Archive for the ‘Recruiting’ Category

Monday, March 28th, 2022

I Like Living.

“We’ve greatly exaggerated the risk of sinking, without celebrating the value of swimming.” – Seth Godin

For many CPA teams this time of year, every day is another workday. The hours, days, weeks seem to be getting longer and longer.

However, in recent years, firms have taken great strides to alleviate the dark cloud of tax season that hangs over their employees’ heads. I honestly believe that CPA firms, despite the many due dates, are wonderful places to work and expand your career. When I was working inside a firm, I enjoyed tax season because everyone was focused on providing awesome service to the clients. They were focused on helping people. That’s what CPAs do.

The drudgery involved has a lot to do with attitude and attitude is the one thing you only can control. So many people are less fortunate than CPA firm teams.

The following quote from Agatha Christie’s autobiography is sure meaningful to me and I hope it is to you. Being alive is a grand thing!

“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly despairing, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing. – Agatha Christie

The following from Seth Godin should guide us in hiring:

“The actual differentiator in just about every job is attitude. From plumbers to carpenters to radiologists to pharmacists, someone with extraordinary soft skills (honesty, commitment, compassion, resilience, enrollment in the journey, empathy, willingness to be coached… the real skills that we actually care about) is going to outperform. If this is so obviously true, then why don’t organizations hire for attitude and train for expertise?

  • Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don't need to escape from.
  • Seth Godin

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

Thursday, January 27th, 2022

Are You Meeting Their Needs?

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Be sure you are aware of what your employees really need. Firms are trying all kinds of creative and unique ways to attract people and to keep the talented people they already employ. Some of these ways are not so creative and unique, nor do they have to be.

You might think that more money will solve the hiring and retention dilemma. I agree that it will certainly help. I have observed that many firms are offering new recruits nearly the same salary that my firm offered about twelve years ago! For small to medium-size firms, beginning salaries are still not very competitive. Owners make the excuse that they are small and that they are located in areas where the cost of living is less than major cities. Location isn’t an excuse any longer. You are competing with every CPA firm everywhere.

In a recent article, Suzanne Lucas (@realevilhrlady) notes that 77% of employees say they would prefer to work for a company that gives them flexibility rather than work for a company with a fancy corporate headquarters.

Flexibility has been discussed extensively in the CPA profession but it is still a challenge for managers and for those being managed. Managers are uneasy about having people work from home. How do they know they are working? Well, trust is the answer but that is a topic for another day.

It is true that some managers micro-manage and want to track time on the employees’ computers (keystrokes) and want them to have their cameras on all the time so they can be seen working. Thankfully, I don’t see those extremes in very many accounting firms.

Read Lucas’ article and learn how ER (employee relations) can help managers focus on results and outcomes, rather than availability when a manager reaches out to them.

  • The man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.
  • Max Lucado

Monday, January 24th, 2022

Hire The Best

“I look for three things in hiring people. The first is personal integrity, the second is intelligence, and the third is a high energy level. But if you don’t have the first, the second two don’t matter.” – Warren Buffett, CEO, Berkshire-Hathaway

In a recent podcast with Dan Hood, Allan Koltin talked about the need to not only hire people but to hire THE BEST people. I couldn’t agree more.

What I have observed happening now is that firms are hiring whoever they can find. Don’t embrace a hiring philosophy that says if the person is breathing, hire them.

Don’t be desperate – – if you are desperate, you hire average people. to me “average” means mediocre and that leads to a mediocre firm that will eventually go nowhere.

So many firms are merging up now because they have been hiring mediocre people for many years and now they have no future leaders. Much of this has been brought on by complacency. Firm owners have been very comfortable for too many years.

So, hire the top students – compete with the Big 4 if you have to. Be very generous with training dollars for your all-stars. You don’t have to treat everyone the same. Weed out poor performers and the clients that cause the most headaches and frustration.

Build an all-star team serving all-star clients!

  • People inspire you, or they drain you. Pick them wisely."
  • Hans F. Hasem

Monday, January 17th, 2022

A Career For Non-CPAs

“Talent is like electricity. We don’t understand electricity. We use it.” – Maya Angelou

The challenge is really nothing new. A CPA firm has a team member who is an all-star. Learns quickly comprehends the issues, and serves clients efficiently and effectively. If they would only pass that CPA Exam!

Usually, they get the message and move on to work in corporate accounting leaving a significant void in the firm. Historically, firms have even said, “We are a CPA firm, we need CPAs.”

Yes, that is true. But in these changing times, involving a new type of workforce, you need to be creative. Firms need to change. Maybe more young people would major in accounting if they didn’t have to pass the CPA Exam to work in public accounting. The goal of becoming a “partner” simply isn’t as strong with younger accountants as it once was.

One firm has taken a step to solve this problem.

Kimberly Wines, COO of SEK CPAs & Advisors allowed me to share their firm’s approach to this challenging issue.

Our Firm recently added a Client Relationship Manager role to our tier of positions.  It parallels the role of a Manager, however does not require the CPA designation and does not provide for advancement to partner consideration.  These individuals are eligible for the same benefits as a manager. 

The firm has provided the core competencies and contribution points for the role and some valuable team members have embraced it.

As you have heard and read many times, the talent shortage is not going away. It will never be “the good old days” again. As some professional leaders have said, the partnership model no longer works. There are even bigger changes ahead for accounting firms.

  • Real talent shines through regardless of how many others there are around you.
  • Paloma Faith

Tuesday, January 4th, 2022

High School Interns

“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” — Bob Proctor

I have often suggested, for an accounting firm, to utilize some high school interns. I think it is important to introduce the world of public accounting to a younger audience. Plus, I encourage practitioners to get involved in high school career days. If you have elementary children, why not volunteer to talk to their class about the accounting profession?

Maybe you will be encouraged to hire some high school interns by the following comments from Timothy Allen, MBA, Chief Operating Officer of Reilly, Penner & Benton in Milwaukee, Wisconsin:

“We started with high school interns this past tax season. We hired one as a tax administrative intern doing tax assembly, scanning, and other admin duties. She did such a fantastic job we hired her back as a tax intern this tax season. We have also started hiring college freshmen and sophomores as administrative interns with the intention of having them come back as juniors/seniors as full interns.

Going forward, CPA firms need to be creative and adventurous in their hiring practices. Add high school interns to your action plan.

  • Learning is finding out that you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, and teachers."
  • Richard Bach

Thursday, December 23rd, 2021

Toxic & Civility

“Teaching civility is an obligation of the family,” – Stephen Carter

CPA firms are definitely in the hiring mode. You need people and people interested in working for a public accounting firm are in short supply. When you are interviewing, don’t settle for someone who is not a good fit. Beware of toxic people.

According to research and an article via HBR, one toxic employee wipes out the gains of more than two superstars! Also, rude employees have a much stronger effect on your organization than workers who demonstrate civility.

When interviewing, if you ask the same questions in the same order you have a better chance of predicting the candidates’ performance. Ask questions like:

  • Describe a time when you were stressed. How did you deal with it?
  • Describe a tim when you had to work with a difficult person. How did you handle it?

Read the article for more interview questions.

Be sure to get your team members involved in the interviewing process. It gives your team a chance to observe the candidate and a chance for the candidate to observe your team.

Always set the example for civility. Your firm will not have a culture of civility if leaders do not demonstrate it on a daily basis.

Right now, in this time of labor shortages, product shortages, and dangers from COVID, civility seems very difficult to discover, sadly, even in our government officials. Make your firm a model for civility.

  • I think it is important that we rebuild an atmosphere of forgiveness and civility in every aspect of our lives.
  • T. D. Jakes

Tuesday, December 14th, 2021

Taking Care of Your People

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” – Max DePree

Accounting firms have been searching and experimenting with many ways to not only attract new talent to the firm but to also retain their valuable current team members.

One firm I know closes its office between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Of course, they care about their clients but they also care about their people and retaining the best and brightest talent. The best thing about this is that they did this even before COVID.

Many firms think they could simply NOT do this. The point is to give clients plenty of notice and keep your word. It is what I call an example of training your clients. I think clients would understand. The few that might grumble could go elsewhere but I bet they wouldn’t.

Here’s the message that a former client of mine, a very successful, local CPA firm, sent to their clients earlier this month.

Our office will be closed from Friday, December 24, 2021, to January 2, 2022.  We will be back to work on Monday, January 3, 2022.

In order for our team to enjoy the holiday time with their families and friends, we will not be checking email regularly during the time off. If you have any year-end needs or questions, please contact us by Monday, December 20, 2021, so we may help you before our time off. 

Thank you for entrusting us with your financial needs this year, and we look forward to continuing to help you in the New Year!

  • Accept the fact that we have to treat almost anybody as a volunteer.
  • Peter Drucker

Tuesday, November 9th, 2021

Review Your Holiday Benefit

“A holiday is an opportunity to journey within. It is also a chance to chill, to relax. It is when I switch on my rest mode.” – Prabhas

Accounting Today recently released their list of the 2021 Best Firms for Young Accountants.

Each year, Accounting Today and Best Companies Group recognize the 100 Best Firms to Work For in the U.S. — and then they pick the 10 Best Firms for Young Accountants from among those, based on the responses of their younger staff to a comprehensive employee survey. Click here to meet the ten firms.

As I browsed the list, something stood out to me. Only four of the ten best firms offered ten paid holidays. Four offered eight and two offered nine. I thought this was rather unusual. In my network of firms I believe ten paid holidays is very common:

  1. New Year’s Day
  2. First Friday after April 15
  3. Memorial Day
  4. Independence Day
  5. Labor Day
  6. Thanksgiving
  7. Day after Thanksgiving
  8. Christmas Eve
  9. Christmas Day
  10. One floating holiday

The floating holiday is often used to make a four-day weekend if July 4th falls on a Thursday, for example. Some firms give it as an employee’s birthday or any day of their choice.

Think about what your firm offers and see if you are in line with what is expected from future employees.

  • I look my best when I'm totally free, on holiday, walking on the beach.
  • Rosamund Pike

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021

Is This Person a Good Fit?

“Everybody knows that fit matters but what most people do is hire based on other criteria and then either regret or fire based on a lack of fit, down the road.” – Bruce Tulgan

Often, when CPA firms are hiring, they place great focus on the candidate’s skill set. Did they have good grades? Have they passed the Exam? Are they familiar with the software products we use? Do they seem to be a good communicator. What kind of work experience do they have? Do they seem to have a great attitude?

In these challenging hiring times, you are so anxious to find a body, any halfway intelligent body, that you hire too quickly and regret it later.

Bruce Tulgan, in a recent blog post, titled, Finding Fit When Hiring or Promoting From Within tells us:

Fit is crucial to success.

Fit is intangible, hard to evaluate, and hard to measure. And with talent in such great demand versus supply, it is very hard to convince hiring managers to take the time and invest the scrutiny to do a deep dive evaluation of ‘fit’ before making the hire or promotion. This is even though fit is ultimately the biggest overall factor in success of a new hire or internal promotion.

While you are seeking people to fit your firm culture, you should also be aware of making promotions inside your firm. CPAs often promote people to the manager position just because they are good technicians. Many good technicians do not possess adequate people skills. A manager needs people skills! They are not a good fit for a manager position. The same thought applies to naming a new partner. Do they fit the partner role? Can they mentor young people, excel at client relationships, and bring in new business, or are they just an exceptional technician?

I know a very successful firm that puts candidates through a very rigorous hiring process. Many people at the firm, at all levels, talk with them before they are hired. The firm is very honest with the candidate about the hard work and sometimes long hours that they will be facing. Thus, they have developed a culture where people that don’t “fit” don’t get hired.

If you have hired people lately and they just haven’t worked out, keep in mind how much turnover costs you. Interview and promote for fit.

Read Tulgan’s blog post, it contains a lot of great information that you may want to put into practice.

  • Just because someone is intelligent, capable, and highly-skilled in their current role doesn’t necessarily mean they will find the same level of success elsewhere.
  • Bruce Tulgan