Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

What If They Stay?

“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” – Elbert Hubbard

I see it all the time, there are people who need to go. Owners hope and pray they will eventually quit. In fact, they subtly take steps to encourage departure. But, what if they stay? Is it worth demotivating your top performers because poor performers experience no consequences for their lack of engagement, low performance, and bad attitudes?
Here’s a tweet from Bruce Tulgan, author of It’s Okay To Be The Boss:
Of course, there are employees we don’t want to lose. But who are you afraid will stay? Identify those people. Are they low performers? Do they have an attitude problem? Are they simply not engaged? If you can fix the problem, do it! Otherwise, you’ve got to let those people go.
  • "No man goes before his time; unless the boss leaves early."
  • Groucho Marx

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019

Digital CPA

“The majority of meetings should be discussions that lead to decisions.” – Patrick Lencioni

Here’s the press release from the AICPA about the upcoming Digital CPA conference. Digital CPA is the leading conference for practitioners curious about technology and its impact on the accounting landscape. Together we’re challenging business models, transforming practice areas and driving innovation across the profession.

CPA.com Announces 2019 Digital CPA Conference Keynote Lineup

Innovation Futurists and Leadership Experts Offer Insights at Dec. 9-11 Event

NEW YORK (Oct. 23, 2019) – Innovation is reshaping the traditional areas of practice in the accounting profession, and CPAs who want to position their firms for success can gain the latest intelligence and insights about this shift at the 2019 Digital CPA Conference, sponsored by the American Institute of CPAs and its technology arm, CPA.com.

This year’s conference will be held just outside Seattle at the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue, Wash. The Dec. 9-11 event is organized around the theme “Age of Innovation,” and includes sessions on the shift to advisory services across all core areas of the CPA firm, such as audit and assurance, tax, and accounting services.

Keynote speakers at the event include:

  • Lisa Bodell, founder, and CEO of FutureThink, a global consulting firm that helps companies eliminate red tape and busy work and adopt simplicity as an operating model to unleash innovation.
  • Pascal Finette, chair of Open Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Singularity University and co-founder of radical Ventures, a firm that takes the long view on the impact of technological change. Pascal will share insights and future trend predictions from his year-long collaboration with CPA.com in a program called “Navigating the Future,” which is designed to help CPA firms prepare and prosper from exponential change.
  • Steven Robbins, founder of S. L. Robbins and Associates, a firm that studies human behavior, who will talk about how inclusion, leadership and the “power of caring” are key drivers of productivity and innovation.

Further rounding out the speaker lineup are Barry C. Melancon, CPA, CGMA, president and CEO of the American Institute of CPAs, will provide a professional issues update, and Erik Asgeirsson, president and CEO of CPA.com, will give a “state of the union” on Digital CPA trends.

The Digital CPA Conference is designed for CPA firm partners, managers and, staffers responsible for rolling out cloud solutions, and business development, firm marketing and human resources directors within firms.

Reporters interested in covering the event can apply for on-site press credentials or arrange for online access to live broadcasts. Members of the media can contact Jeff May, jeffrey.may@aicpa-cima.com, for more details.

For more information about the conference, please visit digitalcpa.com.

  • "Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence."
  • Abigail Adams

Monday, October 28th, 2019

Where Is Your Bus Going?

“Good is the enemy of great.” – Jim Collins

We hear it and read about it often – get the right people on the bus!

Getting the right people on the bus comes from the book Good to Great by Jim Collins. Those who build great organizations make sure they have the right people on the bus and the right people in the key seats before they figure out where to drive the bus.

The question is, where is the bus going? Wouldn’t you rather know where the bus was going before you get on?

I like a recent post by Seth Godin. I have included it below. It mentions something that CPA firms deal with all the time. The leader(s) seek to build consensus and try not to leave anyone out. Why not announce where your bus is going first and those who don’t want to go can get on another bus!

From Godin:

Where Does This Bus go?

One approach, which is tempting in the short run, is to wait until people are on the bus and then ask each person where they want to go. Seek to build consensus. Try not to leave anyone out.

The other approach, which works far better if you have a fleet of available buses, is to announce in advance where the bus is going. That way, anyone who wants to go where you’re headed can get onboard.

Enrollment is critical. Enrollment allows leaders to lead. Not by endlessly querying those that they seek to serve, but by announcing their destination and then heading there, with all deliberate speed.

  • "Bad decisions made with good intentions, are still bad decisions."
  • Jim Collins

Friday, October 25th, 2019

How Proactive Is Your Audit Team?

“If it moves, tick it.” – Audit Senior, Audit Day 1

Things are rapidly changing in the CPA profession and the one area that seems to be changing most rapidly is the audit. Many firms are continuing to perform an audit the way they have always performed audits and that is why you need to make sure that your audit leaders are keeping pace with the current trends.

Be sure to read an article by Bill Curtis via Accounting Today: Why you and your audit team should consider a remote audit next year. Curtis is the partner-in-charge of the Birmingham office of Mauldin & Jenkins.

  • Audits cause a certain amount of disruption and inconvenience for the client.
  • Modern technology allow audit teams to share and receive data with clients from any location.
  • Remote audits save time and money.
  • The audit team will also be more efficient working in their home office environment with all its tools and comforts — multiple monitors, high-speed internet, familiar scanners and copiers and all the rest. The result is fewer hours needed to complete the work, and probably faster turnaround times for the financial statements company leaders are anxious to see.
  • Some audits can take place entirely in the digital realm, but most will still require some on-site time and in-person consultation.

There are a lot more positives about performing a remote audit, for the firm and for the client. Share this article with your audit leaders. Hopefully, your audit leaders are already sharing information like this with everyone in the firm and taking steps to utilize the amazing technology available today.

 

  • "Remote audits are a trend that’s gaining traction rapidly, and it’s easy to see why their popularity is growing."
  • Bill Curtis

Thursday, October 24th, 2019

Putting Out Fires

“We need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.” – Desmond Tutu

The above quote made me think of CPAs. Of course, almost everything I read makes me think of CPAs!

It has been my observation that inside public accounting firms, a lot of people are constantly “putting out fires.” Firm administrators and some managing partners tell me that they can’t find time to address important firm initiatives because it seems like every day is a fire drill.

Have you ever stopped to contemplate what is causing the fires in the first place?

  • "My normal routine is pretty much putting out fires all day."
  • Vera Wang

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019

Disappointed & Embarrassed

“She overcame everything that was meant to destroy her.” Sylvester McNutt III

Women have been slowly but surely gaining ground within the CPA profession. I have been very proud of associations and firms that have made the commitment to provide the leadership development assistance and other resources women need to advance in their careers. These organizations follow through on those commitments.

Then there are others. The news this week is very disheartening. I was disappointed and embarrassed for the CPA profession. I was not shocked that this happened at one of the “big” firms. But I was shocked at what was presented to a group of female executives.

It is my observation that women are a foundational piece in almost every public accounting firm. Here’s the Male/Female professional staff breakdown via the Rosenberg survey:

  • Firms over $20M: 48%/52%.
  • $10-20M firms: 45%/55%
  • $5-10M firms: 43%/57%
  • $2-5M firms: 41%/59%
  • Under $2M: 35%/65%

Here are two different news articles covering the fiasco.

Empowerment Seminar Tells women They Have Small, Pancake-Like Brains

Ernst & Young training seminar told women not to “flaunt” bodies

  • "The most dangerous woman of all is the one who refuses to rely on your sword to save her because she carries her own."
  • R. H. Sin

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019

More Advice on Handling Email

“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.” – Harvey Mackay

I blog about it often, but I want to keep offering you solutions to your email misery. Don’t brag (or moan) about how many emails you get each day. Take positive steps to decrease the time you spend reading emails.

Matt Plummer gives us some good advice on how to spend less time on email every day in his article via HBR. A simple solution is to simply check email less often. His research says most professionals check their email 15 times per day. I believe that CPAs and their employees check email more often than that!

Keep in mind that most emails DO NOT need your immediate response. Set the expectations with your clients and let them know that you check email at 9:00, 11:00, 2:00 and 4:00. When you don’t respond right away, they will soon learn to expect your answer in a few hours.

I believe that your staff deserves a slightly higher priority. If you are a partner or a manager and you don’t reply to a staff question within a reasonable length of time, you may be damaging their productivity and halting workflow. I still hear stories of partners who may take days to answer an inquiry from staff!

Read the article and learn about the five ways we unnecessarily lose time dealing with emails.

  • "I wasted time, and now doth time waste me."
  • William Shakespeare

Monday, October 21st, 2019

Top Heavy

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

When it comes to MAP (Managing an Accounting Firm), one of the many things CPAs have focused on over the years is leverage. Leverage and a well-managed pyramid are key ingredients for a profitable CPA firm.

We have been talking about it for years….. Bill Reeb calls it the Upside Down Pyramid. It’s where partners work and work until they are “full” and then they push down to managers who work and work until they are “full” and only then do they push down to the staff. Meanwhile, staff members are sending emails asking for assignments!

upsidedownMany firms have evolved into a top-heavy culture because:

  • Generational issues, including the Baby Boomer bubble, Gen Xers and Millennials.
  • Lack of a firm-wide people plan with effective, consistent recruiting and staff development processes. Leaders don’t have a process to see enough new faces and they let people hang around too long.
  • Promoting non-partner-track people or sometimes marginal folks to higher positions because “We’re preserving staff continuity” and “it’s best for the client” – – when perhaps it is just the path of least resistance, or you have no one else to fill the role.
  • Partner compensation plans that focus on chargeable time. Partners stay busy first. Managers are doing staff work and no one has an incentive to push work down.
  • It’s just easier to do it myself and, besides, I’m a lot more efficient at it.

Do these sound familiar to you?

  • "What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight - it's the size of the fight in the dog."
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower

Friday, October 18th, 2019

Use Twitter to Keep You Current

“LinkedIn is for the people you know. Facebook is for the people you used to know. Twitter is for people you want to know” ~ Source unknown

I can’t remember much about my first tweets. I do know that I did not hesitate, contemplate, or question my reasoning – I just jumped in. I had so much I wanted to share with people in the CPA profession. I joined in 2008 and have now tweeted over 18,000 times.

CPAs are more tentative in adopting something new. Twitter is no longer something new. It is a major force in society today. I also observe that very few CPAs actually Tweet. It’s not too late to get started.  I urge you to jump-in, set-up an account and pick a few people/organizations to follow so you can understand how it works and figure out how you can use it for efficiency – Yes, I said efficiency.

Here’s my approach – – I follow a few people/organizations because I want to use Twitter to keep me informed. I selected a few news sources and CPA management resources (and some family members) and I check Twitter every morning – very early – to get the latest world and national news. I can keep current much quicker than reading a newspaper or watching TV.

I check it only two or three times during the day (takes 30 seconds) and I tweet throughout the day, especially if I am attending an event that is of interest to CPAs. I want to share information (that’s the whole point).

To me, CPAs are in the best possible position to tweet. They have unbelievable knowledge to share, especially with clients. Many CPAs who do tweet use a service that does it for them. I hope that you will tweet yourself and express your own views and share the extensive knowledge you possess.

Think about it as 2020 approaches – – Right now is a great time to start a blog or begin tweeting tidbits of information for your clients about year-end tax planning. Once you begin, promote it and educate your clients (so they know that important business thoughts are available to them if they just join Twitter and follow YOUR tweets).

A word of warning. Don’t get sucked into spending too much time on Twitter or any social media. There is so much hate out there – be sure to only follow people who inspire you or provide positive information. I do not follow very many people. Read my tweets and follow me here.

  • "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place."
  • George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

Who Is My Boss?

“There is nothing so exasperating as a confused chain of command.”

I read the above quote in a novel a long time ago. It came to mind recently when I was working with a client. In many CPA firms, there is a partner group and a manager group and it seems all other employees work for all of them.

You have a managing partner. Do his/her directives out-weigh the requests made by other partners? Where does the Firm Administrator or COO fit in the picture? The Firm Administrator is responsible for a smooth workflow and efficient processes and procedures. Is it widely assumed that any partner can by-pass those established procedures?

Many firms seem to lack focus when it comes to establishing a chain-of-command. Some partner groups govern as a committee. Most partner groups govern by consensus. If you have ever been part of a committee you know how slowly things move and how much time is wasted on endless discussions. If you have had the task of gaining complete consensus you also know how frustrating that can be.

Even if the formal management structure is not a committee, client service partners want to be involved in all of the “management” decisions, even things as small as the weight of the paper that is selected for firm letterhead. Yes, I still hear these stories!

As more senior partners retire and firms transition to new leadership (a new managing partner), I hope they will better define the chain of command and the organizational structure of the firm.

Consider a firm governance model that is shared throughout the firm.

Publish a firm Champion List. It is a guide that identifies the go-to person for expert advice on each software package used at the firm or for each segment and discipline inside the firm.

Lay-out a simple organizational chart that shows the chain-of-command and where each person “fits” in the firm. It helps newcomers and even more experienced team members understand where the firm administrator fits or how the partner group governs itself. An org chart can be helpful in large firms and small firms alike.

  • "Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way."
  • General George Patton