Posts Tagged ‘retreat’

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

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

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Being A Good Manager

Inside CPA firms, the word “manager” is not very clearly defined.

For many firms it is a name they give a person who has developed solid technical accounting, auditing or tax skills over a period of time. I believe the term “manager” applies to partners, managers, supervisors and even seniors inside an accounting firm. After all, they are expected to manage the client engagement and the work of people who are more junior than themselves. They are the boss in many situations.

Google, inside their own organization, decided to explore the question, “What makes a good boss?” and called the the study Project Oxygen.

They discovered that what you might think would be the top characteristic, the ability to write computer code in your sleep, came in last. I imagine that inside an accounting firm, being a great tax mind or having extremely advanced auditing skills would also come in last as an indicator of being a great boss.

Here’s Project Oxygen‘s findings, Google’s “Eight Good Behaviors” of top managers, ranked in order of importance:

  1. Be a good coach. Provide specific, constructive feedback, balancing the negative and the positive. Have regular one-on-ones, presenting solutions to problems tailored to your employees’ specific strengths.
  2. Empower your team and don’t micromanage. Balance giving freedom to your employees, while still being available for advice. Make “stretch” assignments to help the team tackle big problems.
  3. Express interest in team members’ success and personal well-being. Get to know your employees as people, with lives outside of work. Make new members of your team feel welcome and help ease their transition.
  4. Don’t be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented. Focus on what employees want the team to achieve and how they can help achieve it. Help the team prioritize work and use seniority to remove roadblocks.
  5. Be a good communicator and listen to your team. Communication is two-way: you both listen and share information. Hold all-hands meetings and be straightforward about the messages and goals of the team. Help the team connect the dots. Encourage open dialogue and listen to the issues and concerns of your employees.
  6. Help your employees with career development.
  7. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team. Even in the midst of turmoil, keep the team focused on goals and strategy. Involve the team in setting and evolving the team’s vision and making progress toward it.
  8. Have key technical skills so you can help advise the team. Roll up your sleeves and conduct work side by side with the team, when needed. Understand the specific challenges of the work.

CPA firms focus so much time and so many dollars on training their youngest team members. They are sent to Level I, II, III and maybe more for audit training. The firm funds their education in “beginning tax,” “advanced tax” and more. Managers and partners review their work and critique their skills in tax preparation, auditing and accounting. Why not invest in helping accountants become better bosses?

An idea:  Firm owners, why not consider devoting this year’s partner retreat to the topic of how you are going to spend dollars and time training yourselves, your managers and even your seniors on how to be better managers of people? Develop an action plan outlining steps you need to take to become better leaders, as partners, and how you will develop future leaders inside your firm. Some call it succession planning; I call it running a good firm.

In public accounting firms, true leadership training rarely happens. I strongly urge you, plead with you, even beg you – begin leadership training from Day One – just like you do with tax and accounting training.  Contact me if you need help.


  • No man goes before his time; unless the boss leaves early.
  • Groucho Marx

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

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

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

For CPAs It Is A Busy And Stressful Time

Inside your accounting firm, you have younger workers and older workers.

This usually means that the older workers, partners for example, have been working as a CPA for many years and have achieved a high level of success.

An article in TIME magazine asks, “What if the good life isn’t really all that good?”

It has long been believed that low-status (yes, poor) individuals have a very high level of stress that goes away as they move up the social ladder. That’s true to a point.

What research has found is that as you near the top of the status scale, life stress increases so dramatically that its toxic effects essentially cancel out many positive aspects of succeeding.

Do you sometimes feel this way?  Are you working so hard – and so many hours – that the “Is this worth it?” fairy visits you more and more often as you age?

At this year’s partner retreat perhaps an important topic should be diving deep into the topic of life work balance – not just for the young crowd that demands flexibility and much more – but for your experienced, successful partners who simply put their health and personal relationships in danger by working too many hours.

You can read the entire article online if you are a subscriber.

An important take-away from the article: Younger workers in high-achieving occupations are often less stressed than their older colleagues, who remember the days when answering work emails and texts was not a 24/7 obligation.

  • Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work.
  • John G. Pollard