Thursday, November 19th, 2020

Stealing Your People

“Immature poets imitate, mature poets steal.” – T. S. Eliot

It’s been going on for decades. There are people who get paid to help you steal people from your competitors.

Most of them are incentivized recruiters who use all types of methods to find experienced accountants who might be dissatisfied with their current employment status.

Recently, I heard a discussion among practice managers (firm administrators), that one firm did not feature their team members on their website because it made it easier for head-hunters to find people to contact and entice them away. Others agreed that it was a good idea.

I do not agree. I believe there are more benefits to featuring your team on your website than dangers. Featuring them is saying that you are proud of them and that they are qualified professionals taking care of your clients. It is also a boost for your administrative team. Your new hires (recent college graduates) are thrilled to be able to tell their relatives and friends that they should check out your website and see their picture.

If you are losing people to recruiters, it is your fault.

  • Maybe your culture isn’t clearly defined and protected.
  • Maybe you have an abusive partner/manager or two.
  • Maybe everyone is not living up to the firm’s published core values.
  • Maybe you aren’t keeping pace with salaries for your different levels of experience.
  • Maybe the communication within your firm is poor. It’s the one I hear the most about!
  • And maybe, as leaders, you simply are not saying, “Thank you for your efforts,” enough.

If you are losing good people, look in the mirror.

  • "He who steals a little steals with the same wish as he who steals much, but with less power."
  • Plato

Wednesday, November 18th, 2020

More Important Than Ever

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” – Will Rogers

Websites are on my mind today. When comes to promoting your firm, yourself, and your people, your website is more important than ever.

As you might guess, I constantly look at CPA firm websites. If you ever send me an email or if your firm is ever in the news, you can bet I will be perusing your website.

There are still a significant number of firms that have not taken action on updating their website. It appears that it has been the same for the last ten or fifteen years. You can tell immediately when you hit their site. When I ‘hit’ one, it makes me sad.

In these times of no meeting and greeting potential clients in person, the only impression they get of you is from your website. Someone should be managing your website daily. You need current articles and high-quality pictures of your partners and other leaders. Your site needs to give the impression that you are modern, future-focused, and extremely knowledgeable. If your website says (without using words) that you are an “old school” firm, you are in trouble.

For progressive firms, a significant number of new clients come to the firm because of their website. How many are coming to your firm because they simply looked at your website and were impressed?

  • "You only get one chance to make a good first impression, and yours may be in the hands of the receptionist."
  • Harvey Mackay

Tuesday, November 17th, 2020

The Rosenberg Survey

“There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.” – Bill Waterson, Calvin & Hobbes

The 2020 Rosenberg Survey is NOW available!

The 4-day Thanksgiving weekend would be a good time to study the Rosenberg Survey. It has so much great information.

The number of firms that have mandatory retirement provisions in their partner agreements remained relatively steady after an upward trend for the past few years. In working throughout the industry, we have noted a general acknowledgment of the importance of mandatory retirement provisions. For more information on partner retirement, purchase The 2020 Rosenberg Survey.

CLICK HERE to Order the Survey!

  • "Working people have a lot of bad habits, but the worst of these is work."
  • Clarence Darrow

Monday, November 16th, 2020

Real Skills (Success Skills)

“Some people call these, “soft skills.” That’s because they’re not easy to measure. But for me, they’re real skills. The skills that actually determine how far we’ll go and how it will feel to work with us as we move forward.” – Seth Godin

For many years, in public accounting, we took note of the fact that many accountants dutifully achieved the expert category when it came to technical expertise.

Also, for many years we complained that we employed some very skilled managers but nearly all of them lacked “soft skills.” I like to call them “success skills” because to reach the level of partnership in the firm a candidate had to demonstrate the ability to network in the business community, be a great conversationalist, build relationships, be an adept speaker, manage people and develop personal leadership attributes. I like Godin’s term: Real Skills.

These skills, along with the technical skills, enable a CPA to bring in business to the firm. Some current partners have even developed these skills.

My friend, Guy Gage, @PartnersCoach, has developed the Partner-Pipeline® to assist firm partners to develop the “success skills” necessary to become true firm leaders.

From Guy Gage:

There are five “Contributions” that comprise high-performing partners: strong technical capability; client experience/client relations; new business development; capacity building (talent development), and leadership capability. While no one can be exceptional in all five areas, partner-candidates should be excellent in two and competent in the other three. Since firms have addressed the technical capability, I’ve developed a program that addresses the other four areas.

To learn more about the Partner Pipeline and to download a matrix outlining the program steps that are appropriate for each level in the firm. – Associate, Senior, Supervisor, Manager, and Senior Manager, click here.

It is important to begin the success skills training early in a person’s career so that the firm always has a vibrant and healthy partner pipeline.

  • "Firms can only do so much, then it's up to the individual to choose to engage. Teach them HOW with programs and coaching."
  • Guy Gage

Friday, November 13th, 2020

Difficult Clients

“Respect is for those who deserve not for those who demand it.” – Paulo Coelho

In CPA management circles, we have talked and talked about how to deal with difficult clients. Here is a flashback post for this Friday that will give you some solutions.

Upfront, be sure to train your clients. Of course, you know what the final solution is – help them find another accounting firm!

Your team members are way too valuable to be harassed and degraded by rude and unnecessarily demanding clients.

  • "I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university. "
  • Albert Einstein

Thursday, November 12th, 2020

The CPA Profession 2027

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Peter Drucker

Today, I am sharing a press release from the Illinois CPA Society. I think it will definitely be of interest to those working in the CPA profession. They are providing seven predictions for the future titled, “CPA Profession 2027: Racing for Relevance.”

CHICAGO, Nov. 11, 2020– Unveiling seven provocative predictions for the future of the CPA profession, the Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS)—one of the largest state CPA societies in the nation—has released its 2020 Insight Special Feature, “CPA Profession 2027: Racing for Relevance.”

The result of more than a year’s worth of strategic planning conversations and reviewing countless articles, interviews, reports, studies, and surveys—and conducting some of its own—“CPA Profession 2027” coalesces ICPAS’ findings from these authoritative, and sometimes disparate, sources into a powerful report detailing the underlying trends and challenges driving change in the CPA profession and how they may shape its future.

Inside “CPA Profession 2027,” ICPAS outlines how the CPA profession is facing a pace and type of change unlike any it has experienced before, where the rules of the race are literally being rewritten by technology. Key predictions include outlooks on how artificial intelligence and robotic process automation will forever change accounting, audit, finance, tax, and more;  the ways services are provided to companies and clients, and the ways companies and firms are staffed, will shift dramatically; and how implications of the global pandemic, along with rapidly changing company and client expectations, will demand CPAs change both mindset and skill set. The most provocative prediction of all is that the number of CPAs will decline in the years ahead as technology becomes more pervasive.

“While many strategic plans and reports look just one, two, or maybe three years out right now, we believe we cannot risk being shortsighted given the long-term implications of all that is changing around us,” says ICPAS President and CEO Todd Shapiro. “We understand the risks of making predictions. We acknowledge it’s unlikely each one plays out perfectly. But we firmly believe they’re directionally correct. Our hope is that the insights compiled here will rev up conversations that help us chart a roadmap for ensuring the sustainability, relevance, and growth of the CPA profession for many years to come.”

“CPA Profession 2027” is available now in PDF and digital formats at www.icpas.org/CPA2027, and print editions are available upon request. Shapiro welcomes feedback and is available for further comment.

  • "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."
  • Eleanor Roosevelt

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020

Hiring & Managing People

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” – Richard Branson

I certainly enjoyed being involved in the CPAFMA Accelerator Sessions this week. It was such an honor to be on the agenda both days with some very awesome people. The Accelerator sessions caused me to think about my own list of current issues and trends.

  • The digital transformation of work has finally arrived. It is amazing how much firms accomplished in such a short time.
  • Firm leaders have realized that a hybrid model that combines in-person and remote work actually works well and it will permanently lower the number of people in the office.
  • It has been widely discussed that firms will be reducing the amount of office space. Some have already begun this process. See the next bullet.
  • About 77% of respondents to the third-quarter AICPA Business & Industry Economic Outlook Survey said they planned to keep their office square footage. Only about 18% planned a reduction, despite the potential savings.
  • The pandemic caused us to reset and rethink the ways we hire and manage people. A demand for thorough hiring that is probably different from how you have always done it. Interview questions that provide you with meaningful information will become more important. You will need to train your interviewers.
  • Hiring & managing remote people should be done in a consistent manner. You might soon see a new position in your firm “Head of Remote Work” – larger firms already have positions like chief people officer or chief culture officer.
  • Look for people who can self-manage
  • Prospective employees may be talented – people are born with various talents – but are they able to use their talent to build the skills necessary to be successful in public accounting?
  • Trust on both sides – partners & staff – will become even more important.
  • CPA firms are looking for experienced people. One reason is that they aren’t prepared to hire new college grads who are completely green – they haven’t developed a plan on how to train them yet. Some firms have already mastered this!
  • "Don't criticize, condemn, or complain."
  • Dale Carnegie

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020

Hard Work

“A dream does not become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.”  – Colin Powell

As part of the CPAFMA Strategy Leadership & Growth Accelerator Session yesterday, I was asked to talk for just 10  minutes about TALENT. Because I am again speaking today on TALENT, I decided to approach it from a different angle for the Strategy session  If you want to hear more of the nitty-gritty about hiring, interviewing, and retaining employees, please tune in today when I will be part of the Talent & People Accelerator.

We hear Talent talked about so much in the CPA profession. Let’s explore what we really mean by the word “Talent.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, when larger firms were shedding people (mostly poor performers), I anticipated that more qualified people would be in the job market and firms below the Top 100 might attract some people who were experienced and capable.

What I am seeing is that didn’t happen. All of my clients and other firms in my sphere tell me that they are trying (several, almost desperately) to find more people with the skills and desire to work and succeed in public accounting.

Recently, I listened to a Ted talk by Suzanne Lucas @realevilhrlady. She writes and advises on HR topics. The subject of her Ted talk was FORGET TALENT AND GET TO WORK. I agree with her viewpoint on this and feel like it is an issue in the CPA profession. It is only 8 minutes long, you should listen to it.

She talked about Talent and the use of the word in hiring. Sometimes the words we use distort our intentions. We don’t talk about people anymore. We talk about Talent. Look at the titles of many of the webinars you have attended and articles you have read!  We talk about talent management and talent assessment and we moan about talent shortages.

For example, here are some titles of articles in CPA publications:

  • The Accounting Profession: Talents that Matter
  • How to Motivate & Retain Your Talent (JofA)
  • How to Win the Game of Talent (JofA)
  • Where Should You be Looking for Top Talent (AT)
  • I have spoken and written on the topic of Hiring and Retaining Top Talent numerous times!

We seem to think that talent is something you are born with. That a 4.0 GPA means you have talent. In our world, what talent means is you have the above-average ability to master accounting firm work very rapidly.

The definition of the word is: A special often athletic, creative, or artistic aptitude. b : general intelligence or mental power : ability. 2 : the natural endowments of a person. 

If we believe that music requires talent and that we could never do it – we are wrong. We probably could.

People that made a true impact in the world did it through hard work. Yes, Mozart composed his first piece of music at age 5, and, yes he was talented. Lin-Manuel Miranda says it took him about seven years to write Hamilton. It took him one year alone to write the second song in the show, “My Shot.” He did it through hard work and dedication.

What we really seek are people who are trainable and can develop skills. Skill is something you gain through hard work and dedication.

Could I learn to paint or learn to play the piano? Of course. I don’t have natural talent but I could do it through a lot of hard work.

I never did the hard work to be able to run a marathon – I could have but I preferred ice cream and long leisurely walks.

When we are hiring, we need to ask, “Can this person learn what we have to teach?” Does she have the determination to learn hard things? We all know that fresh college accounting graduates can’t do the work in public accounting right away but do they have the grit to learn? Have they worked hard in the past? Have they failed and then succeeded?

I have heard many, many very successful CPA partners say “I certainly didn’t have a 4.0 GPA.” The average student (not considered top talent) has often become an expert and a very highly-compensated CPA firm partner.

Just about anybody can learn just about anything if they are willing to work hard.

Google asked what makes great employees and perfect grades were not at the top of the list. What was? Listening, critical thinking and problem solving.

It isn’t all about being endowed with natural talent, it is about the hard work of building skills.

CPA firms should be more willing to make significant investments in quality training & development. If more focus was put on training/development you might find that you have more productive and skilled people working at your firm, formerly considered average performers. I still hear horror stories about new hires more or less being thrown to the wolves, so to speak.

Many years ago, I began to talk about team members rather than using the words staff or employees. I thought if we used the word TEAM enough we might actually become one. Why not put more focus on seeking team members who are willing to work hard and develop the skills necessary to be CPA and not stress the word TALENT so much?

I still believe that it takes grit and perseverance to become successful in the public accounting world. Look for people who have demonstrated passion and dedication followed by hard work to build skills. They will succeed.

  • "Men die of boredom, psychological conflict and disease. They do not die of hard work."
  • David Ogilvy, advertising business tycoon

Monday, November 9th, 2020

Don’t Be So Cheap

“Spend at least 10% of your budget on the best professional advice available before you spend a nickel on anything.” – Harvey Mackay

Accountants are often known for being frugal. Your employees might think you (as a group of owners) are actually very cheap.

Here’s the difference – – Cheap people are driven by saving money regardless of the cost; frugal people are driven by maximizing total value, including the value of their time. … Being cheap is about spending less; being frugal is about prioritizing your spending so that you can have more of the things you really care about.

I don’t know how many times I have heard an experienced, competent firm administrator, practice manager, HR director, or marketing director say, “I won’t be able to attend the conference (event, webinar, meeting) because the partners won’t spend the money.”

On the other hand, I have heard those same people, the ones who did attend the conference (event, webinar, meeting) say, “I learned so much and brought so many great ideas back to the firm that the partners said I should attend every year.”

That’s why Harvey Mackay’s quote, above, is so appropriate for those leading CPA firms.

  • Never have a partner retreat without a paid facilitator – someone very familiar with the CPA profession.
  • Don’t hesitate to hire outside mentors and coaches for your partners, firm administrators, marketing directors, etc. Hire them for your partners, too.

Just last week, a client said to me after a fairly brief phone session, “You have given us several valuable nuggets during our conversation! We will act upon them!”

How much are you budgeting for outside, professional advisors?

  • "If the price is very cheap then it's almost certainly a fake. "
  • David Russell

Friday, November 6th, 2020

This & That For Friday

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

For this Friday’s flashback post, read about having a commitment statement and how one can be designed to notify your clients of your commitments to them and informing them what commitments you expect from them. Samples are included.

Don’t forget about the CPAFMA Virtual Accelerator Program coming up on Monday and Tuesday. I’ll be involved both days and there are a wide variety of helpful sessions.

Yesterday, I had a great time talking with (via Zoom) with a group of partners from different firms who get together to network and learn from each other a couple of times per year.

I am hearing a lot about hiring from my clients and contacts. Every firm is looking for experienced people – that is nothing new but the demand seems to have increased in urgency as we approach another tax season.

The hybrid model of CPA workforces is gaining strength – Hybrid meaning sometimes in the office and sometimes remotely. It seems to be desired by a growing number of team members. Sometimes it is nice to get away from home and actually work in the office.

Have a calming and enjoyable weekend. Be kind.

  • "Reflect upon your present blessings -- of which every man has many -- not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some."
  • Charles Dickens