The accountant's 2018 to-do list
January 08, 2018, 9:01 a.m. EST
There’s so much change sweeping down on the accounting profession that it can be overwhelming. With that in mind, we like to use this space at the beginning of the year to fill up your calendar with useful tasks that can help you keep up.
- January: Start keeping a list of all the trends or technologies that you’ve heard about, but don’t fully understand — maybe it’s bitcoin, or value pricing, or maybe a complex tax or investment strategy, or a new business niche — then set aside a dedicated time each week, anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, to researching one of the things on your list, so you can start to get a handle on it.
- February: No matter what you put on your list in January, spend a couple of hours this month learning more about blockchain and artificial intelligence, and how they’re going to affect your firm and your clients. By the end of the month, make sure you can explain it to your clients — and to other accountants.
- March: Check to make sure your anti-virus software is updated. (You do have anti-virus software, right?)
- April: An easy one for busy season: Arrange your schedule so that your staff (and you!) can finish work at 5 p.m. on the tax deadline day.
- May: Identify something you do for your clients on a regular basis that you don’t specifically bill for — offering tax planning advice to tax prep clients, maybe, or cleaning up a business client’s QuickBooks files every month. Create a checklist for it, give it a name, and start adding it to invoices. You don’t necessarily need to charge extra for it — yet — but make sure clients know you’re doing it.
- June: Establish an after-action process for going over completed projects or engagements to look for ways they could have been more efficient. Make sure your process involves getting input from all levels of staff.
- July: Close your office every Friday. Don’t just give your staff the day off — formally close your office. Too many staff members worry that if they’re not in when the office is open, it will be held against them. (Don’t have staff? Close the office anyway — it’ll do you good!)
- August: Take some time to do a stringent analysis of your client base. How old are they? How long have they been with you? How many services do they buy from you? Which ones deliver the most in fees, and which ones cause the most headaches? (Get your staff to rate the last one.) Most important, figure out which ones you value most, and then figure out what they all have in common, so you can start looking for more like that.
- September: Tell a young person why you love the accounting profession. Bonus points if you can work in how lucrative it is without making it seem like that’s the main reason you love it.
- October: Walk into your office and try to look at it with fresh eyes. If you were a job candidate or prospective client, what would be your impression? Does it need a good cleaning? A fresh coat of paint? Demolition? For a less expensive version of this, take a look at your Web site. (You do have a Web site, right?) Does it look modern and useful? Is it easy to find the information that prospects or talent would be looking for?
- November: Write a short e-mail explaining in the third person why you’re a great accountant, then send it to your 10 favorite clients and ask them to use it to refer business your way.
- December: Pick a high performer from your staff and conduct a “stay” interview — it’s the opposite of an exit interview, where you explain the opportunities and career paths you have available for them, and then ask what you need to do to keep them at your firm. (If you don’t have staff, do something similar with a valuable client.)