Posts Tagged ‘partners’

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Reminder About CPACA Succession Survey

CPA_LogoThis week, things at your firm just might be a little less hectic than they have been in recent weeks.

Back in September, I invited firms to respond to a survey that is being conducted to determine how partners in CPA firms view their firm’s ability to address the succession of their partners primarily as they approach retirement.

Because of the fall tax due dates, we are offering extended time to complete the survey. Thanks so much to those of you who have already completed the survey and for all others, now you have more time! The survey will now close on October 31.

The survey consists of 15 short, simple statements to which respondents will enter their level of agreement. It should take no more than 10 minutes to complete. We will be releasing our findings in the form of an article that will include ideas and practical advice your firm can apply. All survey participants who supply us with contact information will receive a copy of the article as well as access to interviews we are doing with CPA firm leaders and emerging leaders.

Here is a link to where you can complete the survey.


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

Friday, August 15th, 2014

CPA Partners Need To Set Goals

AquilaIn some firms, when you become a partner, a lot of the restraints and expectations don’t seem to be as important as they were when you were climbing the ladder.

As a team member, you had to set goals and achieve them each year. As a partner, in the best firms, you need to continue that practice with even more gusto!

In profitable, growing firms, the MP manages the other partners and it is a very important job. Leave the day-to-day operations and administration to the COO or firm administrator.

Of course, partner goal achievement is tied to the compensation system. Once the goals are set, I like to see the MP meet with each individual partner, one-on-one at least every other month JUST to talk about progress on the goals. Often during these conversations, the MP identifies ways that he/she can help the partner achieve the goals.

August Aquila gave us some great advice in his most recent newsletter on the Eight Key Goal Areas For Partners

The areas:

  1. Production Goals
  2. Business Development Goals
  3. Competency Improvement Goals
  4. Self-improvement Goals
  5. Strategic Planning Goals
  6. Client Service Goals
  7. Fir Leadership Goals
  8. Process Improvement Goals

Follow the link, above, to read the entire article and learn more about each area. You can sign-up for his newsletter here.

  • Happiness is not a goal, it's the by-product of a life well lived.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Winning The Daily Battle With Email

There are some topics I address often. I do it because the topics are a continual pain… and frustration for CPAs.

One such topic that has been python-like in squeezing the life out of CPAs is handling the daily deluge of email. I came across a post on the HBR blog site titled, How To Delegate Your Email to an Assistant by Alexandra Samuel. It immediately clicked with me because I have heard excuses from CPA partners over and over again:

  • I can’t let an assistant see my email because of the need of confidentiality when other partners send me emails.
  • I can’t let an assistant see my email because it contains personal correspondence.
  • I can’t let an assistant see my email because some of my clients and business associates send inappropriate stuff, as jokes.

You can probably add to this list and secretly wish that you could really delegate email. You can! As opposed to old-days of email (where many CPAs established their habits relating to email), there are tools available now that can help. But, I believe that you still must have an assistant that you trust. If you don’t trust the people on your CPA firm administrative team, that’s a bigger issue!

If you are hesitant in delegating email management, know that you don’t need to give someone full access to your email in order to get meaningful help. A lot of it depends on how much support you have available, on your working style and on your relationship with your assistant and your office culture.

Here’s the questions to ask yourself before you decide how much to delegate to whom you want to delegate email access:

  • How much skill and discretion can you expect?
  • What kind of relationship do you have with this person?
  • What’s normal in your office?

Once you determine who will help, you need a system that will allow you to manage your inbox collaboratively.

  • Use a delegation service
  • Create a second email address
  • Specify your reply protocol
  • Draft sample replies

Be sure to read the entire article to learn more about each bullet-point and to help you decide if it is finally time to get some help with email management. For CPAs it is a time-consuming administrative task that you should strive to reduce so that you have time for the value-added activities that can result in practice growth.

  • Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.
  • William Shakespeare

Monday, July 1st, 2013

CPAs – Look Around.

CPAs, you are (or should be) consultants.

As the AICPA continually reminds you, YOU are the trusted advisor. That means your clients not only trust you to be their accountant, they trust you to advise them on major decisions about their business. The AICPA PCPS even provides a Trusted Business Advisor 2.0 Toolbox.  Look around your partner group. Successful partner groups have evolved from number crunchers to consultants.

For partners to be advisors, they leave the hands-on, technical accounting work to the senior and staff accountants. Look around your office. Do you have skilled technicians at the staff level who provide you with the information you need to bring valuable advice to your clients?

In too many firms, managers do not manage. They are technicians doing a lot of the work that senior and staff accountants should be doing. Managers, if they want to be owners, should be bringing in business and inspiring staff. Look around your manager group. Are they managing or doing?

The best clients make your life a joy. The worst clients drag you down. Look around. Do you have clients who don’t pay you on a timely basis. Do you have clients that pay you just before the next years work is about to begin? Do you have clients who never seek your advice? Do you have clients that in some way mistreat your staff?

Enjoy this 4th of July week. Take some time off to simply enjoy summer. Then next Monday as you go into the office – look around (then take action).

  • You will become like the five people you associate with the most – this can be either a blessing or a curse.
  • Billy Cox

Monday, June 24th, 2013

The Basic MAP Stuff – On My Mind

This is one of my “On My Mind” type posts. I don’t do them often but I just want to ramble so that you can contemplate.

CPAs in public accounting love MAP (managing an accounting practice) statistics. They can’t wait until the newest survey comes out to find out if they are average – what a thrill (yes, like Sheldon Cooper, I’m not very good with sarcasm).

If you are a professional managing an accounting firm, don’t settle for being average.

The one statistic that I see so much of that is out-of-line is net revenue vs. number of partners.

I talk to so many firms, in person and via phone who tell me something like this….. “Our revenue is roughly $6,000,000. We have 12 partners.”

Firms keep adding partners when they are not adding revenue. If you are over a $2M firm, your net fees per partner should be over $1M per partner (per the Rosenberg Survey). The largest non-big four firms are nearing $2M per partner.

If you are considering adding new partners this year, I hope one of the requirements is that the firm revenue has grown to support them.

  • If you are a $6M firm with 6 partners, don’t add more. 
  • If you are considering adding a partner who has not proven they can generate business, think again.

I’m not saying that each partner has to manage $1M. Some of your partners can manage $1.5 and another can be responsible for $500,000, that’s okay. You do need a mixture of skills.

FYI – The newest Rosenberg Survey will be released in September.

  • 40% of CPA firm partners should not be partners.
  • Marc Rosenberg

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Saturday Day Care During Busy Season

childcare_logo_6etiYou have heard about it for years and many firms have been providing it for several years, I’m talking about some sort of Saturday day care for children of the firm’s partners and team members who must be in the office on Saturdays from January through mid-April.

You might want to try it whether you are a large firm or a small one. Figure out what would work best for your firm and give it a try.

Here’s what two large firms are doing via an article in the Grand Rapids Business Journal:

Crowe Horwath has been offering its staff free on-site Saturday child care for many years. The child care workers facilitate a variety of activities for the kids throughout the day, including arts & crafts, group games and special guests, such as firefighters, who come in to talk with the kids.

The kids have made friends among themselves because they return year after year. They also enjoy the chance to have lunch with their parent in the office and it gives the other parent some “free” time at home or to do other things.

Plante Moran offers child care during the same time period and in a similar manner. Their kids also enjoy the chance to make friends that they stay in contact with even as they enter college.

The firm also does other things for staff to help balance work/play. They rent an elementary school gym one night per week for informal co-ed basketball games, they have a bowling night, provide Saturday ice cream, Friday popcorn and host a chili cook-off.

I know many firms that really go all out to make busy season more enjoyable and fun. The ideas are numerous and creative. And, the large volume of work gets done, usually with more smiles.

  • I learned the value of hard work by working hard.
  • Margaret Mead

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Getting To Know Your Future Partners

jenJennifer Wilson, partner and co-founder of ConvergenceCoaching, has a great article in the AICPA CPA Insider. She asks, “How well do you know your future partners?”

Wilson and I are both members of the CPA Consultants’ Alliance that published a white paper last year CPA Firm Leadership: Communication Drives New Possibilities that address leadership development in light of the impending staff shortage.

Wilson not only writes about the challenges the CPA profession faces, she offers valuable suggestions on how to address the issue inside your own firm. She encourages firm leaders to explore “the 12 questions to ask so that you can better know our future partners.”

Here are her 12 questions (but be sure to follow read her How Well Do You Know Your Future Partners Article):

  • What do you envision for your career in one year? How about in three years? What do you most want to achieve in your career?
  • What do you view as your strengths or gifts?
  • What do you most like to do in your position right now?
  • What would you most like to try doing based on what you’ve seen in the work you’ve observed?
  • What do you like least in your position right now? Why? What would you like to see changed in your role as a result of this?
  • What skills do you want to develop to further succeed in your role with the firm?
  • What other skills are you interested in acquiring that are not directly related to your current job?
  • What more can I (the shepherd), your manager, or the firm do to improve your job or assist you in being more successful?
  • What other areas of the firm are you interested in learning about?
  • What questions do you have about your career and its progression that we can answer for you?
  • What should I know about you personally? What do you want to know about me personally?
  • What else would you like to discuss?


  • People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.
  • John C. Maxwell

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Building A Brand In Public Accounting

I often hear the following from CPA firm partners: What is a brand, anyway? Do you think we have one? How do we build one?

Jean-Caragher-2012-resizedJean Caragher, founder of Capstone Marketing a firm focused on the CPA profession and an inaugural member of the Association for Accounting Marketing Hall of Fame in 2001, offers some great advice in her article, Building Your CPA Firm’s Brand. It was originally published in CCH Practice Management Forum and can be found on Jean’s website.

CPA firm branding is often misunderstood. It is not spending a fortune on a full-blown branding project nor is it as simple as redesigning your logo.

I love Jean’s description…. “Simply put, it is who people think you are, from the way a person answers the phone, to the way you do business, to the look of the invoice.”

That’s where I think CPA partners might get off-track and try to pinpoint developing a brand into a specific activity when actually it is the whole story of how you run your firm.

When I was developing the brand for my firm, many years ago, I always declared to my partners and team members…. “We want to appear bigger and better than we are!”

For example, when business people at a business networking event or charitable fund-raising event said to me, “Your firm must really be growing, I just met three other people from your firm.” It didn’t necessarily mean we were growing, it just meant we organized our efforts to be well-represented at important events. Of course, we were actually growing but maybe not as fast as was perceived from the outside.

In her article, Jean recommends surveying your partners and people to determine what the firm stands for, what the unique strengths of the firm are and what attracted them to join the firm and remain with the firm.

Follow the link above to read Jean Caragher’s helpful article.

  • A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.
  • Jeff Bezos

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

A More Enjoyable Annual Planning Session

Most consultants to the CPA Profession call them “retreats.”

Gary Boomer is known for modifying the meaning somewhat and calling the annual gathering of CPA firm partners/managers a “summit.” He notes that a “firm retreat” implies that you are looking to the past and moving backwards.  I like to call them simply “planning sessions.” Some are focused on strategic planning and some have a more “immediate needs” focus.

Traditionally, only firm owners attended the annual meeting of partners. Then, many years ago, owners realized the importance of adding the firm administrator to the list of attendees. At first, the firm administrator just took notes but they soon evolved to being a full-fledged participant because of their unique view of the actual operations of the firm and their insiders view of the staff. As firms have hired marketing professionals, they are often invited to at least a portion of the annual meeting of partners, as are key managers. My advice? Make them more inclusive rather than exclusive.

Progressive, well-managed firms identify the date and the facilitator for their annual planning session five or six-months in advance. That means you should book yours in January 2013 for the summer of 2013.

Boomer in his recent article in Accounting Today, challenges firm owners to break out of the CPA mold for these annual meetings. He advises that you make them more creative and fun. I couldn’t agree more! Have you had the same facilitator for the last 3 years? Time to change – inject some new and different thoughts into your meeting. Seek someone who has actually worked inside a growing successful firm in recent years (yes, that’s a plug for me).

Here are Gary Boomer’s bullet-points for a successful Summit. Follow the link, above, to read about each one.

  • Select a relaxing venue away from the office.
  • Encourage everyone to participate during parts of the firm summit.
  • Utilize a professional facilitator as your leader.
  • Start your firm summit with a positive focus exercise.
  • Work from an agenda and stay on time.
  • Avoid the numbers, stick to the concepts.
  • Keep minutes of the firm summit and share them with the entire firm.
  • Think strategically, rather than tactically.
  • Take breaks of 10-15 minutes every hour.
  • Mix the sessions in with activities such as golf, tennis or boating.
  • Invite outsiders, such as experts or even clients.
  • Name task forces for follow-up with a responsible person and due date.
  • Conclude the firm summit with a brief statement from all participants
  • Create a one-page laminated game plan.
  • Develop 90-day game plans and accountability reviews.


  • If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.
  • Yogi Berra

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