Posts Tagged ‘CPA firm’

Friday, April 25th, 2014

Answer Your Own Questions

There are so many nagging questions going on inside the minds of CPA firm owners (partners).

  • Where are we taking this firm?
  • If we did this or that, would our people be upset?
  • Are our competitors actively trying to steal our people?
  • Are our competitors stepping-up their efforts to steal our clients?
  • Why can’t we be more united on our vision?
  • Other firms seem to be way ahead of us with social media. How can we catch-up?
  • Is this the year we will explore being acquired?
  • Is this the year we will finally go through with acquiring that smaller firm across town?
  • Denise, our long-time, all-star manager keeps threatening to leave. Is this the year she will do it?
  • We keep complaining about how Ted is our wild-card partner and never gets on-board with our procedures and initiatives. Are we going to do anything more than complain and ignore him?
  • Bill is our only real rainmaker. He’s 63. What are we going to do?
  • Who are we really? Are we the prominent, progressive firm we describe to applicants and potential clients?

Notice, at the beginning, I said “nagging questions going on inside the minds….”. The major challenge inside many firms is getting these questions out of the partners’ minds and verbalizing them.  Partners tend to THINK about many questions and WONDER about outcomes but they hesitate to actually SPEAK-UP.

If you are a partner in a CPA firm, it is your responsibility to ASK QUESTIONS, to say what’s on your mind, to be completely open and honest with your partners and be willing to listen to their honesty in return.

hoodIn the current issue of Accounting Today, Dan Hood takes a light-hearted look at “Which Firm Are You?” as compared to a TV show. Are you The Walking Dead, Downton Abbey, The Big Bang Theory and so on?   This might be a good exercise at your next partner retreat. Better yet, ask you team to compare your firm to a TV show (and be prepared for honesty).


  • When there's an elephant in the room introduce him.
  • Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

To Keep Top Talent At Your CPA Firm, Ask Them To Stretch

You arrive at the office on Friday morning and immediately you hear the news from one of your partners, your firm administrator or the HR director….. “Sally gave her notice late yesterday afternoon!”

Sally has become a key person on your team. She had just been promoted to Supervisor and was not only building some strong client relationships, the younger team members were requesting to be assigned to her jobs.

Yes, she got a great offer from another firm, an offer that was almost too good to be true. And, yes, you have been stalling on promoting her to manager because you already have 12 managers and are not sure what the future truly holds for her at the firm. You have delayed talking to her about all this and even though she has been asking questions about her career path.

How do you replace her? You are thinking about the recruiter fees you will be paying to get someone with her experience. WAIT…. don’t you have an internal mobility plan?  If not, you should begin one now.

Although promoting from within is a common practice inside of firms, I often hear, “we don’t have anyone ready to handle her accounts, no one is experienced enough.”

Before you go outside to hire, consider asking your Seniors to stretch a little and fill the role of Supervisor. Ask your associates to stretch a little and fill the role of Senior. You get the idea.

Your best performers (at whatever level) are looking for career advancement and career development. They will step-up and go above and beyond if you present the opportunity. They are waiting for you to ask and they don’t want you to bring a stranger in from the outside.

Besides, your own internal candidates already know your culture, procedures and quirks. Give them a chance. You might be surprised at how eager they are to stretch…. if you give them the opportunity.



  • Success is due to our stretching to the challenges of life. Failure comes when we shrink from them.
  • John C. Maxwell

Monday, January 13th, 2014

The Thank-You Partner

During my very first role working inside a CPA firm, I assisted partners. You know, the “S” word that we don’t use any more – Secretary.

I was proud of my role and I loved it. I always seemed to understand the power of simply helping other people succeed. One particular partner always (and I mean always) said “Thank-you”. I know it seems like such a little thing but those two words had such power with me. Yes, I eventually asked for more money. Yes, I had to ASK for my first raise and they gave it to me!

dream managerThe point is the Thank-You Partner was the winner. I often had multiple requests for assistance and prioritizing was a daily activity. Unless there was a major crisis or special emergency response needed, I put the Thank-You Partner’s requests and projects first. Why? Because he appreciated me and my efforts and showed it by ALWAYS saying thank-you.

I am currently reading a book  titled The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly. I will be blogging more about it in the days to come. Here’s a passage:

“Employees want to feel appreciated. Eighty-five percent of people who leave a job leave because of their relationship with their direct supervisor. And when you ask them about their relationship with their supervisor, they almost inevitably say that he or she didn’t appreciate them or their contribution. The predominant concern of employees isn’t money or benefits, and it is not the hours. They want to feel appreciated.”

On this Monday, as you begin your week do a good thing for your team by showing your appreciation for contribution to your firm by offering words of encouragement. Begin with thank-you and expand upon it. Never stop.

  • Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.
  • Mae West

Friday, November 29th, 2013

What Would You Pay For the Secret To Success?

JPMorgan-YoungAt your CPA firm, things are hectic. You have many priorities and you often find yourself running in circles.

I love this story that I learned from Tom Peters (you should follow his writings. Plus, he gives away so much great information for free!).

Here’s the story:

A man approached J.P. Morgan, held up an envelope, and said, “Sir, in my hand I hold a guaranteed formula for success, which I will gladly sell you for $25,000.”

“Sir,” J.P. Morgan replied, “I do not know what is in the envelope, however if you show me, and I like it, I give you my word as a gentleman that I will pay you what you ask.”

The man agreed to the terms, and handed over the envelope. J.P. Morgan opened it, and extracted a single sheet of paper. He gave it one look, a mere glance, then handed the piece of paper back to the gent.

And paid him the agreed-upon $25,000 …

The formula:

  1. Every morning, write a list of the things that need to be done that day.
  2.  Do them.




  • The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.
  • J. P. Morgan

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Most Meetings Inside CPA Firms Suck

There, I said it. They are conducted the way they have been conducted for 30 (or more) years.

Lack of or poor communication is one of the biggest inside CPA firms. It comes out on top in most of the many surveys I have done as a consultant over the years. To many partners in CPA firms, this means they need to have more meetings – wrong!

There are so many great ways to communicate. Use the social media tools inside your firm. I urge managing partners to set-up a PRIVATE Twitter account just for people inside their firm and keep people posted on management and practice growth activities by simple tweets.

I believe that regularly scheduled update meetings are fine. Keep them brief and informational. These meetings are not a place to debate topics. It’s just what’s it’s called, an update on current happenings inside the firm. Sure you can do those with social media, too, but I want all of your people, as a group, to see each other and the firm partners face-to-face at least once a month.

Now for the important project focused, learning focused, problem-solving meetings. Why not try the Amazon method. Here’s how they do it at Amazon. I read about this in a post by Bijan Sabet. You can Google it and find lots of other information about the Amazon meetings.

There are no PowerPoint or keynote presentations. Everything is written out in a six-page memo that often contains an appendix with supporting data. The memo does not have charts or pictures. It has text.

The memo is presented at the beginning of the meeting. The attendees do not see it in advance. The meeting begins with EVERYONE silently reading the memo for 15-20 minutes. Then everyone has the same information and the meeting begins.

This method forces the presenter (or meeting chair) to do the work in advance instead of winging it in the meeting. It forces the meeting participants to pay attention to the material.

I certainly don’t believe this would work with every CPA firm internal meeting. But perhaps it will make you stop and think before you interrupt someone before you have heard the whole story. And, for project themed meetings (improving your mentoring program, streamlining workflow, considering a new software project, etc.) it might be something you should definitely TRY. Remember what I keep telling you – WTTMSW (from Tom Peters):

Whoever Tries The Most Stuff Wins
  • We have study hall at the beginning of our meetings.
  • Jeff Bezos

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – Time For Something Off-Topic

IMG_1375Because I am on an extended traveling saga (work-related, not for pleasure this time), I thought I would share this & that about my week.

On Monday I headed to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. My first trip to Mexico and the wonderful folks at DFK (CPA firm association) kindly invited me to spend an extra day since I was traveling so far to speak to their North American managing partner group. The event was held at the Fiesta Americana Grand resort and it was a stunning setting for my visit to Mexico.

Wednesday morning I did my presentation and then on Thursday headed back to the states via Phoenix and on to Oakland where on Friday I spent a day filled with great conversations with the members of the Northern California Chapter of the Association for Accounting Administration. Needless to say, I went from laid-back, 90 degree environment to extremely crowded freeways and 50-ish temperatures.

Today, it is back to the warmer weather in Phoenix for the CCH User Conference – I speak on Monday and Tuesday. If you are there, seek me out and say, “Hello”.

I’ve talked with lots of people this week about the challenges of managing a CPA firm. What do you do when you feel like you are about to “lose it”? In my readings I found a passage from The Snowman by Jo Nesbo, that might help:

“Do what boxers do, sway with the punches. Don’t resist. If any of what happens at work gets to you, just let it. You won’t be able to shut it out in the long term anyway. Take it bit by bit, release it like a dam, don’t let it collect until the wall develops cracks.”

I took the picture, above, at the resort in Mexico. Page down to see my post from Thursday with another picture.


  • For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.
  • Lily Tomlin

Saturday, September 14th, 2013

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – Time For Something Off-Topic, Informational, Humorous Or Even Weird

Fall is in the air. Yes, it’s back-to-school and time for football. However, to me it is marching band season.

I have been an official and unofficial band booster (that’s a bunch of band parents and band member family and friends who suffer through heat, cold, rain, snow and often a beautiful full-moon evening to watch their student march and play music on a football field) for many years.

Ben and MariaAnother special season is beginning – Maria (my granddaughter) is a freshman this year marching in the Fairbanks High School Marching Band. The band director is my son, Ben. Here’s a picture Ben took last night.

Does this have anything to do with CPAs working in public accounting firms? Yes! I think it does.

What if your firm were a marching band?  What if EVERYONE in your marching band (CPA firm) was determined, proficient at their tasks, well-rehearsed, dedicated, tireless, and committed with skilled section leaders helping others to their best? What if your marching band (CPA firm) was led by a director who ALWAYS, enthusiastically demonstrated positive feedback with high expectations and a good dose of discipline? What if everyone in your marching band (CPA firm) worked extremely hard, even to the point of exhaustion to please their audience (clients) AND still had lots of fun?

In Ohio, when high school marching bands compete, they are judged on the following 1-5 system:  Superior, Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor. Where would your firm rank?


  • Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.
  • Victor Hugo

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

On My Mind – What Makes A Great Workplace

I was recently doing some research on culture and how it helps shape the work environment inside successful businesses (and CPA firms). I came across this slideshow from Netflix  on Slideshare describing their culture.

Here are some highlights:

Slide 20:

A Great Workplace Is

Stunning Colleagues

A great workplace is not espresso, lush benefits, sushi lunches, grand parties, or nice offices.

We do some of these things, but only if they are efficient at attracting and retaining stunning colleagues.

Slide 21-22:

Like Every Company, We Try To Hire Well

Unlike many companies, we practice:

adequate performance gets a generous severance package

Slide 24:

The Keeper Test Managers Use:

Which of my people, if they told me they were leaving, for a similar job at a peer company, would I fight hard to keep at Netflix?

  • It turns out that all Netflix streaming peaking on Saturday night can fit inside a single fiber optic, which is the size of a human hair.
  • Reed Hastings, CEO Netflix

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Book Week Monday: Why Must There Be Dragons

Photo on 5-20-13 at 7.27 AMPersonal opinion: The best leaders read.

Soon it will be summer reading season. This year, why don’t you take part? There are so many great books to help you better manage your professional service firm. But wait, there are so many good books about business issues in general that definitely apply to the CPA profession. You can even get a firm-changing idea by reading a fictional novel or a biography.

This week I’m going to write about a different book each day. A book that I think will help you and your CPA firm.

Why Must There Be Dragons? Empowering Women to Master their Careers Without Changing Men by Trent M. Kittleman.’

It is the 31st Century – Earth is different. Instead of males and females in the business world, it is dogs and cats. Here’s the dedication:

From the dedication page:  “This story is dedicated to all of the Cats and all of the Dogs who work together every day and wonder… Why it is that Cats must be so Feline. And why it is that Dogs must be so Canine.”

I love this book, told in fable format about dogs and cats in the business world. It’s one of the best books I’ve read on the male/female topic (and I have read many). It addresses many of the issues faced by males and females working in a CPA firm (or any business).

While it addresses the issues that are written about in many of the male/female relationships in the workplace books (and I will feature more this week), it is a fun and easy read with an important message for both men and women.

  • Thus a skilled warrior subdues enemy troops without raising arms; captures cities without laying siege; destroys countries without lengthly warfare."
  • Chin-Ning Chu, The Art of War for Women

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Performance Appraisal and Assessment Software

silkAs the loyal followers of this blog know, I am not aligned with any particular vendor or supplier of services to the CPA profession (except for my sister company, SurveyCPA).  I try to stay independent so that I can continually let CPAs working in public accounting know about various resources available to them.

Today I had an interesting conversation with Randy L. Hultz – Director, Performance Strategies with SilkRoad’s WingSpan a performance review, evaluation and management software. I was talking with Mr. Hultz on behalf of one of my clients who is investigating their product.

I was impressed, especially because Mr. Hultz, as a CPA, used to work for a large CPA firm in the HR area and actually used WingSpan. This product has specific features to meet the complex needs of public accounting.

Just wanted to make you aware in case this is the summer you are going to finally embrace an HR software package to make all your HR functions operate more smoothly.

  • If someone is going down the wrong road, he doesn't need motivation to speed him up. What he needs is education to turn him around.
  • Jim Rohn