Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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

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

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2022

Don’t Look Back

Here is today’s quotation. It is by Agatha Christie in a Miss Marple story Please contemplate it.

“I suppose I really knew already that one can never go back, that one should not ever try to go back – that the essence of life is going forward. Life is really a One Way Street, isn’t it.”

Accountants have a job to do. A lot of it is looking back. A tax return and a financial statement are just pictures of what happened in the past.

For years, we have referred to CPAs as historians simply recording a client’s activities in the past. Now, you are expected to be a coach, advisor, and visionary to your clients. This evolution began many years ago but some have remained in the past and continued to depend almost entirely on compliance work. That is why embracing change is so important.

Most things will be digital. Many employees will be remote. Being a focused manager of people will be necessary. As comfortable as the past sometimes is, you can never go back. Life is a One Way Street.

  • I believe you win the race by looking forward, not behind.
  • Payal Kadakia

Wednesday, March 16th, 2022

Salary Increases

“Of course, it is not the employer who pays wages. He only handles the money. It is the product that pays wages and it is the management that arranges the production so that the product may pay the wages.” – Henry Ford

I get a lot of questions about salary increases and when I talk to CPA firms, year after year, they disclose that their average salary increase will be 5%. Year after year. Yet, they often provide a disclaimer…. “we do give 10% or higher to some top performers”.

You might find the BDO 2022 Salary Increase Budget Survey Report interesting. 5% looks pretty good.

  • Note to salary setters: Pay your people the least possible and you'll get from them the same.
  • Malcolm Forbes

Tuesday, March 15th, 2022

A Culture of Checking In

“The more you check in with your people the more love-filled your team will be, and so the more productivity, creativity, resilience, and collaboration you will get.” – Marcus Buckingham

When I read the above quote, it brought to mind the 12 Questions to measure employee engagement first introduced by Marcus Buckingham in his book, First Break All The Rules. By now, I hope you have read the book.

I have written about the 12 Questions several times. You can read them here in a post I did in 2018.

Buckingham, along with many other experts, is telling us that great managers perform check-ins with their direct reports frequently. It is how managing people has evolved. The annual performance appraisal is dead. Today’s workforce wants to know how they are doing daily. A check-in can be monthly or weekly but I think it should be more often. The old description of a manager: A person who gets work done through other people. That is not what happens in CPA firms. A manager spends too much time working and not enough time checking in.

Checking in doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Watch this short video from Buckingham and become a better manager of people.

You are a leader if and only if, you are restless for change, impatient for progress, and deeply dissatisfied with status quo.- Marcus Buckingham
  • The true genius of a great manager is his or her ability to individualize. A great manager is one who understands how to trip each person's trigger.
  • Marcus Buckingham

Monday, March 14th, 2022

A Story Of Life In A CPA Firm

“The way I see it is if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” – Dolly Parton

I was pleased when I was asked by Sons of CPAs to be part of their podcast. They have titled it, Real Life in the Accounting Profession.

I actually like the title because I think one of my strengths is that I have lived in and observed CPA firms for forty years! I have written about it and been interviewed about it for probably thirty years. I am in my 17th year daily blogging about the inside workings of CPA firms.

I really enjoyed talking with Scott Scanaro and Jason Ackerman, two gentlemen who happen to be sons of CPAs. We had a long conversation so you might want to listen in smaller bites. My interview begins at about 2 minutes and 40 seconds into the podcast.

Listen here.

  • If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.
  • Albert Einstein

Tuesday, March 8th, 2022

Exceptions & Rules

“I follow three rules: Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people you care.” – Lou Holtz

You expended a lot of effort in establishing the firm’s paperless processes/procedures. Most of your partners follow the rules. For some partners, you do this and that – print things off, provide paper, etc. How will you get ahead by making so many exceptions to the rules?

My grandson, Sam, when he was at that pre-school age always had a question. That question was, “Is that a rule?” For example – Grandma says, “Sam, please put your shoes in the closet.” Sam asked, “Is that a rule?” When I say yes, it was a rule. He mildly said, okay and put his shoes in the closet. Evidently, his mom and dad stressed that there were certain rules for behavior.

There are certain rules for behavior in CPA firms, too. Is it a rule that we review on screen? Yes, it is a rule. Is it a rule that we have our time in by 9:00 am the following day? Yes, it is a rule. Is it a rule that we have our billings done by the 5th of the month? Yes, it is a rule. You get the drift.

Firms make too many exceptions. Once my IT Manager said something that has stuck with me over the years. He said, “We are governed by rules but we operate by exception.” Oh, my! Don’t operate your firm by exception.

I advise my clients to not establish rules if they are going to break them. Partners will agree in a meeting to a specific process/procedure/guideline and then some leave the meeting with no intention of following that “rule.” A prime example is: We will stop work at 90 days if a client has not paid our fee. If partners cannot truly agree don’t establish the rule – policy – procedure.

I love the quote, above, by Lou Holtz. I had the wonderful experience of hearing him speak several years ago. It was one of the most motivating speeches I have ever heard.

  • If you obey all the rules you'll miss all the fun.
  • Katherine Hepburn