Posts Tagged ‘culture’

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, April 22nd, 2013

Lessons From The NCAA To Help With Your CPA Firm March & April “Madness”

HostetlerDustinLeanCPA-1023I recently received a newsletter from Dustin Hostetler of Flowtivity. His message this month is SO important to those of your working in the CPA profession. Of course, it is something I am very passionate about: The cultivation of talent inside CPA firms.

My comments and other highlights from his article follow. You can read the entire article here.

The NCAA March Madness tournament and the March & April Madness inside your CPA firm have a similar dynamic:

The emergence of previously unheralded superstars and talent that elevate their teams to new levels of success and productivity.

On the road to the Final Four, certain players emerged as superstars. They elevated their game to previously unseen levels and led their teams to impressive performances in the tournament. Their individual performances inspired other team members to also step-up their game.

These individual, outstanding performances didn’t happen by accident. It entailed months/years of practice, development, coaching and confidence building that led to a break-out culmination when their teams needed them most.

It works much the same way for CPA firms. Successful firms have learned that a culture of learning and development is crucial in the attraction, development and retention of top talent.

It takes engaged partners, collaborative hands-on training, trust through leveraging and the acceptance of mistakes. Read the full article to learn more about each one of these.

Are you a Final Four Caliber Firm?

  • Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.
  • John Wooden

Friday, March 29th, 2013

You Are Busy – Perhaps, You Are Stressed

StressActually, stress can be a good thing.

Working inside a CPA firm, it is your busiest time of year and you are feeling stressed by your workload, deadlines, emails, client phone calls and maybe even by the performance of your employees or your peers.

Stress, like many other things, is somewhat misunderstood. Stress can actually cause instinctive physical responses that cause us to be more aroused and more focused and more ready to respond physically and mentally to whatever is coming our way.

According to an article from HBR, How You Can Benefit From All Your Stress, like many things it depends on your attitude. I think one reason that I survived 30 years in a high-performance, high-stress, fast-paced, every-changing culture in a CPA firm is because I actually enjoyed the busiest times and the demanding performance expectations. I looked at it as fun, challenging, interesting and never-boring.

According to research, your mindset about stress is the most important thing. There is the stress-is-debilitating mindset and the stress-is-enhancing mindset. A study of 400 employees of an international financial institution found that those employees who had the stress-is-enhancing mindset reported having better health, greater life satisfaction and superior work performance.

Attitude is your responsibility. It’s the one thing you have complete control over. Sometimes in public accounting firms I think we have too many Eeyores (Woe is me. Oh no, things are bad. The sky is falling.) and not enough Bob the Builders (We can do it. Yes we can!).

  • There is more to life than increasing its speed.
  • Gandhi

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Happy New Year! A Look Back At 2012

In the fast-moving business climate that we thrive in today many things (ideas, processes, trends) are new. One thing, for CPAs, is still very old – the need to READ to keep current and stay informed.

I’ve looked back over my posts for 2012 and selected one from each month. Maybe, just maybe, some of these will inspire you to DO THINGS to make your accounting firm, your people and yourself more successful (and happier in your business life) in 2013:

Monthly highlights from 2012:

January – This Is The Year – Get Your Social Media Rolling

February – Developing A Winning Culture.

March – Accounting Firm Managers – Really Managing

April – AICPA Top Talent Survey – Keeping The Best & Brightest

May – Merger, Merger Everywhere But Maybe Not For Us

June – Being The Best

July – Are You An Original Or A Copy?

August – Do It Right The First Time

September – What Are They Thinking?

October – Are You The Person Who Does The “Extra” In Your CPA Firm?

November – Hire Them And Then Listen To Them

December – Additional Services Season Is Coming


  • Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, September 24th, 2012

What Are They Thinking?

Ever wonder what your people are thinking?

In my conversations with various groups of people who work in public accounting firms, I hear all kinds of stories.

Inside some firms they still use the Baby Boomer method of training new hires. I am talking about the way Baby Boomers were trained. It goes something like this….. a Baby Boomer joined a CPA firm in the late 70s or in the 80s. On his second or third day a partner (another “he”) walked up to his desk, dropped a legal size, thick file on the desk and casually said, “Follow what’s in this file and do what we did last year.”

Funny thing is, the Baby Boomers did just that and basically learned from trial and error. Maybe I should describe it as “try to do the work, receive extensive review notes addressing all your errors and then try again.” – – repeat, repeat, repeat.

What has evolved is that we have partners and managers who grew-up in public accounting this way and now they are attempting to manage Millennials who respond differently.

I find most of it is just poor communication. It is compounded by the fact that for years CPAs have spent lots of money on technical training for the people who are now partners and managers and very little on providing education on how to manage, coach and mentor people.

What can you do about this? Find out what your people think. Begin now to build an environment that builds trust between managers/partners and the team. Many experts tell us that to begin building this culture of trust you should begin with the people who know most – the ones being managed – and only then seek feedback from the leaders downward.

Here are some of the disturbing excuses (stories) I hear from people working in firms:

  • The partners refuse to do an upward survey – they don’t care what the people think.
  • Our partners are afraid of what will be said.
  • Our partners really don’t want to change so they don’t see the need for an upward survey.
  • Our managers really got upset when we once discussed asking for upward feedback about them and the partners backed off.

I firmly believe that we get better by a constant stream of helpful information from the people who are part of our accounting firm team. That is why I am pleased to be co-founder of a new survey company, along with Gary Adamson of Adamson Advisory, formed to help CPA firms with the PEOPLE side of the business. Take a look at SurveyCPA and consider if it is time for the PEOPLE managing your PEOPLE to obtain some feedback that can help them improve their performance.

  • A telephone survey says that 51 percent of college students drink until they pass out at least once a month. The other 49 percent didn't answer the phone.
  • Craig Kilborn

Friday, April 20th, 2012

AICPA Top Talent Survey

It is becoming more and more important every day for CPAs to actively engage the bright, young and talented people working inside their firm. Futurists and researchers continue to stress how important it is to focus on your people.

There is a lot of great information in the new AICPA Top Talent Survey. Yasmine EL-Ramly, CPA/CITP, Project Manager at AICPA PCPS, gives us highlights via the Journal of Accountancy:

Foster a culture of trust and open access to management – The survey reported decreased trust in firm leadership among 40% of high-potential CPAs.

Make work/life balance a firm priority. – The brightest young CPAs are much more focused on successfully integrating their professional and personal lives than their predecessors were.

Provide a competitive compensation package. – Salary is the top factor in retaining high-potential CPAs and the second most important factor in attracting them, the survey found.

Transform each engagement into a training opportunity. – Involve top young talent from start to finish, ensuring they grasp the breadth and complexity of each engagement.

Implement diversity initiatives for women and minorities. – Such programs can have a substantial effect on attracting and retaining women and minorities by enhancing their sense of belonging and recognition.

Identify emerging partners as early as possible. – With career growth high on the high potentials’ priority list, it is important to establish a career road map with top talent.

The respondents, as profiled, are an ambitious, experienced and well-educated bunch. The top talent studied represent all staff/seniors/managers who have been identified, either formally or informally, as future leaders.

On average, high potential CPAs:

  • Have nearly 14 years of experience as a CPA.
  • Have been with the current employer for more than 10 years.
  • Are committed to the profession; two-thirds say they would make the same career choice – to be a CPA – all over again.
  • Believe they are being groomed for leadership in their firm (63.7%).
  • Would like to be partners or senior leaders in their firms (62%).

I often hear from owners, “Our managers don’t want to be partner.” Do you know this for sure at your firm? What kinds of communication and conversations are happening in relation to future leaders?

Be sure to explore the survey results. The full report is available online.

For firm leaders and future leaders, I hope you adopt the following quote as something to live by.

  • Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing.
  • Albert Schweitzer