Don't Be Bullied By Your Clients
In my opinion, CPAs let themselves be bullied by their clients. Not all CPAs, but many CPAs.
- Clients make unreasonable demands.
- Clients do not respond to our requests.
- Clients don’t pay you on time or at all.
- Clients believe you should go above and beyond for no additional fees.
- Clients are rude to your administrative team members.
- Clients are not ready when you have clearly communicated the engagement start date.
I’m sure you can add more.
These situations often result from lack of communication up front. CPAs shy away from talking openly and honestly about fees. Many CPAs give the client a range of what fees to expect. The CPA expects the highest fee in the range and the client expects the lowest fee in the range. I have even heard of CPAs who dodge client calls if they perceive it will be a complaint about fees.
What you do for your clients is very, very valuable. You have spent years perfecting your skills and investing in your education, both in time and money. Just because you know the answer immediately, off the top of your head, doesn’t mean you should just give it away.
Upfront communication is so important in these situations. Just because you have an audience with a potential client that you want very badly doesn’t mean you allow them to bully you for years to come.
Consider using a joint CPA/Client Commitment Statement as part of your upfront communication with potential clients. It should state what the client can expect from you and your firm and what you, and the firm, expect from the client. Use the document as a discussion tool and verbally talk through it with your new or potential clients.
State the rules upfront – you will be happier and so will your client. They will know what to expect and that is comforting to most people. Set boundaries and stick with them. This post was inspired by a post by Seth Godin.
I share a joint commitment statement with my clients. If you want to see a sample, let me know.
Rita Keller is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker, author, mentor and blogger. She is a former shareholder and administrative partner in a successful, regional CPA firm and has over 30 years hands-on experience in CPA firm management, marketing, technology and administrative operations. She works with firms across the country focusing on people, partners and internal management issues.