Tracy Crevar Warren
Tracy Crevar Warren

CPA ‘Super Heroes’ Prevail Over Uncle Sam

How are you celebrating?

April 12, 2010
by Tracy Crevar Warren

Now that the April 15th countdown is in its final days, many firms are planning celebrations to mark their triumph over Uncle Sam. As the nation struggles to recover from its economic woes, firm leaders are seeing an even greater importance in recognizing the valiant efforts of hardworking CPAs who have performed like ‘super heroes’ for their clients this busy season.

Even Super Heroes Need Reinforcement

“The business environment is so tumultuous that we feel it is important to celebrate every success creating a positive internal environment. We are focusing on the things we can control and that includes how our employees feel about our company and how they feel about coming to work every day.” said Ronald L. Belliston, managing member of Twin Falls, Idaho-based CPA firm Cooper Norman.

“Our firm has experienced this current economic downturn right along with our clients. In spite of the rough year, our staff has risen to the challenge of cutting costs and all the ‘doing more with less’ that goes with it.” remarked Lee Beall, CEO of the Ohio-based accounting and business consulting firm, Rea & Associates. “They’ve continued to work hard for our clients and each other and they continue to share their enthusiasm about our firm with each other and everyone who walks in the door. For those reasons, it’s especially important to recognize all their efforts. We’re also celebrating the success of our Lean Six Sigma efforts, which have helped streamline and shorten our tax processing time and allowed our team to work more effectively.”

Even super heroes need reinforcement and praise and more so this year than ever before. Most have had to do more with less, often much less. Not only do they work hard each day to serve clients, but they are the engines that drive your firm’s profitability. Without proper recognition, their level of engagement can weaken or worse, they can consider changing firms unless they feel they are part of a team that truly cares about them and their contributions.

How Are You Celebrating?

“Every year, we have an after-tax season party to celebrate our team’s success,” said Robert Tiberi, managing partner at the Midwest-based CPA firm, Legacy Professionals LLC. “We continue to be grateful to our people for their dedication to our firm and our clients. It’s important to take time out to just enjoy being together and have some laughs. When you get right down to it, we have a great time together and that’s what makes our team so successful.”

“At Aronson & Company [Rockville, MD-based accounting and consulting firm], we always plan a special event for the entire firm to celebrate the end of busy season, said Lisa Cines, managing partner. “This year, in consideration of the unusual winter weather, we have a Maui Waui Beach Bash themed party scheduled for April 15th and a much-deserved day off on the following Friday. It's a simple but effective way to demonstrate to the entire firm that we appreciate and acknowledge the special sacrifice that people in our industry make during this time." 

“Because we have 11 offices, the celebrations vary by office,” said Beall. “Some of our offices will be closing early. Others are having a formal dinner for staff and their spouses. The following are some of the highlights:

  • Dinner and/or drinks after work.
  • Late lunch followed by a corn-hole tournament.
  • Closing early afternoon to head to a local restaurant for snacks, drinks, euchre and Wii, followed by a dinner and humorous tax season awards.
  • Steak fry on April 16. There will be games and prizes before heading over to an employee’s farm for a bonfire and S’mores.”

Recognizing the Team

“Cooper Norman recognizes that small amounts of effort can produce amazing results therefore, we recognize our staff each week by providing treats, lunches, prizes and recognition during the weekly staff meetings for a job well done.” said Elina DiCostanzo, Cooper Norman director of marketing.

“One of the traditions that we started many years back is our After Tax Season Awards, which take place at our after-tax season party. We collect award category ideas from everyone for many weeks leading up to the party and then the week before, everyone casts their votes for the nominees. One award we present as part of this tradition is the Thomas W. Havey Spirit Award, said Julie Tucek, marketing director at Legacy Professionals LLP. “This award is an honor, celebrating the person who most embodies the spirit of our firm’s founder, Thomas W. Havey. Mr. Havey has even presented the award at a number of the parties. There are also some very funny awards that change from year to year given out at the event,” she added.

“With the business environment becoming more intense and competitive, the marketing department was charged with creating a festive diversion. This year’s Amazing Race to April 15th has allowed our staff to focus on customer service internally and externally,” explained Kym Mowery, a marketing director at Cooper Norman. “The staff was divided into teams and received points for tasks, responsibilities and leadership areas such as a two-week turnaround on jobs, communicating directly with clients either face-to-face or on the phone (not just in e-mails), communicating with the clients before they picked up their returns so that there weren’t any surprises and creating hours of new charge time. Points were tallied on a weekly basis. Prizes were distributed to the winning teams each week and a grand prize will be awarded on April 15th. It has not only been a great way to recognize the team, but a fun change of pace from the daily grind. The best part — it is working! Our clients have been WOW-ed on how quickly their work has been turned around this year.”

“While we don’t have firm-wide tax season recognition, we do have a firm-wide employee recognition program called the 212 and Then Some Awards that normally receives a higher number of nominees this time of year,” Beall remarked. “The awards program is based on the book of the same title, which follows the principal that at 211 degrees water boils, but at 212 degrees it becomes steam, strong enough to power a locomotive. The book and the employee-recognition program, encourages our staff to recognize team members who go that extra degree to help their co-workers, their clients and their community. Activities like helping an elderly client with their taxes by going to their home to gather documents or helping a client prepare a proposal for a new business are some of the things our people help clients with during tax season that go above and beyond [the call of duty]. Our awards program provides immediate recognition for the employee as well as annual recognition during a firm-wide event each year.”

Take Time to Celebrate

Even CPA super heroes need to celebrate — especially this year. Before you move on to the next big challenge, gather the team, say thanks and take a few moments to revel in your victories. Enjoy, you deserve it!

How is your team celebrating this year? Let Tracy know.

Rate this article 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor). Send your responses here.

Tracy Crevar Warren is the founder of The Crevar Group. She is a sought-after consultant, facilitator, author and speaker. Her practical, results-oriented approach helps professional services firms build more profitable practices. She advises clients on practice growth, culture development, sales and marketing. She inspires and empowers local, regional, national and international audiences to grow their practices by doing more of the work they love. Warren can be reached at 336-889-GROW (4769).