Q. Help! The Partners Want to Have a Post Tax Season “Retreat”… Will It Ever End?
A. AhAH! “Retreat …. Retreat!” (I can hear the calls…!)
First, please know that I completely sympathize with you – to ALL the accountants out there who miss the summer days in the sun, relaxing with friends and family – you deserve those days back! With everything still in flux, many of you are wondering if this year’s tax deadlines will be extended – again – and, if so, how far? How much can the IRS handle? What will it mean for tax reporting in the future? Those topics are for another day. Today, let’s help you figure out how to make that Partner Retreat worth the effort of everyone involved. Here are my TIPS FOR WHAT EVERY FIRM should be looking at RIGHT AFTER TAX SEASON (then you can go on vacation – promise!):
Honestly Assess Who Should Be Serving Which Clients Among the Partner Group – (Think of this as a “Client Swap”)
After your interactions with certain clients, examine how they make you feel – are you drained or energized when working with them? Can you identify why? Has anything changed among the dynamic of their family or the business? Sometimes, it’s important to recognize then those changes have a negative impact on your individual experience in working with them; rather than considering whether to continue the working relationship (see next item) the first step is to ask yourself, “is someone else here at the firm better suited to work with them?” Sometimes, an honest assessment of geographic proximity, age, gender personality / demeanor, specialty area, etc, can make the difference of how smoothly the relationship is). After all, different strokes for different folks – that’s what makes the world go around! I have seen client relationships saved (and ruined) by changes in personnel. Food for thought…
Release Your “Loser Clients” – Encourage them to switch to a different service provider (feel free to provide them with names and contact info)
If the client makes you feel stressed, doesn’t pay you, constantly delivers items late, complains about your services, etc. enough is enough, I say! I have worked with professional services firms who, after some nudging, will admit to me these things, but reluctantly – why? Please resist the urge to hang on to such clients – life is too short- and, I PROMISE, you that releasing these pesky clients opens the doors for more ideal people for you to work with – keep reading…
Make – and Share – a List of THOSE “A” Clients for Follow-up – (Offer them additional services, ask for introductions to other clients just like them and/or their advisors and consultants who can make great referral sources to you).
These are your favorite clients – they value and respect you. They appreciate all that you do and think you’re so smart (you are!) and they quickly and gladly pay your invoice – oh, and don’t forget to send those invoices out RIGHT AFTER those tax returns have been delivered, please. Make a list and tell them how much you enjoy and value working with them; ask them about other things – (read last month’s column for suggestions) and then ask them to introduce you to other fantastic business owners just like them – or consider asking them what organization they are affiliated with – to see if you get more involved to meet more great potential clients just like them!
Evaluate Staff Performance – (Now While it’s all Fresh in Your Head)
Feedback is best received when it’s relevant to the current situation – specific examples can be given while the experience is still fresh – doing so after engagements and projects – rather than once a year – nips problems in the bud, reinforces positive behavior and alleviates confusion about things.
Empower Staff to Make Suggestions – (Solicit feedback by collecting “What if…?” questions about improving efficiencies, streamlining processes, or leveraging existing or investing in new technology)
Asking your staff – as a group – to come together and brainstorm, offering innovative solutions to anything that has come up during tax season is a game changer – it promotes buy-in from staff (at all levels), improves morale and uncovers things that the partner group may have overlooked.
A great idea is to have a contest post tax season to identify improvements and general suggestions for making next year better. Most CPAs (and attorneys, too) enjoy healthy competition and I’ve always been amused at how when there is something to “win” at how much more forthcoming these professionals can be… try it! Your professionals will probably appreciate the opportunity to give input; statistics show that being heard and feeling validated is a big part of retention – trust me! It’s worth a try! If the contest seems too daunting an idea, then ask for this feedback as part of the review process. CPAs and Attorneys need to tap their staff for ideas right after big projections / important engagements and all the above apply all year long – it’s much more effective than waiting for the annual review – by then, everyone’s forgotten all the issues and the opportunities are often lost.
Finally, please don’t forget to follow through on all the identified opportunities you discovered over the next couple of months!
If you have any questions about this content or would like to schedule a complimentary coaching session, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Tierney, CLSC is a certified life strategies coach and a marketing strategist who has empowered professional service providers in the accounting and law professions for over twenty years. She is founder & President of TIERNEY Coaching & Consulting, Inc. which offers a unique and highly effective blend of traditional consulting in tandem with professional coaching to address all the nuances of success – including mind, body & spirit. The professionals who work with TIERNEY coaches enjoy increased self-confidence and higher self-esteem, adopt a more relaxed, yet authoritative demeanor, start asking power questions, treat their clients with a more consultative approach – and benefit from a natural growth in their practice or service area. They usually report a significant increase in their overall satisfaction of their professional experience.