Archive for the ‘Process’ Category

Monday, July 19th, 2021

Considering A CRM For Your Firm?

“Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be.” – John Wooden

When I worked at a CPA firm, I was always proud of the fact that the firm was on the leading edge when it came to new ideas, processes, and software tools. We were paperless very early on but waited several years for a Document Management System that actually fit the CPA profession.

One technology tool we never purchased and one that I hesitate to recommend for CPA firms is a CRM (Client Relationship Management). Data is only as good as what is fed into the system. I knew that our partners would simply not expend the extra effort to record important client information and conversations into the system. The old slogan applied: Garbage in, garbage out.

That is why I enjoyed a recent article by Gene Marks (the famous guy you see on TV) who is a CPA. The title: On CRM: The Best CRM For An Accounting Firm Is Probably No CRM.

He explains particular things that apply to accountants that make them poor candidates for a CRM. His company has even tried and failed to implement CRMs in a dozen firms.

Be sure to read his article. I am sure the reasons for CRM failure will sound very familiar to you!

  • The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.
  • Henry Ford

Tuesday, June 15th, 2021

Are You A Firm Administrator? Are You Wondering What A Firm Administrator Does?

“Focus on being productive instead of busy.” – Tim Ferriss

Today, I want to remind you about a one-hour session I am doing tomorrow for the newly formed Missouri Chapter of CPAFMA and the Missouri Society of CPAs.

Are you new to the role of firm administrator? Are you an experienced administrative professional but have never worked in the CPA profession? Are you thinking about hiring a firm administrator? Do you wonder what value a firm administrator can bring to your firm?

Join me and your peers tomorrow. More information here.

  • Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.
  • Leo Babauta

Friday, May 21st, 2021

One of Your Biggest Challenges

“The best way out of a difficulty is through it.” – Will Rogers

This week for Flashback Friday, I encourage you to read about one of your biggest challenges. Here is a post from 2019.

  • The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.
  • Maynard Keynes

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

Foster Creativity

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” – Steve Jobs

I wonder why the above quote is so foreign to CPA firms.

When you tie everything down so tightly, insisting that every work effort must conform to firm processes and procedures and every minute should be chargeable how will anyone have the time or desire to THINK and experiment. Maybe there is a better way but no one has the time or freedom to pursue it. Their entire work life is micro-managed.

Be that firm that has a culture of creativity, experimentation, and implementation of ideas. If the experiment doesn’t work out never be afraid to say, “Oh well, that didn’t work so well. Let’s try something else.”

Hopefully, you are hiring smart people. Encourage your smart people to bring their creative ideas to the table and allow them time to do so.

  • Micromanagement is the destroyer of momentum.
  • Miles Anthony Smith

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

Goals

“The only criterion for what makes a good goal is that the person working towards it must set it for themselves, voluntarily.” – Marcus Buckingham

CPA firms, usually on an annual basis, have each team member establish goals for the coming year. This happens after the annual performance feedback exercise. Many firms have now moved beyond the annual tradition and are providing feedback much more frequently: Semi-annually, quarterly or monthly. Of course, the best firms provide feedback continually and have even discontinued the annual or periodic formal feedback session.

The current workforce wants to know how they are doing much more often than periodically. It makes me think of taking small children on a drive to a family outing or to a visit with grandparents. They ask, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” about every five minutes. That is how your employees feel; they want to know.

A friend of mine has an online job. They have never met their supervisor face-to-face. There are guidelines and parameters and lots of communication with their supervisor. At the end of each day they get a report on how they did that day. Are you anywhere close to that?

Some firms continue to assign goals to individuals based on their performance. Progressive firms involve individuals in setting goals. The person drafts their own goals and the supervisor advises and approves. Be sure you encourage people to have fewer goals and shorter timeframes. Something like two goals per quarter. I have observed that if a person has six or eight annual goals most of them never get accomplished.

CPA managers and partners need to give more frequent feedback and guidance and listen to where the individual wants to go with their career. They want to know, “Am I there yet? Am I there yet?”

  • Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
  • George Bernard Shaw

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

Accountants Are Picky

“Invariably, micromanaging results in four problems: deceit, disloyalty, conflict, and communication problems.” – John Rosemond

First of all, I want you to know that I do believe in hands-on management. You can’t leave people in a void, wondering what your expectations are. It’s all about communication and how you go about communicating.

However, I have worked with accountants long enough to know that they tend to be perfectionists. Yes, the work produced by CPAs must be absolutely accurate. How you arrive at that state is another topic.

I remember my first days in a CPA firm. I was amazed at how thoroughly my work (simple typing projects) was proofed and reviewed. I came from an educational and training background where you did it right the first time. You proofed your own work. That seemed to be completely absent inside the CPA firm. I soon learned that it wasn’t just me being scrutinized, it was an important part of the process of achieving accuracy in financial matters.

The goal is still there and accuracy is a given. How you arrive at that point is through extensive training and responsible review of work. There is a fine line between supervision and micro-management. Beware. Micro-managing is not something to be proud of.

A recent article by Suzanne Lucas (@realevilHRLady) certainly made me smile. She featured a tweet that said: “Tell me you’ve worked for a micromanager without telling me you’ve worked for a micromanager.”

The replies would be hilarious if they weren’t so disturbing. They did make me smile because during those first years in the CPA profession I had to change many financial statements several times after each review step and I don’t mean the numbers – it was personal preference about phrasing and punctuation from multiple reviewers.

An example of the tweets featured in the article:

“Sorry, I forgot to tell you that I went to the bathroom.”

“We talked for over an hour about the 1 missing period in the 40 slide deck.”

Read the article – Here Is What Micromanagement Looks Like.

You might recognize some people in your own firm!

  • None of us should wait to be told what to do, or how to do it. Micromanagement kills initiative, judgment and creativity.
  • David H. Maister

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020

Attendance Policy

Do you have an attendance policy? I have observed that many CPA firms do not have a clearly defined policy and if they do have one, it is doubtful that they are enforcing it.

You need to have an attendance policy and enforce it, especially with so many employees now working remotely.” – Suzanne Lucas 

Suzanne Lucas, aka Evil HR Lady, gives us reasons why such a policy is important in a recent article.

She gives the example of an employee who called in to say that they had 40 hours in as of Thursday and they were taking Friday off and not counting it as PTO. Lucas’ advice: “Say no. Honestly, it’s that simple.”

Per this HR expert: “You are within your rights as an employer to set an absentee policy that makes sense for your business. You need work done, and that’s why you hire employees. This does not mean that your employees should devote their entire lives to your business, nor does it mean you let them walk all over you. When you’re talking about attendance, you need a good policy.”

I have observed similar situations within accounting firms and it seems to always cause indecisiveness and even confusion about how to handle these situations. In these times of being almost desperate to retain skilled people, CPA leaders are often simply afraid to say “No” to anything.

The article contains a sample attendance policy and a lot of other good information. Read it here.

  • Be kind and flexible, but make sure your employees know they need to work every day.
  • Suzanne Lucas

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020

CPA Exam Benefits

“I’m forever testing myself. As a person and as an actor, I have no sense of competition.” – Michael Caine

I often receive inquiries about the benefits package a public accounting firm should offer. My advice? Be generous!

For example, firms approach paying for the CPA Exam and for the pre-exam study course in varying manners. Of course, some firms are more generous than others.

You are a CPA firm. You need CPAs. Communicate this fact to all your new accounting graduates (and others who have not yet passed the Exam).

Here’s an example of an Exam policy:

John Doe & Company CPA Exam Policy

(Name of firm) is first and foremost a CPA firm. The expectation has always been that, as soon as possible, each of us will sit for and pass the CPA exam. Including our college education, it is the completion of the basics and the foundation that each of us need to practice the profession of public accounting.

Effectively immediately, the firm’s policy on passing the exam is as follows:

  1. For new college graduates joining the firm, the expectation is that you will complete the exam by your two year anniversary with the firm.
  2. For the existing team, the expectation is that you will have it completed within two years of today’s date.
  3. As you will see in the firm’s goal-setting process, if you have not passed the exam your number one goal will be to do so. The achievement of this goal will have a significant impact on your compensation.
  4. Although we do not want to focus on the negative, if the exam is not completed within the above time frames it will be a serious impediment to your career with the firm. We will evaluate each situation on an individual basis.   

We are disassociating the passing of the exam to staff levels within the firm. In other words, you no longer have to have the exam passed to be promoted to senior. The level at which you are performing will be the only factor that determines your title.

We are enhancing our benefits related to the CPA exam as follows:

  • We will pay for 100% of Becker, Surgent, or another review course approved by the firm. This will be paid upfront and will be refundable to the firm if you do not complete the review course.
  • We will now pay the 50% reimbursement of exam fees upfront with no maximum.
  • The firm will pay a $1,000 bonus upon certification from the state licensing agency and will also have your certificate professionally framed.

To summarize, passing the exam is your top priority. The firm will do everything that we can to help you and to accommodate the process. We hope that the enhancements above will make a difference. But, you have to take it and pass it. Please give it the importance that it deserves in your career. 

Again, my message to all firms is to be generous.

  • Everything you want is out there waiting for you to ask. Everything you want also wants you. But you have to take action to get it.
  • Jack Canfield

Thursday, August 27th, 2020

A Zoom Agreement

“I don’t do meetings.” – Karl Lagerfeld

Here’s a post from Seth Godin that I just had to share. Zoom meetings are an important communication tool but I bet you have been on some that are disorganized and tiresome. Maybe this will help guide your meetings:

TOWARD A ZOOM AGREEEMNT

If you promise not to check your email while we’re talking, we promise to not waste your time.

If you agree to look me in the eye and try to absorb the gist of what I’m saying, I agree to be crisp, cogent and on point.

If you are clear about which meetings are a waste of time for you to attend, we can be sure to have them without you.

If you can egg me on and bring enthusiasm to the interaction, I can lean into the work and reflect back even more energy than you’re contributing.

The purpose of a meeting is not to fill the allocated slot on the Google calendar invite. The purpose is to communicate an idea and the emotions that go with it, and to find out what’s missing via engaged conversation.

If we can’t do that, let’s not meet.

Multi-tasking isn’t productive, respectful or healthy.

  • If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be 'meetings.'
  • Dave Barry

Wednesday, August 5th, 2020

Rejection Letters

“To the old, the new is usually bad news.” – Eric Hofer

I often get requests from my clients (and others) for samples of various types of letters. I have observed that CPAs are much more open to new ideas, processes, etc. if they can see samples.

That’s why a recent article via HBR seemed an important one to share. It is titled, Writing a Rejection Letter (with Samples).

I am sure there are many instances where you must turn someone down. You know, let them down gently. I believe it is the proper thing to to when you have interviewed a job candidate and decided they were not the best fit for the job. It can often be an unpleansant task so do not put it off!

Keep in mind that you don’t have write a long or detailed explanation. The article suggests four steps:

  1. Say thanks.
  2. Deliver the news.
  3. Give the main reason.
  4. Offer hope.

Read the entire article. The samples are very helpful.

  • Bad news isn't wine. It doesn't improve with age.
  • Colin Powell