[IMGCAP(1)]Once busy season begins, you’ll have precious little time to consider whether your accounting firm has made the right moves to build client relationships and grow in 2015.

Instead, you’ll be feverishly working to meet imminent deadlines and to survive the grueling work schedule.

Studies have shown that accountants’ top pain points consistently include winning new clients, retaining current ones and managing a compressed workload. Now is the perfect time to work toward addressing these concerns.

Here are three resolutions accountants should make to help turn this busy season into your firm’s most productive ever in terms of developing business for the entire year.

1. I will use busy-season meetings to cultivate engagements for the rest of the year. As you talk with and meet with business clients in the coming days and weeks, commit to taking steps that will help secure advisory engagements during the rest of the year. For example, develop a list of all services your firm offers, using terms the client can understand or including examples. Distribute the list by email or in person to each client when you present their financials or tax returns. Another option: Make sure you ask each client about their pain points or challenges so that you can look for opportunities to help with those issues. A client may tell you they worry about being able to retire and sell their business, or they may worry they aren’t keeping up with competitors. Asking questions and initiating dialogue will deepen the client relationship and reveal opportunities for additional engagements later in the year.

2. I will identify a key advantage our firm has over competitors. If every accounting firm touts its experienced and qualified partners, clients will see little differentiation and may overlook the value-added services and skills that make your firm superior. Consider identifying and marketing an industry niche or a specific service, such as business valuations or benchmarking, so that clients and prospects clearly understand how you are unique among competitors. Providing that information will help retain your top clients and attract better prospects.

3. I will utilize technology that makes my job easier. Compliance-related workloads keep many accountants busy enough that they find it difficult to focus on offering higher value-added services to clients, such as business planning, business strategy and business analytics. If you utilize technology that automatically analyzes business financials and monitors the client’s business performance (including their performance vs. industry peers), you’ll find it easier to identify ways to plan and strategize with clients. Strategizing with clients can translate into additional engagements.

A key to being successful with resolutions and keeping them is to make realistic resolutions. You don’t have to completely overhaul your practice in 2015 to make it better. Simply commit to working on these three items and by the end of the year, you’ll have a healthier accounting firm.

To learn more about what 2015 may hold for accounting firms, and to learn how your practice can prepare for and stay ahead of the competition, download the infographic, "Accounting Industry Trends to Watch Out for in 2015."

Mary Ellen Biery is a research specialist for Sageworks, a financial information company that provides financial analysis and industry benchmarking solutions to accounting firms.

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