If you want to be an abundant accountant, you need to gain the respect of your clients. If they try to make you do things you’re not supposed to be doing or impose on how you spend your time with them, then it may be time to let them go. But in order to gain that kind of confidence, you have to let go of the fear of losing clients. Susan Tinel is here with to remind you that you are good enough! Go ahead and set your boundaries. Let them filter the clients you want from the clients who will only disrespect you. Own your voice and you will see that the people you want to work with will get drawn to you. Tune in and get inspired by this powerful message!
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How To Gain RESPECT And Own Your Voice With Susan Tinel
In this episode, we have a very special guest, the CEO of her firm called April 15 Taxes, a Cloud-based full-service firm of the future located in San Diego, California right where I’m at. She’s also a business specialist, Cloud guru and advisor tax professional to the wild, weird and wonderful. She specializes in UK-based companies doing business in the US. She also consults and advises companies across state and international borders. She is a self-proclaimed tech nerd and AI groupie. She’s a content creator, instructor and author. She also teaches live events and webinars for tax and accounting professionals of various businesses with practice management.
Before we welcome our special guests to the show, I’ve been helping a lot of firm owners have more time freedom, revenue and money in their bank accounts. I’ve been them always get paid upfront and first so no more AR. I know that our system works and that I can help you create the same firm that others have but it’s up to you to take that step.
If you’re having a challenge with any of that, head on over to TheAbundantCall.com to book a call with me or my team. We’ll look at where your firm is at and the things that are keeping you stuck. We’ll talk about where you want your firm to go and ensure you’re paid first, avoiding all the pitfalls along the way and the exact next steps to double your firm revenue. Let’s welcome our very special guest, Susan Tinel, to the show.
Welcome, Susan, to the show.
Thanks for having me, Michelle.
It’s great to have you here on the show. Before we start, I’d love it if you could share with everyone a little bit about you and your background, if you could sum it up in a minute or less.
My name is Susan Tinel. I’m an Enrolled Agent and the Head of a full-service tax and accounting firm, April 15 Taxes, which is located in San Diego, California. We specialize in small to mid-size businesses that are from the UK doing business here in the US as well as other cross-border individuals and companies. That also involves states as well. In addition to running that, I also do stuff like this, podcasts, webinars and all kinds of educational things for us to get together and do better.
One of the things to help everyone do better and one of the things you’ve realized is having people and firm owners find their voice. You’re helping them through that process to not only gain respect from clients but how to put their self first in the best light possible to have the most rewarding firm they could ever have, feel good about having it as well and be treated with respect from their clients.
I’m very excited about our conversation about finding your voice and how you found your voice. I’m excited about you sharing your story to inspire others to speak up and stand up. You will be breaking it down into a few components. Thanks for being here to talk about that. Why don’t you share with us how you find your voice? What was the first step you took?
It happened one client at a time. The voice got stronger. The first one was a client who said something to me the wrong way about how I was to be available for him at any time of the day, no matter what. It was very disrespectful and hit me the wrong way. That was the first strengthening of the voice.
From that experience, what did you implement in your firm to start making this shift and change?
From there, I started to put up some filters. At first, I needed filters with my clients.
What does the filter look like? If you were to share with a firm owner reading, everyone can probably relate that someone spoke to them the wrong way, rubbed them the wrong way and demanded things in a way that wasn’t going to work. What are those elements to put in place that you said, “Here are some filters that I’m going to put into place to not only gain respect from my clients but get me on this path of finding my voice?”
First, I did terminate that client. After that, for any new client, there was a wishlist that they went through with us to see if they worked with the firm. It was the ideal client. Most people do pass that. It got a little bit more specific with time. That’s one filter that you always want to look at and adjust as you go by in time because things change.
People change. With the pandemic, the world changed. People’s behaviors changed as a result. That filter does always need to be adjusted. A big huge one that fortunately I put up before that client is having somebody in front of you. It may be somebody answering the phone, whether it’s an imaginary person or a real person. Even if it’s the phone system that they go to, you cannot always be the one to answer the phone. That’s all huge,
Never answer the phone. That would be my opinion for anyone who wants to create significant filters in their firm. If you can afford the service, one of our sponsors here on the show a couple of years ago, Abby Connect, is a great service that you can use to have someone take the responsibility of being your gatekeeper, per se.
The gatekeeper is huge. If you give them that direct access, you open up yourself to so many things. Those are your initial filters. After that, the next client comes along and somehow, they manage through those filters. You’re like, “What happened?” I can tell you it’s usually yourself. That was me. I did not value myself enough. I thought I did but I believed through the wrong set of eyes. Many of us are like, “It’s easy. It didn’t take that long.” We’ve heard this from different sides of the value pricing argument and all of that. It’s not about the time spent. It’s about what went beyond that to do that thing.
What had you changed? I hear that every day from all the clients that I work with and all the tax, accounting and bookkeeping firm owners. They’re like, “It didn’t take me that long. I don’t want to feel bad. It took me five minutes so I can’t charge them anymore. I don’t want to lose that client. I want to keep them. I don’t want them to turn the other way and go somewhere else. I need this business. I have bills to pay.” How did you find your voice and start speaking up that you do value yourself from this different point of view?
For one, I stopped looking at myself as their receptionist. They want a copy of their tax return or W-2. They want you to print out a special copy of their tax return for their broker or they want that letter for the broker. They eek. What I’m taking off this person is not that five minutes. What I’m taking off of that person is probably up to two weeks, in some cases, if they had to do it themselves.
In the case of downloading the W-2, they forgot their password. They’re going to have to reset their password, maybe Google to find the site or whatever it may be. It will take them 15 minutes to find the place to log in and get logged in and then another 10 minutes or however to get their W-2. When we can go, I relieve that person of that stressful moment because that is stressful for them plus that time it took them.
All in all, sometimes, it’s up to two weeks that you’re saving somebody even though you can get the work done in 5 minutes to 45 minutes per se.
They’re procrastinating and all of that. Why would I take that stress for them without some recompense? That’s pretty much what it came down to.
What was the tipping point for you? How long have you had your firm?
I started my firm in 2012 or 2013. The tipping point was all these comfort letters. Those are the worst. The comfort letters are out of this realm of stress for both parties and everybody. Those were the tipping point. They assumed that I would do that because I do their tax return. They didn’t understand why I would charge them for that to help them out. Why would I help them out? I didn’t tell them to go buy a house or refinance their house. I’m like, “What am I getting out of this? Why would I take all that stress from the mortgage broker who is getting the commission off of all this but I’m getting nothing?”
How many years did it take you to make this shift and see these changes? How many years did it take you to start earning, gaining respect from clients, finding your voice and speaking up instead of doing it as you had done for so many years?
It’s an ongoing process still. They said the voice gets louder. 2017 was when I started my first shift. This is one big, huge piece of advice. Don’t try to tackle everything at the same time. You cannot. You are a super person for many things but not for that. It’s going to take you down. You do that first fight or battle and then take the next battle. Pretty soon, you will have won the war. You can draw that final line and say, “That’s it. This is where it has to be.”Don't try to tackle everything at the same time. Do that first battle and then take the next battle. Pretty soon, you will have won the war. Click To Tweet
How did this take affect the revenue season of your firm? You started in 2012 or 2013. It’s been several years. When you found your voice and started to gain respect from your clients by drawing that line in the sand and having your voice keep getting louder, which is still a work in progress, how has it made a shift in your revenue if you can share with us?
The revenue and you hear this from others, does not go down.
What percent of increase have you seen from revenue? Also, what percent of the time have you received back?
This is going to sound awful. I did a major weed. I fired a lot of clients. It was almost half. My income did not go down at all. It went up about 10%.
Your revenue went up 10%. You fired half your client base so the volume decreased. How much, on a weekly basis, were you working before and then how much are you working now? How much time did you also gain even seeing your revenue increase, decreasing the client load by half by speaking up, gaining that respect from clients, finding your voice and putting your foot down?
It’s infinite in a way because you have time to absorb everything, watch things in motion, lock up and go home. I do lock up and go home. I see my husband at night. I see him on the weekends and in the morning. I have a normal working day overall through tax season. I might pull 1 or 2 weekend days. In 2022, it got a little hairy. In 2023, I don’t see that being this hairy. I see it being a lot smoother so far.
I say infinite because all those little nitpickers that are there at your firm for that moment in time for tax season or they’re that year-round that got that great deal, they’re the ones that are taking all the time away from everybody else. It’s not you. It’s your team as well. If you’re wearing your worker hat or firm owner hat, it’s time away from that other hat. I’ve only seen it grow. I’ve never seen it shrink. With each client I let go, the time grew. I would intake the new good clients but the time still grew. It’s crazy.
That’s great that you have more free time to enjoy in beautiful San Diego. It’s finding your voice, implementing your filters and having someone get in front of you be it someone answering your phones, getting a gatekeeper or hiring someone to help you. What was the third thing that you implemented in finding your voice that someone reading could make this implementation and start seeing some of the changes that you’ve been able to experience?
The third thing is you. I said it a little bit poorly but it is that confidence in yourself and also yourself within our community. All of us are experiencing the same thing in different forms. We have been through it or are going through it. There are some times when I felt so very alone because of the situation or what was going on. I had another client later that cornered me in my office and yelled at me. I had to walk him out and lock him out. He almost went to a police incident. That was another comforting letter. He was the last line. He also got his termination letter very soon after.
It’s you. You have to be sure and know that you are good enough. You’ve been doing this for so long. They’re coming to you. The ones that are going to go away are going to be the ones that you do want to go away. They’re not respecting you in one fashion or another. If they’re not willing to come to us and pay for services, there is no respect. Let those people go bounce around and ask their buddies or TikTok.You are good enough. You've been doing this this long. They're coming to you. The ones that are going to go away are going to be the ones that you do want to go away. Click To Tweet
It’s you. Know that your community is with you. We’re experiencing the same thing. Stay in contact. Reach out to others. Talk to others. We always want to have a little client fest. Get it out. Find a couple of local folks and network with them. You can bounce ideas off of each other. I got some great ideas from a local EA whom I have a little happy hour with regularly. She has ways of phrasing things that I’m like, “That’s perfect. Can I use that?” That’s not something I normally would say but the way she says is right to hit the moment to get that point across to the client or what it may be.
It’s beautiful how you summed it up because it is a community. Every single person here is going through the same thing one way or another. It might be harsher. It might be from a different point of view, something in our personal life or a health challenge but the community together is with you. Know that you’re not alone and what you’re going through, every single one of us is going through. Together as a community, we can also change.
The most important takeaway from this conversation and what I’m hearing from you, every client I’ve ever worked with and firm owner is that when we find our voice, stick up for ourselves and show respect, in every small step, because it’s an ongoing process, is that little bounce of confidence. Every time we get a little bit more confidence, that’s where the magic can happen. As the community of firm owners, you can change the way clients treat us and deal with us. Putting our foot down, finding our voice, speaking up and making sure we keep the respect in line and have those filters in place is the number one thing to make this change.
Thank you so much for being here with us on the show. Thank you for sharing your story and wisdom. Know that you can make this change and that it is possible. The biggest question I hear from firm owners is, “That’s great it worked for Susan but will it work for me?” The answer is yes. Are you committed to making a change? Are you sick and tired of the way it’s been going? Are you sick and tired of the way you’ve been treated by clients? Are you sick and tired that you had double the amount of clients with the same amount of revenue where you made a change? You fired half the clients, increased your revenue by 10%, gained your time back and could spend more time at the parks and the beach with your husband. That’s the big takeaway. Thank you for sharing, Susan.
Do you have any last words of wisdom or anything that we didn’t talk about that is on the tip of your tongue that you want to share or leave the audience with?
2023 is our year. Many more of us are out there finding our voice. The more of us that are out there, the stronger our voices are together. That big fear about, “The client’s going to go away,” do you know how many people are looking for tax folks and accountants and no one’s taking new clients?
There’s a lot.
This is awesome. This is our year. Let’s band together and keep this fence up. That’s what I would love.
Thank you so much for being here. It was an honor to have you. I appreciate you very much. Thank you.
We appreciate you. Thank you.
Thank you all so much for joining Susan and me in a lovely episode and discussion about finding your voice, implementing filters and gatekeepers and putting in the effort to have little ounces of confidence in yourself to understand how to value yourself. Value and worth stem from having little ounces and steps of confidence and seeing, “That worked.”
You’re not alone in what you’re going through. There are plenty of firm owners whom I talk to on a weekly basis that have the fear of losing their clients. You don’t know how to price. In the future, you want to sell your firm. You want to have a profitable firm. You want to be able to retire. Yet, you don’t have any money set away from retirement because you’re tired, overwhelmed, burnt out and exhausted and the clients are running your firm.
If you want to put an end to all that, get paid upfront and charge the fees you know you deserve, I have a system that will work for you. I can help you create the firm you’ve always wanted but it’s up to you to take the next step. Head on over to TheAbundantCall.com. You can book your free session with me and my team. We’re going to cover three things on our call.
Number one is where you’re at in your firm and the things that are keeping you stuck. Number two is where you want your firm to be to ensure that you’re always paid upfront, avoiding all the pitfalls along the way, saving you a ton of money in the process and the exact next steps you can take to double your firm revenue.
Every one of our success stories has started with this call. It’s turned into more confidence, charging premium fees, doubling top-line revenue, eliminating burnout and feeling excited about the work and being in control of your future firm. Head on over to TheAbundantCall.com. It was lovely to be here with you. I look forward to seeing you in the next episode.
- April 15 Taxes
- Abby Connect
About Susan Tinel
Susan is a Business Specialist, Cloud Guru and Advisor; Tax professional to the wild, weird, and wonderful. Specializing in UK companies doing business in the US, she consults and advises companies crossing state and international borders.
She is a self-proclaimed Tech Nerd and AI groupie, content creator, instructor, and author. Susan teaches live events and webinars for tax and accounting professionals and businesses on various financial topics and practice management. Look for her articles and guides on various platforms, including AccountingWEB.com, ProConnect Tax Center and firmofthefuture.com, about Taxes, Company Strategy, Personal Behavior and Ethics at work.