Another one down, and a big shout out to too all of my fellow accounting professionals! My question to you is: Busy season is over, now what will you do?
As a bookkeeping firm, our business starts around Thanksgiving, and finishes around the end of May. We start during the holidays getting our existing clients year end prepared, so that once December 31 comes around, things go as smoothly as possible. We get many new clients that need data entry completed before they can get their returns done. Some just want a QuickReview to make sure the books they have are clean and ready.
I know many tax preparers will take (well deserved) time off, but the question remains when you return from that vacation: Now that busy season is over, what will you do?
For Kildal Services, this is a question that I start thinking about as soon as our busy starts. At the end of each year, we set goals related to revenue, clients and team members. Having these goals in place helps us plan when busy season is over – what sort of marketing will we do? To whom will be market? What sort of budget are we going to have to work with?
Busy season is over, now what will you do?
Our plan this year is simple:
- Get more active in local activities. Now that busy season is over, I’ve already participated by co-sponsoring a TGIF Coffee for the Highland White Lake Business Association, and am scheduled to have a table at the local high school Career Day.
- Try out a new marketing approach: custom landing pages, combined with Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Ads
- Stick to the types of clients we love (photographers, auto repair, landscaping, PR/marketing & consultants), and the services (technology consulting, QBO conversions, QuickReview™ and of course, bookkeeping) we do best.
- Cleaning up our website, to add more consistency and calls to action.
Now that busy season is over, we’ll also be revamping content for Weeks 1 & 4 in StacyKAcademy.com, and revamping the entire site to make it easier to navigate.
I’d love to hear from you:
Busy season is over, what are your plans for 2017?
I hear pretty frequently: conversations I have when I’m doing an Intuit training to posts in my Facebook group: clients don’t value services.
Here’s what you can do if you suspect clients don’t value services
That lack of value shows up in various ways. When clients don’t get you the information you need, when they look for cheaper services, when they question your knowledge, etc.
For a long time, we were plagued by this problem. It seemed like our clients were always demanding—no expecting—us to drop everything to attend to their current issue right that minute. It left us frustrated and was one of the catalysts for revamping the way we run my Kildal Services.
The answer I found to becoming an essential partner and advisor to your clients is two-pronged:
- Continually show value.
- Find better clients.
Let me explain.
Avoid a situation where clients don’t value service by continuing to show that value in various ways
Continually Show Value
I’ll admit this topic was a bit frustrating to me at first. I want the people we work with to trust us, know that we know what we’re doing, and have their best interest in mind, without having to do anything. Luckily, I’ve learned a few tricks through the years, like:
- Set goals together. When you engage with a client, ensure you know their goals for hiring a bookkeeper. Set your processes based on those goals. For example, if they want a handle on their expenses, figure out a process for communicating what’s going on with their expenses so you can help them.
- Deliver on your promises. Consistently do what you say you are going to do when you said you were going to do it. If you screw up, take action. Here’s a blog I wrote about handling screw ups.
- Manage expectations. For example, I make it clear to clients that I prefer email and text to communicate. I also let them know there are no bookkeeping emergencies. While saying this, I also reassure them that I am responsive, that I truly care about their success and that I value working with them. Letting them know this upfront solves a lot of problems down the line.
- Provide expertise. This is easier at the beginning of an engagement when you have the opportunity to impact their processes and recommend apps that will make their life easier. Make a point to check in with clients regularly to see how things are working so you can offer additional workflow suggestions.
- Be proactive. I have a landscaping client that’s business fluctuates seasonally. I noticed this cash flow reflected in their books, so I recommended we decrease our services during their slow time. This helps them manage cash flow and built loyalty because they know I have their best interest at heart.
- Be a resource. Let them know you are available to answer their bookkeeping and accounting questions. If you don’t have an answer, I know you can find it!
- Celebrate their success. When you see a client adding more revenue, getting more clients or just doing something great, congratulate them.
It helps when I remember what clients care the most about. Their own success. When I remember that, it always puts things in perspective.
In my next blog, I’ll expand upon how having the right clients makes a difference.
I get a lot of requests asking me to share task checklists. And here’s the thing: I don’t quite get while folks would want my checklist vs their checklist. So, I brought the question up during my recent StacyK Academy office hours. Office Hours is time I spend each week with my current (and sometimes former) students to answer questions and facilitate discussion.
I said: “I don’t get it.”
“I don’t get how my checklist will work for someone else.”
Why? Because there are a lot of variables to an individual bookkeeping practice checklist, like:
- What services do you provide that client? AR, AP, payroll?
- How do you like to work? One client at a time or one task at a time?
- Do you have a team working or are you on your own?
There are so many variables.
I don’t know if my checklist would work for anyone else.
So instead of sharing my client checklist, I’ll share some of the project management tools we ended discussed during that Friday meeting. These are tools designed to keep people on track, like:
- Google drive/sheets/forms docs. I’ve talked about I use GSuite to run my business. (Did I mention I love Google forms?) Did you know that NOT ONLY can you create, store and share documents with GDrive, but you can ALSO use Google sheets as a project management tool, even assigning tasks. Learn more from this hand article (not mine).
- Gqueues. Several of my students use this handy tool to organize their workflow. Have you tried
- Slack. I’ve mentioned before my love of Slack. This tool allows me to communicate with my business partner, Shannon, and keep things out of email. It’s searchable. It allows for file storage, reminders for recurring taaks and you can create checklists. You can also integrate other apps like Google Drive, Dropbox, Zoom or use webhooks to help work better, faster, smarter.
- Email. I know, I know! You’re not “supposed” to use your email as a To Do List. But I say this: if it works for you, then go for it. I leave things in my inbox until I’m at place or have time to take care of them. I use it, with Boomerang for Gmail, to manage prospect follow up. If you haven’t heard my #inboxzero pitch, you probably won’t understand my love and obsession with Boomerang.
Bottom line here is that my checklist(s) may not work for what others are doing – the best bet is to work with someone to help you document the processes and tasks for which you need a checklist – what works for some doesn’t work for others!
There is no right or wrong tool—only things that work better for each individual person or firm.
I’d love to hear your favorite project management tools! Share them here.
Image courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
My friend Kim Amsbaugh’s recent blog recaps the 2013 Future of Accountancy Report. The latest and greatest report will be unveiled at QuickBooks Connect in October.
When I re-read the report, I realize it ties directly into why I started StacyK Academy.
Specifically, these predictions:
2013 Prediction: Accounting Profession’s Shifting Business Conditions Creates Threats and Opportunities.
StacyK response: Find your jam, man! Intuit recommends differentiating yourself to make sure you’re working in your sweet spot and to make it easier for clients to find you. Week 1 of Build Your Kickass Practice goes into detail on how to find your jam. Our S’Marketing class takes it to the next level, helping you determine how to use your jam to differentiate yourself AND identify the right folks to work with.
2013 Prediction: Online, Mobile, Social Technologies.
StacyK response: As a technology geek, I love finding the right apps for my practice and to help my clients succeed. I share my favorite apps during Building Your Kickass Practice, via my Appasaurus Rex webinars and on the Between Wall and Main/Appasaurus Rex Facebook Group. You can also use apps to help differentiate yourself and your practice and just make life easier!
2013: Demographic Shifts
StacyK response: Intuit says millennials are looking for careers that provide work-life balance and flexibility. If you know anything about my approach to business, you know I’m all about building a practice that works for your life. I’ve done a couple of webinars that may help you: Work/Life Balance and Setting Client Boundaries webinar outline my #nobookkeepingemergencies approach to life.
We’ll see what Intuit’s 2016 report reveals when they share the results at QuickBooks Connect. As for the latest StacyK response, I’ll be offering short courses and webinars to help answer your questions on a variety of topics like Apps, processes, how to use QuickBooks, growing your business. These “quick hits” will be taught by me as well as my trusted advisors. We’re in the planning phases, but will let you know what we have coming up soon.
In the meantime, I’m on the road again for Intuit, teaching QuickBooks Online around the country. Join me if you live near any of these locations:
Learn more or register today.
(If you’re on my mailing list, you may have already read these, but if not – or you didn’t read them, you might get some good tips).
I recently spent 5 weeks on the road for Intuit, training folks on the power of QuickBooks Online. That’s my jam: I love to help fellow accounting professionals get better at what they do.
While I was on the road, I got to talk to people all over the country and hear their triumphs and their struggles. Most of the time (and by “most of the time,” I mean always), those struggles are the problems I’ve faced at various times in my practice.
And here’s Problem#1: Not enough time.
The #1 problem I hear is people don’t have enough time. While I can’t add more hours to the day for you, I have learned a few tricks to get back some of the time I so desperately need. Maybe they’ll help you:
- Processes: Use the same process for each and every client you have
- Automate: Use apps that will improve your productivity–and help your clients, too
- Outsource: I have my web designer Jen, and Laura to work out all the marketing details
- Prioritize: Get really clear on your priorities and try hard to eliminate things that aren’t important to you
These simple steps won’t solve everything, but they’ll give you a foundation upon which to work.
Another time-saving tactic is the StacyK Academy course Building Your Kickass Practice. It’s a six-week course that will save you time! Why? Because you get the benefit of my experience building a kickass practice. I’ll share what I’ve learned, and WHY it works. You’ll learn my system, get the tools we use, and we’ll talk about how to make them work for you. After all, my kickass practice doesn’t necessarily look like your kickass practice.
Sigh. Maybe I should have made this #1.
Now, I’m not your fairy godmother, so I can’t magically put money in your back account. But I’ve been there with the money problem. Here are a few ideas that helped me. Maybe they’ll help you:
- Get more clients. Duh, you say. But it is possible and it doesn’t have to be hard.
- Get paid what you’re worth. So many ProAdvisors are charging too little for the work they provide and offering discounts for “more work” in the future. Stop that. No, really, stop that.
- Get paid up front. Invoice at the beginning of an engagement. Don’t start work until the money is in the bank. And can your clients pay you by credit card right from the invoice? Mine can.
- Get paid by deadbeat clients. The QuickBooks app center even has a few things to help–CollBox collections is one. Another is Fundbox, which will advance you for outstanding invoices (but again, don’t start work until you’ve got the money!)
The money problem is a bit more complex than the time problem. But I’m here to tell you, there are ways to get more clients and get paid faster.
In the StacyK Academy’s Building Your Kickass Practice, I’ll teach you ways to earn more money:
- I’ll share my time-tested QuickReview™ process that improved my close rate to 75%.
- We’ll talk about pricing, and I’ll share my Base+ Pricing approach.
- You’ll get my attorney written engagement letter and other tools designed to protect you.
- We’ll go over my Client Scoring Matrix to help you work only with clients you love, and get rid of the crappy one. (I know that sounds crazy, in an email about money, talking about getting rid of clients. But honest, you lose money on the bad ones).
#3. Crappy clients.
I hear about crappy clients ALL THE TIME. I mean, the client that calls at all hours of the night, the client that demands you invoice them in a certain way, the client that wants you to do a ton of services but doesn’t want to pay you.
Well, let me tell you, I have no tolerance for crappy clients. The solution is pretty easy:FIRE THEM! That sounds pretty extreme, I know, but I’ve done it a lot (when I need to) and I always find a better client to replace them.
The issue really isn’t crappy clients, it’s getting clients you want. Here’s what has worked for me:
- Have a niche that works for you.
- Have an ideal client profile.
- “Date” your clients before you agree to work with them.
- Develop strict boundaries and enforce them.
- “Grade” your clients every six months.
I’ve also designed the StacyK Academy Build Your Kickass Practice to help you with the crappy client problem:
- My QuickReview ™ “dating” process.
- An attorney written engagement letter designed to protect you
- A process that works for you and teach you how to enforce it with your clients.
- My Client Scoring Matrix to help you know who you want to work with.
I’ve designed the StacyK Academy to be pretty comprehensive – and customizable to fit your practice. Here’s the complete course, week-by-week:
Week 1: Move Online – July 14, 2016, 11:30a-12:30p ET
- Move Online Action Plan
- QBDT to QBO Conversion Checklists
- Most Conversion Steps
- Attorney created Engagement letter
- Attorney created NDA/Confidentiality agreement
Week 2: QuickReview™ Sales Funnel – July 21, 2016, 11:30a-12:30p ET
- QuickReview™ Checklist
- Sample QuickReview™ Report
Week 3: Base+ Pricing Structure – July 28, 2016, 11:30a-12:30p ET
- Base+ Pricing Structure Outline
- Schedule of Practice Services
Week 4: Workflow Management (Stacy’s Favorite Apps) – August 4, 2016, 11:30a-12:30p ET
- Workflow Analysis Worksheet Software
- Decision Matrix If/Then Tool
Week 5: Learn to Prioritize with Client Scoring – August 11, 2016 11:30a-12:30p ET
- Client Scoring Matrix
- Client Email Format
Week 6: Social Media 101 for ProAdvisors – August 18, 2016 11:30a-12:30p ET
- Basics of Social Media Management Tools
I’d love to have you! We keep the class pretty small so I can help individuals with other problems that may not be on this list. Join us!