Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category

Friday, April 21st, 2017

International Understanding

“The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.” – Peter Drucker

Not that many years ago, CPA firms in the U.S.A. didn’t need to know much about international affairs. In fact, most people in firms never even thought about international implications.

All that has changed. Even some very small firms now have international clients and U.S. clients operating internationally.

If you work for a large corporation, accepting international assignments is expected if you want to advance your career.

Reading an article on HBR – Will refusing an International Assignment Derail Your Career? – made me think about what CPA firms are doing to educate their workforce about the business aspects of international operations.

In many firms there are partners who are well versed in international business. But, how far down the ladder does this type of knowledge go?

My questions for millennial CPAs, will the lack of international business knowledge and experience derail your career?

  • If people like you, they'll listen to you, but if they trust you, they'll do business with you.
  • Zig Ziglar

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Your Cultural Norm

“Courtesy is as much a mark of a gentleman as courage.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Sometimes it is the little things that make up what your firm culture is really like.

  • When a client has left a voice message for you to call them back, do you do it right away or procrastinate for a day or more?
  • Partners often short-cut firm processes.
  • When the front desk person is really busy and the phone rings more than three times, does almost everyone ignore it?
  • When the coffee pot is empty, the last person simply puts it back on the burner and walks away.
  • When the printer is out of paper, the next user simply decides to use another printer rather than load paper.
  • When a client is sitting in the lobby, employees pass through and just ignore them.
  • Yes, when there is no toilet paper left on the roll in the wash room, it is simply ignored by most people.

Or, do you really have a culture of caring, teamwork and passion for the firm?

  • Client calls are returned (almost always) within 4 to 6 hours.
  • No one dodges an incoming telephone call.
  • All partners set a good example.
  • Partners and team members never hesitate to pick up trash in the parking lot.
  • Everyone cleans up messes in the lunch room and makes coffee.
  • “It’s not my job” is never even a fleeting thought among the team.
  • Someone occasionally brings in Starbucks coffee and treats for the lunch room.
  • People seem almost anxious to tell outsiders where they work and how great it is.
  • Partners return reviewed jobs within a day or let you know why they can’t and when it will be returned.

Just contemplating, this morning, how firm cultures are built. If you don’t help build a firm culture one will form anyway – on its own – and it might not be what you want it to be.

  • Our culture runs on coffee and gasoline, the first often tasting like the second.
  • Edward Abbey

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

IMPORTANT TOPIC: Can What You Are Doing Be Done By Artificial Intelligence?

“Some people worry that artificial intelligence will make us feel inferior, but the, anybody in his right mind should have an inferiority complex every time he looks at a flower.” – Alan Kay

PLEASE, please read this great blog post by Seth Godin. Here’s the closing paragraph:

The question each of us has to ask is simple (but difficult): What can I become quite good at that’s really difficult for a computer to do one day soon? How can I become so resilient, so human and such a linchpin that shifts in technology won’t be able to catch up?

It was always important, but now it’s urgent.

So much of what accountants do can and will eventually be done by AI. Think about how it has already happened inside your firm. A simple exmple, we used to turn in an expense report – now an app does that for us – and so on.

In the world of blockchain, things will happen without your involvement. How will that play into the future of your firm? You must keep current and keep ahead of the curve. The things that happen might change how you do things but it doesn’t have to make you obsolete – there will be new and different opportunities for progressive firms.

  • It's going to be interesting to see how society deals with artificial intelligence, but it will definitely be cool.
  • Colin Angle

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

Blockchain

“The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress.” – Joseph Joubert

Rarely do I miss a day posting on this blog. However, yesterday was one of those days and I apologize – BUT I had a great reason. I was attending (virtually) the annual New Horizon Group of consultants to the CPA profession meeting. The meeting was held at the AICPA offices in NYC, hosted by Mark Koziel. The co-chairs of this years meeting were Carl George and Jennifer Wilson.

Other members (who I am so honored to be affiliated with) are: Roman Kepczyk, Allan Koltin, Gale Crosley, Angie Grissom, Jim Bourke, Chris Frederiksen, Rob Nixon, Darren Root and Marc Rosenberg.

An important discussion topic was Blockchain and how it will affect the future of auditing. Honestly, it sounds like it will affect the future of many things.

My point today is for you, as a CPA practitioner or non-CPA in a firm leadership position, to take the time to learn about blockchain. I must admit, I didn’t have a clear understanding of it until yesterday.

Below, I am furnishing you a link to a great article (via Accounting Today) that will help you learn more about blockchain. It is critical for you to educate yourself and your team – it is a huge change and it is coming about quickly – you can’t wait and think it is something to worry about 10 years from now.

Blockchain is defined as an open, distributed ledger, blockchain technology records and verifies transactions without any trusted central authority.  Read more…..

  • Frequently the more trifling the subject, the more animated and protracted the discussion.
  • Franklin Pierce

Monday, March 20th, 2017

Use Email & Social Media To Remind Your Clients

“Nagging is the repetition of unpalatable truths.” – Edith Summerskill

My dentist and my doctor send me reminders about upcoming appointments. These reminders come via email, text and a phone message. It is all automated via their practice management software. I have always wondered why more CPAs aren’t using a tool like this.

We now live in the world of social media and digital communication. Be sure you are using these tools to remind your clients about supplying their tax information.

When I talk to firms, they often tell me that they call and remind their clients about furnishing their information. When I ask, “How many times did you call?” the answer is usually…. “Once”. Once is not enough.

Here’s an example of an email one of my clients sent out recently. Maybe it will help you compose your reminder message. It is important that the reminder only go to  those clients who are tardy – not to ALL clients.

Have We Received Your Personal Tax Information?

April 15th will be here before you know it! Have you turned in your personal tax information? Remember, in order to ensure a timely filing of your tax return (to avoid an extension), we must have your information by March 22, 2017. All tax organizers were sent to clients in December of 2016. If you need another copy, please let us know. Please be sure to bring us your information so we are able to get started. If you are waiting for a few items, not a problem! Bring us what you have, we will get started, and then bring in the additional information as it arrives.
 
If you have any questions regarding your personal tax return, please contact our office. Thank you for your help.

  • Nothing external to you has any power over you.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

Don’t Hide The WELCOME Mat

“No matter how busy you are, you must take time to make the other person feel important.” – Mary Kay Ash

You made it through March 15th. It was challenging and sometimes very stressful. You have another month of the busy season life before you can relax a little.

And then, it is those darn clients. They keep emailing you and calling you. Don’t they understand how busy you are?? You just want to hide from them!

welcomeIf you are working in public accounting, please never forget that you are in the service business. Compare it to being in a restaurant and you ask the waiter for a water refill or another glass of wine. He flippantly and quickly responds. “I’m too busy right now. You’ll have to wait.” How much of a gratuity would you leave? Would you return to that restaurant anytime soon?

I email a lot of CPA practitioners and have received a lot of clever “out of office” automated responses. Here are two examples of the bad and the good.

I was saddened to receive one similar to this:

Due to the tax deadlines, I will not be able to respond in a timely manner to voicemail or email. If you need immediate assistance please contact Sally (phone number) and she will get a staff member to assist you.

What kind of message does this send to your client base? How many clients will hang around until you are not so busy? Never let clients know you are TOO BUSY for them and their needs. I guess the above message is better than never hearing back at all.

A few years ago I received an automated message from a long-time client when I emailed him during busy season. This message was warm and welcoming and explained an acceptable process for the busy time of year.

Greetings, Friends & Clients:

Due to the normal tax season high workload and to allow me to completely focus on the tasks at hand, I am currently checking and responding to e-mail daily at 8:00 am, 1:00 pm and 5:30 pm CT. You & your email is important to me and at the scheduled times, I will respond.

If you require urgent assistance please contact my assistant Juli Moses at (he provided phone number) or you can email her at (he provided her email address).

Even though you get this auto-response, rest assured that I do receive and am able to view the email you sent. Thank you for understanding this move to more efficiency and effectiveness. It helps me accomplish more and serve you better.

Sincerely,

Mike Shost

CPAs are in a business filled with tax due dates. Never be too busy for your valuable clients. Always have the WELCOME MAT prominently displayed, in your responses and in your personal behaviors.

  • The busy have no time for tears.
  • Lord Byron

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

How Do You See Yourself?

“Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.” – Malcolm S. Forbes

A very interesting topic was explored in an article via Accounting Today last week by Bill Tsotsos – – Do accountants have low self-esteem?

In his opening, he describes what I have observed, first-hand, in dealing with probably thousands of CPAs over the last 30 years.

Many male CPAs, to me, have split personalities. Or, maybe to describe it better, they have a public persona and a private persona.

Outside the firm, they project (and I think many of them force themselves to do it) a fun-loving, knowledgeable, highly intelligent professional. They have all the answers and love to help clients. They love being around people.

Inside the firm, they display many of the characteristics listed in the article:

  • Poor communication skills and poor social skills;
  • Don’t make/sustain eye contact with others;
  • Don’t engage with others;
  • Don’t take risks (risk-averse);
  • Unable to discern who and when to trust;
  • Fear and anxiety of making a mistake, being rejected, looking foolish or inadequate;
  • Self-focused: Only viewing and thinking of what goes on around them on the basis of their own wants and needs; and,
  • Rigidity: Motivated by fear of doing something wrong and receiving negative feedback. Those with LSE seem to narrow their choices to be safe from erring.

Demonstrating these characteristics does not mean they do not care about their clients, their team members or the quality of services they provide.

I like to describe it as they are not truly aware of their worth, the value they bring to the marketplace. This always comes out when it is time to bill – – they dread billing the client for the dollars revealed in WIP and usually bill them less. They can’t imagine what value pricing would be like!

I once talked with a CPA partner, very well-known and respected in his business community. He built his image up over many years and yet he disclosed that he dreaded networking and when a client came in to talk one-on-one, his stomach hurt before the meeting because he was dreading it.

I have not observed as much of this “split” in female CPAs. They need more of the outside persona.

My message: YOU are worth it! You have spent thousands and thousands of dollars getting your education and keeping current on financial and tax topics. What’s in your head is VERY valuable to others – don’t under rate yourself.

You provide your clients with peace of mind. What a great mission – enjoy it.

  • You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.
  • Buddha

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Georgia Society of CPAs – March Madness

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“The key is not the will to win, everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.” – Bob Knight

Many thanks to the Georgia Society for featuring my article, Lessons Learned: Two Kinds of March Madness, in March/April 2017 issue of their magazine, Current Accounts.

I hope all of you who are members of the Georgia Society will read the magazine or access it online.

If you are a non-member, I will be using the article in my upcoming newsletter. You can subscribe here.

Hint: There is the AFMM March Madness and there is the NCAA March Madness. Of course, AFMM stands for Accounting Firm March Madness.

  • Once you are labeled - the best - you want to stay up there, and you can't do it by loafing around. If I don't keep changing, I'm history.
  • Larry Bird

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

If You Still Don’t Think Things Are Rapidly Changing – Take a Look at TALK

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” – John Wooden

Think about it. Things that used to take you hours and hours to complete can now be mastered in a matter of minutes. The CPA’s most important tool is technology.

I shudder because I still interact with some practitioners who are not even PAPERLESS! They still cannot review a tax return ON SCREEN!

Talk_logo_bright_green-07663d94ffbd16b53ca1e60cd21c721aLast week I received information about a new app called TALK. TALK can now do the books for a business owner – you should pay attention to this – for no other reason than to realize that change is coming very fast. To put it briefly, your client could talk to the app and it would do the bookkeeping.

Here’s the press release and below is a link to the website where you can watch a short video.

22 Million Small Business Owners and Sales People Struggle With
Bookkeeping and Mileage Tracking.  It Stops Today.

If you can take a picture of a receipt or sales order and talk into your phone, TALK does your books.

TALK Accounting of Tucson announced a new phone app today that lets anyone, regardless of their accounting skills, to stop worrying about bookkeeping or tax deductions.  

Founder KC Truby says “Because of new voice recognition and artificial intelligence, the process is 10- second simple. The app codes, verifies and post your transactions right into a spreadsheet, QuickBooks or other software.”

To assure accuracy TALK automatically double checks the transaction against your current list of customers, vendors and deductions, right before your eyes.  No more receipts.  No more lost deductions.  No more worries about IRS questions.

What if you forget to TALK in a credit card charge?  No problem.  TALK has partnered with Finicity to review all your credit and debit transactions daily. KC says “if we see you forgot to TALK about something, we’ll send you a notification at the end of the day asking for the missing details, long before you forget.”

Tax returns made easy.  When you get a 1099 or other critical documents in the mail just take a picture and talk about it.  The documents are stored online – ready for your accountant.  No more ‘all-nighters’ on April 15th looking for lost documents. 

IRS ready mileage logs, automatically. TALK has also partnered with Automatic.com to intercept a GPS recording of where your car has been. This is data directly from the vehicle without draining your phone’s battery. After a trip, TALK will quietly ask if you’d like to include a business purpose for the miles driven. Just answer the question in one sentence and you have an IRS ‘bomb proof’ log ready for expense reports or tax returns. 

No learning curve. TALK has teamed up with Fujitsu’s ScanSnap scanner for 1 button push to upload documents whenever needed from a scanner. On the app side, the artificial intelligence codes your transactions for you – that means you don’t need accounting skills, just follow the app’s instructions and you’re left with rock-solid books.

Here’s a link to more information on the TALK site. Be sure to watch the short video at the top of the page.

 

  • Never neglect details. When everyone's mind is dulled or distracted the leader must be doubly vigilant.
  • Colin Powell

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

Be Sure You Are Listening

“It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is what are we busy about?” – Henry David Thoreau

You have a lot on your plate, whether you are a partner or a first year team member. It’s a busy time and you are in a constant state of hurry-and-get-this-done.

Keep in mind that THE CLIENT is not realistically aware of the amount of work you are processing. They only know that you and your firm are taking care of THEM. It is important to remain focused on their needs and to keep in mind how you look from their viewpoint.

Never let them think you are TO BUSY for them.

Several years at my firm, we had a ban on the word BUSY. If anyone said the word they had to deposit a small fee into the busy jar. The theory was not to ever let clients, prospective clients and referral sources think we were too busy to take on NEW clients.

How do you communicate your intent? Here’s an example.

The firm that prepares my personal/business tax returns, Nolan Giere in Troy, Ohio, recently sent out their Winter 2017 newsletter. In the comments from the managing partner, Tom Giere states:

“We will do our best to fully understand your unique situation so we can do the very best job for you. We also encourage you to ask questions. We are not too busy, we do not mind the interruptions, and we know that the more informed you are the better can serve you.”

Be sure you are communicating to your clients that you WANT them to ask questions and that you don’t mind interruptions.

  • The time to relax is when you don't have time for it.
  • Sydney J. Harris