By Ira S. Rosenbloom, CPA
Over the course of 30 years as a practicing CPA, and extensive work consulting with small and medium-sized accounting firms during the last five years, I have noticed a huge disconnect between the approach practitioners take with their clients and how they direct their own businesses.
Clients expect their CPAs to advocate best practices and disciplines to optimize their return on investment, but when it comes to their own practices, CPAs seem to forget these goals. CPAs who feel they are enjoying the appropriate earnings for their time and aggravation seem to be in the minority, and those CPAs who are ready to change their ways are growing in number.
Given the responsibilities that come with CPA firm leadership, quality of life needs to be a priority. There is a direct relationship between the viability of strong quality of life and the level of business management excellence in a CPA firm. Making the same money for less time or making more money for the same time will generate the best resources for optimizing quality of life. Here are five ways to realize the results you are worthy of:
1. Maximize Productive Time
“Productive time” is not exclusively billable time, but it is valuable. For starters, it is important to set up a system that allows you and your staff to perform at your best. Leaders’ skills are typically diverse, so allocating time for solid results utilizing these skills should be part of your quarterly time budget.
Generally, leaders are bogged down with administrative functions that impede their ability to be as happy and as effective as they would like. Socialization and relaxation are important contributors to productivity. Incorporate costs for socialization and relaxation, such as tennis matches, exercise and card games, into your quarterly budget and find a comfortable way to monitor your results. These activities are just as important as partner meetings and client service commitments.
Happiness is a huge factor in solidifying quality of life and enhancing productivity. Structuring your time to advance professional and personal happiness is an economic catalyst and will maximize production.
2. Tailor Accessibility
Accessibility and responsiveness to clients, as well as peers, are vital to strong communication and enhanced relationships. Encouraging your clients and peers to reach out to you is good business. Setting the ground rules for accessibility and responsiveness, however, will go a long way to assuring your happiness and the satisfaction of your clients, partners and staff.
Advising clients that you welcome their calls during certain hours of the day, but not others, will add much to your quality of life, and will provide guidelines for those who are trying to reach you. Committing to responses within a specific time frame will also allow you to manage deadlines and diminish stress. Filtering which clients have access to your cell phone number will allow you to control the situation and also set the tone for a better quality of life.
3. Focus on the Model Client
Most of the intense aggravation in an accounting firm comes from doing work you should not be doing, do not want to do or do not get paid properly to do. By defining your “model client” and taking on clients with those attributes, you will be able to grow your practice and ultimately re-engineer your firm. As you determine your model client profile, remember that what you do best should be a factor, as well as what you like to do. Be sure and set proper fees for these services as well.
Some firms establish their model clients by industry and others by industry and service. The more clients that meet your model, the greater your profitability and efficiency and the more time you will have available for other personal and business matters.
4. Realize Your Dreams
Whether you are outgoing or reserved, you should always have career aspirations and should make the time to turn those dreams into reality. The energy that comes from pursuing your dreams will be invigorating to you and those around you. Some people dream of having certain trophy clients. Some dream of doing certain types of projects. Some aspire to attain certain positions in the firm and others are focused on networking and making certain connections. Dreams should be part of a “goals program,” and achieving these goals should be rewarded.
The benefit of professional dreaming includes stronger profits, enhanced efficiency and heightened firm morale. The benefits will clearly improve quality of life and should improve firm operational performance as well.
5. Operate on a Value Platform
Two common elements required to achieve quality of business performance and quality of life are time and money. Improving quality of life typically requires allocating more time for non-business activities, spending money for pleasure or having enough money to compensate for working less.
Quality business performance should be magnified with a value-oriented billing and service platform. When setting hourly rates, the value of the task and service should be a factor. Specialty work, such as expert testimony, tax exams, due diligence and financial consulting, should be charged based on higher hourly rates. The knowledge that you have gained from your experiences, which fosters efficiencies and competencies, should be viewed as a jewel and valued accordingly. Minimum fees should factor in your skills and knowledge and should also be used to control the number of clients you take on, as well as the nature of the tasks. The greater your value for the time you invest, the greater your satisfaction and the more respectful your clients will be of you and your services.
The younger members of the CPA community place a great priority on work-life balance and diversity of experience. They are right! Your time is extremely valuable. Take steps now to put the appropriate value in place. The rewards will be worth it.
Ira S. Rosenbloom, CPA, is the chief operating executive of Optimum Strategies, LLC, a consulting firm focused on helping small and medium-sized CPA firms enhance business performance and profitability, and foster practice continuity. Ira can be reached at ira at optimumstrategies.com.