Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category

Friday, November 17th, 2017

Winning in the Competitive Era of Disruption

“Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.” – James Sephens

Here’s a great video from the Illinois CPA Society about enabling your CPA firm to survive this era of disruption.

Allan Koltin is featured. It’s short and informative – please take 2 minutes to watch and listen.

Winning in the Competitive Era of Disruption.

  • In skating over thin ice our safety is our speed.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

Xcentric

“All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination.” – Earl Nightingale

I’m sure by now you have heard the news – Right Networks has acquired Xcentric. You can read all about it here via Accounting Today.

Xcentric has been a prominent player in helping CPA firms with cloud solutions. I know that many of you have visited with them at CPA management conferences year after year and have enjoyed presentations by Roy Keely and Roman Kepczyk of Xcentric.

Many of you are also clients of Right Networks. Last week, I enjoyed a conversation with Michael Ferrigno, Content Marketing and Channel Enablement Manager with Right Networks.

Today, I thought I would share some information from Michael – The Top 5 Reasons Right Networks Customers Cloud-Enable Their QuickBooks Desktop.

The Right Networks and Xcentric combination should be an interesting marriage.

 

  • The power of imagination makes us infinite.
  • John Muir

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

Cheating

“I would prefer even to fail with honor than win by cheating.” – Sophocles

A headline via Fast Company caused me to ponder a familiar situation in an accounting firm. The headline – Is Your Workplace Encouraging Employees To Cheat?

Here’s the lead in paragraph:

Your company prides itself on having a culture of high performers who thrive under pressure. But could that very culture be encouraging employees to cheat?

Leaders of CPA firms, I ask you that question.

Think about it, if you reward the way many firms have rewarded employees for years, they are probably cheating. Of course, in the CPA world we don’t come right out and call it cheating.

If you reward for chargeable hours, they will give you more chargeable hours. (They record more hours than it actually takes them to complete the client work.)

If you reward for improved realization, they will give you improved realization. (They record fewer hours than it takes them to complete the client work.)

The result is that you never have a real picture of the effort (and time) it takes to complete a client’s engagement. On top of that, your employees are really uncomfortable and feel pressure to give you what you want.

It’s a common issue. The solution is to become better managers of our people. If you do still bill based on time (and many of you do), Ask for honesty and lighten up on the pressure.

  • In athletics there's always been a willingness to cheat if it looks like you're not cheating. I think that's just a quirk of human nature.
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Monday, November 6th, 2017

You Don’t Need A Crisis

“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” – Abraham Lincoln

Inside a growing accounting firm, there is a lot of work going on. Some of it is performed quickly but a lot of it is slowly making its way through the pipeline. In accounting firms it is called WIP (work-in-process).

Then a crisis appears on the horizon (called a tax due date or an audit client’s board meeting). That due date (or crisis) pushes people forward.

Inside an accounting firm, there is also a significant number of internal improvement projects and strategic initiatives moving a lot more slowly than the client work. I describe it as partners (owners) being very comfortable with status quo. They have been successful over a period of year and have become complacent. “I’m making really good money and doing things that are easy for me, why change?”

It will also take a crisis to speed up these very important tasks. If you procrastinate too long, your competition will leave you behind. The business world is changing rapidly.

I like this advice from Seth Godin: If you’re the kind of person that needs a crisis to move forward, feel free to invent one. 

For the good of the firm and for the future of the firm, create internal deadlines relating to management projects – – don’t allow extensions!

  • My advice is to never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time.
  • Charles Dickens

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

Be a Proactive Advisor

“Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your project or service, and that bring friends with them.” – W. Edwards Deming

Thanks so much to SageWorks for sponsoring my webinar yesterday: Women in Accounting – Thriving now and into the future and thanks to the hundreds of people who joined in. You are probably using ProfitCents in your accounting practice, if not, check it out.

At the end of my presentation, Colin Tierney of SageWorks shared some interesting points. I wanted to share some of them with you:

  • 25-40% of new business generated by top CPA firms comes from cross-selling to existing clients
  • 75% have changed firms because their CPAs are providing reactive services rather than proactive advice
  • 80% of the accounting market sees an immediate demand for advisory

I hope these numbers inspire you. Profession leaders are urging CPAs to move toward more advisory services. You are “the most trusted advisor.” Capitalize on that fact. Don’t compete on the price of your compliance services. Be more proactive and help your clients become more profitable.

  • Many receive advice, only the wise profit from it.
  • Harper Lee

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

Make A Commitment

“If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.” – Jeff Bezos

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, here is an example of a Mutual Commitment Statement that I often share. Simply customize it to fit your firm.

Our Mutual Commitment Statement

I, Sally Partner, and the entire team at (name of firm) want your experience with us to be the best it can be.  We offer the following commitments to you:

  • You will be respected and never taken for granted.
  • We will act with integrity, honesty and openness in everything we do for you and with you.
  • We will absolutely respect the confidentiality of our working relationship with you.
  • We will return phone calls and answer email within 24 hours.
  • We will meet the deadlines we set. In the case of circumstances beyond our control, we will notify you and discuss with you immediately.
  • Our services will rarely, if ever, be the least expensive. They will, though, always be of exceptional quality and designed to help you obtain significant value.
  • You have the right to know our fee structure in advance of any engagement.
  • You are the sole judge of our performance. If anything we do falls short of your expectations, we – without question – will respect your right to simply pay for whatever you feel the service was worth.

To facilitate our efforts in providing the highest level of service, we ask the following of you.

  • You will be open, frank and honest with us at all times. You will let us know immediately of any concerns you have about our work together.
  • You will give us all the information we need to complete our assignments.
  • You will meet mutually agreed upon deadlines. In the case of circumstances beyond your control, you will notify us immediately of the situation.
  • You will pay our fees per our engagement letter. If you cannot pay, you will call and talk to us immediately.
  • You will give consideration to referring us to at least one other business that might benefit from our services.

 

  • If you take care of your people, your people will take care of your customers and your business will take care of itself.
  • JW Marriott

Monday, October 30th, 2017

Guarantee Your Work

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” – Bill Gates

It’s that time of year when most of us are beginning to receive the pre-Christmas deluge of catalogs. I actually enjoy them. I have my favorites that I order from, whether I receive a catalog or not, but the vast majority I just browse through and then recycle.

Yesterday, I was browsing through catalogs and found something that made me think of CPA firms – The Vermont Country Store Customer Bill of Rights – 100% Guaranteed Satisfaction:

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Some accounting firms offer their clients a guarantee. I hope you are making it a prominent part of your verbal and written communication with prospects and clients. The Vermont Country Store has it inside the cover page of their catalog.

I put mine in every engagement agreement:

Rita Keller’s services are unconditionally guaranteed. If the services do not meet your expectation, you may end the arrangement and pay only the value you deem acceptable.

I hope you also provide your clients with a commitment statement describing the way you provide service. I prefer a double commitment statement – what you, as a firm, commit to and what you expect from your client. I will share it in tomorrow’s blog post.

  • Going above and beyond involves making customers feel special and helping them out even when it may not make sense.
  • Neil Patel

Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

Who Has Your Back?

In so many successful firms, the managing partner has a strong, right-hand person. Sure, they have managers and staff to handle client work but they also have a professional firm administrator to handle daily operations and to bring timely trends and ideas (best practices) from other firms to the attention of the managing partner.

I have always seen the firm administrator role as one of influence rather than one of power. There are also other great influencer roles in CPA firms that are not partner roles.

Guy Gage recently did a great blog post – The Passenger Seat Matters – he explains that there are three roles that must be filled in order to be successful. The driver, the back-seat and the passenger seat – be sure to read it, I think you will really enjoy it.

  • A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.
  • Henry Adams

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Tax Return Ranking – A Consistency Issue

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” – Jim Rohn

If you work in a CPA firm, you probably know what I mean by the title of this post – tax return ranking. It means the level of difficulty of a particular tax return.

It is one of those procedural type issues that I probably don’t cover as much as I used to. Yet, these little things can play havoc with consistency and efficiency at your firm.

Here’s the story:

Partners are asked to assign a level of difficulty to tax returns before they are selected (or assigned) for preparation. Some firms use grades like A, B, C and some firms use a numeric ranking like 1-5, with 5 being the most difficult.

Staff and interns then select (or are assigned) returns that are appropriate to their experience level. Beginners and interns might be given the “simple” returns and more experienced tax preparers get the more complex returns.

The issue is that some partners might think a certain return is a Level 2 and another partner thinks it’s really a Level 1. They have not established guidelines as to what actually constitutes a #1 from a #3 return. It is just assumed that a #3 is more difficult than a #1. Take the guess work out of this process by better defining what each level means.

Susan Flynn, Office Manager at Gallagher, Flintoff & Klein in Lansing, Michigan has kindly agreed to share their ranking system. I though it might help other firms better define their own ranking systems.

Tax Return Rankings

0 – Business/Trusts

1 – Simple: W-2, Sch. A, No Sch. C, E or K-1s.

2 – Average: Includes a Sch. C, E or simple K-1s.

3 – Complex: One or more of the following: Sch. C, D, E, K-1s, B w/large brokerage statement, multi-state.

4 – High Touch: High-level preparer required.

Before January 1 rolls around, review your system and determine if it needs to be better defined.

 

  • For every disciplined effort there is a multiple reward.
  • Jim Rohn

Friday, October 6th, 2017

Focus On Next Generation Clients

“Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.” – George Orwell

Firm leaders are always faced with multiple priorities. Probably, two of the most prominent are hiring and retaining top talent and taking great care of current clients. Leaders are also often deeply engaged with a new client pursuit. Your rainmaker partners truly love the pursuit and sometimes pay more attention to prospects and new clients than they do to their long-time loyal clients.

There is another priority that needs attention. In a recent article via the AICPA CPA Insider, How to engage next-generation clients, Jennifer Wilson of Convergence Coaching, reminds practitioners of the massive generational shift that is happening over the next several years within their own client community. Many firm leaders have not developed strategies to deal with this client leadership transition to a younger, more tech savvy generation.

It is time for firm leaders to add this priority to their list – more focus on next generation clients.

Wilson not only addresses what next-gen clients value, she also gives practitioners six “first steps” to begin appealing to and attracting these clients.

Be sure to read the entire article.

  • First we are children to our parents, then parents to our children, then parents to our parents, then children to our children.
  • Milton Greenblatt