I wanted to look at my practice through someone else’s eyes. I thought I would be able to benefit from some of Sterling’s management techniques and ideas to do two things: 1) free up some of my time and help me manage the practice better, and 2) open my eyes as to new realities and get out of the old paradigm. I wasn’t working myself to death, but it was still around 60 hours a week during the busy season.
Before I did the Sterling program I was extremely skeptical. I called over half a dozen references. When I wrote the check I was still less than certain. Our results speak for themselves. I expect things only to continue to go up from here.
Our consultant was extremely knowledgeable and perceptive as to what was going on, like a new set of eyes. We all got onto one common vision. The course work got everybody focused toward a common goal as far as client service and teamwork. One thing I will never forget is the dispatch system—if it’s not in writing it is not reality! With the consultant’s help we put up an organizing board. The org board helped give the individuals more identity and work well with the staff hats. I’m pretty much of a control freak, or I was. I learned that I have to let go of some of the control. The system that the organizing board puts into place, and matching people’s personalities (skills, abilities, experience, temperament, how they handle pressure) with the job, lets me feel more in control without doing as much myself. It’s resulted in a smoother flow of products through the shop. Tax season this year went absolutely great.
Previously we were more organized by client responsibilities rather than what I would call functional responsibilities. We had been organized by having all the work for one client done by one person. That has changed since Sterling-I had to break our paradigm with that one. I can see the benefits where we now have certain hats for certain people (tax, accounting, client write-up) based on their compensation in order to leverage the service to the client to give them a better value. Instead of employee/client centered, it is more client functional centered.
Our production increased dramatically. Our collections are up 47% the first four months compared to past months. There is still some work in process, but billings were up 28%. That’s during our busy tax season. I’m happy! Getting our investment back in six months was what I had hoped to do, and we did it.
I’m not sure how to measure it, but there’s also been an improvement in our service—an improvement in turnaround time. We have a lot fewer interruptions than we did before because of the communication system.
Based on the organizing board, I also found out what my role is in the practice—to leverage myself with my experience to do more high-powered executive work such as business valuations, more consulting and financial services, instead of doing trial balance work. Although I still do a lot of technical review work, I increased the value of my personal production.
Everyone is keeping statistics now. In our weekly staff meeting we identify the condition of those statistics. It’s easier to identify what you need to do next week if you know what you’ve done the past week, to correct it or strengthen it.
My staff are more responsible and more eager now. Our bonus system has doubled what I originally expected for the staff bonuses. They like that bonus system and it is tied to the statistics, to their production.
There was a definite, major improvement in the stress level through the tax season. I didn’t feel any tension points, and I didn’t once hear anybody get irate at somebody else—not once! There is more harmony in the office.
I think we should now be able to grow much more smoothly than without Sterling. Our consultant is right on top of it. She listens extremely well and asks the right questions. The consulting is wonderful!
Most recently she helped me with the hiring process. Our tax manager is leaving to take a position as tax manager with a city, and there will be a void. After talking with our consultant, I am going to promote one of the individuals here to that position and then hire an entry-level person—basically move everybody up. We have a preliminary aptitude test that we give and if they do well with that and with an interview, we give them another test. I’ve got an offer right now out to a person—I hope that person works with us because he should be dynamic! The consultant and the system that Sterling helped walk me through have most definitely given me more certainty about hiring someone.
The Hubbard management technology is a lot to learn, but there’s an awful lot of truth to it. If I were more of a sponge—if I could soak it up faster-I would be even more effective.
I was very skeptical at the outset because I thought I was doing a great job of managing and that I didn’t really need Sterling, but if I could improve then I could leverage myself more. I thought the sooner they came in—if they had anything at all to bring to the table-the sooner I could get the benefits. The cost was worth every penny we paid. Every penny!
Steve Meyer, CPA