Posts Tagged ‘planning’

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Describe What You Are Trying To Achieve

Many CPA leaders will soon be gathering for the annual retreat, summit, planning meeting – whatever your firm calls it. The partners, key functional area leaders and accounting managers will gather and discuss and debate where the firm is going and what they all need to do this year to keep moving forward.

Once it is over, the group will return and tell the rest of the team what to do to help achieve the firm goals. This plays out in smaller ways by managers and partners telling the team what to do relating to their daily duties that involve serving clients.

While I believe in lots of communication with your team – – continual, brief conversations on how they are doing and if they need your help – – I don’t think you should tell them every single step in great detail. You should not expect them to do it exactly how YOU have always done it.

Give them some room to explore and to actually THINK about what they are trying to accomplish. There is a difference between active, hands on management and micro management. I think you get the picture – hands-on means you are available and helpful. Micro means you are breathing down their neck and hovering.

Yes, checklists are a good thing when you are training young, inexperienced accountants but don’t develop a culture where if it is not on the checklist we don’t do it.

Do you have a team of box-checkers or entrepreneurial thinkers?

Here’s a good story from HBR about sharing what you want to achieve versus telling someone exactly what to do. It’s titled, Stop Telling Your Employees What To Do.

  • Telling a teenager the facts of life is like giving a fish a bath.
  • Arnold Glasow

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Get The Conversation Started – Ask Questions

question markPeople will usually speak-up if they are asked.

At first, they might not divulge everything that is on their mind. However, it is important to get the conversation started.

Asking once isn’t enough. Inside your CPA firm strive for a culture where asking and replying honestly is the rule of thumb, something that happens naturally.

Try this experiment. At this year’s partner retreat, your group will probably come up with a new initiative or project that you have learned at a firm association meeting or conference. The leadership group will probably discuss it, debate it and eventually agree upon a strategy. BEFORE you officially roll it out ask your team how this proposed decision by the partner group will affect them.

As you are planning your retreat, before the meeting date ask EVERYONE in the firm to submit what they think is the biggest issue that needs to be addressed by firm leadership in 2013. Just one question and encourage them to give you just one answer. If you think you will get more truthful answers, let them do it anonymously¬†. If you want help, contact me and I’ll help you facilitate the survey.

If you identify that one big issue or new idea, ask EVERYONE in the firm to help solve the problem, initiate the new idea, or help carry through the implementation.

Give your valuable CPA firm team members some control over their own work lives.

  • Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.
  • Ambrose Bierce

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

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