“We won’t recognize the vast majority of CPA firms in five to 10 years.” – Barry Melancon
CPAs working in public accounting, get ready. I’m smiling as I type this because I have been warning, pleading, asking and begging you to “get ready” for about 25 years!
As reported via Accounting Today, Barry Melancon, President/CEO of the AICPA said recently, “The number of changes facing the accounting profession will leave most practices radically altered in the near future.”
Yes, you have been hearing that for years but this time it’s different because time is truly running out.
The businesses you serve are facing changes in a quicker time frame than ever before, why should you think CPA firms would be exempt? CPAs are supposed to be showing their clients the way into the future.
Erik Asgeirsson, President/CEO of CPA.com encourages accountants to dive deep into technology and pursue how it can help them deliver higher value to their clients.
It’s that old devil – the inbox! So many accounting firm citizens, from all levels inside the firm, lament how difficult it is to keep up with emails.
I have even heard partners talk about the number of emails they received in almost a bragging tone! “I get 100 emails a day!” “Well, I get almost 200!”
Don’t let email run your daily life. Don’t make it your default, open page on your desk top. Don’t feel compelled to reply immediately.
I have read lots of articles about how to deal with email and have shared several on this blog. I also practice what I learn! I do not continually check my email. I close my email window when I am getting real work done, etc.
This week I read a post by S. Anthony Iannarino, speaker and author about how he processes his email. I think you will find it very helpful.
He does not live in his inbox.
He works in 90 minute segments (without checking email).
He does a quick scan for anything urgent (that’s your challenge… what is urgent and what really isn’t urgent?)
There are really not very many emails that actually need an IMMEDIATE response. If you have one, then respond to it.
Every Wednesday morning he processes his email (he has five inboxes) and gets them all to zero.
If I let myself, I could sit and process email continually all day long! My method is to check email first thing in the morning, around noon and then again late afternoon. I rarely look at email after 5:00pm. My clients have top priority. I answer their emails first (but not always immediately).
Commit to a new practice for handling email and making your day more productive.
When you visit Anthony’s site, you might also learn some things to help with sales, after all Anthony’s site is thesalesblog.com. And he has a book titled The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need.
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” – Bill Gates
Every tax season you wonder. Will all our clients return to our firm for their annual personal and business tax preparation?
There will be a few who will leave, for various reasons… they’ve moved, their brother-in-law now works for another local firm, they sold their business, etc. The most common reason the departing clients give is that your fees are just too high… more than they want to pay.
You review last year’s work and feel confident that the fees charged were valid compensation for the work performed. You contemplate giving the complaining client a reduced fee quote for their continuing work. Don’t do it!
Dig deeper. A client usually departs a CPA firm because of something other than fees. It is just easy for them to use fees as the excuse because they don’t want to tell you the truth. They feel neglected. They feel you are always reactive rather than proactive. They overheard something said by a member of the engagement team that was distasteful to them.
Studies tell us that a typical business hears from only 4% of it’s dissatisfied customers. Are you asking your clients, EVERY time you have a communication with them, “How are we doing?”
CPAs often spend much more time focused on NEW clients than they do on their OLD, faithful clients. You begin to take them for granted. Your existing clients are golden. Studies also tell us that the probability of selling to a new prospects is 5-20%. The probability of selling to an existing client is 60-70%.
Keep in mind:
It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience.
For every customer who bothers to complain, 26 other customers remain silent.
Clients are, of course, concerned about price but most will be willing to pay more for awesome service.
Your firm management group (includes partners, managers, and the firm administrator) works hard at defining and establishing the procedures that most efficiently enable the firm to provide excellent client service.
Your HR professional or firm administrator spends a significant amount of time and effort to update the firm handbook, the one that outlines the expected behaviors of all people working at the firm. It is approved by all partners.
You have job descriptions that document the duties of all levels of employees, including partners, at the firm.
At a staff meeting, the managing partner, speaking on behalf of all partners, explains a new policy or procedure and asks for everyone to get on board with implementation.
All of this can be summed up as “Do as I say.” Then….
A couple of partners and a manager short-cut some of the documented processes or procedures.
Several leaders openly disregard a certain topic in the personnel handbook.
As far as job descriptions, we often find partners doing manager work and managers doing senior work.
Several partners procrastinate on visibly implementing the “new” procedure.
All of this completes the familiar saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
This phrase should not be part of your firm culture. The leaders’ actions are obvious to the employees and probably an on-going topic of conversation or even ridicule. What can you do about it now? What more can you do after April 15? Think about it.
A person always doing his or her best becomes a natural leader, just by example.
“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” – W. Edwards Deming
How are you doing with that “change” thing? I write about it over and over again and about how important it is to embrace change and keep pace with the changing world.
Today, I won’t write much but I want you to follow this link and read a great article by Jody Padar. To me, it’s a simple message: If you don’t change you will lose clients. Read it please and think about it over the weekend.
You must welcome change as the rule but not as the ruler.
“We are a full-service accounting firm serving clients throughout the area, dedicated to providing our clients with professional, personalized services and guidance in a wide range of financial and business needs.”
“Since 1984, our Certified Public Accounting firm, has been providing quality, personalized financial guidance to local individuals and businesses. Our expertise ranges from valuable tax management and accounting services to more in-depth services such as audits of financial statements, preparation of financial statements, consulting and financial planning.”
Do the above descriptions sound like something that is on your website? They are typical of what I see as I visit CPA websites from across the country. Although I have been urging you to get creative with your website for years, I still find many that look the same way they did in 1997 (or earlier).
While your accountants are busy for the next couple of months, it’s time for your firm administrator or marketing director (coordinator) to get busy updating your website.
Make it friendly to the first-time visitor. On the home page, tell them how you can help THEM and not so much about YOU. Save the information about your firm for a subsequent page. Some things you need to convey:
Immediate resources for the visitor
Your energy, enthusiasm, and excitement about what you do
“So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don’t sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we’ve satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late.”
You can, you should, and if you're brave enough to start, you will.
“Deciding what not to do is an important as deciding what to do.” – Jessica Jackley
CPAs who have reached the manager level in a public accounting firm are not always great managers.
They have reached the manager level (usually the level just below partner) because they have worked very hard and been with the firm for several years. They are good at managing the client work. They have been trained and trained for that job. The firm has invested significant dollars in their technical knowledge advancement. They are great technicians.
Firm leaders then expect them to naturally be great managers of people – great trainers, mentors and delegators. Yet, the firm has not spent any money on teaching them how to be motivators and leaders.
Perhaps you have heard this story inside your own firm – Sally is a great manager. She brings the job in on time and under budget. She works an almost unreal amount of hours to get it done. She has an engagement team to help her. Young Bill on her team struggles with a particular part of the work. Sally takes the work back and does it herself. Her excuse is, “I know my billing rate is much higher than Bill’s but I can do it in half the time.” Thus, Bill never learns and Sally is tired and stressed.
Ask you younger people to stretch – they might just surprise you in how much they can accomplish if they are taught, managed and encouraged.
No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.
“The telephone is a good way to talk to people without having to offer them a drink.” – Fran Lebowitz
I know many CPAs who avoid talking to their clients. Yes, they have all kinds of valid excuses. I don’t mean to say that they ignore their clients but they think they save time by emailing almost all of the time.
That’s why the following thought, expressed by Simon Sinek, was meaningful to me.
“A five-minute call replaces the time it takes to read and reply to the original email and read and reply to their reply… or replies. And I no longer spend 20+ minutes crafting the perfect email – no need to.” – – Simon Sinek
So, you say, when I call my client I always get voice mail and we end up playing telephone tag. When they return my call I may be on the phone with another client.
Simple solution – set a telephone appointment.
Sinek’s quote also applies to your team members – a two-minute conversation can keep client work moving through the office rather than having the staffer wait on partners or managers to reply to emails.
Delay in getting answers from partners is one of the most common responses I receive when facilitating upward feedback surveys for partners.
I think the quote, below, applies to accounting firms!
For email, the old postcard rule applies. Nobody else is suppose to read your postcards, but you'd be a fool if you wrote anything private on one.