I’ve been a Sterling client for the past two years.
The growth of my practice was such that I was having a lot of stress put on me because of time. I didn’t have time to do everything I needed to do, including my family. Although my practice was growing rapidly, I wasn’t near reaching my potential, and I felt like something was holding me back. I’d never been taught how to deal with that situation. I thought maybe Sterling could help me.
I attended their executive training classes in Glendale and found them to be invaluable. The course supervisors were great. If anyone is interested in Sterling services, they’ve just got to go out for the training. I can’t tell you how valuable it was.
Before, there was no real direction in the office. We were just doing whatever work had to be done that day. The communication between the staff and between myself and the staff was non-existent, really. There was some, but it wasn’t organized at all. I didn’t share with them any of my goals or anything like that. There was no team spirit. We didn’t work together.
When I first got back from Sterling, I implemented a lot of small things. We set up the dispatch system where everyone had three baskets. We used that to get the flow going in the office. That way there weren’t any bottlenecks of work stacked up somewhere. We put in staff meetings. So the flow has really increased-the communication is smooth. We’ve just gotten things moving.
We have gone to two workshops. They were great. One focused on the purpose of the practice, and we spent some time writing down what our purpose was, so everyone knows. That helped us to see why we are here every day. We know we have to be here to get paid, but the purpose we wrote down focused on the clients and the staff, what our purpose is for both.
The workshop also helped our communication. Actually, I’ve learned so many things it is hard to remember what each one focused on!
We are using an organizing board and the staff that are on it are aware that they are on it and that they are in charge of that area. If an area needs attention we know who to talk to. Before, sometimes even I didn’t know who I should talk to if a certain area needed attention within the practice. Everyone had to come to me or I had to figure it out for myself. Now I know which person is in charge of that and I can go to them and find out what they are doing or let them know that I need something done or done differently. It has freed me up a lot, instead of everything being put on me as the owner.
I wrote up the policy for the office because things were being handled one way one time, and the next time they’d be handled totally different. It was causing me to be upset, to get on the staff. I’d say, Why didn’t you do this like you were supposed to?’ They didn’t know what they were supposed to do! So we’ve written up a lot of policies. We have written hats (job descriptions) now so they can refer to the hat if they have a question on how something should be done. They know what is expected now.
Everyone keeps their own statistics and they write up a specific formula based on those statistics. That way they know what needs to be done. They’ve got a plan for the week, what should be done to improve their statistics. I do that for the practice as a whole. I’ve got the statistics hanging on my wall and I post them daily and weekly. It takes about two minutes and I use that information daily. Before, I just had a feel for it. We might be doing well or not. I never knew until an emergency came up because we didn’t have the money to pay a bill, or a client needed a product and it wasn’t done, or maybe we weren’t getting enough new clients. We had been ignoring that area (new clients) because we felt we couldn’t handle the clients we already had!
Production has increased so much it’s not even close to what it was. The biggest increase was last year. The Sterling program and all the technology actually does locate and identify people that are hurting the practice. I had an office manager who isn’t here any longer. She had problems with the staff, me, the clients, and supposedly was getting the most work done, but it really wasn’t that way. She left and afterward we had our biggest increase. This calendar year we’re ahead of budget and projecting a 54% increase in revenues. That would be an $80,000 increase in revenue over last year. The two prior years were about a $42,000 increase. That’s about 55-60% over what we used to do before Sterling with really no increase in expenses. Sterling has paid for itself over and over. Plus it’s been a lot more fun! I don’t mind coming to work. I know we’re going to get work done. I know we’re going to handle the clients.
We’re providing more services, we’re providing them in a more timely fashion, and we’re getting better paid for them. The clients like the faster service a lot. They like the new services we’re providing, and they actually like paying for them! In the past they didn’t like paying if they didn’t think the work was timely or if it was the same old thing. If you are providing the same service year after year, it gets to where the clients say, ‘Well, I just have to pay for this, I guess.’ We’ve been able to show them how they are making money and how we are handling things for them. I can recognize what the client isn’t capable of handling for himself or doesn’t want to handle and I can provide that service for him. That’s where we really build a relationship with a client. They may be able to do their own payroll, but they have to get up at 4:00 AM to do it. If we provide it for them, their lives get easier.
The stress level in the office is almost gone. During tax season, the last couple weeks, I got a little wound up, but who doesn’t? The workload compression is so great. Other than that, the stress level has diminished greatly. The staff are getting along a lot better. We have games every month where I set the targets really high. We’ve reached every one of them this year. The staff are participating in all this increase that we are creating. Before, I didn’t have a bonus system. Maybe at Christmas or after tax season, they got a bonus, but that was entirely up to me. Now they can work toward our goals and know that they are going to get a bonus.
I think Hubbard management technology is brilliant. My consultant went head-on into all the issues needing attention. She’s not been afraid to tackle anything. She knows the technology and she uses it. I’ve taken several courses and I’m going out for training in Financial Planning next month. The technology is really practical and useful.
The people at Sterling, right on up to the CEO, really care that they are helping me and my practice. You wouldn’t find that in most organizations, where people would talk to the CEO and he would even know what my problems or issues were, let alone care. Well, the whole organization there really does care. I just feel like I’m part of their family now, although at first I was just plain skeptical.
If a CPA has things he needs to handle or take care of, and they are affecting him, Sterling can handle it. They’ll show you how you can do it yourself. I know enough other Sterling clients to know that Sterling can do it for anyone. The longer you wait to let them help you, well, you’re going to wish you hadn’t waited. I’m from a small town. I was so skeptical I didn’t go in ’94 when I first talked to them. I waited until ’96. I wish I’d done it in ’94! I just couldn’t believe Sterling could help me. They have helped more than I ever dreamed they could.
Bobby Medlin, CPA