Art of Accounting: Never sell clients short

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Clients think about their businesses much more than accountants do about them. For the client, their business is a major commitment and the source of their livelihood, wealth and possibly their eventual financial security. As their accountant, we sometimes judge them by the way they treat their relationship with us, and in some cases, that has us selling them short.

The mindset of a small business owner is to get through the day, juggle cash flow, balance orders and deliveries to clients with inventory and shipments from vendors, continuously testing quality, managing employees and worrying about marketing. Because of the manifold pressures and actions, many times the accounting relationship is denigrated, downplayed or pushed aside, causing a lot of last minute rushes. And that is how we form our opinion about our client — and it is not a positive one. We then tend to sell the client short.

Selling the client short then puts us in a position where we try less to wow or impress the client. I don’t mean we work less or not as carefully, but we relax on the extras. In my opinion, that starts a deterioration of the relationship. I contend that a major reason for a client’s laxity is the accountant’s inability to impress upon the client the importance of the financial data and the benefits in being able to use that data to manage better with better controls. There is a value to effective use of the right financial data and it is our job to convey that value. When we fail, we do not do the best we could for the client.

An unresponsive client is caused by the accountant selling the client short. If you have such clients, change their mindset. If you can’t, then perhaps they are right in selling you short.

Do not hesitate to contact me at emendlowitz@withum.com with your practice management questions or about engagements you might not be able to perform.

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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Client relations Client strategies Client retention Practice management Ed Mendlowitz