Do you want to stop feeling overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated in your firm but feel like it’s not possible?
My guest on this bonus episode is going to prove that it’s 100% possible to turn it all around so you can make more money while working less, and only taking on those clients that are a dream fit for you!
Wendi Hall is a graduate of The Abundant Account Sales Mastery Training. She has been preparing tax returns for individuals and businesses for more than 25 years with a focus on addressing the accounting and information technology needs of the small business. She provides clients not only with year-end tax preparation, but planning, tracking, and other strategies to minimize their expenses and tax liability for both their businesses and personal lives.
Wendi has been an Endorsed Local Provider for financial guru and best selling author, Dave Ramsey, since 2008.
She is the author of several published articles covering topics such as tax planning, business development, and technology, and has been a regular speaker for the National Speakers Association, Futura Language Professionals National Franchise Conferences, UWM Small Business Development Corp, Lorman Seminars, the Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance, local chambers of commerce and many others.
Wendi is a member of the AICPA, WICPA, Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance, and National Association of Tax Professionals. You can learn more about her firm at sosllc.com.
Here are a few things we talked about:
- Wendi shares the most important things she’s done over the last few years to keep herself accountable to herself and grow her firm
- Why you must make time to work ON your business instead of IN your business
- How taking an intensive sales course during the busy tax season turned out to be the best thing Wendi did for the growth of her firm
- Why being coachable is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your business
- Exactly how Wendi developed the confidence to stop working for free and stop feeling taken advantage of by her clients
- The one simple shift Wendi made when communicating with her clients that took her sales conversations to the next level
- How Wendi received more word of mouth referrals this year than ever before, and why your current clients are your greatest resource
- What losing “good” clients taught Wendi about how to show clients that they’re making the right choice in working with you
- Wendi shares the most impactful piece of advice she’s learned about creating a firm and life of abundance full of your dream clients
If you’re frustrated with where you currently are in your firm and aren’t sure what steps to take to make a change, this episode is a must listen!
If you want to build your firm and feel confident about selling high-value services to your ideal clients like Wendi, you can book a free call with one of us if you’ve been in business at least two years. Head to theabundantcall.com now to schedule your coaching session with The Abundant Accountant team so you can build your dream practice, work less, and get your time and life back!
This episode is brought to you by Xero. With Xero, small businesses and accountants can work together at anytime from anywhere with real-time financials, bank connections, unlimited users and online invoicing. It’s beautiful accounting software that’s easy to use. Visit Xero.com.
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Abundant Accountant Case Study | Wendi Hall, CPA
Our special guest is a CPA, an IAR, and the Managing Partner of Small Office Solutions LLC, which was established in 1998. She focuses on accounting, and financial services to individuals, and small businesses, including retirement planning, investing, payroll, budgeting, and cashflow planning. You are probably wondering why she is here.
Our special guest is Wendi Hall. She is a student from The Abundant Accountant, Eight Week Sales Mastery Training. We are talking about a success case study for you to learn from and how you can grow your revenue, get paid upfront, and not ever be afraid to grow. We are going to talk a little bit about The E-Myth.
Before we welcome Wendi to the show, if you are an accounting professional, which I think you are if you are reading the blog, you may be frustrated and stressed trying to get the right referrals. You feel you don’t have control over your engagement letters, what you are going to provide in the service and what you are not going to provide, or how much you are going to charge and how to get paid upfront. You don’t believe you could ever get a yes to a higher monthly fee engagement client based on what you think your clients can truly afford. It is not your fault. Nobody is training accounting professionals on how to fix these problems and connect the dots.
For those of you that want to build the dream practice, work a little bit less, and save the time and the money to enjoy and put it with your family and your kids, head on over to TheAbundantCall.com to schedule your free coaching session with myself and my partner Denise. We are offering it to those who want to transform their practice, get a little uncomfortable and grow during this time in order to thrive and get out on the other side you have never had before when we get into our new normal, whatever that is going to look like. Head on over to TheAbundantCall.com, and book your call. All I ask is that you have had your firm for at least two years now. Let’s welcome Wendi to the show.
I’m happy to have you here. For everyone reading, this is a bonus episode of the show. Wendi is a student client. I like to do some of these case study interviews with CPAs, EA, financial professionals, profit-first professionals, which Wendi is, and CFPs. Can you share with everyone a little bit about yourself, how long you have had your firm and your background so they can have some context from our discussion?
I am a CPA, and I am a registered investment advisor. I started my practice several years ago. I primarily worked with clients on taxes and bookkeeping, like a lot of people start out. I added financial services to my menu of services, profit first consulting and other consulting business advisory services. It has been quite a run. Every year, we are growing, changing and learning. If you don’t continue to grow, change and learn, you are going to be stagnant. That is not for me.
As far as this conversation, it is about having a life of abundance, a firm of abundance, and the clients, not a number for abundance, but the quality of the client you want to work with. You said, “If you are not growing and learning, you are stagnant.” What do you feel for yourself in the last several years, you had your firm for quite a while, was the most impactful decision thing you implemented so you could implement all the ideas?
We have talked about and shared that you could have all the books on your shelf, you could do all the webinars in the world, and you could listen to as many podcast episodes, but sometimes, things don’t move the needle. What do you feel were the number 1, 2, or 3 things, or whatever comes to mind, that you implemented to drastically change your firm?
There are a couple of different stages over the last several years that have moved me forward. In each of those cases, it was when I worked with someone else, collaborated with another firm or a professional, like a coach, or took a specific class that had homework and deadlines and moved me forward. Those were the times in my practice and experience that changed how I handled things when I listened to other professionals, took steps and actions to move in that direction and was held accountable for making those changes. Each week, I had homework to do, like going back to school, but it was more like a school for how to move my business forward and how to be a better professional.
Doing things where you’re held accountable, you are working with a coach, and you are in a class is great. I have talked to a lot of people, and I’m sure you probably thought, “I don’t have any time. How am I supposed to do that on top of everything else I have going on?” There is never a good time, but what are your thoughts on that?
We always make time for what is important. If something is important enough to be worth your time, like running your business, it is important that you make time. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, even there, he says, “You are either a technician, a manager or an entrepreneur. If you are an entrepreneur running your business, you have to work on your business.” You have to block off the time to move forward. Otherwise, you are going to look back, and time is already gone. You are out of luck. I wish I had acted sooner on many different things. I’m looking back and telling my younger self, “I should have done that sooner.”
What specific thing? Share with us that story or that time in the business within the last several years where someone reading can learn from your mistake on what you should have acted sooner on.
It is the classes that I have taken that have given me homework and moved me forward. In particular, it was the Eight-Week Sales Mastery training class that I took with you, beginning in 2019. I thought I was nuts to do it in the middle of tax season. I was already working 60, 70, to 80 hours a week and to add this on top of it. Honestly, you told me the homework was going to take two hours. No, I was always working 4 or 5 hours a week on that homework. I was working on it Saturday nights and getting it done before the Sunday deadline. I am happy that I did that.
Sometimes it takes two hours, but you did an elaborate job on your homework, and you did the book right away. You have to be an entrepreneur. You can’t be the technician or the manager and create the systems and the templates. What we did in the sales mastery training is coming up with stories to share for your objections and all these things. We have it in our heads, but the homework got it out of our heads and onto paper. It is powerful. I’m happy you got it done, Wendi, because it has paid off a little bit.
I’m sure that I went a little bit beyond the bare minimum to get it done. If I was investing the time and the money to make this happen, I was going to make it happen. I knew deep down that if I did the work, it would be helpful. One area that I always try to keep myself open to is being coachable. We tell our clients, “I’m the expert. You need to listen to me and follow my advice.”
We need to do the same. We need to be coachable, learn and grow based on what the experts are telling us to do. The experts in sales training, the experts in financial planning, the experts in tax return preparation, those people who have done it, been there, know what to do and are benefiting us by giving us their knowledge and sharing it with us so that we can learn and grow. You got to do it, follow through and listen.We need to be coachable and learn and grow based on what the experts are telling us to do. Click To Tweet
We always have to follow through. In order for me to be the best teacher, I have to do this myself. I’m in the trenches all the time. I’m doing enrollment calls. I’m out there selling large taxes and interesting engagements that I have no idea how to do the work, but I will stand right beside you and make sure I can help you sell it all day long.
I’m working on training. I have done a class called Influence Ecology. I have done Chris Voss’s hostage negotiation training. I always knew I learned these things over the last several years, but how to put it in a way for you to digest more from the analytical side and have that step-by-step process in order to implement? It is needed and important for you to help more clients. Ultimately, help them with the things they need. You are the most trusted advisor out there. They need you, and you need to get paid for it. That is the other thing
Taking the class helped me ask questions, whereas if you read a book or listen to a podcast, you don’t necessarily get your specific questions answered. If I’m running up against a particular situation where a client wants something, wants it cheap, for free or out of scope, working with you helped me develop the words, the mindset and the direction to go. I addressed that client in a way that allowed them to feel heard and allowed me to continue that relationship even if we didn’t continue with the service that they wanted. It gave me the power and empowerment to be confident in my choices and decisions and not feel taken advantage of by doing a bunch of work for free.
That is got to be the worst feeling. That is the feeling I don’t want anyone reading to ever feel. You are being taken advantage of. The client is getting a deal of the century. None of that ever. That is for sure. Wendi, going along with this theme of, you wish you would have acted sooner on some areas in the different stages that you have gone through in your business in order to grow and learn and be the entrepreneur instead of the technician and the manager. I love that book. The E-Myth is one of the first books I read, business-wise, in college. I got this in green a long time ago. What is another specific story that someone reading could resonate with where you finally did it, but you wish you had done it and acted on it sooner?
One of the simple things that I implemented that I have done sooner was partially taken from the class that you offered, but it was the information that was getting shouted at me from different directions that I wasn’t listening to until I took your class, which forced me to implement it. That is to communicate my process to my clients. Communicate with them what the plan is and how things are going to work.
I never considered in the past how much my clients felt insecure or uncertain about how things were going to work with us and working with us in general when I would simply take their information and produce the product without communicating to them the process of how they would get their results, whether that was a verbal confirmation of something or a product like a tax return. Communicating to my clients along the way about how things process gives them the confidence they are working with the right person. It gives them the assurance, even at the beginning of the sale, that they made the right decision for the sale and work with us.
Is there a specific client story where you were like, “I’m proud of myself?” I know you have gotten some referrals from clients. I’m curious to know too, who were you getting this shout from before we met? I do want to know that. There are signs out there. The universe is talking to you. People are telling you certain things, but you keep ignoring them.
What you are sharing, Wendi is important for those reading to understand because when the client feels unsecure and uncertain, it is a form of mistrust. Communicating the process or letting them know what the plan is and how things are going to work builds a different layer of trust with them. Can you share a little about that?
I can give you a few. NCI is a company that has been around for a long time. They were a company that I got affiliated with early in my business. When I signed up for one of their initial selling manual and procedure that was full of checklists, and processes, communicating with the clients was a big piece of that. That would be one example.
Another example would be the company SixthDivision and Brad Martineau. He is big on communicating with the clients, having processes and doing videos to show people exactly how things are going to happen. That was another one that was shouting at me. Different colleagues and all sorts of other areas where looking back now, I can see it. It is the white noise in the background that you ignore as you go along. All of a sudden, it was like, “I get it.”
What do you think it did when you didn’t ignore it anymore? What are some of the missed opportunities that you realize, like, “I’m glad I’m communicating the process?” Did you see an uptick in referrals? Wendi is shouting at you now, everybody. She is shouting in your ear. Listen to that white noise that you have been ignoring.
I have seen an uptick in referrals. We received more word-of-mouth referrals for tax return preparation than we have received in the last several years. Not combined, but in any prior year.
I didn’t even know that. You didn’t tell me that.
It has all been word of mouth. We have been doing a lot of social media and things like that, but in my mind, that is being sticky. We are communicating with our existing clients. We are not necessarily through social media communicating with new clients or with prospects unless somehow they land on our page. That is few and far between.
All of our new clients have been referrals from clients that we feel are great clients. By not implementing some of these procedures and processes sooner, I have lost clients that I thought were good clients, but in the end, looking back, they didn’t feel like there was enough communication and understanding of what was going on. We explained things well, and they liked working with us, but in the end, we did not go above and beyond. That easy touch of communication provides assurance to the client that they made the right choice.
I got a new client that I took on. She has been a great referral source. She has referred several clients to me. Not all of who have turned into actual clients, but several prospects. I’m almost amazed at how much she touts our processes and services. I didn’t think we were doing anything that much different, but because we are communicating much with her, giving her more information than she wants and anticipating her needs, she has appreciated our services that much more.
You said the keyword, “Anticipating the needs of the client.” That is the center and core of it all. If all the tentacles outside of the core of that help in that form of communication to your clients, you got this one happy client that keeps sending you many referrals. The fact that you got the most referrals in the last several years, and this is the largest, goes to show, Wendi, what happens when you stop ignoring the white noise.
It has been great for people to understand what we do and assume that we just do the taxes.
Since a lot of EA, CPAs, and tax professionals are reading, can you share with them what type of client you are working with and looking for? I know you do have a niche. Everyone reading, if you want to refer clients to Wendi, this is now your opportunity. We have had some CPAs on here that only work with restaurants. There is a lot of you reading that won’t touch a restaurant.
I’m one of them.
Wendi won’t but if you have a referral on a restaurant and you want to do maybe a unique split with a person who is an expert, send me an email. I will make those connections and introductions. They all stay within the Abundant Accountant Community because we all can thrive off one another. Wendi, share with them exactly who you want to work with in case they have a client referral, and it is not a good fit, but you are.
We work with keynote speakers who earn more than $200,000 a year doing speaking engagements, who are looking for professional services beyond tax return preparation and bookkeeping, and who are looking for a trusted advisor. They can plan their business strategy, learn from their finances without getting murked down into the details and plan for a successful retirement.
Wendi, what is your website?
It is Sosllc.com
You can send me an email, and I will put you guys in touch, Hello@ThePitchQueen.com. Wendi, before we wrap up, these are a few important things we have touched on. Make sure that you implement all your ideas. The universe was talking to you. You keep ignoring it because you are sharing how you wish you would have done something sooner. A way to make sure that you have prices where you feel well compensated for them and that you are not a donation-based firm. Focusing on the business. Being not the technician and manager.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with the readers that you feel is important that you have learned in order to create a firm of abundance to move forward and get the most referrals you have ever had in the last several months? That takes a lot of getting uncomfortable and doing things outside of your comfort zone. Is there any other thing that sticks out to you that you feel would make an impact on another CPA reading this?
The one line that I always tell people or my colleagues when they ask for one bit of advice is don’t do any work without a clear, signed engagement letter. Nothing can ruin a relationship with a client better than a misunderstanding about what type of work you are supposed to do, how you are going to do it, and when it is going to be delivered.Don't do any work without a clear signed engagement letter. Nothing can ruin a relationship with a client better than misunderstanding about what type of work you're supposed to do, how you're going to do it, and when it's going to… Click To Tweet
Our engagement letter is always clear on what is and isn’t included. When they ask you to do additional work, you can always refer back to that engagement letter or tell them that there is going to be a change order or a new engagement letter to complete that. It makes it much easier to say I’m not doing that work for free because this isn’t part of our agreement. This is out of scope, and it is clear. It is easier for everyone when the boundaries are clearer.
You are preaching to the choir over here, but you are hearing it directly. Was there something where you got burned one time, Wendi, by a client or made you learn this lesson or a specific example that you can share with us because the stories are impactful? I bet there is one instance where you knew you were getting burned because you didn’t have this clearly defined engagement letter.
I also want to share and point out one thing you said. In the engagement letter, you want to state what you are doing and what you won’t do. I love how you do that. If you do not include what you don’t do in your engagement letters, you can start doing that now. How did you learn this lesson? I want to know.
I got to get beat on the head before I take on any lesson that I’m going to learn. I can’t even count the number of times that people have wanted additional tax planning or projections and assumed that that comes along with the tax return preparation or they are entitled to sit with me and discuss different tax scenarios for hours on end without any additional cost beyond the tax return preparation. That is the biggest one.
More than that is the times when business owners that you had a working relationship for many years. I can think of one in particular. We will call him Tom for this purpose. He wanted him to give him a recommendation about whether or not he should change from his Schedule C to be an S Corp. he couldn’t understand why I couldn’t give him an off-the-cuff answer, and that would be good enough. In my mind, I’m thinking, “There is no way that I can, with good conscious or ethically, say one way or the other without running the numbers because he had such a specific scenario.”
With his wife being an employee and their health insurance arrangements, changes to the tax laws and the changes to the business tax rates, there was too much to think about to give him an off-the-cuff answer. He kept pushing and pushing, and I told him that I would do it, but he didn’t like that I wanted to charge him a fee to do it. He thought I should do it as part of our other services. Having that clear engagement letter helped define that. I didn’t do the projection or the consult consultation for him because he did not want to pay me for it. In the end, I feel good about my decision and glad that he has now gone to a different accountant.
That sounds strange because you don’t want to lose clients. He was a client that was continually pushing me to do more, be paid less, want more time and take a lot of my time but didn’t want to pay for it. In the end, I’m not losing out on revenue as I’m gaining time to serve another client who will appreciate me and pay me with those wonderful government gift certificates.
This sums up now. You are gaining time back. None of us want to lose a client, but at the end of the day, you are there for your team. You have more time for your new client that you got that keeps sending you referrals. When we gain time back, we open up space for the people who you can truly serve that will appreciate you and will pay those fees that you know you deserve.
Thank you so much for sharing your stories. It is an honor to be working with you and seeing your growth and success. I will keep pushing you outside your comfort zone. Don’t worry about that. Are there any other last words of wisdom or advice that you have to share with the readers before we wrap up?
Don’t be afraid to grow. Get a signed engagement letter and get paid in advance.
Thank you, Wendi, so much for being here with us. It was an honor to have you.
Thanks so much.
What an amazing episode with Wendi. Many great golden nuggets for those of you who might be ignoring those signs and the white noise. She had many people and has these regrets about wishing she would move sooner or take action on things a little bit sooner, and you can reflect now. What is one thing you can make a shift in your firm? Maybe it is changing your engagement letters, shifting and getting paid upfront. Wendi used to bill after the work got done, and she made the shift. Was it easy? No, not at all. She gained the time in order to be of service to new clients and have the firm of abundance that she always wanted.
What is one thing that you can put into action now? If you are frustrated or stressed trying to get those right referrals like Wendi was, or you don’t have any control over who your ideal client is or what niche you want to focus on, and you don’t believe that you can get a high monthly fee engagement type client. You only think clients can pay you what they can afford. Make sure to head over to TheAbundantCall.com to schedule your free complimentary coaching session with me and my team. My team member is Denise.
As long as you have had your firm for two years, we would be happy to explore and get to the truth of the challenges you are having with your sales conversations. You can gain more free time and increase your revenue at the same time. I want to thank each of you for reading and leaving the written reviews. I’m grateful for all of them and want to say, keep thriving, and we will all get through this time together, and be the most powerful business owners we can be on the other side when we get to a new normal. Keep on thriving, and I will see you in the next episode.
- Small Office Solutions LLC
- Wendi Hall
- The E-Myth
- Chris Voss’s Hostage Negotiation Training