Voices

Art of Accounting: Bill Hagaman’s new client emails

Bill Hagaman, Withum’s managing partner and CEO, sends a weekly Monday morning email and at least one new client email a week to everyone in our firm. I eagerly look forward to both types of emails.

Our firm is growing and we are spread out in 12 offices. A firm our size with 1,200 total people needs uniform culture, procedures, management style and buy-in by every team member. We work at it and I believe we are successful at it. That is contributing to making us grow soundly. Bill’s Monday emails are one of the things that contribute to this success. I like reading them and being updated on what is going on firmwide. Some are inspirational, providing helpful hints on offering added services and value to clients or for personal development. I have also replicated some of Bill’s sage comments in my columns and blogs.

The emails describing new clients are anticipated by most of us. Bill describes the new client, how we got the lead and by whom, the team that was assembled to scope the client’s needs, who worked on and delivered the proposal, who will be working on the project, the services for which they engaged us and the approximate fees. It is not unusual for people from different offices to work collaboratively, depending on the expertise required for the engagement. Usually these emails are about nontraditional services and a wide range of advisory services. A particularly interesting inclusion is why the person got the lead. Usually it is because of a continued effort to maintain a relationship.

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A major benefit of these emails is they share the really broad range of services we are able to provide to clients and who the experts in those services are. I have found that staff in many firms are totally unaware of the services they offer. I place much of the blame on the partners who perform unusual services and do not communicate them to the staff. There are many reasons for this, but I believe these partners sell their staff short while not providing opportunities for accelerated growth. I speak to about three dozen accountants a month from all over the country and even from foreign countries, and one of their biggest concerns is staff performance and growth. Bill’s new client emails are an excellent and effective way to share this information.

When I speak to staff members who leave the field of public accounting, they give many reasons for leaving. A universal reason is the lack of effective work-life balance opportunities and the crushing tax season hours. A secondary reason is they feel there is a lack of satisfying growth opportunities. The hours are a separate issue that I don’t want to deal with here, but I place joint blame on the staff person and firm management for the reason why there is a lack of opportunity. This is also a complicated issue, but open communications about what the firm does with unconventional, new and innovative services are essential, and that is what Bill’s new client emails afford. I think they are great and am very appreciative of what Bill is doing with them. I suggest other firms adopt such a communicative effort. This also applies to small one-office firms since many owners and partners “lock” themselves in their rooms and do not share the exciting things they do on behalf of clients and the exciting interactions they have. Yes, what we do is exciting, and we need to let our staff be aware of this.

A way to increase staff retention and longevity is to communicate the opportunities, excitement and value we provide, and the very wide range of so-called nontraditional services that almost every owner and partner does on a routine basis. Bill’s new client emails are a great way to make staff aware of what we do.

Do not hesitate to contact me at emendlowitz@withum.com with your practice management questions.

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) 743-4582 or emendlowitz@withum.com.

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