November 2022

Smart Client Management: Prioritizing your firm’s most valuable assets

I hope everyone’s tax season wrapped up with immense success. Now, it’s time to shift out of tax season mode for a while (don’t worry, it’ll be back before you know it).  

In this article, let’s discuss a firm’s most valuable assets: your client list and your team. While I suspect your response might be, “Duh, Darren!” too often a firm’s business model approach doesn’t include the prioritization of either.  

That’s where the concept of Smart Client Management—the active daily management of your firm’s business model—comes in. It also addresses and prioritizes both of the important and valuable assets I mentioned above within your business model.  

 Smart Client Management involves the management of: 

  • WHO you want to serve. Ask yourself: 
    • Are you ensuring that you have the right clients?  
  • WHAT you want to sell them. Ask yourself these incredibly important questions: 
    • Do you have all the right products, along with the right product mix, figured out for your firm?  
    • Are your clients being holistically served? (We’ll chat more about this shortly.)  
  • HOW your clients use your technology stack. Ask yourself: 
    • Are you making sure your clients use 100% of the technology stack designed by the firm? 

In other words, it’s the active daily management (important words to keep in mind) of your firm’s WHO, WHAT and HOW.  

The trouble is, too often firms develop a business model—but then no one in the firm is made responsible for administering its daily execution. This is inevitably where the wheels come off.  

Smart Client Management to the rescue 

The real breakthrough here is the concept of holistically serving both your current clients and the new clients you onboard into your practice.   

What does it mean to holistically serve a client? First, another definition. Holistic refers to the whole of something, so if you operate holistically, you deal with the whole of something, not just one part.  

There’s a concept in the marketing world called “client personas.” I’m going to use the term in our case to describe the ideal state of a particular client type. This “ideal state” can also be equated to what a client would look like if they were being holistically served by your firm.   

For example, what would it look like to holistically serve an optometry client? What technologies would they use? What tax planning opportunities would you have them take advantage of? What would your meeting cadence be, and which KPIs would you measure? Imagine how easy it would be to answer these questions if you had a clear picture of all the attributes associated with this client persona. 

Now, let’s take this a step further. If you could assess where your sample optometry client is at any given time, you could close the gaps between their current state and their ideal state with proactive client management. Note: Each data point in the ideal state should stand for a product that your firm offers. For each gap item found, you can proactively recommend an advisory or core solution that your firm offers.  

Back to Smart Client Management, your practice should have one or more team members whose responsibility is to manage your client base (this could include onboarding clients into the business model, as well). We call this person a Smart Client Manager. Their role is to find and manage all opportunities to holistically serve clients—in other words, someone who comes to work every day to execute the firm’s business model. 

Consider the following: 

  • Take the time to create each of the ideal client type personas you want to attract. Once you create the first one or two, the rest will just be variations. 
  • Productize the offerings that are a result of the items in your ideal personas. You may decide you want to package some of the items together. 
  • Empower someone to be your Smart Client Manager. 
  • Provide your Smart Client Manager with tools that will help them gather the necessary information with as little friction as possible. 
  • Create a meeting cadence that empowers the team to execute on the opportunities found.  

Summing it up 

Clients want to know your firm is thinking about them. They want you to proactively reach out to them with ideas. The benefit of Smart Client Management is that your client list will feel more holistically served. And based on the opportunities you discover, you can increase revenue without increasing your client base—which makes for a happier team.  

The environment in which we run firms has shifted since the pandemic. Quality is now valued more than quantity. The business model of “more is more” is no longer a winning strategy for your clients or your team. Now that you’re out of busy season, take some time to analyze your business model and find what’s sustainable and what isn’t.  

It’s time to build a business that supports your client list and your team—your firm’s most valuable assets.


 

The value of staff appreciation 

 

 

 

 

In this month’s Thought Leader, Darren talks about how a firm’s most valuable assets are its client list and team—because when we keep our team happy, we keep our clients happy. 

So, why does hiring and retaining staff members top the list of pain points accounting firms and businesses are experiencing?  

Let’s have some real talk about this. The hard fact is, valuing the people who keep clients happy hasn’t always been a top priority for business owners and leaders. But, as with many areas in our business, that model is changing—and to retain our best staff, we need to evolve and change with it. 

Before we delve into ways to keep your staff happy, ask yourself the following questions to help you understand where your firm stands today and where you can make improvements: 

  • How does your firm value its people? 
  • Do you have an appreciation plan? 
  • What does the budget for employee engagement and appreciation look like, and do you have one? 
  • How much time is dedicated to employee appreciation efforts? 
  • Have you surveyed your staff to gauge their level of happiness?  
  • Do you know what your team appreciates in return for their hard work (aside from compensation)? 

How to make a plan 

As you think through and answer the questions above, you may be overwhelmed with what to do next. Don’t be—prioritizing staff appreciation just means that someone owns and is responsible for executing it. That person doesn’t have to be a partner or owner; it just requires a champion who cares about the team and is empowered to develop and execute a plan.  

Once the champion is named, it’s time to get the ball rolling. Here are some ideas that will help you get the plan going.  

Make it easy for your employees to be happy. Before you say, “Ha! Easier said than done!” remember that as humans we’re complicated, and we come with our own unique challenges and personal…well, stuff. That’s why leaders should make it a priority to understand what your employees truly need.  

Do they require flexibility during the day for appointments? Do they coach a team after work, or want to attend an exercise class that would put them in the office after 10:00 a.m. one day a week? Encourage these activities. Support your employees by talking about their needs and enabling them to prioritize their lives along with their work. And show them that you support them by leading by example. 

Find out what “connection” means to your team and lead the connection efforts.  

Whether your staff works remotely or in the office, it’s easy to implement a program where employees are encouraged to recognize their co-workers’ hard work and help. Here are a couple of ideas on how you can give employees shout-outs:  

  • Send handwritten thank-you notes. Purchase a special set of cards or notepads that stand out from your official firm stationery. 
  • Create a “shout-out” channel using your firm’s virtual communication (i.e., Slack or Teams) for a place where co-workers can recognize one another. 

Make it social. What better way to say “We appreciate you” than a social gathering and celebration? These efforts are easy to budget for and a great way to include everyone. Some ideas to get you thinking:  

  • Bring lunch or happy hour to the team.  
  • Mark a monthly or quarterly date to bring staff together with food and drink. 
  • Follow up your staff retreat or a firm meeting with a fun outing for all staff. 
  • Select an organization to volunteer for as a firm. 
  • Implement a platform for a virtual happy hour or gaming afternoon. 

Give meaningful gifts. Recognize milestones, holidays, birthdays and the change of seasons—or simply say thanks—in a curated way with a company that designs and sends gifts for you. At Rootworks, we show employee appreciation through food and gift delivery services SnackNation and Baudville. 

Money is important, but it won’t always do the trick. People like to be recognized in ways that touch their hearts and bring fun to their workday. And when you put time and effort toward employee appreciation, your employees will be motivated to put forth their best efforts. Remember, a successful firm starts with your employees—and we promise, their positivity will radiate outward to envelop your team, firm leaders and clients. A win-win for everyone!


 

Tips and tricks for change 

 

 

 

 

Fall—our wonderful season of change—is upon us! Speaking of change, how are those changes in your firm coming along?  

I’d be willing to bet you fall (heh) into one of these three categories: 

  1. We’re putting the finishing touches on changes. 
  2. We’re just getting started with our changes. 
  3. We’re wondering if it’s too late to start. (Spoiler: If you fall into this category, IT’S NEVER TOO LATE. You still have time to finish them. Really. Trust me.) 

If you haven’t started reviewing your client list to identify areas of change, let’s start there. If you’re past the review and are into the implementation part—but need some extra tips—jump to the Tips for change section. 

Reviewing the client list 

  • Why: Your client list, one of the greatest assets of your firm, only has so many slots available. But oh, the opportunities that client list will give you! Opportunities to provide more services, to raise fees, to make room for other clients, etc. This is something that should be done at least once a year (of course, more often is better, but you still get points for a yearly review). 
  • Goal: Identify changes that need to happen within the client list—fee increases, termination, increased adoption of technologies used by the firm, other services provided, etc. 
  • How: Don’t be daunted by the review. In fact, let’s simplify it a bit with these tips: 
    • Clutter is bad for the brain. So first, go through your list and mark clients that are gone as inactive. 
    • Next, identify your ideal clients. 
      • If you don’t have your ideal client defined yet, take the time now to figure it out. It will provide you with a clarity that will help you push your firm forward. If you’re a Rootworks member, check out the Ideal Clients Business Model Basic (login required). 
    • Now, filter out the ideal clients so you’re left with just the non-ideal clients. For example, if your firm is moving toward more recurring work, non-ideal clients would be those you only work with once a year. 
    • Next, get feedback from your team on those non-ideal clients. Ranking clients on specific attributes and gaining feedback from everyone involved is a helpful data point. It allows you to review areas that could take these non-ideal clients to ideal status.  
      • The simplest option here is to have the team provide you with a list of “problem” clients, since those are sometimes easiest to identify. 
    • Next, review your practice management data—if applicable—which includes both hours spent (production) and realization (billing) on the non-ideal clients. Are the hours spent accurate for the fees you’ve been charging? Is there an opportunity to improve efficiency and/or realization?  
    • Finally, decide the change(s) you need to make with the non-ideal clients. Will raising their fees bring them closer to ideal status? Will tweaking the way you work with them, whether process- or technology-related, bring them closer to ideal status? Or do they just need to be terminated as a client? 

Tips for change 

Here’s what we’ve heard from our Rootworks members about what they’re working on. Check out the tips in each area for helpful ideas!  

Raising fees 

  • Why: According to Statista, from September 2021 to September 2022, the U.S. consumer price index increased by 8.2%. As a result, fees for everything are increasing…and most firms haven’t kept up.  
  • Goal: To charge appropriately for the value you provide to clients. 
  • How: 
    • Decide on your fee increase. You can segregate clients into groups if there are varying percentages of increases you’d like to apply to different groups of clients.  
    • November is the perfect time to send a communication to clients outlining your fees for the upcoming year. If you need help with drafting a letter and you’re a Rootworks member, check out the fee increase letters in the Online Learning Library (login required). 
    • Important note: Raising fees will only weed out a small percentage of clients, so if your hope is to price clients out, be sure to set that fee increase (also known as the PITA fee) high enough that you won’t regret it if they stay.  
    • The fee increases firms have mentioned to us range anywhere from 10% to over 40%.  

Terminating clients 

  • Why: There are likely clients on your list that should not be there. Maybe you said yes more than you should have; or you’re down staff members and no longer have the capacity to serve the clients; or the clients don’t fit the new direction of your firm. Whatever the reason, if the best decision is to let clients go, then now is the time to do it. Remember, your client list is one of your biggest assets.  
  • How: Identify the clients you’re terminating based on your review of your client list. 
    • Send termination or disengagement letters to those clients now. Tax deadlines are past and you’re nearing year-end; give them the chance to find a new accountant. Rootworks members, you’ll find termination or exit letters in the Online Learning Library. 
    • To refer or not to refer? That’s up to you. If you have a reliable referral source to send ex-clients to, that’s great! However, if you don’t have a dependable referral, then stay away from making suggestions.  
    • It’s highly recommended that you collect any outstanding fees before sending the termination or disengagement letter. 😊  

Tweaking processes 

  • Why: There’s always room for improvement, and this is the best time of the year to make changes. Do you want to improve your tax, accounting or payroll process? Would you like to streamline client onboarding? Whatever changes you’re considering, thinking through and implementing them sooner rather than later will increase their chance of success. 
  • How:  
    • Gather feedback from the team involved in the process. Rootworks members: Use the Process Scorecards in the Online Learning Library. 
    • Identify the tweaks you’d like to make. 
    • Assign a point person responsible for making sure the changes happen. 
    • Train the people involved in the process to ensure everyone understands. 
    • Review the tweaks after they’re implemented to evaluate how well they’re working. 

Implementing or tweaking technology 

  • Why: Maybe you’ve identified clients you can move to your firm’s technology preference. Or you’ve realized that you need a project management solution to avoid work slipping through the cracks. Technology should support both the people doing the work and the processes you’ve defined.  
  • How:  
    • If you’re moving clients to the firm’s preferred technology: 
      • Identify the technology. 
      • Identify the clients to transition. 
      • Identify the team member(s) who will help with the transition. 
      • Tackle one client at a time. You’ll learn how to navigate through hurdles, which will make each subsequent client transition smoother than the last. 
      • Train the client, as appropriate, on the use of the new technology. 
    • If you’re implementing new technology in the firm: 
      • Identify the technology and the reason for the change. 
      • Identify the team member(s) leading the implementation. 
      • Set a “go live” date. 
      • Schedule internal training for team members who will use the new tech before the go live date. 
      • Since people always have questions once they actually start using new technology, don’t forget to schedule Q&A sessions for the team after the go live date. 

If any of the changes that are happening in the firm—or that you want to be happening in the firm—seem too hard and challenging, please say this aloud:  

“I can do hard things!” 

You’ve got this. Now, go kick some…er, posterior, and take some names while you’re at it!


It’s the most fraudulent time of the year…  

As we head into the holiday season, I want to remind everyone that it’s more important than ever to stay alert for fraudulent requests and solicitations.  

As if they weren’t busy enough the rest of the year, opportunists take full advantage of the holiday flurry to amp up their scams and swindles—many of which aren’t even holiday-related. In fact, this time of year, our web services department tends to see a rise in the number of firms that reach out to us for assistance in verifying the authenticity of contacts related to: 

  • SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) purchases or renewals 
  • Domain registrations or renewals 

The scammers know that if they use technical terms that sound familiar…but are just scary enough to drive you to action before you have a chance to think through what exactly you’re paying for, their chances of success are greater.  

To avoid being caught off guard by an opportunist this holiday season, keep the following in mind: 

  • If a communication demands immediate action, don’t act until you check with someone in the know (e.g., your firm’s IT area or your registrar’s customer service department). 
  • SSL certificates are important, but if you have a website hosted by Rootworks, we have you fully covered. 
  • Domain expirations do occur—but are typically easy to handle through your existing registrar. 

To lessen the chance that you’ll fall for a domain or SSL security scam, make sure you: 

  • Log in to your registrar and verify that auto-renew is activated for your domain. IMPORTANT: Never use a link in an email to do this; instead, navigate directly to your registrar for login.
  • Verify that you have a current and active credit card on file with your registrar. 

Remember, when in doubt pause, check with your firm’s IT specialist, your registrar’s customer service area or, if you’re a Rootworks member, the Rootworks support department at support@rootworks.com. And rest easier, knowing that your firm is ready for a secure holiday season and the new year! 


Smart Client Management marketing tip: Building year-round client engagement with your marketing strategy 

melissa foster, marketing solutions manager

A good marketing strategy will create client loyalty and retention—both of which are vitally important to the growth of your firm.  

The goal is always to get “sticky” with your clients. In other words, to become such an indispensable assistant when it comes to their personal/business objectives and goals that it’s difficult for them to say goodbye.  

How can you become that trusted advisor? Engage with your clients to create a more meaningful client experience by consistently communicating with them via email and social media throughout the month, every month.  

To demonstrate what I’m talking about, this sample calendar will give you an idea of how to get “sticky” with your clients by using the Rootworks content package and Academy marketing library. 

A calendar like this can remind you of upcoming tax deadlines, as well as when to: 

  • Feature an eBook on your website 
  • Offer strategies for success in business 
  • Send out quarterly referral source touchpoints 
  • Announce the latest issue of In The Loop or Advantage magazine  
  • Send a nice holiday message  

(FYI: If you’re a Rootworks Academy member, you have all these resources in the marketing library at Rootworks.com, as well as your bi-monthly content package.)  

What if you just don’t have the time for consistent year-round client engagement? No worries—there are ways it can be managed for you. For example, Rootworks offers three levels of Marketing Solutions management options.  

But if it’s not possible for you to work with an outside source right now, the key is to work with what you—or one of your team members—can handle. Even if you start with just one client contact per month, your clients will know (and remember) that you’re invested enough in their success to keep in touch. And that can be the start of a beautiful partnership!




 

Events for Rootworks members

Check out these upcoming November webinars exclusively for Rootworks members.

  • November 9: Staff Training: Strengthening your online presence with the Rootworks content package
  • November 15: Fall planning webinar
  • November 16: Staff Training: You know what to do with your numbers, now it’s time to take action! (Part 3 of the Firm Management series)
  • November 22: Staff Training: Cleaning up your systems for the new year

Special vendor-hosted webinar:

  • November 17: Botkeeper: How firms are shifting from compliance to client accounting and advisory services in Q4

See the entire member webinar schedule and register at Resources > Events > Webinars in your Rootworks.com account.


Events for members and non-members

Not a Rootworks member yet? We have you covered with live and on-demand events where you can learn more about Rootworks and the latest hot topics in the profession.

Visit rootworks.com/webinars for a continually updated schedule of events.

4 things you can do now to take control of next tax season
November 9, 2:00 p.m. ET
Join Darren Root, Chief Strategist for Right Networks, and John Mitchell, Culture and Workforce Advisor for Right Networks, as they unveil the four practical and proven things you can implement right now to take control of the upcoming tax season.

Register at rootworks.com/resources/4-tips-control-tax-season/

3 ways the right tech stack will transform your CAAS
November 28, 2:00 p.m. ET

Join Darren Root, Chief Strategist for Right Networks, and Amy McCarty, Rootworks’ Education Services Manager, as they uncover the three ways the right accounting firm tech stack will transform your CAAS.

Register at rootworks.com/resources/right-tech-tranform-caas/

And end-of-the-year checklist for a sane tax season
December 6, 2:00 p.m. ET

Join Darren Root, Chief Strategist for Right Networks, and John Mitchell, Culture and Workforce Advisor for Right Networks,, as they present the ultimate year-end tax season checklist to implement between now and the coming tax season.

Register at rootworks.com/resources/end-year-tax-checklist/


What’s new on the Rootworks blog?

From busting myths about accountants to one-click catastrophes (uh-oh!), the Rootworks blog is on the job with all the information you need to know. Head over and see what’s new—and don’t forget to bookmark the blog so you can stay up to date!

Read the latest post at rootworks.com/blog.


Member anniversaries

It’s time to recognize this month’s Rootworks member anniversaries! Help us wish the following firms a Happy Anniversary:

1 year
Chase & Chase CPA
Pantana Accounting & Tax Inc
The Pulice Group
Hofer, Humpal & Hadler PC
Butler & Miller, CPA PLLC
Kimcox Inc
Edwards Ingram CPAs
Janet E. O’Herron, CPA LLC
COVA CPA Group
Murphy CPA Group
Prime Tax & Business Services
Slattery & Holman P.C.
Mazanec & Bauer PLC CPAs 

5 years
Hooks CPA, LLC
Goldberg & Vaccaro Tax Services LLC
Allcox & Associates S.C.
Lopez & Company
Eric R. Nelson CPA LLC 

10 years
The Leary Group, CPAs & Advisors
LBEA
Bell Foster Johnson & Watkins, LLP
Five Points Financial
Davis Group, PA, CPAs
Woronoff Hyman Levenson Sweet & Alderman PC
Stenger & Company, LLC
Robert Hall & Associates, PC
RSB & Associates, P.C.
Richard Garrett, CPA/ABV

Congratulations on your success, and we look forward to celebrating many more anniversaries with you and your teams!