Friday, May 29, 2015

Don’t Do Something, Just Stand There!

Despite my ever advancing age, I pride myself on my daily physical conditioning regimen.

Despite my eligibility for AARP, I can still run a 40-yard dash in just over six seconds, deadlift over 400 pounds and play three sets of competitive tennis without a trip to the emergency room.

But from what I’m reading lately, that despite my dedication to physical culture, a good portion of my workday is spent in an unhealthy position – sitting.

According to various reports, sitting is the new smoking. And while I find the comparison a bit hard to believe considering the health of some of the smokers I’ve known in my life, apparently a stationary posture for eight or more hours ushers in a horde of unhealthy side effects including slower metabolism and poor circulation. Not to mention monotony and complacency, neither of which will do anything to increase productivity.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Routine Monitoring or Covert Surveillance?

A number of years ago I was busy hammering out a column for the publication that employed me at the time and heard a rustling commotion and heated discussion in one of the adjoining cubicle “farms.”

Apparently, several members of human resources were confronting an employee about his computer viewing habits while at work – or in this case while allegedly working - which from what I understood wavered between XX and XXX content.

Needless to say, they brought the requisite cardboard boxes to collect his belongings and a short time later, said employee found himself on the unemployment line.

Later I learned that HR had teamed with the IT department to monitor the company employees’ screen time and websites. A bit Big Brotherish I thought at the time, but it effectively served as a warning for anyone tempted to explore their kinky viewing fetishes going forward.

I was reminded of that incident just yesterday when I read a news brief about a California-based employer being sued by a former worker who claimed that the company installed an application on her company-issued iPhone that tracked her whereabouts 24/7.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Last Time I’ll Address This Concern

The other day I was speaking with the partners of a two-owner firm in the New England area, who, as many have after another tax season, pledged never to go through another 1040 rush like the one just passed.

I’m sure the brutal New England winter of 2015 which left mounds of snow and ice until mid-April most likely exacerbated the annual aggravating ritual of software glitches and last minute tax rulings and expedited their decision to seek a succession plan.

In any event I outlined the way our process worked regarding seeking an affiliation and when I explained that unlike a real estate sale, the buyer firm in fact is responsible for our fee, one of the partners shook his head in objection.

“You can’t be impartial,” he said. You represent the buyer. It’s in your best interest to do a deal any way you can.”

Trust me, this is far from the first time I’ve heard that one. So I point blank told him, that if it bothered him that much I could easily arrange for him to write the check to us in lieu of the buyer client.

He apparently didn’t appreciate my tinge of sarcasm.

But in all seriousness here’s what I told him.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Client Gridlock

For me, driving is a necessary evil.

But living in leafy New York City suburbia, public transportation isn’t much of an option. For the nearly quarter century I worked in Manhattan, I would eschew taxis when I had appointments outside the office and avail myself of the New York City subway system and its 656 miles of track to take me where I needed to go.

But driving? The only way I would drive to the city was at 5 am on a Sunday morning. For me, root canal is preferable to idling on a jammed avenue and inching along amidst 10 or 12 changes of a traffic light.

I mention these misadventures in motoring because invariably, one primary fear clients express when they learn their incumbent accounting firm is about to enter into a merger is “how much farther do I have to travel to get there?”

There are other fears of course, but for now let’s focus on the location logistics. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Great Client Search

As another tax season disappears in the distance there are always two things I can set my watch to.

The first is what has become an annual ritual for practitioners: Many vow never to trudge through another 1040 frenzy again. On average this strategy or pledge lasts at most, oh, about six months.

The second is that firm owners and partners now switch their focus from worrying about getting through filing season to how they’re going to grow their practice and entice new clients to sign on.

A generation ago, the critical but unenviable job of business development usually fell upon the already overworked shoulders of the firm’s managing partner. But there were usually two inherent problems with that. First, said managing partner more often than not had a book of business of their own to manage. Second, most of them were not highly skilled in sales or marketing – two critical skills needed to usher in organic growth.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

It’s all in the Packaging

As you can imagine, we receive our fair share of objections with regard to reasons why some CPA firms who badly need to merge are hesitant to do so.

So, as a result, they procrastinate longer than a middle schooler who needs to get their parents’ signature on a failing report card.

One of the more frequent complaints is the fear that their clients, upon hearing of a merger, will decide to take their business elsewhere rather than confront the changes of the unknown.

My response to them is that the way to overcome client trepidation is to package it correctly. There are some subtle and other not so subtle strategies to allay client worries – chief among them is to have your new merger partner accompany you for an in-person visit to your top clients. This way they see the both of you together and can now envision the relationship and synergies going forward.

Another trick is to send your clients the merger announcement on YOUR stationary and not of the successor firm. Otherwise your clients may perceive it as a solicitation for another firm and file it under G – for garbage.

And if you’re predominately a tax-centric firm, you probably want to hold off announcing anything until you draw close to tax season. If you unveil an affiliation for example in June, then your existing clients have 6 months in which to make a yea or nay decision on whether to begin the search for a new firm.

Again, it’s a matter of packaging and timing. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Finding the Next “Star” at Your Firm

Last week I delivered my first 2015 post-tax season CPE to one of the state societies on – well, you guessed it – succession planning.

Despite the fact that roughly three quarters of the attendees appeared shell shocked after yet another brutal tax season, it was a lively and interactive group who peppered me with questions with refreshing regularity.

When the subject of internal succession came up, one attendee asked me bluntly “How do you know if someone has the potential to one day lead your firm?”

I responded by telling him it’s a difficult question to answer because there are dozens of variables that go into it.

For example, sometimes it’s easy to spot a “star;” they have that “it” quality that you know will only get stronger as they are mentored and develop.