Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

Problems

“The work is to solve problems in a way that you’re proud of.” – Seth Godin

I love the above quotation from a post by Seth Godin. He is describing what it means to be an entrepreneur.

I believe that this quote describes my mission. I work to help my CPA firm clients solve problems, as the quote says, in a way that I am proud of. Often, it is very challenging, mostly because the problems I am trying to help solve can be solved by a simple solution – change.

You, working in a CPA firm, have the same exact mission. It’s not preparing tax returns or financial statements, it is solving problems for your clients and helping them make needed changes to be more profitable and successful.

Begin looking at your work this way. If you are solving problems, word will spread and you will have more clients. Solving problems is a great way to market.

  • We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
  • Albert Einstein

Friday, April 20th, 2018

Flashback Friday – Incentives For New Business

There is a lot of discussion in CPA circles about paying an incentive to team members for assisting in bringing in new business to the firm.

Here’s a flashback post on this topic – Incentive For New Business – Keep It Simple.

Have a great Friday!

  • In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.
  • Mark Twain

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

What If You Had More Time at Work?

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.” – Jim Rohn

If you had more time, what would you do with it?

If you are a CPA, accountant or support professional working in public accounting, it seems that you are always very busy and have very little extra time. What if you had just a little more free time at work? Wouldn’t it be great to focus on something other than social media?

Marketing guru, Mark Schaefer, interviewed some marketing professionals and asked them what they would do with a little extra time. Many of them said they would get away from social media and talk to people in person. What a concept!

After you wrap-up tax season, why not outline a plan for all of your professionals to make more personal contacts as the remainder of 2018 unfolds? You are in the service business. Talk to those you serve, in person. It is a very natural and non-threatening way to develop additional business for your firm.

  • Keep Your Sales Pipeline Full By Prospecting Continuously. Always Have More People To See Than You Have Time To See Them.
  • Brian Tracy

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

It’s An Important Role – DOFI

“Without hard work and discipline, it is difficult to be a top professional.” – Jahangir Khan

A key role in your firm is one that I call the Director of First Impressions (DOFI). Many firms have adopted this title because it really is very descriptive. Some firms just say it is their Receptionist or the front desk person. For some reason, and it probably goes back to the old days, team members look down on this position and no one wants to “sit at the front desk” even when that person goes to lunch!

I think you should be very selective in hiring for this position and demanding when it comes to their performance – set some high expectations. It really is NOT a no-brainer job!

Historically, this person just greeted clients and answered the phone. There wasn’t much else they could do without physically leaving their desk. Technology has changed all of that. Now, they can do a lot of what the other administrative assistants do. Plus, phone traffic has decreased in many firms because of direct phone numbers for your team.

One very important task this person should be handling in your firm is the monitoring of 8879s and releasing returns. Many firms have actually established this procedure and it is working very well. Reminding clients and following up if they don’t respond and then monitoring the release of returns is something that can be done without leaving the front desk.

Your DOFI also is an important part of your client service and marketing efforts. They make everyone feel welcome when they visit the firm, offering them refreshments and hanging up their coats. They have a smile (in their voice) when they answer the phone.

Many CPAs have told me that some clients call the firm’s main number just so they can talk to the DOFI. At my firm, we once landed a big client and in their acceptance letter, they mentioned how nice they were treated by Sonya (DOFI) when their executive team visited our firm.

If you are fortunate enough to have a top performer in this position, pay them well. They are worth more than an average administrative assistant.

  • If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.
  • Red Adair

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Enable Your Firm To Grow

Katie“Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.” – Bruce Lee

I enjoyed attending the CPAFMA Ohio Chapter meeting last week in Columbus. Katie Tolin of CPA Growth Guides enlightened the attendees about the importance of product development, something missing from most CPA firms.

Here are some bullet points from Tolin’s remarks. I hope you find them very thought-provoking!

  • For a CPA firm to grow, they need 3 things: marketing, business development, and product management.
  • In most firms, product management is missing – you need all three.
  • Accounting is a mature profession and compliance work has hit its peak.
  • We are in a sea of sameness. Starbucks elevated the cup of coffee. How have we changed the tax return? About the only thing is e-filing, now everyone does it.
  • Technology is speeding things up and that kills billing by the hour.
  • We have mature products and a mature industry, how do we innovate? It can’t only be about new products (services), we need to innovate things we already do.
  • You must always challenge the status quo. Make it part of your culture.
  • Employees need to be empowered to please clients. You need two things, happy clients and happy employees.
  • Katie Tolin

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

Be Bold

“Be original; don’t be scared of being bold!” – Ed Sheeran

Sometimes, I have observed that accountants are actually afraid to be bold. Don’t be!

Do things differently, treat your team differently, treat your clients differently and maybe it would be beneficial if YOU acted differently.

Many people believe that all accounting firms are pretty much alike. I have observed that fact over the years. I have also observed that there are some, a small number, that really are different.

I have also observed that there are some firms where there is one VERY bold partner. Well, almost too bold. That person lords over the partner group and the team and everyone seems to fall in line because they are afraid to be bold in return.

One of the questions I have heard over and over again is, “What are other firms doing?” This year, don’t follow the pack. Begin by giving your firm a “facelift.”

  • Is your office modern?
  • Is your logo trendy and modern?
  • Are you offering services that other firms are not?
  • Do you focus on something besides chargeable hours?
  • Are you making the client experience awesome?
  • Are you making the employee experience awesome?
  • Are you operating in the digital world – no more paper, no more fancy, expensive covers, client-friendly portals, lots of social media activity to benefit clients and prospects?
  • Is your website cool?

Read the Ed Sheeran quote, above, again. BE BOLD.

  • Originality implies being bold enough to go beyond accepted norms.
  • Anthony Storr

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

Be Sure You Are Asking

“One who never asks either knows everything or nothing.” – Malcolm Forbes

It’s busy season. You are talking with so many clients either in person or via phone.

They are asking questions. Are you?

Every time you are talking with a client ask:

How are we doing?

Encourage them to share even little things that might bug them about your services, your communication and what you can do better.

Do you know anyone who could use our services?

Just briefly tell them how referrals are so valuable to you and the firm.

 

  • Why and how are words so important that they cannot be too often asked.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

Incentive For New Business – Keep It Simple

“If you look at history, innovation doesn’t come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect.” – Steven Johnson

Many firms, in recent years, have adopted an incentive plan for bringing new business to the firm. It is usually a percentage of fees billed to the new client for the first year of service. Some firms pay a percentage for the first two or three years of service.

The most common ones that I am aware of are 10% of first-year fees or 5% of fees for the first one, two and/or three years.

Some firms require that a certain amount of fees must be billed and even that certain realization levels are accomplished. They also pay the incentive on a delayed schedule – after services are rendered and fees are billed (and collected, in some cases).

Why not be more generous? How motivational is it to make the effort to bring in new business when the reward comes way down the road with lots of stipulations.

At my firm, we paid 10% of first-year fees at the time the initial engagement letter was signed, based on the amount quoted in the engagement letter. We did not pay for individual income tax clients unless they were quoted a fee over $2,000.

The incentive was intended for business clients. If we quoted a range of fees, like many firms do, such as $3,000 – $4,000, we paid the team member 10% of the higher amount. If first-year fees ended up being more than the amount quoted in the engagement letter, we paid the make-up amount after the year-end. This policy did not apply to partners. All that was required is that the team member made the introduction and involved a partner.

Whatever your firm offers, keep it simple and provide more timely gratification to the team member.

Just FYI, we did not pay-out this incentive very often. It didn’t seem to motivate staff and admin very much.

  • You've got to change incentives for good behavior as opposed to just disincentivizing bad behavior.
  • Gavin Newsom

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, August 3rd, 2017

Rapid Change

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” – W. Edwards Deming

The above quote is one of my favorite and it applies to CPAs in public practice.

CPA management consultants (like me) have been asking, urging and pleading with CPAs in public accounting to change for several decades.

Enlightened CPAs paid attention, the vast majority did not. One of the first major changes I can remember was more focus on marketing. Way back, even before my time, CPAs were not allowed to market/sell – it was unethical. You had to rely on word-of-mouth via satisfied clients and referral sources. Finally, over decades, marketing and selling are just like breathing – something every CPA firm must do.

The scary thing to me, as I reflect back, is how long it has taken to begin marketing and to actually learn to sell. It has also taken way too long to begin focusing on the efficiencies with technology and to realize the importance of building a people-friendly culture.

I recently read an article (@hrbartender) about how the number one concern of CEOs right now is not recruiting and retaining, it’s the speed of change.

Of course, recruiting and retaining is still a huge issue but it has become a given and will always be a priority.

For CPAs, change has been something to do gradually. Now, they must face the challenge of rapid change. Never before has the business world moved so rapidly.

Many companies are moving away from any type of long-term planning. They are focusing on hiring the right people – those who fit their culture. Company culture has become a top priority.

From my experience, CPAs in public practice know they need to change many things inside their firm. They know they need to change, personally. They listen to me and others and they learn what must be done. They simply do not do it. My favorite description of CPA firm owners:  Good intentions.  No implementation.

Keep in mind, you are running a business. Business decisions must be made. You can’t take decades to implement changes inside your firm. You must get it done in a few months and maybe even a few weeks!

Revisit the quote at the top of this page. Consider how many CPA firms have disappeared via merger/acquisition. Many could not accomplish change so they have permitted others to do it for them.

  • Stagnation is a slow death.
  • Ellen Hopkins