‘Quick Questions’ and Other Client Sins

Young businessman with forehead resting on handsHow to quietly convince them to pay for tax planning.

By Frank Stitely
The Relentless CPA

A well-known practice management expert, whom I greatly respect, advises CPAs to never tell clients that you don’t have time for them. I disagree with the never part. You know how it starts. On March 25th, the call comes in.

“I know you’re busy but …”

MORE: How to Train Clients | Avoiding Projects Hung Up in Process | Teaching the Meaning of ‘Done’ | Why Millennials Are the Answer | Calculating and Cutting Turnaround Time | Debunking the Demise of the CPA Firm
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A request follows that could most certainly wait until after tax season. You are hip deep reviewing all the personal tax returns that got stuck in process while you climbed out of the March 15th corporate tax ditch.
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How to Train Clients

Skip this, and both service and satisfaction decline.

By Frank Stitely
The Relentless CPA

You’ll hate me after this post. I’m about to reveal that many of the behaviors that you rationalize as good client service are really just desperate measures to avoid losing bad clients. We’ll talk about getting out of that mess later.

MORE: Avoiding Projects Hung Up in Process | When Clients Create Errors | How We Killed the Tax Season Client Meeting | Why Small Firms Can Win the Talent Wars | There Are No Easy Answers | How to Thrive as a 21st-Century Firm | Farm-Aid for Accountants? | Whittle Down WIP
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Clients are trainable – at least as trainable as Jack Russell Terriers. That is to say, they’re somewhat trainable. However, like Jack Russell Terriers, you train clients or they’ll train you. Somebody’s getting trained. Here’s an example of how that works.
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Avoiding Projects Hung Up in Process

Businessman with fingers crossed behind backHow to climb out of “done but” hell.

By Frank Stitely
The Relentless CPA

A project hung up in process is one when there is a disagreement as to the status between people involved in a project. For example, a client thinks he has answered your tax return questions, while you believe he has not. Another example is when a tax return preparer believes a return is ready for review while the reviewer does not believe it’s ready.

MORE: When Clients Create Errors | How to Reduce Tax Return Errors | Why Your Firm Needs to Attract More Millenials | The Fool in the Room | The 3 Biggest Tech Failures of Accounting Firms | WIP-ing Clients Into Shape | Maximize Your Role as Visionary
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The result of a hung-up project is a dead project – one that’s not moving to completion. If a tax return gets hung up, eventually your client calls you, and you get to waste time determining why the project stopped moving. By now, you know this increases WIP and thus decreases turnaround time.
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When Clients Create Errors

One cause? Taking us out of our familiar workflow.

By Frank Stitely
The Relentless CPA

Who makes the errors in your firm? Staff obviously, but that’s half of the answer. Clients are a major source of tax return errors. Clients cause errors in three ways:

  1. Errors of omission
  2. Errors of commission
  3. Errors in attitude

MORE: How to Reduce Tax Return Errors | Teaching the Meaning of ‘Done’ | Why Millennials Are the Answer | Calculating and Cutting Turnaround Time | Debunking the Demise of the CPA Firm | How Many Tax Preparers Do You Need? | How the Annual Tax Meeting Died | How to Teach Reviewing and Time Management | 4 Steps to Take Before Next Tax Season | 3 Tips for Handling Rookie Tax Preparers
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Every tax season, we finalize and deliver returns only to hear from the client, “I think I might have forgotten to tell you that we had a baby last year.” Does this happen to you? This is a client error of omission. Unintentionally, clients withhold important information.
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How to Reduce Tax Return Errors

Error stampedWe must turn unseen clients into human beings in the eyes of staff.

By Frank Stitely
The Relentless CPA

I wasn’t initially certain this post was necessary. I covered a lot of material in my first book and other posts.

MORE: Teaching the Meaning of ‘Done’ | How We Killed the Tax Season Client Meeting | Why Small Firms Can Win the Talent Wars | There Are No Easy Answers | How to Thrive as a 21st-Century Firm
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However, last night my sleep was haunted by the ghosts of tax return errors past, present and future. I saw my coffin rolling down the chute to the cremation chamber. I was inside shouting that I had one more checklist to complete before my life was done.
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Teaching the Meaning of ‘Done’

Angry boss in chair staring down at tiny businessmanNot to be confused with the dreaded “done but.”

By Frank Stitely
The Relentless CPA

In my last book, as with this one, I recommended hiring younger staff. In that book, I cautioned that you might have to teach very simple tasks like breathing and using the bathroom to your newbies. CPATrendlines.com posted an excerpt with my advice.

MORE: How We Killed the Tax Season Client Meeting | Why Your Firm Needs to Attract More Millenials | The Fool in the Room | The 3 Biggest Tech Failures of Accounting Firms | 7 Steps to Effective Project Management | WIP-ing Clients Into Shape | The Land Mines in Tax Returns | Give Your People the Resources They Need | The Right Way to Assign Staff Projects | Workflow for Dummies
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One reader posted that she didn’t believe it was the responsibility of an admin department to teach bathroom use. She was new to this hot new writing technique called sarcasm. She did a great job making my point that you have to teach your staff a lot of really basic things.
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How We Killed the Tax Season Client Meeting

Man working hard at office deskYep, there’s an app for that!

By Frank Stitely
The Relentless CPA

What did Dorothy and her friends fear in the Wizard of Oz? “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” Dorothy feared the wrong things if she’s a partner in a CPA firm. We don’t see much wildlife in our offices during tax season unless you count fast food delivery people and the occasional crazy client.

MORE: Why Your Firm Needs to Attract More Millenials | Why Millennials Are the Answer | Calculating and Cutting Turnaround Time | Debunking the Demise of the CPA Firm | How Many Tax Preparers Do You Need? | 3 Tips for Handling Rookie Tax Preparers
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We should really fear the events that destroy our priorities and drain hours from productive work. Meetings and phone calls and emails, oh my! Let’s look at why these communication methods are so destructive from a practice management standpoint.
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Why Your Firm Needs to Attract More Millenials

Two men talking at table, one younger in plaid with man bun, one older with glasses and sweater over shouldersWhat makes a firm millennial-friendly? Ask a millennial.

By Frank Stitely
The Relentless CPA

Younger clients demand electronic solutions. If you want younger clients, evolve your firm.

MORE: Why Millennials Are the Answer | Why Small Firms Can Win the Talent Wars | There Are No Easy Answers | How to Thrive as a 21st-Century Firm | Farm-Aid for Accountants? | Whittle Down WIP | The Tax Practice Traffic Cop
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This evolution becomes even more critical when you consider that paper tax forms are going away. We will harness electronic data feeds from blockchain transaction systems. Annual tax season meetings become totally useless at this point.
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Why Millennials Are the Answer

Millennial clients will make your firm smarter, faster, and more profitable.

By Frank Stitely
The Relentless CPA

Do you know why millennials can’t buy houses?

  • Avocado toast is expensive.

MORE: Why Small Firms Can Win the Talent Wars | The Fool in the Room | The 3 Biggest Tech Failures of Accounting Firms | 7 Steps to Effective Project Management | WIP-ing Clients Into Shape | How to Be the Chief Communicator | How to Teach Reviewing and Time Management | 4 Steps to Take Before Next Tax Season
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How many millennials does it take to change a light bulb?

  • None. They accept it for what it is.

Why do millennials always type in lower case?

  • They reject capitalism.

What is a millennial’s favorite fragrance?

  • Scents of entitlement.

Buy me a craft beer, and I’ll tell you a half dozen more. Now, after all of the above, I’m about to tell you why you need millennials as clients and how they increase the efficiency of your firm.

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