Like a distant, frightening memory, tax season is coming up. And every year, from the 6,000+ accounting professionals we serve, we hear a similar thing …“This is my last tax season!”
We actually heard it so often, we partnered with one of our firms and made this spoof video, and while that video is light-hearted and fun, the tax season destruction is real. Multiple times in the last week, I heard the same story “Our firm flatlined (or we had to sell it due to exhaustion) after my team left right after tax season!”
It’s not only the owners who get fed up, more damaging, it’s the team. And when the team leaves (often with little notice), they take with them not only capacity but more often than not all the IP and internal knowledge that you were relying on to scale your firm.
On the other, we now hear from firms that enjoy tax season. They rely on their systems. Their disciplines. And that elevates them from feeling panic 24/7 to having a sense of control of their firm.
We talk with (and publish) hundreds of interviews a year, and here’s 3 “workflow secrets” that came to light:
When it comes to preparing for tax season, we recommend the client (or team onboarding) process to start early, ideally in Q4. Start setting the expectations with your client, and provide reminders (ie recommendations on tax-deductible vehicles like RothIRA’s, end of year donations, etc). Whether this is in person, webinar, phone or email, be sure to get on your client’s radar. One firm partner (Susan Wilson) that uses Jetpack Workflow deployed a process in which she contacted all clients in Q4, and ask them to update their preferred communication channel (email, phone, text). This one tweak was instrumental in Susan being able to 2X their tax return output while having 1 less team member YoY!
Trust Your Systems
Busy season is the time your systems come to light. You’re either prepared with the tools and process, or you’re scrambling last minute. Here’s a couple of reminders to help you “trust the system” this tax season:
- Resist the urge to respond to team member requests: Instead, point to the system/source of record where the information should be stored (for example, if a team member asked about a client’s new business location). If the information is not in the system, add it, and then point the team member in that direction. In this way, you’re solving the root problem, not just the surface fire.
- Utilize free training: Many of the leading software companies offer free training, webinars, or even account “tune-ups” to make sure you fully utilize and understand the system. Before the busy season, be sure you feel comfortable with your tool kit.
- Bring your team along: Finally, this is both a great onboarding as well as retention campaign for your team. As you go through training, bring your team with you. Have them attend webinars, discuss the tool or platform afterward, and explain why you made the investment in the tool and them. Remember, increasing their knowledge of a new platform or tool is great for professional development.
Keep the Team Sharp
Finally, acknowledge that tax season is, no pun intended, taxing. Find ways to get your
team sharp (and relaxed… to the extent possible). Here are some ideas:
- Free lunch/weekly: This doesn’t have to be a major expense, as something like pizza and salad will suffice! But the gesture (and bonding) that happens over free food is a nice “pause” in what would normally be another crazy day!
- In-office massages: Depending on your budget and team size, bringing in someone to the office for a 10-minute massage can still be a cost-effective way to say “thank you” for the team. In some cases (again, depending on team size), the massage business will actually provide this service at cost or discount rate as long as they can talk about their business for a few minutes.
- Enjoy March Madness: When we interviewed a firm owner that had a love of college basketball, he brought that into the office. They bring in additional TV’s, wear their favorite teams jersey, participate in polling, and more. It was a great way to bring a relaxed and fun environment into the office when they needed it most.
- Date nights: This concept can be impactful because it actually rewards the team member outside of the office. Date night is exactly what it sounds like… you pay for a date night. This means getting the team member a VISA gift card that covers movies, dinner, and a babysitter.
- Hydration and healthy snacks: Whether it’s a water cooler or having a few healthy snacks around the office, this is a nice initiative that is on the more cost-conscious side. Encourage your team to try and keep up with healthy habits during one of the most stressful (and flu prone) times of the year!
While there are many more team and workflow best practices, we hope that these get you started on your journey to having a more successful busy season. Tax season will always be a lot of work (which in some ways, is a good thing!), but the level of chaos, anxiety, and stress is more in your control than you think. Following simple practices like the ones listed above has allowed some of our firm owners to get
through tax season while taking Fridays off. Or others completed their MBA and traveled internationally. Or others were just able to maintain a healthier level of work/life balance during this critical time. Wherever you’re at in your journey, we hope these insights will help spark better ways of building your firm.