Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Friday, May 20th, 2022

We Are Closed On Friday – Flashback

“He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.” – Albert Einstein

It is Friday again and time for my weekly flashback post. This week I am thinking of all of you who are struggling with the decision to close your office on Friday. This post gives you an example of the message one firm sent out to their clients in 2016. Yes, 2016 and some of you are still debating this issue.

Have a great weekend!

  • We know we cannot plant seeds with closed fists. To sow, we must open our hands.
  • Adolfo Perez Esquivel

Wednesday, May 18th, 2022

Be Creative – Do Things!

“Creativity is seeing what others see and thinking what no one else ever thought.” – Albert Einstein

I have observed that many CPAs wait for other CPA firms to go first and then they will follow that new idea, software, process, or procedure.

So many partners, over many years, have asked me, “What are other firms doing?” I urge you to enlist your entire team in being more creative. What suggestion does that 2-year person have that might save everyone a lot of time? What has your firm administrator been urging the firm to try for a couple of years? So what if it doesn’t work. Try something else.

Once again, I offer a complete blog post from Seth Godin.

EVERYONE ELSE IS

Well, not everyone. Just most people.

When you do something that everyone else is doing, you’re likely to get what everyone else is getting.

But in almost every population, “everyone” leaves out the people who go first, who change things, who are weird and who challenge the status quo. That’s an option, even when it doesn’t seem that way.

Mass culture gets us more mass culture. It’s not the only choice.

  • A creative life is an amplified life. It's a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life.
  • Elizabeth Gilbert

Monday, May 16th, 2022

Horse Racing On My Mind

“Remember that the most valuable antiques are dear old friends.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

I was fortunate late last week. I had the opportunity to visit Claiborne Farm in Bourbon County, Kentucky not far from Lexington, KY. Since the Kentucky Derby was still fresh in my mind, I was pleased that two very dear friends arranged the visit. Colleen Endres and Anita Goetz (and I) are all former National Presidents of the CPA Firm Management Association and our friendship goes back at least three decades. We continue to get together once or twice a year.

Claiborne Farm is a thoroughbred horse breeding operation near Paris, Kentucky. It was established in 1910 by Arthur B. Hancock, owner of Ellerslie Stud in Albemarle County, Virginia, and has been operated by members of his family ever since.

Why does this matter to you, leaders in a CPA firm? Just follow the link and you will see their motto/tagline that states their mission. I love it and was impressed. The tour we took certainly lived up to that motto. – Doing the Usual, Unusually Well.

What is your motto, tagline, brand, mission, and belief? Can you state it in FIVE words? Will people relate to it? Will each client, prospect, or business associate believe it after they have an encounter with your firm? Does your team live it every day?

We also visited Old Friends Farm, a non-profit that provides a retirement place for former racing thoroughbreds.

  • A Thoroughbred racehorse can go from 0 to 40 in a matter of three strides. It’s exhilarating the feeling of power underneath you is incredible. I love to learn what makes a Thoroughbred tick.
  • Chris McCarron

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022

The Last Days

“The digital age was dragging older lawyers like the Boones into the world of paperless files and storage, and not a minute too soon … Why destroy so many trees to produce much paper that becomes useless almost as fast as it is filed away?” – Author: John Grisham

There is a good article via Accounting Today titled, Frontier: The last days of paper.

Almost always, when I talk with clients and prospects they hesitantly disclose that they are only partially paperless. This paperless tend has been evolving for nearly twenty-five years and still some firms are hesitant to fully embrace the digital world.

The arguments are:

  • We have several older partners (and employees) that are just not ready to give up the paper.
  • We have many clients who demand we give them a paper copy.
  • We have many clients who want a digital copy AND a paper copy.
  • Some tax returns are just too complex to review on-screen.
  • And, the classic excuse: I just like the feel of paper.

I am sure you can add some excuses to this list. But, 2022 is the year, the year to fully embrace the digital world. Are you even offering your clients a paperless method of payment? Look at your competitor’s website. I bet they have a “Pay us here” selection where clients can easily pay without writing a check.

Are you still providing paper tax organizers? Paper tax organizers consume a huge amount of paper (and time and effort). Are you paying your bills via Bill.com or something similar? I receive checks from many of my clients issued via Bill.com. Bill.com also recently acquired Invoice2go this past September. There is more information on that acquisition here.

During the last couple of years, you have made great strides in becoming paperless (because you were forced into it). Make 2022 the year to take the final steps into the digital world.

  • There are three classes of men; the retrograde, the stationary, and the progressive.
  • Johann Kaspar Lavater

Wednesday, April 27th, 2022

A Message For You

“2 words of advice: Get started.” – Daniel Pink

The quote, above, certainly made me think of many of my CPA clients, friends, and colleagues.

One of my biggest frustrations is the annual procrastination cycle that firm leaders embrace. I have shared this story before but at this time of year, just after tax season, I feel obligated to share it again.

So many firm leaders say, “We’ll do that after tax season.” Well, now is the time to GET STARTED on all of those projects, initiatives, and ideas that you have been meaning to tackle.

Here’s the excuse (procrastination) cycle:

  • Late April/May – We can’t do that (whatever “that” is) now. We are so tired and stressed. We need some time for vacation and time to recuperate from tax season.
  • June – We are busy with our annual staff evaluations and it takes a lot of time and effort.
  • July/early August – We can’t do that now, so many people are on vacation.
  • Late August/September – We are so busy now with extensions!
  • October – We are so busy now with extensions!
  • November – We have put so much off that we can’t possibly get much done in just one month, because…
  • December – We have so much tax planning to do and we have all those engagement letters and other stuff to get ready for tax season
  • January-April 15 – All of that will have to wait until after tax season.

Don’t do it this year – – – “Two words of advice: Get started!”

  • Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.
  • Pablo Picasso

Wednesday, April 20th, 2022

Keeping People

“But day in and day out, the most stimulating part of the work is being a member of a team of so many very bright, articulate and talented professionals.” – – Randy West

We are hearing so much about CPA firms losing people. I continue to hear about and read about the Great Resignation and also that women are often forced to make choices that put family ahead of career. Here’s an idea that may help you retain more females AND males.

Consider embracing a career lattice culture rather than a career ladder culture. Not everyone achieves success in the same way. Often there are many detours along the way.

Research has shown that public accounting loses a lot of good people (and many females) when they believe public accounting will not accommodate their personal and career choices. Women want to start a family so they think they must leave public accounting. Don’t let your young talent make this assumption. Most successful firms have already embraced flexibility offering remote and hybrid schedules as a formal part of their culture.

I urge you to paint a picture for your young professionals of a career lattice. Communicate to them: If there comes a time in your life whether you are male or female, when you need or want less (or more), a reduced schedule, more regular hours, less travel, more travel, less responsibility, or really want to accelerate your advancement in the firm – talk to us!

The lattice, as opposed to a career ladder, allows people to stay at a certain level, move sideways, or even step downwards for a time and still not put their career progression in danger.

  • Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energy moving forward together towards an answer.
  • Denis Waitley

Tuesday, April 19th, 2022

Plan It Now – Your CPE

“I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.” – Margaret Mitchell, Gone With The Wind

For the most part, depending on which state you are in, the bulk of tax work is now behind you. You suffered through a tax season without as big of a workforce as you would have preferred. You tolerated way too many tardy clients. You kept it going even when, earlier this year, some of your team contracted COVID. You can breathe a sigh of relief and you can kick back somewhat.

Don’t go into the ATSC (After Tax Season Coma). I have observed it for many years. It is the, I need to relax, I need a vacation, I need a change of scene, I need to catch up on my emails time of year. Lots of excuses for not doing what needs to be done to propel your firm forward and to focus on your own personal growth.

One thing that often sits on the back burner for many months is obtaining your personal Continuing Professional Education credits. They have become easier to obtain via videos, webinars, and other remote opportunities. You do not have to travel somewhere, in person, to obtain the necessary credits. Yet, you procrastinate often until the last month of your reporting period.

Save yourself some hassles and draft your CPE plan for the remainder of 2022. Get it documented now and get it off of your procrastination list.

  • You can't just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood. What mood is that? Last-minute panic.
  • Bill Watterson

Wednesday, April 13th, 2022

Real Work vs. Busy Work

“The No. 1 cause of burnout is doing the same thing over and over again and not seeing results.” — Steve Kaczmarski

I am convinced that if CPA firm workers were able to do more REAL work, they could easily get it done working four days per week. Of course, I mean more chargeable/billable work. This applies whether you still bill by the hour or by the project.

Here’s a good article for you titled: People spend more than half their day doing busy work, according to a survey of 10,000-plus workers.

Constant interruptions have resulted in some workers saying their attention span is shorter than it was a year ago. Checking email and other tech platforms often result in being “on-call” 24/7. Often this will result in burn-out. You may have noticed some of your team are definitely stressed. They must deal with technology interruptions and also questions from other team members.

Check out my post about interruptions – and read the article referenced above.

Sahar Yousef, a cognitive neuroscientist at UC Berkeley says, “Having a clear beginning and ending to the day is important to not only avoid burnout but it also helps people feel good about their work.”

  • Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.
  • Etty Hillesum

Monday, April 11th, 2022

More Clarity About PTO & Remote Workers

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” – Ernest Hemingway

Recently, there was a discussion on the CPAFMA discussion board. Someone wanted guidance on how firms are managing PTO as it relates to remote and flexible schedules for team members.

I thought a great reply was provided by my friend, Donna Marlarkey, Firm Administrator for KWC in Alexandria, Virginia. Her comments and answers to questions follow:

We do not have required days in the office, yet, we make it known that the ability to work remotely is not a right; rather it is a privilege, and if they are not getting their work done, or there are performance issues those will be dealt with, even if that means requiring them to come into the office for more supervision. Also, having the privilege of a private office requires a commitment to come into the office at least 3 days a week. We have some office sharing and use a calendar reservation system for offices designated as a hotel, which has worked out well. Here are answers to your specific questions:

  • Have you updated any PTO policies regarding sick time?  Do you allow employees to simply be remote now where in the past they would have had to take a PTO day? ANS:  We have not updated our PTO policies.  People use PTO when they are unable to work due to sickness or need to take care of personal stuff.  
  • Do you allow employees to flex their time (e.g. take time off for a midday appointment and make it up at a later time that same week) or do you require PTO?  ANS:  We allow employees to flex their time as long as they keep their supervisor in the loop; we also put notes in our electronic EIO board which reflect our schedules for when we expect to be in the office or not… it’s all about communication and letting people know when you are available.  Some people do their best work after 10:00 pm… or at 4:00 am… so far we’ve not had trouble allowing them to choose the schedule that works best for them as long as they get their work done. 
  • Have you changed your PTO policy or adjusted the number of PTO hours available since moving to a hybrid model? ANS:  No.
  • Do you allow employees to pick and choose remote days or do you require a consistent schedule?  ANS:  They pick and choose. We do, however, have certain days of the week where certain teams are encouraged to be in the office for collaboration purposes. Also, we moved our staff meetings to completely remote – we conduct them once a month using Zoom Webinar.  We use Microsoft Teams a LOT to stay in touch both for video calling and for screen sharing for training and supervision.  

It is important to hold onto your staff any way you can, but also get work done. One last thought is that we have an AMAZING admin team, and for the most part they need to come into the office to do their tasks, but even with the admin team, as long as they have work they can do remotely (e.g. billing, electronic tax return assembly or organizing scanned materials), we do not have heartburn if they do some of that work from home. We’ve had one administrative person who has been fully remote since 2008!

  • Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.
  • Stephen Covey

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