Evolve or ??

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Two weeks ago, I did a two line mention about our new DKAffiliated program of CPAs. We got flooded with requests to work with these CPAs who had trained with me. The interesting thing, though, is that I’m hearing the same questions, comments, and requests that I heard 25 years ago.

Evolve or …

In 25 years, technology has changed, tax laws have changed, the way we work, hire, sell, fulfill – EVERYTHING has changed. Why do we still face the same kind of challenges?

The #1 complaint I’m hearing from people who are looking for a new CPA is: I can’t get a call back! That’s interesting because one thing many people still insist on is finding a CPA in their city so they can have regular face-to-face meetings. These two challenges are related.

I discovered about 10 years ago in my own CPA firm that I had a choice – I could see 4-5 clients a day in face-to-face meetings and then return about half of the calls that came in. That meant I was constantly playing catch-up with my clients. I never had time to develop customized strategies and I simply answered their questions, never having time or mental space to think about whether those answers were the right ones for them. For example, a client could ask me “How do I write off auto expenses if I put my business in a C Corporation?” I would answer that kind of question easily, but the part that I wasn’t always sure of doing was digging further. Was a C Corporation the right business structure for them? What has changed in their business that they are now looking at writing off auto expenses and they didn’t before? Or if they did, why are they asking this question now? Do their records support the deduction if they are audited? Do they have the proper minutes at the end of the year to make sure the auto expense stays a deduction if the IRS looks?

Those were the questions I should have asked, and often didn’t have the time to do so. I knew I had to dramatically change the way I did business. I wanted to make a difference in the financial lives of my clients and the only way I knew to do that was to be the one asking the questions first. I needed to understand how my clients did business, what their goals were and how profitable their current ventures were. Then, and only then, we could talk about how to write off a car.

This new way of doing business soon evolved into a system that averaged over $14,000 in tax savings each and every year for my clients. I started off with a Tax Strategy based on information the client provided before we even talked. That way I had plenty of time to prepare a strategy and research the tricky points to review proactively with my client. I found that the number of complaints fell to zero – no one had to worry about me returning calls (or better yet, emails) because I had scheduled my time in a way that I was more available. I moved into the current system of “phone, fax, email” for communication. I found that face to face meetings typically took twice as long and were half as productive for the client. Occasionally, I would make an exception – but I discovered that every single time I wound up revisiting these same issues was when I’d had that first meeting face to face. The face to face meetings simply weren’t as effective as communicating via phone followed up by email.

As soon as I got past that old dinosaur way of providing CPA services, it transformed the way I did business. I didn’t need to just work with people in my home city. I could now work with clients all over the country. And, as I worked with clients in other regions of the US, I learned new business and financing strategies. I became a more effective consultant for my other clients.

So, when I get the request now for a CPA in a prospective client’s home town, I gently remind them that the best CPA for them is not one who is conveniently close, it’s one who is an expert with a proven track record in what they want to accomplish. And, when you find the CPAs who work the way I learned to work 10 years ago – phone, fax, email – you’ll also find CPAs who respond quickly to questions and who have time to thoughtfully prepare first so you’re not wasting your time and dollars while your CPA gets educated and tries to remember who you are.

Technology can work in our favor. We can get richer, faster and easier than ever before. But, we have to let it work. We must evolve.

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