Today's Features

The Myths of Performance Management

Be careful what you measure, says management guru Gary Cokins

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With Steven Sacks

CPAs and finance leaders must start asking some really painful questions, according to Gary Cokins, an internationally recognized expert in performance management, in this interview with Steven Sacks for CPA Trendlines.

Questions like:

• Do we know where we make or lose money?
• Do our managers understand the strategy? The executives?
• Are we measuring the right things?

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Stop Beating Up the IRS – Really

Look what these people have been asked to do over the years, and thank them.

By Jon Baron, MBA
Co-Founder and Head of Strategy at Make the Connection Inc.

During my career, IRS employees have had to react to the largest tax change ever in the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 and multiple large bills in 1982 and ’83, and then very significant changes in ‘86. And there were many changes between then and now. Most were typically last-minute, retroactive bills that would generally not be acted upon until December which of course the IRS would have to implement literally within weeks for tax season.

MORE on TAX: Busy Season 2021 Gets Off to Weak Start | Team Expectations: A Checklist for Busy Season | You’re Not JUST Taxes | The Happier, Saner, Richer Tax Firm | SURVEY: A Glint of Optimism for 2021 | PPP Traps: 1 in 5 Accountants Report Shady Dealings | See more in Tax Season here

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Virtually every president has had their stamp on the tax code, including Obama with the Affordable Care Act in 2010. And then in 2017, the 4th largest bill ever in terms of tax cuts occurred on December 22. Lots of time to plan for tax season, right? And then there was the absurd political show of creating a “post-card sized” tax return to go along with it. That exercise created a massive amount of unnecessary work. It was insane, done for purely political reasons, and it benefited no one. Among other extra work, it added the requirement to create six new schedules. And by the way, it was pretty much scrapped two years ago.

Now let’s fast forward to 2020.


Imagine IRS ‘Concierge’ Service. Just Imagine.

Businesswoman arguing while talking on phoneWe know you’re shocked.

By CPA Trendlines Research

Here’s an idea: IRS Concierge Service.

Don’t laugh! It’s at thing. Well … almost a thing. It’s a proposal for a thing, a thing that could happen.

MORE: IRS Has Recruiting Problems, TooTeam Expectations: A Checklist for Busy Season | You’re Not JUST Taxes | The Happier, Saner, Richer Tax Firm | SURVEY: A Glint of Optimism for 2021 | PPP Traps: 1 in 5 Accountants Report Shady Dealings
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The notion was born of the Taxpayer First Act of 2019. The TFA requires the IRS to create a comprehensive customer service strategy and present it to Congress for approval. Part of the current proposal is for a “concierge service” for taxpayers. In this context, “concierge” means “a seamless journey.”

The Seven Essential Elements in Client Service

Businesswoman at desk smiling as she talks to manIf you think you’re really delivering advisory services, think again.

By Gary Bolinger

“The CPA Vision Project 2011 and Beyond,” launched by AICPA in 1999, was a landmark effort for an organization with 400,000 members. One of the results of the project was the definition of the core purpose for CPAs.

MORE: True Advisory Work Isn’t Just Consulting
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CPAs are the trusted professionals who enable people and organizations to shape their future. Combining insight with integrity, CPAs deliver value by:

  • Communicating the total picture with clarity and objectivity
  • Translating complex information into critical knowledge
  • Anticipating and creating opportunities
  • Designing pathways that transform vision into reality


How to Make Partner?

Don’t keep it a mystery: Six common mistakes.

By Marc Rosenberg
The Rosenberg Practice Management Library

Accounting firms worldwide are dealing with an enormously difficult challenge today – one that has topped every firm’s list of critical issues since the turn of the century and will continue to be a high priority for years to come. The vast majority of firms struggle with it. Failure to solve it causes hundreds of firms to merge out of existence every year.

MORE ROSENBERG: 10 Ways to Hold Partners Accountable | Five Ways to Evaluate Partners | Compensation Is No Way to Manage Partners | 4 Big Issues That Firms Face | Make Sure Partners Focus on Two Things | Manage Partners with Goal Setting | Clarify Partner Expectations | How the Managing Partner Manages the Partners |

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The “it” is, of course, succession planning, with difficulties rooted in a perfect storm of causes:

  • The huge number of baby boomer partners nearing or reaching retirement age, coupled with …
  • An acute shortage of younger people with the desire and the skills to succeed them, accompanied by …
  • CPA firms’ historical weakness at retaining staff and developing them into leaders and future partners. Evidence of this is the fact that 80 percent of first-generation firms never make it to the second.


Seven Ways to Win the Talent Wars

How small firms can beat the staffing shortage.

By Frank Stitely
The Relentless CPA

The following story brought tears to my eyes while I sat in a Barbados resort drinking some alcohol concoction. Was it the alcohol talking or the happy ending where I got a profit distribution check? Maybe a little of both.

MORE: Who’s Your Most Valuable Employee? | How to Implement the Laziness Equation | The Happier, Saner, Richer Tax Firm | ‘Quick Questions’ and Other Client Sins | How to Train Clients | Avoiding Projects Hung Up in Process | When Clients Create Errors
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The afternoon before I left for beautiful Barbados, the partner group of our outsourced accounting practice met for a state of the practice meeting conducted by our director of outsourced accounting.

FireEye Network Audit Tool Targets SolarWinds Hackers

FireEye exhibit backdropHacking techniques described as “detectable and defensible.”

By Rick Richardson

Cybersecurity firm FireEye has released a report detailing the techniques used by the SolarWinds hackers inside the networks of companies they breached.

MORE TECH THIS WEEK: Space Factories! DARPA Launches New Program | Digital Era Drives Brick-and-Mortar Boom in Data Centers | Drone Delivery One Step Closer to Reality with New FAA Rules | 5G Delivered Via Hydrogen-Powered Aircraft | Will Fast Charging Become Tomorrow’s Gas Station? | Add Live Captions to Your Zoom Meeting
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With the report, FireEye researchers have also released a free tool on GitHub named Azure AD Investigator that they say can help companies determine if the SolarWinds hackers (also known as UNC2452) used any of these techniques inside their networks.

Clubhouse: Hottest New Social Platform or Just More Noise?

Clubhouse screen shots showing interests users can follow and explore.

Who it’s for and tips for use.

By Sandi Leyva

Have you ever said to yourself, “I’d love to be a fly on the wall in *that* room?”

Or, “I’d love to be in the same room with so-and-so celebrity?”

So far, in the last few weeks, I’ve been in the same room with Andrew Sorkin and Bill Gates discussing Bill’s new book on climate change, 10 billionaires holding their own mastermind group, Katie Couric, Guy Kawasaki, Tory Burch, and a gazillion VCs who seem to be in every room all day long. And I never left my recliner.

How? Clubhouse. The newest, hottest social app.

MORE ON SMALL-FIRM GROWTH STRATEGIES: Who’s Offering Your Clients PPP Services? | PPP Client Fraud: How Much Risk Is Too Much? | Survey: Who’s Not Billing for PPP Services? | Add These Money-Making Rituals to Your Work Day
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In a nutshell, Clubhouse is an audio-only platform where you can start a room based on a topic and others can join the room and conversation. You can bring people up to the “stage” who have raised their hands. The platform supports multiple languages, and at any one time, you can see rooms in Russian, Spanish, Mandarin, German, and several I don’t recognize. I’ve been in a room with a person from Mongolia. Who can say they’ve met someone from Mongolia?

Deliver Internal Reports Digitally

Abstract illustration of binary data flowYes, even to the owners.

By Roman H. Kepczyk

Improving firm efficiency means that the owners have to get on board. One of the more obvious opportunities is the delivery of the firm’s own financial reports. Many firms still print a hard copy of the monthly financials and distribute them to each owner, many of whom physically store these documents in a binder or drawer in their office.

MORE: Why Daily T/E Entry Matters | The Case for Digital Auditing | Teach Your Clients to Send Info Digitally | The 4 Buckets of Firm Knowledge | Internet Bandwidth: How Much Is Enough? | Why You Need Windows 10 with Automatic Updates | Laptops vs. Desktops
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Most firms consider these documents confidential and yet copies are distributed throughout the office, many of which are not secured. A better solution is to set up an “owner’s drawer” on the firm’s portal or document management system and post one copy of the monthly financial statements when they are ready.