Should I stay or should I go?
Several months ago, I got an e-mail from a young CPA asking my advice about whether he should stay with his firm,
or leave to start his own. He was depressed.
He had lost respect for his partners during the
recession, when the firm made what seemed
like overreaching layoffs. In addition, they’d
stripped away perks like telecommuting that
he and many of his colleagues valued. And at
the end of 2009, the firm leaders quietly celebrated a “very profitable year.” Deeply saddened by this behavior at a firm he once loved,
he wondered if it was time to move on.
For every e-mail like his, I’m certain there
are hundreds of other CPAs and support pro-
fessionals considering the question, “Should
I stay or should I go?”
Employee morale in many firms is at an
all-time low. Employees feel uncertain, and
uncertainty breeds fear. “If I’m not billing
more,” they wonder, “will I be fired?” But
without more work, they can’t bill more, so
they feel trapped.
In an effort to help their firms — and themselves — they’re heeding partners’ advice to
“Network more! Get out there and develop
business!” But for many left-brained CPAs,
doing right-brained “people stuff” doesn’t
come naturally. And the lights in the training department have been dimmed, leaving
many on their own to figure it out.
And then there’s the eerie silence from
the CEO or managing partner’s office. When
leaders aren’t sure what to say to their firms,
many don’t say anything at all.
Now the tide is shifting.
In 2009, Deloitte released a report on the
impending “Resume Tsunami.” In February of this year, the voluntary turnover rate
in the labor force increased. This is generally accepted as a leading indicator that job
seekers feel greater confidence in the market.
The three crucial
BY REBECCA RYAN
Today, many firms are scrambling, trying to
stop bleeding talent who’ve had enough and
are leaving for other firms.
If you’re considering leaving your firm,
here are three questions to ask before you
head for the exit.
any credit in front of his peers, your fate may
be sealed, especially if that joker is not going
anywhere soon. (And really, what other firm
would want him?)
WHAT DO YOU REALLY WANT?
Some CPAs just want to come into work, do
a good job, and go home. They don’t want to
climb the corporate ladder. They don’t care
about becoming partner. They’re quite happy
to make senior manager, do good work, and
sleep well at night.
If this is you, you may be happy in even the
crappiest firm, as long as you’re left alone.
But if this isn’t you, you need to ask yourself
what your career goals are and how you are
going to power towards them. Every partner
whom I admire proactively set themselves
on a course to become a leader in their firm.
WHAT’S REALLY EATING AT YOU?
This is a tough one, because by the time you
reach the point where you’re seriously considering leaving your firm, so many things
have piled up in your psyche that it’s hard to
pull them apart.
Here are some other questions that can
help you tease out the root cause(s) of your
When your stomach aches about work,
what’s going on? Who’s involved? What’s
What would make you feel better about
Who could you talk to who could help
sort things out, and give you wise counsel?
Often, what we really need is clarity. And to
Employee morale in many
firms is at an all-time low.
They were clear about their goal, had a plan,
and developed the skills and relationships to
power them along.
So ask yourself, what do you really want?
Can your current firm provide the experiences and relationships to get you there? If
yes, get your plan together and start working it. If no, start looking for a firm that can
... and will.
Rebecca Ryan is a consultant who helps
progressive firms develop and keep their
top talent. You can reach her at (888) 922-
9596 ext. 702 or rr@nextgenerationconsult-
WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF YOU STAY?
Dreams of leaving your firm may be alluring
— especially if there’s a recruiter involved.
The recruiter is painting the picture of a
brighter future at another firm. It’s their job.
Your job is to assess the merits of leaving
versus the merits of staying. Ask yourself, “If
I stay with this firm, what’s likely to happen
Many times, how you’ve been treated in
the past is a good predictor of how you’ll be
treated in the future. For example, if you’re
routinely asked to lead critical initiatives,
you’re likely to continue to be asked to do
that. But if you work for a demented partner
who treats you like crap and never gives you
get clarity, you have to get to the core issues
that are making your situation uncomfort-
able. Once you’ve identified the core issues,
you have three choices:
What does it take for women to advance
in accounting? The Accounting MOVE
Project is finding the answer — and has
come to some insightful conclusions.
For one, many firms have extensive
support and work-life programs in place
for working parents during busy season.
Yet they do a terrible job communicating
this, perpetuating the stereotype that ac-
counting firms are unfriendly to women.
Last year, the project — co-sponsored
by the American Society of Women Accountants and the American Woman’s
Society of CPAs — introduced an
inaugural report to measure and support
the advancement of women at public
accounting firms, with the goal of equipping firm leaders and women with practical strategies.
Wilson-Taylor Associates, the firm
that released the inaugural report of the
Accounting MOVE Project, is looking for
firms to participate in their sophomore
effort — one that will focus on Gen Y
women, the partnership pipeline and
Last year, the project found that 51
percent of firm employees were women,
and that they make up 49 percent of all
managers. The ceiling, however, is at
the senior-manager level, where women
comprise 40 percent of senior managers
and 17 percent of partners.
The report also found that firms often
overlook women’s aptitude for business
development. Let’s say it together out
loud: Women can and do bring in new
Firms of all sizes are encouraged to get
involved. Registration for the 2011 survey,
which is due out in mid-April, is now
open at www.wilson-taylorassoc.com.
be accepted into
the earlier you get
it in, the better.
forward to the
future here at
Accounting Tomorrow. Are you? Tell
us your predictions
— Liz Gold