No matter what industry you are in, the sales piece will always play a crucial role in how you succeed. For accountants, this relates to how you deal with your clients—going through follow-ups, keeping up with deadlines, and overall making sure that you are not missing anything with them. Yet, not all of us can do everything on our own. That is why we need systems that can help, and in this episode, Michelle Weinstein brings over to the show someone who has been helping accountants become more productive and effective. She sits down with David Cristello, the CEO and founder of Jetpack Workflow, where he has the software platform that helps accounting and tax professionals track all their current work without any worries. Here, David talks about the difference between being productive and being busy as well as being effective. Join him and Michelle in this conversation as they lay down ways you can work smarter, ridding yourself from having to run around with your hair on fire.
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How Accountants Can Be Effective, Efficient, And Productive With David Cristello
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Welcome to the show. This is where accountants come to learn all the ways to grow your firm. Before we welcome our very special guest to the show, I want to share that over the last few years, I’ve been perfecting something called our Selling Without Ever Selling System. Up until now only my high-end clients have had access to this information. I’m excited about sharing this with more of you. I am offering you a free coaching session to discover the possibilities you have within your firm. The system is all about getting you quality ideal clients coming to you and finally getting paid what you’re worth so you can build your dream practice and still have the time and money to enjoy with your family and kids.
If you’re frustrated and stressed because what you’ve been doing isn’t working anymore. You feel like you have no confidence when it comes to sharing your fees, you want to charge more for your clients and you don’t believe you could ever double your firm’s revenue, this free coaching session is for you. To explore more, head on over to the AbundantCall.com and book your session. You’ll either talk to myself or my partner, Denise.
On this show, our special guest is David. He is the Renegade CEO behind Jetpack Workflow. He has the software platform that helps accounting and tax professionals track all their work without any worries. Since inception, he has led the company to grow over 600% in the last few years and serves thousands of accounting firms in eighteen plus different countries. He is also the best-selling co-author of Double Your Accounting Firm. He has a podcast that you’re probably aware of called Growing Your Firm podcast. He lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with his family. Let’s welcome David to the show.
Michelle, I’m super excited to be here. Thanks for having me on.As a partner, you want to be doing the high-level client work. You want to be going out and doing consultations or landing new deals. Click To Tweet
Thank you so much for being here with us on the show. It’s a true honor to have you here. Before we dive in, can you share with the readers who you are, what you created? A lot of them might know you. I’ve already done your intro, but it’s great to come from you so we can hear it personally from you.
I’m the Founder and CEO of Jetpack Workflow. It’s a cloud-based application that helps accounting firms and bookkeeping firms track all of the recurring client deadlines and due dates so that nothing falls through the cracks. I’m also the co-author of a book called Double Your Accounting Firm and hosts a podcast called Growing Your Firm. I am driven by trying to solve painful problems, create interesting products or resources for the accounting community. I’m excited to be here to chat about some of our learnings and journeys as a company.
I love how you said, solve some of our painful problems. We’re going to be talking about how did you create abundance in your life, your business and being able to help your clients and all of the accountants reading become more productive. What you provide to them helps the sales piece. If we miss follow-ups, deadlines or anything with our clients, it ruins the sales experience. You are able to help people be more productive and more effective in a way. We’re going to talk about the difference between being productive versus being busy. We’re going to talk about the difference between being busy yet being effective.
I’m excited to dive into those topics because my mission is to help each one of you reading to have the firm of abundance, meaning to get paid of what you want to get paid and to have a process and system in place so you can enjoy your life, not work so much. Let’s start with being productive. That’s a very important thing. Since you’re solving painful problems, the biggest problem I hear consistently, even from the people that I’ve worked with in my eight-week Sales Mastery training or my accountability groups is it’s overwhelming with the amount of work you have to do.
If you end up mastering sales, marketing and firm growth, you fall into a fulfillment trap where you no longer can grow your firm because you’re doing so much of the work or you have a team, but you’re putting out so many fires. You have to do that. The firm doesn’t grow as much. You figure that out but the firm growth has subsided. You have to go back into it. It creates this boomerang effect a lot if you don’t figure out what are the right things you should be working on as a firm owner. I’ll paraphrase a little bit, the old management guru, Peter Drucker said, “Efficiency is doing things right while effectiveness is doing the right thing.” This happens a lot. It happens with me. It happens with all the firms we work with. I’m sure it happens a lot in your community.
One firm owner that comes to mind where this was apparent and they cracked the code on it was, they were going into tax season and right before tax season, the one only team member decided they were done with tax season and they quit just a couple of weeks before they were going into tax season and they didn’t have enough time to bring on an additional person. The two partners had to take a step back. One partner’s name is Susan. Susan had to take a step back and say, “We don’t want to turn clients away. We want to do as much work as we did year over year, but now we have to do it with one less team member.” This is a team of three. Losing one person is always challenging, but with three people, you lose one you’re down to two, it’s a big deal.
Full disclosure, they were busy at three people. They’re about to be busy at two people. If you’re busy at three and you downsized to two unforeseen, you’re going to be extremely busy. They said, “Is there some way we can enhance the system to work and be a little bit more thoughtful, productive and make sure we’re doing the right thing?” As a partner, you want to be doing a high level of client work. You want to go out and doing consultations or landing new deals. One of the biggest things they found in their workflow was they kept starting work without getting all the materials they needed from the clients.
Early on, it’s a very innocent thing to do. You’re hungry when you start your firm. The clients give you anything, you want to jump in. You want to start helping them. You want to start doing the tax return, closing the books or whatever it may be. As you continue to grow, what happens is that it creates a large inefficiency in your business. What they realized is that they were starting a tax return. Going halfway through it, stopping. Going back to the client, chasing them down and the client wasn’t responding. They do the client chase. The client would finally get them the materials. They would bring it back and they would have to get re-grounded on what this tax return was and what they were doing.
Early on, it’s not a big deal. As you grow and as you get more clients, it becomes a big deal. They put one step into the workflow. They put a step that said, “Did we get all the materials from the client?” It was a little quality assurance step, QA step. Susan in this case said, “I’ll take that step. I’ll make sure we get all this stuff for clients before passing it along to our partner to do the return.” They put that step in. They asked the client how they want to be communicated with. They said, “Do you want to be called, text or email? Whatever you respond with, we are assuming that you’re going to respond back in a timely manner.”
They did those two changes. They were able to complete more tax returns. It didn’t work anymore year over year. You can imagine what that did for their bottom line and their profitability. The best thing is with this working smarter mindset where they put that one QA step that was costing them so much time. As they continue to grow, they are in a better place to hire somebody to take over that part of the workflow, if they want or they could stay the two of them. Now they have a more profitable firm by doing that. That’s a clear example where they took one little piece and said, “How do we make this slightly better so we could get the same output without running around with our hair on fire?”
I have a question about the story with Susan. I always think about what if that employee or person never quit right before tax season? They probably would have never implemented this QA step and they would still be less productive and less efficient. Their efficiency improved. Whenever you’re reading this, if you were alive in 2020, between March and June, you all know what happened in the world. The pandemic had people rethink and revisit how they operate their life, business, choices and how they value the time with their family and their kids even if their work has decreased or went on pause. The person quitting created an opportunity to improve productivity and work smarter. For everyone reading, “Where can you make this implementation?”
It’s a lot easier to do it when people quit on us or the government tells you to stay at home orders. What do you recommend to someone who’s reading to think about? Even in my sales process that I teach, if they don’t get the documents to you and I always recommend you put a timeline on it. It’s like, “Welcome to ABC Tax Firm. We can’t wait to get started. We need your documentation uploaded to the secure server no later within the next 24 to 48 hours.” If you’re going to do a phone consultation or a meeting, if you don’t have those documentations or your QA step, teach people to cancel the meeting and cancel the call. That’s not probably a client you want to work with. It’s a great way to sift through the clients. I don’t know if Susan was able to see, “There were some people we don’t need to be working with anymore.”
The more you can do to set expectations, to be very specific about what you want from your client and when you want it and how you want to receive it? If there’s any ambiguity to that communication with your client, the client’s going to go off and do whatever’s most convenient which in most cases is to do nothing. They’re not waking up every day saying, “How do I get stuck to my accountant?” That’s not what they’re worried about. It’s not their job to fill out the instruction manual or create a process for how they should interact with you. Even during the new onboarding of the client, it’s like, “This is the toolset we use. You’re going to get logins to ABC. We start requesting tax files on January 25th. We expect those to be returned by ten days. We’ll have a check-in call.”Asking smarter questions really helps the firm owner. Click To Tweet
The more you can outline and then reinforce it. If the client doesn’t get you the materials, there’s a polite way to have a conversation and you say, “Just out of respect for the rest of our clients and to make sure we deliver you the best service as possible, we could not begin this deliverable until we get A, B and C.” I know a lot of firms that if a client keeps dragging their feet and they’re not submitting the information on time, they’ll either charge them more or they’ll say, “If you don’t get us all the materials by February 20th, we’re going to put you in an extended deadline by default.”
I was talking with one firm owner, it was April 5th. This is in a world where tax season was still on April 15th. I was talking with them. It was early April. I said, “How are you doing in the final sprint?” He’s like, “Great. I tell all my clients, if we don’t get their stuff in by March whenever that we’re going to put them into an extension.” It was great. It took him years to realize that he could make that call and he wouldn’t have upset clients. He might have 1 or 2, but they want these clients. The majority understand rules and expectations. The majority of clients want to be led by the firm and the firm owner. They’re coming to you as the expert. The more you guide them, the better off you’ll be. I’m totally aligned. The more information it gives somebody with specific dates and specific deliverables in the most convenient way possible to get those over to you is the ideal outcome.
I have to ask because this is the Abundant Accountant show and abundant means like an abundant bank account. How did Susan’s top-line revenue pan out?
Susan Wilson’s firm and her partner, Rochelle, grew year over year, slightly over 10%, but profits increased at least 20%. It improved their revenue and improved their profits. They grew the top line and because they didn’t have to backfill that team member, they grew their profits as well. The profit was always there. It’s a common trap for firm owners. They come across the problem like, “We’re busy with work.” I’ve made this mistake and every business owner makes this mistake. You’re busy. You’re growing. Things are going well. You’re like, “I need to hire somebody.” You hire somebody and then you get busy again. You keep hiring and hiring. You don’t realize that you’re building your firm on a suboptimal foundation.
Susan’s examples are one small example of adding the QA step. I have nothing against hiring people, but it’s much more glamorous to go out and keep hiring because then you get to go to networking events. We have 18 or 12 staff members versus we have the same team size, but we’re dramatically more profitable. We have less stress. We’re less anxious. We have a better work-life balance. We run a great system. It takes a while for the firm owner mentality to shift from hiring people to solve all my problems to like, “How to think about a system that could solve the problem?”
In Susan’s case, the person quitting before tax season and this has happened to a lot of the clients that I’ve worked with and the accountants that I’ve seen firsthand. Someone’s going to quit all the time. I always keep the mindset of, “That’s an opportunity to improve profitability.” It sucks at the moment and be overwhelming. What it sees and say, “How did she feel during the process? How did she feel at the end?” Could you share that?
It’s a complete terror. You’re scared. You relied on this person. They were there for a reason. They work their butts off during tax season. They’re in more or less 60-hour work weeks. When that person says they’re not coming back and it’s too late to rehire somebody, you’re thinking to yourself, “For the next four months, my partner and I are working 100-hour weeks.” The question Susan asked was, “What would have to be true for us to not work anymore, but continue to take on our existing client base?” Flip the question and say, “What would have to be true or what would it take to have the same number of clients with one less team member?” If you want to be a little bit more abundant, you can say, “How can we double our client base or double our revenue without hiring a single person?”
That exercise is important. Maybe you just say, “We should raise our prices.” That’s the way you get halfway there. You start asking that question. It starts forcing that creative output as a firm owner to think about, “We’re going to raise prices. We can do joint ventures or affiliates. We improve our sales process, which improves our consultation close rate.” Training increases revenue. Referral increases revenue. Asking smarter questions helps the firm owner. There’s another firm owner who grew his profit margin by 20% in the first twelve months when he was using our system. He applied a simple tactic of every month he would look at when was something done and when was it due?
He would open up the job. If you have a spreadsheet, you can spreadsheet it or whatever you want. He would open up everything that was completed. He would look to see where things were getting stuck, where the team was talking about areas they couldn’t find client information or they were unsure how to complete a certain step. You would look at this every month. Anytime people were stuck or they missed the deadline, he would figure out why. He would update the checklist. He would update the process. He would update where they find information. You do this every month for a year, you wake up one day and your profit margin is dramatically improved. That’s exactly what it did, but it all started with done versus due and how do we meet our deadlines?
There are many ways you can slice this and dice it. I know it’s scary for a lot of people. For Susan, it was a complete terror, but these are the opportunities to make your life better, less chaotic and stressful. Back to Susan’s story, I want to differentiate being productive, busy and effective. There are all these things and definitions of people are like, “We’re productive. We’re so busy.” How do you know if you’re effective?
It’s first defining what is the right thing that you, the firm owner, partner or leader needs to be doing. I’ll tell you a quick story about this. A few years ago, as a firm owner in our neighboring state where I’m based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he’s in Ohio. I’m sitting with him. We’re talking about his firm. I’ve always looked at his firm and said, “He’s doing exceptionally well, a seven-figure firm, having a lot of fun with the team, with his clients and with his community.” I sat with him and he is pretty down about his firm. He had gotten an acquisition offer, which I’ll assume it’s at least seven figures for his firm. I could tell he was struggling with that offer. It’s not a trivial amount of money. He’s quite young. He’s a lot of money very early on in his life. He’s thinking about selling and I could tell he didn’t want to sell it.
We started talking about it. I said, “What are you doing? Walk me through your typical week.” What I found out was he was answering incoming calls. He’s still doing some client work. He’s extremely busy. He’s the owner of the firm. It’s like, “What should you be doing?” In most cases around the seven-figure mark, he’s spending a lot of time bringing in deals, closing deals, expanding client services or upselling client services, thinking about the team culture, how to invest their time and money and the cashflow that’s coming out of the firm. It’s transitioning into a lot of CEO-level work.
Long story short, it’s like, “You have the cash, invest it back into your firm and get somebody to answer the phones. You keep talking about client services.” He fell into a trap where a lot of firm owners fall into. He goes, “I’m doing them because I’ve always done them for these clients. I have a feeling that they expect me to do service for them. I’m scared that if I let them go, I’m letting my friend down or my client down. They have been working with us for so long. They took a bet on me and they took a bet on my firm. That’s why I keep doing the work.”When you say, 'I don't have time,' that's not truly of time. It's just not a priority. Click To Tweet
We started to get into it and realized, him still doing the work made it that the work quality was suffering and the turnaround time was suffering. He was doing many other things that when the client work was coming in, he felt like he needed to take care of it, but he couldn’t take care of it in a timely manner. They were getting worse off service delivery. We brainstormed in that moment was, “Why doesn’t he train up one of his team members who has been with him for a while to take on that work.” It was a great advancement opportunity for one of his team members. It’s a great retention mechanism for him as an owner to bring a team member up and train them on maybe some higher-level client services. He was able to take a step back.
Fast forward six months, he’s launching a new business. He’s keeping his firm. He’s not going anywhere. He didn’t sell it because he loves it. I’ll talk about it in a more practical way to gauge your time. It’s a simple way. It’s like, “Where do you see your energy being elevated? Where do you see it being drained?” It’s a very simple way to say where it’s drained. The good and bad news is, you’re the owner. You’re creating the universe you live in. This is your utopia. If it’s draining you, figure out how to cut it, how to delegate it or how to defer it if you can defer it. Do one of those three things in a more quantifiable way.
The things we’re talking about in the past are mapped out your time for a week and see what you’re doing. There are four buckets when we think about firm owners’ time. The first one is, “What are you doing that’s admin level work?” Follow-up phone calls, client chase, incoming calls, booking travel arrangements, scheduling conferences or whatever it maybe, that’s about $10-an-hour work. A $100-an-hour work is doing the accounting work, some of the tax returns, monthly books, payroll and CFO services. Even if you bill higher than $100 an hour, I could hear people saying, “It’s more like $200.”
Anything between $100 up to $500. Anything like that is all in that bucket for sure.
You can play with the numbers. The next bucket is I’ll call it $500 an hour. That’s being the manager of the business. That’s thinking about creating processes, creating checklists, creating standards and expectations for your team. The next level, which is you call $5,000 an hour. That’s where you’re thinking about, “What’s the right niche I should be in? What’s the right pricing mechanism we should deliver to our market? What’s the right positioning, value statement, or unique selling proposition we want to bring to the market?” This is a time where you spend an hour thinking about these things. It’s way more than $5,000 to define the niche.
For the firm owner, you map out your week and ask yourself which bucket you’re falling into. We hear all this lingo about, “We got to work on your business and not just in.” On the most quantifiable way to see if we’re working on it is the first two buckets I mentioned are working in your firm so doing the admin work and doing the accounting work. The next two buckets are working on your firm, the management level category, the CEO, or the investment category. That’s the best way if you’re spending all of your time working on it. You’re going to have an incredibly hard time getting to the business or firm success you want to get to. If you’re not building systems, if you’re not leveling up the team skills, if you’re not defining your niche, if you’re not coming to the market with a unique selling proposition, that’s going to be hard to grow. You need to find a way to prioritize that in your week and give your space to think about it.
Once in a quarter, if you can’t do it that often, every six months do an inventory of your week. That’s what you’re saying, “Map out the week.” This is the only way you’ll get a reality check. Something personal that I’ve done, I’m going deep on my nutrition and I’m part of this group for four months. You have to track your food for a whole week and make sure that you’re eating 80% to 90% of real food. Things that farmers and people back in the day could find in the ground. I put in a spreadsheet and calculate the percentage of like, “What was real food? What wasn’t?” It doesn’t matter what area in your life you’re focusing on, but if your business creates your livelihood and the lifestyle that you’re looking for then map out a week. Take an inventory on where you’re investing your time. It’s important, David. Can you share just in case someone doesn’t know how your services could support them in this? What you do could be an eyeopener like it was for Susan and others who have used the workflow and have made an impact on their business?
One final note to wrap up the time scheduling aspect before we segue way into Jetpack workflow is, the shift I’ve made for myself, I try to distill it to the company and to the firms is, instead of saying, “I don’t have time,” say, “It’s not a priority for me.” It could be exercise or it could be working on your firm. When you say I don’t have time, that’s not true, we all have time. It’s just not a priority. By using words that are a little bit more honest, it opens up our eyes to make changes.
It’s very uncomfortable and it could be personal or professional. I say, “I haven’t made a priority to plan X, Y and Z.” When you say that out loud, you’re like, “That’s horrible. I should make it a priority.” It sparks some change. I would recommend for owners to think about it in that way. From Jetpack Workflow’s perspective, what we enable firms to do is standardize and document and everything that’s going on in your firm. We get everything out of your brain. We put it into a tool that everybody could see it and access it. We allow you to take these templates, distribute those or duplicate those out to your clients.
You create the templates. We have a simple way for you to assign it out to your clients. You have 100, 1,000, or 10,000 clients, it takes about twenty seconds to duplicate those regardless of how many clients you have. We give you a single place to view all the work that is going on and have the visual of what your firm is doing, what everybody’s working on, what you should be working on, what your teams should be working on. If they get stuck, we’ve added a level of collaboration tools and labels so everybody can visualize maybe blockers or levels of urgency. If you need to talk to a team member, you can talk to a team member using some of our notes features inside of the app. It standardizes everything. Roll it out to your clients and we give you a simple way to track everything and do everything that’s going on in your firm.
Thank you, David for being here with us. There are many golden nuggets. I can’t wait to even use some of the last stuff we talked about, “What I have not made a priority to do now? What do I keep putting off?” As you said, “It’s not a priority instead of, I just don’t have the time,” and see what shifts. I always think it’s important to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Thank you so much for being here with us on the show. It was an honor to have you.
Thank you so much for having me on. If anybody wants to learn about me, my story or Jetpack Workflow, it’s JetpackWorkflow.com.By using words that are maybe a little bit more honest, it really opens up our eyes to make changes. Click To Tweet
What an amazing episode with David. I love people who are super efficient, effective, productive and all those words. The biggest takeaway that I heard is two things. Number one, if you need to outsource your inbound calls, our sponsor is Abby Connect. I highly recommend you to call them. Tell them you heard about it from me on the show. It’s a free trial, but you can customize your whole service answering system with their custom receptionist. You get a small team dedicated to you and your firm. This is something you can offload off your plate immediately. You don’t need to hire anyone. You don’t need to take on the overhead and the burden. Make sure to check out Abby Connect. That’s step one.
Step two is map out your week. Take an inventory on which bucket you’re spending the most time in. I know you all love spreadsheets and analytical flow charts. A lot of my accountants love my flowcharts that I made. What tasks are you doing that are admin-related? What tasks are you doing in the business that’s like the tax returns and the accounting work? Maybe the value of those times between $100 to $499? What tasks are you spending maybe more of the $500-an-hour type work? It’s the manager’s type of work. Where are you spending the time in my favorite category, the $5,000 to $10,000 category of your pricing and your niche. Your unique selling proposition, your elevator pitch, your positioning, your follow-up process and your inbound process. All of your processes that end up making you more money. It’s that 80/20 principle at place.
I would map out the week and take an inventory. If you say, “I don’t have time to do that,” think about it, “It’s just not a priority that you’ve made and changing how you say that.” I want to know some of these results after you take an inventory. Send me an email. You can send it to Hello@ThePitchQueen.com. As you have heard in the beginning, over the last couple of years, I have been perfecting something called our Selling Without Ever Selling System. Up until now, only my higher-end clients that access to this but I’m excited that I am offering a complimentary coaching session with yours truly to discover the possibilities that you have within your firm and maybe where some cracks are.
If you had a boat, you had some cracks and there are some holes in there, some water’s leaking out. Where are sinking? Our system is all about getting quality, ideal clients coming to you. You can finally get paid what you’re worth. You can build the dream practice of abundance that you’ve always wanted with the profitability like David and I talked about. If you’re frustrated and stressed because you’ve been doing what you’ve been doing and it’s not working anymore, you feel like you have zero confidence when it comes to sharing the fees you want to charge a client or you don’t believe you can increase your revenue, even double your revenue in your firm, this session is for you. Head on over to the AbundantCall.com and the only thing I ask is that you’ve been in business for at least two years. Thank you all so much for joining me here in another episode. I will see you in the next episode.