Art of Accounting: Why MAP Programs Are Essential
IMGCAP(1)]I attend Management of Accounting Practice (MAP) CPE programs. In many instances these do not qualify toward the mandatory CPE requirements. Who cares?
I go because I want to make more money, work more effectively, service clients better, excite and retain staff, and have more fun doing what I love to do and have to do anyway.
I speak to hundreds of accountants a year who call me primarily with practice management problems, and I am pleased to assist them. However, when I ask them if they have taken at least one MAP program in the last five years, they reply that they don’t because they usually get enough CPE with the technical programs. Boy, are they stupid!!! Anyway I wrote about this here on April 4, 2014 so will not belabor this. However, I want to share some of the specifics of what I learned and how I benefited from attending these programs.
1. Actually the first two ideas I want to write about were from Peter Weitsen. He attended a program by David Cottle while I was on a vacation and he took two ideas that we immediately implemented. The first one was to have staff prepare daily time sheets. At that time we were getting monthly time sheets and were a little lax in reviewing and analyzing them. David’s suggestion of having them prepared daily captured much of the type of time that usually would have fallen through the cracks and not be recorded. This included many 15- and 20-minute interruptions that weren’t remembered at the end of the month so they weren’t recorded. Sometimes there were three or four such interruptions a day for some of the staff. Also, the daily entries were easier for Peter and me to review so we had a better handle on what the staff was working on and we became better aware of where value was being transferred to clients. Even though most of our clients were on a fixed fee basis (today it is called value pricing) we used the time sheets more as a management tool than for billing. Also, for effectiveness they were a lagging indicator and weren’t much help in billing clients for added work, but did help somewhat. The daily time sheets enabled us to generate fees for services we were not aware were being done and weren’t getting paid for. If Peter got nothing else from that day’s program, it was well worth the cost and his time.
2. The second idea Peter had us adopt was to raise every client’s fee every year. At that time we hadn’t increased fees for a few years—in some cases five or six years. We increased every fixed fee 10 percent and had no complaints. We repeated this two more years when we started getting some complaints and then reduced the fees at a minimum 5 percent every year. There were some exceptions based on circumstances, but these increases eventually added more than $100,000 a year to our bottom line. Again, a very profitable day spent by Peter.
3. We kept in touch with Dave, read all his books and listened to every audio program he marketed. One of the best books on pricing and billing is Bill What You’re Worth, Third Edition, published and sold by the AICPA. I highly recommend it.
4. We heard Chris Frederiksen, probably around 1990, who told us to “get the general ledger!” He said when you go on a lead you really do not have the client unless you walk out with the general ledger. Today it is the QuickBooks backup, and that is why I always carry an extra memory stick. He also sold us a WordPerfect file of his New Business Kit that we used to publish a NJ New Business Kit for about a dozen years. At some point almost every library in New Jersey had the book. Most bought them, but for those that did not, we donated it to them. It was a great marketing tool. You can still get the book and rights from him. Here is a link: https://2020groupusa.com/product/new-business-kit/
5. One of the most imaginative thinkers for new services we heard was KC Truby, and we never missed an opportunity to hear him speak. We even took our entire staff to his programs. His ideas led us to think outside the box and be bold enough to present a plethora of value- added services to our clients. He was the first person who I learned about CRM from. While I never bought the software he was hawking, the principles he taught were quickly adopted.
6. I could go on and on through memory lane. At some point Peter, Frank Boutillette and I heard almost every accounting firm practice management consultant and many business advisors, adopted multiple ideas from all of them, and idea by idea used them to grow our practice. Today I still attend MAP programs and make it a point to meet the speakers and exchange ideas with them. Some have even become friends. When I speak and there are opportunities to sit in and hear the MAP speakers, I always do.
A simple recommendation is to attend at least eight hours of MAP programs or webinars a year and to try to adopt one idea from each hour—so you will make eight changes a year. Not too onerous and I could assure you very profitable.
Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is on the Accounting Today Top 100 Influential People List. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz, published by www.CPATrendlines.com and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition,” published by the AICPA. Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com. Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.