Archive for the ‘Process’ Category

Friday, November 11th, 2022

If You Want To Grow Or Merge Up, You Need To Be Ready – Flashback Friday

“The secret of success is to be ready when your opportunity comes.” – Benjamin Disraeli

When I talk to practitioners, I always stress that if you plan to merge up, you must still pay attention to the health of your firm. Acquirers want a profitable, efficient firm. They don’t want one that hasn’t kept pace with change.

Read this Flashback post to learn what you must do.

Have a great weekend!

  • I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.
  • Winston Churchill

Monday, October 17th, 2022

Starting A New CPA Firm

“All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination.” – Earl Nightingale

I occasionally hear from a young CPA who has decided to strike on their own and build an accounting firm. Many people have done it, and I imagine they have been successful. I also imagine there have been several who have failed.

I always urge them to begin building the right infrastructure from the beginning. I call these tasks foundational aspects of a CPA firm. For example, standardized processes and procedures, a basic employee handbook, the most up-to-date technology, a social media plan, etc.

CPA Practice Advisor recently posted an article – 5 Tips When Starting a New Accounting Firm. I hope this will be helpful to those of you dreaming of your very own accounting firm and even those of you who need to improve the one you already have.

The 5 Tips:

  • Create a working budget
  • What’s your niche?
  • Invest in social media
  • Use the right technology
  • Be picky about your clients

Be sure to follow this link to read about each one of these tips.

  • A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.
  • George S. Patton

Thursday, May 12th, 2022

Getting Ready To Grow or Merge Up

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” – Henry James

As I have for many years (decades?), I urge every CPA practitioner to get their house in order. That means having a solid foundation to build on. Acquirers don’t want to merge with a firm that is unorganized and/or dysfunctional. Future partners don’t want to buy in to something that is not attractive.

There are some very basic things that CPA firm leaders need to do to continually increase the value of their firm. Of course, CPAs must be technically competent, good communicators, and committed to client service. You are in a service business, just like a hotel or restaurant.

Beyond those basics, a couple more foundational items are needed to create firm value.

Culture – You (and your partners, if you have some) should devote your attention to creating a culture in which you want to work, providing your employees with a clear picture of acceptable behaviors that exemplify your core values. A culture built around consistent and strong core values will attract people with those same core values. If you discover employees who do not embrace your core values, they should be encouraged to go elsewhere.

Processes – Another foundational item thing you can do to increase the value of your firm is to implement processes, procedures, and policies that are well-documented in writing. This means the success of your firm is not solely on your shoulders and not dependent on just a few people. Having written processes and procedures ensures that you can easily get new employees up to speed quickly.

  • Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.
  • Dalai Lama

Monday, May 9th, 2022

Mistakes Happen

“The public seldom forgive twice.” – Johann Kaspar Lavater

When I first joined a CPA firm, I was actually amazed at the lengths the partners and staff went to assure that the work they did for the clients was absolutely correct. At that point in my life, my work experience had always demanded: “do it right the first time.”

In the accounting firm, my administrative work was proofed and reviewed. The work performed by the accountants was checked, reviewed, corrected, reviewed again, (corrected again, if need be), quality reviewed, and then checked by a partner before they signed off. I was amazed at the review steps that were part of everyday life in an accounting firm.

I was, and still am, puzzled by the fact that more focus isn’t put on doing it right the first time. When things are checked and reviewed so much, I imagine it is easy to hurry through a task and just hope your reviewer will catch any mistakes.

Once in a great while, a mistake happens. Oh, no! It is a small mistake and you have all experienced them. It is usually the wrong address used when mailing something. A simple typo in a communication to a client. A label affixed to an envelope that is crooked (remember, everything going to a client must be perfect, it is the little things that matter). Have you ever mailed a tax organizer to a dead person? The family is not pleased.

However, rarely, a more major mistake slips through the review process. The client brings it to your attention. You apologize profusely to the client and go about correcting the error. They seem to understand. They are loyal and forgiving. They don’t even consider leaving the firm.

That is why making mistakes when serving CPA firm clients is so rare and why so much caution is applied to the processes. Because if you make another mistake with that same client, you will probably lose the client and damage the firm reputation.

Keep today’s quotation, above, in mind and develop training methods that encourage your team to do it right the first time.

  • If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?
  • John Wooden

Friday, April 8th, 2022

How To Keep Things Moving At Your Firm – Friday Flashback

“Those who are wise won’t be busy, and those who are too busy can’t be wise.” – Lin Yutang

Here it is, Friday again. Fridays seem to roll around so quickly, especially in tax season when everyone is so busy.

Read this flashback post to learn how to keep firm initiatives moving forward during busy times.

  • Beware the barrenness of a busy life.
  • Socrates

Thursday, March 10th, 2022

Clients Refusing Technology

“I think that technology is much more mysterious to the people using it than, say, the automobile was. This isn’t an original observation, but a lot of the smart devices people rely on now really do feel like magic to a lot of us.” – Author: Charlie Jane Anders

Firms are finally beginning to see some progress in clients adapting to technology. Clients are (although it has been slow) finally accepting a copy of their tax return via SafeSend and other digital methods.

My clients and other firms I know are still often offering a paper copy if a client requests it. Maybe it is time to stop this practice. The world is becoming more digital.

If your firm is to grow and prosper, it has to have some standards and reap the benefits of the expense they spend on technology. In these times of difficulty finding workers, technology helps you get more done with fewer people. Give your clients a “next year warning.” Something like, “Next year we will not be furnishing paper copies.”

As with almost everything inside a CPA firm, there will be some exceptions – but PLEASE limit the exceptions. If a client is elderly, ask permission to send their return to a relative who can assist with printing. Most computer-adverse older people have someone who helps them navigate technology.

Will you lose a few clients? Probably. But when they go to another CPA firm they will find that firm also delivers only digital copies. (That’s my dream, anyway!)

  • The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
  • Mark Twain

Tuesday, March 8th, 2022

Exceptions & Rules

“I follow three rules: Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people you care.” – Lou Holtz

You expended a lot of effort in establishing the firm’s paperless processes/procedures. Most of your partners follow the rules. For some partners, you do this and that – print things off, provide paper, etc. How will you get ahead by making so many exceptions to the rules?

My grandson, Sam, when he was at that pre-school age always had a question. That question was, “Is that a rule?” For example – Grandma says, “Sam, please put your shoes in the closet.” Sam asked, “Is that a rule?” When I say yes, it was a rule. He mildly said, okay and put his shoes in the closet. Evidently, his mom and dad stressed that there were certain rules for behavior.

There are certain rules for behavior in CPA firms, too. Is it a rule that we review on screen? Yes, it is a rule. Is it a rule that we have our time in by 9:00 am the following day? Yes, it is a rule. Is it a rule that we have our billings done by the 5th of the month? Yes, it is a rule. You get the drift.

Firms make too many exceptions. Once my IT Manager said something that has stuck with me over the years. He said, “We are governed by rules but we operate by exception.” Oh, my! Don’t operate your firm by exception.

I advise my clients to not establish rules if they are going to break them. Partners will agree in a meeting to a specific process/procedure/guideline and then some leave the meeting with no intention of following that “rule.” A prime example is: We will stop work at 90 days if a client has not paid our fee. If partners cannot truly agree don’t establish the rule – policy – procedure.

I love the quote, above, by Lou Holtz. I had the wonderful experience of hearing him speak several years ago. It was one of the most motivating speeches I have ever heard.

  • If you obey all the rules you'll miss all the fun.
  • Katherine Hepburn

Monday, November 8th, 2021

Working Harder Won’t Fix It

“Without changing our patterns of thought, we will not be able to solve the problems that we created with our current patterns of thought.” ~Albert Einstein

In public accounting, working long hours and achieving chargeable hour goals is considered the way to providing quality client service.

You believe that your client service (your work) is better than your competitor. Your competitor thinks the same about you.

So, to provide the best service you ask your team to show more effort and work more hours. You will never accomplish your goal of great service by expending more effort.

Instead, look at your systems. Providing the most timely and accurate work means continually changing, updating, and modifying your processes and procedures.

Are you still inputting data rather than having it done through technology? Are truly paperless? Are you delivering your product digitally? Are all of your admin team members highly skilled in using technology to streamline their work? The same applies to your staff. Are they continually finding ways to expend less effort and still end up with the most accurate final product?

Think about this comment from Seth Godin: “How do we do this work?” is a much better question than, “Who isn’t trying hard enough?”

  • Almost all quality improvement comes via simplification of design, manufacturing… layout, processes, and procedures.
  • Tom Peters

Friday, October 22nd, 2021

The Clock Is Ticking – Flashback Friday

“I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.” – Woody Allen

The major due dates have passed. Now, you have two months to get a lot done.

Read this flashback post about not wasting valuable time!

  • The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.
  • Stephen Covey

Wednesday, October 6th, 2021

When They Walk In The Door

“If you want to ignite the spark, focus on them from the moment they walk in the door.”  – Bruce Tulgan

I have often talked about young, newly graduated talent walking into the door, for the first time, at their new job in a CPA firm. My story stresses the fact that from a baby’s first step they have heard applause for each accomplishment through their growing-up years. Even at college graduation, they hear applause.

What do they hear when they walk into a CPA firm? Silence.

From Bruce Tulgan – “With a concrete onboarding plan, clear learning objectives, and supporting materials—and one or two daily one-on-ones—you will be amazed how quickly you can get a new employee on-board, up-to-speed, and operating at full capacity.”

Read this great blog post by Bruce Tulgan and watch the short video summary. What can your firm do to make onboarding and continual employment at your firm enjoyable, exciting, and rewarding?

  • Employees today want to know, “What do you want from me today, tomorrow, this week, this month, this year?
  • Bruce Tulgan