Before Sterling, I’d run my business my way and found myself utterly frustrated with the way I was managing it. It was miserable. I didn’t handle staff well or effectively manage client relationships.
By doing it all my way, I’d acquired a whole slew of C, D and F quality clients who were more torture than treasure. With them, it was all about price and never about the amount or the quality of work involved in the job. I had not grabbed control of the type of work I was taking. I’d simply take what came along without getting real agreement on the payment I was to receive. This invariably led to pricing, payment and collection problems while I was putting in too many hours for what I was able to bill.
I was also frustrated with the way I managed staff. In one case, I couldn’t bring myself to fire a staff member, even though I knew she was poisonous to me and actively tainting any thoughts I had of expansion. She was acidic to every new staff I’d bring in. She always wanted more pay, yet resented any request to do more than routine tasks. The list went on. I’d complain, but I couldn’t manage to get rid of her.
Hiring was a process I liked so little that I’d make bad decisions, and hire the wrong people, just to have the ordeal be over with. At one point I even became a licensed securities broker because, along with helping people, I’d seen brokers make good incomes with no staff.
Sterling has had a major impact on all of this. I’m light years ahead of where I was. Through my Sterling training in communication, I’ve improved my ability to clearly express issues I’m unhappy with, let staff know what I expect of them, define our overall goals as a practice and delineate each person’s responsibility toward achieving them. Sterling’s organizational training helped me delineate who should be responsible for what so production could get done more efficiently.
I had just gone through another stress-filled tax season when I received an issue of “Successful CPAs.” It hit home. I sent for Sterling’s DVD. As I went through the DVD, I discovered that I had been the biggest obstacle to improving my business. I had weaknesses, things I wouldn’t address. Some I knew about, some I didn’t. I needed to focus on fixing what I needed to fix. Sterling’s expertise helped me do that.
Since coming to Sterling, I’ve discovered that I have the complete ability to determine what satisfies me at the outset of a client relationship and that I’m being paid fairly. Now when we perform financial planning, it’s after we’ve prepared a tax return and we never have a problem getting meetings to discuss it. We know exactly what we’re doing. We’ve established a relationship and established trust. Now we have a great platform on which to say, “Here are some other things that we’d like to talk to you about.” Packaging a service from that approach has led to fantastic success.
Being self-employed has lots of advantages—that’s why I chose it—but being self-employed, I rarely have to face anyone else about what I have and haven’t done, even after I’ve clearly defined what will help my practice in the long run. That’s one place my Sterling consultant is invaluable. Having to tell someone else what I have done, or haven’t done, when I have agreed I want help, can be a big motivation. Sometimes I need a little outside pressure to get to do the things I don’t quite want to do but know I should.
Perhaps the greatest help has been to reduce my stress. The negative emotions of that last two weeks before the April tax deadline used to really drain me. With the natural funneling process, the end of every season would find us mopping up the clients that delayed because they knew it was going to be bad. I’d always wanted to help them solve their problems only to be frustrated by the lack of adequate time to do it well.
Tax season is now much better. The stress of rush clients hasn’t affected us anywhere near as much. Better organization has allowed us to help these clients without being damaged by their negative emotion, or ours, and we finish our billing faster. It shows—collections increased the first year, last year they exceeded 200 percent of our pre-Sterling performance!
We put obstacles in our own way, but if our intent is to improve, the Sterling program will do that.
Sean Duffy, CPA