What a year!
It’s been interesting to see the effects the pandemic has had on accounting firms and their clients from a business and lifestyle choice perspective.
The one thing that’s clear to me—and you’re hearing it everywhere—is that business as usual is no longer sustainable. I hear from small to large firms that business models must evolve to better accommodate two of their firm’s most valuable assets: their team and their client list.
In this article, I’ll discuss the following four concepts—all the things I’ve been writing and speaking about this year—for you to use as a checklist:
Now, let’s empower you to go into 2023 with more confidence.
1. Create a better tax season
Tax season is right around the corner. Here’s a list of things you should implement before busy season gets started:
I can assure you that if you implement each of these strategies, you’ll create a better tax season by working less and making more money.
2. Develop Smart Client Management
Smart Client Management is the future of a modern accounting firm. In this case, the word “smart” is synonymous with the word “intentional.” Consider for a moment what it means to serve a client holistically; that’s how clients want to be served.
In my mind, it means we’re coaching the client to maximize performance within their business, moving the client to the firm’s supported technology stack and taking advantage of all the tax planning opportunities available.
Create an ideal client persona—a picture of what your ideal client would look like if they were taking advantage of all the aspects mentioned above. This is what it would mean to holistically serve a client.
The critical aspects of Smart Client Management are:
3. Implement Smart Security Management
Securing data is one of—if not the—biggest threats to accounting firms. Firms seem to be drifting into an IT infrastructure strategy, which is understandable due to the decentralized nature of how our technology solutions are evolving.
At any given time, accounting firms use around 30 different technology solutions. Some of these are native clouds, some are native desktops but cloud-hosted, and others are desktops sitting on accounting firm servers.
I suspect you know as well as I do that the technology in firms is just drifting, evolving and even unintentional. With that said, I think one of the most important decisions you can make right now is to implement an intentional IT infrastructure strategy.
Smart Security Management is made up of three elements:
For the foreseeable future, firms will be using a blend of native desktop and cloud solutions…and lots of them. Onboarding, offboarding and password management of client and staff passwords is a significant challenge. That’s why it’s critically important to implement a Smart Security Management plan today.
4. Embrace Smart Team Management
Your team is one of the most significant assets you have as a firm. I continually hear stories and surveys reinforcing the idea that staffing is a serious problem within today’s accounting firms. Just like firms drift with their IT plan, they also drift with their Smart Team Management strategy.
One of the key drivers leading to staff dissatisfaction is the ongoing struggle of supporting a business model that no longer works for them. The pandemic taught us that work and life are deeply interconnected, and team members want the freedom to do both well.
So, the question is, how do you create an environment where team members can thrive? I firmly believe you start by developing a healthy and sustainable business model. You figure out how to measure what matters to your firm because the amount of time spent working is no longer the key driver of hard work. And you regularly engage with your team, solving problems and building relationships.
Summing it all up
It may seem like a lot, but to be a modern firm, you must move forward. Year-end is right around the corner, so choose a couple of my ideas to implement now. Then have a plan to pick up right after busy season to move your firm even further forward.
I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and a calm, controlled and prosperous tax season.
December—it’s a busy month for many, filled with completing those last-minute work projects while balancing regular work and family commitments. We’re programmed as a society to “Go, go, go!!!” and the pressure of #hustleculture is real. But is it healthy?
One simple definition of hustle culture is, “Pushing someone to move faster, aggressively.” What it looks like in action is someone who immerses themselves in work, taking on more and more until they barely have time or energy to do anything else. This leaves little to no time for family events, hobbies and life in general.
Don’t get sucked into the hustle culture vacuum
With the end of the year approaching, now is the time to reflect on 2022. (If you’re saying, “Reflection? Who’s got time for that?” you should keep reading.) We promise you this will be time well spent—and it can really be done anywhere. Walking the dog, driving in traffic—even while you’re wrapping holiday gifts
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
The purpose of these questions is to spend time reflecting on and celebrating the wins in our lives. We’re often quick to just move on to the next thing. We challenge you to take the time to think about these questions.
Putting it all together
Now, let’s come back to the definition of hustle culture: “Pushing someone to move faster, aggressively.” Does this definition resonate with your life? Do you find balancing work and life to be challenging? If hustle culture doesn’t resonate with you, what boundaries do you have in place to ensure a healthy balance?
Last, consider sharing these questions and answers with your team. Not only will this be an opportunity for connection, but you may learn some important lessons from one another while you’re at it!
“The checklist is one of the most high-powered productivity tools ever discovered.” – Brian Tracy, “Eat That Frog!”
Brian Tracy’s book, “Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time,” lays out—you guessed it—21 principles to help boost productivity.
The namesake advice, to eat the frog, means to do the hardest thing first in your day. Whether or not you want to subscribe to that principle is your choice, but I do agree with Brian that a good checklist is a powerful tool.
As accountants, in December you’re already thinking ahead to the next several months, knowing there’s a lot of work to be done. So, let’s go over a checklist of some checklists that will help!
Client onboarding and offboarding checklists
This is the time of year when you may be onboarding several new clients. A client onboarding checklist is great to have when you’re going through the client setup tasks in your systems, to ensure you’re collecting all the document and demographic information you need for your systems and tech stack.
You may also be offboarding clients that don’t fit within your ideal client characteristics. Consider adding a client offboarding/exit checklist to be sure nothing is missed.
Systems and tech stack checklist
Now is the time to get start getting ready for the upcoming tax year—so get out your checklists for cleaning up your systems and tech stack. For each system, review projects, documents and clients. Then decide what needs to be modified, what needs to be made inactive and what can be archived.
Monthly and year-end accounting/bookkeeping close checklist
As you prepare for year-end, a checklist for accounting/bookkeeping monthly close and year-end close is a must for every accountant. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been doing it; a reminder of every step will enable you to pause so you can ensure that every step is being taken for a successful close to your clients’ books. The checklist serves as a great training tool for the noobs, too. This is an essential step for the next process of completing the tax return.
Preparing for tax season checklist
Speaking of the tax return…you’ll need a start getting ready for tax season checklist. This checklist should consist of decisions that need to be made prior to the start of tax season—and then you’ll have the checklist to help ensure everyone in the firm sticks to those decisions. Some decisions to consider:
When thinking about each of these decisions, remember that some of these relate to workflows and processes. These should not generate additional checklists. This is an important distinction—workflows and checklists are NOT the same thing and shouldn’t be treated as such.
Workflows are the steps from one person to the next in a process. Checklists are tasks that need to be completed. Make sure your workflows are not checklists.
The time before tax season is busy…and as you know all too well, it can also be overwhelming. Use the tools you have available. Rootworks has several checklists available to members in the Online Learning Library (login required).
Start with one checklist and delegate tasks within those checklists. Then give deadlines, cross-train your staff and document your processes. And then, start checking off the tasks. No frog-eating required!
“Under conditions of complexity, not only are checklists a help, they are required for success.” – Atul Gawande, “The Checklist Manifesto”
Sometimes, all the things you need to do during the holidays make you feel like one of those snowballs rolling down a hill (except instead of snow, you’re a ball of to-dos). The faster the to-do ball rolls, the more to-dos it picks up, until it turns into a planet-sized ball of year-end to-do lists you’re running away from like Indiana Jones and the boulder.
Since I’m a to-do ball evader myself, I’m about to become your favorite Thought Leader writer with a quick four-item list of things to check, so you can avoid any interruptions or confusion with your online presence in 2023. Take a few minutes now to verify that:
And that’s it. Easy-peasy, right? Verifying these items won’t take long at all, and you’ll have four fewer things to worry about during tax season, when those to-do balls will inevitably start rolling downhill again.
Happy holidays to all—and may your to-do lists be light in the new year!
It’s time to recognize this month’s Rootworks member anniversaries! Help us wish the following firms a Happy Anniversary:
Chase & Chase CPA
Pantana Accounting & Tax Inc
Adrienne Brace, CPA, PA
Slachta Accounting & Consulting Services LLC
Cunningham & Associates CPAs Inc
Ledgers (Kaufman, TX)
Ledgers (Stratford, CT)
Ledgers (Ypsilanti, MI)
Douglas A. Bicksler CPA
Michael Johnson CPA LLC
My CPA, PA
Intuition Financial Services
Palermo, Landsman, and Ross PA
Princeton Financial Group
MP 360 Financial Services
Success 2 Significance
David T. Cole, CPA, LLC
Dana J. Weber, CPA
Petrik & Murtha LLC
JSpence CPA PLLC
Wayne S. Knopp, CPA
A Fogel CPA PC
Councilman Farlow Marlowe & Co PLLC
Hammerman, Graf, Hughes and Company, Inc.
Jebran & Abraham, PC
Lowe & Webb, P.C.
Landis & Associates LLC
Congratulations on your success, and we look forward to celebrating many more anniversaries with you and your teams!
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Rootworks members can now use an early access version of Insights, which delivers customer segmentation and pricing data as well as reports for your firm and clients. Connection to QuickBooks Online is required for firms and/or clients.