Voices

Art of Accounting: 30:30 Training Method crib sheet

I know it’s tax season and most of you won’t be trying anything new, but I have a suggestion that you should try — it’s my 30:30 Training Method. Here’s why:

tax planning-1040-IRS
U.S. Department of the Treasury Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 1040 Individual Income Tax forms for the 2016 tax year are arranged for a photograph in Tiskilwa, Illinois, U.S., on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017. This week marks the last leg of Republicans' push to revamp the U.S. tax code, with both the House and Senate planning to vote by Wednesday on final legislation before sending it to President Donald Trump. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

You are in the middle of a war trying to get returns done, staff assigned, clients satisfied and cooperative, while you’re fighting a losing battle trying to get your partners and staff on the same page. My method takes three minutes to learn. All you have to do is read the following, and it takes no more than five minutes a day to implement with each staff person you are working with. These five minutes are your “cost” to get a full day of effective, efficient work out of a low-level professional.

Try it — the most you can lose is five or eight minutes if you decide it is not for you. On the other hand, think about what you can gain.

The following is my 30:30 Training Method crib sheet. Print it and use it:

  • Break all work into single-step segments.
  • Do not give work that would take more than 30 minutes to do.
  • Do not take more than 30 seconds to explain what to do.
  • When a task is completed, it should not take you more than 10 seconds to review it. Use the next 20 to 30 seconds to give the next task.
  • Every time something is completed, tell the person they did a good job.
  • If there are continuing errors, you're either taking too long to explain what to do, the work is not broken down into a single segment, or the person is not listening.
  • If it is you, then examine what you did and do it better.
  • If it is the staff person, then they are not good and should be dealt with accordingly.
  • Do not explain why something is being done. Only tell (and show) someone what to do. If the staff person wants to understand why they are doing something, tell them you will explain it to them after they have done that same thing for the third time (and in that case, take all the time necessary so they understand it).
  • The downside to this method is the large number of interruptions you will get.
  • The upside is that you will not spend, in the aggregate, more than five minutes on it during the entire day. The staff person will get many compliments, making them feel good; the work will be completed; and the staff person will have learned how to do something. Staff people who learn things and get complimented get excited, and excited staff people are much more effective and enjoyable to work with.
  • If possible, try to have two more similar projects ready for that person to work on. After the third time, your training time will be less than minimal, and in most cases they will understand why and what they did. If they do not, then they should ask you to explain it.

The above has worked for me for decades and I highly recommend it. Do not think about it (because you will talk yourself out of it). It works. Just do it.

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, and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition.” Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com along with the Pay-Less-Tax Man blog for Bottom Line. Ed is an adjunct professor in the MBA program at Fairleigh Dickinson University teaching end user applications of financial statements. 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 emendlowitz@withum.com.