John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker LLC
It’s getting close to bonus time for a lot of business valuation professionals. And it’s normal to see a bonus as a ‘how-much-do-they-really-love-me?’ metric. Love being love, of course, applying that metric that only provokes an endless guessing game.
Your first problem is knowing the difference between ‘that’s not enough love’ and ‘that’s not as much love as I would have liked, but it’ll do’. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a number below which you walk. It does mean, however, that once you’ve hit some level of satisfaction all you can get is better. Not that there’s anything wrong with better; especially when it translates to a bigger bonus check.
It can be even trickier to know how much ‘love’ is enough when you don’t know how the practice accumulates love, or what their plans are for sharing it at year end. Interestingly, three-quarters of the firms which participated in our recent salary survey didn’t have a formal bonus compensation program.
Multiple years of history in cashing bonus checks from a particular employer can tell you that the allocation system is fair, even if it’s a little ‘black-box’ in nature. It’s when that history has no rhyme or reason that things can get dicey.
That uncertainty can be fed by the cautiousness and cost-cutting that are the residue of the recession. Practices inside CPA firms, especially, can be affected. What happens in your shop when BV profitability outshines other departments? Or even when your production outshines others’ in the practice?
At the very least, you should seek answers to your questions about how bonuses are determined; which factors you can control, and which you can’t. If the answers are too fuzzy, there’s no reason not to ask about plans to give the process some further definition.
Speculating about bonuses is water-cooler conversation. But, if you’re at the actual point of concern for what your bonus might be, though, it might be time to think about a change so you’re not concerned about the same thing this time next year.