Whether you are part of a large, multi-service CPA firm or a solo practitioner, you likely feel the pressure during deadline seasons as they test our process efficiencies, team cohesiveness and talent.
As the 2018 tax filing season ramps up and we begin the steep ascent to April 17th, we focus on three areas we find most critical.
1. Setting Expectations Internally
Knowing what is expected of us is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle. How can we meet our goals if we don’t know what they are?
We hold annual internal trainings to practice talking through specific engagements, deliverables for each week, and clarifying goals and responsibilities for every team member. We even script questions that every team can ask to help “manage up” and “manage down”:
How do you wish to be contacted outside of regular business hours? What time is too early or too late to contact you? Do you prefer a phone call, text message or email?
How do you prefer to discuss review points of a document? A self-review first, or sit together to go through in detail together?
What are your expectations in response to emails? How will you let me know the level of urgency?
What are your expectations on the time it will take to get this assignment completed? What works for both parties?
Do you have any outside commitments that I should know about that may affect/require scheduling flexibility, such as family or school?
2. Clarity of Communications
We also incorporate clear communications into our training. If we are not all on the same page about issues large and small, it may lead to false assumptions affecting the work environment and client service.
Consider that something as simple as music in the workspace can create unnecessary tension. Through interactive and light-hearted role-playing, we rehearse techniques for addressing minor issues that can create rifts over time. We train our team members on ways to talk openly about the work environment without causing friction.
3. Showing Appreciation During High-Stress Times
Throughout the season, we consistently offer ways to alleviate stress. We bring in a masseuse, cater dinners for those working late, encourage breaks, and in general try to keep the mood upbeat.
It is important to celebrate successes and emphasize appreciation along the way, whether through an informal “shout out,” or by empowering all team members to recognize and reward their peers with “Accolades,” which are on-the-spot rewards that can be redeemed for gift certificates.
The firm’s collective “Thank You” comes after the deadline, with a party in Boston and public acknowledgements of exceptional teamwork. Ultimately, whether we are busy (or busier), we have found that we are most successful when we maintain focus on our core values, including:
keeping our commitments
treating people with dignity and respect.
showing appreciation for hard work
All of the above helps us achieve better results every time.
Dave McManus CPA is AAFCPAs’ co-managing partner, providing assurance, tax planning & compliance solutions to privately-held commercial companies. His client base consists of multinational manufacturing & distribution companies, real estate developers, auto dealerships...