by steven e. sacks, cpa
the new comprehensive handbook for accounting firms on applying practice-proven strategies to thrive in the new era of spinning change.
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gleaned from experience with hundreds of firms and a lifetime in the profession,“the new fundamentals”delivers:
- sharp insight,
- pragmatic guidance,
- hundreds of best practices,
- step-by-step procedures,
- easy-to-follow instructions,
- sample scripts for tough talks,
- indispensable checklists, and
- the essential metrics for success.
to help any firm go from merely good to awesomely great.
rave reviews for “the new fundamentals” by steven sacks
steve sacks’ experiences and knowledge make “the new! fundamentals” a “must read.”he has great content and thought leadership – and great insights on the past, present, and future!
– allan d. koltin, cpa, cgma, ceo, koltin consulting group inc., management consulting and mergers & acqusiitions services for cpa firms
i expected excellence, but this time i got so much more in “the new fundamentals.”with his many years of experience working with practice leaders and their staffs in all kinds of firms across the country, steve has a grasp on what makes a firm successful, rather than merely surviving. although the book was written before covid and a time when our world was very different, the concepts and examples steve presents are timeless. of course, firms must find new ways of doing business with their clients – and develop new ways of finding business – but the tried-and-true path of a firm has not changed. steve documents this in terrific detail, along with real-life situations. i love it that chapters are short and to the point, but more than that, steve doesn’t philosophize. instead, he presents scenarios that are actually happening in today’s firms. “the new fundamentals” ought to be required reading for any firm committed to success for now and in the long-term. congratulations, steve, on capturing life in today’s firm.”
– scott h. cytron, abc, president of cytron and co., strategic communications advisers
steve sacks shares his insights and perspectiveson the accounting profession in these short, easy-to-digest, impactful chapters. while intended primarily for high-potential staff, all leaders in a cpa (or law) firm will benefit from steve’s observations. those who have courage will not stop reading this book. they’ll change their perspectives on some issues and adopt some of the ideas found herein.
– lee eisenstaedt, founder of the leading with courage academy, which designs and facilitates leadership assessments, workshops, and coaching programs that enable individuals and teams to realize the possibilities of being more effective leaders.
steve’s combination of practical experience, future considerations and clear action steps,make this a book that every current and future firm leader needs to read.
–cheryl leitschuh, ed.d. is a leadership development consultant and specializes in personal and professional success. she is the author of the leadership energy: unlocking the secrets to your success.
steve always has practical advice frosted with provocative conceptsthat make us think about something on a higher level. he has the ability to bring the past into the present, reminding us of the roots from which we came and making sense of it in this world of change.
– judy trepeck, cpa is senior vice president of partnerships and customized training for the michigan association of cpas.
while steve agrees that technology is a key driver in the accounting profession, it still must take a backseat in importance to the human factor.steve’s identification of factors for personal and professional success serves as a valuable primer for both newer and young professionals who seek to advance in the profession, as well as a refreshing reminder for the mature practitioner. an important read for accounting professionals… for that matter, all professionals.
– nancy fox is the founder of the business fox through which she provides business coaching to high performing professionals and entrepreneurs. she is an acclaimed author, national speaker and online business educator helping people advance their business careers using unique business strategies and tactics.
few in the cpa profession have the breadth and knowledgeof the workings of a cpa firm from both the internal and external perspectives. steve is one of the few. his unique insight, knowledge, experience and ability brings to many the timely mentoring the profession needs at a time of dramatic and constant change.
– lon goforth, cpa was a lead executive for a nationally recognized and highly sought-after merger and acquisition firm that worked with cpa firms all over the country, many of which included top 100 firms as ranked by accounting today. lon is a popular speaker with state, regional and national accounting societies where he presents on mergers and acquisitions; leadership transition, practice growth, and succession planning.
steve is one of the most honest, down-to-earth peoplei have ever worked with, and i’ve learned much from him over our 25+ year relationship. this book reflects steve’s personality – he shoots straight, calls-it-like-it-is, and provides a reality check for cpas at various stages of their careers in public accounting. this is a book you can refer to over and over again as your career and firm/practice develop; take the nuggets you need at the time and revisit it again later.
– john morrow, cpa, has years of experience in firms ranging from big 4 firms to the small practitioner, covering audit, tax, and consulting. in addition to helping cpas in business and industry, john focuses his efforts on board governance and consults with companies on building boards, developing processes, eliminating board dysfunction and creating plans for a leadership transition.
steve identifies a variety of issuesfirms may run across and need to address. with his clean, crisp writing style, he has touched on some of the key challenges firms face. by pulling together a compendium of conundrums that firms need to consider it has some great stuff in it and will serve as a springboard for firms to do a deeper dive in determining what ails them.
– dominic cingoranelli, cpa, cgma, cmc, is executive vice president of consulting services for the succession institute, which helps cpa firms reach their goals through a variety of products and service offerings.
steve shows us that technical acumen alone will no longer sufficefor the next generation of accounting firms. this book is chock-full of useful tips and helpful examples collected from steve’s 25-plus years of experience working with dozens of accounting firms throughout the u.s. and around the globe. it offers guidance for building and maintaining the right culture, from the interview process through partnership. firm leadership looking to evaluate and improve their teams can learn a great deal from the information gleaned from these pages. these concepts are easy to grasp and implement, and often require little upfront costs other than time and commitment. cpas at all levels and generations can contribute to the betterment of a firm if you give them a chance.
– alexandra defelice, director of marketing and business development at payne & fears, a law firm based in southern california. she has also worked for an international association of accounting firms, served as the executive editor of the association for accounting marketing’s quarterly magazine, and has reported on trends in the accounting profession as a journalist for accounting today and the journal of accountancy.
part 1: the workplace
- the interview: a make or break proposition
- you want an open culture? let your employees share their thoughts
- strengthening your company’s screening practices
- the holy grail: finding the right talent
- performing like crap can be a badge of honor
- allocating firm resources: don’t forget your younger professionals
- creating a career path
- damocles sword: staff retention
- find innovative ways for staff advancement (and retention)
- the exit interview: a way to keep the door open
- the (lost) art of the interview
- motivation: just one key to employee retention
- retaining people: it all starts with the interview
- every new year: take a step back and reflect on your career
- set your staff on the right course
- knowledge maintenance
- knowledge maintenance: gaining employee understanding and support
- managing different personalities in the workplace
- have you gauged your staff’s enthusiasm?
- performance reviews: no need to pull teeth
- how engaged are your employees?
- improving job satisfaction
- getting and keeping the best: the battle continues
- working remotely should not mean feeling isolated
- fake it ’til you make it: an ultimate goal?
part 2. leadership and governance
- influence, don’t manipulate
- is trust elusive?
- real influence vs. immediate gratification
- there is no leadership without integrity
- trust is a key organizational ingredient
- is there a danger to conducting an executive performance review?
- confronting leadership: not such a bad thing
- selecting your firm’s or company’s board
- an effective board begins with an effective process
- does your firm’s board know its role?
- can you recite your firm’s mission statement?
part 3. communication
- creating effective internal communications
- cpa firms can benefit by a strong internal communication culture
- communicating properly can bring success. while the corollary introduces unintended consequences
- are we failing in our efforts to be understood?
- political correctness or just common courtesy?
- is your message open to interpretation?
- avoiding death by powerpoint
- voicemail still serves a purpose
- take that extra breath with email
- sharing is caring: exchanging knowledge has no downside
- have a real-life conversation
- make your press releases worth reading
- making presentations memorable
- etiquette never goes out of style
- we hear but do we really listen?
- written communication: make it count
part 4: operations
- the right decisions depend on managing the information overload
- how can change management really produce change?
- the myth of multi-tasking: more activity doesn’t mean better productivity
- staff orientation: a little investment goes a long way
- is your firm’s culture a magnet or a repellent?
- does busyness really mean productivity?
- another meeting?!?!… sigh
- swot’s the purpose?
- organizational change starts and ends with people
- a rapidly changing business environment requires flexibility
- being too busy: have you looked at how you manage your time?
- deadlines? ha! don’t make me laugh
- can a cpa firm be different in a changing market?
- bigger firm. bigger thinking.
part 5. business development
- reaching for authenticity in client service
- there’s no secret sauce for developing good business relationships
- engaging in business development activities should not be a chore
- you operate globally, so dispense with your own local tendencies
- you are a font of knowledge. so why aren’t you more successful?
- negotiate for success rather than a “win”?
- avoid last-minute deal-making
- effective networking is an art
- accounting firm protocols: are they implied or in writing?
- the future of the accounting profession
- strategic retreat facilitation
- new employee onboarding steps
bigger, better, faster
“the new fundamentals”addresses the elemental issues for accounting professionals, whether they are seasoned veterans or recent college graduates. it selects key topics, identifies vital issues, and offers a real-world view to understand and operate in today’s rapidly changing marketplace, spinning from new technologies, changing business practices, increasingly sophisticated client demands, and a more diverse and talented workforce.
for decades, accounting firms have been operating with long-established systems, practices, and processes that no longer work. competition, both domestically and globally, is forcing firms to get bigger, better, and faster. but conflicts are arising between adopting new approaches and balancing them against the “tried and true.”
business operations, work culture, technology, people, and many other change agents will drive university students and new and mid-career professionals to consider how to thrive in the new business world. beyond technology, it will be necessary for them to practice effective leadership and communication skills; to understand and appreciate cultural differences; to identify and manage priorities efficiently.
how the changing generations of leadership in the workplace will deal with their contemporaries may result in practices we have not yet seen. it remains uncertain if the traditional approaches will complement, or will conflict with new ways of governance and business practices.
to be sure, there will be those who will need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the second (or is it the third?) coming of the information age. there will be those who will embrace it. and there will be those who fall somewhere in the middle. it all depends on one’s outlook and attitude.
regardless of what the future holds, certain fundamental business practices and philosophies will remain, making this handbook particularly practical and relevant — now and in the years to come.
now, grab a pencil, take notes, and get going.
new rules for the real world
so many changes have taken place over the past 90 years, with technology being a significant component. but while technology has created efficiencies, improved operations, and increased profits, certain constants remain integral to operating a cpa firm. communication, leadership, interpersonal skills, and culture are still the building blocks that service firms need to exist and thrive.
“the new fundamentals“goes beyond technology to tackle the issues cpa firms and their new and mid-career professionals can’t ignore. the size of firms doesn’t matter, because the human factor is the real driver – emotion, behavior, trust, authenticity, ambition, and relationships.
some say, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
“the new fundamentals” says, “the more things change, the more important it is to maintain fundamental thinking.”
“the new fundamentals“dispenses with exotic, complex, or nebulous ideas, but instead targets what is timeless, tested, tried-and-true.
consider how eight-column accounting sheets have been replaced by software spreadsheets. but spreadsheet software is only a tool. and some firms have forgotten that success still requires honest communication, strong relationships, dedication to professional development, smart leadership, and a winning culture.
“the new fundamentals”separates the good from the not-so-good in operations, leadership, and culture. to be sure, there is no silver bullet. some firms are forward-thinking: they experiment with their finger on the pulse of the profession. on the other end of the spectrum, some firms can’t get out of their comfort zone. it’s only when a major event occurs – such as an exodus of partners to start their own practice, the loss of future stars, client defections, or the failure to attract new professionals — that leaders begin to ask the tough questions: how to stay relevant, and how to grow their firms, for the sake of their clients, their partners, their staff, and their legacies.
“the new fundamentals“provides observations and recommendations for firms of all sizes – and for professionals at any stage of their careers, from fresh out of college to the seasoned practice leader, owner, and partner – with real-world ideas for the new path to personal and professional success.
if“the new fundamentals“enables you to glean one or two ideas to apply in your daily work life, prompts you to share it with a friend or colleague, or helps to raise your awareness of the possibilities for success, then it will have accomplished its goal. read it and put it to work.
advice from a lifetime on the leading edge
about the author
steven sacks, cpa, cgma, abc,has been at the forefront of the accounting profession for nearly 30 years.
his involvement included the development of the first set of consulting standards, the creation of the accredited in business valuation credential, the publication of practice management guides and award-winning newsletters, and addressing business development and organizational management in both the public and private sectors.
he has served professional service firms and membership associations through the deliverance of leading-edge conferences, presented to colleges and universities on careers in accounting, and created workshops, webinars, and webcasts on a variety of accounting and consulting topics.
as the ceo and founder ofsolutions to results llc, steven assists professional service firms and organizations to solve the challenges of human capital development and culture and develop effective internal and external communication strategies and techniques.
previously, as executive director of moore stephens north america, he served cpa firms with conferences, webinars, workshops, various communication vehicles (including a multi-year, award-winning association newsletter), and a skills database for the development of domestic and international engagement referrals.
at the aicpa, he developed strategies and business plans for growing the consulting services membership section; published technical service and practice management guides; participated in the creation of the first set of standards for consulting services; led the creation of the accredited in business valuation credential; developed niche conferences in valuation, litigation support and forensic services; and presented to colleges and universities about cpa consulting careers.
printed in the u.s.a. softcover 6×9 inches. 293 pages.
the new fundamentals: practical guidance for today’s accounting firms