Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Monday, January 23rd, 2023

The Scheduling Challenge

“Be like a duck, my mother used to tell me. Remain calm on the surface and paddle like hell underneath.” – Michael Caine, actor

I continue to hear many stories about the scheduling challenge for CPA firms. Audit work is easier to schedule than tax work. Audits are bigger engagements and consume a higher volume of hours per engagement. Audits also demand more coordination with the client giving the client time to prepare for the upcoming work.

Tax work is more like a constant fire drill. Sometimes a tax return can take many hours, but most are budgeted for a few to several hours. Plus, it is difficult to know, for sure, when the client’s tax information will be submitted to the firm.

Many firms are using software to help in the task, such as Prostaff and others, but the whole process is still a challenge. Other firms have appointed a “Scheduler,” but it is an overwhelming task for one person. So much information is needed from so many people!

Here’s something that might work for you. It works best for firms that ask their teams to be skilled in both tax and audit. One and two-year staff are usually exposed to both tax and audit. They can specialize later on.

Each staff person keeps a two-week schedule. It shows what they have scheduled for the coming week and what they expect to have for the following week. It also shows open time, PTO time, holidays, etc. They submit this report to the Schedulers every Friday morning.

There are two schedulers. One experienced Tax Manager and one experienced Audit Manager for the office. These two managers are charged with knowing what their teams are doing and how they are doing. The Tax Manager and the Audit Manager meet every Friday morning. The firm administrator (practice manager) is also a part of this small scheduling committee. The firm administrator acts as the management contributor, helps balance work when needed, and/or relays communications from management.

The schedulers use the individual team members’ two-week schedules to assess who has too much work and who has room for more work, and they determine the experience level needed for new assignments. They assign work into the two-week schedules and also may move work around depending on client needs and workloads.

The firm administrator, sometimes with the help of an administrative assistant, modifies each two-week schedule and returns the schedules to the staff.

Some managers also keep two-week schedules if they are more involved in doing the work rather than supervising it.

This system makes sure that everyone has a full schedule for the next week and a good idea of what they will be doing for the week after that. Also, these two-week schedules have the number of hours indicated to do the work. The schedulers provide the hourly budgets as they assign new work or modify existing work.

I hope all of this is helpful and not too confusing. If you have questions, feel free to contact me. I will also share a handout explaining all this and a sample two-week schedule form if you request one.

  • Keep busy at something: a busy person never has time to be unhappy.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson

Friday, January 20th, 2023

Appreciating Tax Season

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy

Yes, I always enjoyed tax season. Read this Friday Flashback to find out why.”

  • Recognition is a reward in itself. Any form of appreciation, even a small word, is important.
  • Vikrant Massey

Thursday, January 19th, 2023

The Cost of Recruiting

“Stay calm and aggressive.” – Gabrielle Reece

Today, I am just sharing some interesting comments I have heard recently about how some firms respond to the huge challenge of recruiting new team members.

These examples are not from small firms, nor are they from huge firms. The comments are from what I call mid-size firms.

  • One firm works with seven different professional recruiters.
  • Another firm paid over $300,000 to recruiters in 2022.

Maybe you don’t have to go to these links, but I hope you are acting aggressively when recruiting.

  • Certainly, if you look at human behavior around the world, you have to admit that we can be very aggressive.
  • Jane Goodall

Wednesday, January 18th, 2023

Don’t Do It

“Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to error that counts.” – Nikki Giovanni

Busy season is unfolding. The workload on managers and partners will steadily increase. You will be in a hurry to get jobs out the door.

It has happened many times before, whether it is February and March or July and August. You review a tax return and find a couple of oversights by the preparer. You fix the mistakes and, as mentioned, get it out the door. You don’t even take the time to notify the preparer about their mistakes.

This practice has been going on inside busy CPA firms for decades. Don’t do it!

Return the tax return or project to the preparer so they can learn from their mistakes. If you don’t, they will continue to make the same mistakes, and you will continue fixing mistakes for the remainder of your career.

  • What is done cannot be undone, but at least one can keep it from happening again.
  • Anne Frank

Monday, January 9th, 2023

News & Views – CPA Firm Technology

“Software is a great combination between artistry and engineering.” – Bill Gates

As you know, changes in technology are happening rapidly. The major providers of CPA firm applications (CCH Wolters Kluwer, Thomson Reuters, and Intuit) held conferences last fall to help and inform their users.

Randy Johnston and Brian Tankersley attended all three conferences and have so much great information to share with practitioners in their Technology Lab January 6th podcast that summarizes the conferences.

I urge you to take a half hour and listen to this podcast. It has so much important information about the products you are using and about the future of these products. They also talk about key mergers/acquisitions, like Thomson acquiring SurePrep.

Listen here.

  • Most people treat the office manual the way they treat a software manual. They never look at it.
  • James Levine

Thursday, January 5th, 2023

Say It Simply

“A lot of problems in the world would be solved if we talked to each other instead of about each other.” — Nicky Gumbel

As leaders, when communicating with your team members, do you use phrases that can become irritating? I bet you have never given it much thought. Old habits are very hard to break.

A recent Inc. article by Jeff Haden titled “To Be Honest, These Overused Filler Phrases Really Get On Other People’s Nerves,” might send you a wake-up call.

For example, you might use phrases like, “At the end of the day..” “It is what it is.” “To be perfectly candid…” and the often used one, “If I’m honest…”

A phrase that is often used by CPA partners might be “Trust me….” I’ve heard that one many times.

The point is to eliminate these phrases and say what you are trying to communicate. This article will give you a lot of pointers.

I like the example used in the article – Did Jim Lovell need to say “To tell you the truth” before he said, “Houston, we’ve had a problem?” No, he did not.

  • Make sure to communicate your idea quickly and keep it straight to the point.
  • Paul Bailey

Wednesday, January 4th, 2023

A New Year & My Challenge

As we enter a new year, I want to share with you my tagline, motto, and/or challenge as I work with firm administrators and managing partners. I read these words somewhere a long time ago, and I keep them on my desk where I can see them daily:

I can’t force you to change. I can only try to convince you it is important and possible.

And here’s a message for you from Yoda: “No, try not. Do or do not, there is no try.”

  • A wise man changes his mind, a fool never will.
  • Icelandic Proverb

Monday, January 2nd, 2023

Seventeen Years

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

This year, 2023, January 2nd falls on a Monday. It did the same in 2006. I posted my first blog post on Monday, January 2, 2006. Here it is:

Happy New Year 2006 and Welcome to Rita Keller’s Blog.

I know that many of you visiting this Blog are a part of my expanding team of CPA firm management explorers – seeking new ways and revisiting proven, old ways of efficiently and profitably managing the CPA firm of the future – the firm where young professionals will want to build their careers.

I am just getting started, so check back soon for more information.

I have been writing about CPA firm management every workday for seventeen years. It amazes me that I never seem to run out of topics to cover, observations to share, and, sometimes, create amusement for people working in the CPA profession.

Here’s my second post on January 3rd, 2006. It is interesting how most of it still applies.

The first work day of 2006 – CPA firm style

After having a couple of shorter work weeks and counting down the days until “busy” season, it has finally arrived. Here are some thoughts and questions that might trigger ideas and actions:

Have you conducted your six-month or quarterly goal-setting sessions with all of your direct reports?
Did you set expectations clearly and high enough to help them grow, no matter how long they have been with you?
Assign some professional reading to your admin team – you might be surprised how much they enjoy it
Are you focusing on the individual strengths of each person and using them to make the entire firm better?
Have your partners and managers done
the same with their direct reports?
What about the scheduling system for your accountants? Have you thoughtfully re-engineered it within the last two years?

We have several new hires joining the firm this week. I give each of them their own copy of “True Professionalism” by David Maister. If you haven’t read it yourself, it should be on your 2006 reading list. A more complete reading list will follow later this week.

  • If you can do what you do best and be happy, you are further along in life than most people.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio

Tuesday, December 27th, 2022

Developing Trust

“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” – William Shakespeare

Over my many years working in public accounting, I have had many conversations about trust. People feel like they DO have trust within their firms. However, when I talk to partner-only groups or talk to CPA team member-only groups, both sides almost always describe activities that display a definite lack of trust.

To help bring it down to real life, here’s an example I hear over and over.

  • Team member: I don’t know when to tell them I’m leaving; I’m not sure how they will react, they might escort me to the door right away, and that would be embarrassing.
  • Owner: When someone gives notice, we usually ask them to go ahead and leave right away. We’re afraid that they will be such a negative influence on everyone around them.

I have seen cases where the team member is right about being hesitant because owners have demonstrated that you can’t predict their reaction. I’ve also seen cases where the owner should be concerned because the team member would probably spread negative vibes on purpose.

Trust is a tough topic, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. I have often found that partners (owners) don’t trust the staff, and the staff doesn’t trust all of the partners. Think about what you can do about this situation as you work your way through busy season.

Talk about it openly and maybe host a round-table lunch and learn where trust is the topic of discussion. Have each table explore ways to build more trust inside the firm and then take steps to implement some of the ideas.

  • Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.
  • Albert Einstein

Tuesday, December 20th, 2022

Want To Be Happy?

“Doing what you love is the cornerstone of having abundance in your life.” – Wayne Dyer

As we approach 2023 and another busy season, think about what has occurred in the past two or three years. It has been hectic. Your work world has changed significantly. Technology is more important than ever. Streamlining your workflow is very important.

Should you keep doing what you are doing? Or should you look elsewhere for job satisfaction?

One of my favorite t-shirts says it all. I wear it a lot and it is becoming faded. I need to get a new one! As the year closes, keep in mind, you will be happy if you love what you do.

  • Just one small positive thought in the morning can change your whole day.
  • Dalai Lama