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Post-busy season spring cleaning tips

Spring cleaningAs another busy season fades away, you have likely started seeing the email auto-responses and vacation pics on social media of colleagues who are finally getting some much-needed rest. Following the bulging work weeks, tax law changes, phone calls from clients and other demands put upon CPAs during spring, a vacation is well-deserved.

However, you should be wary of setting cruise control while coasting through the summer downtime.  Although it’s easy to do and often ideal, sailing into the active fall season without some spring cleaning at your firm is not a good idea. Taking time to address any obstacles that your firm faced during busy season will generate major benefits down the line.

Consider taking the following six spring cleaning steps to make your firm more productive.
  1. Make a top-five list of bottlenecks from the spring and formulate a game plan to fix at least two of them before August. Then after the fall season, re-evaluate your firm’s game plan and fix the remaining bottlenecks before the following spring busy season starts.
  2. Make a list of technical challenges facing you and your staff. These could include a need for more software training or CPE on technical topics. Sign up for continuing education courses that address each of those issues before the fall season rush. While you’re at it, be sure to brush up on tax reform with these self-paced webcasts.
  3. Identify what segments of the new tax law clients will most likely see as greatest influencers on their 2018 returns. Send a letter to clients encouraging them to schedule tax consultations in November and December so you can use tax reform as an opportunity to enhance your standing as your client’s trusted adviser. Also, take charge of the changes and grow your tax practice by educating prospective clients on these new tax laws and planning opportunities that arise from them. Find resources to help you talk with your clients about the new legislation on the AICPA Tax Reform Resource Center.
  4. Evaluate client and business documents and purge old files that are no longer needed. While it’s always helpful to have client documents at your fingertips, sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Determine which records you can digitize and which digital records can be removed. Do the same for your business and clear out what you no longer need. Always remember to destroy sensitive information properly to protect your clients and your firm from identity theft and other threats.
  5. Consider letting a client go. It’s likely you have at least one client who eats up a lot of your time but is unwilling to pay for the extra work. Although nobody likes to lose clients or revenue, CPAs should consider the benefits of having additional time by disengaging from those one or two problematic clients. Spend your time working with clients who appreciate you and are willing to pay for your services. To help guide you through the conversation, here is a sample client disengagement letter.
  6. Review your firm’s staffing needs. Some accountants believe that a warm body doing mediocre work is better than having no work done at all. Although that belief might have some truth to it, you might be surprised what letting go of an unproductive employee and raising the rates of existing staff can do for productivity. Reward the best staff and free up more time for them and yourself.

Although it’s easy to forget about a tough busy season after the fact, it’s not going to help you in the long run. The fall busy season allows for no extensions or room for error. Taking steps during downtime to prepare for what lies ahead will position your firm for continued success. Take a break and enjoy your rest, but then get right back into the fray and make the firm a better place for everyone.

And don’t forget to lean on the AICPA’s Tax Section, Private Companies Practice Section (PCPS), and our small firm resources for support on the issues that affect you and your clients year-round.

Michael V. Ohanesian, CPA, MST, Tax manager - Parr & Associates. Michael lives in San Antonio, Texas, and is a member of the AICPA Tax Practice Management committee.

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