Posts Tagged ‘firm administrator’

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Next Tuesday, November 12th – Join Me To Learn About and Improve Your Skills As a CPA Firm Administrator

I’ll be in Orange County on behalf of the Association For Accounting Administration for a workshop on the topic of:  Building A Foundation For Success – The Key Role Of The Firm Administrator. More info here.

If you are one, have one or want to have one – join me and your peers to explore the role of a SUCCESSFUL Firm Administrator.

Here’s 18 Attributes I often share:

18 Attributes of an Effective Firm Administrator

  1. Technical knowledge of the area being managed.  Learn the area, hone skills and stay on top of technological developments.  It will earn respect from subordinates and peers.
  2.  Cheerleader.  Be adept at motivating all people.
  3.  Educated to help deal with peers and colleagues.  Begin with a good education and continue learning through seminars, webinars, trade journals, newsletters, online research, and reading Rita Keller’s Blog.
  4.  Innate managerial mentality.  This includes being alert, dependable and willing to carry out a commitment.
  5.  Team player.  Grandstanders are not allowed.  A good administrator solves problems in other departments, as well as his/her own, because the objective should be collectively beneficial.
  6.  Ability to anticipate potential problems.  An administrator with vision is painfully aware of Murphy’s Law (If anything can go wrong, it will).  Contingency planning is a key tool of administrators.
  7.  Natural sense of fairness and integrity and emotionally well balanced.  Natural is the key word.  If he/she has to consult a manual to know what’s fair, frustration will be constant.  Also, immature administrators can hurt the employees and the firm they represent.
  8.  Courageous, resolute, strong convictions and socially conscious.  Administrators work with management and staff with an overall goal of quality client service.   They often deal with egotistical personalities and partners unwilling to “let go.”
  9.  A good follower, not resentful of instructions or constructive criticism.  Anyone secure enough to demonstrate mature leadership will understand the reasons for recognizing the proper chain of command.  Observing protocol demonstrates respect for the system.
  10.  Have initiative and be creative, imaginative and resourceful.  Preventing problems is the most sublime form of problem solving.  Good administrators act without being told to do so.
  11. Energetic.  A good administrator sets the pace.  Most work 2,300 hours or more per year (that number includes PTO, holidays, CPE, etc., working the hours required to get things done.
  12. Reliable, even temperament.  You can’t constantly change your personality.  Nothing goes right all the time, and if you care, you’re going to get upset once in a while.  You don’t have to be apologetic for “losing your cool” when provoked.
  13. Competitive, unafraid of conflict.  A competitive person is not afraid to set standards never before attained, nor is he or she afraid to fail.  Such a person realizes there can be growth in failure if there is learning.  In managing conflicts, the effective administrator must know how to come out on top or graciously back off.
  14. Positive.  A positive attitude is the catalyst of creativity.
  15.  Excellent communication skills.  A good administrator should be able to write clearly and crisply, speak articulately and succinctly and listen intently.
  16.  Logical, capable of making decisions.  Administrators must make tough decisions without fear of making a mistake.   Procrastination could be worse than the decision made.
  17.  Appreciation of technology and social media.  Good administrators see technology and social media as tremendous resources and continually lead the firm to advance in these areas.
  18.  Organized, self-disciplined.  Orderly thinking results in orderly living and managing.

By the way, the 18 attributes would be a good thing for all partners to also aspire to.


  • If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough.
  • Mario Andretti

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Sarah Galley Named AAA ACE Award Winner

Last night at the Annual Association for Accounting Administration Gala, this year held at the beautiful, historic Fox Theatre in Detroit, Sarah K. Galley, PHR was named winner of the ACE Award.

This annual award has been awarded to some of the most experienced and respected CPA firm administrators since its inception in 1989. The ACE Award stands for Achievement, Commitment and Excellence.

Sarah is the Firm Administrator for Pohlman & Talmage CPAs, Inc. in Dayton, Ohio. Managing Partner, Doug Talmage, was on hand to congratulate Sarah and to talk about value that Sarah brings to the firm each and every day.

IMG_2638 - Version 2

  • Don't worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.
  • Abraham Lincoln

Monday, June 17th, 2013

Invest In Success

rencenThis week the Association for Accounting Administration will host it’s annual National Practice Management Conference at the beautiful GM Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan.

If you are a CPA firm managing partner, you probably have a right-hand person who supervises the day-to-day business activities of your firm.

Perhaps YOU, the person reading this blog post are fulfilling that role inside a busy CPA firm.

If you are the managing partner think about the benefits you receive from your state CPA society and the benefits you receive from your memberships in the AICPA. If you are actually taking advantage of all the resources, the benefit list is probably quite extensive. To put it in a few words…. you keep current in order to offer the best possible services to your clients and you meet people (just like you) that offer support, ideas and motivation.

That is exactly what CPA firm administrators get from the Association For Accounting Administration. HR people belong, technology people belong, marketing people belong and managing partners belong. Why? Because of the benefits (keeping current and meeting others who act as resources).

I first attended the national conference in the mid-80s and have not missed a single national conference since simply because it is a phenomenal learning experience.

For example, this year you can hear bestselling author, Mitch Albom, the author of Tuesdays With Morrie.

You will be able to learn from many of the best CPA practice management  thought leaders in the areas of marketing, social media, human resources, lean principles, M&A, public speaking, change management and succession.

  • Roman Kepczyk
  • Randy Johnston
  • Michelle Golden
  • Guy Gage
  • Dev Warren
  • Sandra Wiley
  • Dustin Hostetler
  • Jennifer Wilson
  • Peter Margaritis
  • Joseph Tarasco
  • Bill Reeb
  • And yes…. Rita Keller.  I will be providing a keynote on Friday morning on a critical topic for CPAs – succession planning.

Why do I tell you all this when the pre-conference sessions begin today and the main conference on Wednesday?  So that if you are not attending this year, you can begin to plan for next year.

I have probably attended more practice management conferences than almost anyone working in the profession today. When I speak at practice management events, meetings and conferences – unlike most consultants who fly-in, speak, fly-out, I actually attend as many sessions as possible. The AAA National Practice Management Conference is absolutely the best Practice Management focused public accounting conferences there is.

Firm administrators – If your firm is blind to the value of investing in your success – YOU should invest in yourself.  Bargain with the partners if you must, negotiate, pay part of the expenses yourself.  You need to invest in your own success.

Watch for my tweets this week from the conference – @cpamanagement.

  • Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.
  • Mark Twain

Friday, March 1st, 2013

Portrait Of A Professional CPA Firm Administrator

I still meet many CPAs who wonder if they should hire a professional business manager, a COO, a full-charge firm administrator.

I work with firms who are very small, even a one-girl office, and that person is titled Firm Administrator (because that person truly “runs the business”).

I work with firms that are very large and most have established the role of Chief Operating Officer (because that person truly “runs the business”).

David Maister, consulting guru to professional service firms, said it long ago – a professional service firm needs “a high-level business manager (or chief administrative officer) who serves as the “right-hand” to the managing partner, to free him or her from administrative duties.”

This is a broad-topic and I have written about it often (and will continue to do so). However, today I want to simply share with you what an experienced, professional firm administrator looks like.

Sharon_TrabbicThe Association for Accounting Administration shares a profile of members in their newsletter. In February they featured Sharon Trabbic, AAAPM, Chief Operating Officer of William Vaughn Company in Maumee, Ohio and current President of the Ohio Chapter of AAA.  What does AAAPM mean? It means a person is at the top of their profession and has been certified as an Accredited Administrator in Accounting Practice Management.

Interested in establishing or better-defining the role of firm administrator in your growing CPA firm? Read Sharon’s story, it will give you a real-life picture of someone who’s very successful in the role.

If you are in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky or Pennsylvania – – you have the opportunity to meet Sharon and hear and meet Ron Baker, VeraSage Institute, talk about Value Pricing. It’s an easy drive to Columbus, Ohio for the AAA Ohio Chapter event on May 16th. Register here.

  • My mission is to, once and for all, bury the billable hour and timesheet in the professions.
  • Ronald J. Baker

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Investing In The Success of Firm Administrators – ALP Program

I have a special announcement today. I am a firm believer in the financial and operational power of a professional firm administrator and/or chief operating officer for a CPA firm. The right person with the right skills absorbs a huge load from CPA firm owners to free them up for “partner level” work.

As with any professional, firm administrators and other behind-the-scenes professionals working inside accounting firms need to make a commitment to life-long learning. That is why I am excited to be partnering with Jen Wilson and Tamera Loerzel of  ConvergenceCoaching to bring you an Administrators’ Leadership Program (ALP) for administrative, operational, and human resource professionals!

Our year-long, in-depth ALP, which is scheduled to kick off in early October 2012, will enable you to elevate your role, think and act more strategically, learn strategies and best practices to drive growth in your firm, and transform your ability to seamlessly run your operations and develop succession for your function.

Participants can choose to enroll in:

  • Four virtual roundtables where you will engage in an information exchange with a group of administrators or a group of HR professionals from similar-sized firms and build peer networking relationships


  • Three tailored one-on-one coaching sessions with one of our leading CPA profession administrative experts to discuss your firm and career goals, receive customized guidance, and gain support in achieving your performance objectives.

You will also gain access to electronic articles, tools, and resources in conjunction with the roundtables and coaching calls to help implement the strategies developed and keep the commitments you make.

The one-year investment to elevate your administrative, operations, and HR leadership abilities by enrolling in the ALP is only:

Regular Pricing

  • $545 for your participation in four virtual roundtables
  • $1,595 for the one-year coaching program
  • Or $1,945, a savings of $195 when you register for both

 Pricing for AAA, PCPS or BDO Seidman Alliance Members

  • $495 for your participation in four virtual roundtables
  • $1,495 for the one-year coaching program
  • Or $1,795, a savings of $195 when you register for both

View and pass along our ALP brochure and register for the program by visiting the ConvergenceCoaching website. If you have questions or simply want to discuss the program contact me.

  • Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.
  • John F. Kennedy

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Are You An Original Or A Copy?

Today’s post is one of those “it’s on my mind” type ramblings that I sometimes can’t resist. I’ll be asking you, as a firm leader, lots of questions and I want you to think about your answers.

During my think time early this morning, my mind kept wandering to the topic of CPA firm leaders’ hesitancy in doing something different, something new, something they have never tried before.

The question I get most often is: “What are other firms doing?” Often it is even more specific: “What are other firms our size doing?” The question I want YOU to start asking is, “Why?”

We need to get our 2-day partner retreat scheduled.” Why? Will the outcome be any different than last year? Have you been talking about the same thing for 5 or 6 years? Will the same people be attending or will you involve some of your youngest people this year? Do your managers have a chance to provide input to the agenda? What do they think is the most pressing issue for the firm at this point in time?

We need a firm administrator.” Why? Will you invest in their education? Will you involve them in every partner meeting and strategic planning session? Will you allow them to be a participant rather than just taking notes? Will partners commit to giving up their favorite administrative duties to focus on partner-level activities (like bringing in business, enhancing client relationships and mentoring younger accountants)? Will you document the firm administrator duties and the duties of the managing partner so that they do not duplicate efforts?

We need a marketing director.” Why? Are you going to actually begin writing a blog for your website? Will you form a team to make the writing chore easier? Will the writers commit to actually writing on a consistent basis?  Will you involve the marketing director in partner meetings and retreats? Will the partners agree to establish a pipeline system and keep it active? As a partner, will you keep your word and show up for charitable events and business functions or will you say you will attend and then cancel out at the last minute leaving the marketing director with an empty seat to fill?

We need to hire some additional staff.” Why? Is it because you have had turnover? Have you developed an action plan for retaining your top performers? Do you recognize your all-stars or shy away from it because you do not want to show favoritism? Young accountants want feedback; are you giving it on a daily basis? Everyone wants feedback on their job performance; are you providing open, honest communication continually?

It is time for some new thinking inside accounting firms. As one of my clients said to me, “It’s time to stir the pot.” How can you “stir the pot” at your firm in 2012? It’s summer…. plenty of time left THIS YEAR to ask lots of questions and try something new.

This fall as you (I’m talking to the managing partner here) attend your firm association meeting, where you gather with other managing partners from other accounting firms, is it time to ask, “Why?” Why am I attending? Am I just going to copy what others are doing? Has the best practice actually been successful for others or are they just bragging? If some new idea or best practice has actually worked well for another firm am I willing to actually implement it at my firm? Do I contribute new ideas or do I just listen? Has this group of managing partners been together so long that they are stuck in the past? As my friend Dustin Hostetler asks: Are they trying to make yesterday’s solutions work in a tomorrow world?

I saw a Cigna ad in Time magazine that triggered most of these questions. One question was featured in the ad and I would like for you to ask yourself:

When’s the last time you did something for the first time?

  • Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore"
  • L. Frank Baum

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Hire More People For Your CPA Firm

This week, at the AICPA PractitionersTECH + AAM Conference in Las Vegas, I had the chance to talk to and listen to SO many practitioners, CPA firm marketing professionals, AICPA team members, CPA firm association leaders, state society leaders and consultants to the profession.

It was a great opportunity for me to assess my own message, once again, on CPA firm management and to be sure that I am still on the right track in advising my valued clients, my audiences when I am speaking and all of you who follow this blog. There were around 1,600 people at the conference. My head is still spinning.

First of all, I want to thank all of you who attended my session: How a Firm Administrator Can Make Your Firm More Successful. Even if you are under a $5M firm, hire one – they will make you money.

Today, I just wanted to share a couple of comments from Bill Reeb of the Succession Institute, LLC. The thing I admire most about Reeb is that he tells it like it is and tries to get practitioners to actually Do Things.

Two points from Reeb (and me):

  1. People make you money. Hire more of them and free-up partners’ time.
  2. Don’t be afraid to fire people. In public accounting, we keep bad people when we shouldn’t. They are teaching your good people to be bad.

Point #1 – This means staff and it also means a firm administrator. Partners should not be doing the work that a manager or staff person at a lower billing rate can do. Partners should not be dealing with day-to-day operations, it is the job of a qualified, professional business manager.

Point #2 – A bad apple can spoil the whole barrel. Good leaders have a subtraction mind-set. They are always looking to remove bad or unnecessary things.

Next week I will see many of you at the Association for Accounting Administration National Practice Management Conference in Las Vegas. Make sure you find me to say hello and be sure to attend my sessions:

  • First Timers’ Session – with Virginia Lowery
  • Human Resource Early Riser Breakfast
  • Enhancing Your Role as a Firm Manager
  • Dealing with Partner Politics

Here’s a link to the brochure.

  • A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.
  • Colin Powell

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Keep Important Firm Initiatives On The Front Burner

I hear from people – various positions – in the public accounting profession:

  • Our partners are too busy, they are never available for questions.
  • We have a retreat every year but we should just video it and play it again next year since we always talk about the same issues year after year.
  • The managing partner is more focused on clients than he/she is on firm initiatives.
  • The managing partner is our best rainmaker – we don’t want him/her focused on the day-to-day issues.
  • We are trying to identify our next managing partner but no one seems to want the job.
  • Our partners and managers never seem to have time to truly mentor us.
  • There is definitely a communication problem inside our firm.

What’s the answer to a lot of these questions and the following: How do you enable your partners to be focused on client service, client relationship-building and business development? How do you enhance the communication inside your firm? How do you create a mentoring program that really inspires young people? How do you investigate your processes and procedures and make them more efficient? How do you make sure you are following all of the most current trends in human resources? How do you create a cool culture, a fun culture and move your firm into the digital world?

Hire a qualified, professional firm administrator. Make it their responsibility to keep important initiatives, key to the inside health of your firm, off of the back burner and on the front burner!


  • You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
  • A. A. Milne

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Real-World Advice For Your Planning Retreat

During 2011, as I traveled across the country talking with CPAs and their teams, I found it so interesting that many firms still do not conduct an annual planning retreat. Some say they used to do them, some say they do them every other year, some just have an expanded partner meeting and some tell me that they know they should have one but just never seem to get around to it.

Others do conduct annual planning retreats but they end up not being strategic – they talk about people, operations and what I call the day-to-day business of the firm that should not consume valuable partner time.

If you are a managing partner or firm administrator, this month’s issue of the Adamson Advisory newsletter offers some important, practical tips to help in the planning your annual retreat.

In addition to Adamson’s tips, here’s some things I want you to keep in mind:

  • Your firm administrator should be carrying the heavy load of planning the retreat – helping with the agenda, doing all of the logistics and participating in the retreat.
  • Keep everyone focused on the task at hand. At a retreat I facilitated last year, the MP went around with a small basket and collected all of the mobile devices (no lap reading at this session).
  • Think big.
  • Revisit your Purpose, Vision and Values – – do they still apply? Can you recite your own purpose? If not, it probably needs work.
  • All our dreams can come true - if we have the courage to pursue them.
  • Walt Disney