Tuesday, April 6th, 2021

Is Your Work Your Passion?

“Connecting to your passion is being you, but better.” – Garrison Wynn

I have always thoroughly enjoyed my job, working inside a growing CPA firm and working as a CPA management consultant. CPA firm management has been my passion for many years.

I have known several people over those years who did not enjoy their job. Yet, they remained working at the same place and in the same role for years and years because….. Because of what? Money? Security? I even had one person tell me they stayed because it was an easy commute.

I am not talking solely about people in the CPA profession. I have had acquaintances in other professions or businesses who shared with me that they loved what they did but hated the people they worked with. Some said they loved the people but hated their role.

The above quote says a lot to me. My passion for what I do drives me to be better. I am never content. I always want to know more, do more, learn more, share more and be more.

If you don’t have a strong passion for your work don’t keep doing it for decades. There is so much more out there that could be available to you. Take the leap forward and don’t look back.

If you do have a strong passion for working in a CPA firm, never be content. Keep learning more, doing more, embracing change and taking others long with you into the future.

I love this quote: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain

  • "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

Monday, April 5th, 2021

A Good Leader is Self-Aware

“Know thyself.” – Socrates

How do you know if you are a good leader?

You are an experienced CPA. You have supervised and mentored people for several years. People take your advice and do what you say. Does that make you a good leader?

Being a leader is rewarding. Yet, sometimes being a leader can be challenging and puzzling. An important part of being a leader is being self-aware.

In CPA firms, as people advance they receive feedback from various supervisors, coaches and mentors along the way. Once a person becomes a partner (shareholder/owner) feedback often ceases. You are “the boss” and people don’t question your motives.

That is when self-awareness becomes an important tool for a leader. You have to reach out to others. I hope your firm has a periodic upward feedback process for all partners. But, that isn’t enough. You need to reach out personally.

At least a couple of times per year, interview the people who report to you. Talk with your peers, too. Use the Keep, Stop, Start method: What should I keep doing? What should I stop doing? What should I start doing?

Compile the information you receive from the personal interviews and use it for reflection. Take time every day, 15 minutes in the morning or 15 minutes at the end of the workday to reflect on your leadership behaviors. Ask yourself if you are focusing on the most important things each day and if you are learning new things.

If you learn you are not progressing, that you are stuck with the status quo and that you need to set a better example, hire an executive coach or enlist the help of a trusted advisor to hold you accountable.

  • "Don't be afraid to take a big step. You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps."
  • David Lloyd George

Friday, April 2nd, 2021

Being a Leader

“If you don’t want to be a thief then be on time.” – Steve Keating

Being on time is always important. For a CPA, being on time during tax season is even more important. Sure, you are busy. So are your clients and your employees. Never waste another person’s time by being late.

On March 11th my blog, Always Be On time, reminded you of the importance of punctuality.

This week, I read a blog post by Steve Keating titled, Being on Time Matters. Please read his blog post. If you are too busy now, bookmark it to read after April 15th. With the extended deadline, I hope you will have more breathing room after 4/15.

I enjoyed reading his story about being on time and its importance. I know you will benefit from it, too, if you want to be an exceptional leader at your firm.

  • "When it comes to time there seems to be two major groups of people. Those who believe being on time matters and those who believe it matters that other people be on time. "
  • Steve Keating

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

April Fool?

“Here cometh April again, and as far as I can see the world hath more fools in it than ever.” – Charles Lamb

I thought of playing an April Fool’s joke on you but then had second thoughts….. things like:

  • A new survey tells us that Firm Administrators’ average salary for 2021 will be $250,000.
  • The AICPA has mandated that for 2022 firms must abandon Saturday work hours from Jan. 1 until May 1.
  • The Big Four are asking local and regional firms to take on Managers that they are outplacing.
  • Most CPA firms are finding PLENTY of experienced people to hire. There is more supply than demand.

I could go on and on and you can probably come up with some good ones yourself. Instead, I thought I would share with you the #1 April Fool’s Day Hoax of all-time:

April 1, 1957: The respected BBC news show Panorama announced that thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. It accompanied this announcement with footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees. Huge numbers of viewers were taken in. Many called the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this, the BBC diplomatically replied, “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.” Even the director-general of the BBC later admitted that after seeing the show he checked in an encyclopedia to find out if that was how spaghetti actually grew (but the encyclopedia had no information on the topic). The broadcast remains, by far, the most popular and widely acclaimed April Fool’s Day hoax ever, making it an easy pick for number one. 

Here’s a link to the Top 100 Hoaxes:
http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/aprilfool/

  • "I sometimes wonder if the manufacturers of foolproof items keep a fool or two on their payroll to test things."
  • Alan Coren

Wednesday, March 31st, 2021

Attend a CPAFMA Chapter Meeting

“Connecting with others is rewarding; it makes us feel like we are not alone in the world.” – Jonah Berger

Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of connecting and learning from others in the profession of CPA firm management. The CPA Firm Management Association chapter meetings are a great way to continually learn and also a way to share your successes. When I was a beginner, many years ago, I learned so much at the first chapter meetings I attended. I continued learning by attending the CPAFMA National Practice Management Conference each year. I made important connections and obtained wonderful life-long friends.

The best thing about CPA firm management is that it is continually expanding and changing. It forces you to keep pace and enables you to never stop growing and learning. I am still learning after over 30 years of attending chapter meetings.

Here’s more from Ronda Lawson of the Northern California Chapter on how they plan their meetings.

We were struggling a bit to get people to attend what used to be quarterly meetings.  We sent out an invite for a Zoom call to discuss how we were all handling the pandemic and those who attended loved it so we’re now trying to do it monthly. I send the notes to all of our Chapter members, so that even if they can’t attend they have some information.  I’m hoping they will find the notes helpful enough to want to attend when they can, and that we can build more Chapter participation!

I am particularly enjoying hearing what other firms are doing about employee engagement and trying to maintain their culture, and think some of the ideas for virtual events have been really fun and creative. And, as always, it is such a comfort to know that we’re not alone and that many of my colleagues have the same challenges!

For what it is worth, here are a few of the things I am doing to try to keep the roundtables effective:

–I prepare a list of questions ahead of time.  Sometimes they are the same ones, but it’s nice to gauge what has changed inside the firms.

–When I send out the invite for the meeting, I try to include a “teaser” question or two to give them an idea of what we’d be discussing.

–I definitely moderate the conversation, and try to make sure we aren’t talking over each other, or that some participants haven’t been heard from.

–I encourage, as much as possible, the use of the camera as well as audio for the calls.  I think it helps when we can see each other, and start to build relationships.

–As I said, I take notes (not attributing them to a certain participant so that everyone is comfortable having them distributed), and send them to everyone in the Chapter.

  • "Connecting is the key to Influence. Influence is the key to Leading. Leading is the key to Success!"
  • John Maxwell

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021

Keep Connecting

“Perhaps the secret of living well is not in having all the answers but in pursuing unanswerable questions in good company.” ~ Rachel Naomi Remen

One of the most beneficial career boosters for CPA firm administrators, practice managers, COOs, HR directors and, managing partners is the practice of networking and connecting with others working in CPA firm management.

The CPA Firm Management Association has nineteen chapters around the country that provide an excellent opportunity to network, connect and continue to learn the best practices in CPA firm management.

For the last year it has been more challenging to keep those important connections alive and well. Of course, Zoom meetings has helped tremendously. Various chapters have tried different methods to keep those professional relationships strong.

I recently heard from Ronda Lawson of the Northern California Chapter about their efforts to facilitate information sharing.

Rita – You are so wonderful about sharing information with all of us, so I thought you might be interested in these notes from our recent NorCal Chapter Roundtable.  We are having a Zoom call monthly, primarily discussing life during the pandemic.  Let me know if you would like to see notes from our future meetings!  – Ronda

I like that they schedule their meetings every month. Even if you have only six or eight people in attendance, the chance to learn from others and share your own challenges is very valuable. The meetings don’t have to take a lot of time. They could be only one or two hours long.

Here are the topics discussed at a NoCal Chapter recent meeting:

  • Are you currently working in the office? Allowing clients in the office?
  • What precautions are you taking to keep the workplace safe?
  • How are you promoting employee engagement for your remote workers? What are you doing to help employees with their mental and emotional health during the pandemic?
  • How are you monitoring productivity for your remote workers?  What are you doing to help managers manage remote workers?
  • How are you handling your administrative team during the pandemic?  Are they working in the office or remotely?  Can they work remotely?
  • What are your plans for reopening if you haven’t already? What criteria will you use to determine when to reopen? Will you continue to have some remote work even when the office reopens?
  • What affect has the pandemic had on your staffing plans?  Have you had lay-offs, salary freezes, furloughs?  Has this changed your hiring plans?  Will you be doing campus recruiting?  Will you be bringing on interns?
  • What changes has your firm made because of the pandemic?  Are they positive?  Will they continue?
  • Other than the ongoing pandemic, what are the biggest challenges your firm is facing right now?

Check back tomorrow to learn more about how this chapter is handling their meetings. I am hopeful that it will prompt you to not ignore your chapter meetings just because you can’t connect in person.

I believe that having virtual CPAFMA Chapter meetings will continue to thrive after COVID. It is an economical and less time-consuming method of meeting (no commuting!). I know that the Ohio Chapter had people driving three hours one-way to attend some of the Chapter meetings.

  • "The most important things in life are the connections you make with others."
  • Tom Ford

Monday, March 29th, 2021

Pay Attention to Your CAS Services!

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky

Profession experts have been telling you that CAS services are lucrative for you and important to your small business clients. The following is from a Facebook post by Jim Metzler (who most of you know from his many years with the AICPA).

I feel it is important enough to use just as he posted. Click on the link in his post.

From Metzler:

If you don’t think CAS is a game-changer, just read this article. Non CPA competition in non-attest is real and these folks are really impressive. Can’t beat a valuation of over a billion dollars and Jeff Bezos as an investor. CPA continues to be a potential differentiator for us and as a profession, we need to better articulate, communicate and reinforce why the CPA brand is of greater value in this space. Value only exists in the minds of clients and it’s up to us and our professional associations to get the message out there.

CNBC.COMJeff Bezos-backed accounting start-up hits $1.2 billion valuation after new funding round

  • "Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy."
  • Wayne Gretzky

Friday, March 26th, 2021

Hiring Remote Workers – Flashback Friday

“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” – Jim Collins

So many CPA firms are looking for experienced team members. This group has always been elusive and continues to be so.

My advice has always been you must grow your own. Hire them out of college (from a pool of interns you have used) and invest significantly in their training and development. As they become experienced, ask them to stretch and take on more difficult work. Don’t let your current managers cling to work.

Here’s a flashback post – Be Open-Minded About Hiring Remote Workers. It references an HBR article that you should read.

  • "Every business is having to transform today, no matter the size, it’s up to us to transform to meet those expectations."
  • Barry Melancon

Thursday, March 25th, 2021

Confused Clients

If you’re not confused, you’re not paying attention.” – Tom Peters

This tax season brings unique and never before experienced situations for many of your clients.

Perhaps, they are contacting you, maybe too often with all kinds of questions and concerns. You might even be getting frustrated with all of those questions, some of which you have no answers for!

Why not host a Zoom session for your clients in a question-and-answer format? Keep it informative yet simple. Hit the highlights of what you are seeing and experiencing and let them ask questions. Inform them beforehand of the time limit (yes, because you are busy).

You could host the session once a week for the next few weeks. If you have a huge response, keep doing it. Rotate partners to act as host. Allow 30 minutes and don’t over prepare. If you don’t know the answer to one of their questions, just tell them the truth.

This might lead to less phone calls, emails or texts from clients and show your clients how much you care. Having fewer confused and worried clients is a big win for the firm.

  • "Confused? Confusion is good. It's an excellent place to learn something new from."
  • Henna Inam

Wednesday, March 24th, 2021

Stay Afloat

“Sometimes getting smaller and faster can lead to opportunities and growth we would have missed by being too big and slow.” – Joey Havens, CPA

I always enjoy reading Joey Havens’ articles and posts. His recent article via the Journal of Accountancy, in my opinion, hits the nail on the head. It is titled, Don’t Let Dead Weight Sink Your Ship.

What is going on inside your firm that slows the firm down? What keeps you from being one of the fastest-growing firms? What causes you to lose talented people? What causes you to lose clients to your competitors?

I sometimes talk about partners in a boat. Some are rowing and some are throwing out anchors. A few partners are pulling a heavy wagon up a hill and there are a few who are constantly dragging their feet. These partners are so-called leaders who are not leading. Slowly your boat is sinking.

Then there are the clients who complain about your fees, always pay slowly after much effort is spent trying to collect, and clients who are rude and disrespectful to your team members. I bet you have clients that make you cringe when you see, on your mobile, that they are calling you. You probably do not answer their first call. Slowly, those clients are sinking your boat.

Do you have partners/managers who are not teaching, mentoring, coaching, and motivating? In fact, they are actually driving top talent away. Slowly, your boat is sinking.

Read Havens’ post!

  • "Once you know the right thing, do you have the discipline to do the right thing and, equally important, to stop doing the wrong things?"
  • Jim Collins