Is Your Practice Running You?
Are you running your practice or is it running you? Up against yet another deadline? Overwhelmed by client demands?
Having consulted thousands of accounting practice owners, over the past fifteen years, so many of them I see, fall victim to upward delegation of work from staff!
Staff accountants, and sometimes even the owner, consider it, the owner’s role to solve every problem, and answer any significant questions or issues that they come across! Typically, staff take the work only so far and then leave it to the owner to finish – and/or correct!
Have you fallen victim to such “abuse”?!
Some practice owners have even resorted, in an effort, to resolve this issue, to getting rid of staff, and wind up as a one man show! While this is one way of handling the problem, it’s like amputating a broken arm, rather than mending it!
Do you have a staff working for you or are you working for them? Are your staff working to their full potential or are they mostly overhead, generating very little revenue for you?
Traditionally, few accounting practice owners, at least those I’ve worked with over the past sixteen years, had a well thought out business model. They would add most work that came their way, without much discrimination.
In recent years, I’ve witnessed many tax and accounting practice owners shifting away from this. They no longer just want ‘more work’ or ‘new clients’, indiscriminately. They are looking at what type of work is best suited to their practice, given the resources (mainly staff) that they have at their disposal. In many cases, it’s relatively easy for the owner to fill his/her plate and while many ‘gurus’ advise to focus on doing more high level business consulting as what is needed and wanted by clients. In some cases, this is not very practical. Unless he has the talent among his staff to absorb some of this, it causes the owner’s plate , to get progressively more and more full, till he is literally drowning in work, and carrying the majority of practice billings.
I would advise practice owners to stand back from the practice, and take a hard look at what personnel resources they already have; as well as what personnel skills could be added, and then market the practice to those skills. Adding work to the practice based primarily on their own skills/ability to get it done, worked fine as they were building their client base. However, continuing to do so, can result in a practice that is very owner dependent, leading to bottlenecks and inability to grow!
Avoid becoming your own best employee, and instead work out the type of work that can be done independently of you. This solves a number of problems of – heavy time commitment to the practice, overwhelm, inability to interact with clients (as owner is too busy doing the actual work), exhaustion, feeling like a cog in your own wheel, instead of the guy running the show etc.
In my estimation, practice owners have very worked hard to get into an ownership position and in addition to that, they have marketed their practice successfully so that they have a consistent workload.. At some point, it is payback time — time for them to enjoy the rewards of ownership – both financial as well as balance of life. The business model they choose is crucial to achieving both!
If you would like assistance, developing a business model, tailored to your practice so you can be rewarded for your hard work, in getting to this point, with both the time and the revenues you deserve, please do not hesitate to contact Ciara MacMahon, Senior Management Consultant, via the Contact Page of this website.
Your Post Tax Season Analysis:
Firstly, congratulations on completing yet another tax season! Whether it’s your 2nd or 3rd or your 45th one, we all know it’s a major undertaking every year and now it’s time to take a well-deserved break! If you have quarterlies or other deadlines coming up and can’t take much time off, then definitely plan on something asap, so you get a chance to recharge those batteries!
Once you’ve done that, then as soon as possible thereafter, let’s do an analysis of how the season went. Memories can fade pretty quickly making this analysis harder to do. So here are a few of the areas to look at:
1)How were your phone calls handled? Were clients serviced well by your administrative and other staff or were you interrupted too often to handle client questions yourself?
2) Did clients get well serviced? Their questions promptly responded by you and your team?
3) How was missing information handled? Smoothly? Or did it cause a lot of downtime and frustration in not being able to finish returns?
4) Was all work fully tracked so you weren’t having to worry about returns falling through the cracks? Were you quickly able to tell where each return was at in the process, and how near to completion?
5) Personnel – did you have enough? Did they perform well? Was staff morale good?
6) What was your client retention rate over the previous year?
7) Any problem/shady clients you want/need to get rid of?
8) How did your marketing preform for you? Even if it’s just referrals – were your new client numbers up or down over previous years? If you ran additional marketing campagins – what were the results?
9) A/R – any collection issues that need to now be addressed?
10) Opportunities for more work throughout the year! Who did you talk to that needs more tax and accounting help throughout the year. E.g you recommend to a client that they should incorporate, you take a few minutes to explain how their tax liability would have been reduced if they had done so last year. Then you get back to the business of preparing their return, and the subject gets dropped and it’s left to chance as to whether the client follows through or not.. These are great avenues to provide additional off season revenue but more importantly, following up shows the client that you care and that you didn’t forget about them!
It’s also a great idea to get input from your team – some will have very useful insights and suggestions. However, it can be somewhat subjective so I always recommend doing the above objective analysis first!
Marketing Your Practice – The Second Opinion Strategy:
Most practice owners provide a complimentary consultation for new client prospects. Some take this a step further and provide a Second Opinion. In other words, they will look at the past – usually two – three years returns, in advance of the complimentary consultation, and determine if they could have saved the client more tax dollars. This has been particularly effective in attracting quality business clients, for a variety of reasons:
1) Many are committed/loyal to their current CPA/tax provider and need a solid reason in order to make a change. If they have some vague doubt that their tax situation is not being handled 100% accurately, it is often not enough for them to go elsewhere;
2) A second opinion gives the prospect a chance to find out, if another practice would take better care of them. If the outcome would be the same with the existing or new tax provider, then why change? To know before they go, makes it easier for them to move. The key here is that they can find this out – at no cost;
3) It gives the tax preparer an opportunity to see what is involved in preparing the prospect’s return and to ask more informed questions. He can also often find out what the prospect is accustomed to paying as well as distinguish his services by pointing out what he/she would do better for the prospect;
4) It allows the tax provider to have a more meaningful conversation with the prospect about his/her tax situation;
5) The fact that the prospect has provided previous years’ tax returns usually means that he is more committed to the process, and serious about potentially switching, than if he shows up for the complimentary consultation without any documentation.
Two of the biggest objections to changing accountants are a) loyalty to current advisor and b) uncertainty as to whether they would be better off in new hands. This may be why the Second Opinion marketing campaign has enjoyed a high rate of success. Although I have seen it be very successful, it’s not a widespread marketing strategy – so there is lots of potential for the savvy practice owner to use this to gain advantage!