Thursday, May 5th, 2022

Committees

“I am not a committee.” —Princess Leia, The Empire Strikes Back

As May the 4th was yesterday, the above quote via Princess Leia caught my attention. Can you believe that Star Wars was released 45 years ago on May 25?

Anyway, back on topic. When I hear the word “Committee” in a CPA firm, I cringe. Please keep in mind that your firm is a business, not a non-profit. Trying to manage by committee will just slow you down and create confusion and power struggles.

Establish a management structure with a qualified, inspired Managing Partner and a professional, skilled, efficient Firm Administrator (Practice Manager) to carry out the routine duties of managing the business.

Occasionally, you might need to establish a Task Force to focus on one specific area or initiative. The best thing about a task force is that it is not ongoing. It completes its duty and disbands. Also, keep in mind how much non-productive time many partners spend if you have them on various committees. The pandemic has shown us just how much people hate meetings!

Major issues such as mergers or firing a partner would, of course, require full participation by the ownership group but day-to-day the “other” partners need to be bringing in business, serving clients, and mentoring staff.

  • "If you want to kill any idea in the world, get a committee working on it."
  • Charles Kettering

Wednesday, May 4th, 2022

Together or Apart?

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford

In the world of CPA firm management in a multi-partner firm, the best possible thing that can happen is ALL partners are on the same page.

Sounds simple, right? If you live in a multi-partner firm, you know that it is a distant dream or even a fantasy. It is only natural that individuals have different wants and desires.

If you have two or three partners, things run fairly smoothly. If you have hundreds of partners, they stay out of management and focus on clients and mentoring staff. It is the six to 15 partner groups where I see the most discord.

For years consultants have been advising partner groups that if the majority is in favor of a certain initiative, those not in favor must leave the partner meeting or retreat and act as if they are fully on board with the decision. Does that happen? Rarely.

With two or three partners, decisions are made and acted upon. Four to 15, or so, partners, discord happens. Of course, as the firm expands, it is very important for leadership to know and understand the partners’ preferences and be able to lobby or politic to get the result that is best for the firm.

As the business world has changed, some partners are even outplaced or asked to retire early. I hope things are going smoothly at your firm. Don’t fear confrontation and deal with problems as they arise. The longer you ignore important issues, the quicker your firm will fall behind.

“May the 4th be with you.”

  • "Do or do not. There is no try."
  • Yoda

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022

The Last Days

“The digital age was dragging older lawyers like the Boones into the world of paperless files and storage, and not a minute too soon … Why destroy so many trees to produce much paper that becomes useless almost as fast as it is filed away?” – Author: John Grisham

There is a good article via Accounting Today titled, Frontier: The last days of paper.

Almost always, when I talk with clients and prospects they hesitantly disclose that they are only partially paperless. This paperless tend has been evolving for nearly twenty-five years and still some firms are hesitant to fully embrace the digital world.

The arguments are:

  • We have several older partners (and employees) that are just not ready to give up the paper.
  • We have many clients who demand we give them a paper copy.
  • We have many clients who want a digital copy AND a paper copy.
  • Some tax returns are just too complex to review on-screen.
  • And, the classic excuse: I just like the feel of paper.

I am sure you can add some excuses to this list. But, 2022 is the year, the year to fully embrace the digital world. Are you even offering your clients a paperless method of payment? Look at your competitor’s website. I bet they have a “Pay us here” selection where clients can easily pay without writing a check.

Are you still providing paper tax organizers? Paper tax organizers consume a huge amount of paper (and time and effort). Are you paying your bills via Bill.com or something similar? I receive checks from many of my clients issued via Bill.com. Bill.com also recently acquired Invoice2go this past September. There is more information on that acquisition here.

During the last couple of years, you have made great strides in becoming paperless (because you were forced into it). Make 2022 the year to take the final steps into the digital world.

  • "There are three classes of men; the retrograde, the stationary, and the progressive."
  • Johann Kaspar Lavater

Monday, May 2nd, 2022

Technology Survey Results

“Once a new technology rolls over you if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.” – Steward Brand, Writer

Every other year the CPA Firm Management Association does a survey of its membership relating to what firms are using relating to technology.

It addresses things like the most used tax software, most used practice management software, and others. It also disclosed that 68% of respondents are in the cloud.

When asked when firm respondents believed that firms would run entirely online without on-premise servers, 33% of respondents estimated it would happen in the next three to five years, while 32% thought it would be less than three years.

Here is a great summary of the findings from the CPA Practice Advisor.

  • "If it keeps up, man will atrophy all his limbs but the push-button finger."
  • Frank Lloyd Wright

Friday, April 29th, 2022

Too Much Technology – Friday Flashback

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

Sometimes it seems like technology dominates our life. We are in a state of communication overload.

Here’s a flashback post that gives you a partner’s perspective and also the staff’s perspective.

  • "Don't let yesterday use up too much of today. "
  • Will Rogers

Thursday, April 28th, 2022

Another Season Unfolds

“Do not listen to those who weep and complain, for their disease is contagious.” Og Mandino

The team and partners have been very busy. Now, they have more time to think about what is going on around them. You might hear comments like:

  • I have a lot more charge hours than Joe. I wonder if I am paid more than Joe?
  • How can the firm expect us to do our best work when it is always so hot in the office?
  • How can the firm expect us to do our best work when it is always so cold in the office?
  • I mostly work from home, I miss out on the treats people bring into the office.
  • Sally is always late and then she eats breakfast in the lunchroom before she starts to work.
  • Ted actually exits out the rear entrance at 3:00 when the partners are away from the office.
  • The people working in the office get a lot more training than I do.
  • Why do I have to come into the office two days per week?
  • Susie and Joyce Admin chat at the front desk for a half-hour every morning!
  • The firm does so much for people with families. I am single. What special stuff do I get?
  • Joe Partner always leaves such a mess around the coffee machine.

Tax season is over (for now). It is the Dealing With People Season. It always makes me think of Seinfeld:

Elaine: I will NEVER understand people.

Jerry: They’re the worst.

Some of these complaints might seem extreme to you but I bet you can tell me even better “stories” about people complaining. Good luck with Dealing With People Season!

  • "Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, and most do."
  • Dale Carnegie

Wednesday, April 27th, 2022

A Message For You

“2 words of advice: Get started.” – Daniel Pink

The quote, above, certainly made me think of many of my CPA clients, friends, and colleagues.

One of my biggest frustrations is the annual procrastination cycle that firm leaders embrace. I have shared this story before but at this time of year, just after tax season, I feel obligated to share it again.

So many firm leaders say, “We’ll do that after tax season.” Well, now is the time to GET STARTED on all of those projects, initiatives, and ideas that you have been meaning to tackle.

Here’s the excuse (procrastination) cycle:

  • Late April/May – We can’t do that (whatever “that” is) now. We are so tired and stressed. We need some time for vacation and time to recuperate from tax season.
  • June – We are busy with our annual staff evaluations and it takes a lot of time and effort.
  • July/early August – We can’t do that now, so many people are on vacation.
  • Late August/September – We are so busy now with extensions!
  • October – We are so busy now with extensions!
  • November – We have put so much off that we can’t possibly get much done in just one month, because…
  • December – We have so much tax planning to do and we have all those engagement letters and other stuff to get ready for tax season
  • January-April 15 – All of that will have to wait until after tax season.

Don’t do it this year – – – “Two words of advice: Get started!”

  • "Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone."
  • Pablo Picasso

Tuesday, April 26th, 2022

News – Rosenberg/Rampe

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

I have known Marc Rosenberg for decades. He is a good friend and colleague. We enjoyed so many enlightening years together in The New Horizon Group. And, I have known Kristen Rampe for many years and have recommended her to many of my clients and contacts. It makes me happy that these two have joined forces to create a new force in the CPA firm consulting world. My best wishes and congratulations to both and to their team.

Below is the news from both Rosenberg and Rampe.

From Marc Rosenberg:

“I am thrilled to be uniting with Kristen Rampe’s team,” said Marc Rosenberg, founder and Co-Managing Partner of the new Rosenberg Associates. “During our five years of working together, I’ve witnessed first-hand how Kristen and her team have enthusiastically embraced and absorbed the CPA firm consulting philosophy and methods I have honed for twenty years. I’m equally excited to add new services such as leadership development, professional coaching, human resources consulting, and strategic planning. These new services will greatly expand our ability to meet our clients’ growing needs. I have been consulting with CPA firms for a long time and enjoyed every minute.  Now, by combining with the Rampe Group, we have ushered in the next (and certainly not the last) chapter of Rosenberg Associates!”

From Kristen Rampe, Co-Managing Partner:

“Our focus, as we merge these two incredible firms, is to continue to provide innovative, proprietary consulting services to CPA firms across North America. Marc has created incredible resources for firms over the years and we are honored to become part of Rosenberg Associates so that we can provide consulting services to CPA firms for generations to come.”

  • "If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself."
  • Henry Ford

Monday, April 25th, 2022

The Managing Partner (CEO)

“If you are the CEO, you are the brand.” — George Farris

The above quotation inspired this post. If you are the Managing Partner, you are the brand.

CPA firms operate under the partnership model even if they are not legally a partnership. There is a group of owners, usually titled partners. They elect one partner to take on the role of Managing Partner (MP), meaning he/she is the person charged with managing and leading the firm.

Larger firms have mostly evolved to a more structured system where an executive committee, led by the MP, deals with most firm management decisions. But, the majority of firms in the U.S. are considered smaller and the MP leads the firm. The role has great responsibility but yet, the other partners still want to be involved in almost everything! Still, the MP is expected to be out and about in the community being the visible “face” of the firm. The MP is on various community and charitable boards, attends many civic events, and speaks at various venues when given the opportunity. The MP really does generate and develop a brand for the firm.

Something I have often heard from MPs is the fact that they have become the firm’s MP because no one else wanted the job! Makes me sad. It is such an opportunity if you do it right, for the individual and for the firm. A great MP should be rewarded substantially because of the management duties plus they are expected to have a significant client load. They should be bringing in business and passing it along to other partners.

My simple reminder today is that as MP, you should never lose sight of the fact that you have a responsibility to build the firm brand. The firm brand determines how many clients you will attract and how many accounting graduates and other prospective employees decide to join the firm.

If you want to learn more about the role, there is a great webinar coming up on May 3 titled, The Role of the ManagingPartner: A Guide for Managing Partners to Achieve Greatness for Their Firms. It is via CPA Leadership Institute and presented by Gary Adamson.

  • "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently."
  • Warren Buffett

Friday, April 22nd, 2022

Little Things – Flashback Friday

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” – John Wooden

The client assumes you are accurate in your work. Little things matter to them. That is why a handwritten note can make such a big impression. Read this Flashback post about some powerful words.

  • "If you can't do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. "
  • William H. McRaven