Archive for the ‘Training’ Category

Tuesday, November 16th, 2021

Give Them A Chance

“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” – Pelé, Brazilian football legend.

Performing all the services that a CPA firm offers is not something that is learned overnight.

How many times have you heard a new recruit say, “I never learned this in college!”? Many new hires struggle for a while with what seems like fairly easy activities to a more experienced CPA.

With inexperienced new hires and with administrative employees, I believe that it takes a full year cycle for them to begin to grasp the intricacies of their job. In a CPA firm, there are three seasons – busy season, summer, and fall. Each season has varying duties that you sometimes don’t perform except once a year. That is why giving them a year to experience the duties expected of them seems to make sense. Then, I always recommend that you give them two years to determine if they are going to fail or succeed.

If a person is not a good fit for public accounting, it is not fair to string them along, hoping that they will eventually “get it”. You are not doing them, or the firm, a favor.

Comments I have heard from practitioners during some of my presentations: “We don’t give them two years, we usually give them eight years before we face reality and let them go.” “If someone is not a good fit, we seem to keep them forever.”

So many firms are desperate for people right now. Don’t lower your standards. That’s never what a CPA should do.

  • The greater the difficulty the more the glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.
  • Epictetus

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

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021

SALY

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.” – Brady Paisley

This term has been used by CPA firms for decades. SALY – Same As Last Year.

Do you remember when a new team member was assigned a routine individual tax return and the partner or manager would send the client’s file with a note simply stating SALY? Everyone knew what that meant. You just had to follow what notes were in the file and draft this year’s return similarly to last year’s return. Simple.

SALY became a way to train new recruits and I’m sure it was very boring for those newbies.

The point of this is that you can no longer sidestep your responsibility for training by simply indicating SALY. The workforce has evolved and young people are more curious and demanding.

Besides that, you are still working through a pandemic. It seems it just won’t go away. You are also constantly dealing with new technology. Going forward nothing will ever be the “same as last year” again.

  • We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.
  • W. Somerset Maugham

Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

D I Y

“It takes half your life before you discover life is a do-it-yourself project.” – Napoleon Hill

You see the abbreviation all the time now – DIY (Do It Yourself). Many people have learned to do many things (with the help of YouTube) while staying at home during the pandemic.

Doing things yourself is almost always cheaper than buying something you can make or hiring an outsider to fix something that you can fix yourself.

All of this was brought to mind when I came upon a question asked in a novel by Agatha Christie. The question: Why keep a dog and bark yourself?

To me, that translated into CPA firm jargon means…. Why hire people to do the work and keep doing the work yourself?

A partner thinks: I won’t send this back to the preparer, I’ll just fix it myself.

A manager thinks: I won’t delegate this job to a senior. I know my billing rate is higher but I can do it twice as fast.

It’s that ongoing issue inside many firms – younger people do not learn to do more difficult things because more senior people cling to work.

So, not that your employees are dogs, but…. Why keep a dog and bark yourself?

  • Do what you can, with hat you have and do it now!
  • George Washington Carver

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021

Digital Rainmaking

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” -Thomas Edison

Times have changed dramatically. The old ways of business development inside CPA firms are gone (for now and maybe forever).

I imagine many firms are not comfortable with pursuing new business in the digital world.

Sarah Dobek, Inovautus Consulting, is offering practitioners the opportunity to invest in digital marketing training.

The training involves four sessions: Session 1: The Intersection Between Traditional + Virtual BD, Session 2: Networking Virtually, Session 3: Best Practices for Integrating Video into the Sales Process, and Session 4: Social Selling.

Don’t sit on the sidelines, get involved with digital marketing. Get more information about this training and the sessions here.

  • The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.
  • Thomas Paine

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

Strengths

“It’s good to strengthen weakness but better to strengthen your strengths. You hired them for their strengths. Why focus on their weaknesses?” – Dan Rockwell @LeadershipFreak

You hire them because they have an accounting degree, they received good grades and they interviewed well.

You teach and train them to perform the basic duties of an accountant working in public accounting. You provide lots of feedback on what they did wrong along the way.

Of course, they still have some areas where they need to improve. Now, it is time to downplay their weaknesses (no one is perfect) and devote time, energy, and dollars to building on their strengths.

Communication – Maybe they are a poor communicator but they can investigate and solve the most challenging tax issues. Maybe they are a great communicator but they dread having their nose to the grindstone for eight hours.

Problem-solving – Maybe they love the challenge to think outside the box and discover answers to specific challenges. Maybe, when they encounter a problem, they prefer to immediately seek the advice of their manager or other experienced person.

Some no-brainers in an accounting firm – Someone just has a knack for preparing corporate tax returns and another can quickly and accurately work their way throw a long list of individual tax returns. Someone seems simply loves working in the tax area and dreads being drafted to be on an audit team.

Discover each individual’s strengths by enlisting their help and then put people with different strengths on the same engagement team. Most engagement teams need a planner and a doer, etc.

Here’s a good article via Forbes that will help you begin focusing on each of your team members’ strengths.

  • Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.
  • Napoleon Hill

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

Training New Staff Virtually

“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly is the ultimate competitive advantage.” – Jack Welch

CPA firms have come a long way since last March. While working remotely is now a fact of life, some aspects of surviving in a virtual world have been more challenging. Firms are sometimes struggling with things like interviewing, orientation, onboarding and training.

In a recent discussion on the CPAFMA discussion board, the question was asked about how to train new team members virtually.

Jen Zarins, Director of Learning & Development for the Tidwell Group in Columbus, Ohio graciously allowed me to share her response. I hope you find it helpful in structuring your firm’s virtual training process.

We utilized zoom a ton.   We keep zoom meeting rooms open all day so they can ask questions for the first few days.   Monitoring their timesheets to verify they aren’t spinning wheels too long is needed in the beginning. We utilize Slack for instant messaging and it seems the recent college grads are way more comfortable sending IMs instead of emails or picking up the phone. The interns also have a Slack channel to ask questions. We have the seniors monitoring the channel and answering questions more timely than emails to folks who are in meetings.

Screen sharing and going thru their first couple sets of review comments instead of just them reading tone in them also helps. I think it is important that they show their face on the screen to read the expressions to see if they are really understanding. If they are shy on camera, we have found playing a few online games with zoom open was a great ice breaker.

  • The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.
  • Credited to Henry Ford

Monday, January 11th, 2021

Leadership Development

Once again, it is time to invest in the future success of your firm. I am happy to share this opportunity for your partners-in-training from The Partner Institute™

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” – Peter F. Drucker

How is your firm’s foundation for ensuring long term success and growth?
Is your firm taking the necessary steps to develop the next generation of leaders? When considering the right CPA leadership development program for your firm, what is important to you? Leadership is the cornerstone of your firm’s future. Read More
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We are dedicated to creating the best experience for our participants and appreciate the value of providing in-person training. As such, we have decided to delay the start of our 2021 program.
If you have not registered, there is still time. Enroll now and join us for the launch of our next program on June 9-11, 2021 at Walt Disney World. Learn More
Reserve your spot in The Partner Institute™ by submitting your registration and a deposit of $500. Attend the initial course and then decide if the program is right for you. If you elect to continue, we will invoice you accordingly. 
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  • Average leaders raise the bar on themselves; good leaders raise the bar for others; great leaders inspire others to raise their own bar.
  • Orrin Woodward

Monday, December 28th, 2020

An Investment

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” – E.E. Cummings

The military takes a young, enthusiastic person and turns them into highly-skilled soldiers, sailors, marines, etc. These very young people have huge, life or death responsibilities. (Haven’t you seen the documentaries about the flight deck crew on an aircraft carrier?)

They do this by training, training and more training. It is how they build for the future.

Training is not an expense – – it is an important investment.

In many accounting firms, the partners are focused too much on the cost of training. Be generous with training dollars. It is an important investment in the future of your firm.

Too often I have heard CPA firm employees say, “Oh, my partners would never pay for that (fill-in the blank).” They are hesitant to pay for training, a conference, a subscription to a publication, coaching or even a book!

Again, if you want to build future leaders for your firm, be generous with training, training, and more training.

  • You cannot prevent a major catastrophe, but you can build an organization that is battle-ready, where people trust one another. In military training, the first rule is to instill soldiers with trust in their officers - because without trust, they won't fight.
  • Peter Drucker

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020

Hiring & Managing People

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” – Richard Branson

I certainly enjoyed being involved in the CPAFMA Accelerator Sessions this week. It was such an honor to be on the agenda both days with some very awesome people. The Accelerator sessions caused me to think about my own list of current issues and trends.

  • The digital transformation of work has finally arrived. It is amazing how much firms accomplished in such a short time.
  • Firm leaders have realized that a hybrid model that combines in-person and remote work actually works well and it will permanently lower the number of people in the office.
  • It has been widely discussed that firms will be reducing the amount of office space. Some have already begun this process. See the next bullet.
  • About 77% of respondents to the third-quarter AICPA Business & Industry Economic Outlook Survey said they planned to keep their office square footage. Only about 18% planned a reduction, despite the potential savings.
  • The pandemic caused us to reset and rethink the ways we hire and manage people. A demand for thorough hiring that is probably different from how you have always done it. Interview questions that provide you with meaningful information will become more important. You will need to train your interviewers.
  • Hiring & managing remote people should be done in a consistent manner. You might soon see a new position in your firm “Head of Remote Work” – larger firms already have positions like chief people officer or chief culture officer.
  • Look for people who can self-manage
  • Prospective employees may be talented – people are born with various talents – but are they able to use their talent to build the skills necessary to be successful in public accounting?
  • Trust on both sides – partners & staff – will become even more important.
  • CPA firms are looking for experienced people. One reason is that they aren’t prepared to hire new college grads who are completely green – they haven’t developed a plan on how to train them yet. Some firms have already mastered this!
  • Don't criticize, condemn, or complain.
  • Dale Carnegie