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Art of Accounting: Preparing for a client meeting

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I always prepare for client meetings. Sometimes I overprepare because I don’t want to be unprepared and also because I want to control the pace, direction and timing of the meeting. Occasionally, the agenda is hard to determine, so here is a method of preparing and starting the meeting.

As soon as you start, ask the client, “What would you like to accomplish from this meeting? I know you told me you wanted to meet, but what is bothering you? What is really on your mind?” Then sit back and listen.

To help you prepare, the following is what I suggest you bring in case nothing is bothering the client. The meeting might have you fill a role of therapist, coach or confidant, but you are the accountant, so be prepared. Here are some suggestions on what to bring to the meeting:

  • The current P&L: I like to bring a month-by-month listing along with the current year-to-date compared to last year’s YTD. (I call this my trend analysis.)
  • The current balance sheet, with a month-to-month listing, compared to the end of last year.
  • A fiscal year-end projection with a payment schedule for the estimated taxes on any income.
  • If there are outstanding bank loans, prepare a projection of the loan covenants.
  • A personal tax projection for the client.
  • Follow-up notes from your previous meetings.
  • Always have some analytical operations information that you think would help the client.

If you want a list of 77 ways to add value, email me at GoodiesFromEd@withum.com and just put “77 List” in the subject line.

As independent accountants, we are our clients’ closest and most trusted advisors. I do not believe we are paid extra for this or that we even get the acknowledgement or thanks we deserve. Part of fulfilling that role is our availability, the quality of the work we are paid to do, the consistency of our concern, and our obvious care about the client.

When a client has something on their mind, we usually get the first call. It is an earned trust; show you deserve it by always being prepared and always being there to ask, “What is bothering you? What is really on your mind?”

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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