Establish a Work Culture to Develop Your CPA Firm
The Green Apple Podcast does weekly “Green Apple Slices”, where John Garrett and Rachel Fisch discuss a recent business article related to the Green Apple Message. These shorter segments are released each Monday, so don’t miss an episode by subscribing on iTunes or an Android app.
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John: Good morning and happy Monday. It’s John Garrett coming to you with another episode of Green Apple Slices. And I have with me from somewhere in Canada the Accountants Group Leader for Canada in Sage, Rachel Fisch.
Rachel: Hey, John. How are you?
John: Where are you?
Rachel: I am actually finally on my way home after a very long week on the road going to Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Victoria, New Westminster, Vancouver. I think I hit all the cities. Anyway, so this was the Western Canada leg of the Accounting Technology Tour. So very excited to be representing Sage there.
John: Well, that’s exciting. Very cool. And I am actually heading to the airport myself to fly to Denver. I’ll be speaking at the Colorado CPA Society’s Make a Difference Annual Dinner. So I’m excited to be heading to Denver. And it’s going to be a lot of fun.
But until then, we’ve always talked about an article every week. This one is a really good one. It was in the AccountingWEB written by a Dominic Diongson. It’s an article about Wesley Middleton, who’s going to be a guest on the podcast coming up. I’ve talked to him. He’s with a great firm, MRZ in Houston. So he spoke at CCH User Conference in San Francisco just recently.
John: And yeah, he had some really cool things to say.
Rachel: He did. And I always love it when technology and accounting come together. So basically, he starts off by talking about if Google has this world-renowned culture and if Apple has this world-renowned culture, we’re starting to see those kind of sip in from the technology industry into the professional services and accounting industry. I think maybe you know something about that.
John: Yes, that is exactly what I talk about every time I go to a firm and a conference.
Rachel: All the time.
John: Yeah, absolutely. I mean you don’t have to be crazy like Apple and paint walls weird colors and have scooters everywhere and ping pong tables.
John: It doesn’t have to be quite like that, but it’s just being genuinely interested in the people that are there. It’s really that simple. Because if you put up ping pong tables and no one likes to play ping pong, well, you just kind of wasted a lot of money. So yeah. I also love how he says, you can be the smartest person and the best CPA on the planet, but if you don’t fit the culture, then it’s just not going to work.
Rachel: Yeah. He even mentions a story of when a partner had to let go, I’m sure their billable hours were amazing, I’m sure that all of the things that is normally expected of CPAs were bang on, but basically it came down to they didn’t fit.
John: Right, absolutely. It’s just something where you have to define the culture and then just make it a priority. His definition of a cool culture is his five P’s which are place, people, passion, purpose, and practices. So the places where we work, the people who we work with, passion and energy is how we go about the office and interact with each other. There’s purpose and then the practices are the things that we do and the actions that we take everyday
Rachel: Yeah. And I actually thought were really good because these five P’s go along really nicely with the — oh, gosh, now I have to remember. It was a few weeks ago, we did the three things and the last one was rituals. Do you remember that one?
John: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
Rachel: Yeah. So these five P’s kind of fit exactly into what these three other elements were ways that you could improve your culture and things like that. Now one of the things that I don’t love is that they’re kind of marrying the thought of the open workspace with an advanced culture.
Rachel: Can I tell you how much I love that?
John: Right. We’ll do a survey to see about the open workspace. It would just drive both of us crazy.
Rachel: Right. Because I get that you need open spaces, you need collaborative spaces, you need spaces where you’re going to run into the people that you work with and you’re going to be able to connect with them like, for example, their decision to put the kitchen near the front of the building so you could grab your coffee or grab a coffee for clients and it turned into this meeting place. I just think that’s, in some cases, depending on the personalities of who you’re hiring, then that may not actually produce the best results. So I’m not going to say that those two things go hand in hand. I still do think that you need to make sure that you’re creating environment for your staff that makes them the most productive. And that isn’t always an open floor plan.
John: Right, exactly. Because then you wouldn’t have to send the surveys because you could just see everybody. “Raise your hand if you’re unhappy.”
Rachel: But there are a couple of really great things here. One is the citing the low turnover. And this kind of got me thinking, what is an acceptable turnover rate? Like you’re always going to get some but at what point do you say, “I think we might have a problem”? Or what is an average turnover rate for professional services or for accounting firms? So how do you know when you’re actually doing things well? So he actually said the low turnover and high job application rate is kind of proving that they’re doing this right because lots of people want to work there and fewer people want to leave there. So I think that those are two great measureables.
John: Exactly. I thought the biggest thing was just how he talked about how the biggest difference and the biggest change had to be made himself from the inside out, any sort of negative attitudes or any dread he had heading to the office each day. He just had to choose every day to have that positive attitude. And especially as the managing partner of the firm, people look up to you and your attitude is definitely infectious. So yeah, I think it’s great.
Rachel: For sure. I also thought it was really insightful when he said that the CPAs weren’t trained to be leaders. I thought that for being a CPA himself, I could see maybe a few CPAs going, “What?” I thought that was actually pretty bold to kind of admit that throughout the education process or the articling or all of those training things that you go through as a CPA, those things don’t necessarily train you to be a leader. They train you to do audits. They train you to maximize your billings, all of those types of things, how to take care of clients possibly, but may not necessarily actually teach you how to lead. So this is why I think continuing professional development makes sense to make sure that you’re leading your staff. All of these things that he’s learned about culture and engagement, I swear to you, he did not learn that at his university.
John: Oh, not at all. Not at all. It’s definitely trial and error and just being willing to take a risk on that. Yeah, absolutely. My accounting degree and background taught me how to go into comedy. So you know, I have that.
So there we go, everybody. Be sure to go to greenapplepodcast.com if you would like to read the full article on AccountingWEB, or check us out on Twitter @GreenApplePod or @FischBooks or I’m @RecoveringCPA. And hit Subscribe so you don’t miss any of the episodes every Wednesday. It’s a long interview, one on one with someone who’s got a hobby or a passion. And every Mondays, it’s me and Rachel Fisch. So have a good rest of the week.
Rachel: You too, John.
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