I started as a CPA 25 years ago. After working ten years for someone else, I decided to open my own office in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Since then we have grown into a half-million-dollar general accounting practice with six employees. Most of the year we work with our construction, retail, restaurant, and non-profit clients, but we also have a heavy personal tax load during the season. In January and February this year we produced more than 3000 personal returns.
I had taken the practice to a fairly advanced level, but I felt we needed some assistance to push it beyond that point. In particular, I felt I needed to get a better handle on the staff workload, how we could improve the flow of the work, as well as how to provide incentives to the staff to do a better job. There were a lot of different areas in which I knew we could get better control of the practice in order to move it forward as a cohesive unit.
Last November I went out to Sterling’s offices for ten days of training. The courses were extremely good. As part of the training, I gained a great deal of insight into individuals and their motivations, which is very helpful when it comes to dealing with both employees and clients. I also learned about how to establish what exactly were the duties of each of the staff members and how to get them to do their jobs.
But with tax season approaching I knew I didn’t have the time to take a leisurely approach to implement the systems. So I followed up my visit to Sterling with having one of their consultants come out to my office for a week in December so I could get things rolling before tax season hit. He helped the staff sort out their job duties and introduced them to the Sterling program. The staff was very receptive to the program, especially the statistical management aspect. They like to see how they are doing in comparison to others.
This tax season we did a little more quantity of returns than in past years, but there was a big difference in the quality. We did more high-end, difficult returns than we have done in the past – more doctors and lawyers. Most of that was generated through referrals which is the best source of good new clients. With the statistical management system Sterling put in place, I was also able to get a better feel of what was going on in the office and what each employee was accomplishing. With the office running smoother, I was also able to cut my hours. I was still working long hours during tax season, but this year I was able to get out of the office by seven or eight instead of the nine, ten or eleven o’clock nights that were typical in prior years.
One of the things I wanted to put in place was an incentive system for the employees. Working with my consultant we put together a bonus system for the staff. We are now ready to pay out the first quarterly bonus and the staff is very excited about that.
Now that the tax season is over, I look forward to putting in more of the Sterling system. This year I am planning on attending their practice management workshops in Hilton Head and Chicago with my staff, and am also working with my consultant to fine-tune our application.
As a result of doing the program, I now have a more positive outlook on the practice. Before I had taken the practice as far as I could without some guidance on how to take it to the next level. In past year grown we have grown 25-30 percent. I would say that if you want your practice to grow and still be manageable, you can’t ask for a better resource than Sterling.
Denny Schultz, CPA