Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category

Monday, January 23rd, 2023

The Scheduling Challenge

“Be like a duck, my mother used to tell me. Remain calm on the surface and paddle like hell underneath.” – Michael Caine, actor

I continue to hear many stories about the scheduling challenge for CPA firms. Audit work is easier to schedule than tax work. Audits are bigger engagements and consume a higher volume of hours per engagement. Audits also demand more coordination with the client giving the client time to prepare for the upcoming work.

Tax work is more like a constant fire drill. Sometimes a tax return can take many hours, but most are budgeted for a few to several hours. Plus, it is difficult to know, for sure, when the client’s tax information will be submitted to the firm.

Many firms are using software to help in the task, such as Prostaff and others, but the whole process is still a challenge. Other firms have appointed a “Scheduler,” but it is an overwhelming task for one person. So much information is needed from so many people!

Here’s something that might work for you. It works best for firms that ask their teams to be skilled in both tax and audit. One and two-year staff are usually exposed to both tax and audit. They can specialize later on.

Each staff person keeps a two-week schedule. It shows what they have scheduled for the coming week and what they expect to have for the following week. It also shows open time, PTO time, holidays, etc. They submit this report to the Schedulers every Friday morning.

There are two schedulers. One experienced Tax Manager and one experienced Audit Manager for the office. These two managers are charged with knowing what their teams are doing and how they are doing. The Tax Manager and the Audit Manager meet every Friday morning. The firm administrator (practice manager) is also a part of this small scheduling committee. The firm administrator acts as the management contributor, helps balance work when needed, and/or relays communications from management.

The schedulers use the individual team members’ two-week schedules to assess who has too much work and who has room for more work, and they determine the experience level needed for new assignments. They assign work into the two-week schedules and also may move work around depending on client needs and workloads.

The firm administrator, sometimes with the help of an administrative assistant, modifies each two-week schedule and returns the schedules to the staff.

Some managers also keep two-week schedules if they are more involved in doing the work rather than supervising it.

This system makes sure that everyone has a full schedule for the next week and a good idea of what they will be doing for the week after that. Also, these two-week schedules have the number of hours indicated to do the work. The schedulers provide the hourly budgets as they assign new work or modify existing work.

I hope all of this is helpful and not too confusing. If you have questions, feel free to contact me. I will also share a handout explaining all this and a sample two-week schedule form if you request one.

  • Keep busy at something: a busy person never has time to be unhappy.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson

Wednesday, January 18th, 2023

Don’t Do It

“Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to error that counts.” – Nikki Giovanni

Busy season is unfolding. The workload on managers and partners will steadily increase. You will be in a hurry to get jobs out the door.

It has happened many times before, whether it is February and March or July and August. You review a tax return and find a couple of oversights by the preparer. You fix the mistakes and, as mentioned, get it out the door. You don’t even take the time to notify the preparer about their mistakes.

This practice has been going on inside busy CPA firms for decades. Don’t do it!

Return the tax return or project to the preparer so they can learn from their mistakes. If you don’t, they will continue to make the same mistakes, and you will continue fixing mistakes for the remainder of your career.

  • What is done cannot be undone, but at least one can keep it from happening again.
  • Anne Frank

Thursday, December 22nd, 2022

The Extra Mile

“There are no traffic jams on the extra mile.” – Zig Ziglar

I really enjoyed talking with Teri Saylor about re-engaging employees and eliminating the quiet quitting trend. Teri’s article is titled “One More Mile? Quiet Quitters Say ‘No Thank you.‘”

The article appears in Insight, a publication of the Illinois CPA Society. Just a note, the article quotes me as saying, “When I first started as a CPA….. ” You all know I am not a CPA. It is “when I first started in the CPA profession…” Even though I was not a CPA working in a CPA firm, I usually worked about 12 hours every day during the busy season, plus Saturdays. Times have changed in most firms, thank goodness.

Anyway, I hope you will read the article. The article also features Damien Martin, CPA a partner at FORVIS Private Client in Chicago.

Here’s an excerpt:

Keller also isn’t a fan of the term. “I don’t think quiet quitting is a fair description for professionals who may be happy doing exactly what’s required of them,” she says. Keller adds that these employees still want to be recognized and feel appreciated.

  • Always go the extra mile. If you can't run it. Walk it!
  • Bobby Compton

Monday, December 12th, 2022

A Tough Decision

“A lot of things that accounting firms do are job-specific tasks that lend themselves to the gig economy.” – Kyle Walters

Back in July, I did a post to make you think about your people who do not want to come back to the office. They want to work from home and get the same pay and benefits as those showing up at the office daily. Why not simply outsource tax preparation and other tasks?

I realize that when everyone was remote, most CPA firms did not experience a reduction in productivity. Some even had more productivity than when the workers were in the office.

In a recent Accounting Today Voices article, Kyle Walters explores the use of contract workers, and things will change in the future.

He notes, “Increasingly, contract workers are paid on the productivity they deliver — not just for showing up on time — and we have all kinds of metrics and tracking to make remote work more efficient.”

And, “When will firms start offloading their extra workload to independent contractors two or three times per year — and then stop paying them until they need them again during the next crunch period? Sooner than you might think.”

Many CPA firms are already using off-site contractors. Should you expand your use of these more affordable people? Read the article and see what you think. It may be a tough decision.

  • Everyone likes to think they're irreplaceable at their firm, but unless you're bringing in the business or managing client relationships, is that really true?
  • Kyle Walters

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

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

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2022


“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” – Jackie Robinson

Certified Public Accountants make a lot of money. Well, in most CPA firms, partners make a lot of money.

I have observed partners who become agitated when they discover another partner made $2,000 more than they did when all partners were making over $300,000 per year. Seems petty. “I only made $327,000, but Joe made $329,000? Why is that?”

As firms grow and expand, the partners continue to make more money year after year. That is if the firm is managed properly.

Simon Sinek recently tweeted: “Focus on money and you will make money. Focus on impact and you will make an impact.”

Making money is part of the game. Don’t forget to consider the impact you make on your clients. Don’t forget the impact you make on your team. Focus on both money and impact.

  • You never know when a moment and a few sincere words can have an impact on a life.
  • Zig Ziglar

Monday, November 21st, 2022

Keeping Your Employees

“Be thankful for problems. If they were less difficult, someone with less ability might have your job.” – Jim Lovell

I recently read an article suggesting ways to keep your best employees. I found it not to be very helpful. It mentioned things we have all heard before.

It suggested:

  • Improve compensation
  • Increase flexibility
  • Evaluate your benefits
  • Encourage professional development

All of the many firms I talk to and read about are doing all of this. I am sure most of you want to know more. What else can you do?

In 2022, I have observed more and more firms are actually disengaging from many clients simply because they cannot hire enough people to take care of them. Quality service matters more than the number of clients.

Add this to the list above – Don’t punish your staff by keeping clients that are ranked C and D. Shrink our client list to keep your best employees.

  • Be happy with what you have while working for what you want.
  • Helen Keller

Monday, November 14th, 2022

Do This In November

“If I cut you off, chances are you handed me the scissors.” – Unknown

I have written about it often. You have talked about it often.

It is time to off-board several of your current clients. Make room for new and better clients. You do this because:

  • You can add some great clients without overloading (punishing) your staff.
  • You can finally divest yourself of those clients that are always a collection problem.
  • You can weed out those C and D-level clients who are always getting their information to you at the very last minute (again punishing your staff).
  • It gives you room to really focus on providing exceptional, unique client service.
  • It would help you identify, develop and define a true, specialized niche, something your firm can become famous for.
  • It helps you work with people (clients) you really like and enjoy, not those you just tolerate.

Now, November is a good time to notify those clients. If you want a sample of a client termination letter, let me know.

  • People inspire you, or they drain you – pick them wisely.
  • Hans F. Hansen

Tuesday, November 8th, 2022

Moving Online

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu

Have you ever wondered, contemplated, or wished that you could move your CPA firm online?

It is not for everyone, but I bet you wonder how it is done. Here’s an email I received from Laura Gannon. She agreed to let me share so you can see how client communication could be framed. I have eliminated the many helpful links that she included in the communication, like email addresses, physical addresses, etc.

I hope you find this helpful. Maybe your firm is ready for this BIG step?

Dear Rita,
We are closing our office in Chelmsford after 15 years! This community has been so supportive of us, we will be forever grateful. This is where I started my business, and it has continued to support many local businesses and employees over the years.

In these changing times, we have seen how effective our staff can be working from anywhere, and we want to be a part of this culture shift that’s happening worldwide.

While we plan to be as connected to clients as ever, this will no longer include meeting at the Chelmsford office. Instead, we will use video conferencing and flexible co-work spaces in West Concord and Salem, Massachusetts. We will continue to collaborate as a team and give you great service, as always.

To make this transition as smooth as possible, check out our FAQ’s at the bottom of the newsletter, and don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.

Thank you so much for being a valued client! We appreciate your business.

Laura and the team!
How can I schedule a virtual meeting? Reach out to any of us individually, Barry, Laura or Hannah, to schedule a virtual meeting.

Where can we meet in person? We have two conference spaces available for meetings. West Concord – The Wheelhouse – Laura will meet clients here! Salem – Workbar – Barry has conference availability here, and he can use any of their 9 locations!

Hannah will have some ability to meet in person, but please coordinate directly with her.

Staff contact info? If you have any questions about processes or procedures, Hannah is our client administrator; feel free to reach out to her @ xxx-xxx-xxxx or click here to email her.

Where do I send physical documents? We prefer electronic documents scanned into to the portal, but if you prefer to send us the physical documents, please use our PO Box XXX in Chelmsford. Address below. Hannah will scan the documents in and return them to you when complete.

  • The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.
  • Nathaniel Branden