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What not to do! Client relationship management is key.

I have a story to share from an experience with one of my non-profit projects.  One of my responsibilities is to oversee the audit committee, hire the auditors, and manage the CPA firm relationship (the Board hires the Auditors, not the Non Profit).  It is amazing to me how much tangible and intangible value the CPA firm leaves on the table by not doing a few simple things.
Here is the background:

The firm is on the 4th year of the Audit and the Senior who had been running the job left the firm to take a job in private.

People leave, we know and accept this.

Here is the amazing part; no phone call (let alone a meeting) from the partner before or after the audit to see how the new team is working out!
The CFO called a meeting last week with the Audit Committee and wanted us to fire the CPA firm because the audit went so poorly. It was a clean audit but the CFO felt the firm didn’t transition any prior year information/general knowledge and over-audited. It is fair to say the emotional equity in the relationship was close to zero.
I know switching firms MAY not be the answer.  I do know the firm could have done a few simple (and not overly time consuming) to build emotional equity and value in the relationship:
*invested in the transition with the Partner explaining the background of the job to the new Senior.
*the Partner calling the CFO a couple of times to check in.
*a lunch or face to face meeting would have been icing on the cake!
Another interesting element of the story is the non-profit recently completed a few internal projects (systems integration, hired a new payroll manager, etc.) where the CPA firm could have been involved, added value and charged for it! Instead, they are about to get a phone call from yours truly asking them if they can get their act together!  The moral of the story:  a few simple yet critical touches can solidify your relationships with your clients.  In what areas of service can you improve?  Need help finding your blind spots?  Contact us for an assessment!

How does a partner move up the value chain and spend less time on prospective clients that aren’t a fit for the firm?

A hot topic that is brought up quite frequently is “How does a partner move up the value chain and spend less time on prospective clients that aren’t a fit for the firm?”

Let’s address each matter separately.

*Moving up the Value Chain. My interpretation of this is, “How do I work with higher value/bigger clients?” It is simple. As a part of your Pareto analysis, it is imperative that you assign every client in your firm a “Client Manager.” The assignment can be based on service, industry and revenue. The Client Manager is responsible for Client Service, Communication and Profitability related to the Client. It is critically important that you send the Client a note and let them know who their Client Manager is and what role they play. This is analogous to the Loan Officer who gets promoted to Bank Manager and lets you know he/she will no longer be your first point of contact but he/she will be there for you as needed.

*Prospective Client Triage. I recommend that you have your “Director of Operations” handle the first touch so that he/she becomes proficient at directing the prospect to the right place in your firm.

Here are some sample questions your DOO could ask:

We value your time. To ensure the highest quality service, we would like to connect you with the best person to assist you in our firm. Is it okay if I ask you a few questions? Also, please note our minimum price for individuals is $500 and businesses is $1000. Have your DOO pause….i.e. if they hang up on you know they aren’t a great fit for your firm.

*How did you hear about us?
*Are you an individual or business?
*If a business: How long have you been in business?
*Who is your current CPA? If they aren’t currently using a CPA, the likely next step is not a Partner.
*Why are you contacting us today?

These simple questions, if handled appropriately, will help your firm leverage its resources more effectively!

Lastly, here is a firm in San Jose, CA that asks its prospects to complete questionnaires prior to a meeting. Please have a look.

Happy Prospecting!

The best people to ask about your performance are your team

Stop the madness! How not to repeat last tax season

How are you making your Firm its #1 Client?

Hello.  I presented a webinar to a group of firms last week which included a polling question asking them to respond to the question about which Profit Driver they need to focus on the most.

Interestingly, 60% (Wow!)of the firms responded we need to work on Making our Firm the #1 Client, which leads me to a question for you and your firm as you think about and prepare for next tax season:

  • What practices are you employing that are Making the Firm the #1 Client?
  • What practices are you employing that are NOT Making the Firm the #1 Client?

As a reminder, the best people to ask are your team members!

Related article: Stop the madness! How NOT to repeat last tax season!

Do not let bad customers drive out your good team members!

Do not work unprofitably.

Do not work unprofitably.

You may have heard me quote Ron Baker, “Do not let your bad customers drive out your good customers”. That statement is still relevant today.

We now need to be extremely mindful and action oriented that we do not allow bad customers to drive out good team members.

Let me explain.

The past 4 business days I have been contacted by 4 firms where the Partner asked me for advice regarding a team member who came to them after 9/16 (word on the street is it was very painful) and said, “Mr. or Mrs. Partner. I can’t work the hours anymore.”

Here are key variables:  Read More…

The only boundaries that exist for your firm are in your mind!

Groomer Trimming DogI went to get my haircut last week and the stylist (hold jokes please) who happens to be the owner told me her business coach she said she “had” to work with this firm who is in Nebraska

Pretty cool right?  Berkeley salon owner… has a local business coach who recommends a firm in Nebraska that has a salon niche.

There are a number of things I found interesting about this…

  • She completed a questionnaire (on their website) then submitted to the firm’s assistant.  She did NOT see that as an issue.
  • She did not care where the firm was located.  “We’ll use Skype and phone”.
  • Importantly, she was attracted to the focus of the firm on growing Salons….

The firm has a few niches.  Please note the following: Read More…

Minding the Shop During Tax Season!

Tax season is hard!  Since you are busy (hopefully productive) making it all happen it’s important that someone in your firm is minding the shop!

What do I mean by Minding the Shop?

  • Following up on all of your engagement letters/organizers with all of the clients you have not heard from.
  • Making sure you are sticking to your minimum prices along with upfront pricing including pricing/budgeting all new jobs at your target charge rates!
  • WIP. Following your WIP system.
  • A/R. Following your A/R system.

Common sense?  Perhaps yet not that common because firm leaders (both administrative and technical) are busy!

Please use this as a reminder to make sure that someone is Minding the Shop this season!

Tax Season Appointments

Hello.  Be sure to be using Agenda’s for all of your tax appointments (for efficiency and effectiveness).

Here is a high level sample agenda.

  • Personal Update
  • 2012 Financial and Tax Review (diagnosis)
  • 2013 Look Ahead

Be sure to use an upfront agenda on the outcomes and length of the meeting.

Time to consider firing some clients?

Time to sweep your client base with a clean broom?

Time to sweep your client base with a clean broom?

As you work through the individual filing deadline and prepare for next year  it may be time to consider firing some clients?

As you know, I’m not a fan of firing clients.  I am a fan of upgrading clients.  With that said, there is a time and place for firing clients.  Ric Payne (former employer/mentor of mine) used to tell a story that at age 50 he calculated the number of working hours he had left and he decided he no longer wanted to work with any turds (his word).

My point is as you go through your pricing (which should be already calendared for after October 15th) for next year you may want to consider letting go of some clients (can be huge morale booster for the team).

Here are some reasons to fire a client other than price or collections: Read More…

Key Accounting Firm Insights

  • To succeed in the future we need to start to re-think the sacred cows (the old way to profitability is more hours and face time).
  • If one of our biggest issues is time why do we continue to work on unprofitable clients (the ones where we don’t achieve our target Average Hourly Charge Rates or Gross Profit Margins).
  • Your ideal firm will be easier to run than the one you are running today.
  • The difference between where you are today and where you can be in the future is discipline.
  • We are our own worst negotiator.
  • The fish stinks from the head down.
  • Real Value is in the form of communication (goals, objectives, emotions not financials or tax returns).
  • Do not take what you know for granted (i.e. it isn’t basic and do not under-sell it).
  • Working remotely is not diluted work.  It is working.  Drop the word remote.
  • Team members do things for their reasons not ours.
  • Perspective is hard to obtain in the office.
  • The traditional ownership model is becoming obsolete.
  • Partners need to stop owning the relationship.
  • Need to stop viewing confrontation as negative.
  • We need to evaluate where we are inconveniencing our clients.
  • Clients pay dearly for what they value dearly.

Is the Tax Appointment Dead?

Is the Tax Appointment Dead?

Is the Tax Appointment Dead?

I have the privilege of working with firms and people from many different areas of the country with extremely diverse business models.  One consistent theme with the firms that generate the most profits… They DO NOT meet with their B and C clients during tax season.  Alarming?

Here’s what you already know.  You need to be talking with your A clients all year round.  Tax planning, financial planning, wealth management, you name it!

As for tax appointments with your B’s and C’s…  Yes, I think you can/should meet with them but WHY does it need to be during tax season.  I don’t need to remind you that it is the busiest time of your year.

Most tax appointments are centered around looking at tax documents and reviewing things you should have done or could do to reduce a tax liability (most of which should be done in the Fall).

The fact is you do NOT need to meet with your clients to review their tax documents.   Read More…