Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

Discussing Fees

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” – Warren Buffett

I hear stories that have a similar theme:

  • I inherited the firm from a sole proprietor. The clients are just not used to paying what would be a normal fee.
  • I am working so many hours and need to increase my fees. But, I am afraid I will lose too many clients.

I ask, “How do you describe your fees to clients?” What I usually discover is that the CPAs who have such a great fear of losing clients are not actually talking about fees WITH the client, at all. I also learn that CPAs who charge an appropriate fee don’t talk with clients about the fees either.

My friend, Sarah Johnson Dobek of Inovautus Consulting gives us some excellent advice:

  • Initiate the conversation
  • Describe the services you will provide
  • Present your fees with clarity
  • Write it down
  • Don’t be defensive

Read more about each of these points on Sarah’s blog post. Take the time to teach your entire team how to talk about fees with clients.

  • "The price of inaction is far greater than the cost of making a mistake."
  • Meister Eckhart

Monday, March 25th, 2019

How To Keep Firm Initiatives Moving Forward

“Never be so busy as not to think of others.”  – Mother Teresa

Have you heard some of these comments inside your firm?

  • Our partners are so busy that they never seem available for questions.
  • We have a retreat every year but we should just video it and play it again next year since we always talk about the same issues year after year.
  • The managing partner is more focused on clients than he/she is on firm initiatives.
  • The managing partner is our best rainmaker – we don’t want him/her focused on the day-to-day issues.
  • We are trying to identify our next managing partner but no one seems to want the job.
  • Our managers don’t seem to be very good at mentoring others.
  • There is definitely a communication problem inside our firm.

What’s the solution to a lot of the above comments and the following:

  • How do you enable your partners to be focused on client service, client relationship-building, and business development?
  • How do you enhance the communication inside your firm?
  • How do you create a mentoring program that really inspires young people?
  • How do you investigate your processes and procedures and make them more efficient?
  • How do you make sure the firm is following all of the most current trends in human resources?
  • How do you create a cool culture, a fun culture and move your firm into the digital world?

Heres the answer – Hire a qualified, professional practice manager/firm administrator. Make it their responsibility to keep initiatives, important to the inside health of your firm, OFF of the back burner and ON the front burner.

  • "Those who are wise won't be busy, and those who are too busy can't be wise."
  • Lin Yutang

Friday, March 22nd, 2019

Forward Thinking

“Embrace your uniqueness. Time is much too short to be living someone else’s life.” – Kobi Yamada

Did you know that Aprio is the only top 100 firm with a non-traditional name? Read more about Aprio and why they changed their name here.

I have known people at the firm for more than 20 years and have always been impressed with their forward-thinking actions. Look over their homepage and notice how they focus on “advisory” first. They are an “advisory, assurance, tax and private client services” firm.

Under “About Aprio” they say: As a premier, CPA-led business advisory firm.. etc.

How are you positioning your firm? If you call yourself advisors more often maybe you will become more advisory focused. The larger CPA firms have already evolved to being CPA-led firms meaning a large percentage of their employees are not CPAs. How are you planning for that evolution? Have you ever thought about it?

I have observed that most firms have fairly boring taglines. Here’s Aprio’s tagline: “Passionate for what’s next.” That seems to say a lot.

 

  • "Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else."
  • Margaret Mead

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

Dealing With The High Volume of Tax Season Emails

“Better three hours too soon, than one minute too late.” – William Shakespeare.

During tax season, a few years ago, I sent an email to one of my clients, a CPA managing partner. In response to my email, I received the following message:

Greetings, Friends & Clients:

 Due to the normal tax season intense workload, and to allow me to completely focus on the tasks at hand, I am currently checking and responding to e-mail daily at 8:00 am, 1:00 pm and 5:30 pm CT. You & your email is important to me and at the scheduled times, I will respond.

If you require urgent assistance, please contact my assistant (name and phone number) or you can email her at (he provided her email address).

Even though you get this auto-response, rest assured that I do receive and am able to view the email you sent. Thank you for understanding this move to more efficiency and effectiveness. It helps me accomplish more and serve you better.

Sincerely,

It was a first for me. I had never received one like it. Of course, I had to ask the partner how this move toward winning the email battle was working for him. I’m sure most of you are fighting this same email overload challenge.

He replied that he was glad that I was not offended and that the feedback has been mostly positive. He added, “Email is the biggest challenge I have and many people (who don’t email you a lot), have an expectation of an instant response.”

I was absolutely not offended. I knew right away he had received my email and when he would get back to me. Simple as that. Don’t you hate it when you never hear anything at all (for two days or more)? You just wonder if they received your email or not. Don’t leave your clients wondering.

  • "Time is what we want most, but what we use worst."
  • William Penn

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

Keep Them Coming Back

“I hate flowers – I paint them because they’re cheaper than models and they don’t move.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

This time of year you are counting your wins and losses.

This busy season you have several, if not many, new clients. You probably give them more attention then they deserve. You also are keenly aware of the clients that have moved on to another accounting services provider. Some of those still have a sting about them.

Those new clients are valuable. However, please don’t give your long-time, loyal accounts less attention because you are focusing on the new toy.

Don’t let losses over-concern you. Keep moving forward and keep giving the best service possible. Continually, work to be the most knowledgeable and friendliest firm in your market.

One of my clients told me some good news this morning. This season, three former, significant clients who left the firm for greener pastures (or so they thought) have returned. They left for various reasons but came back because they all realized “cheaper isn’t better” and “because I realized I need you”. How sweet it is!

  • "When I was with Andy Warhol, I thought, 'God, his wig looks cheaper than mine!'"
  • Dolly Parton

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

Save The Small Talk

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” – Albert Schweitzer

In your role in CPA firm management, other people are under your care and guidance.

Partners, managers, practice managers, HR managers, IT managers, marketing directors, and controllers usually have other people looking to them for direction and advice. It might be for some short-term issue with a process within the firm or a long-term career path decision.

You talk to people every day but I imagine it is mostly what could be termed as small-talk. You talk about the traffic or maybe the weather. Of course, you also talk about the work.

Keep in mind that studies have told us that people who take part in more substantive conversations and less trivial chit chat experience more feelings of satisfaction with work and life.

That is why it is important to not let mentoring and coaching conversations fall aside as you make your way through busy season. It is good for you and your team to talk about feelings, sentiments and what makes you happy and makes life worthwhile.

  • "You don't develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity."
  • Epicurus

Monday, March 18th, 2019

Ghosting

“Our feet are planted in the real world, but we dance with angels and ghosts.” – John Cameron Mitchell

Maybe your firm has done it. I know a lot of firms where it happens. Someone interviews with the firm for an accounting position. You interview them and end with the normal “We’ll get back to you” comment. But no one does get back with them. You have made the decision to hire another candidate but you don’t get back with every one you interviewed to let them know. Someone dropped the ball.

Maybe payback can be expected. Applicants and employees are now ghosting their employers in greater numbers. Per USA Today:

Workers are ‘ghosting‘ interviews, blowing off work in a strong job market. … A growing number are “ghosting” their jobs: blowing off scheduled job interviews, accepting offers but not showing up the first day and even vanishing from existing positions – all without giving notice.

I have heard some amazing stories from firms. Many of the cases are people in administrative positions. They report for the first day and then never show up again. One firm even told me a new admin person left at lunch on the first day and never came back. It sounds amusing (when you are not involved) but it is not that unusual any longer.

Here’s a great article via Suzanne Lucas @RealEvilHRLady.

Make sure your firm has systems in place to facilitate the interview and selection process so no one feels ghosted.

  • "Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win."
  • Stephen King

Friday, March 15th, 2019

Are You The Ritz Carlton of Accounting Firms?

“We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.”  – Ritz Carlton Motto

Right now you are very, very busy. Everyone is the firm is very busy. Are you too busy to take the extra steps necessary to become known as the Ritz Carlton of accounting firms in your market?

Have you ever stayed at a Ritz Carlton? Here’s a site that will give you some info on the Ritz Carlton Gold Standards:

  • The Credo
  • Motto
  • The Three Steps of Service
  • Service Values
  • The 6thDiamond
  • The Employee Promise.

As you read them, you will see how they can apply to a client service business like a CPA firm.

It’s still early into 2019. How will you make your firm the gold standard when it comes to client service?

It’s Friday – time to smile.

  • "A hot dog at the game beats roast beef at the Ritz."
  • Humphrey Bogart

Thursday, March 14th, 2019

Alpha Females

“In theory, Vera liked strong women, in practice, they often irritated her.” – Ann Cleaves, author of Vera series 

I read the above phrase and it stayed on my mind. I must admit that it hit home with me. I have known many very strong women over my long career. Some inspired me and some completely turned me off. Maybe you can identify with that.

As I think back, the reason that some strong women irritated me was not that they were strong. It was because they were irritating. I have known mild-manner females who have also irritated me. Such is life. There have certainly been many males, strong and mild, who have irritated me, too!

The passage and these thoughts inspired me to look a little deeper into the issue of strong females. I do believe that women in the profession of public accounting need to have strength and grit if they want to survive.

This is from the site Science of People: The term ‘alpha female’ is thrown around casually, but what does the science have to say? What is an alpha female? Here is the real definition of an alpha female, based on the latest research. The Alpha Female: 9 Ways You Can Tell Who is an Alpha Woman. 

The Nine Traits:

  1. Fearless Leadership
  2. High Emotional Intelligence
  3. Obsessive Learners
  4. Strong
  5. Are Sought Out
  6. Highly Ambitious
  7. Love Their Mommas (and Daddys)
  8. Cultivate Harmony
  9. Exceptional Confidence

Read the article and share it with other females in your firm.

  • "She's proof that you can walk through hell and still be an angel."
  • R. H. Sin

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

You Have To Nag

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela

There is no way to put it nicely. If you want your client to get their tax information to you on time, you have to remind them and remind them and nag them.

My dentist reminds me of my appoint four different ways: phone, email, U.S. Mail and text. For the dentist, I must reply with a “C” to text my confirmation. Do you have a system in place to remind your clients individually? Sad to say but it must be repetitive.

It is easy these days to send out a bulk email. It might be ignored but it is still a great reminder. Here’s a sample of what one of my clients sent out last week. Specifying a due date helps. They ask for individual information by March 13th! Use their example and do the same thing.

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