Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

It’s No Longer “When” The Millennials Will Be In Control

“The elastic heart of youth cannot be compressed into one constrained shape long at a time.” – Mark Twain

Just an observation today about things that are actually happening at growing mid-size CPA firms.

On the “I am not surprised” side of things:

  • A firm has had a long time policy of partner retirement age at 65. Recently, the 63 and 64 year-old partners changed that policy to 70 years of age.

On the “I’m so glad to see this” side of things:

  • A mid-size, very successful firm has a new managing partner, he is 28 years old.
  • Another local firm has a new managing partner who is 36 years old.

Both of these individuals fall into the millennial category.

We are no longer talking about what will happen WHEN the millennials are in control. It is more like, NOW the millennials are in control. Yes, change is happening and the change train is moving very quickly down the track.

Be sure your firm is preparing and ready for change.

  • "To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable."
  • Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

Seven Secrets of Career Success

“If the wind will not serve, take to the oars.” – Latin Proverb

I was browsing through some old digital files and found the following. I remember using these “secrets” many years ago in a presentation I did for a community college’s new graduates.

I think they definitely apply to life inside a busy accounting firm.

Seven Secrets of Career Success

Become a quick change artist

Commit fully to your career

Speed up

Behave like you’re in business for yourself

Practice lifelong learning

Manage your own morale

Be a fixer – not a finger pointer

  • "Find out what you like doing best, and get someone to pay you for it."
  • Katharine Whitehorn

Monday, March 20th, 2017

Use Email & Social Media To Remind Your Clients

“Nagging is the repetition of unpalatable truths.” – Edith Summerskill

My dentist and my doctor send me reminders about upcoming appointments. These reminders come via email, text and a phone message. It is all automated via their practice management software. I have always wondered why more CPAs aren’t using a tool like this.

We now live in the world of social media and digital communication. Be sure you are using these tools to remind your clients about supplying their tax information.

When I talk to firms, they often tell me that they call and remind their clients about furnishing their information. When I ask, “How many times did you call?” the answer is usually…. “Once”. Once is not enough.

Here’s an example of an email one of my clients sent out recently. Maybe it will help you compose your reminder message. It is important that the reminder only go to  those clients who are tardy – not to ALL clients.

Have We Received Your Personal Tax Information?

April 15th will be here before you know it! Have you turned in your personal tax information? Remember, in order to ensure a timely filing of your tax return (to avoid an extension), we must have your information by March 22, 2017. All tax organizers were sent to clients in December of 2016. If you need another copy, please let us know. Please be sure to bring us your information so we are able to get started. If you are waiting for a few items, not a problem! Bring us what you have, we will get started, and then bring in the additional information as it arrives.
 
If you have any questions regarding your personal tax return, please contact our office. Thank you for your help.

  • "Nothing external to you has any power over you."
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, March 18th, 2017

Lighten-Up, It’s the Weekend

Just something to think about this weekend. I recently read a quote from Carl Sagan that made me appreciate what a wonderful thing we have – the unique planet we inhabit.

“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.” – Carl Sagan

Carl_Sagan_Planetary_Society

  • "Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known."
  • Carl Sagan

Friday, March 17th, 2017

You Might Think You Are Ordinary But You Are Not – Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

“With good friends, you can’t lose.” – Kermit the Frog

I like this post for St. Patrick’s Day. I last used it in 2011. It still applies – So eat some green bagels or cupcakes and have a green beer this evening and think about NOT being green. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Can CPAs relate to Kermit and his tale about:  It’s not easy being green?

As Kermit says, “Wouldn’t it be nicer being red, or yellow or gold?  Green seems like you blend in with so many other ordinary things and people tend to pass you over ’cause you’re not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water.

Perhaps, because you are a CPA you might feel ordinary or under-appreciated.  Well…. YOU ARE NOT!

As Kermit continues, “But green’s the color of Spring and green can be cool and friendly-like and green can be big like an ocean, or important like a mountain, or tall like a tree.  When green is all there is to be it could make you wonder why, but why wonder why wonder, I am green and it’ll do fine, it’s beautiful and I think it’s what I want to be.”

  • "My hope still is to leave the world a bit better than when I got here."
  • Jim Henson

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

Don’t Hide The WELCOME Mat

“No matter how busy you are, you must take time to make the other person feel important.” – Mary Kay Ash

You made it through March 15th. It was challenging and sometimes very stressful. You have another month of the busy season life before you can relax a little.

And then, it is those darn clients. They keep emailing you and calling you. Don’t they understand how busy you are?? You just want to hide from them!

welcomeIf you are working in public accounting, please never forget that you are in the service business. Compare it to being in a restaurant and you ask the waiter for a water refill or another glass of wine. He flippantly and quickly responds. “I’m too busy right now. You’ll have to wait.” How much of a gratuity would you leave? Would you return to that restaurant anytime soon?

I email a lot of CPA practitioners and have received a lot of clever “out of office” automated responses. Here are two examples of the bad and the good.

I was saddened to receive one similar to this:

Due to the tax deadlines, I will not be able to respond in a timely manner to voicemail or email. If you need immediate assistance please contact Sally (phone number) and she will get a staff member to assist you.

What kind of message does this send to your client base? How many clients will hang around until you are not so busy? Never let clients know you are TOO BUSY for them and their needs. I guess the above message is better than never hearing back at all.

A few years ago I received an automated message from a long-time client when I emailed him during busy season. This message was warm and welcoming and explained an acceptable process for the busy time of year.

Greetings, Friends & Clients:

Due to the normal tax season high workload and to allow me to completely focus on the tasks at hand, I am currently checking and responding to e-mail daily at 8:00 am, 1:00 pm and 5:30 pm CT. You & your email is important to me and at the scheduled times, I will respond.

If you require urgent assistance please contact my assistant Juli Moses at (he provided phone number) or you can email her at (he provided her email address).

Even though you get this auto-response, rest assured that I do receive and am able to view the email you sent. Thank you for understanding this move to more efficiency and effectiveness. It helps me accomplish more and serve you better.

Sincerely,

Mike Shost

CPAs are in a business filled with tax due dates. Never be too busy for your valuable clients. Always have the WELCOME MAT prominently displayed, in your responses and in your personal behaviors.

  • "The busy have no time for tears."
  • Lord Byron

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

2017 Accounting Today Top 100 Firms

Dan Hood, Accounting Today

Dan Hood, Accounting Today

“There are lies, damned lies and statistics.” – Mark Twain

Those of us working in, or affiliated with, the world of public accounting are always interested in the performance of CPA firms across the country. What are they doing that we could do? How do their numbers look compared to ours? What new trends should we be aware of?

That’s why I wanted to share a link to a podcast from Dan Hood, Editor In Chief of Accounting Today. Their annual ranking of leading firms in the profession offers up a host of insights and secrets; in this podcast, Hood shares some of the most interesting, such as, over-all growth in revenue was 8.8%

If you don’t have time, right now, to listen to the entire 13 minute podcast, bookmark this page and take time over the weekend (or after mid-April) to listen and learn.

Here a link to the podcast, A Deep Dive Into The Top 100 Firms.

  • "It is the mark of a truly intelligent person to be moved by statistics."
  • George Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

Practice Management Software

“The perfect is the enemy of the good.” – Voltaire

I often receive questions about the pros and cons of practice management software. Which one should we be using? Is one better than the rest? What’s the best one for a small firm? What’s the best one for a large firm?

Recently, Accounting Today published A Comparison Guide To Vendors’ Offerings.

Per the article accompanying the Guide…. Looking at the accompanying comparison chart, you will notice that different vendors have taken very different approaches with their application. That’s a good thing, as it offers a wider variety of capabilities that will hopefully sync up with your firm’s needs without providing lots of unneeded functionality.

You will find the article here and from it you can access the Comparison Guide.

  • "No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can't produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant."
  • Warren Buffett

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Give Them A Weekend!

“I’m not driven by killer ambition. I’m not a workaholic. I’m a good team player. I don’t have to be captain, but I do want to play on a winning team.” – Jane Pauley

FullSizeRenderAs March 15th nears, every year, I think of all the people I know working inside growing, successful accounting firms.

They have been working tirelessly beginning more slowly in January picking up speed (and extra hours) throughout February and putting renewed effort leading up to the March 15th due date.

CPA firm leaders, please consider giving your entire staff a real weekend on March 18 and 19 – the first weekend after the March 15th due date.

We did this at my firm for years and it was greatly anticipated and appreciated by our people.

Now, the good news is that many accounting firms have eliminated Saturday work during tax season completely (except for those die-hard partners that always work weekends).

Your team will come back to work on Monday morning with renewed vigor to focus on the tasks ahead, leading up to April 18. Their families will also be very happy.

  • "There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing."
  • Aristotle

Friday, March 10th, 2017

Create An Inspired Workplace

“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” – Jim Collins

Recently, Sharlyn Lauby, HR Bartender, posted a story about Kronos (a provider of human capital management cloud solutions) and how they have created an exceptional candidate and employee experience.

“Being a great place to work is quite literally one of a small number of high-priority imperatives that are communicated to all employees each year as part of the company’s overall business strategy. In other words, being a great place to work is every bit as important as our traditional business priorities as a global software provider, such as application development and migrating customers to the cloud.”

Can your CPA firm make a similar statement?

Here are 3 ways to improve the candidate experience. The headlines are from the article, the descriptions are mine directed to public accounting:

Make it easy for job seekers to find and apply for jobs – Visibility on the college campus is imperative. For experienced hires, you have to be where candidates are and that means social media. One experienced tax manager I met recently told me she joined my client firm because she moved to their city and found them online. From her online assessment, they looked like a firm she would enjoy… and she does!

Create a robust internship experience – I strongly recommend that you treat your interns like full-time employees.  Subsidize their parking, provide them with business cards, involve them in all team meetings and in some committee meetings or task forces. The MP should take them to lunch, individually and in small groups, etc.

Give candidates a realistic job preview – Be very open and honest when you talk to candidates. I know a very successful CPA firm that has an extensive interview process. People of all levels are involved and they tell the truth! Working in public accounting requires intelligence, hard work and flexibility. There will be extended hours during certain times of the year.

Read the full article to learn about 3 Way to Improve Employee Experience, too. Upward feedback is part of it!

  • "Human resources isn't a thing we do. It's the thing that runs our business."
  • Steve Wynn