Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category

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

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