Managing Through Tax Season

In a year when revenue growth may be hard to come by and the economy is still weighing heavy on every business person’s mind, it may be tempting to just put your head down and work hard “in” your business. However it is because of these economic circumstances that CPA firm leaders need to continue to carefully manage the firm and be vigilant for opportunities in the marketplace.

Tax season presents numerous opportunities to put into place many of the strategic objectives that were discussed in the prior months during partner retreats and/or strategic planning sessions. Consider the following items. How well is your firm performing during this “opportunity season? Is the firm making the desired progress?

Staff Development

1. Are staff members assigned challenging work to ensure their continual development?
2. Does each member of the engagement team understand their role and responsibilities and are they held accountable?
3. Are staff members being given the opportunity to attend and participate in client presentations?
4. Are supervisors providing timely feedback to staff members to improve performance and reduce repetitive errors?

Culture

1. Is firm leadership maintaining appropriate communication with team members to ensure people are informed and maintain positive morale?
2. Does the firm hold periodic special events (lunches, parties, office contests, gifts with firm logos, etc.) during tax season to reward and recognize the team for their hard work and long hours as well as to bring some fun into what can be a long, tough period of time?

Client Service

1. Are team members focused on providing outstanding client service?
2. Are engagement team leaders scheduling in-person client presentations of financial statements and tax returns in order to personalize the service and engage the client in meaningful dialogue?
3. Are work assignments delegated to the appropriate level in order to free partner time from compliance work and charge them with pro-actively engaging clients in discussion of their major business issues?

Growth

1. Do partners continue to actively market firm’s services and avoid getting bogged down in compliance work?
2. Do firm personnel look for opportunities to solve client issues and cross-sell firm services?
3. If the firm maintains a sales pipeline, are pipeline meetings continuing to be held with mandatory partner attendance and participation?

Profitability

1. Are engagements being managed effectively to reduce waste and bottlenecks which add unnecessary time and delay?
2. Are invoices for completed work or progress billings being prepared and mailed on a timely basis?
3. For clients who are struggling financially, are firm personnel monitoring the accounts receivable aging as well as the amount of work-in-process being invested?

Tax season can become a blur and it is often difficult to remember the specific operational and management issues that arose. While the season progresses, have your people prepare two lists; (1) Things that are working well, and (2) Things that are not working well. Hold a debriefing session at the end of April and review the various points on the lists for needed changes. Just because it is tax season, it is no reason to put management on hold.

Copyright ©2010 by Michel Consulting Group, LLC

Timothy I. Michel, CPA is a consultant to CPA firms and a former managing partner of a Top 100 CPA firm. He helps CPA firm owners create value in their practice by drawing on his own experiences to assist them in identifying and overcoming obstacles and focusing on opportunities to increase growth and profitability. For more information, visit the website at www.michelconsultinggroup.com