Wednesday, December 7th, 2022

The Wrong Training For Your Clients

“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday and avoiding today.” – Wayne Dyer

Every CPA firm complains about clients who procrastinate submitting their data until the very last minute. I have heard these complaints from small firms and large firms for decades. It is a common problem.

Very few firms solve this issue by outplacing the offending clients. Maybe you are training your clients the wrong way.

The first step is clearly defining your expectations prior to busy season. This works for some clients. Another activity used by firms is to call and remind the client, call again, call again and finally give up. This nagging step sometimes works.

Even though you clearly communicate your expectations, you permit the client to bring in their information very close to the deadline and then put stress on yourself and your team to serve the client. Consider pricing the work for these types of clients much higher than your average rates, although this doesn’t alleviate the stress on the team.

When you accept last-minute work, you are basically training your client that their procrastination is acceptable. They will do the same thing year after year. So, don’t complain about them!

In these times of labor shortage, it is time to prune your client list. I hope these procrastinating clients are on the “make them disappear” list.

  • "Procrastination usually results in sorrowful regret. Today's duties put off tomorrow give us a double burden to bear; the best way is to do them in their proper time."
  • Ida Scott Taylor

Tuesday, December 6th, 2022

Building Your Career

“The future depends on what you do today.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Sometimes I include an entire post from Seth Godin. This is one of those days. Read his post below, titled Expertise. I think you might agree with me that this is right on target for a CPA who is building their career.

EXPERTISE

“In a competition between someone who knows the most and someone who is willing to learn the most, the edge usually goes to the curious and empathic professional, not the one who is simply protecting what’s already known.”

  • "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."
  • Seneca

Monday, December 5th, 2022

Tough vs. Wimpy

“If there’s one thing I learned from Rodrick, it’s to set people’s expectations real low so you end up surprising them by practically doing nothing at all.”
― Jeff Kinney,  Diary of a Wimpy Kid

I have observed this often. Current CPA firm partners “grew up” in a taskmaster culture. The partners that supervised them were tough. Or, to put it nicely, they were challenging and hard to please. They set very high standards. They expected hard work and dedication to the firm and the profession.

Then, over time, those young CPAs became partner themselves. They didn’t want to continue the “tough” firm culture. So, the pendulum began to swing in the other direction. The firm became less aggressive, yet it continued to grow and prosper. The partners became what you might call wimpy. They avoided confrontation with staff and with each other. They became complacent.

I heard from a person at a successful firm recently that the firm is the “Yes” firm. They never say “No” to any request from an employee. Of course, this is because of the extreme labor shortage in the profession right now.

Does never saying “No” sound like a long-term plan? Maybe. But is it too much like the “everybody gets a trophy” culture that really isn’t how life works? Does it punish the all-stars for the comfort of the poor performers?

I am hoping that your firm fits somewhere between tough and wimpy.

  • "Mom is always saying I'm a smart kid, but that I just don't apply myself."
  • Jeff Kinney, Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Friday, December 2nd, 2022

Flashback Friday – Look Way Back At Tech Trends

“You will never win if you never begin.” – Helen Rowland

For this Friday’s flashback, let’s look way back. Let’s look a the trends in CPA firm technology in September 2009 from Roman Kepczk and Randy Johnston. (Don’t forget, some of the links in the article probably don’t work any longer.)

I hope you will think, “I’m glad we are well past all these issues.” Some firms are not!

  • "I was not predicting the future, I was trying to prevent it."
  • Ray Bradbury

Thursday, December 1st, 2022

Always Remember You Are In The People Business

One time a CPA tax partner told me he felt sick to his stomach when he had to meet with a client. He enjoyed learning all he could about taxes.

You have heard of them, the tax practitioners who can quote you excerpts from the tax code. It seems that over the years, many people went to college and majored in accounting because they love numbers (and are introverts). They are not social butterflies. They thought accounting would isolate them from all of that. That is certainly not what being a CPA is all about.

A recent tweet by Steve Keating (@LeadToday) prompted me to remind you that you are NOT in the tax, accounting, or audit business. You are in the people business.

“We are not in the coffee business serving people. We are in the people business serving coffee.” – Howard Schultz

  • "You only have to do a few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong."
  • Warren Buffett

Wednesday, November 30th, 2022

Setting Angels Free

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” – Michelangelo

Years ago, someone saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.

The first person I remember doing this for me was a teacher, a role model I admired. Then, there were several mentors I had over the years who saw something and encouraged me. They cared and they carved.

Contemplate the Michelangelo quote above. Did someone see something in you that you didn’t see in yourself? Did that person (teacher, coach, or mentor) change the trajectory of your life?

You are a leader in your firm. You are a role model. You are a mentor. It is your responsibility to think of leadership development as setting angels free. Keep carving!

  • "Genius is eternal patience."
  • Michelangelo

Tuesday, November 29th, 2022

Systems

“Listening to both sides of a story will convince you that there is more to a story than both sides.” – Frank Tyger

This post is inspired by a novel I recently read by Lisa Gardner.

The passage was about systems. It says something like this:

The world is a system. School is a system. Your neighborhood is a system. Any group of people is a system. Well, even the human body is a system. Then a father says to his daughter:

“You don’t have to like the system. You don’t have to believe in it or agree with it. But you must understand it. If you can understand the system, you will survive.” A family is a system.

You might have guessed where I am going with this. The firm is a system, and it is made up of many sub-systems. If you are new to the firm or have been there for five or ten years, you need to understand the system, or you will not survive.

  • "A bad system will beat a good person every time."
  • w. Edwards Deming

Monday, November 28th, 2022

Denial

“Denial just makes it easier for you to drive around your problems instead of removing them.” – Ken Seeley

Are you still “sort of paperless”? It’s time to get fully on board, or the train will leave the station without you.

I have a client that was entirely paperless and mostly remote well before we experienced the COVID pandemic. He accepts no paper and teaches his clients how to submit their data by doing actual training videos for them.

Many CPA firms have experienced fantastic growth since March 2020 (when the pandemic hit the U.S.). They tell me they have more clients than they can adequately serve. They worry about staff turnover and wonder if they are asking too much of their dwindling team.

So, you served clients well while working remotely. You took unusual steps to be able to do that. Mainly, you required your admin team to be in the office scanning documents so the remote accountants could work.

What’s wrong with that picture? Why not require your clients to submit scanned documents in the first place? Why not have a video that teaches them exactly how to do it? It is a requirement if they want to be a client of your firm.

So many CPAs are in denial. They can’t possibly give up all paper. I suspect they are in denial because they are comfortable with the way things are and believe “things” will not change in the future.

This rant was inspired by a quote posted by Steve Keating (@LeadToday). It read:

“Denial is the worst kind of lie… because it is the lie you tell yourself.”

  • "The easiest way to solve a problem is to deny it exists."
  • Isaac Asimov

Thursday, November 24th, 2022

My Annual Thanksgiving Post

“Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.” – Henry Van Dyke

I love Thanksgiving. I ignore all the negative vibes going on in the world (and on social media and in the news). Try take time daily to think about what you, personally, are thankful for.

So, smile. Here’s my annual Thanksgiving post.

  • "Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day."
  • Robert Caspar Lintner

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022

Enjoy Your Long Weekend!

“I am happy because I’m grateful. I choose to be grateful. That gratitude allows me to be happy.” – Will Arnett

  • "Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other."
  • Randy Pausch