Thursday, November 10th, 2022

What We Are

“Regardless of what we think we’re teaching, we teach what we are.” – Nathaniel Branden

I hope today you will think about the above quote. I think it says a lot about the CPA profession.

We thought Gen-X would change the way CPA firms operated. But, they were taught by the older generation and that older generation taught what they knew. “We teach what we are” certainly applied.

Those two generations taught the millennials and those three generations are teaching Gen Z.

I believe major changes have certainly happened in some firms but there are many CPA firms operating today much as they operated twenty years ago.

Many people have said, in slightly differing ways, that you become who you surround yourself with.

Have you broken this model? Are you continually acknowledging change and accepting it? Are you teaching what could be rather than what you are now?

  • "Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future."
  • Mark Ambrose

Wednesday, November 9th, 2022

The Biggest Issue

“You cannot do kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

If CPAs in public practice could become skilled communicators, things would be better for clients and staff.

  • "Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other."
  • Randy Pausch

Tuesday, November 8th, 2022

Moving Online

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu

Have you ever wondered, contemplated, or wished that you could move your CPA firm online?

It is not for everyone, but I bet you wonder how it is done. Here’s an email I received from Laura Gannon. She agreed to let me share so you can see how client communication could be framed. I have eliminated the many helpful links that she included in the communication, like email addresses, physical addresses, etc.

I hope you find this helpful. Maybe your firm is ready for this BIG step?

Dear Rita,
We are closing our office in Chelmsford after 15 years! This community has been so supportive of us, we will be forever grateful. This is where I started my business, and it has continued to support many local businesses and employees over the years.

In these changing times, we have seen how effective our staff can be working from anywhere, and we want to be a part of this culture shift that’s happening worldwide.

While we plan to be as connected to clients as ever, this will no longer include meeting at the Chelmsford office. Instead, we will use video conferencing and flexible co-work spaces in West Concord and Salem, Massachusetts. We will continue to collaborate as a team and give you great service, as always.

To make this transition as smooth as possible, check out our FAQ’s at the bottom of the newsletter, and don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.

Thank you so much for being a valued client! We appreciate your business.

Laura and the team!
How can I schedule a virtual meeting? Reach out to any of us individually, Barry, Laura or Hannah, to schedule a virtual meeting.

Where can we meet in person? We have two conference spaces available for meetings. West Concord – The Wheelhouse – Laura will meet clients here! Salem – Workbar – Barry has conference availability here, and he can use any of their 9 locations!

Hannah will have some ability to meet in person, but please coordinate directly with her.

Staff contact info? If you have any questions about processes or procedures, Hannah is our client administrator; feel free to reach out to her @ xxx-xxx-xxxx or click here to email her.

Where do I send physical documents? We prefer electronic documents scanned into to the portal, but if you prefer to send us the physical documents, please use our PO Box XXX in Chelmsford. Address below. Hannah will scan the documents in and return them to you when complete.

  • "The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance."
  • Nathaniel Branden

Tuesday, November 8th, 2022

What They Remember

“Life is for service.” – Fred Rogers

You deal with clients daily. Some clients are constantly using your services, and many clients you see just once a year. What do these clients think of your service? Do they think it is just routine, or do they think it is extraordinary?

Your job as a firm leader is to teach your team the difference between good and awesome client service. Just like you have a marketing plan, a sales plan, or a succession plan, you need a client service plan. You determine what would make the biggest impression on the client.

You want clients to think your service is memorable. Think about the best restaurant service you have ever experienced. I am sure it was memorable. When I think of customer service, I always remember an experience I had at a Ritz Carlton hotel in St. Louis. I have shared the story many times!

Develop a plan for your firm’s client service. What would make a CPA firm client say, “Wow!”? I know from the sessions I have had with staff members they can come up with many great ideas on how to make your clients say, “Wow!” Get them involved in creating your client service plan.

Will your clients’ stories about your client service be shared many times?

  • "Men are rich only as they give. He who gives great service gets great rewards."
  • Elbert Hubbard

Monday, November 7th, 2022

The On-Going Dress Code Saga – Crop Tops

Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” – Rachel Zoe

Over the years, I have heard CPA firm administrators ask the question repeatedly – what does your dress code specify?

I thought we solved the dress code issue when we all accepted “business casual” years ago.

Soon, it became, what does business casual encompass? We fought the open-toe shoes (sandals) topic but gave in. We accepted jeans on Friday, which soon became jeans every day. Getting people back to the office after COVID we accept shorts now (but not short shorts?)

The latest is how to wear a crop top that is office acceptable. So, are you modifying your dress code once again to accept a new trend, crop tops?

I try to accept all this as simply amusing. People who are seriously building their careers know that people judge you immediately on first impressions.

  • "You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it."
  • Edith Head

Friday, November 4th, 2022

Need A Raise? Flashback Friday

“Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” – Jim Rohn

The firm should be prepared to paint a picture of the future for you.

Here’s a flashback post from 2015.

  • "I don't think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday."
  • Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, November 3rd, 2022

Giving Feedback

“The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.” – Harvey S. Firestone

I have heard some real horror stories about performance feedback over my years in the CPA profession. Most of it happens relating to client engagements. I always warn new college graduates entering the profession that they should keep in mind that accountants have a critical nature.

Think about it. CPAs are trained to find mistakes!

Older, more experienced accountants “train” newer ones by giving them review notes. Review notes are usually in writing and communicate to the new person everything they did wrong. Firms often seem like a “find the mistake” culture. Auditors are looking for mistakes. Tax accountants are looking for mistakes made by the prior CPA.

When it comes to the more formal performance evaluation (quarterly, semi-annually), accountants do a better job. I think they have learned over the years that these sessions need to be given more thought, scripted, and delivered in an encouraging manner.

Suzanne Lucas (@realevilhrlady), in an article via Inc., gives us some examples of “12 Horrible Things Found In Performance Appraisals.” Thank goodness, I don’t think these things happen in CPA firms. That being said, I imagine some staff members in some firms can give you some eye-opening stories about their performance evaluation sessions.

Lucas advises that every performance review should contain information that meets three criteria:

  • Actionable
  • Relevant
  • Measurable

Be sure to read the article for what these three things really mean.

  • "Strive for continuous improvement instead of perfection."
  • Kim Collins

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2022


“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” – Bruce Lee

This is the month.

To me, November has always been “the month.” It is a critical month in the cycle of CPA firm life.

When I suggest change, I have heard the following from CPAs for decades!

  • December – I am too busy with tax planning, doing engagement letters, and getting organizers out the door.
  • January – It is W-2, and 1099 time; we are too busy.
  • February – April – We are too busy .
  • May – We need a break. We have to unwind. I am taking a vacation.
  • June – We have to do performance reviews.
  • July – Mid-August -Too many people are on vacation.
  • August – Sept. 15 – We have extensions to do!
  • Sept. 15 – October 15 – We have to focus on 1040s.
  • October 15 – Oct. 31 – Again, another time to de-stress.
  • November……It is the month you need to focus on the health of your firm.

I call it what goes on behind the black curtain. It is the things the client doesn’t see.

It is all about identifying and improving processes and procedures. It is all about identifying and improving the things that cause your employees to be engaged and loyal or not. It is about embracing new ideas and accepting the fact that change must happen if you are to remain relevant to your employees and important to your client base.

Don’t waste this month! Create an Action Plan and accomplish as much as possible. Too bad you have waited until November. Don’t waste time this month!

  • "Time is one of your most valuable commodities and how you spend it determines what your life will be. You can either waste it, invest it or give it away."
  • David Khalil

Tuesday, November 1st, 2022

Billable Hours

“It’s not that there’s a lack of credible, successful and even intelligent candidates out there looking for work. It’s the fact that CPA firms haven’t changed their models.” – Lorrine Beste

I hope you have read a recent article via Accounting Today. It is titled Confessions of a tax manager: CPA firms just aren’t getting it.

If not, here’s what it is all about. Like most experienced tax managers, the author, Lorraine Beste, has been inundated with contacts from various recruiters. She works for a small firm and has enjoyed work/life balance for many years. The unbelievable salaries being offered inspired her to do some research.

The recruiters seemed absolutely overjoyed when she replied. The firms seeking a tax manager seemed to offer all the “bells and whistles” that make their firm a great place to work.

The one question they did not divulge, but Beste sought out, was – How many billable hours do you require? She was shocked by the consistent answer – 55 to 60 (or higher) in tax season and early fall.

She will stay at her small firm. Be sure to follow the link above, and read the interesting article. Consider what work/life balance really means at your own firm.

  • "You can't do a good job is your job is all you do."
  • Katie Thurmes

Monday, October 31st, 2022

Do What You Love

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

Warren Buffett boils happiness down to four words: DO WHAT YOU LOVE.

Here’s a quote from Mr. Buffett:

“I get to work in a job that I love, but I have always worked at a job that I loved. I loved it just as much when I thought it was a big deal to make $1,000. I urge you to work in jobs that you love. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don’t like because you think it will look good on your resume.”

In an article via Inc., they give you five really good reasons why you should commit to doing what you love.

  • You’re aligned with doing the things you care about.
  • You feel like you belong.
  • You do the things you’re actually good at.
  • You’re more optimistic.
  • You’re more motivated.

Follow the Inc. link to read more about each of these five reasons.

  • "Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do."
  • Steve Jobs