Is it time to "refudiate" the old classification categories of clients?
For years we’ve been categorizing different kinds of accountants by industry and on the basis of the groups we serve. We have accountants for contractors, not-for-profits, governmental entities, manufacturers, professional service businesses, restaurants, farmers, financial institutions, etc. Recently mulling over our firm’s services and groups of clients we serve in order to better target market our niches and increase our clientele, we developed a more meaningfully descriptive set of categories to classify clients, since we found the above-mentioned industry and functional classifications somewhat irrelevant, if not obsolete. In fact, we see the emergence of a new variety of clients that refuse to be typecast into the old traditional categories.
Here is how we classify our clients, and some suggestions on how they can best be served by your staff.
Clients who are slobs.
This has been and is likely to continue to be the largest group of clients that you will be servicing into the far distant future, considering the financial mess in which our country presently finds itself. In fact, it is more than likely that many of your clients were probably responsible for contributing to this awful state of affairs because of their reckless, excess borrowing, skimping on accounting services, hiring incompetent bookkeepers, moving operations overseas, and making large political donations to candidates who would do anything for a buck.
However, you have no need to fear about addressing the needs of these slobs. Since accountants are typically anal and obsessive-compulsive by temperament, you have an unlimited number of available accountants who are more than willing to devote countless hours tidying up these clients’ financial records that are a complete wreck. Over the recent years we have witnessed the emergence of a new kind of accountant, known in the trade as “fuzzy wuzzy”, whose specialty is cleaning up complete messes in QuickBooks files.
Clients who are tax cheats.
Here is an oldie but goodie that our profession has failed to publicize openly in the trade for centuries, ever since Caesar had attempted to collect what was to be rendered unto him 2,000 years ago. Although most clients would be eligible for classification here, at our firm we typically limit this caption to those who wish to implicate us in their felonies. Unfortunately, that includes most of our clients. Because of the potential liability and the unattractive prospect of sharing a 6 by 8 cell with someone who may offer you chocolates before bedtime, it would be prudent to assign these clients to staff who were former IRS agents, FBI agents, police officers, or former gang members: that is, those who could spot a crime on a dime.
If such individuals are not in your present employ, then it would be best to allow the partners to continue to service these clients, because, let’s face it, how do you think they attained their lofty station at your public accounting firm in the first place?
Besides significant increases in liability and errors and omissions insurance, it might be wise to invest in the purchase of a lie detector test to be administered to each client on an annual basis.
Clients who are drunks.
For those CPA firms with the foresight of obtaining a liquor license for their premises, here’s an opportunity to fleece these clients without them ever having a clue. They are easy to spot because whenever they exhale, you suddenly feel light-headed and nauseous.
Staff accountants who were former bartenders or boast of their ability to imbibe a case of beer in one sitting and still pass a sobriety test are ideal employees to service these clients. Of course, if such are not available at your firm, you can always find a partner at your firm to serve these clients since in every office there is at least one who stashes a bottle or two in his or her bottom desk drawer or credenza.
Clients who do not have both feet on the ground.
This is a relatatively new breed of client. Although there were certain to have been lots of nut cases as clients in the distant past, these clients are definitely a subset, appearing normal to most people except for the occasional glazing of their eyes and their peculiar questions and statements while reviewing their tax returns and financials, such as:
Are travel expenses to K-Pax deductible?
Can the IRS come after me in my next life?
Jedis do not have social security numbers.
We have found that our accountants who are science fiction fans relate rather well with them. These accountants are easy to spot, since they typically have Spock and Darth Vader photos on their desk, walls, and screen savers. They often boast of using telepathy to communicate, so here’s an opportunity to save on long distance calls, too. Although these clients are relatively harmless and amusing at times, it is advisable to let them meet privately with your sci-fi accountants in the conference room, allowing them to work and “communicate” in a world truly of their own making.
Clients with lots of moolah.
Although they are becoming more and more a rarity these days, this clientele is typically reserved for the partners. As you have learned by now, like attracts like. Loaded clients and partners seem well suited, discussing taxes and financials in their $1,000 suits; bragging about their trips to Japan, Egypt, the islands, and exotic places that you will never see; trading photos of their brand new BMWs 750 Li; arranging spouse swapping parties; while complaining and whining about all of the taxes, employee benefits and slave wages that they are shelling out, severely hampering their life styles.
Clients who are welchers.
OK, I’m Italian, and I’m the first to admit that we are far from being the Master Race in terms of I.Q. Perhaps Providence allotted us too many genes below the waist. But all that polenta, risotta, and pasta has beefed up a number of us wallyos to provide us with enough muscle to collect overdue accounts.
In addition, despite a rigorous Catholic upbringing, we have been known to commit more than a few mortal sins for a buck. After all, there is always confession and a plenary indulgence. So although we have been told that we do indeed have a conscience, we often and quite conveniently have been unable to recall where we left it last.
Especially in today’s economy with so many businesses feeling strapped for cash, it is advisable to always have a Guido in your employ in the event that you should require some arm twisting or leg breaking to collect on those overdue bills. And if you should find Guido subsequently incarcerated for being a tad too diligent in his collections—accidents have been known to happen when suspending someone upside down by their heels outside an open window 20 stories up, with rarely a creditable reason having ever been offered to a jury for doing such—with this dreadful economy, another Guido should be easy to find.
Clients who are sex fiends.
They are easy to spot: a cursory scan of their entertainment expenses will reveal payees suggestive of expense categories difficult to justify to any internal revenue agent’s scrutiny. For example, vendors with names as “The Body Shop” and ”Huff, Puff & Blow” should arouse suspicion in the most obtuse accountant (and believe me, there are many).
Not surprisingly, most contractors fall in this category. Since construction is a large segment of the accounting market, it is advisable to have in your employ attractive female accountants, whether or not they can add, type, or even think. Quite frankly, while servicing contractors and others of their ilk, all they need to do is maintain eye contact, smile a lot, nod like a bubblehead, and always say “yes” to whatever is asked. Stiletto heels, mini skirts, and revealing décolletages have been known to keep these contractor clients coming back for more and more services at many an accounting firm. Avoid hiring anyone too kinky: after all, you do have a professional reputation to protect.
We hope that this new classification scheme works well for your accounting firm as it has for us. If you can think of categories we overlooked, please let us know.
The Barefoot Accountant—is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, operating an accounting, tax, and QuickBooks consulting firm in Berlin, Connecticut, Accountants CPA Hartford, Connecticut, LLC. Bill has instructed graduate and undergraduate courses in Accounting, Auditing, and other subjects at the University of Hartford, Central Connecticut State University, Hartford State Technical College, and Purdue University. He also taught GMAT and CPA Exam Review Classes at the Stanley H. Kaplan Educational Center and at Person-Wolinsky, and is certified to teach trade-related subjects at Connecticut Vocational Technical Schools. His articles on tax and accounting have been published in several professional journals as well as on several accounting websites. William was born and raised in New Britain, Connecticut, and served on the City's Board of Finance and Taxation as well as its City Plan Commission. Bill is a crazed animal lover, feeding birds, squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, possums, stray cats, and any two-legged or four-legged critter traversing through his yard. His backyard in Berlin, Connecticut has been certified as a habitat suitable for wildlife by the National Wildlife Federation.
Bill also writes an Accounting, QuickBooks, and Tax blog: Accounting, QuickBooks, and Taxes by the Barefoot Accountant. For entertaining articles, please see his listing at The Amazing Brighenti.