Posts Tagged ‘owners’

Friday, April 26th, 2013

There’s Communication And Then there Is Honest Communication

photoI have been blogging about CPA firm management for over SEVEN years – every work day and usually once on the week-end.

So far this year, 2013, I have made 29 posts that I have put under the category of Communication. Page down and look at the categories on the right. Click on “communication” and scan the posts. I think you will sense how strongly I feel about open, honest, frequent communication at all levels inside a CPA firm.

Twenty-nine in 4 months. You can imagine how many I’ve done over seven years. Why? Because if HONEST communication isn’t part of your culture, you are probably not building a firm that will last for the long-term.

  • Your owners will merge-up, bail-out or retire.
  • Your mediocre performers will remain at the firm until this happens.
  • Your top talent won’t know when it happens because they will have already quit and moved on to more promising pastures.

Times have changed. You used to be able to keep people in the dark. They worked, you paid them and they were trained not to care about what you were thinking and where the firm was going.

Times have changed. You used to be able to dodge your partners’ questions, skip partner meetings and simply not be honest on how you feel about activities inside the firm. You are skilled at avoiding confrontation.

Now, we have a whole generation that is hooked on communication. Plan now for how your firm is going to adjust, embrace and thrive with honest communication.

This blog post by Seth Godin says it so well in just a few words:

Committing to a cycle of honest communication

Is there any better way to start a business partnership? Any partnership?

If you’re unable to have substantial conversations with your boss and co-workers, go get some professional help. It’s not personal, it’s business.

The inability to say the thing that will make everything better (because of fear of shifting the status quo) is a project killer.

  • Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.
  • Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Enhancing Quality Service

As CPAs, you are probably spending some time getting ready for the busiest time of the year. There will be enhanced focus on how your serve your clients and how your serve your staff.

It is the time that firm owners and all their team member are about to take the stage and step into the spotlight. “Lights, camera, action!” – the term they use making movies definitely applies. It is your time, as a firm, to shine. You are about to be a hero for your clients.

All of this also applies to those of you inside CPA firms who are “the bosses.” It will be a challenging time for those you supervise. Acknowledgement and encouragement are the order of the day. It’s time for you to take your role as the Director of the movie very seriously and extract the best possible performance from your cast and crew.

When things are running smoothly and people are doing good work for the clients, don’t forget to recognize efforts. Things will go wrong at times, seems they always do. If a mistake happens, recover rapidly – be honest, make amends and move on quickly. It seems that people (you, your clients and your team) always remember bad things and often forget about all the good things that happen.

It reminds me of an old blog post from David Maister that I want to share with you today:

The Disproportionality Principle

You are never known by your best, but you are always tarnished by your worst.

Your triumphs are often forgotten by the marketplace – your disasters rarely are.

You’ll spend a long time recovering from one job done badly, or one client (or boss) disappointed in you.

People talk, and they criticize and gossip more than they praise.

It can take years to build trust, moments to lose it.

I’m not sure what you can do about this, except try, desperately try, not to mess anything up, and if you still do, try to mend fences (and your reputation) before you move on. 

  • You can't achieve a competitive differentiation through things you do reasonably well, most of the time.
  • David Maister

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