If you own your practice, even though business may be running smoothly it doesn’t guarantee a good night’s sleep. So what keeps accountants awake at night?
For most small firm owners, here's a list of the top 10 things (in no particular order) that keep them tossing and turning, often on a nightly basis:
1. New Tax Legislation – The new tax act came up suddenly at the end of the year. Clients expect us to digest everything, understand it and make recommendations for what they should do differently in 2018. Usually we get guidance and analysis on how the new laws will be applied and interpreted in practice. At this point, I’m on my own. I don’t want one of my clients to be a test case for the new rules.
2. Disaster Recovery – We are seeing more severe storms and power outages today. Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico all suffered devastating weather damage. If a natural disaster hit our area, would my client data be safe? Would I be able to continue business if my office was out of action?
3. Data Security – Clients trust me with their data. They trusted credit reporting agencies, health care companies, banks and stores too. Many have suffered data breaches. Is my client data secure? Do I have the right liability insurance if their data was compromised?
4. Why Don’t Clients Send Referrals? – I do a good job. They are satisfied. My prices are fair. I choose to spend my time focusing on their needs, not looking for new clients. They all know people who need accounting help for their business or individual situation. Why aren’t they sending some my way?
5. Pressure on Fees – More and more of my clients see ads on TV for mass market tax preparation services. They ask why I can’t reduce my prices to their level. I don’t want to antagonize them, but I need to make a living and pay my staff. Will I lose clients?
6. Keeping Current With Technology – I learned how to do taxes one way when I started in the business. Over the years we have automated, which allows us to process more returns efficiently. However, technology is advancing faster than I can keep up. Will my clients think I’m yesterday’s CPA because I’m not using the latest apps and software?
7. How Do I Get Current Clients to Work With Me More? – I’ve gotten into a comfortable routine with most of my clients. I’ve been delivering the same services, year after year. They are happy. They don’t push back on pricing. I’m trying to expand into advisory services. I know my clients need them. They are probably buying them elsewhere. I even hear them complain about their providers, yet they don’t seem interested in getting those services from me. What can I do?
8. Client Contact – How much is enough? Do these people even want to be contacted? I hear from most clients only around tax time. They send me their tax reporting statements and records and I do the rest. We don’t talk or communicate during the rest of the year. Should I make an effort to stay in touch? What’s my upside?
9. Incomplete Records – I send every personal client a tax organizer for the current year. Life would be much easier if they took the time to add in this year’s numbers. They rarely do. They often send the entire form back untouched with their records. Sometimes they are missing statements. Do they think I won’t notice? They may take the easy route, but that makes my job harder.
10. Succession Planning – At the end of life, no one says “I wish I spent more time in the office.” My kids want to be actors and web designers. They don’t want to go into the business. I want to retire someday, but I also feel a responsibility to my clients. They are comfortable working with me. I don’t want to disrupt that. Should I consider merging my practice with another firm or bring a partner onboard?
So what keeps you up? Feel free to add to this list in the Comments below.
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. in New Hope, Pennsylvania. He provides high-net-worth client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, Captivating the Wealthy Investor, can be found on Amazon.com.