Breaking Free of SALY

Tax season is overwhelmingly busy for you as a CPA firm owners. As your clients rush to file by April 15th, it’s tempting to rely on the same technology, workflow, and organizational processes year over year to cope with the heavy workload.

Remember your pain from last tax season? It’s been awhile. The wounds aren’t as fresh. But, now is the time to square up your processes, tweak your workflow, and put your team in position to enjoy their work and uncover proactive advisory opportunities along the way.

You see, historically, accountants have assumed a traditional accountant mindset… 

Let’s survive tax season. Mandatory overtime. Mandatory Saturdays. Growing Accounts Receivable. How many more tax seasons can I handle?!

It doesn’t have to be this way. CPA firm owners are more than accountants. You are entrepreneurs. 

Entrepreneurs have grit, take some level of risk, and never settle for status quo. They are always looking for better, more efficient ways to run their business. Many (if not most) entrepreneurs start their businesses for freedom- both financial and time freedom. 

So, as you prepare for the busiest time of year for your firm, step back, reset, and re-focus your entrepreneurial mindset to take control of your business and enjoy it.

Let’s get real

Sure. People quit. Clients complain about price increases, and they don’t always get you what you need when you need it. As April 15th looms closer, you get flooded with phone calls and emails about the status of returns. Maybe your technology platform goes down…right when you are in the thick of tax season. You can’t control many of these things, but here’s what you can do.

Buy your time back

Sit down and list everything you do during the day that can be delegated. Don’t have the staff? There are a plethora of outsourcing firms (both onshore and offshore) who can do quality bookkeeping and accounting work- even tax work. 

Is your JULIE™ role in place? The person in this role will have a dramatic impact on your time freedom, the client experience, your cash flow, and your profitability.

And, how about the time you spend playing phone tag or chasing documents in the heat of tax seasons past? Consider setting up 2-way texting with a business line. People respond much faster to a text than they do to email.

Also, instead of playing phone tag or adding to email chaos when it comes time to go over the return, consider recording a quick Loom video to explain and/or clarify. And, for those clients who chonically don’t get you what you need when you need it…

Set internal deadlines, and stick to them 

Choose a date that feels reasonable to maintain the sanity of your entire staff, and communicate that deadline for having all documents in the office or uploaded to your portal. In fact, over-communicate it. Send a mass email, put it in your newsletter and on social media. Make it clear, and stick to it. 

And, when that client shows up the day after your deadline with a file full of documents? Honor your deadline, and let the client know you’ll need to file and extension.

Set boundaries

We’ve all had them. The testy clients who snap at a staff member. Not cool. Make it clear in your communications with clients at the onset of tax season that your team works very hard to provide the best possible client experience. Acknowledge that tax season can be stressful to everyone, and it’s expected that your team is treated with respect.

Review and document your processes and workflow

Surely there are a few improvements over last year’s tax season workflow that can be made. Where did you experience the most pain? Document the entire process from start to finish for this year, and share it with the team. Make sure to note who touches what throughout the process…admin, preparer, reviewer, partner, etc. As James Clear put it in his book Atomic Habits, “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

Let’s talk about A/R 

Why should you do the work now and get paid later? When you go to a restaurant, you eat, and you pay the bill. You don’t get an invoice in the mail to pay at a future date. Collect fees up front or at the time the tax return is finished prior to filing. A/R is one of your most important KPIs. Make sure the JULIE™ role is managing this with processes in place to minimize it. Establish a strict policy for this now, and your cash flow will thank you later.

And, last but not least…

Plan time for after tax season to review your tech stack against your processes. The JULIE™ role should have a finger on the pulse of what works well and what doesn’t throughout the season. As an entrepreneur, you should always be focused on refining your processes and leveraging technology to help you and your team be efficient and effective. 

The JULIE™ is your wingman or wingwoman to help you implement the systems and processes that turn you into an entrepreneur who is able to step away from the business- and enjoy the journey.

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