The 6 Little White Lies CPAs Tell Themselves

Geraldine Carter provides business strategy and coaching to CPAs who are ready to get out of the accounting rut and create the business they want to own instead. By breaking free of the traditional business model of accounting, Geraldine enables owners of solo and boutique CPA firms to work less and make more, so they can get more out of life. Holding a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Cornell University, she is also the co-founder and CFO of a company where her cash flow forecasting models generated millions of dollars for climate change efforts.

In this week’s Growing Your Firm podcast, we sit down with Geraldine to talk about the six little white lies CPAs tell themselves that hold them back in their businesses.

Podcast

 

Resources

Summary

  • Unchallenged Lies CPAs and Firm Owners Overlook
  • Lie #1: You’re a Slave to Tax Season
  • Lie #2: No One Is Going to Pay THAT Much!
  • Lie # 3: Advisory Services Means Increased Access
  • Lie # 4: “I Just Want to Help”
  • Lie # 5: Accountants Are Introverts
  • Lie # 6: “Charge What You’re Worth”

Unchallenged Lies CPAs and Firm Owners Overlook

To clarify terms, when we talk about “lies,” we are also addressing myths and dogmatic thought patterns that have gone unquestioned. This can include a general frame of mind or even challenges that maybe aren’t real challenges. In this podcast, Geraldine offers a much-needed reality check to help us shake off these lies that detrimentally constrict our actions.

Lie # 1: You’re a Slave to Tax Season

In a webinar that Geraldine attended, participants divulged that they work 28 hours per day, 9 days per week during tax season. She was surprised at the overwhelming acceptance of this lifestyle. She said, “I mean, it can't really be 28 hours a day, nine days a week, but it can certainly be 16, 18-hour days for 10 weeks in a row.”

At some point, the challenge is to find another way and get to the heart of the problem that prevents a firm owner from getting home at 4:00 or 5:00 PM. “Is it a business model change only? Or are there other things in play?” Geraldine continues, noting that the issue could very well be ambition with workaholism. Sometimes, people just love to work.

Perhaps there is a certain amount of sympathy that CPAs enjoy receiving while telling others how hard they are working. “So there can be these sorts of ulterior motives that you might be unaware of, or vaguely aware of, that are contributing to your behavior,” she explains.

Lie # 2: No One Is Going to Pay THAT Much!

Geraldine says, “I speak three languages fluently, but I cannot learn to speak tax, and I cannot do accounting... For example, my brain does not understand debits and credits, nor can I handle depreciation tables.”

The second lie that often goes unchallenged is that no one would be willing to pay for services—especially advisory services—after doubling or tripling rates. The truth is that there are several people who value the services that CPAs and business owners offer precisely because it's not their cup of tea.

Geraldine notes “I think that so many accountants become good at it because it's so easy for them... they equate that with not having value.” Business owners who don’t want to learn how to manage taxes would be more than willing to pay someone who spent years studying tax code that many don’t want to learn. That is the true value that CPAs offer that warrants the price.

Pro Tip: Think about the tasks you do easily and well. These are the very services that others are willing to pay for because the services don’t feel easy to them, and they don’t want to invest time in doing it well. They’d rather trade their money for your time to gain back the time they need for the tasks they’re great at doing.

Lie # 3: Advisory Services Means Increased Access

Many CPAs and firm owners fear that if they offer advisory services, then they will become high touch. They worry that they will be required to increase their response times and carry on long conversations. Some clients enjoy talking to CPAs, but others don’t want to engage for long periods of time.

For those situations that are legitimately a problem, know the issue is not with your business model; it’s a client problem. You may have to establish proper boundaries by offboarding or retraining the proper processes. So, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Lie # 4: “I Just Want to Help”

Many accountants want to bend over backward to help their clients. They offer family and friend discounts, but this simply isn’t a sound business practice to support the lifestyle you really want.

Furthermore, it is quite possible to double your revenue by cutting 30% of your clients, starting with those who expect freebies and discounts.

Geraldine offers sound advice:

“If you really, really want to be helpful, the way to do it is to scale your business. And before you scale, you've got to narrow so you can systematize because you cannot systematize something that's all over the map.”

A great example of someone who scaled his business like a pro is Bill Gates, and he’s leaving an amazing legacy. Also, look at Oprah: She has impacted so many lives profoundly, not through haphazard generosity, but by carefully scaling her business.

Lie # 5: Accountants Are Introverts

Somewhat in line with Lie #3 and Lie #4, the motivations of an accountant can place themselves front and center to help a client or working in the background perfecting the operations of a business. However, more often than not, accounts consider themselves to be introverted, working optimally when tucked away behind plexiglass and removed from the public eye.

Geraldine, however, sees wasted vibrant personality being tucked away. “I see my accountants and I think they're lovely people... You are the loveliest people. You are so nice. You are so helpful. You saved my bacon!”

The value that accountants bring to help business owners and clients save money is more than enough reason to feel confident. More accountants should feel comfortable bringing their value into the eyes of the public, and be willing to confidently engage in meaningful conversations with clients.

Lie # 6: Charge What You’re Worth

The last lie is not unique to the accounting or business world. It is the lie that you are supposed to “charge what you’re worth,” which is desperately ambiguous. What does that even mean?

Most likely, this phrase comes up whenever individuals are not confident about their skill sets or services, so it may have some origins in Lie #2. To reiterate, CPAs offer a valuable service to clients, especially those who don’t care to learn about accounting.

Geraldine illuminated people trapped in the “charge what you’re worth” narrative when she said, “The main problem here is that your rates are not about you. Your rates are about your client, and your rates are about the value that you provide to your client.”

There was a plethora of fresh information that we discussed in the podcast, so if you’re craving for more information, check it out! If you would like to reach out to Geraldine personally, you can schedule a time to meet with her at www.shethinksbigcoaching.com.

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