I opened my own practice near Sacramento, CA in 1983. In addition to the usual tax returns, we conduct audits of small governmental districts and non-profits as well as helping small businesses with their accounting and QuickBooks setup. I also personally do quite a bit of consulting for the State of CA (when they have money), working on financially related special projects, usually under the State Auditor General.
Over the past two decades, it has grown into a five-person office with two CPAs, a CPA candidate, and two paraprofessionals. It had reached the point where I was maxed out on how much time I could put into the practice. I needed to learn a way it could continue to grow without me having to put in any more time. So in November 2002, I became a Sterling client.
Since I started in the fall, I wanted a quick way to get the program implemented before the tax season hit. Getting a SPEEDO (“SPEEDO” stands for Specialized Program for Expansion and Efficiency Delivered in Office) would accomplish this while also taking some of the pressure off of me. It was easier to have another person come in and incorporate the changes into the company rather than me having to talk everyone into it.
The consultant came in December. I was amazed at the energy. She would spend half the day training the staff and the other half designing systems for the office and implementing them. Then she would work with me after hours to go over the financial statistics and come up with financial strategies.
The staff training went well They could see that the concepts were true and liked the idea of measuring their production by statistics. We set up all the individual stats for the employees and learned how to graph and post them.
The nice thing about the stats is that you can see right away whether someone is getting with the program of not. With new employees, after the first week of production, you can see if they will make it. It is very black and white and very fair. It is also good for the new employees since they can see their progress right away and focus on the wins.
One area that the consultant really helped us out with was collections. To begin with, she got us to start billing for all our time, rather than giving little bits of free service to our customers. Then she worked on getting the money we did bill actually collected. Part of this was tied into the bonus system. We couldn’t pay bonuses unless we had the cash in hand, so the whole staff got behind that activity and we had an immediate increase in the cash flow. Previously they would just get the work done but didn’t care about the collections. But now the staff will bring a check with them when they return from visiting a client, something they wouldn’t do before. Our receivables went way down overnight.
Our collections for the first four months of this year were double what they were last year. This was a combination of increased billings together with the improved collections. The best part of the collections is that it required absolutely zero effort on my part. The staff did it all on their own.
The SPEEDO also helped us to increase the number of new clients we are servicing. We are doing more advertising and promotion but the key is getting them in the door and sitting in front of us, even if they are sitting on the fence. We have a procedure in place now where, if anyone answers the phone and it is a new client, we get them to book an appointment. Everyone is up to speed to handle cold calls and we serviced five new clients last week alone, though this is the middle of the summer.
One of the best things about doing the SPEEDO was that, when the consultant left, I felt we were all ready to go. Everything was complete. I had a few “to do’s”, but not very many and they were all very easy to accomplish. There were not a lot of loose ends. It was very thorough.
Since the office is better organized, I can grow the practice the way I want, without having to work more hours. I cut back on my hours during tax season and I’ve been able to take more time off than I usually would, and the production is going up anyway.
With the staff trained and the procedures in place, I feel more comfortable with taking time off. I can leave the business and they will still conduct their meetings and get the work done. Then, when I return, I can look at the stats on the graphs and see what has been accomplished just by looking at the board. It’s a good feeling. I don’t wonder anymore what happened in my absence.
The management system works, but only if it is really utilized. That is why a SPEEDO is so valuable. You have a specialist there to implement the system along with you. You feel like you have a partner. You are doing it right the first time and you know you are doing it right. You are doing it by the book rather than interpreting what should be done. The methods employed are so true that you don’t feel after it is done that you want to adjust something or manipulate it. They are very stable systems that you don’t change.
Marcia Fritz, CPA