Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category

Monday, August 15th, 2016

Beginners Do Appreciate Review Notes

“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.” – Frank A. Clark

One of the services I provide to CPA firms is facilitating upward feedback surveys. I usually begin by conducting an upward feedback survey for partners in a firm. Then most of my clients continue on with asking for feedback on managers and supervisors.

One of the interesting things these surveys disclose is that people beginning their career in public accounting value review notes that are expertly communicated in an educational manner.

Many respondents, from many firms, have mentioned that a particular boss (partner, manager or supervisor) provides excellent review notes and often go on to describe how helpful the review notes are and how they learn from them.

Don’t think that this is the entire story! Many respondents, from many firms, also don’t hesitate to mention when a particular boss does not provide clear and concise (and helpful) review notes.

Review notes are such a common practice inside busy firms that we sometimes don’t even think about how helpful it would be if the firm had some sort of standard for writing review notes. If your firm has documented guidelines for writing review notes, maybe you would be open to sharing them with me via email.

One firm, when staff noted that sometimes review notes seemed harsh, actually changed the name of their Review Notes to Learning Points.

Also, don’t forget that people like some verbal feedback to go along with the written review notes.

  • I think it's very important to have a feedback loop, where you're constantly thinking about what you've done and how you could be doing it better.
  • Elon Musk

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

Becoming A Specialist

“If your clients aren’t actively telling their friends about you, maybe your work isn’t as great as you think it is.” – David Maister

Yesterday, I wrote about making yourself and your firm unique. Becoming well-known for a specialty means you attract clients that need your expertise. It is as simple as that.

I’m an example. I completely focus on CPA firm practice management. I do not work with other professional service firms, I don’t know enough about them. Under that unique niche, I am a generalist…. I don’t limit my CPA firm consulting to just marketing, just HR, just process improvement, just organizational alignment, just technology, just administration, just mergers, etc. I know how to run a CPA firm.

You, as an auto dealer CPA, for example, should know how to run an auto dealership with all it entails. You know about their HR, sales, operational challenges, etc. You attend the same industry conferences they attend and you read the same industry blogs, periodicals, magazines and newsletters they read. You immerse yourself in the auto dealer world. Just like I immerse myself in the world of public accounting.

Ed Mendlowitz, in Accounting Today recently, gives us some great insight on Becoming a Specialist – Types of Specialties. 

You need to start the process of deciding what might lead you on a lifelong professional path and Mendlowitz recommends five different types of specialization:

  1. Industry
  2. Service
  3. Size
  4. Geographic
  5. Practice management

His article explains each one.

If you are still a generalist CPA, it’s time to begin your journey to specialization. As David Maister always said…. figure out what you want to be famous for.

  • The way you get rich is don't get sucked into doing dumb stuff for people you don't like.
  • David Maister

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

Is Your Firm Special?

I enjoyed a recent article via Accounting Today – Kick Start Growth With a Defined Niche by Amy Vetter. It opens with this:

What makes your firm stand out? Why do clients come to you over the competition?

As a heavily commoditized service, a one size fits all accounting practice can easily get left behind in today’s market. To get ahead of the pack, accounting firms need to find a niche offering that will kick their growth engine into a higher gear.

If you want to be unique and have clients seek you out, become an expert! I know many very successful CPAs who are auto dealership experts, business valuation experts, estate taxation experts, agricultural experts and so on.

Per Vetter’s article, a recent survey of accounting and professional services buyers, 35% of buyers ranked specialized expertise as their top deciding factor in choosing a firm, well ahead of referrals, reputation or customer service. Expertise even came out jut ahead of existing relationships as a deciding factor.

Think about attorneys. When you need labor law assistance, you seek out a labor law attorney.

  • The greatness of art is not to find what is common but what is unique.
  • Isaac Bashevis Singer

Monday, August 8th, 2016

What Hat Do You Wear?

My post today was inspired by one last week from Seth Godin, called Scientist, Engineer, and Operations Manager. Each one has a job to do…..

Inside most CPA firms, there are three client-facing  “jobs,” partner, manager, and staff. Each one has a job to do.

The partner is key to defining the firm vision. The partner brings in new business, keeps current clients from leaving by continually working on the relationship and finds and develops new talent.

The manager manages. Yes, they manage and review the work but a key priority is managing people. They train, coach, mentor, nurture, inspire their subordinates and build career-enhancing relationships that keep talented people at the firm.

The staff does the work. They never have to worry about having enough to do because partners and managers are making sure they are professionally challenged and are assigned to engagements that will enhance their skills. The staff work as a team to help each other make progress.

I hope you do not have partners and managers doing too much work and staffers looking for work.

  • If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.
  • Henry Ford

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

Wasted Time

IMG_3660Fred, the owner of XYZ Excavating, is always last minute when it comes to providing you information to complete his tax return.

Betty, the owner of ABC Resort On The Lake, is rude, always complaining, requesting you to do some task but doesn’t want to pay for it. She thinks everything she asks is part of the tax preparation service you provide.

Barney is the pompous, solo-attorney (and old friend of one of your partners) who walks on the edge of actually harassing your female staff members.

These are “D” level clients and need to be outplaced. In our busy world, time is so valuable and these clients waste your time. This fall, take steps to finally get rid of clients that no longer fit your ideal client profile.

For years, I have heard partner groups discuss these types of clients. Some even designed a process to fire them. Then, these same partners never implemented.

To my delight, that is changing and I am hearing more and more stories from managing partners and firm administrators that their firm is actually eliminating D-level clients from their client list.

Of course, it should be done in a professional manner but don’t procrastinate once the decision is made.

If you need a Client Retention Analysis worksheet to help you through the process, let me know.

  • If you aren't fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm.
  • Vince Lombardi

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Living Up To Your Reputation

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” – Warren Buffett

You are a CPA – Certified Public Accountant. You, because of being a CPA, are known as being the most trusted advisor to business and individual clients.

OJXHDWMWV9You are in the service business – a very important service business. Can your clients trust you?

Have you ever:

Not returned a phone call to a client in a timely fashion?

Not returned a phone call because you know the client is upset?

Not answered a phone call and told your Director of First Impressions to send the caller to voicemail?

You know a client is waiting on an answer from you so you avoid eating lunch at a restaurant that the client frequents?

Blamed someone else at your firm for a delay in client service when you know it is your fault?

Routinely let your ringing phone go to voicemail even when you know it might a client?

Found out, via an administrative person, that a client is upset about their invoice and want to discuss it with you. They ask that you call them and then you don’t.

It all seems like little things. Sure, you eventually talk to these people and address various issues.

But little things make the biggest difference.

  • Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.
  • Albert Einstein

Friday, July 15th, 2016

It’s Time To Transform

“You seek too much information and not enough transformation.” – Sai Baba

Many CPA firms are struggling with change. It has been going on for years.

I am amazed by this because:

  • Change is part of the character of a CPA firm.
  • Change is forced upon CPAs all the time.
  • The government forces changes on CPAs and they get educated and deal with it.
  • CPAs eagerly attend CPE sessions to learn about the new tax “whatever” or to be absolutely positive that they understand the new audit “whatever.”
  • So, why do so many lag behind when it comes to internal changes that can make the firm more profitable and competitive in the future?

Now is not the time for making small changes to how your firm operates. It is not the time to defend your daily routine by thinking what you have been doing has worked for years so why change.

Time is running out. More and more of your experienced leaders are nearing retirement. The firm will be forced to address trying to pass the firm down to the next generation or to merge-up in the hopes of solving the problem more quickly.

It’s not time for simple change. It is time for major TRANSFORMATION. Because your firm will not be attractive to people within your firm or to the acquiring firms if you don’t transform your firm.

From the market’s viewpoint all CPA firms look a lot alike. They offer tax, accounting and auditing services. As Seth Godin puts it, “You can buy this from anyone and we’re anyone.” 

Don’t just be an “anyone” firm!

It’s Friday. It’s July. Summer is passing by quickly. Think about it this weekend and take proactive steps on Monday to begin your transformation process. Let me know if I can help.

 

  • Nothing happens until the pain of remaining the same outweighs the pain of change.
  • Arthur Burt

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

Updating Your Branding

There are a lot of new trends in public accounting. You have read about them here on this blog, in my newsletter and in various publications and blogs for CPAs.

Of course, there are also new trends in other disciplines that affect public accounting. Branding for example.

Per HR Bartender, employment branding is disappearing. Employment branding and consumer branding are being merged together to form ONE company brand. That strong brand will be used to attract and retain clients and employees.

Many firms have done a great job of building a firm brand but most do still have sub-categories under that one brand to attract clients and future employees.

Building ONE brand can serve three purposes: Attract new clients, attract employees and make current employees proud to be part of the firm.

Maybe your brand is unclear, split, confusing or even non-existent. Check out this article on HR Bartender and view the video example from Go Daddy. It is a brand that stresses lots of things, including hard work!

Here’s an excerpt:

If I’m a customer, I know exactly how GoDaddy is going to support me and my business. If I’m a candidate, I understand the GoDaddy culture – the everyday hard work that’s expected to keep customers’ business dreams alive. And if I’m an employee, I’m proud to be a part of that success. One brand. One video. For multiple audiences.

  • You can't get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you're doing. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover will be yourself.
  • Alan Alda

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

Look Ahead

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Successful business people always look ahead.

As leaders of CPA firms you should not be thinking about 2016, you should be thinking of 2017 (and beyond).  Many CPAs, in 2016, are thinking about 2015! Or, they are thinking of the last six months.

  • How did the firm do from January through April?
  • Are we ahead of last year?

CPA firm leaders should also be READING. Not just accounting, audit and tax materials, newsletters and magazines. You should always be paying attention to the economy and national and international news. You have people relying on you (your clients and your people) for their financial well-being.

Don’t settle for average. The worst danger of mediocre leaders is they bring out mediocrity in others.

Look ahead, plan now and position the firm and your clients in the best possible position for 2017. Don’t make your partner planning retreat something that reflects back or even something that investigates a current snapshot of your firm – make it a rallying point for the future.

  • You are the best author of your own future. So, the next time you sit down to write your own story, remember that you are the creator of the best chapters that could ever be written.
  • Catherine Pulsifer

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