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Practice Management Blogs

Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA/CGMA

CPA firm leadership is being stretched on all sides to attract and serve clients, recruit and retain team members, increase firm value and size, and maximize performance. A profession that attracts quantitatively oriented individuals also requires them to have well-developed soft skills. Accounting practitioners must not only keep abreast of the latest accounting, auditing, and tax pronouncements, but stay up to date with practice management and human resources developments as well. Blogs are a great, quick way to keep up with current events, and readers are encouraged to see if the ones discussed below meet their needs.

Firm of the Future

Firm of the Future (www.firmofthefuture.com) is an Intuit blog that includes web articles from well-known industry leaders on revenue, efficiency, and personnel issues. The posts generally run from one to three pages and can be easily downloaded as PDFs for sharing and retention. The articles range from ways to increase firm revenues to how to improve office operations to recommendations for hiring and training staff.

“10 Ways to Deal with the HURT of Change in Your CPA Firm,” by Greg Buck, suggests including the entire staff in a change, noting that older staff can be more supportive than younger employees. Buck encourages managers to be flexible but firm, and not to look back (http://bit.ly/2gau9gs).

“Accounting Talent: How to Find and Attract Talented Accountants,” by Lori Niederlehner, is a must-read. Niederlehner discusses seven strategies to improve a firm's recruiting, which include maintaining clear and up-to-date mission and values statements, ensuring that the organization embraces diversity, and training hiring managers on conducting effective interviews (http://bit.ly/2g7KYts).

“First Day on the Job: Employee Orientation Checklist,” by Ingrid Edstrom, shares the author's experiences in developing guidelines and procedures for hiring staff for her bookkeeping business (http://bit.ly/2fNuEtQ). Edstrom advises that although the interview process is important for identifying the best potential employees, spending a full first day on a thorough orientation can determine the new staff member's success at the firm. She also provides a downloadable copy of her new team member checklist, which is easily adaptable (http://bit.ly/2ganRxH).

Readers would expect to find discussions on Intuit's software products on an Intuit blog, but there is a substantial amount of information on non-Intuit resources as well. “4 Technologies to Advance Your Tax Practice,” by Jim Bourke, addresses the basics of cloud-based tax software, scan-and-populate technology, and portals. His fourth suggestion is a scanner on every desk, although it should also be mentioned that scanning is available on printer/copier combinations of all sizes (http://bit.ly/2f98WQ5). “Efficiency Tech Tools for Your Practice” is a brief but practical primer with applications for internal collaboration and communication, client collaboration and communication, video confer-encing, tasks and to-do lists, client management, and project management (http://bit.ly/2eXBUVf).

Rita Keller's Blog

Rita Keller, a well-known CPA firm management consultant, maintains a daily weblog at http://ritakeller.com/blog/. Her blog is a good way to keep up with current thinking in firm management, and the articles offer practical suggestions, summaries of other authors' current articles, and links to external resources. Her archive includes over 40 categories to make it easy to focus on specific topics, such as firm administrator, generations, leadership, and recruiting.

Two interesting posts under leadership are “Questions to Initiate Change” (November 8, 2016) and “Don't Put Off until Tomorrow” (October 4, 2016). Keller encourages consideration at the partner level, or even at full staff level, of questions to identify opportunities that competitors are not addressing, whether the firm can claim to be the best at anything, and how the organization is keeping up with changes in the business environment.

The generations category includes several thought-provoking articles, such as “To Engage Employees, Focus on Your Managers” (March 24, 2016), which reports the not-too-surprising statistic that 70% of employees leave a company because of their manager. Keller encourages firms to use employee engagement surveys, but only if they are prepared to act on the results. “Millennials and Job-Hopping” (June 16, 2016) discusses the importance of rewarding top performers with premium wages to keep them at the firm, and not trying to compensate all employees at the same average level. On a related note, “Finding and Keeping Top Talent Sometimes Comes Down to How Many Benefits You Offer” (October 31, 2016) encourages CPAs to review benefits programs. While baby boomers still like the old standby health and dental coverage, Millennials want more choice and custom-tailored options.

Inspired Ideas Blog

ConvergenceCoaching provides CPA firm consulting and leadership training for succession and transition planning, business development, and human resources. Its Inspired Ideas Blog, at http://www.convergencecoaching.com/blog, presents weekly or biweekly articles on topics such as governance and decision making, human resource and organizational development, leadership, and retention strategies. Two particularly interesting series include summaries of human resources-related surveys, which come at a time when staff turnover is reported to be at its highest rate in recent years.

The Anytime, Anywhere Work Survey addresses CPA firms' approaches to flexible work initiatives (http://bit.ly/2fRtLmJ). “Want to Keep Your Next Gen? FLEX! Our 2016 Anytime, Anywhere Work Survey Will Show You How” (August 18, 2016) covers an overview of the survey results. Of the 160 accounting firms that responded to the 2016 questionnaire, 68% allow flexible hours, 51% offer a Friday benefit during the summer, and 44% see flex options as a strategic advantage. More than half of participants (62%) indicated that flexible work programs allowed them to retain staff that they otherwise would have lost (http://bit.ly/2fPQ4FA).

“Two Times the Benefits with Anytime, Anywhere Work” (September 28, 2016) describes positive outcomes from flex options, which include improved recruiting results, enhanced employee engagement, and relieved space constraints. The greatest negatives were communication problems, project completion inefficiencies, and technology issues. Interestingly, flex options have created some resentment on the part of staff “holding down the fort” at the main office, as well as reduced collegiality (http://bit.ly/2fPQ4FA).

ConvergenceCoaching partners with Inside Public Accounting for the Road to Retention Survey, which gives a glimpse into the minds of younger professionals (http://bit.ly/2fNsRVY). “34 to 40-year-old CPA Professionals Tell Firm Leaders What They Need” (October 5, 2016) indicates that as staff members' time with a firm progresses, they feel less valued and begin to look for leadership opportunities elsewhere (http://bit.ly/2gan7Z8). “Improved Communication Goes a Long Way with Young Professionals” (November 2, 2016) reveals that while 80% of participating firms offered mentoring programs, most were seen as less than effective. Professionals under 40 are looking for regular and consistent communication, such as clear expectations for promotion and better information on the firm's mission and vision (http://bit.ly/2frbR9D).

Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA/CGMA is the Louis J. and Ramona Rodriguez Distinguished Professor of Accounting at Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Tex. She is a member of The CPA Journal Editorial Board.

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