Archive for the ‘Trends’ Category

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

Make Some Progressive Changes This Year

After busy season your thoughts will more strongly turn to your people. Of course, you continue to think about them and their well-being during busy season but probably won’t take action on any items until after April 15.

Here’s a couple of things that many progressive firms are doing:

Stand-up, Get Moving – – Standing desks reduce health risks, encourage more activity (and we all know that more activity is good for us). Accountants sit way too much! Does your firm offer to provide stand-up desks for everyone? Do you offer ways to be more active during tax season (yoga classes, Zumba, or an office basketball league)?

Here’s some tips for office workers to keep moving (from an article in the Dayton Daily News):

  • Use a printer or restroom on a different floor
  • Take the stairs
  • Leave the office for an afternoon stroll or coffee run (walk to the coffee shop!)
  • Set a notification on your computer that reminds you to move every 30 minutes
  • Get up to talk to a colleague instead of sending an email
  • Have a walking or standing meeting (these are very popular)
  • Stand while talking on the phone (I’ve seen a lot of partners do this one)
  • Pause and stretch
  • Take a quick walk during lunch break (I know a managing partner and firm administrator that often take a walk during lunch hour and talk about operational and HR topics.)

Here’s a picture of Hemingway at his stand-up desk.

The second thing to consider, that many firms are providing, is closing the office on Fridays (or half-day on Fridays) from June through August. There are a lot of variations:

  • Close for the entire day on Friday (summer Fridays are fairly “dead” anyway)
  • Stay open but allow half the staff to be off one week and the other half the next week.
  • Establish 10 hour work days from Monday through Thursday so that 40 hours are still worked.
  • Close on Friday afternoons (this one does not eliminate commuting for a day which is a big issue).

Most firms tell me that their clients don’t mind at all if the firm closes on Fridays. Check out the website of Payne Nickles. Look on the left at their hours. “Fridays from May 1 through Labor Day we close at noon.”

  • The problem is not the problem. the problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand?
  • Captain Jack Sparrow

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

Guard Your Level Of Connection & Your Sanity

Your workday is very long this time of year. For many accountants, your workday is long almost every time of year. While some people say they disconnect when they get home… most people do not. A recent study found that 50% of people check work email before and after work hours and throughout the weekend.

In accounting firms, I bet the percentage is even much higher. I have heard some partners brag that they are ALWAYS available to their clients – 24/7. Personally, I don’t think that is healthy and a recent study found that the expectation that people need to respond to emails during off-work hours produces a prolonged stress response.

In his article for Forbes, Travis Bradberry, notes that we need to establish some boundaries between personal and professional lives. When you don’t, your personal life and health can suffer.

If you are working in an accounting firm and the partners (or even clients) expect you to be connected 24/7, you may need to set some of those boundaries. Bradberry suggests that you need to take a proactive step and say no to your boss because if you don’t, you are giving away somethings that are very valuable, like:

  • Your health
  • Your family
  • Your sanity
  • Your identity
  • Your contacts
  • Your integrity

Give it a try in order to keep your sanity during tax season – set some boundaries. Read more here.

Bradberry’s book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, might be a good one to add to your summer reading list.

  • The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, then it's you.
  • Rita Mae Brown

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

Female Partners In The CPA Profession

4JS6X4XCW1There is some positive news on the topic of women partners. A year or so ago, the surveys told us that the percentage of female partners had declined.

New research from the AICPA has found that women more often attain CPA firm partnership status in smaller firms – those with 20 accounting professionals or fewer.

Women make up nearly half of all accounting graduates entering the profession, yet are regularly under-represented at the partnership level. The good news is that 24 percent of partners at firms are women, up from 19 percent in 2012.

Here’s the breakdown of female partnership levels from the AICPA CPA Firm Gender Survey:

2 to 10 CPAs – – 43%

11 to 20 CPAs – – 39%

21 to 99 CPAs – – 27%

100+ CPAs – – 20%

Here is a link to some of the interesting results from the Study.

  • A lot of people are afraid to say what they want. That's why they don't get what they want.
  • Madonna

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

Email – Forget The Auto-Reply

Email is losing the communication battle. Most people want you to text them. Your incoming generation of employees do not use email. Your young clients do not use email.

Not so long ago, you had to be in the office, sitting at your computer to answer and send emails. Now, you carry a small mobile device that allows you immediate connection no matter where you are located.

Your clients know you are looking at your mobile device. They don’t care where you are when they need to ask you a question. So forget the auto-responder. It just fills-up the inbox of the person sending you the original email.

I like Jeffrey Gitomer‘s advice about using an auto-responder:

Do not use auto-reply telling people you’re out of the office (for the holidays or otherwise). Either respond, or let them sit until you return. If I send you an email, I don’t really care where you are or what you are doing.

Yes, email is declining but it is not going away completely. It is still appropriate for certain types of communication. I have known accountants who actually brag about how many emails they receive in a day. There is something wrong with that picture.

  • Because the mail never stops. It just keeps coming and coming and coming. There's never a letup, it's relentless.
  • Newman (character on Seinfeld)

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

Use Slides To Sell Your Services – But Do It The Right Way!

I’ve done hundreds of presentations over the last 20 years and my material has definitely evolved. Yes, speaking to accountants, I sometimes still use bullet points. Hopefully, I am getting better each year.

For you, enlightening clients and potential clients, you have to do it right. Here’s a great slideshow by Seth Godin that he shared on SlideShare.

Just take a couple of minutes to quickly page through them. I’m sure it will inspire you to make some changes to your sales approach and to your training presentation approach.
Here’s Godin’s basic 3 rules:
  1. STOP using your slide as a teleprompter.
  2. Leave behind a HANDOUT, a written document.
  3. Remember to SELL THEM your ideas.
He also notes, don’t leave behind a copy of your slides. They are meaningless without YOU. (Something I’m sure going to adopt.)
  • Give them a reason to believe.
  • Seth Godin

Friday, September 25th, 2015

PCPS Top Issues Survey Results

Not sure if you saw the release this summer, but 2015 is the year that the AICPA PCPS does their Top Issues survey.

I think it is helpful to see what the issues are in your size firm.  Here’s the summary:

top issues survey aicpa

  • I don't like to commit myself about heaven and hell.. you see, I have friends in both places.
  • Mark Twain

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

Embrace Excitement – Do Not Fear Some Risk

It has to be right.

Accountants are trained in the art of being accurate… being right.

From day one, young accountants have their work reviewed and reviewed again. They receive multiple review notes about what to re-do and correct. Sadly, in many firms they don’t even know what they did wrong, their work is corrected by a reviewer and passed along the review and production pipeline to “get it out the door.” Eventually, they learn that they are making mistakes…. So, they adopt an “avoid risk and over-work the project” work style.

706BA1163FYes, being accurate with client work is very important but it doesn’t apply to everything that is going on inside a CPA firm. Forming a supportive culture, embracing new ideas on efficiency, empowering your firm administrator, working in the Cloud, modifying HR policies, training people, hiring people are all initiatives that continually need to evolve and keep pace with trends.

Inject some excitement in your firm, try things…. Do things… If it proves unsatisfactory just change it again.

Changing things inside your firm feels very risky. Status quo feels very comfortable.

Get over it and remember:  Being alive is a risk.

  • Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
  • T. S. Eliot

Monday, July 6th, 2015

What If You Are Paying Too Much?

Many firms have long-time administrative people, good performers, and just because of their annual wage increases over many years they are significantly above the pay scale for administrative people in the firm’s geographic area.

Some firms only give cost of living increases. Some firms have even capped wages completely.

I do encounter this issue in many CPA firms. What I always ask is, “Are they doing more than they did last year?”

By more I mean something out of their routine assignments they have been performing for years. Have they read a book that could enhance their skills, have they tried and completed Microsoft Office User accreditation (Google MOS Certification to find more info), have they participated in cross-training and any other proactive activities?

If they are participating in goal-setting each year and achieving goals than some reward is appropriate. However, what I usually find is that these long-time administrative people are “protected.” Meaning that they have been with the firm so long and loyal to a partner so long, that they will never be pushed to step-up or step-out. In fact, many are sometimes still resisting all of the technology that is available.

Another goal you might consider is to ask administrative employees to join IAAP (International Association of Administrative Professionals) and attend local chapter meetings (of course the firm should support them by covering expenses). There is a certification available via IAAP, also.

After all of this rambling, I guess the short answer is, as their supervisor you should be aggressive in asking them to continually improve and do more or work more efficiently to earn a pay increase. Keep in mind you are running a business and keeping salaries “at market” is always something to strive for.

I strongly recommend always paying for performance. If an admin person or even a partner is simply doing what they have always done, not expending time and effort to gain new knowledge or skills, why should they get a pay increase?

  • Aren't we all striving to be overpaid for what we do?
  • Will Ferrell

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

CPACA Releases New Succession Survey Findings

I am honored to be a member of the CPA Consultants’ Alliance, a group of management consultants serving the CPA profession. We join together to share trends and practices so that we can better serve our clients: CPA firms, their leaders and their teams.

We are pleased to release the findings of our Succession Survey. Here is our press release and a link to where you can download the article.

CPACA Releases New Succession Survey FindingsFirms struggle most with procrastination and lack of “bench strength” 

Overland Park, KS, June 2015 – The CPA Consultants’ Alliance (CPACA), released the findings from their new succession survey in an article entitled CPA Firms Face Considerable Succession Challenges.  With input from 337 mostly owner and non-equity partner respondents across a cross-section of small, medium and large firms, the survey indicates that firms have considerable challenges with succession.  According to CPACA President and survey chairperson Terry Putney of Transition Advisors, “our profession has a long way to go to get ahead of the considerable wave of retirements facing us.”

Key survey findings conclude that firms:

•       Are procrastinating or are in denial about succession with 26% of respondents citing “other priorities” as the reason succession planning gets short shrift in their firm and 51.7% blaming procrastination or denial.

•       Lack significant “bench strength” to plan transition around, particularly at smaller firms. While 48% of responding partners in firms with 100-plus employees “definitely agree” their firm has adequate talent on hand, over half are not fully confident in their bench strength. Fewer than two-thirds of all responding partners in small firms say they have the right talent to replace retiring owners in the next five years, and one-third are not ready at all.

•       Do not have a systematic way to identify and develop talent into future partners. Just under half of surveyed partners in midsize firms say they do not have a system in place for developing internal talent. 35% of all survey respondents indicate their firms do not have a system in place and are not working on one.

•       Lack plans for client transition.  Only 25% of firms have a client transition plan they are confident will work, although over 40% of those who do not have a plan in place say they are working on one.

•       Are uncertain about their buy/sell arrangements. Nearly 25% of the large firm respondents and 50% of small firm respondents don’t know what their agreement says and more than 75% of all firm respondents lack complete confidence they can handle future partner retirement obligations.

•       See a sale or merger as their most likely succession plan, which was indicated by half of the respondents in firms with less than 10 employees and one in five in firms with 10 to 24 employees.

“This survey’s purpose is to shed light on a topic that is clearly on the back-burner in firms.  By highlighting the challenges and providing suggested solutions, we hope to help firm leaders take steps to plan for and execute transition,” continued Putney.

Download the article at DOWNLOAD SUCCESSION SURVEY.

About The CPA Consultants’ Alliance

The CPACA was formed in 2012 with the purpose of exploring leadership issues facing the public accounting profession and developing and sharing solutions that benefit practitioners. Other insights from the group include the article What Drives Happiness at CPA Firms and the whitepaper CPA Firm Leadership: Communication Drives New Possibilities. The group’s vision is to inspire positive change in the CPA profession by collaboratively establishing tools and content that will educate, motivate and increase the wisdom of current and future leaders.

The CPACA’s members are successful consultants within the CPA profession. Members’ expertise includes CPA firm strategic and succession planning, leadership and management, growth, sales and marketing, information technology, human resources, coaching, mergers and acquisitions, diversity, leadership development and more.

For more information about The CPACA, its members and to stay connected, please:

Visit our Website


  • A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.
  • Greek proverb

Friday, June 5th, 2015

Sole Practitioner/Small Firm Concerns

IMG_5009If you are a regular subscriber to this blog, you know that last week I had a wonderful opportunity to work with a group of partners/owners comprised of small firms and sole proprietors. It was a beautiful setting in southern Ohio.

The entire two days was focused on MAP and yes, small firms must pay very close attention to all the details and management challenges, just like larger firms.

As a result of the meeting, I came away with a list of concerns from CPA firms with under 20 people.

  • Practice growth
  • People – attracting & retaining
  • Client touches (via Cloud/Virtual)
  • Determining when to hire more people
  • Leverage
  • Exit strategy
  • Keeping people busy from May to December

If your firm, no matter what the size, is facing similar challenges, I hope you will attend some MAP sessions at conferences this summer, learn about some new solutions and then implement them at your firm. I also want to urge managing partners and firm administrators to take other partners along to MAP events. I hope to meet many of you at next week’s AICPA/AAA/AAM conference in Orlando.

  • Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.
  • Helen Keller