Art of Accounting: Staff are a CPA firm's No. 1 asset

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I read Marc Rosenberg’s new book CPA Firm Staff: Managing Your #1 Asset and want to share my comments.

I read a lot of practice management books. Here are some of the reasons:

• I have to read them when I know the author;

• I want to read them;

• I enjoy reading them;

• I get ideas;

• I like to see or have to see what others are doing or recommending;

• I look for best practices that are new to me;

• It is a way to keep up to date and on the pulse of what is current.

With Marc’s book, every one of these reasons applied. I find it difficult to understand why people managing practices and staff do not read such books. In this case this book is a must read for everyone who manages staff in any capacity.

Marc is an active consultant and has dealt with more than 1,000 firms. He also started accounting’s premier practice management survey that bears his name: the Rosenberg Survey. Marc knows what is going on and freely shares his observations, thoughts and opinions in this book. I am not going to tell you that I agree with everything he said, but I will say that I got a plethora of new ideas, best practices and new insights into staff management. Anyone reading this book would learn new ideas and best practices. Just one idea from this book can change hiring, retention and development practices at a firm and can add hundreds of thousands of dollars to a firm’s bottom line either annually or over a five- or 10-year period, depending upon the size of your firm. Think what 10 ideas can do! I identified more than 50 best practices that I believe firms should adopt.

A firm’s growth depends on proper and adequate staffing. In many cases improper staff management is the single biggest reason firms do not grow. Yet, little is done in the way of appropriate and directed hiring, training, mentoring and management. Turnover is a bane of the smaller firms while the larger firms seem to breed discontent with the profession.

People who leave a smaller firm laterally switch to another firm, while those who leave the larger firms leave public accounting. There is a multilevel common thread, and we all know what that is, yet many remain stuck in their pattern. Marc shows us how to break out of it and move forward for a stronger firm and happier professional life.

There is a temptation for me to list some of the many best practices Marc provides. However to do that would have me rewrite his book. But here is something to think about. A CPA firm’s largest expense and investment is for staffing. To get the best return for ourselves on those expenditures is to maximize the value we get.

Yet, very little is spent to insure the benefits we get from this. That spending can be in the form or mentoring (two hours every quarter), on-the-job training (a couple of hours every month), requiring less bruising hours during tax season (four or five hours less a week for the 10+ week tax season), equitable pay for overtime work during tax season (payment matching hours worked instead of vague “bonuses” at a later date), and demonstrating the benefits of remaining in public accounting with your firm (some open communication and a change in attitude by the owners). Marc shows you how to do all of this and so much more.

You owe it to yourself, your partners and staff to read this book and consider what Marc illustrates and to adopt some of his best practices.

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is on the Accounting Today Top 100 Influential People List. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz, published by www.CPATrendlines.com and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition,” published by the AICPA. Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com. Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or emendlowitz@withum.com.

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