My partner and I have an accounting practice in Sun City, a retirement community outside of Phoenix. The practice consists mainly of tax work—about 1000 personal and 200 business tax returns—but we also have a medium-sized accounting practice. During the tax season, we have about a dozen employees.
We belong to the Large Tax Practice Group of the National Association of Enrolled Agents which gets together once a year for five days. Each year we bring documentation on all the procedures we use in the office and share them with everybody else in the practice group. My partner and I felt we were working a lot harder than we needed to, so one of the members recommended we give Sterling a call. We took his advice and found out that he was right. Our practice now is not a whole lot different in terms of what we do, but we have changed how we do those things and it runs much better.
When running a business, you have to have some basis for making decisions other than just going by your gut feelings. Sterling gives you a set of procedures and a technical approach to handling business problems rather than just stamping them out after the fact. If you keep applying the methods something good is going to happen. It’s a much better feeling than not knowing what to do next.
The first thing we did was change the way we did our billing. We had been billing our clients a flat monthly rate and we were not tracking how much time we spent on their finances. We knew that was a bad idea, but hadn’t done anything about it. Sometimes it is tough to get yourself to put something in place even though you know you should. That is one reason why having a consultant to help you is so valuable. Just having a ‘coach’ telling you to get started with it and get it in place seems to be effective.
As a result of the changes we made, we have increased our per client income. We did lose some clients, but it hasn’t cut our income stream. It just means that we are not working as hard for the same amount of money.
Another area Sterling has helped us with is hiring personnel. We put an ad in the paper for a bookkeeper and got 400 resumes. Generally, when we were in a situation like this we wouldn’t have any way to choose between them. Now we use Sterling’s personnel testing to start whittling down the field. The testing gives us some kind of basis to make a decision, otherwise, we’d be floundering around.
Because the office now runs better, we have been able to cut down on the hours we have to spend at the office. During the tax season I still put in a lot of hours; we are still doing 1000 returns a year so I don’t see any way around that. But, although the hours are still high, I am making more money than previously which is nice. For the rest of the year, however, I’ve cut back from 55 hours down to 40. Now I can go home at five instead of seven and I don’t work weekends the way I used to. It’s great being able to take life a little easier.
Dennis Jones, E.A.