Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

Randy Johnston, What’s New?

Randy Johnston, is that you with Rita?

I always try to attend Randy Johnston‘s tech update sessions whenever our paths cross at conferences. He makes actually makes the latest trends in technology understandable for people working on the management side of a growing CPA firm. Yesterday, at the CPAFMA National Practice Management conference in Baltimore, Johnston shared some insights from his most recent survey of the profession.

He actually makes the latest trends in technology understandable for people working on the management side of a growing CPA firm. Yesterday, at the CPAFMA National Practice Management conference in Baltimore, Johnston shared some insights from his most recent survey of the profession.

Here are just a few tidbits from Randy’s comments:

-Look at focusing on niches. The most profitable firms are niche focused. Tax and collaborative accounting may not be a good long-term strategy.

-Top tech challenges: Keeping up with new software. Workflow. Security.

-Training, over and over again, is a consistent problem in nearly every firm he visits. He estimated that out of the 400 firms he has visited, only about two do it well.

-When it’s time to purchase monitors, consider going with fewer, larger monitors.

-CCH scan, SurePrep and Gruntworx have all made improvements and are working well.

-For workflow, XCM is the dominant player followed by GoFileRoom workflow.

-Every tax product has a new generation coming out within the next few years. Be prepared for major changes.

-This year, 25% of firms in his survey are looking at changing tax software. That is a high percentage and rather unusual.

-If your technology budget is 6-7% your partners will make more money, if the budget is managed.

 

 

  • Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible
  • Frank Zappa

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Expanding Your Services To Current Clients

“If you want to be the best salesperson, first you must be the best person.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

We have heard it said over and over again at CPA management conferences – for years! “Don’t forget to ask your clients WHAT ELSE they need from you and your firm.”

The trouble is, they don’t usually know what they need. I find it is much like focusing on improving your own firm. Another well-known saying applies. “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Often, your client doesn’t know what they don’t know.

It is your business to know your client and their business so well that you are able to enlighten them as to what they should do, what they shouldn’t do and how they can make their business more profitable. As a CPA, you are known as the most trusted advisor. Are you living up to that role?

That is where specialization comes into play. Not every CPA in your firm can know everything about every service line. If you are on the auto dealer team at your firm you better know everything about operating a dealership. You are routinely reading dealership management magazines and newsletters and you attend the same conferences that dealership owners attend. Hopefully, someone from your firm is speaking at those industry conferences. The same activities apply to your firm’s non-profit, construction, hospitality, distribution and all other teams.

You should, of course, continue to ask your clients how you can help but you should also be very upfront in telling them about current trends in their industry and what they should be doing to stay competitive and profitable.

  • The key to mastering any kind of sales is switching statements about you - how great you are, and what you do - to statements about them.
  • Jeffrey Gitomer

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

A True Story About Launching A New Service

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” – Albert Einstein

Have you been thinking of launching a new service? Have you been thinking of how to better serve your clients via cloud accounting? I have observed that many CPA firm leaders are debating these topics during their partner meetings and management retreats.

sarahSarah Johnson Dobek of Inovautus Consulting posted a great feature story recently about how one firm launched a service around cloud accounting.

Highlights:

  • Clients were requesting better access to their books in real-time with mobility.
  • The old desktop versions of accounting software were a problem.
  • The firm wanted to offer more non-traditional services.
  • The growth has been higher than any other area of the firm.
  • The workflow is different than traditional tax and audit services.
  • Required a change in the pricing model.

Dobek advises:

  • Launching a new service can be daunting – develop a plan.
  • Be prepared for some things to not go as planned.
  • It always takes longer than you expect.
  • Define what success looks like.

Read this entire interesting story about launching a new service via Inovautus, here.

  • The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

CPA Firm Message: We Are Closed On Fridays For The Summer

“When one door is closed, don’t you know, another is open.” – Bob Marley

This week I received a notice from a CPA firm that was sent out via an email blast. I have talked with many CPA partners about this topic and it still creates a lot of lively discussions. While many firms have embraced closing on Fridays or developing some other system for a shorter summer work schedule, I have observed that the majority of firms do not embrace this practice.

It is a huge plus in hiring and retaining top talent. I hope you consider it. Here’s the message:

Dear Clients and Friends:

(Name of firm) Summer Office Hours

To allow our team the opportunity to retool and recharge after the hectic pace of tax season, we will be returning to our summer office hours. 

Effective May 27 through September 5 our offices will be open

Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

 We will be closed on Fridays during the summer months.  (However, since Uncle Sam never seems to rest, arrangements can be made to meet with you on a Friday in the event of any urgent tax matter or if it is the only day you are available to pick up returns and documents from our office.  Please contact us in advance to coordinate such arrangements.) 

 Very truly yours,

 

  • It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.
  • Mark Twain

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Not Cut Out For Public Accounting

I have heard this said for years, “Not everyone is cut out for public accounting.” What does that means exactly? Have you ever thought about it?

I have and I have even actually used those words on people I have had to “let go.”

What makes a person a good fit for public accounting?

You have to be dedicated to building a career and a business. You have to learn the ropes rather quickly. You have to be a good thinker, a good talker and enjoy people. Along with all of these, you have to be comfortable with life-long learning and keeping current on huge amounts of tough technical details about tax, accounting and auditing. Then comes the characteristics of an advisor. It means really understanding how different businesses work and what makes them successful and then be able to convince clients to follow your advice.

Add to that, when you become a partner in a firm you have to become skilled at managing an accounting firm. It is not as easy as it sounds. It goes way beyond the “numbers” skills that it takes to be a good accountant. You have to be knowledgeable about HR, technology, marketing, administration, etc.

Not every accountant can, or wants, do that. In addition to all of that knowledge you have to acquire and maintain, you have to be willing to work long hours and be dedicated to a life of service. Not every accountant can do that.

However, the pay-off is phenomenal both financially and emotionally.

Almost every long-term CPA partner that I talk to tells me they absolutely love what they do. That’s the big pay-off.

It is a career, not a job. Some accountants just want a job.

 

  • Careers are a jungle gym, not a laddeer.
  • Sheryl Sandberg

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Show The Love

IMG_6788“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” – Voltaire

Sometimes just after busy season you might think you have seen enough of clients for a while. You are wrong about that!

So many times I have heard clients say they wish their CPA was more proactive. What kind of Action Plan do you have in place to continually communicate with clients?

I think it falls under the “this is how we do it here” category.

  • We take new hires along to client meetings.
  • We expect every person in the firm to have a role in marketing.
  • We provide continual performance feedback to our employees.
  • We close the office on Fridays in the summer.
  • We acknowledge every team members birthday.
  • We have a client service plan for “A” clients and a different one for “B” clients.
  • We send our clients a birthday card.
  • We thank our clients in different ways for simply trusting us as their financial and business advisor.

Should any of these “this is how we do it here” bullets apply to your firm? What else can you add?

Yesterday, I received some free drink coupons from Southwest. They remembered to thank me. It made me smile. Do you think Southwest has more customers than you do? You could certainly do some little expected things to show your clients that you appreciate them.

  • As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
  • John F. Kennedy

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

International Education

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” – Confucius

It has been my observation that even the smallest of CPA firms not only have interactions with international businesses on behalf of their clients but are also doing work directly for international clients.

Do your youngest team members know the basics about the international cultures of the people they may need to talk to on the phone, or meet in person? Do your experienced team members know? Does your partner group even know?

Maybe you won’t ever meet them in person but you may have frequent video conferences with them. What should you say and not say? What part of your body language might be offensive to a different culture?

My point today? Get some training for ALL you people on dealing with people internationally. You can probably find someone locally. Seek out help from your local Chamber of Commerce.

 

  • One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.
  • Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

The CPA Profession – Random Thoughts

CiMQnxpUYAAOWhzYesterday, I had the honor of being part of a panel at the OSCPA Business Excellence Symposium in Westlake, Ohio.  Katie Tolan, Peter Donato and I discussed “Harnessing Business Growth Potential.” The panel was moderated by Gary Hunt, Senior Content Editor at OSCPA.

Overall, the Symposium was informational and inspirational. What more can you ask for?!

As always, I enjoyed AICPA President and Chief Executive Officer Barry Melancon’s comments and his dialogue with OSCPA President & CEO Scott Wiley.

IMG_6756Here are some bullet point highlights:

  • In this day and age, people don’t trust. They don’t trust government officials, employers, the media, politicians and so on. The CPA owns the trust space. (I urge you to keep this at top of mind as your move through your work day and your career. It is a responsibility and quite an honor.)
  • Audit and tax services, in the future will change dramatically. In the audit area, the national firms are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in big data. How about using drones for inventory observation? How about performing an audit without ever touching the clients “papers” or even visiting their site? How will smaller firms (any firm below the Big 4) keep up? It will take a huge investment.
  • Everyone must evolve. This applies to the AICPA, as well. Their venture with CIMA will enable the AICPA to create a different footprint and help CPAs build a global force and voice that will carry more weight.
  • When asked what accounting students need as they move into the future, Melancon replied, “Students need data analytic skills.”
  • Today we are a profession of CPA-led firms, not CPA firms. Two-thirds of the employees in all firms are non-CPAs. I found this stat to be quite eye-opening. Clients need all kinds of services to help their businesses grow and prosper, not just what a licensed CPA can provide. Many of you are already providing pension administration, M&A consulting, employee benefits, HR consulting, technology services and so on.
  • We are in the global age. Younger people want experience worldwide whether it be studying abroad or working abroad. Big companies want people whose skills can apply worldwide. Even very small firms need people who can interact internationally because their clients have international relationships.
  • If you don't drive your business, you will be driven out of business.
  • B. C. Forbes

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

How Many Times Have You Talked About “Added Value?”

“The more you become proficient at stating value in terms of the customer, the more it will be perceived as value by the customer.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

I have mentioned it before but not recently. I enjoy reading blogs and articles by Jeffrey Gitomer. Sure, he’s a sales guy. But so are YOU Mr./Ms. CPA!

Much like Mr. Gitomer, I am very tired of listening to CPAs discuss how to prove to their clients that they bring “added value.” Gitomer says, “I recommend you leave ‘added value’ out of your sales lexicon forever. ‘Added value’ has an evil twin ‘value add.” Neither of which can be defined in terms of what the customer actually benefits or profits from.”

If you think the little extra things you do bring added value, put “perceived” in front of it because it is all about what the client perceives. If they don’t perceive it to be valuable, then it isn’t. Preparing their tax return in a timely manner is not value added, it’s what they pay you to do.

Your clients are looking for THEIR own increased sales, customer loyalty, employee loyalty, increased productivity, profit and so on. If you are not bringing these kinds of things to the relationship maybe it’s time you did.

To paint a true picture for your clients, develop a value proposition and a value statement the clearly explains how you help others.

I bring value to my clients by writing this daily blog, writing my newsletter, sending them personal emails outlining current trends in the profession, recapping content of conferences I attend, tweeting daily about CPA profession leadership issues, personal telephone conferences and many other ways.

Read much more here from Gitomer about value and it’s importance to existing clients and to prospective clients.

  • A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.
  • Charles Darwin

Monday, April 25th, 2016

Satisfaction Guaranteed

Most progressive CPA firms guarantee their work. Do You?

Firms are including a guarantee in the engagement letter or proposal.

Here’s what I put in my own Engagement Agreements:

Service Guarantee and Confidentiality

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. Confidentiality is extremely important. While Keller may serve other CPA firms in your market, absolutely no information about your firm will ever be discussed or disclosed. If I discover a best practice during my association with your firm, I may request permission to feature you and/or your firm on my blog.

 
Sometimes these guarantees are structured in the form of a Commitment Statement to the client that includes things like:

  • You will be respected and never taken for granted.
  • We absolutely respect the confidentiality of our working relationship with you.
  • We will return phone calls and answer email within 24 hours.
  • …. and so on.

Some even include asking the client for some commitments as a second part of the statement, such as:

  • You will give us all the information we need to complete the assignment.
  • 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.
  • … and so on.

Just something you might consider for your firm. It makes a bold and important statement to your clients.

Here’s a sample of a Client Commitment Statement.

  • The best way to guarantee a loss is to quit.
  • Morgan Freeman