Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category

Friday, August 21st, 2015

Clients See Accountants As Reactive Rather Than Proactive

drewRead a good article by Jeff Drew, a JofA senior editor on the JofA site: Competitive edge: The software vendors’ view.

For years we have been talking with practitioners about being proactive. Most tell us they are caught in the “reactive” trap because they are too busy to plan ahead. They are always putting out fires. Poor excuse.

Here’s an excerpt from the article.

Clients will be looking for help interpreting data and developing strategies for success—a view echoed in the most recent report by The Sleeter Group on what small and midsize businesses want from their CPAs, which found that the top reason clients leave their accounting firm is that it did not provide proactive advice. A recent poll of 393 small business leaders by hardware and software provider Wasp Barcode similarly showed that more than 4 in 10 complained that their accountants are more reactive than proactive.

  • You are what you do, not what you say you'll do.
  • Carl Jung

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Be Sure Your Firm Is Flying!

I read this quote in the Wright Brothers book and I thought of all of my CPA firm friends….

IMG_1568 - Version 2“Keep thy airspeed up, lest the earth come up and smite thee.” – William Kershner, pilot and author of numerous flight manuals between 1958 and 2002 that are regarded as “a must for any person learning to fly.

How are you doing at keeping your firm’s “airspeed” up? Some firms continually struggle with implementation. I almost always tell my audiences that what I am about to share with them is the same thing consultants have been sharing with them for about 20 years! There are some variations and of course some current trends but the basic concepts remain the same. Here are a few:

  • Treat your people well and they will take great care of your clients.
  • Hire the best, don’t settle for mediocre people. As Jack Welch says, “The team with the best players wins.”
  • Embrace change!
  • Embrace practice development (marketing, sales, building relationships).
  • Get rid of the bad apples (they ruin the whole barrel) – – applies to clients and staff.
  • Hold partners accountable.
  • Your admin team can make you or break you.
  • Try things! Do things! Take action!

I want your firm to feel the exhilaration of flight. I don’t want “the earth to come up and smite thee”.

  • More than anything else the sensation is one of perfect peace mingled with an excitement that strains every nerve to the utmost, if you can conceive of such a combination.
  • Wilbur Wright

Friday, August 14th, 2015

Act vs. React

No excusesWhile interacting with the hundreds of CPAs and their team members each year, I hear many recurring themes. One of the most prominent came to mind recently when I was reading a novel. Here’s the excerpt:

“Regret swept over her. Regret because you really can’t control your life. Most of the time you don’t act; you react.”

I can’t begin to count the times I have heard CPA firm leaders say, something like the following:

  • We are always putting out fires.
  • We are always reacting and seldom are able to be proactive.
  • It seems we never have the time to look forward and plan, then proactively work our plan.
  • We are always looking back trying to fix things.
  • We don’t have time. We are too busy.

In many of these firms, partners don’t have time to lead and managers don’t have time to manage because partners are doing manager work and managers are doing senior/staff work.

Starting today, delegate most of the client work on your desk and begin to work at your experience level.

  • Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.
  • Jack Welch

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

Embrace Disruption

I often encourage people working in CPA firms to embrace marketing and to embrace change. The bigger issue behind embracing these two things and similar activities inside firms, is the fact that accountants almost always avoid any form of confrontation.

Many firms desperately need to update their client acceptance, billing and collection policies and processes. Yes, these three activities go hand-in-hand. But wait! What if old Joe and old Betty put up a fuss? Those two partners have several “special” clients that won’t like paying our invoices on time. Those two partners always lag behind on billing out their WIP. They will argue against making any changes or even enforcing the policy we already have in place.

Maybe, at this point in time, you don’t have the stamina (as an influential leader) to “embrace disruption”. Maybe, at this point in time, you don’t have the guts to take a hard stand with lack of teamwork among your partner group. But, what if you began introducing the important need to “embrace disruption” if the firm is going to survive and become a firm of the future. Begin talking about it. Plant the seeds with your leadership group and begin building the case for dealing with partners who don’t act like partners.

  • I have always found that the speed of the boss is the speed of the team.
  • Lee Iacocca

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

A Simple Marketing Strategy

I hope you read Seth Godin’s blog every day. I admire how he can use a few words to say something impactful.

Here’s an image of his website. Clean, simple message: GO. Make something happen. Seth GodinDoesn’t it seem similar to the message I continually communicate to you, CPAs in public practice: Do Things!

Here’s his blog post from August 1 – I hope you think about it.

Yes!, please and thank you

Don’t jerk people around

Here’s a simple marketing strategy for a smaller company trying to compete in a big-company world: Choose your customers, trust them, treat them well.

Say yes.

Bend the rules.

Show up on time.

Keep your promises.

Don’t exert power merely because you can.

Be human, be kind, pay attention, smile.

Not everyone deserves this sort of treatment, not everyone will do their part to be the kind of customer you can delight and serve. But that’s okay, you don’t need everyone.

When in doubt, be the anti-airline.

Key phrases and points for growing your CPA firm: Smaller firms can compete with larger firms. Choose your clients well, don’t just take anyone you meet. Not every client measures up. You don’t need everyone.

Check out his new book, What To do When It’s Your Turn. I bought a dozen copies and sent them to friends.


  • Let men be wise by instinct if they can, but when this fails be wise by good advice.
  • Sophocles

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

A Shared Economy CPA

IMG_5667If you follow this blog regularly (you can sign-up for email updates on the right side of this page), you know I have been on vacation.

On the long drive home, I caught up on some reading. Yes, I actually had the paper copy of Accounting Today with me.

I really enjoyed the article by Tamika Cody titled, A CPA For The Shared Economy. Be sure to read it!

Derek Davis, discovered a need, an opportunity and pursued it! People working in the shared economy as independent contractors, need professional advice. He realized the confusion they faced with taxes. So, he left his Big Four position, followed the road to independence and launched a virtual accounting practice.

Stories like this are unfolding across the country. “Traditional” CPAs are becoming “New Age”!

How about you? No matter what your age – new opportunities, many that are actually more challenging, interesting and exciting are developing.

Are you and your firm ready for the future?

  • In case you never get a second chance: don't be afraid! And what if you do get a second chance? You take it!
  • C. JoyBell C., author

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

You Are Awesome Technically. Is That Enough?

EC50CC8658CPAs working in public accounting and CPAs working in a corporate environment as CFO face many of the same challenges. I find that most of the challenges, for CPAs in general, is that they are SO good at finance, tax, audit, accounting – all of the technical topics that make them so valuable, but still struggle with the everyday, practical aspects of their job – getting along with and leading people.

I am tired of calling them “soft skills”. They are business world survival skills.

I can’t count the number of firms who tell me that they have a highly-technical tax partner that they keep locked up in his/her office because they are valuable, yes but, they infuriate the team members, avoid networking or getting involved in the business community and never bring in business.

CPAs often drop out of public and enter the world of corporate CFO. Many probably think they will avoid all of that people stuff, yet they soon learn that they have more responsibilities relating to collaboration with people – departments heads, employees, owners or CEOs, etc.

According to a new survey via Robert Half, CFOs say learning to interact with a variety of personalities is the greatest challenge when working with other departments. It seems collaboration and cooperation are difficult for them.

So, whether you are working in public accounting or a CFO in private, you must continually build your leadership skill-set. CPA partners, you need to help your young accountants understand the great importance of relationship-building skills. It’s how you bring in business. Bringing in business in public accounting is how you become a partner.

Here’s an article from CGMA magazine that goes deeper into this topic.

  • Truth is, I'll never know all there is to know about you just as you will never know all there is to know about me. Humans are by nature too complicated to be understood fully. So, we can choose either to approach our fellow human beings with suspicion or to approach them with an open mind, a dash of optimism and a great deal of candor.
  • Tom Hanks

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

Embrace Excitement – Do Not Fear Some Risk

It has to be right.

Accountants are trained in the art of being accurate… being right.

From day one, young accountants have their work reviewed and reviewed again. They receive multiple review notes about what to re-do and correct. Sadly, in many firms they don’t even know what they did wrong, their work is corrected by a reviewer and passed along the review and production pipeline to “get it out the door.” Eventually, they learn that they are making mistakes…. So, they adopt an “avoid risk and over-work the project” work style.

706BA1163FYes, being accurate with client work is very important but it doesn’t apply to everything that is going on inside a CPA firm. Forming a supportive culture, embracing new ideas on efficiency, empowering your firm administrator, working in the Cloud, modifying HR policies, training people, hiring people are all initiatives that continually need to evolve and keep pace with trends.

Inject some excitement in your firm, try things…. Do things… If it proves unsatisfactory just change it again.

Changing things inside your firm feels very risky. Status quo feels very comfortable.

Get over it and remember:  Being alive is a risk.

  • Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
  • T. S. Eliot

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

Some You Love, Some You Like & Some You Don’t

davidheadTopA long time ago, when I was first reading books and articles by David Maister, one particular point made a big impression and has stayed with me all these many years.

Why do accountants in public accounting continue to work with clients they dislike…. even dread?

From a survey he learned from professionals around the world, that they enjoy their work 20 to 30 percent of the time, and can tolerate the rest. The report also found that professionals really like the clients they work for and find the clients’ sector interesting about 30 to 40 percent of the time. Again, the rest is acceptable.

His opinion: If you don’t love what you do or those you do it for, why would you want to go out and get more of it?

Most CPAs would say, “Because they will pay me.”

Isn’t it time to, as a partner group, commit to reviewing the firm’s complete client list and out-place about 20% of your clients? Then, do it again next year?

Read this article, “Doing It For The Money” by Maister.

  • These proportions certainly help us understand why people aren’t all that keen to go out, get active and work passionately on business development. Getting more business just brings in more stuff they can tolerate for clients they don’t particularly care for!
  • David Maister

Monday, June 1st, 2015

Customer Engagement Hierarchy

Over the weekend, I came across some information about the Gallup Customer Engagement Hierarchy. The model has four key elements:

Confidence – Integrity – Pride – Passion

Picture these four in a pyramid with Confidence being the foundation, Integrity on top of that, Pride next and on the top is Passion.

Confidence: Always delivers on promise. Name I can always trust.

Integrity: Fair resolution of any problems. Always treats me fairly.

Pride: Treats me with respect. Feel proud to be a customer.

Passion: Can’t imagine a world without. Perfect company for people like me.

How do your clients feel about you and your firm? I bet they are at the Confidence level but, do they feel the Passion?

This involves the on-going challenge for CPAs to constantly show their clients the value they bring to them. Many of them might think you are a necessary evil – because they NEED a tax return. YOU are SO much more than that and yet, you probably don’t communicate that fact to them often enough.

What three things can you do in June to communicate your value to your clients? MAKE A LIST and then IMPLEMENT!

  • Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.
  • Warren Buffett