— March 20, 2019
No matter what your profession is, tax season will never be described as “easy.” For tax professionals, packing the bulk of the year’s work into a few short months defies all possibility of normalcy in the workplace. The combination of long days, lack of sleep, and piles of work takes a toll on even the most put-together accountant, something that rings true for any thriving professional and entrepreneur, myself included.
I connected with five influential tax professionals to get their top tips for fellow accountants to survive this tax season now that it’s officially kicked off. The best news? The tips that get accountants through the ensuing madness are good for all of us as professionals and entrepreneurs.
1. Set team expectations early and often
James Sullivan, CPA
“As I’ve worked with various teams through busy seasons, one of the most valuable things we’ve done was set clear expectations. We meet early in the season to discuss as a group how each member of the team will be allowed enough flexibility to take personal time.”
Allowing each team member flexibility to retain some personal time is crucial for surviving not only busy seasons but also a key consideration in retaining valuable employees and attracting top talent. According to a recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 89% of HR professionals reported an increase in employee retention with the implementation of flexible work arrangements.
Having these conversations and holding everybody accountable to the team’s decisions will create a much more productive environment. In fact, the Corporate Executive Board found that employees who feel like they have a good work-life balance work 21% harder than those who don’t.
2. Keep your house in order
Brian Walker, CPA
“During tax season, things can get crazy and seem to spiral out of control at the office. Though, even in a seemingly chaotic time, there are things outside of the office that you can control and use to restore order.”
While it can seem harmless, clutter has a constant impact on you. According to researchers at Princeton University, visual messes can be overwhelming, making it harder to allocate attention and complete tasks efficiently. Lingering, unfinished tasks haunt you mentally like a nagging to-do list, causing more mental stress, whether it’s your office space or your personal space.
“Some things that can be controlled are laundry, stocking the shelves, and maintaining your car. Keeping up on these tasks may take some time away from work but will keep your house in order during the crazy times at the office.”
3. Charge full price
Dave Haupt, EA
“If a client asks how much I am charging over the phone, I reference all I have done for them, questions I have answered, and value I have provided. Once the value is clear, I confidently state the amount they owe and all the ways I accept payment.”
Are you good at your job? Do you work hard to keep your skills sharp? Do you empower your clients to make them successful? If you are doing all you can do to provide value, do not sell yourself short and discount pricing.
There are numerous ways to negotiate like a boss but once you provide value to your clients, and illustrate how much you care about their interests, they need to pay you what you are worth. As you remind clients how helpful you are to them, they will start to appreciate your services more.
4. Work smarter, not harder
“It is important as an accountant to take care of your mental health during tax season. Work smarter and more efficiently so that you can be home at least twice a week for dinner with family, or make it a point to treat yourself to a movie.”
Relaxation and good mental health are key elements to the foundation for a happy employee, and it’s good for business. A recent study revealed happy employees are up to 20% more productive than unhappy employees, and from 1998 to 2005, the valuation of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work for” rose 14% YoY, while non-listed companies performed less than half of that.
Jordan also offers, “in order to work more efficiently, scrub your calendar. Remove all unnecessary meetings and for the meetings you can’t eliminate, keep them quick, to the point, and focused on a realizable, short-term goal.”
5. Focus on your customers’ future needs
“If you meet with your client throughout the year, they are less likely to view your service as a commodity. That means your clients will be less likely to leave your practice if someone were to tempt them with a lower price.”
It can be easy to get caught up in a specific project or busy time of year, but, if you take a few minutes with each customer and discuss their needs for the future, you can plan for future events and help bind them to your business. Have a good understanding of their business cycle: when does their fiscal year start and end; how can you align your quarterly planning with their continued needs?
Accountants who successfully survive tax season are proven business warriors with best practices that can benefit us all by jumpstarting better habits or giving us key reminders essential to maintaining our sanity while also keeping our careers charging ahead.