Tuesday, May 24th, 2016
“You shouldn’t have superhuman expectations.” – Mary Blair-Loy
Frequently, it appears to me that some experienced CPAs are addicted to their work.
I think this is a big issue when it comes to succession planning. Sure, the firm’s policy says they must “retire” at age 65. They must relinquish their stock and they do. But many of these “retirees” want to keep working, keep their office, keep their relationships with special clients and not stay at home or pursue other interests.
Most do not have other interests. They believe their career is their life, it defines them. Being a partner at the firm feeds their ego or makes them feel important. Without being affiliated with the firm they feel they have no identity.
There is a great article on this topic on the HBR site. You feel challenged by your work; you’re engaged by it; you’re learning new things; and you have the opportunity to shape other people’s careers. It is extremely rewarding but when you give all your attention to work, you eventually pay a steep price.
Working long hours, taking few vacations and never truly being “off” (due to digital devices) is harmful to your relationships, your health and your productivity. It is also a bad example to set for your employees. No wonder many younger CPAs have no desire to become an owner.
Read the entire article here. It gives you some tips to overcome your addiction. Take an honest look at yourself, whether you are a retiring partner or a constantly busy accountant of any age working in a CPA firm.
- "There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure."
Monday, May 23rd, 2016
I am so pleased to be part of a new book published by The CPA Consultants’ Alliance.
Accounting firms all over North America are in a quandary and challenged about how to move forward. Current partners simply don’t see the leadership skills they expect in their firm’s up-and-coming staff and worry about their retirement prospects. While at the same time, emerging leaders are frustrated with a lack of training from above and have no desire to live the hectic life of their older compatriots.
To address these and other succession-related issues, The CPA Consultants’ Alliance (CPACA), a working group of thought leaders united in their efforts to further leadership within the CPA profession has published a new book aimed at helping the CPA profession close the divide between current and emerging leaders.
CPACA members wrote the book, entitled BRIDGING THE GAP: Strengthening the Connection between Current and Emerging Leaders in the CPA Profession as a collaboration.
“This book represents cooperation among leading experts to bring understanding of this complex and important issue to CPA professionals,” said Sarah Dobek, President of Inovautus Consulting and current President of the CPACA.
“I’m proud of what this book represents,” she said. “Not only is it a timely and valuable resource for the profession, it’s been a great learning experience for the CPACA members broadening all our perspectives to make us more informed and better resources for the firms we serve.”
Members of the CPACA collaborated for a year on the content for the book—each bringing a different perspective to the topic and authoring a chapter addressing leadership issues.
The book features 14 chapters worth of insights and examples. In addition, each chapter contains discussion questions to help open conversations among current and emerging leaders in firms to build greater understanding and a common vision for the future. The book is available from Amazon in both Kindle and soft cover form.
- "Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality."
Friday, May 20th, 2016
“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” – Voltaire
Sometimes just after busy season you might think you have seen enough of clients for a while. You are wrong about that!
So many times I have heard clients say they wish their CPA was more proactive. What kind of Action Plan do you have in place to continually communicate with clients?
I think it falls under the “this is how we do it here” category.
- We take new hires along to client meetings.
- We expect every person in the firm to have a role in marketing.
- We provide continual performance feedback to our employees.
- We close the office on Fridays in the summer.
- We acknowledge every team members birthday.
- We have a client service plan for “A” clients and a different one for “B” clients.
- We send our clients a birthday card.
- We thank our clients in different ways for simply trusting us as their financial and business advisor.
Should any of these “this is how we do it here” bullets apply to your firm? What else can you add?
Yesterday, I received some free drink coupons from Southwest. They remembered to thank me. It made me smile. Do you think Southwest has more customers than you do? You could certainly do some little expected things to show your clients that you appreciate them.
- "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."
Thursday, May 19th, 2016
In the CPA profession, it used to be that many firms took “overtime” hours into consideration when establishing entry-level salaries often resulting in a higher beginning wage. However, many firms (mostly depending on geographic location) do not offer a salary of over $47,476 for beginners.
Even some long-time bookkeepers and other administrative professionals, currently on salary, do not meet the new threshold.
From a recent SHRM article: “It will be hard to accept and even implement,” said Robert Boonin, immediate past chair of the Wage and Hour Defense Institute, a network of wage and hour lawyers, and an attorney with Dykema in Detroit, Mich. “It’ll be a cultural change to many and perceived as a step back in career growth.”
You now need to be talking with your people, well before the deadline to comply – December 1, 2016.
Another excerpt from SHRM – very important in this world of expecting an instant response from your staff on weekends and after hours:
What about previously salaried workers who were used to responding managers’ e-mails or phone calls after hours?
“Managers can certainly continue to e-mail after hours and expect timely responses from newly nonexempt employees, [they] just need to be prepared to pay for the time,” Kilborn said. “Perhaps this is a chance for those managers to evaluate how badly they need that response from the employee if they know that they will be paying for it directly.”
Said Wise: “Regardless of what a supervisor may be used to … a manager may have to adjust expectations if response time would result in overtime, or an employer may have to consider financial ramifications if response time is critical and would require overtime.”
Read more here, on the SHRM site. Then get busy planning for this change and how it will impact your firm and your clients. They will look to your firm for guidance.
There is a lot of information on the web a about this new law – Google and read! The details seem to keep changing!
Here’s something from the Ohio Society of CPAs Member Alert:
While the complete rules package is not yet available, key revisions include:
- Exempt salary threshold increased to $47,476 from $23,660
- The salary threshold will automatically update every three years, and is anticipated to top $50,000 by 2020
- The new rules are effective Dec. 1.
- "The people's good is the highest law."
Wednesday, May 18th, 2016
“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” – Oscar Wilde
Your employee handbook is important to firm leaders AND it is important to CPA firm employees.
Most mid- to large size CPA firms have an employee handbook in place. Many smaller firms also have one in place, too. However, I find that firms without a full-time firm administrator or HR professional haven’t updated, or even read, their employee handbook in ages.
Recently, I reviewed an employee handbook used by one of my newer clients. I opened the pdf copy and immediately recognized something about 20 years old and probably straight out of the old MAP Handbook. It was dated to say the least.
Here’s the point of this post: Employers need to have their policies and procedures documented in writing and have it easily accessible (online) to all employees. Employees need to actually read the entire employee handbook and sign-off.
The trouble is that new employees are over-whelmed when first joining the firm, meeting new co-workers and getting up-to-speed on their duties as soon as possible. Often the reading of the employee handbook gets put on the back burner. They may even sign-off without actually reading the handbook. After all, some handbooks can be 20 to 40 pages long!
Eventually, the firm administrator, MP or HR person will be faced with a situation where an employee has violated a policy. During the ensuing conversation, the employee admits they have not read the handbook.
I recommend that during orientation, one hour be set aside for the new employee to have uninterrupted time to read the firm’s employee handbook.
- "Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense."
Tuesday, May 17th, 2016
“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” – Confucius
It has been my observation that even the smallest of CPA firms not only have interactions with international businesses on behalf of their clients but are also doing work directly for international clients.
Do your youngest team members know the basics about the international cultures of the people they may need to talk to on the phone, or meet in person? Do your experienced team members know? Does your partner group even know?
Maybe you won’t ever meet them in person but you may have frequent video conferences with them. What should you say and not say? What part of your body language might be offensive to a different culture?
My point today? Get some training for ALL you people on dealing with people internationally. You can probably find someone locally. Seek out help from your local Chamber of Commerce.
- "One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood."
Monday, May 16th, 2016
“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” – Jeff Bezos
Last week, the Ohio Society of CPAs unveiled their new brand. I love the “Advancing the State of Business” focus and the video that talks about what CPAs in Ohio really do to help Ohio advance the state of business.
CPAs in all states are really doing the same thing.
I want to share the video and I hope you’ll take three minutes to watch it.
Is this the year that your firm needs to rebrand itself? Is your logo stale and out-dated? Winning client opportunities and attracting top talent is ALL about your brand. What are people in your business community saying about you?
Whether you do a rebrand or not, why don’t you do a similar video to help your clients understand how you can help them move their business forward. Put the video on your website and use social media to “drive” people to your website. Mention the video to current clients and ask them to share it with their business friends
- "If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand."
Friday, May 13th, 2016
Can you describe your firm’s culture clearly and concisely?
If you want a profitable, growing, progressive, high-profile firm, you have to pay attention to culture. If you don’t continually work on your culture, you will have one anyway. It will develop on it’s own and it might not be something pretty. It might not even be close to your partner group’s vision of and for the firm.
Begin with your core values. Sure, most firm’s have their core values somewhere on their website but can your team members recite even some of them?
I was so impressed with one of my clients recently. One of the first things I saw when I entered their lobby was a lighted, niche wall display with the listing of their core values proudly displayed.
Think about how your core values and the owner’s setting a good example can be good starting points to shape a culture you can be proud of and one that will attract top talent and exceptional clients.
I love this quote from Leadership Freak:
“When it comes to culture, you may aim high, but in the end, you get what you tolerate.”
- "Culture drives great results."
Thursday, May 12th, 2016
Yesterday, I had the honor of being part of a panel at the OSCPA Business Excellence Symposium in Westlake, Ohio. Katie Tolan, Peter Donato and I discussed “Harnessing Business Growth Potential.” The panel was moderated by Gary Hunt, Senior Content Editor at OSCPA.
Overall, the Symposium was informational and inspirational. What more can you ask for?!
As always, I enjoyed AICPA President and Chief Executive Officer Barry Melancon’s comments and his dialogue with OSCPA President & CEO Scott Wiley.
Here are some bullet point highlights:
- In this day and age, people don’t trust. They don’t trust government officials, employers, the media, politicians and so on. The CPA owns the trust space. (I urge you to keep this at top of mind as your move through your work day and your career. It is a responsibility and quite an honor.)
- Audit and tax services, in the future will change dramatically. In the audit area, the national firms are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in big data. How about using drones for inventory observation? How about performing an audit without ever touching the clients “papers” or even visiting their site? How will smaller firms (any firm below the Big 4) keep up? It will take a huge investment.
- Everyone must evolve. This applies to the AICPA, as well. Their venture with CIMA will enable the AICPA to create a different footprint and help CPAs build a global force and voice that will carry more weight.
- When asked what accounting students need as they move into the future, Melancon replied, “Students need data analytic skills.”
- Today we are a profession of CPA-led firms, not CPA firms. Two-thirds of the employees in all firms are non-CPAs. I found this stat to be quite eye-opening. Clients need all kinds of services to help their businesses grow and prosper, not just what a licensed CPA can provide. Many of you are already providing pension administration, M&A consulting, employee benefits, HR consulting, technology services and so on.
- We are in the global age. Younger people want experience worldwide whether it be studying abroad or working abroad. Big companies want people whose skills can apply worldwide. Even very small firms need people who can interact internationally because their clients have international relationships.
- "If you don't drive your business, you will be driven out of business."
Wednesday, May 11th, 2016
“Our meetings are held to discuss many problems which would never arise if we held fewer meetings.” – Ashleigh Brilliant
You have many meetings each week/month/year. To make your meetings better, why not define a list of expectations so that everyone knows and respects the rules?
Draft some suggested guideline points and ask people to identify the most important. Your list might be very long or it could be brief. The point is to set the expectation.
Here are some ideas:
- Show up on time
- Don’t leave early
- No electronics (that’s what breaks are for)
- Come back from breaks on time
- Maintain confidentiality regarding sensitive matters
- It is okay to respectfully disagree
- If you do not clearly understand, ask for clarification
- Do not leave the meeting unless there is an emergency
- Do not interrupt others
- "People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything."