Monday, February 24th, 2020

The Real Problem

From my experience, CPAs ignore the real problem. This came to mind when I read the following quote by Stephen R Covey:

“All the well-meaning advice in the world won’t amount to a hill of beans if we’re not even addressing the real problem.”

It also often comes to mind as I advise my valued clients. They hire me to get them on track, investigate and uncover troubling issues within the firm, make recommendations on how they can become future-ready, etc.

Very often, I give them advice that they don’t really want to hear. It is advice about once and for all addressing the real problem within their firm.

Many of them tell me that there is always “an elephant in the room” when they have their firm retreat and no one addresses it. Others are aware of a very troublesome employee or even a partner that no one wants to deal with. They are unwilling to outplace disruptive people. In other cases, their young people are sending them strong messages about a software, a procedure or a process that needs to be changed but the older partners simply will not listen.

To me, building a team of engaged, enlightened, energetic and passionate people who are willing to work as a team for the good of the firm is a foundational piece of the puzzle. This year, why don’t you finally address THE REAL PROBLEM.

  • "Happiness is not the absence of problems, but the ability to deal with them."
  • Charles DeMontesquieu

Friday, February 21st, 2020

Your Future Will Be Limited

I follow John C. Maxwell on Twitter. Yesterday, he posted the following tweet:

If you’re not identifying the leaders of tomorrow whom you will train up, your potential and your future will always be limited. 

It a simple, short message that speaks volumes to CPAs working in public accounting.  Owners of firms should have heeded this advice many years ago.

Here’s another recent tweet from Maxwell that hits home with CPAs:

No matter what it costs you, the return you receive will eclipse the price. Developing leaders is the most impacting and rewarding thing you can do as a leader.

Baby Boomer CPAs, nearing retirement, have been warned over and over again but few have acted upon the advice and now, their futures are limited. For some, it is merge-up or close-up.

  • "Don't let what's uncertain be what defeats you. Instead, let it be what motivates you to keep reaching toward what's possible."
  • John C. Maxwell

Thursday, February 20th, 2020

Lack of Self-Confidence

“Great salespeople are relationship builders who provide value and help their customers win.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

I bet you have heard the classic line: “I didn’t major in accounting so that I could become a salesperson.”

If you are working in public accounting, you must embrace marketing and sales. It is the lifeblood of a growing and successful firm.

Many accountants actually have a fear of attempting to “sell” services to a potential client. I always claim that you can land new clients if you simply like people. It is about connecting to others and building relationships.

Begin by building your own self-confidence. You have SO MUCH valuable knowledge – you are worth every penny a client pays you. You have helped so many clients in the past. Take that air of success with you as you approach potential clients. Tell success stories.

Jeffrey Gitomer (famous sales guru) recommends that you keep the story of “The Little Engine That Could” in mind – “I think I can. I think I can.” He says that thinking you can is 50% of the outcome. Never show doubt or uncertainty – you are a winner and can be such an asset to that potential client’s future success.

  • "Attitude drives actions. Actions drives results. Results drive lifestyles."
  • Jim Rohn

Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

Thoughts on Committees

“A committee is a thing which takes a week to do what one good man can do in an hour.” – Elbert Hubbard

“To get something done a committee should consist of no more than three people, two of whom are absent.” – Robert Copeland

If you are working in the CPA profession, I am sure you have been involved in committees. There are various firm committees and you also donate your time and talent to civic and charitable committees and boards.

This is just my opinion, so be forewarned. I don’t like to see TOO MANY committees inside a CPA firm and I do not like to see partners/owners on many, if any, committees.

Having a Tax Committee and an A&A Committee makes sense to me. It is a long-standing activity and I see the value. A partner is the chair of the committee – he or she is responsible for the well-being of the firm in these areas. They involve staff at all levels. It is a good way to give younger team members experience and a voice.

As firms grow, there will come a time when they need an executive committee and a partner compensation committee. Both of these are for larger firms where it is unproductive to have all partners involved in these issues. The membership of these committees rotate and are chaired by the managing partner.

Various committees to focus on the management of the firm are unnecessary. The managing partner and the firm administrator (COO, Practice Manager, etc.) are charged with efficient and effective firm management. You do not need other partners involved. Yes, informed, but not involved. This management team reports to the Board of Directors (the partner group, as a whole).

I have observed that some firms have an HR committee, a technology committee, a marketing committee and so on. They have partners serving on all these committees and it usually becomes a huge waste of time. Let the people charged with firm management, manage. The leaders of HR, technology and marketing report to the management team. Client service partners should be maintaining client relationships, bringing in business and mentoring younger, less experienced staff.

Do you ever become restless in a long-winded committee meeting because it goes on and on and no decisions actually get made? Don’t let this happen inside your firm.

 

  • "If you want to kill any idea in the world, get a committee working on it."
  • Charles F. Kettering

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

Teaching Staff the Secrets of Marketing & Sales

“I recently went to a new doctor and noticed he was located in something called a Professional Building. I felt better right away.” – George Carlin

Are you teaching your young accountants how to become successful as rainmakers? If they want to be on the ownership track, they need to be able to bring in new business to the firm. That’s an overwhelming assignment for new hires.

The journey begins in their first week by having new recruits meet with your marketing director as part of orientation. The MD will simply explain how it all works and share all the tools the firm has available to help them succeed.

No expectations are set (that happens later down the road) except that the beginner CPA needs to be visible and attend business, civic and charitable events along with a more experienced CPA.

A helpful exercise is to host a lunch and learn where two or three of the firm’s best business developer partners participate in a panel discussion about how they became successful at attracting new clients to the firm. Each partner will have a slightly different success story and the entire staff is invited to the lunch and learn to listen and ask questions.

Never let marketing/sales be a surprise to your team members. Make it part of your culture and provide the tools necessary to help them succeed.

  • "Nine tenths of education is encouragement."
  • Anatole France

Monday, February 17th, 2020

Frustration

“If change is happening on the outside faster than on the inside, the end is in sight.” – Jack Welch

We all like to tell our recruits and potential new-hires that “our firm is different”  – – I find that in the hundreds of firms that I have interacted with, nearly all of them have many of the same issues and frustrations.

Are you often frustrated? – “The firm” isn’t changing fast enough. New initiatives often get delayed. Leaders are not setting a good example. People leave messes in the kitchen!

All this reminds me of a story. Stories and quotations inspire me and hopefully, they do the same for you. When I was actively working inside an accounting firm, a friend of mine gave me some good advice. When something really frustrates you just substitute the word fascinated for frustrated.  When you go to get coffee, the pot has about 1/25th of an inch of coffee in it….. isn’t that fascinating?

I could elaborate more fully on the fascination of surviving in a CPA firm. But, the purpose of this blog is to communicate what you can do to make things run smoother, better, faster and more efficient.

I hope you also follow me on twitter:  @cpamanagement.

  • "Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward."
  • Kurt Vonnegut

Saturday, February 15th, 2020

Lighten-Up, It’s the Weekend

“If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” – Will Rogers

Lighten-up this weekend and enjoy some positives vibes from your social media feeds.

Follow UPS Dogs on Facebook and UPS Dogs on Instagram. UPS Dogs is also on Twitter.

When I see these every day, it makes my day brighter.

  • "The better I get to know men, the more I find myself loving dogs."
  • Charles De Gaulle

Friday, February 14th, 2020

Building An Inclusive Culture

“Exclusion is always dangerous. Inclusion is the only safety if we are to have a peaceful world.” – Pearl S. Buck

Over my years in the public accounting arena, I have found that to motivate your team you must develop a culture of inclusion. Young people, and new hires, want to be in on things. So, I am including today’s post from Seth Godin in its entirety.

Apply this to your CPA firm:

YOU CAN’T SAY YOU CAN’T PLAY

Lenny Levine was a great kindergarten teacher. And he ran his class by this one rule.

It means that if another kid comes along, you need to include them in your game.

That’s it.

It changes everything. It puts an emphasis on connection, not exclusivity. It changes the dynamics of belonging. It weaves together a foundation that crosses traditional boundaries.

It’s a bit like giving every kid in the class a valentine’s day card. Some say that it cheapens the sentiment because it’s not about selection, it’s about inclusion. I think we’ve got plenty of selection already.

In the adult world, open doors create possibility and that leads to insight and productivity.

 

  • "Inclusion and fairness in the workplace is not simply the right thing to do; it's the smart thing to do."
  • Alexis Herman

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

Every Firm is Hiring

It is common knowledge in the profession of public accounting, every firm is hiring.

They are looking for top, young talent. It seems every firm is looking for the exact same candidates.

Here’s something from Peter F. Drucker that you should think about:

“Determine whether your organization is betting on young people, older people, or immigrants. Make sure you have a plan for the gradual decrease in the youth market and the increase in newcomers and the aged.” – Peter F. Drucker

What is your plan for the future? If you are a partner, you should be developing two talented people to replace you. That should be your number one priority. Or, your partner group needs to admit that selling-out or merging-up are on the horizon.

Either way, you must have an attractive culture and be progressive and efficient. No one wants a firm that is not thriving and growing.

  • "The best way to predict the future is to create it."
  • Peter F. Drucker

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

Is It Time To Actually Retire?

In yesterday’s blog post I mentioned that I had recently re-read Tuesdays with Morrie.

One of Morrie’s wise sayings was:

“Don’t let go too soon, but don’t hang on too long.”

He was talking about life. To me, because I have worked with so many Baby Boomer CPAs over the years, it is something that applies to their retirement.

Many are in denial about retirement. They plan to work until they drop. Very short-sighted, indeed. There is so much more to experience if you wish it so.

Several situations I know about involve partners retiring but they do not quit working at the firm.

A couple of others involve 80-somethings continuing to come into the office even though they are not able to use the technology any longer.

My advice: Don’t hang on too long.

 

  • "It's not too late to develop new friendships or reconnect with people."
  • Morrie Schwartz