[IMGCAP(1)]Congratulations, now that you’ve made it through the end of busy season and managed to put all of those long evenings in the office in the rearview mirror, it’s time to get back to business. Now is a great time to revisit your firm’s strategic plan for 2016.
One key to successful firm management is to reflect back and debrief your staff on how busy season ended up aligning (or not aligning) with the firm’s larger goals. By taking time to examine if you met your firm’s intangible goals—such as deepening client relationships and cross-selling business advisory services—you can best position the firm for the remaining three quarters of the year.
Here are four questions worth asking yourself, your partners and your staff about what can be learned from busy season:
Did we succeed in meeting the goals that we outlined for tax season? It should be relatively easy to identify how successful the firm was in considering bigger-picture initiatives following busy season. If identifying and marketing your firm’s competitive edge was on your list, how did you fare? If your business advisory services were a resource to highlight for business clients, did you make those relevant clients aware of opportunities for additional business advisory services or other specialized services offered? If the answers are unclear or there’s room for improvement, use the next few weeks to conduct follow-up calls with clients, or consider a targeted marketing campaign to those business customers who could use your firm as a resource over the remainder of the year.
Did we get the most out of our client meetings? Did your firm use face-to-face client meetings during tax season to ask the right questions to determine your clients’ needs for the full year? At the height of tax season, accountants are in a race against the clock. It’s possible to have let cross-selling opportunities slip in favor of moving quickly. Take a look back at a selection of client meetings from the season and evaluate whether or not your practice was successful. If you find that this area could use some improvement, make a note to start the conversation with staff earlier next year. Consider passing out checklists to client-facing accountants as soon as your firm begins busy season prep, and make it a point to be touched on at each staff meeting throughout the season. Such checklists, and other reminders, are a great tool to utilize and update throughout the year, too.
Did we effectively deepen client relationships? In addition to uncovering cross-selling opportunities, client meetings during busy season are a great way to build closer relationships with clients who might otherwise come to the office infrequently. If the firm set out to use busy season meetings to get to know clients better in order to help retain them for years to come, it’s a good time to ask yourself if it worked. If results are questionable after talking to your staff, one idea is to ask the staff members who met with clients to send a relevant article, book or referral to a helpful service provider to clients who they met with as a means of further deepening those relationships for the coming year. Contacting clients and not asking anything from them in return is a great way to start.
What can we do next in order to grow the firm in 2016? The most important tax season takeaway is likely a lesson about how to move forward and remain revved up for the rest of the year. Shifting into consultant and advisor mode can be a challenge following months of number-crunching, but it’s often necessary to drive business. Along with employee retention and keeping current with changing technology, expanding a firm’s client base is a top pain point of most accountants.
When the end of season celebration comes to a close, time spent assessing these questions for your firm will be time well-spent.
Zach Meyer is a marketing manager at Sageworks, where he is in charge of researching, monitoring and writing about issues and trends of interest to accountants.
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