Not Busy Season, It's "Prime Time"

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by Michelle Golden - In accounting firms, the term "busy season" is synonymous with the period of January to mid-April.

These are the months when professionals talk to clients, referral sources, friends, family, and sometimes just about anybody who will listen, about being swamped, exhausted and "really crazy" right now.

Some professionals are good about not complaining, but you may not know because you simply cannot reach them or get them to call or e-mail you back!

That the firm -- or at least the individual -- is at or above maximum capacity** is a dangerous message to send.

There's a difference between healthy-busy and out-of-control busy. I'm talking about the latter. When winter pallor, dark circles under the eyes, and a shortage of cheerfulness accompany the complaints or lack of responsiveness, it's a real marketing problem.

Clients think, "wow, hope they will find time to take care of me..." or, "hope they don't make a mistake due to haste..." Worse, they may also decide, "I'm not going to refer anyone because then they really won't have time for me."

Another problem with voicing the complaint about the excessive hours for these 3-and-a-half months is that the business owners they are talking to work excessive hours, too, but do so all year around and have little sympathy for their counterparts who enjoy much slower hours through the summer months.

For many years, marketers have worked hard to encourage their CPAs to remember that, while facing their most intense workload in these months, they simultaneously face their peak opportunity to interact with their clients and remind them of the many ways they can assist them.

CPA firm marketers dislike the term "busy season" because it sets the wrong tone--even when it's just used internally. It reinforces anti-marketing mentality at the very worst time.

But my accounting marketing friend, formerly with Goodman & Co, Dan McComas, says his firm coined the term "Prime Time" to describe these active months. The firm held an internal contest to come up with a less off-putting term than "busy season."

Their winning term, Prime Time, is a simple yet solid reminder that people must perform at their very best to stay accessible, friendly, and helpful.

Prime Time is when you and your firm are most visible of all. Don't use it to tell the world you are over-worked and have no room left to serve clients. As they say, "never let 'em see you sweat."

The smartest firms use Prime Time to demonstrate that their service and attitude is so great, clients & referral sources should want to refer all their associates.

**Most firms ARE seriously above capacity particularly with smaller tax return clients and far too many still do returns at prices lower than H&R Block! Firms I talk to know some clients should be shed, but are still reluctant to do anything about it. Meanwhile, firms wear employees down, weaken morale, and observe "turnover" season just after April 15. Yikes!

This observer recommends there are important choices to be made about which work is most important and which work firms cannot afford to keep if employee retention problems are to be corrected in firms. Think about what you might do to make Prime Time more tolerable in your firm.

by Michelle Golden, originally posted at
Golden Practices.

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