Posts Tagged ‘hiring’

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Grades Or Grit

I like to work with people who have grit.

To me that means:

  • They are not hesitant to say what’s on their mind.
  • They continually give honest feedback and encouragement to those around them.
  • They don’t “walk on egg shells” because some people they work with are very sensitive or very explosive.
  • They also continually and positively push people to do their best.

When you are hiring or when you are assessing your fleet of interns to identify future hires, it is not about their GPA. Experts tell us that when a young person is about 5 years into their career, all the grades and academic credentials in the world don’t mean anything anymore.

I have observed that first-hand over my career. If you are a leader in your firm I bet you have observed it, too. So… work with that.

Leaders with grit create team of doers not talkers.

Here’s a book to use as a resource – The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success by Rich Karlgaard.

Being a Baby Boomer, when I hear the word “grit” I think of John Wayne. How about you?

  • In the real world, smarts isn't about looking for the next star student with a 4.0 or having an IQ that can boil water. Instead, it's about the importance of hard work, of perseverance and resilience. Call it grit.
  • Rich Karlgaard, author of The Soft Edge

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Talent Spotting – Is Your CPA Firm Stuck In The Past?

“We need an experienced tax senior/manager.” I hear it over and over as I move about the country consulting with firms and speaking at various association/society events.

When I ask a them if they are hiring, most practitioners, firm administrators and HR managers working at accounting firms tell me “Yes, but we can’t find the people we need.” It seems everyone is looking for a tax or audit senior or manager, someone with 3 to 5 years of experience and deep knowledge of their specialty area.

I hear the same story when it comes to succession. Many current, aging partners say they aren’t able to transition their clients to “up & comers” because the firm doesn’t have anyone who 1) who shows the skills and expertise to be a partner and/or 2) has the desire to become a partner.

IMG_4016Times have changed, Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, author of the HBR article, “The Big Idea: 21st-Century Talent Spotting,” believes we are now in the fourth era of talent spotting. With 30 years of experience in evaluating and tracking executives and studying the factors of their performance, he considers potential the most important predictor of success at all levels.

The first era, lasted for thousands of years – – humans made choices about one another on the basis of physical attributes. If you want to build a pyramid, you picked someone big and strong.

The second era, which occurred during the baby boomers lives, emphasized intelligence, experience and past performance. Verbal, analytical type skills were the basis for assessing talent.

In the 1980s, the third era evolved and still rules. The way to spot talent is driven by the competency model. We even began considering emotional intelligence as an important competency.

The fourth era is dawning. Here’s a paragraph from the article that, to me, speaks to many of our challenges inside CPA firms:

Now we’re at the dawn of a fourth era, in which the focus must shift to potential. In a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment (VUCA is the military-acronym-turned-corporate-buzzword), competency-based appraisals and appointments are increasingly insufficient. What makes someone successful in a particular role today might not tomorrow if the competitive environment shifts, the company’s strategy changes, or he or she must collaborate with or manage a different group of colleagues. So the question is not whether your company’s employees and leaders have the right skills; it’s whether they have the potential to learn new ones.

The work environment for CPAs is changing. The way we communicate has changed. Social media, focus on specialty services, flexible work cultures and more have proved to be challenging for many accountants. It’s all about the last sentence in the paragraph, above: So the question is not whether your company’s employees and leaders have the right skills; it’s whether they have the potential to learn new ones.”

One powerful aspect is the fact that companies are not properly developing their pipelines of future leaders. It’s not just in accounting. In PWC’s 2014 survey of cEOs in 68 countries, 63% of respondents said they were concerned about the future availability of key skills at all levels.

What I find interesting is that many successful, high-earning, CPA partners are looking for talent that attained a high GPA in college, have outstanding technical skills and are personable, outgoing and able to bring in business…. when they admit that they, themselves, could not be described the same way.

Take the time to read this important article. Use it as a discussion tool for your partner group. This topic is retreat-level in importance.


  • Setting the bar high in our approach to hiring has been, and will continue to be, the single most important element of our success.
  • Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO

Monday, October 7th, 2013

CPAs – Get Ready For An Increase in Turnover

IMG_1192We’ve been talking about it most of the summer. As I have traveled across the country this year working with clients and speaking at multiple gatherings of CPAs and firm administrators, it seems every firm is HIRING. I have also heard some fairly gruesome stories, first-hand, about turnover.

Here are just a few of the reasons:

  • CPAs of all ages have no difficulty obtaining another job.
  • In many firms staff members have been patient awaiting salary increases and other perks that were cut-back during the economic downturn.
  • Some are tired of the long hours with few rewards and recognition.
  • Your clients are also looking for good people and they know you have them.
  • Many accounting firms are not embracing the new workforce, the partners exclude them rather than include them.
  • The pay is better elsewhere.

Now, The Rosenberg Survey is confirming that higher turnover rates have returned. They are up nearly 50% over the prior year. As Rosenberg warns, don’t forget that 18% turnover, before the downturn, was normal.

Also keep in mind that the survey reflects results for the year ended 2012. Makes you wonder what the turnover rate will be for 2013. Be prepared in case you have departures after October 15th.

  • 90% of our staff departures went into industry - salary offers were very high.
  • MP of a $19M firm in the Rosenberg Survey

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

National Meet The Firms Week – CollegeFrog

logo_MTFCollegeFrog is launching the Spring 2013 National Meet The Firms Week, a virtual recruiting event that runs March 25 – March 29.

The inaugural National Meet The Firms Week in October 2012 connected 200 accounting firms and 2,500 students across the country and offered insightful webinars to accounting students on such topics as the CPA exam and unique accounting career paths.

This spring it is expected that hundreds of additional accounting firms and companies nationwide will participate. The goal is to reach 10,000 students participating this spring.

I am thrilled to once again be part of Meet The Firms Week. You can see the full week’s agenda here. I’ll be facilitating the Accounting Career Paths Roundtable on March 25th at 2pm eastern.

I hope you’ll encourage your interns to utilize the sessions during that week and also pass it along to your local accounting professors to share.

  • When I'm hiring a cook for one of my restaurants and I want to see what they can do, I usually ask them to make me an omelette.
  • Bobby Flay

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Post and Pray – – The Need For Top Talent

It’s here. The challenge for public accounting firms to find, hire and develop new talent. Firm leaders, during the last three or four years, “right-sized” their firms by out-placing non-performers. It’s also a bigger issue than finding and hiring. It is a lot about retaining.

I often talk with accounting firm HR professionals, including full-time recruiters. What I am hearing during these summer months is that almost every firm is looking for talent. The larger firms (non-Big 4) are looking for 20, 30, 40 people or more. The smaller firms are looking for 2, 3 or 4 or more.

As I mentioned, retention is a big part of the problem.

Firms are losing people because:

  • The partners and managers do not know how to performance coach. Performance coaching is counseling that strives to help a person perform better and leaders inside firms often agree that, in general, CPAs aren’t very good at it. Some even say, “I’m not good at that touchy-feely stuff.”
  • They are going to work for clients and other private companies because the “grass looks greener.”
  • Some are going to other CPA firms because they believe they will have a better quality-of-life at the other firm.
  • Younger CPAs, moving up the ladder inside CPA firms, are not going to work 2600+ hours to become a partner in a firm.
  • The next level of owners (Gen X), just now beginning to replace the retiring baby boomers, do not believe paying a large sum of money, over time, to retiring partners is a good investment.
  • The younger Gen-Xers and the Millennials, when the time comes for them to take over, simply will refuse to buy-out older owners.

Attracting and keeping top performers is critical to the future of public accounting. It is time to take a long, hard look at how firms are structured and managed:

  • Current owners should plan now for how firm ownership will change in the not-too-distant future.
  • Share the plan with everyone working at the firm.
  • Aggressively address the issue of performance coaching – Train the current partners and managers on how to do it.
  • Posting an ad on all the various recruiting sites isn’t working – it’s become post an ad and pray for qualified responses.
  • A more personal approach is needed and it takes partners and all the staff being active – networking in the community and in professional organizations/associations to meet qualified candidates.
  • Staff members need to be encouraged to reach out to colleagues and friends via social media.
  • It’s no longer a shotgun approach (posting an ad), it’s a sniper approach. Identifying a specific individual and going after them aggressively.

A reminder for CPA firm HR professionals or those leaders responsible for HR duties. Join us at the upcoming AICPA PCPS Human Capital Forum/Human Resources Networking Group event in San Antonio on November 8-9, 2012. Here is more information.

  • I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way.
  • Lee Iacocca

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

On My Mind – Are You Who You Say You Are?

Are you the person in your growing CPA firm who is charged with finding and hiring what we are now calling A-Players?

These are the candidates that have that rare combination of talent, personal drive and passion for their chosen field.

Perhaps you attend the college job fairs, the campus mixers and you schmooze the professors. Next, you get a chance to interview the A-Players (top candidates). You make a great connection with some of the best students and you select a few to invite into the office for second interviews.

You’ve done your job…. you have their visit expertly orchestrated. The partners who interview them each know their role and what they are suppose to cover. Managers or seniors take them to lunch and answer all their questions. You try very hard to make a personal connection – to draw them to your firm.

They leave and everyone is excited about the opportunity to attract some great talent.

You have been in-charge, the person responsible for telling this great story. You made the candidates’ experience with your firm first-rate, top-notch – impressive.

On my mind today is – – – Are you who you say your are? Is the glowing picture you and your comrades painted of your firm really true?

I have found that many firms do a superb job of recruiting but often the people doing the recruiting are actually spinning a fairy tale. Are you who you say you are?

I want you to continue to paint a wonderful picture of life at your firm BUT I want you to also be sure that everyone already working at the firm is living-up to that wonderful story you are telling. If they are not – – you’ve got a lot more work to do.

  • Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either.
  • Albert Einstein

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

What’s Next?

Today, inside thousands of CPA firms in the U.S., busy season is drawing to a close. As a firm owner or leader, what’s on your agenda for the coming days, weeks, months?

I read this quote yesterday in Alan Weiss’ Monday Morning Memo and thought of all of you.

“No mariner ever enters a more uncharted sea than does the average human being born today. Our ancestors thought they knew their way from birth through all eternity; we are puzzled about the day after tomorrow. – – Walter Lippmann

There are a lot of things to contemplate about today’s business world and about the public accounting profession. The pace of change is frantic. This spring, don’t waste time. Get busy on your action plan for 2012 and beyond.

Don’t involve the same old people, doing the same old thing, attending the same old retreat, giving performance feedback the same old way, hiring the same old way, providing the same old training and end-up procrastinating as usual. The pace of change is frantic and you (and your firm) will be left behind. It’s time to expand your universe.

Sign-up for Alan Weiss’ Monday Morning Memo here.

  • Success makes men rigid and they tend to exalt stability over all the other virtues; tired of the effort of willing they become fanatics about conservatism.
  • Walter Lippmann