Work around tax season can give you as an accountant a lot of stress if you don’t manage your time wisely. Time management is about putting in the right time for your top priorities through scheduled time blocking, regularly engaging in stress-relieving activities for you and your team, and sometimes by cutting down on clients. In this episode, host Michelle Weinstein asks accountant coach and Meyer Tax Consulting Founder and President, Jackie Meyer, about some tips on managing time and stress.
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The Accountant’s Guide For Managing Time Around Tax Season With Jackie Meyer
Our special guest is the President and Founder of Meyer Tax Concierge CPA firm and the ConciergeCPA.com which is a coaching program for accountants. It helps you get an ROI to your executive clientele with tax planning strategies and efficiencies. She has a virtual team of seven that span from Texas to Hawaii, and she does this by using ProConnect Tax Online and QBO. She is a top speaker and influencer in the accounting industry with over 4,000 followers on social media and also a proud participant of Intuit Tax Council and a member of Intuit-TWN and also an Advanced Certified Tax Planner at the AICTP. She is also 40 under 40 CPA Advisor winner of the Fall of 2018.
Before we dive into this juicy episode, all talking about time management around tax season for your accounting firm, if you ever have felt under-appreciated and undervalued, which we’re going to talk about, I have a simple five-step process that accountants have used to go from waiting around for the busy season to being able to work with higher-level clients who pay fees you deserve. The most important is that they appreciate the work you do for them. If you want that, you can type in your email over at FiveStepsToAbundance.com and get my five-step process.
Before we welcome Jackie here on the show, I want to make sure that I invite you to take a screenshot of this episode on your phone. When you’re finished reading this episode, tag me, Michelle Weinstein, as well as our amazing guests, Jackie Meyer, and post on your LinkedIn what is the biggest takeaway that you got from this episode and what are you going to put into action. There are so much juiciness and goodness on time management and appreciating your staff and some little subtle things that you can implement. I’ll make sure to comment over there. We can help other accountants learn how to feel appreciated, how to feel valued and get paid what you’re worth and how to fix if you’ve got any staffing issues.
Welcome, Jackie, to the show.
I am happy to have you here. To have a firm of abundance, you have to also have good time management skills. Before we dive into all the great ways of time management for accountants in their firms, can you share with everyone a little bit about you for those that might not know you yet?
I founded Meyer Tax Consulting, a CPA firm. I completely converted my practice into value pricing and tax strategies for high net wealth and got involved with the AICTC, which is an amazing organization. I’m also coaching other accountants via my website, ConciergeCPAs.com, because of how my firm has become. We have under 100 clients at my firm and we average value bill about $12,000 a year for each of those clients. I offer coaching for other accountants that want to become a modern and efficient firm as well.
Modern and efficient is what we are talking about. When you started, how many clients did you have?
I started with zero clients, but I built up to about 300. I was overworked, underpaid, understaffed, like the typical CPA firm. I didn’t have children when I first started my firm. It wasn’t a big deal to work lots of nights and weekends. Now I have a five-year-old and a two-year-old, and they do not allow that for me. I had to start revamping once I started having children and I was forced into change and thank Dennis for it.
Sometimes we have to get forced into change or for someone reading, you can make a different choice than change based on all of Jackie’s wisdom that I’m sure you’re going to share. Going from zero clients to 300 and then tapering back down to 100, I’m sure it took a lot of managing your time. A great segue is what are some of the best time management tips that you have for accountants around managing their time, especially during tax season? What do you think are the top three tips and why? What created this success for you in getting this firm and the consulting? You have a mastermind group too. You can contact Jackie for that if you’re interested. What are the three things that you believe for time management tips that will help any accountant reading?
Let’s take it step-by-step. I have found there are three key categories that we can fix and prevent the typical issues in our industry. Those tend to be being undervalued, underappreciated and understaffed. Let’s dive into undervalued. Are you value pricing? If you aren’t, what’s holding you back? There are only so many hours in the day and there’s only so much capacity that one person can get. No matter how many people you add to your firm, if you’re hourly billing or fixed-fee billing based on the hours that could be involved, you’re on a rat wheel. You’re just going in circles. It’s important, whether you’re having a time management issue or not in our industry, to be able to stand out and have a value proposition, whether that’s tax strategies like my firm does or outsource CFO services. There are all kinds of cool stuff and niches that people are coming out with. You need to get plugged in with a peer group that’s going to help you figure out what your value proposition is and how to make your time more efficient around that.
The second thing out of my three is underappreciated. I sold 60% of my clients a few years ago. I did a partial sale through a broker that would deal with a partial sale, which there aren’t that many out there. I evaluated my client list and I said, “I know this client and this client, they love me to death. They’ll be my guinea pigs for value pricing. Let’s see what we can do for them.” I went for it and it was successful. I kept going down the list of the clients that I could convert to value pricing and add to their service offerings. There were ones that obviously stood out at the bottom of that list or ones that you don’t match with personality-wise. Whether you could add value or not, it just doesn’t jive. They’re like PITA clients.
We’ve talked about those here before, the pain in the ass client.
I sold off the ones that I knew I couldn’t service well, then I refocused on a third of the client list that I had before and ended up increasing each client’s price point dramatically, from averaging maybe $2,000 to $3,000 a year to over $10,000 to $12,000 a year. That freed up quite a bit of time. Another thing that we do and that I teach in my mastermind group is resetting client expectations. In this modern world, everyone expects to get a hold of you within five seconds. That is a big stressor on accountants.
I don’t know if we got into this industry because we like the stress, but we claim we do not like the stress. We’re always trying to be reactive. We need to reset the client’s expectations. My staff checks their email 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM every day. You have an assigned project manager at my firm. I’m coping on all the emails, but I probably am not going to respond to 99% of them. Getting someone else into that relationship with the clients and retraining the clients into appropriate expectations of when they can get ahold of us and why, those are important things to get your time back.A business owner never gets a vacation if they don't preschedule it. Click To Tweet
If they want to communicate with you and talk to you, if you add value and set up monthly meetings where they’re paying for that time in your value billing model, would that be another option that you offer?
That’s exactly right. It comes down to proactive planning. You’re setting the correct expectations upfront when you onboard that client or when you convert the client and say, “We’re going to meet four times a year, hopefully via web meeting.” Some people still like that in-person or face-to-face stuff. That will be the time for you to drill me about these questions or that. If they shoot you an email with a quick question, you say, “We’ve got our meeting coming up next week, let me know the urgency on this. If it’s an emergency and we need to talk now, I would be happy to schedule something on my ECAL. If it’s not, let’s add it to our list of things to talk about in that scheduled time.”
Let’s talk about selling 60% of your clients because I’m sure a lot of people reading are like, “Jackie, how did you do that? How did you still pay your fixed cost and overhead and payroll?” What are the few things that you can share and maybe who was the broker that you use so that you can walk a couple of people through the mindset of how to get rid of even 60% of your clients?
The first thing that gave me the confidence to do it was the fact that I had already started converting a few clients to the value pricing and was seeing such tremendous results that it didn’t scare me as much. Another thing about it that I don’t think people think about at all is the fact that when you sell your client list, you’re getting another year’s worth of revenue off of those clients without doing any work. You’re padding yourself for the next year because you sell them for 100%, 110% of their annual billings. You’ve got that padding involved once the sale occurs to use those savings towards your other costs as needed. Kathy Brents did my accounting practice sale and I feel embarrassed because her company name, they all are familiar sounding. I’m sure it’s Accounting Biz Brokers. She was awesome, cool and would do the partial sale at a minimum that made sense. It was a lot of my clients, but it wasn’t the ones that I wanted to be spending all my time on. She worked with me to be able to do that and get it done well.
One of the key things here is that you converted a few clients to value pricing, which gave you the confidence to say, “I can do this. This isn’t scary.” How many clients would you recommend someone who’s got their own accounting firm, they want to sell off half or 60% of their other clients before making that transition where it’s not scary and they do have a little bit more confidence?
I would first pick your number one favorite client. That’s not going to be your highest-paid client, but it’s definitely one that loves you and adores what you do. You’ve probably found some cool savings for them in the past by accident. If you’re not value pricing, you probably gave away all that value for free. They’re forever in your debt, so to speak. Pick that client first and approach them with the value proposition and think about what you can add to their offerings.
Mine was an executive that’s local to me in Southlake, Texas. The first year that he came to me, he had $150,000 amendment that I did because he was filing his own taxes and completely screwed something up. It wasn’t even a complex issue; it was something he had messed up. I knew he was going to be my fan for life. I went to him and said, “We could add a family limited partnership into your mix. We could add a C-corp management company into your mix and you’re going to pay me four times the cost, but you’re going to get $80,000 plus in return on investment per year. Let’s do it.” He’s like, “Okay.”
He was your number one client that loved and adored you and he would be forever in your debt, right?
Exactly, and then I went down the list of my other favorite clients and how much value I could add. I would do screen tasks. Screencast-O-Matic is a one of the platforms out there, but you can record your screen. I could record my screen on my own time whenever I wanted to. I could pitch a plan to a client, show them how much value I can provide, show them our cost and that net return on investment, shoot them the video and let them watch it whenever they want to. They would respond with yay or nay and 99% of the time, it was yay. If it wasn’t at that point, I would decide, “Do I add that to a list of clients that I sell off because they may never be the right fit for this or do I give them a little bit more time?” There were some clients that I was like, “This might not be the time to convert, but next year will be,” and I’m going to keep them around.
This brings us to the next point because now you’ve gotten rid of 60% of your clients, which you’re able to manage your time better. What are some effective time management strategies that we haven’t talked about yet, some new ones maybe that someone reading can use, especially around tax season time?
The third key thing that I find causes time management issues is being understaffed. It took me long to hire the appropriate people. I tried to control everything. I didn’t want to pay another person. I didn’t want to manage other people. At the end of the day, no matter how you’re pricing, whether its value pricing or hourly, you need staff that you can rely on. First thing, take a step back and look at all the mundane tasks that you’re doing as an accounting firm owner. Are you scanning things? Are you doing all these client calls that are scheduling meetings? We waste a lot of time in that minutia day-to-day.
An office manager or assistant is the number one key thing to get if you don’t already for this next busy season to take some of that random minutia off your plate. Outside of that, for myself personally, I love time blocking. Every week, I will block out when I’m doing tax technical work. I might have on Monday two hours blocked to review returns and two hours blocked for sales opportunities. I don’t do much sales anymore because the firm is full. We’re doing well and the coaching has been rewarding that I’ve refocused on that. Everyone has their blocks of time and I get detailed with it. Imagine that as an accountant. I block my lunch where I have my green smoothie. I block nail appointments that I need to go to every few weeks or else I’ll bite my nails. These things sound stupid, but it’s important to get those little things done and off your plate and preplan them so that they don’t wind up being a big deal later.
What tools do you use for that? A regular calendar or do you have anything sophisticated like your screen recording stuff? Anything that’s your favorite?
I use Google Cal and I time block in Google Cal. I’ve gotten all my staff to do the same thing. When we get a project in, we use a workflow system called Jetpack Workflow, which is awesome. It’s completely web-based. Our office manager logs in the file. We’re completely paperless. We receive our client’s info electronically, then she’ll go in and block the staff members’ calendar within the next five days to make sure that they have the time allocated to prep the work. Also, it goes to the tax manager and she gets an hour blocked on her calendar as well to review the work.
Like anybody trying something new, my staff were hesitant about it but they are coming around and they were like, “I can’t believe we waited long to do this. Now I get what you were telling me years ago, that I should be doing this because it works.” It’s nice to be time blocking. I also create an annual tax calendar. On top of the compliance deadlines, we know 4/15 is a tax deadline. We’re also going to pre-schedule HR stuff, vacation. I went many years without pre-scheduling my own vacation and as a business owner, you never get it if you don’t pre-schedule it.
I always say vacation starts when you buy the plane tickets.Setting guidelines is going to save you a lot of pain and worry later. Click To Tweet
I would try to work it all in when my husband would book our annual ski trip or whatever, and it would end up being a disaster. Now, I pre-plan all of that stuff and it makes my life a lot easier. I have a full annual calendar. I have a complimentary CPE that people might want to come to. It’s ironically called Make Busy Season Great Again, no politics intended just jokes. I’ll be sharing that annual calendar through that CPE and it’s through CPAwebengage or CPAacademy.org. People can go search for it there.
Those are the three main things, plus you’ve got your time blocking, Google Cal, Jetpack and your annual tax calendar. What about managing your stress? You seem to have done a great job at managing it. You’re happy and bubbly all the time and stress-free. What are three things that you did personally, Jackie? Some cool stories that maybe someone reading has never heard of before that you do to manage your stress. You’ve got two little ones. You’ve completely shifted your firm. Share with us a few.
The number one thing that’s helped shift my perspective is I had a traumatic event happen to my sister. I was such a workaholic, even after having kids. I could not imagine life without my work. I would constantly be thinking, “Here’s the next great idea for work.” When my sister hit her head and had a traumatic brain injury, she had to relearn to walk and talk and move her fingers, basic human nature aspects. It puts life into a different perspective. I try not to take this stuff too seriously. There are rarely any accounting emergencies out there as long as you’re proactively setting the right guidelines with clients about what to expect about an IRS notice or how long you expect to take to prepare their tax return. Setting those guidelines is going to save you a lot of pain and worry later, then it’s all a breeze after that.
I try to have a much higher level out of the weeds perspective on our work because it is serious stuff. At the end of the day, people will survive if one tiny little thing slips through the cracks here or there. That would probably be my first piece of advice. On a daily basis, I spend time in meditation and prayer, whether it’s two minutes. Every now and then, I might be able to get 30 minutes in, but I’m definitely a multitasker so it’s hard for me. I take that two minutes and I spend that meditating, clearing my mind in prayer about the things that are important to me in my life. Lifting up my staff members, lifting up my peers that I know, my Mastermind students, that gives me a much more positive perspective on life on a daily basis.
That’s a huge one for managing stress for sure. For anyone who hasn’t had a traumatic experience with someone close to you, learn from Jackie’s experience. No one’s going to die if you set the guidelines with the clients, which is the most important thing here. It will take out the pain and the worry that the accountants have to deal with often. Are there any other time management tips, strategies for accountants that we haven’t discussed yet, but that 1 or 2 that you’re like, “I remember this one too?”
Taking care of your health in general. It’s about pre-planning so that you’re not wasting time in the middle of the busy season. You can do pre-ordered meals, order massages for the office, do a once a month happy event for the team. You could have silent office hours during busy season where you are telling clients, “We’re not going to be answering the phones between this time and this time.” Imagine how much that helps someone’s stress level. Pre-planning out all of those little nitty-gritty personal health items is going to help save you that stress later.
I would forget to eat and I would skip lunch constantly. That’s why lunch is always blocked in my time blocking day now because otherwise, I would get in meeting after meeting. I would forget and then I started having low blood sugar issues. That causes a terrible stressful feeling. It’s this vicious cycle. You’ve got to take care of yourself. You need to maybe get a personal trainer to come to the office and do some personal training sessions with the team in the middle of busy season. Get people’s minds off of all the yucky negative stuff that’s going on. Re-invest in them and make them feel good about themselves.
It’s important. I’m a big health and fitness person myself. I’m like, “Yes, preach.” Thank you so much, Jackie, for being here with us. You definitely created the firm of abundance for yourself. If you want to check out her mastermind group, where can they find you?
Thank you so much for being here with us.
Thank you. I appreciate it. Take care.
What an amazing episode with Jackie. I always love talking about ways to make your life easier, especially during tax season as it relates to time management. I would say the biggest takeaway is not only what she talked about, if you’re underappreciated and shifting that and undervalued and understaffed, but what can you do to put things into practice. Using Google Cal, that’s great. For me, I have two podcasts, my online course for accountants where we dive into all your sales conversations, and enrollment calls all day. I live my life by my calendar and if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have the sanity that I have.
Jackie went over it for Google Cal, blocking out and doing time blocking and implementing that will make the biggest difference in your firm. When I’m in class with all the accountants, we talk about time blocking for follow-up. I time block for my yoga class when I do my follow-ups with each of you. It’s important. Also, if you are an accounting professional and you worry about being undervalued, underappreciated and you struggle with that inconsistent cashflow during tax season and the stress of it, I’ve got a five-step process that can have you go from waiting around for busy season to closing higher-level clients that you are loving working with and appreciate you for the work that you do. Head on over to FiveStepsToAbundance.com. I want to thank each of you for joining us. What’s the one thing you’re going to put into action? I’ll see you in the next episode.
- The Abundant Accountant
- Meyer Tax Consulting
- Accounting Biz Brokers
- Jetpack Workflow
About Jackie Meyer
Jackie Meyer, President and founder of Meyer Tax Concierge CPA Firm and TheConciergeCPA.com coaching program for accountants, gives an ROI to executive clientele via tax planning strategies and efficiencies. Her virtual team of 7 spans from TX to Hawaii using ProConnect Tax Online and QBO.
She is a top-rated speaker and influencer in the accounting industry with over 4K followers on social media, while also being a proud participant of Intuit Tax Council 2016-2019, member of Intuit TWN, advanced certified as a CTP, and 40 under 40 CPA Advisor winner Fall of 2018.
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