Thursday, January 21st, 2021

Getting Better

“To learn about excellence you must study it.” – Marcus Buckingham

You want your firm to get better and better. You want it to gain more and more visibility and to continually build and enhance the firm reputation.

How do you and your firm get better? You learn from others.

Inside your firm, your team members continually learn and improve. This applies to new college graduates, the administrative team, your support professionals, and very experienced CPAs. All of these people learn so much from more experienced people.

Your firm also gets better by learning from other CPA firms that are growing, profitable, and over-all successful.

When I was new to CPA firm management, I attended all of the CPA firm management conferences that I could. There I met people from successful firms. These people would describe how they were doing this or that and if it was something I wanted to pursue, I got acquainted with the person from that successful firm. Over the years, I have made lifelong, personal friends from my contacts in other CPA firms.

When attending these events (in person or virtual now), reach out to others with more experience. CPA management conferences are filled with people who are willing to share their successes and help you and your firm get better.

One of the best resources is The CPA Firm Management Association. Join and learn. The members share their experiences and you can post questions on their discussion board and get immediate answers and advice.

So, to get better, reach out to others and also share your successes and failures with the others you meet. As today’s quote (above) says, “To learn about excellence you must study it.

  • "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."
  • Aristotle

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

Accountants Are Picky

“Invariably, micromanaging results in four problems: deceit, disloyalty, conflict, and communication problems.” – John Rosemond

First of all, I want you to know that I do believe in hands-on management. You can’t leave people in a void, wondering what your expectations are. It’s all about communication and how you go about communicating.

However, I have worked with accountants long enough to know that they tend to be perfectionists. Yes, the work produced by CPAs must be absolutely accurate. How you arrive at that state is another topic.

I remember my first days in a CPA firm. I was amazed at how thoroughly my work (simple typing projects) was proofed and reviewed. I came from an educational and training background where you did it right the first time. You proofed your own work. That seemed to be completely absent inside the CPA firm. I soon learned that it wasn’t just me being scrutinized, it was an important part of the process of achieving accuracy in financial matters.

The goal is still there and accuracy is a given. How you arrive at that point is through extensive training and responsible review of work. There is a fine line between supervision and micro-management. Beware. Micro-managing is not something to be proud of.

A recent article by Suzanne Lucas (@realevilHRLady) certainly made me smile. She featured a tweet that said: “Tell me you’ve worked for a micromanager without telling me you’ve worked for a micromanager.”

The replies would be hilarious if they weren’t so disturbing. They did make me smile because during those first years in the CPA profession I had to change many financial statements several times after each review step and I don’t mean the numbers – it was personal preference about phrasing and punctuation from multiple reviewers.

An example of the tweets featured in the article:

“Sorry, I forgot to tell you that I went to the bathroom.”

“We talked for over an hour about the 1 missing period in the 40 slide deck.”

Read the article – Here Is What Micromanagement Looks Like.

You might recognize some people in your own firm!

  • "None of us should wait to be told what to do, or how to do it. Micromanagement kills initiative, judgment and creativity. "
  • David H. Maister

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

Naming Your Intranet

“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.” – Oscar Wilde

A vibrant firm intranet that provides various useful and necessary information for your team members is a must.

Some firms realized this years ago and have an intranet that has evolved and gained prominence as a crucial tool for research and guidance.

Some of my clients have made updating their intranet a high priority for 2021, especially with a remote workforce being something that is here to stay.

My question for you today is did you name your intranet? I have heard some very creative ones. I think it gives the resource center a personality and keeps it’s value in the minds of the team.

If you don’t have a name for your intranet have a contest for the team to name it. One company named their intranet Dwight (the employee know-it-all from The Office).

Here is a helpful article about the importance of naming your intranet and it gives you several examples.

  • "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth."
  • Oscar Wilde

Monday, January 18th, 2021

Drama, Fear & Conflict

“Leaders do not avoid, repress, or deny conflict, but rather see it as an opportunity.” – Warren Bennis

Accountants, in general, are kind, caring, and sincere. They live their lives helping their clients become successful. They often have difficult conversations with their clients.

Inside their own CPA firm, they ignore conflict and avoid confrontation. Partners and managers often dodge conflict in the hopes that someone else will deal with it. Yet, they readily admit that there is way too much drama going on inside the firm.

Often the conflict is between two or more employees. However, the most troubling conflict is when employees actually fear one or more of the firm leaders, and other leaders hide from the drama, fear, and conflict.

Here’s a quote from Marlene Chism:

“If there are performance problems, workplace drama, or disruptive behaviors in your workplace, it’s because it’s been allowed. Avoiding difficult conversations causes a culture of dysfunction that affects every aspect of business.” – Marlene Chism

Read that quote again. From the mildest conflict to actual fear of an individual continues because IT’S BEEN ALLOWED.

Some issues eventually go away on their own but most do not. YOU must deal with it. Here’s a helpful article from Chism.

  • "Difficulties mastered are opportunities won."
  • Winston Churchill

Friday, January 15th, 2021

Adding New Clients – Flashback Friday

“Quality is much better than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.” – Steve Jobs

Adding new clients is always a challenge for CPA firms. However, some firms have a marketing machine, visible rainmakers, and obtaining new clients isn’t their biggest issue.

The challenge is being able to provide awesome client service to the rapidly growing client base.

Here’s a flashback post to help you with that challenge.

  • "Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all."
  • Sam Ewing

Thursday, January 14th, 2021

Keep People Connected

“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.” – Paul J. Meyer

Once again, Withum shares a great video. This one was shared with their entire team so that they continue to feel very connected to the firm and to each other.

What is your firm doing?

Click here to see the video.

  • "As the world becomes a more digital place, we cannot forget about the human connection."
  • Adam Newmann

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

News From the AICPA

“Action is the antidote to despair.” – Joan Baez

AICPA Encourages Firms to Aggressively Advance PPP Applications

SBA Expected to Reopen for All Lenders by Friday, Jan. 15

NEW YORK (Jan. 13, 2021) –The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) expects the federal government to open up the application process for all lenders participating in the latest round of the Paycheck Protection Program by Friday, and encourages CPA firms to advance the application process for small business clients seeking relief.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) began accepting  new applications on a limited basis this week through community financial institutions. But confusion about the timing for other lenders has led to anxiety among small businesses and their advisors. 

“We believe the full program needs to go live as soon as possible and we fully support the Treasury Department and SBA reopening the program for all lenders by Friday,” said AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA. “What we’ve been telling CPA firms is be prepared and get to work. All indications, based on input from the Treasury and SBA, is there will be enough funding to meet all of the ‘first draw’ and ‘second draw’ PPP applications, so firms can help alleviate concerns their clients may have.”

The AICPA has been advising firms to collect key information from their clients such as average monthly payroll amounts, quarterly revenue comparisons for second draw borrowers and other required documentation to speed the process. Compared to the initial launch of the program in April 2020, firms now have substantial experience in business relief, more guidance and better tools.

The AICPA, CPA.com and fintech leader Biz2Credit in September launched a financing platform for CPA firms, the CPA Business Funding Portal, to help practitioners as they assist small businesses through PPP loan forgiveness. The portal, which has been used by thousands of firms, has been updated to accept so-called PPP2 applications and over three thousand applications have already been prepopulated.

“Small businesses should expect more scrutiny in this round of PPP applications,” said Erik Asgeirsson, president and CEO of CPA.com. “The SBA is doing more vetting for potential fraud and in some instances is asking for more validation. It’s important that businesses and their advisors get it right, so that applications don’t get held up and pushed back in the queue. That’s why we think it’s vital that firms use the more robust set of tools that are available now.”

The CPA Business Funding Portal offers a free basic service, plus tiered subscription plans for firms that want a direct path to fund loans through an SBA-approved lender to ensure they receive agent fees.

“It is critical that business owners work closely with their trusted business advisors, especially their CPA, to ensure they qualify for the maximum loan amount and provide the right supporting documentation,” said Rohit Arora, CEO and Co-Founder of Biz2Credit. “Being prepared now is the best way for businesses to ensure they get the money they need.”

AICPA executives will discuss the latest PPP developments and their implications for CPAs and their small business clients at this week’s AICPA Town Hall at 3 p.m. ET on Thursday. For more information about the AICPA’s resources for firms on PPP, please visit aicpa.org/sba.  More details about the CPA Business Funding Portal can be found at cpa.com/business-funding.

  • "Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy."
  • Dale Carnegie

Tuesday, January 12th, 2021

We’ll Get Back to Where We Were… Wrong!

‘You did that this year; why not last year or the year before?’ – Allan Koltin

I hear it said over and over. “When things get back to normal…”.

Most CPA firms have made great progress since March 2020. Even the AICPA is saying that firms have achieved needed change that they (the AICPA) thought would take five years. Firms did it in a few days and continually improved upon it throughout 2020. I am talking about enabling and embracing a remote workforce.

Some very small firms did not make this leap. They think it is a good thing that they still go into the office and operate in the old school way. I’m not sure that is a wise decision.

I agree with this observation by Allan Koltin:

“It’s not about bricks and mortar anymore,” he said. “I believe in three to five years, we will get rid of that space. The metric will drop down to 150 square feet per person. We will redesign offices for what we want them to be — a center for collaboration and training, a place to have meetings — and build it out accordingly. It’s a difficult conversation — some of you think that after the vaccine, we will come back to 2019.”

  • "I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies."
  • Lawrence Bossidy

Monday, January 11th, 2021

Leadership Development

Once again, it is time to invest in the future success of your firm. I am happy to share this opportunity for your partners-in-training from The Partner Institute™

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” – Peter F. Drucker

How is your firm’s foundation for ensuring long term success and growth?
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  • "Average leaders raise the bar on themselves; good leaders raise the bar for others; great leaders inspire others to raise their own bar."
  • Orrin Woodward

Friday, January 8th, 2021

Flashback Friday – No Complaining!

“Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the cornfield.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Holidays are over. It is the first “work” Friday in 2021. The holiday hassles are a distant memory and the trauma of the last few days has subsided some. So, again in 2021, I will offer you a flashback post on some Fridays. The following post is one to keep in mind as you enter another tax season. It is from January 31, 2020:

TAX SEASON IS NOT COMPLAINING SEASON

I saw the following tweet by Greg Bell and thought of CPA firms:

“Would you like to spend time with someone who is constantly complaining about life, their job, gossiping about friends and coworkers, or putting themselves and others down? Or would you rather spend time with someone who is upbeat despite the challenges they face?” – Greg Bell (@gregbellspeaks)

Sad, isn’t it, that I think of CPA firms after reading this?

I have observed that when you get deep inside many accounting firms there is a lot of this going on.

In my personal experience working inside a firm, I found tax season to be a time when the general population of the firm was too busy to complain much. Almost everyone was focused, dedicated and possessed a sense of urgency.

The sad part is that after April 15th the moaning and groaning returned! I hope you are doing surveys so you can address some of the relevant issues. If it turns out that you have people who match-up with the quote above, you have the wrong people.

Address the issues and work to develop a No Whining culture!

  • "You don't make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas."
  • Shirley Chisholm