/2019 5/18/2019          40
34       5/19/2019 5/25/2019          40
35       5/26/2019 6/1/2019            40
36       6/2/2019 6/8/2019              32
37       6/9/2019 6/15/2019            32
38       6/16/2019 6/22/2019          32
39       6/23/2019 6/29/2019          32
40       6/30/2019 7/6/2019            32
41       7/7/2019 7/13/2019            32
42       7/14/2019 7/20/2019          32
43       7/21/2019 7/27/2019          32
44       7/28/2019 8/3/2019            32
45       8/4/2019 8/10/2019            32
46       8/11/2019 8/17/2019          40
47       8/18/2019 8/24/2019          45
48       8/25/2019 8/31/2019          50
49       9/1/2019 9/7/2019              50
50       9/8/2019 9/14/2019            50
51       9/15/2019 9/21/2019          40
52       9/22/2019 9/28/2019          45
53       9/29/2019 9/30/2019            8
Year End Total                             2080

If a holiday is on a Monday and that is the day staff take their Seasonal Day, they can choose another day in the same week (Sunday – Saturday).  Staff can only have one Seasonal Day in a week.  I’ve also attached our Seasonal Variance Schedule.  If staff work on different projects, for example, 990’s, they may choose to take their Seasonal Days in different weeks, with approval.  Our staff takes PTO by days, so if they are on vacation during a 32- hour week, they only have to release 32 hours of PTO.  Once staff has selected their day off we add them to our vacation calendar and also to ProStaff.  ProStaff pushes an appointment to our Outlook calendars, blocking off our Seasonal Days.  We add this to the vacation calendar so we can easily see at a glance everyone out of the office that day.  Our staff also update their status in PM showing they are taking a Seasonal Day.

  • If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
  • Henry David Thoreau

Monday, March 18th, 2019

Ghosting

“Our feet are planted in the real world, but we dance with angels and ghosts.” – John Cameron Mitchell

Maybe your firm has done it. I know a lot of firms where it happens. Someone interviews with the firm for an accounting position. You interview them and end with the normal “We’ll get back to you” comment. But no one does get back with them. You have made the decision to hire another candidate but you don’t get back with every one you interviewed to let them know. Someone dropped the ball.

Maybe payback can be expected. Applicants and employees are now ghosting their employers in greater numbers. Per USA Today:

Workers are ‘ghosting‘ interviews, blowing off work in a strong job market. … A growing number are “ghosting” their jobs: blowing off scheduled job interviews, accepting offers but not showing up the first day and even vanishing from existing positions – all without giving notice.

I have heard some amazing stories from firms. Many of the cases are people in administrative positions. They report for the first day and then never show up again. One firm even told me a new admin person left at lunch on the first day and never came back. It sounds amusing (when you are not involved) but it is not that unusual any longer.

Here’s a great article via Suzanne Lucas @RealEvilHRLady.

Make sure your firm has systems in place to facilitate the interview and selection process so no one feels ghosted.

  • Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.
  • Stephen King

Thursday, February 21st, 2019

All Those Versions

“Never trust a computer you can’t throw out a window.” – Steve Wozniak

I have heard one prominent complaint about serving clients for years and years and years. I continue to hear it from CPA practitioners from all parts of the country. It is the issue of dealing with so many VERSIONS of QuickBooks.

One of my clients finally did something about it. She purchased the QBO licenses for them and simply told clients the firm was moving them to QuickBooks Online. QuickBooks was having a sale so she purchased several licenses and will eventually pass on the costs via billing rates.

She simply said to her clients, “This is how our firm is doing it now.” She received an insignificant amount of pushback. Clients that don’t like it can go elsewhere.

The world is changing. New technology tools abound. How is your firm going to do it now?

  • The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.
  • Bill Gates

Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

Clarity

“If you have drama, there is a lack of clarity at the root.” – Marlene Chism

Yesterday, I wrote about being very clear about what you expect from people. Clearly communicate your expectations.

This morning I read an interesting article by Marlene Chism titled, The Root Cause of Workplace Drama: Lack of Clarity.

She notes, one reason for lack of clarity is failing managers:

There is a reason people do what they do, and that reason is often due to the culture and past experiences. For example, on a consulting project, I found out that the reason managers didn’t make decisions is because they lacked confidence. The reason the managers lacked confidence was because many of their decisions had been overridden by senior leaders. Therefore, the managers feared making mistakes and losing face in front of employees.

She also talks about unsuccessful employees and wrong issues/quick fixes. Read the entire article here.

  • Avoid the tendency to focus on a solution before clearly identifying the problem.
  • Marlene Chism

Monday, January 28th, 2019

Improving Your Processes

“Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.” – – Alfred Adler

In 2018, after busy season, you and many others in your firm worked very hard to focus on your internal processes. Many firm administrators have explored, revisited, revamped, documented and rolled-out improved processes for the 2019 busy season.

Of course, there will need to be tweaking and modification along the way. One of the biggest hurdles for many CPA firm leaders is that they think procedures need to be perfect before they make changes to the old way. Nothing is ever perfect. My most important piece of advice for making your firm better is DO THINGS!

As your team works through the new, improved processes, make adjustments immediately if the process isn’t working as expected. Never be afraid to fail. You will never move ahead if you don’t have failures.

Be sure you have clearly defined and communicated each process or procedure. Make sure everyone knows exactly what is expected.

I like to share this sample – it is an excellent example of clearly defined steps. It is how to make coffee. Never again can someone in your firm, who left an empty pot on the burner, say, “I don’t know how to make coffee.”

While this is on the lighter side, think about how using this format could help your people more clearly define all of the processes in your firm.

You don’t have to wait until April to work on Action Plans for many of your processes, have the administrative team get started as they come upon challenges during busy season. January through April is also a good time for your tech team, your HR manager and marketing director to better define and clearly document the processes in their areas.

 

  • Do the hard jobs first. The easy jobs will take care of themselves.
  • Dale Carnegie

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

Abundance

With Thanksgiving coming up tomorrow, abundance comes to mind. Most of us have too much….. stuff, food, drink, cars, homes, and more.

Do you have an abundance of rules, regulations, processes, procedures inside your firm? Do you ask your employees to do things that really don’t need to be done?

Often, when we move procedures into a more computerized system, we use the same steps that we used when we did it manually. Encourage people to question WHY they are doing things and make suggestions on a better way.

A meaningful quote by Peter Drucker caused me to write this blog:

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

  • Not what we have but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.
  • Epicurus