Tax season is upon us! Are you feeling stressed yet? CPA burnout is a real thing, but what if there was a way to significantly reduce the amount of stress you go through while still generating a lot of income? This week’s guest just might be able to help you.
Chuck Bauer is a sales trainer and business trainer who works with accounting companies to make their business practices efficient. Our friend Jackie Meyer recommended him for our podcast and we’re grateful for the recommendation. There are a ton of efficiency hacks that he shared with us. This post explains some of them, but there were others we couldn’t fit into the post. Listen to the podcast to get the full story.
In this week’s podcast, we’ll discuss:
- Why interruptions and inefficiencies are your enemies
- Why email is making your business 30% less efficient
- The importance of setting client expectations
- The reasons why so many CPAs end up with health problems from stress
- How Jackie managed to turn her business around with Chuck’s help in six months
- Chuck Bauer’s website can be found at https://chuckbauer.com
- More About Chuck Bauer
- Creating the Ideal Accounting Firm: Charge 80% More, 25% Less Client Work
Focusing On Efficiencies To Generate More Revenue In Your Accounting Business
Tax season is here, and CPAs often work six or even seven days a week just to keep up with everything. By the time the season is over, they’re often burned out and hating life. Many of the people who come to me are suffering from chronic stress syndrome. It doesn’t have to be this way because you are responsible for your environment.
It is possible to grow your business and raise your level of success without driving yourself into the ground if you build your business in the right way. You can set up systems that will kill interruptions and inefficiencies dead while still growing your business.
The way to do that is to focus on how efficient and automated you can make your entire business, from top to bottom. That’s what I do for my clients, and I want to share with you some tips that you can use that can help put you on the right path.
Much of the stress that comes from your clients is due to overthinking or trying to keep too much in your memory. The less you have to think about to do your job, the better. Let’s take a look at email first.
Seek Out Interruptions And Kill Them
Interruptions are the enemy of productivity. Did you know that nearly every firm is 70% inefficient? Why is that? The United States Department of Labor says that 30% of our workday is spent inside of email. I would frame it that we keep getting interrupted by email. If you want a quick gauge of how efficient you are, look at how many emails are in your inbox. The lower the better.
Email is a great tool for marketing but to use it well inside the office takes effort. We must make it work for us rather than be slaves to our inboxes. Quite often what I do is set up a company-wide communication protocol that takes the guesswork out of sharing internal information. For instance, there may be codes used in the subject lines of internal emails that set priority, much like the ticketing systems used in IT departments. With consistent coding, it’s simple to set up filters that will bring the most important emails to the forefront. A unified procedure doesn’t just make it easier to think. It also makes your employees much more accountable.
Measure The Right Things More Often
It’s so easy to get buried in metrics and miss the most important things. Here are my rules for measuring the right things.
Which KPIs you use will differ depending on your exact business, but I like to use a 12 month moving average for your KPIs. There is too much variability month-to-month in accounting to trust a single month’s numbers. Once you know what to focus on, it just takes 10-15 minutes to review them at the end of the month.
One KPI that I’ve used that’s a little unusual is the number of fired clients per month. Every organization has clients that are awful for one reason or another. They could be low-revenue or they could take too much time, but either way, they’re dragging down the business. I like to set a target of five fired clients each month for the first six months. If that is done and you track net income so you don’t dip too far down, you can free your business from a huge amount of stress.
At the same time, your employees also need to know what their expectations are in relation to those KPIs. They need metrics. While I do look at standard metrics like realization rates and billable percentages, there are others that I look at much more often for the sake of efficiency. These include:
- How many tasks of different types did you complete?
- How fast were you able to complete them?
- How many tasks in your queue moved to an urgent status since the last measurement?
These are important because it shows how effective each employee is. It forces them to prioritize. I take two or three minutes at the end of each week to review these with my employees. Yes, I give weekly reviews! The annual review is a holdover from the mid-20th century. If an employee starts a bad habit two weeks after the last review and I don’t catch it till the next annual review, that’s a problem.
Exactly which task types and metrics you’ll need to measure will depend on your business and the employee, but once you know what you want to track and have taught your employees the targets you want to hit, try switching to a weekly review.
Set Expectations And Make It Easy For Clients To Follow Them
In my experience, there are some accountants who are addicted to the chase. They love tracking down documentation and wrangling their clients. They feel like they’re doing a lot of work. They could be doing so much more.
If you clearly set expectations for your clients about deadlines, documentation, or whatever it is you need to do your next steps, it would make it much easier to take on new clients, right? That is if they remember to follow them. Along with setting expectations, I also help clients build short videos to share with clients at different stages. Telling your clients how to use that portal, upload the right documents, and when the deadlines are through videos saves you from explaining it over and over. This also keeps a constant thread of communication open between you and your clients.
These videos need to be made with some care. They need to be simple enough that any of your clients can understand things, but also thorough and clear enough that you’ll never have to answer questions about it. Accountants have high analytical skills and sometimes think too fast for their own good. Just because you understand things doesn’t mean your clients will so pretend you’re new to all this again and explain it as your teacher would.
In fact, one of my clients lost a $9,000/yr account because they said they’d offer assistance with a tax organizer and failed to follow through on teaching how to use it. What they should have done is make a simple 5-7 minute video explaining how to use it that their client could watch at any time.
If you do this right, you’ll automate another part of your business. And If they still fail to meet your expectations despite your instructions, they just might be the next target for your fired client KPI.
Handle Your Emotions And Health
Enjoying your work isn’t just about setting up the right systems. You are also part of the system. When was the last time you took care of your health or your relationships? Was it only after tax season when you couldn’t take it anymore? I’ve had to fly clients to me because I was worried about their physical health.
You don’t have to become a fitness guru or eat a crazy diet. But you do need a little bit of exercise and get some good nutrition. Consider this part of your personal metrics. Did you go for a walk today? Did you eat some real vegetables and avoid the soda? Did I spend time with friends and family?
All of these things affect your energy levels. We need time to recharge. Don’t neglect yourself!
Now Automate It
Once you have your procedures in place, automate them as much as possible. Leave as little to memory and trust in the systems that you’ve built. This will free you to focus on the things that really matter.
Please don’t feel that you have to do this all at once. My process that I take my clients through is at least a 6-8 month process. Shoot first for easy wins, like firing that awful client that’s always late with their documents. Try setting a code word for the most urgent and least urgent emails and include them at the start of internal subject lines so they can be filtered. Take some time for yourself. You’ll feel much better for it, your employees will too, and you’ll be able to earn a lot more income.