More Accounting Tomorrow Posts

Should Firms Stop Seeking More Work?

January 29, 2009

If a firm already has as much work as it can handle and has difficulty finding competent staff, isn't it irresponsible to be looking for even more work? That question was posed to us at Accounting Tomorrow from Bill McGovern, who owns a full-service CPA firm in Manasquan, N.J.

"These kinds of commitments lead to less than quality work, dissatisfied clients, and overburdened employees who leave for better managed firms," McGovern argues.

We wanted to offer our response to this question and open the discussion to other readers.

AD says:

Not necessarily. These firms need to work smarter, not harder. They can sit down and evaluate what types of work—and which types of clients—earn them the most money and/or cost them the least amount of headaches. Put these ideas in writing and stick to them. Then, it is possible to "fire" those less profitable clients who call all the time with problems that need to be addressed "ASAP" and replace them with new clients. Also, never underestimate the power of technology in helping reduce employee burden. For example, if clients typically call with a certain set of questions, why not post FAQs on the company Web site and direct them there?

With regard to a lack of qualified candidates, don't underestimate the power of part-time seasonal help. If you know a recently retired accountant, chances are that

LG says:

Good point. Firms do have a responsibility to do things correctly and need to look internally on a regular basis to make sure all their processes are like well-oiled machines. If they aren't they should go back and reassess the areas that creak. If there are staffing issues, aka not enough staff to do work, then certainly the gap between business development and lack of qualified staff needs to be looked at. Why is it that the people doing the rainmaking aren't helping to find competent employees to actually do the work? Look at where the firm is putting its energy and resources and ask if it should be redistributed to an area of need. Still, bringing in more work when a team may not be quite prepared, allows an opportunity of huge growth for staff who may not have had a chance before – as long as the workload is manageable – and that should be measured by management. Under the right kind of mentorship and supervision, a good employee can become a great employee and ultimately, that's what a firm needs to get the job done.

Post your two cents in the Comments section below or email us at

Comments (1)
Many good points made above. I believe that if a firm is not going forward, it is going backward - there is no status quo in the highly competitive world of public accounting.

Young people want challenging and rewarding work and helping them stretch beyond their comfort zone is what experienced CPAs should be doing on a daily basis. That is a part of a well-managed firm.

Too many firms struggle with out-placing less than desirable clients. The staff can see this very plainly and they hate working on those client assignments. The same applies to staff, most firms are very slow to fire an under-performer.

Well-defined processes and policies go a long way in making these difficult tasks easier and more routine.

Looking for new business is the life-blood of a successful firm. Clients leave, die, retire, go bankrupt and get acquired on a regular basis. Keeping the pipeline full is an important responsibility.
Posted by Rita K | Friday, January 30 2009 at 3:26PM ET
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