Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Tax Return Ranking – A Consistency Issue

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” – Jim Rohn

If you work in a CPA firm, you probably know what I mean by the title of this post – tax return ranking. It means the level of difficulty of a particular tax return.

It is one of those procedural type issues that I probably don’t cover as much as I used to. Yet, these little things can play havoc with consistency and efficiency at your firm.

Here’s the story:

Partners are asked to assign a level of difficulty to tax returns before they are selected (or assigned) for preparation. Some firms use grades like A, B, C and some firms use a numeric ranking like 1-5, with 5 being the most difficult.

Staff and interns then select (or are assigned) returns that are appropriate to their experience level. Beginners and interns might be given the “simple” returns and more experienced tax preparers get the more complex returns.

The issue is that some partners might think a certain return is a Level 2 and another partner thinks it’s really a Level 1. They have not established guidelines as to what actually constitutes a #1 from a #3 return. It is just assumed that a #3 is more difficult than a #1. Take the guess work out of this process by better defining what each level means.

Susan Flynn, Office Manager at Gallagher, Flintoff & Klein in Lansing, Michigan has kindly agreed to share their ranking system. I though it might help other firms better define their own ranking systems.

Tax Return Rankings

0 – Business/Trusts

1 – Simple: W-2, Sch. A, No Sch. C, E or K-1s.

2 – Average: Includes a Sch. C, E or simple K-1s.

3 – Complex: One or more of the following: Sch. C, D, E, K-1s, B w/large brokerage statement, multi-state.

4 – High Touch: High-level preparer required.

Before January 1 rolls around, review your system and determine if it needs to be better defined.

 

  • For every disciplined effort there is a multiple reward.
  • Jim Rohn

Friday, October 6th, 2017

Focus On Next Generation Clients

“Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.” – George Orwell

Firm leaders are always faced with multiple priorities. Probably, two of the most prominent are hiring and retaining top talent and taking great care of current clients. Leaders are also often deeply engaged with a new client pursuit. Your rainmaker partners truly love the pursuit and sometimes pay more attention to prospects and new clients than they do to their long-time loyal clients.

There is another priority that needs attention. In a recent article via the AICPA CPA Insider, How to engage next-generation clients, Jennifer Wilson of Convergence Coaching, reminds practitioners of the massive generational shift that is happening over the next several years within their own client community. Many firm leaders have not developed strategies to deal with this client leadership transition to a younger, more tech savvy generation.

It is time for firm leaders to add this priority to their list – more focus on next generation clients.

Wilson not only addresses what next-gen clients value, she also gives practitioners six “first steps” to begin appealing to and attracting these clients.

Be sure to read the entire article.

  • First we are children to our parents, then parents to our children, then parents to our parents, then children to our children.
  • Milton Greenblatt

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

Acting

Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get. – – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.   

If you have a job, especially if you have a job in the CPA profession, acting is probably, or should be, part of your skill set.

Sometimes you get a less-than-enjoyable client assignment. If you are new to the CPA profession, you probably act like you are pleased with the assignment and are learning something meaningful from the experience.

If you are more experienced, you might not be such a good actor and tend to whine about the assignment.

No matter what your experience, you never let the client know that you dread the assignment or project.

Clients need and expect you to care about them. It is natural that you care more about some clients. But, with some clients, it takes more acting than it does with others.

Read Seth Godin’s take on “Appearing to care.”

  • If you care, that's great. If you don't, at least right now, well, it's your job. That's the hard part.
  • Seth Godin

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

Disruption, Future-Ready and All That Jazz

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” – Leo Tolstoy

I enjoyed a recent post by Gail Perry, Editor-in-Chief of CPA Practice Advisor, titled, CPA Tomorrowland.

Gail talks about the word disruption and how often it is included in CPA conversations. As she notes, it is not disruption in small letters, it is DISRUPTION in capital letters and it is happening SO fast. Changing FAST is not something most CPAs are not used to.

  • A McKinsey study suggests that 49% of work currently being done by accountants is likely to be automated.
  • Accenture reports that 21% of organizations have blockchain in production and that 40% of basic accounting work will be automated or eliminated by 2020 – in 3 years!
  • The AICPA and state society leaders are pushing members to quickly move from personally doing compliance work (let AI and bots do that) and evolve into business consultants.

What makes all of this very interesting and puzzling to me is the fact that so many consultants, media and profession leaders are strongly advising that the older CPAs need to get out of the way because they are not suited for this new world of CPA-ing.

In my work consulting work with firms, I have observed that automation has been increasing inside firms for years. Sure, there might be a bigger and quicker leap in the coming years but most well-managed practices with savvy (and usually mature) leadership will make that leap.

Successful, older CPAs do not love grinding out compliance work. In fact, many older CPAs (partners), don’t even know how to use the elaborate software and automated systems the firm has now.

I have observed that in multiple partner firms, the more experienced CPAs (older) are the ones ALREADY consulting with clients. The next generation (managers and “next” partners) have been groomed to be production units. They don’t network, they don’t bring in business, they don’t go to management conferences or keep on top of current trends – they are too busy grinding.

I recently asked a CPA how many of their eight partners were already spending the majority of their time consulting. The answer was two! The others have become complacent and comfortable doing compliance work.

Before you push your older, more experienced partners out the door, identify which ones are already consultants. Be sure they are working very hard at training younger partners and next leaders on how to really consult with, and advise, clients. They need to develop the skills necessary to help their clients become more profitable and successful.

We want retiring partners to transition the client relationships. It is a whole lot more than getting the client to call Joe Young rather than Bob Old, when they have a problem.

As for the automation part, here’s what Nick Chandi notes in his article on Forbes – How AI Is Reshaping The Accounting Industry: “..since accounting professionals will still remain as the final approvers of all the tasks performed by the AI, they will keep control of any sensitive information they want. As long as they have everything backed up to the cloud, they are good to go.”

CPAs are going through some very exciting times. The CPA profession is interesting and challenging and unlike many outside the profession believe, it is never, ever boring.

  • Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
  • Robert C. Gallagher

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

Trying to be All Things to All People

“The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception and response to failure.” – John C. Maxwell

Many CPA firms have remained generalists. They do compliance work for all types of businesses of all sizes. Maybe that is why many people who need a CPA think they are all alike. These firms try to please everyone and probably end up being an average firm.

Some of the most successful firms are evolving into experts. They have become known for special expertise with specific types of businesses. You know who they are, the auto dealer firms, the medical firms, the dental firms, the native American firms and, now, even green firms.

If you continue to try to please everyone, you may end up not pleasing anyone.

Here’s a good post by Seth Godin – Beware of false averages.

  • The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.
  • Andy Rooney

Thursday, September 7th, 2017

Results

“The job isn’t to catch up to the status quo; the job is to invent the status quo.” – Seth Godin

I hear it discussed often when I am with a group of people who work in the CPA profession. It is the topic of judging performance based upon results. Some say, don’t judge them on methods nor maybe even on attitude and teamwork. How much do they accomplish? (How much do they bill? …is often the question in public accounting.)

Some of that is fine with me, but not completely. There is more to a person’s role in a CPA firm than results.

As Seth Godin puts it…. “Doing work that matters, with people we care about.” Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Doesn’t that matter a lot?

Sometimes we find ourselves doing “busy work” – trivial stuff that sucks up much of our time. Sometimes we find ourselves employing people who are not great performers, nor do they even seem to care about the firm. They demotivate those around them.

Read Godin’s post about this topic. Many things actually do matter more than results.

 

  • Being aware of your fear is smart. Overcoming it is the mark of a successful person.
  • Seth Godin

Thursday, August 31st, 2017

A Bit of News Today

“Jobs fill your pockets but adventures fill your soul.” – Jaime Lyn

It is a sad/happy day for me. In case you haven’t heard, this is my friend’s (Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk) last day in business as bbr marketing. 

Bonnie loves working with her clients, she is no longer passionate about running a business. Maybe all of us have had fleeting thought like that from time to time.

IMG_7499Bonnie is certainly not retiring, she is exploring other options. She states in a recent blog post:

“As my company has grown over the last eight years, a fact about which I am very proud, I get to do less of what I love and instead spend much more time running the firm. I’ve decided it is the right time for me to get back to what I am best at and love doing most, and let someone else run the show.”

Warm wishes and best of luck to Bonnie on her quest for a new adventure!

 

  • Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure.
  • Bob Bitchin

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Too Lazy?

“I can’t relate to lazy people. We don’t speak the same language. I don’t understand you. I don’t want to understand you.” – Kobe Bryant

During these lazy days of summer, maybe you and your team have gotten too lazy, too comfortable, too laid-back. Now is the perfect time for everyone to get back to basics – the basics of advancing your career in public accounting.

Move the firm (and yourself) along by doing more of these things:

  • Volunteering for firm internal projects
  • Being a visible and hands-on manager of people
  • Developing a personal marketing plan and tracking progress via a marketing report
  • Attending charitable and business community events
  • Scheduling frequent lunches with referral sources
  • Picking up the phone and calling clients just to chat
  • Improving your time management and organizational skills
  • Passing the CPA exam quickly
  • Mentoring and coaching the future leaders in your firm
  • Volunteering to help with recruiting and campus activities
  • Working hard is great, being lazy sometimes is great, but failed potential is the worst.
  • Campbell Scott

Monday, August 14th, 2017

Focus On The Valuable Ones

“Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence.” – Colin Powell

Often, we find ourselves giving too much attention to people who do not matter.

You might be considering focusing on a new specialty niche. You get all wrapped up in something new and might just forget about the old, faithful clients you’ve had for years.

You do really care about your long-time clients but the intrigue of the hunt for new clients might temporarily over-shadow the tried and true.

I always say, don’t kill the golden goose. Take special care of your long-time loyal clients and help them become more and more successful.

 

  • A person who deserves my loyalty receives it.
  • Joyce Maynard

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

The 10 Most Profitable Industries

“Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” – Jim Rohn

It’s no surprise to CPA firm owners, but accounting and bookkeeping firms (along with real estate leasing companies and legal services) top the list of the most profitable industries over the last 12 months.

It’s nothing new, accounting has been at the top for several years, but I think sometimes CPA firm owners don’t think much about it, probably because they are used to the profit margins.

The information comes from Sageworks in its annual ranking of the most profitable industries in the U.S.

Most CPAs truly love the work they do. Sure, it involves some long hours, commitment and dedication to client service but being extremely profitable sure is a nice reward.

Share this information inside your firm. Perhaps it will inspire talented, young CPAs to go down the future partner track. Some partners don’t want to share this information because the staff will want bigger salaries. Maybe it is time to have that conversation inside your firm.

most-profitable-2017

 

  • Rule No. 1: Never lose money. Rule No. 2: Never forget rule No. 1.
  • Warren Buffett