Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category

Monday, October 12th, 2015

Developing a Humble Heart

Photo on 2-13-13 at 2.58 PMIt is my observation that most accounting firm partner and manager groups have members of a variety of personality types. Big picture, that’s a good thing. It allows for differing opinions and viewpoints.

Experts say that up until the sixties, in the American culture, humility was taught and encouraged. Then it seems, we switched to a much more intense focus on self-esteem. Self-confidence and assertiveness became the admired traits and has grown even stronger over the last decade. I bet you see it in your CPA firm.

You want to have strong-willed, aggressive leaders but don’t let them forget that humility aspect of leadership and setting a good example.

I believe that the vast majority of CPAs are naturally humble. That being said, I also believe that the ones who are more aggressive, even to the point of being a bully, make it to the top positions.

Humility is simply an attitude of service. The humble person looks for opportunities to be of service to others, even to the little things like holding a door open for others.

Just something to keep in mind as you mentor your future leaders. These thoughts were inspired by a newspaper column by John Rosemond, an expert on parenting.

  • Humility is the only true wisdom by which we prepare our minds for all the possible changes in life.
  • George Arliss

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

The Badge of Honor For Accountants – Busyness

I was recently reading about the leadership qualities of Pope Francis. One aspect is that he manages his time and energy and keeps a schedule that is healthy. He has even criticized other Catholic leaders for their busyness.

It is my observation that way too many CPA firm owners delight in demonstrating busyness. It’s almost like an addiction. They have numerous arguments for their demanding schedules: We don’t have enough people. We don’t have the right people. Our people don’t have the skills. The clients are too demanding. The clients force me into last-minuteness and so on.

If you are a skilled leader you fix these things. You focus on managing your business not remaining in the never-ending squirrel cage of busyness.

  • Beware the barrenness of a busy life.
  • Socrates

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

Time To Phase Out Voicemail

I know that voicemail is an important part of most CPA’s lives. Clients leave a message and you call them back. You leave a message and they call you back. Often this loop goes on and on.

I have observed that many CPAs never answer their phone. They let the call go into voicemail so they can avoid the interruption. Is that really client service?

I have blogged about the decline in voicemail at least a couple of times. Studies tell us that most people under 40 do not use voicemail. How about your clients?

Countless things become outdated every decade and it looks like voicemail is one of them. Here’s some things to consider from a blog post on yestrak:

No one leaves messages anymore. – Forbes reports that 80% of callers hang up on voicemail.

Customers don’t want to wait. – InsideSales reports that 35-50% of buyers choose the vendor that responds first.

Machines are frustrating. – American Express reports that 67% of customers have hung up the phone out of frustration that they could not talk to a real person.

Phones are now smart, you voicemail isn’t. – According to Pew Research Center, two-thirds of the American population now owns a smart phone.

Voicemail is not part of a rapid-response cycle. – The New York Times reports that 30% of messages don’t get checked for at least three days and 20% never check messages.

Be thinking about how your growing firm will serve clients without voicemail.  Read the entire blog post on yestrak for more details.

  • I should just change my voicemail greeting to: Please hang up and text me, thanks.
  • Unknown

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

What Works For You… Not Everyone Else.

I was reading an article on Fast Company about how Uber approached their markets differently. What would work in NYC wouldn’t necessarily appeal to someone in Seattle or Washington, DC.

When you are branding your firm, serving your clients and hiring talented people, are you trying to do it like “a firm you know” in a completely different part of the country? Perhaps, it is even a very different size firm?

It’s not that any one firm is right and another wrong. You must know your market.

I get so many questions about starting salaries. It depends on where you are located.

What about what your clients like, why they come to you? A lot of it could depend on your geographical location.

Figure out what works for you and then do it.

  • Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.
  • William Sprague

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