Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category

Wednesday, August 12th, 2020

Are You Still Selling Time?

“What we care about is the work done, not how long it took to do it.” – Seth Godin

The following is one of those Seth Godin posts that I just copy and share. It is an important question for CPAs. Are you selling results?

Selling Your Time

We don’t pay surgeons by the hour.

And if the person who cuts the lawn shows up with a very fast riding mower, we don’t insist on paying less because they didn’t have to work as hard.

Often, what we care about is the work done, not how long it took to do it.

And yet, some jobs, from law to programming, charge by the hour.

When you sell your time, you’re giving away your ability to be a thoughtful, productivity-improving professional.

Sell results.

  • In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is a failure. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.
  • Seth Godin

Wednesday, July 29th, 2020

Client Accounting Services

“If our true intent is to differentiate CAS from our previous bookkeeping services, we need to offer unique services that tie people directly to our firm and create loyalty.” – Bill Reeb

The growth and success of CAS makes me very happy.

I can remember when accounting services (or bookkeeping as some partners always called it), was the very bottom level of the client services menu. Many firms even quit providing these services because they were simply not profitable enough (and new CPAs thought this work was below them). In addition to that, qualified, skilled bookkeepers were more difficult to find than accounting grads.

There is a good article via the Journal of Accountancy featuring Bill Reeb and his observations about the success of CAS. He identified issues that can prevent CAS from becoming successful.

  • The CAS service line leader and their manager are not in alignment.
  • Partners haven’t bought in.
  • The CAS practice is inadequately staffed.

One other problem is that in many firms the entire CAS operation is on the shoulders of just one highly motivated individual.

How is your CAS division doing? Are you giving it enough support? Are you bragging about it to all your clients?

  • A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.
  • Jeff Bezos

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020

Helping

“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” – Maya Angelou

The above quote is another one that immediately reminded me of CPAs.

When you are a recent college graduate with an accounting degree you just want to get hired and begin to explore your career in public accounting. It is an exciting time, a stressful time. You work hard, and often long hours, to become more knowledgeable and to gain skills in dealing with clients, peers and bosses. It takes both hands… and a lot more.

Helping is a word to keep in mind as you advance in your career. When you began, you soon discovered that you were needed to help others. You became the person that new hires came to with questions and depended on for guidance.

When you became a manager and then, perhaps, a partner, you found that you had matured and began to think more like the above quote. You do not sell something to clients, you help them become more successful. You still use one hand to advance your own success but you never forget to use the other hand to mentor and coach your team and to advise and guide your clients.

  • No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.
  • Charles Dickens

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020

Fake Deadlines

“How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?” Seth Godin

Every so often, I feature a complete post from Seth Godin. I do it because I feel like it has special meaning for those of you involved in the management of a public accounting firm.

Have you ever established a fake deadline for tax due dates? I know some of you have. Here is Godin’s post titled Fake Deadlines:

FAKE DEADLINES

Slack enables systems to function with more efficiency. That’s because unavoidable delays and errors compound in a system that doesn’t have enough buffer space.

But fake deadlines don’t solve this problem. Fake deadlines exist when we can’t trust others (or ourselves) to be clear about our progress or prioritize honestly. So we invent a date before we actually need something to arrive.

The challenge is that fake deadlines compound. Once someone on another project realizes that they’ve been outfoxed by a fake deadline, they’ll simply escalate their urgency as well. Or perhaps the provider realizes that we’ve been faking the deadlines, and so now there’s a whole new level of guessing about what the real deadline is.

Professionals don’t need fake deadlines and don’t respect them. Instead, we have the chance to build in appropriate slack, get our priorities straight and keep our promises.

  • Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.
  • Seth Godin

Thursday, July 16th, 2020

Need A Degree?

“Just because I don’t have a college degree doesn’t mean I am not smart.” – Emma Stone

Are you only hiring people for your CPA firm who have a degree?

I have observed that in many accounting firms there are many people who do not have a college degree. On the other hand, I have also observed, in some accounting firms, even the administrative people have a degree.

I was surprised by this statement from Barry Melancon a few years ago: Today we are a profession of CPA-led firms, not CPA firms. Two-thirds of the employees in all firms are non-CPAs.

I found this stat to be quite eye-opening. Clients need all kinds of services to help their businesses grow and prosper, not just what a licensed CPA can provide. Many of you are already providing pension administration, M&A consulting, employee benefits, HR consulting, technology services, and so on.

With Client Accounting Services (CAS) becoming more and more lucrative, many firms are desperate for experienced bookkeepers and they are almost always people without a four-year degree.

Does it really require a degree to do much of the work inside a CPA firm?

You may have noticed that many college graduates are being hired to do jobs that their parents could get right out of high school.

Read this informative article via Inc. – Why Your Barista Probably Has a College Degree

  • I don't have a college degree, and my father didn't have a college degree, so when my son, Zachary, graduated from college, I said 'My boy's got learnin'!
  • Robin Williams

Monday, July 13th, 2020

Business Development

“Great salespeople are relationship builders who provide value and help their customers win.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

Times have changed and the pandemic has caused marketers to rethink their activities and strategies.

Sales calls are becoming a thing of the past. Plus, a prospective client already knows SO MUCH about the firm because they study your website and check you out on social media.

In a very informative article in the July issue of Inside Public Accounting (I hope you have read your copy), Carrie Steffen, founder, and president of The Whetstone Group says relationships can be nurtured even if meetings aren’t in person.

  • Check in with clients (use Zoom)
  • Check in with prospects and referral sources (organize a virtual networking lunch).
  • Move forward (if a prospect check-in meeting goes well, pursue the relationship further).
  • Use technology (be proficient with your video software – no fumbling around! Email is also still a good tool.)
  • Find profitable opportunities. (Revisit your definition of an “A” client and match prospects to the profile.)

Read the entire article for much more information. It is titled, Business Development In A Recession: Outrun The Competition With A Digital Strategy And Strong Relationships

  • Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.
  • Thomas Jefferson

Friday, July 10th, 2020

Partners Doing Partner Work – Friday Flashback

“Money often costs too much.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do you want your firm to be as profitable as it can be? Read this flashback blog post from July 17, 2019: Partners Doing Partner Work.

This is the last weekend before the July due date. I hope you are not working all weekend but I suspect many of you are. Maybe you should seriously consider training your clients.

  • Differentiate to succeed.
  • Seth Godin

Thursday, July 9th, 2020

A Strong Foundation

“In order to achieve great results, you first need to do the deep inner work to build a solid foundation that can support your success.” – Chris McClure

Building a strong foundation, personally, is very important. It will be the guiding light that supports your success and leads you to even greater heights. As mentioned in the quote above, you have to do deep inner work.

This same theory applies to your busy accounting firm. You let yourself get so busy that the firm just molds itself around you (and your partners).

For over one-half of this year, you have been busy, busy, busy. You have quickly reacted to build a remote work environment to serve clients and to get you through the pandemic. It didn’t matter if the foundation was solid or shaky, you had to get the work done – you are essential.

Soon it will be July 15th, that new magical due date. Hopefully, you will have some time to really contemplate the foundation of your firm. Your processes and procedures are the foundation of your firm. You must be prepared to inform current staff and new staff “How we do it here.”

Perhaps you had some well-developed processes but they all went by the wayside during the last few hectic months. Refocus. Seek input from your people and your clients. Shore-up your foundation so you are prepared to move forward into the new normal.

Foundational pieces of an accounting firm, in addition to how your complete engagements and handle workflow, are: HR policies, internal accounting (billing and collection, monthly firm financial statements, etc.), technology processes, training, and marketing/sales activities.

Remember, from the quote above, “In order to achieve great results, you first need to do the deep inner work to build a solid foundation.”

  • Successful people begin where failures leave off. Never settle for 'just getting the job done.'" Excel!
  • Tom Hopkins

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

It Is Not Easy

“Don’t join an easy crowd: you won’t grow. Go where the expectations and the demands to perform are high.” – Jim Rohn

The above quotation certainly applies to the CPA profession. It applies if you are the managing partner of the firm or if you are the Director of First Impressions.

If you work in the accounting profession, you are not part of “the easy crowd.”

It is a demanding business. So many clients to serve with so many problems. Due dates that always seem to be looming on the horizon. A technical work product that must be absolutely, positively correct.

Appreciate where you are and what you are doing. Always step-up to the challenge and you will continually grow in knowledge, expertise and reputation.

Personally, I have always felt like I did my best when the demands and expectations were high. I enjoy a culture where there is a sense of urgency and where you know that what you do makes a positive difference.

I hope you feel that way, too. Sure, there are times when you are tired, over-worked, and cynical. But let those moments be just fleeting moments and be proud of what you are accomplishing.

  • If you expect nothing from anybody, you're never disappointed.
  • Sylvia Plath

Monday, July 6th, 2020

When The Dust Settles

“Normal is the wrong name often used for average.” – Henry S. Haskins

Maybe you have said it yourself. “When the dust settles we can get back to normal.”

We are living in different times. Our lives have been altered to a degree that we never imagined was possible.

Almost nothing is the same nor is it what we consider normal. We serve clients but we don’t see them in person, we don’t shake their hands and greet them in familiar ways.

The same goes for our team members. We have seen some people face-to-face every workday for twenty-five or thirty years. Now, we don’t see them daily or in person. We communicate via email and text and often by video. It’s just not the same.

It’s time we think differently. Don’t wish for the dust to settle and for things to get back to normal. Normal, for many of you working in the accounting profession, wasn’t working all that well anyway.

Try to keep things stirred up, evolving and changing. That is how you get better. Keep working with each other in different ways. Continue to serve clients in different ways. Many of these different ways are much better ways.

Don’t let the dust settle. Perhaps, in your firm, normal became too comfortable.

  • If you are always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.
  • Maya Angelou