Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

The Cloud Accountant

“Those without self-awareness do not look to improve, often because they do not think they need to.” – Jessica Daley

I talk with so many practitioners who struggle with the belief that they should employ remote employees. Whether you are convinced or not, it is a rapidly growing component of the accounting profession.

I recently read an article, 3 Essential Personality Traits of a Cloud Accountant by Jessica Daley of Xcelerate Business Solutions.

I enjoyed her article but was even more impressed when I visited the Xcelerate website.

Here’s the opening paragraph of the article. Does it sound like you and your team?

Today, flourishing in accounting requires a new way of thinking. It is less about the technical expertise and number-crunching, and more about whether you can handle systems, communicate well, innovate, solve problems, and build a rapport with your clients. If someone on your team is unable to do this, their accounting expertise does not matter—they simply will not be a very good accountant in the client’s eyes.

The 3 essential personality traits:

Curiosity – Your have to be curious about all the apps and technology so you can help your clients make the most of them.

Pride – You and your staff must have pride in what you do. You take ownership of your work and solve client problems.

Self-awareness – In the author’s opinion, this is the most important trait. You need to be aware of what you do not know.

Read more about these 3 traits here.

  • My best staff are relentless in their ownership of a client.
  • Jessica Daley

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

Never Be Complacent About Collections

“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” – Theodore Roosevelt

When you don’t have a documented collection policy and procedures to facilitate collection of past due accounts, you are demotivating your people.

You might think that the team members don’t realize which clients are late on payment. Get real, they all know. If you ask them to work on assignments and they fully realize that this particular client is a “collection problem,” why would they be excited about doing the work efficiently and timely?

More importantly, why loan money to slow paying clients? That is what you are doing and your CPA firm is acting as a lender for the client.

Why does this happen so often inside CPA firms and other SME’s? It is because leaders are afraid that chasing payments might negatively impact the client relationship. Remember this, if you have a client who does not pay….. they are not a client. “I provide the service and you pay me.” – that is the basis for a client relationship.

Of course, there are times when certain clients might be struggling and delaying payment is an alternative. But, work out a payment plan, spread over several months so that they can eventually catch-up. The most important thing is communication with the client before they get too far behind.

Communicate your billing and collection policies upfront when you initially meet with a new client. When a client becomes “past due,” do not wait until they are 120 days past due to contact them. If you expect payment at 30 days and they have not paid, send them an email on day 31. Call them on day 40. Always send monthly accounts receivable statements. Designate a person to handle collections and make it their highest priority.

Communication is key. I have encountered partners who would actually dodge a phone call from a client if it was about collection!

Most progressive firms have a stop work policy. If a client is past due by 90 days (you decide on how many), all work stops until they make full payment or work out a payment plan and make the first payment. If they miss a payment, work stops.

I often get questions about 1040 clients who are slow to pay. If they are a collection problem this year, they are a COD client next year (they must pay before their work is released). If they are a continuing collection problem, they pay upfront before work begins.

I’m not talking about harassing clients, I am talking about embracing good business practices – collect what is owed to you and encourage your clients to do the same with their customers.

  • You do not lead by hitting people over the head - that's assault, not leadership.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

Four Important Questions

rob-nixon-blogprofile2copy“Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.” – Carol Burnett

Today, I want you to read an insightful and empowering post by Rob Nixon, founder of Panalitix, titled The 4 Most Important Questions to Ask

Here’s an excerpt to lead you in….

Let’s park the issues and reasons why you should not be a time selling business and focus on the intellectual capital business. That’s what you really sell so let’s focus on that.

 

  • Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.
  • Helen Keller

Friday, January 5th, 2018

Attention Bookkeepers!

“If you’re a bookkeeper, it’s time to embrace evolution.” – Mary Ellen Biery

I would guess that almost every CPA firm has provided bookkeeping services. It has become quite in vogue now. They are calling it CAS (Client Accounting Services). It is needed and it has become very lucrative due to technology.

In the “old days” – not that many years ago, we called it write-up and in some firms it was regarded as low-level, non-profitable work. All that has changed. In CPA firms you don’t even call them bookkeepers (or paraprofessionals) any longer (that title always amazed me…. not quite professional?). They are called Client Accounting Specialists or some other unique title.

Something that also needs to change is how bookkeepers might think of themselves. They are no longer just bookkeepers – they are business consultants. They really know what is going on inside the client’s business and can take action to help business owners.

Check out this important article via Accounting Today – The evolution and changing role of bookkeepers.  Share it with your Client Accounting Specialists.

  • There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self.
  • Aldous Huxley

Friday, December 29th, 2017

Next Year

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.” – Robert Frost

How many times have you said those two words, “next year”?

Maybe to your kids, “You’ll be old enough to do that next year.”

Maybe to your spouse, “Honey, we’ll take that special vacation trip next year.”

Maybe to yourself, “I’m going to lose 25 pounds next year!”

How about inside your firm?

“We will work on it and become COMPLETELY paperless next year.”

“We can’t do it this year, but next year we will out-place those five clients that drive our staff nuts.”

“We promise to be more timely with our feedback process next year.”

“We will add a few more employee benefits next year.”

“We have to update our website next year.”

“We will look into all this new digital stuff like blockchain and artificial intelligence, next year.”

“I’ll pass the CPA exam next year.”

For all these “next years” relating to your firm: Monday is NEXT YEAR.

For NOW – have a happy and safe New Years’ weekend!

  • It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and the broken promises.
  • Chief Joseph

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

It Won’t Be The Same Tomorrow

“Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.” – Arnold Bennett

If you are retirement age, working in a CPA firm, it might be a good time to actually retire.

Here’s an informative, brief blog titled, “What is an Accountant? It Won’t be the Same Tomorrow” by Todd Cheney.

So much of what you have done (or supervised) during your professional life will be done by automation. Young people will need to be equipped to do consulting work much sooner. Almost half of your new hires won’t be accountants. Very soon – NOT the distant future – you will have to change your work skills drastically.

But, there is such opportunity if you are will to invest in drastic change. Mark Belfance, a Managing Partner at the accounting titan EY, sees it as a positive for both clients and employees. “When you take away the mundane, we get the opportunity to give our people differentiated experiences and they become those business advisors sooner. That’s what our clients want.”

If you struggle with accepting change and if you and your firm are really good at the mundane, it’s a rocky road ahead.

  • Action is the foundational key to all success.
  • Pablo Picasso

Friday, December 8th, 2017

Little Things All Year Long

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

It’s December. There has probably been a discussion about doing something special for your best clients because of the holidays.

Rather than only doing something special this time of year, why not do many little things all year long? Keep in mind, little things can make the biggest difference.

Here are just a few ideas for little things you can do for your clients throughout the year:

  • Send a handwritten note to clients on the anniversary of the day they became a client of the firm.
  • Have a small box of candy (4 to 6 pieces) mailed to their home on their birthday (so their family can see it and share)
  • Mailing the clients who always pay on time a “Thanks for always paying on time” note – U.S. mail or email.
  • Sending a card to a client’s child when they graduate from H.S. or college.
  • The client likes dark chocolate or milk chocolate – send them the appropriate box of candy.
  • When the weather gets cold and snowy, send a special client one golf ball in the mail and remind them to think about Spring.
  • Be sure all clients who have new babies get a special monogrammed blanket with their name and date of birth noted.

Ask your team to come up with more little things. It can be a fun lunch & learn activity.

What about those clients who are not your best, the ones you dread? Find them another accounting firm!

  • Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things.
  • Frank Clark

Monday, December 4th, 2017

Is Your Holiday Greeting Inspiring?

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” – Muhammad Ali

Year after year, CPA firms struggle with what kind of Christmas card or holiday message they should send to their clients. Some spend quite a bit of money on prestigious holidays cards and gifts. Then, the question comes up – how do we top that next year?

Why not live your holiday message? Do kind and helpful things for your community then share your story with your clients and business associates.

I recently received my holiday greeting from a law firm (Ice Miller). Sure, they send it out to hundreds or even thousands of people, but it made me feel good about them.

You could do the same. Check it out here.

  • It's not about giving back if you're successful or a celebrity or how much money you have. It's about your responsibility as an adult to help others.
  • Trisha Yearwood

Friday, December 1st, 2017

Busy Season Begins

It is December 1.

For years, we considered the beginning of “busy season” – we used to call it tax season but that term is no longer comprehensive enough – to be January 2.

Some firms would even require employees to begin working extended hours immediately after the New Year holiday, whether they truly had full schedules or not.

Firm leaders would often struggle to keep people busy after April 15th. They longed for more projects that could be scheduled from May to December. These days, from my observations, busy season continues throughout most of the year.

In my recent discussions with various firms of all sizes and locations, busy season begins in December. Firms are engaging their clients in much needed tax planning and those appointments plus completion of other tasks that have to be done before January, add some additional stress to the holiday season.

Firm leaders are challenged with allowing their employees to take extra time off during December when some clients need attention right up to the last minute on December 31.

This came to mind because of the recent news that American Airlines allowed too many pilots to schedule time off during those last two weeks of the year and perhaps 15,000 flights were in danger of being cancelled. It seems they have worked it out by paying the pilots additional money to cover the holiday rush.

Maybe that is a solution for you. You might have some employees who would work more hours during those last two weeks of December (for additional dollars) so that other employees could have time off for family activities.

Let the scheduling games begin!

Monday, November 27th, 2017

Year-End Tax Checklist

“Life is simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius

Well-managed CPA firms have, for a long time, supplied their individual income tax clients with some sort of year-end tax checklist. It is meant to be a helpful tool to encourage the clients to consider significant (and some insignificant) events that might affect their tax return.

At my firm, we used to include the tax checklist with the tax organizer. Many clients, as you can imagine, never bothered to look at their organizer, so they also missed the tax checklist. Then, we stopped providing tax organizers. Our default setting was “No organizer” unless a client specifically requested one. A few did.

Things are so much better now. You can simply send an email to your clients with a link to the annual tax checklist. They can quickly scan through the questions and provide you with information that affects their return.

Last week I received an email from one of my clients that included the year end tax checklist link (just because I am on their mailing list). It was quick to read, easy to review and made me think about pertinent information. That’s exactly how you want your clients to feel about how you provide services – quick, easy and pertinent!

Make 2018 a year when you become a proactive advisor to your clients and get away from always being in reactionary mode.

  • The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.
  • Hans Hofmann