2019: Why Small Firms Shun Mergers

Leadership and "business-getting skills" emphasized for managers.

By Rita Keller
The Rosenberg Survey: National Study of CPA Firm Statistics

When considering a succession plan that involves merging up, some very well-managed and profitable smaller firms actually feel like they are taking a step backward.

MORE FROM THE MAP SURVEY: 2019: Using M&A to Launch Consulting | 2019: Client Service Moves to Fore | 2019: Shifts in Hiring & Office Space
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They view the larger, acquiring firm as having multiple partners who seem complacent and unwilling to invest in digital tools that will take the firm into the future. Decision-making is way too slow.


SURVEY: Clients Disappear, Niches Blossom

Young businesswoman speaking with clientAre you living your stated culture?

By Rita Keller
Rosenberg MAP Survey

One thing that really stood out for me about 2016 was the number of former clients and other CPA firms I have known over my many years in the profession that are disappearing. They have merged up.

MORE FROM THE MAP SURVEY: Tiered Partnerships? It's Happening | Extending Retirement Turns off Future Leaders | Leadership Taking Different Forms | Technology Evolving Faster Than Accounting Firms | Succession Issues Stalling Some M&A
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The M&A activity has, of course, been going on for many years now and it is just another form of growth, but it really hit me during this last 12 months when I looked at my long list of clients and identified the ones who are no longer in existence.

Eliminate Mystery through Communication and Inclusion

Focused businessman and businesswoman writing and discussing business graphOr flipped, why are you keeping secrets?

By Rita Keller

Improved communication can be achieved with many different approaches. Some tactics may primarily affect intra-firm understanding and teamwork, while others focus more on increasing clarity and frequency of communications with clients. No matter where they are directed, when these efforts are successful they benefit the firm and its clients alike.

MORE: Growing, Developing Future Leaders Is a Two-Way Street | They Don’t Want to Be Owners! | The Culture of Continuous Improvement | A Winning Culture Is an Intentional Culture | A Call for Change: An Open Letter to Each Generation
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When I begin to work with a new CPA firm client, one of the most common issues I encounter is the lack of open, honest, ongoing communication between firm leadership and team members.

SURVEY: Accounting Profession Demands Swift Change

Two businessmen talking across a deskNew employees want to see their career paths mapped out.

By Rita Keller
The Rosenberg MAP Survey

Many firms continued to struggle with workflow issues. Smaller firms have not invested in software tools that can greatly enhance productivity.

MORE FROM THE SURVEY: Talent Wars, M&A Frenzy Continue | Next-Gen Leaders Getting Restless | Mergers Keep Racing Forward  | Do You Have a Firm or a Co-op? | Accountability, Equity, Compensation Are Concerns | MAP Survey Top 10 Findings | CPA Firm Revenues Rise a Hefty 8%
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When it comes to various software solutions, the constant chant by many practitioners in small to mid-size firms is that “it’s too expensive.” Many firms have not budgeted nearly enough money for technology.

2016 Battleground: Aging Leaders vs. Emerging Leaders

2016-ROUNDTABLE-OUTLOOK-FOR-ROSENBERG-MAP-COMMENTARY-VF-240x219There's no time left to procrastinate about the firm's future.

They say "past results are no indication of future performance." Maybe. Maybe not. But if anyone should know, it's our panel of experts, their comments drawn from the new edition of The Rosenberg MAP Survey. These are their bullet points and comments, verbatim, looking back at the last 12 months and looking ahead to 2016. – Rick Telberg, CEO

By Rita Keller
Keller Advisors

Lessons from 2015:

While the talent wars continue to rage, during the last 12 months I have seen a lot more aggressiveness from firms seeking lateral hires.

MORE FROM THE ROSENBERG MAP SURVEY: Private Clouds on the Rise | Firms Growing, Still Face Talent Challenges | Outlook 2016: Another Economic Storm Coming? | How Succession Issues Are Driving Desperation Mergers | Outlook 2016: Change Catches Up with Auditors | Strategic Plans Undermined by Out-of-Control Partners | Growth, Succession Plans Critical for Firms | Talent Wars Go from White Gloves to Boxing Gloves|Trend Outlook 2016: Change Agents Needed

If you are an experienced CPA with a niche focus and a successful track record you are more than likely being courted by several firms.

2014 Roundtable: Firms that ‘Get’ Women Stand to Win the Talent Wars

2014 Top Trends logo vF

On new leaders, staffing, ex-partners, and four new predictions.

by Rita Keller


Women — The area of retaining and promoting females in public accounting continues to be a big challenge for many firms.

I like to compare it to life, in general. Men always have been and continue to be puzzled by women. In the business world, there have been many great books written to help women better fit into the game of business. The much talked about book "Lean In" by Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) is an example. The biggest challenge in public accounting is getting women and men to read such books. READ MORE →

Six Reasons You Don’t Want to Be the Boss

Life changes when you move up the ranks.


After years of coaching partners and partners-in-waiting, Sam Allred of Upstream Academy knows a thing or two about what it takes to succeed as you climb the executive ladder at an accounting firm.

But rarely has he put it so succinctly. The skills you need in the new job are hardly like the skills that got you there. Executive-level leadership bears little resemblance to being a good partner or manager.

Allred offers Six Things Leaders Need to Do When You Become a Partner. Think twice about whether you really want the job.

  1. Give up The Right to Remain Silent - When you become a partner, you must speak up - not nod your head and then go door-to-door after the meeting talking to the other partners. Not speaking up, in the proper forum, creates artificial harmony.
  2. Keep an Open Mind - Learn how to listen and question before deciding and acting.
  3. You Give Up The Right to Make All Decisions - Sole-practitioners don't need to worry. But when you join a partnership, you give up that right.
  4. Learn to Make the Proper Commitment - Saying or thinking, "I will stay out of the way" is not making commitment. It's a case of "grudging compliance" vs. "spirited commitment."
  5. Willingness to Get Outside Your Comfort Zone - You cannot stand still. Becoming partner doesn't mean you "made it" and now you can coast. You must keep moving, maybe faster and bolder than ever.
  6. You Become a Leader for Change - They hired you to do things differently, or better. Change is the mandate. You must be in front of it.

via Rita Keller

Who’s that with Rita Keller?

Rita Keller With Elvis

Yesterday, in "The Three Ms of Success for CPA Firms," I wrote about business icon Herb Kelleher's reputation for chain-smoking, Wild Turkey whiskey and his "dressing up as Elvis."

And I added, "As for the Keller I know, she does none of those things. But she does know a thing or two about how a successful accounting firm works."

Well, here's something new about the Rita Keller I know. She gleefully sends along this picture and this note:

Here's a picture of me a few years back at a firm open house with a 50s theme.  I was a pink lady from Grease.

By the way, visit Rita online at

www.ritakeller.com and

Three Ms of Success for CPA Firms

What Rita Keller teaches us from Southwest Airlines' legendary founder.

by Rick Telberg

It's been a rollercoaster ride in the past few years, with firms at first drowning in work, followed by a crippling staff shortage, then a market crash and belt-tightening, then re-expansion with a broadly profitable busy season. So a few weeks of peace and quiet this summer could seem appealing to staff and management alike.

But management guru Rita Keller is here to tell you that you can't afford much rest. "There's work to do," she says about cleaning up rusty and outmoded CPA firm management practices. Keller has a message for firms to focus on marketing, mentoring and managing — the three Ms.


‘Next Gen’ CPA Firm? “Now We’re Talking…”

...says famed practice management consultant Rita Keller.

Talking about "New Rules for the Next Generation Accounting Firm," Rita writes in Comments:

Now we’re talking. I absolutely agree that in the next 10 to 15 years (probably even sooner) we will not recognize the CPA firm of today.

CPA firms have, and continue to, evolve – especially in the use of technology. However, it has been a fairly slow and methodical change. The progressive partners often have to drag the old timers along and that’s hard work. The least the slow-adapters could do would be to pick up their feet (not drag them in the dust to slow things down).

It will take better, smarter, more proactive management from all owners, not just the managing partner. While CPA leaders are indeed very smart and caring human beings and great advisors to business owners, most of them have never received advanced education or even CPE in advanced people skills (soft skills, like listening, coaching, motivating and mentoring). A big factor, just my opinion, is that they absolutely LOVE the numbers, the tax work and auditing. They do not LOVE dealing with “green” new hires.

As the Boomers retire, the next generation of leaders will create organizations that are more nimble and open to continual change and new ideas. They will not get new clients at a Chamber networking event, they’ll get them from Facebook and from blogging. They will keep in touch with referral sources on-line, not at lunch.

To play upon your comment about Blumer’s father, the evolution will occur naturally and rather slowly and the current model will become extinct when some current owners take a hike (no disrespect intended).

As you can tell, I feel strongly about this. I’m going to blog about it today.

And she does, read about the "Possibilities" here...

Rita Keller on: The Staffing Crisis

How to encourage and celebrate CPA exam candidates.

by Rita Keller
Brady Ware

Many firms, especially the large nationals and regional's, have so much work that they do not want their young accountants taking time away from billable work to devote to study and passing the exam. Simply put, client needs come before staff development needs.

However, I am seeing many of the Top 100 firms now beginning to re-emphasize the importance of the exam.

At Brady Ware we did a complete re-engineering of our performance management and advancement policies and procedures. One aspect is that accounting graduates entering the firm have two years from their employment date to pass the CPA exam. "We are a CPA firm, we need CPAs," stated Gary Adamson, Managing Director.

To reinforce the firm's commitment, we offered more generous benefits to support their efforts at passing the exam. Those who had been at the firm but had not passed the exam were given a two-year window.

The accountants actually thanked us for giving them the boost they needed and they appreciated the extra perks. We are nearing the end of the two-year grandfather period and have many success stories. Their progress is closely monitored and communicated throughout the firm. We celebrate each section passed!

Tough Love or Team Play?

Maybe they're both right!

rita-keller-photo-mug.jpgmark-bailey-07.jpgMark Bailey (pictured at left) at Mark Bailey & Co. and Rita Keller (pictured at right) at BradyWare are having a spirited discussion about ranking employees based on performance and value to the firm, and then being frank with them about where they stand in the rankings.

Rita agrees with the Moss Adams method, and quotes CEO Bob Bunting as saying: READ MORE →