Increase Value and Profitability During Peak Season

Most CPAs in public practice will be in busy season for the next two and half months. This can be a stressful time because of the sheer volume of work that enters our front door for both audit and tax. All too often we toss aside our best practices and proactive measures to instead operate in a reactive fire-drill mode just to keep our heads above water.

At this point, it would be difficult to suggest any CPA firm begin re-working their processes to improve how they do things, and I imagine any CPA firm would think I’m crazy to make such a suggestion. However, there are some very basic things that you can do to eliminate wasteful activities in the short-term without spending time analyzing your processes (an activity that can wait until after our peak season). Continue reading to learn about the top 4 things you can do to increase value and profitability during peak season.

  1. Don’t do anything that doesn’t add value. If the client isn’t willing to pay for it and it’s not required by standards or regulations then don’t do it. As an industry, we tend to waste our time doing things because of our own personal preferences, whether it’s creating a nice looking work paper, printing unnecessarily, or chasing that $1 (or $10) rounding issue. Let it go! Workpapers need to be functional and someone else needs to be able to follow what you’ve done, nothing more. Further, in reality no one cares if we’re off a dollar. Could you imagine telling your client that you had to bill an extra $50 so you could find that dollar!
  2. Move work to less busy times. Generally CPA firms are busier from March 15th through April 15th. That’s not to say you’re not already busy now, but perhaps it’s a little lighter. We all have clients that extend every year no matter what. Why not do the extension and projection now? Generally around January 15th we start working on extensions we know will happen so we don’t have to worry about cramming those in around mid-April. When you’re tired and moving too quickly you can make mistakes and those mistakes cost you and your client.
  3. Stop emailing so much! I believe emails are a huge waste of time. Think about this scenario, you email your client a question and they misunderstand it so they respond incorrectly. Then you have to clarify and they email you back to make sure they understand. You respond and they email what you need but it isn’t everything, so you have to email them yet again. Before long 15, 20, 30 minutes or more has been spent on something that could have been handled in a five minute phone call. If you’ve promised your client a set price on the tax return, that time is eating into your profitability and taking time away from clearing your backlog of work.
  4. Send your client a list of what you need and follow up with a phone call to make sure they understand the list. This can help you avoid receiving incomplete or incorrect data. When we receive data we spend time picking up and putting down the audit, review, compilation or tax work. Every time you pick it up again, you spend more time trying to figure out where you previous left off.

These are just a few little things that can help decrease a substantial amount of time. Imagine what a more comprehensive analysis of your processes could yield in terms of value and production efficiency.

Learn more about Lean Six Sigma and how these methodologies can improve client service while adding value to your CPA firm.

About the Authors

Mike Sibley and Katie Davis are passionate about creating thorough and sustainable systems to help organizations become Lean Enterprises. In addition to writing and speaking on Lean Six Sigma, Mike and Katie work directly with an organization’s members to evaluate an existing process and identify solutions that eliminate waste, as well as build efficiency and quality into the process. Mike and Katie have applied these approaches for manufacturing, construction, professional services, and governmental entities.