How Was Your Opportunity Season? 

by James C. Metzler, CPA.CITP, CGMA 

Did you turn your busy season into an opportunity season?  What did your clients tell you about their businesses during busy season? Even if you weren’t able to spend time having a real heart-to-heart with your top clients, they offered you plenty of insights into their businesses in all the financial information you reviewed during the last several months. What does it all mean? Now’s the time to reflect on that question and anticipate their future needs. Does an aging owner clearly need help transferring the reins of management to a new generation? Should some businesses be considering expansion now that they’ve successfully weathered the worst of the recession? Do others need help getting back on track because they’re still struggling? With crunch time behind you, this is the perfect opportunity to open a conversation about the ways you can help them address their top concerns.

Where can you find these opportunities? There’s a wealth of information in the work you’ve just completed—the tax returns and audits —as well as in the conversations you’ve had as you’ve discussed or delivered your work. Follow these three simple steps to get started.

  1. Ask yourself these questions:
    • Which returns, reports or conversations indicated change in a client’s circumstances?
    • Are there potential threats to or weaknesses in their situation?
    • Are there opportunities the client may be missing?
  2. Document your answers. Include detail about what you’ve observed and how your firm can help address the issue. Next, reach out to your clients. Let them know you’ve been thinking about them and schedule a meeting to talk about issues you think they should be considering to improve their financial situation.
  3. Get your staff involved. Remind them that their involvement is important for optimum client service. The receptionist who greets the client or the staff member doing an inventory observation or tax return has the opportunity to learn information that points to additional service opportunities. Consider reviewing a return or report during a staff meeting to discuss the signposts for new business options. Luckily, it’s not too late to do this exercise due to a multitude of client extensions after this crazy, compressed filing season.

Along the way, don’t overlook the chance to provide outsourced services to clients. The 2012 PCPS/TSCPA National MAP Survey revealed a surprising increase in processing payroll by firms, which could indicate that companies are turning to their CPAs for outsourced accounting functions. The U.S. Small Business Administration tells small companies that payroll outsourcing can be a “cost-effective business strategy.” According to the SBA, the operational and fiscal benefits can include:

  • Fewer chances for penalties when payroll taxes are filed incorrectly.
  • Lower costs than hiring someone to handle payroll in house.
  • The value of an expert’s knowledge of issues such as changing regulations, forms and withholding rates.

Are your clients aware of these advantages? If you’re seeking reasons to discuss this option with clients, the SBA points to missed payroll deposit deadlines, errors on payroll tax calculations and having fewer than 20 employees as signs that a company could benefit by outsourcing payroll.

Whether they’re poised to grow or turning themselves around, your clients may welcome the opportunity to shift some of their functions to you as their trusted business advisor. That’s why it’s so important to get in touch with your best clients now after you’ve analyzed their current financial state and spend time learning about their hopes and fears for their businesses or personal finances. Talk to your clients often and you’ll be amazed at how much it enhances your relationship. Remember that they may not realize all the services that you’re capable of providing, so be prepared to explain all you can do for them. There’s a gold mine of information in the details you’ve seen during busy season, so take action now to put it to work in your practice!

Small Firm Solutions has a new look!  This rejuvenated publication is now shorter and will be provided on a monthly basis from the perspective of James C. Metzler, CPA.CITP, CGMA, AICPA vice president, small firm interests.


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