Friday, October 21st, 2016

The Number Of CPA Firms In The U.S.

Many of us working in the CPA profession always seem to be interested in the various statistics about CPA firms.

I’ve been “hearing” for decades that there are about 45,000 CPA firms in the U.S. and that only a very small percentage have more than 20 CPAs.

Here are the latest numbers from an article via Accounting Today:

  • There are about 42,000 accounting firms in the United States.
  • The #1 firm has revenue of about $16 billion and about 65,000 people.
  • Number 100 has revenues of $35m with 175 people.
  • Number 300 has revenue of $8m
  • Number 400 has $3m with about 20 people.

So, the next 41,600 firms fall into the “small” firm category. Most of these firms are really small, with less than four or five people and revenues less than $600,000.

Read Ed Mendlowitz’s entire article about how bright the future is going to be for these small firms.

I work with many very small firms and I can attest that they have vast opportunities!

  • "Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens."
  • Jimi Hendrix

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

Life Is Not Fair. So Keep Moving Ahead

You are leading, managing and/or administering a growing accounting firm. The management team (partners, firm administrator, HR director, marketing director, etc.) decide on:

  • Unveiling a contest to reward team members who obtain the most new business referrals.
  • Offering a special perk to make life easier for employees with families.
  • Offering assistance with a gym membership.
  • Or some other similar employee benefit.

One person grumbles that Ted always wins any kind of “sales” contests. It’s not fair!

Two people complain that family people get more benefits than single people.

One person moans about the fact that they are not interested in a gym membership and asks what the firm is going to do for them.

Too often, “the firm” back-steps and doesn’t follow through because they want to avoid any sort of confrontation.

Confrontation and open, honest conversation about issues can be a very healthy thing. Keep moving forward.


  • "Never wish life were easier, wish that you were better."
  • Jim Rohn

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

Do You Possess Self-Belief?

Self-belief is a critical key to success. It’s the bridge between your personal attitude and enthusiasm, and your ability to transfer confidence to your client.

Without belief in what you do your ability to engage your client or a prospective client and get additional business from them will be low.

The common thread among all thought leaders, philosophers, and personal development experts is their consistent writing on the subjects of positive thinking and self-belief.

Dale Carnegie, author of the timeless How to Win Friends and Influence People said, “If you believe in what you are doing, let nothing hold you up in your work. Much of the best work of the world has been done against seeming impossibilities. The thing is to get the work done.”

See what I mean? Well, is that you? How deep is your belief?

Timeless quotes are truths that have stood the test of time. The challenge with quotes is that most people (not you of course) see them at a glance, fail to realize their power and fail to take any action. Or worse, they don’t want to face reality.

The reason these quotes and truths don’t take hold is that they require you to come to grips with yourself. They make you think about where you are, and where you seek to grow.

Among hundreds of powerful thoughts and pearls of wisdom, Napoleon Hill, in his epic self-help book Think and Grow Rich said, “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe it can achieve.”

See the trend?

Here’s a quote I like from Maxwell Maltz, author of Psycho-Cybernetics, “Within you right now is the power to do things you never dreamed possible. This power becomes available to you just as soon as you can change your beliefs.”

How about you? Do you believe enough to succeed?

Here are some “core beliefs.”

Belief in your firm. Believe that your ethics are high and your people are great. Beliefs that support is superior and the dedication to clients and to excellence is at the top of the firm’s core values and principles.

Belief in your service. All clients need service; the real issue is how you respond. If your firm supports clients and considers loyalty as key, you are on the right track.

Belief in yourself. This is where the rubber meets the… brain. Your thoughts precede your words and actions. If you are unsure, that will be evident to those around you.

The belief that your clients are better off. This is the part that tests your real belief. You believe that the firm’s clients are better off because they are being served by you and the entire firm team.

  • "Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact."
  • William James

Friday, October 14th, 2016

You Were Salary, Now You Are Hourly

I imagine you have read a lot about the U.S. Department of Labor ruling that changed the overtime rules under the FLSA. The new rules go into effect on December 1, 2016.

I also imagine you have already been preparing to deal with this issue inside your accounting firm.

When it comes to converting a salaried individual to hourly status, it’s often a very sensitive area. I have heard and read, over and over again, that many people truly feel like it is a demotion.

I can remember when I first became a salaried employee. I thought I had “made it!” Over my many years of supervisory responsibility, I had numerous individuals plead with me to be put on salary. It has become somewhat of a status symbol in the workplace.

Sharlyn Lauby (HR Bartender) notes, “I know employees will not like this decision. Many organizations don’t like it either. But we have to follow the law.”

Read this blog post by Lauby, I think you will find it familiar and helpful.


  • "How an employee is paid doesn't change their value to the organization."
  • Sharlyn Lauby

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

Sit In The Front

“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” – Henry Ford

Over the years, I have spoken to so many groups of CPAs and groups of people who work for them.

I have to admit that I am disappointed that so many people always want to sit in the back of the room. Is it because they want an easy escape route in case I am overly boring? Is it because they actually want a place to sit and surf on their mobile device? Is it because they know it all already?

Actually, I think it is one of those weird human nature things. Just like going to church, the back pews always fill-up before the front pews.

I urge my session attendees to always set up front when they are attending CPE sessions or other learning opportunity sessions. I have actually observed some of them taking my advice the next time they are in one of my sessions.

Why sit up front? I have always done this because I want to observe the speaker up close. I want to hear every word. I want to contemplate their body language. I want to have them look me in the eye. Afterwards, I always would introduce myself to the speaker, maybe ask a question and always thank them for sharing their thoughts.

Why do I do this? Because they will remember me. And maybe if I have a question when I return to the office, they will answer my email. Maybe the next time they see me they will remember my name and face. Maybe they will enjoy having a one-off conversation with me and just maybe they will ask my opinion on some topic.

Want to be known as an expert? Hang out and get to know other experts.

Build your personal brand, one opportunity at a time. Sit in the front.

  • "Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing."
  • Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

Grammar, Spelling, And Punctuation

Sure, you are an accountant. So, people look to you to understand (and enjoy working with) numbers. They believe all of you are good at math and can do advanced calculations in your head.

You are a CPA, so clients take it for granted that you have prepared their tax return or performed their audit correctly. Your clients (and others) judge you on other things. Mostly, on lots of little things.

One thing, that is not so little in my mind, is how you write. If you are a CPA, or work in a CPA firm, grammar, spelling and punctuation are very, very important when you start typing out communications on that keyboard (or mobile device).

I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to read a lot of things written by CPAs and accountants. Most of it is in the form of communication, to me, and to others. Here are the common mistakes I notice:

  • Improper use of commas.
  • Lack of any punctuation at all, at times, even the use of periods at the end of a sentence.
  • Lack of capitalization – everything is typed in lower case.
  • Confusion between chose and choose; spelling chose when they actually mean choose.
  • Improper use of there and their.
  • Improper use of to and too.
  • Using your when they should be using you’re.

When I first started working in public accounting, I had the opportunity to work with a CPA (partner), who excelled at the written word. His vocabulary was way beyond my experience. I kept a dictionary close by. I learned so much!

I also, during the same time, worked with some accountants that made me wonder if they actually graduated from college based on their spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

Just be aware of how you may be judged. Take your time when writing. I think some of the poor punctuation and grammar is simply laziness or because you are in too much of a hurry.

  • "Your grammar is a reflection of your image. Good or bad, you have made an impression. And like all impressions, you are in total control."
  • Jeffrey Gitomer

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

Pros And Cons – Longevity

“I love the gray area between right and wrong.” – Dan Brown, author

The baby boomers are usually amazed and dismayed when they hear that millennials have five or six different jobs (or even career changes) before they reach the age of 30 or so. To them, that is a huge disadvantage.

My challenge for them: Consider the benefits that come along with the fact that you have exposure to several different methods of working, different styles of bosses and a wide variety of peer experiences that will guide your career in the future.

The millennials tell me they are amazed and dismayed when they learn that some of the partners in their firm have NEVER worked anywhere except at the firm. To them, that is a huge disadvantage.

My challenge for them: Consider the amount of experience and consistency they have accumulated in growing an accounting firm that is founded on dedication, continuous improvement, loyalty, and long-term financial growth.

Who’s to say what is right or wrong?


  • "The pendulum of the mind alternates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong."
  • Carl Jung

Monday, October 10th, 2016

Rather Than “Like” – Why not be “Unlike?”

“Be careful when you follow the Masses. Sometimes the ‘M’ is silent.”

Like: Having the same characteristics or qualities; similar to.

Unlike: Different from. Not similar

  • Does your accounting firm do what almost every other accounting firm does?
  • Do you basically just copy what another firm has done for your website?
  • Do you send out the same client newsletter that your competition sends?
  • Do you offer the same employee benefits that all the other firms in your CPA firm association offers?

When you look and sound like all the other CPA firms, you end up competing on price. To me, that appears to be a lose-lose situation.

Your firm ends up blending in with all the others. Your mission should be to stand-out from the crowd.

Take some risk. Try some things that are different. Research and define some ways that your firm can be really unique. Get busy now.

Here’s a great newsletter article from Meredith Liepelt of Rich Life Marketing. It inspired me to write this post.

  • "Why fit in when you were born to STAND OUT?"
  • Dr. Seuss

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – Just For My Accountant Friends

Jimmy Fallon and his various skits always make me laugh. He has something called Kid Theatre where they give some kids just a title of a movie and the kids write a script.

As you know, Ben Affleck’s new movie, The Accountant, debut next week. All of us have to see this one. The trailers are awesome.

Anyway, Affleck and Fallon did Kid Theatre where the kids were only given the name, The Accountant.  They do three short versions. It’s funny how kids view accountants and actually they have some very positive views.  The third version really made me laugh.

  • "I really want to wear an astronaut helmet but I also want to use a calculator."
  • Ben Affleck, playing little boy in Kid Theatre skit

Friday, October 7th, 2016

Moving Your Firm Forward

I have written about the Keep Stop Start method of performance feedback several times. It is an effective way to simplify your formal performance feedback system. Just communicate (hopefully, in a face-to-face, meeting) to each of your valuable team members what they should keep doing, what they should stop doing and what they should start doing to enhance their performance and their career advancement.

Do this often, don’t save your comments up for one annual feedback session. Managers and/or partners should be meeting with their direct reports several times throughout the year. The millennials expect frequent feedback.

Why not apply this Keep Stop Start method to your entire firm? If your partner group wants to move the firm into the future; if they want to build an attractive culture and design a brand that will attract clients and employees, what should the FIRM keep doing, stop doing and start doing?


  • "The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks."
  • Mark Zukerberg