My dad was a pioneer in the tax preparation industry in Utah back in the 1960s through the 1990s. In 2005, he was diagnosed with cancer and retired shortly thereafter. He later revealed that the radiation treatment for his cancer wasn’t the reason for his retirement. Instead, he retired because the MS-DOS tax software he was accustomed to was getting phased out in favor of software using the Microsoft Windows operating system.
Microsoft Windows adoption had been widely accepted for over 10 years by then. I was shocked by his inability to adapt to change. But many of us can relate.
Playing it safe is impractical in today’s rapidly changing tax and technology landscape. Is it better to stick with what I know or is what I know getting in the way of what I don’t know?
The constant curve balls being hurled at us limit the time we used to use to analyze, collaborate and plan. Perhaps you don’t feel connected to your clients like you did in the past, so why would you compound that by adding technology and potentially increasing that distance?
When I was an IRS agent from 2002 to 2005, I was blown away when my colleague got praise for showing our peers how to use email. Today, the IRS is still mostly operating on a DOS system. It hasn’t changed its tech stack in the last 20 years but was recently directed to seriously upgrade its technology.
Is this how you run your practice? You may be hesitant to let your clients know that your technology standards are comparable to the IRS.
People intuitively target others’ weaknesses. We often do that with our clients — trying to improve their processes and methods — but we naturally tend to avoid exposing our shortcomings in how we run our practice. We sometimes hesitate to make changes because we’re already worn out. How much more time and effort is needed?
If you have these three traits, then you’re ready to upgrade your technology solutions:
Clear and well-defined processes
An organized calendaring method
A substantial client base
It’s that simple; and, yes, everyone should be at that stage or beyond.
Perhaps you’re already pursuing a new tech stack but are confused as to which one fits your practice size and optimizes your return on investment. Don’t underplay the role that an effective tech stack accomplishes for both your clients and your practice. The emotional rewards alone may be worth the cost, but finding a solution that isn’t too expensive can be hard. It’s not as hard as you may think.
Your clients also deserve a holistic tax adviser. They didn’t hire you to gather documents, input data, schedule appointments, assist in invoice pay or e-sign returns. Clients expect someone else to handle those roles. As your business grows, you’ll never be able to fully absolve yourself of it, which can cause traffic jams in your process.
If your tech stack can’t easily be adopted and adaptable, then it’s the wrong solution for you. If you’re paying a premium for tax software minus access to workflow, practice management and calendar tools, then you need to re-evaluate what you’re using.
For example, you can pay less than $1,500 per year to use Drake software’s unlimited version — consistently rated high by users each year — while pairing it with an affordable third-party practice management software and calendar. There are many other affordable options with all the best features.
Or, maybe, you are where I am. My two business partners and I extensively researched the tax software, practice management tools and calendars. When we couldn’t find a SaaS program that provided everything to meet our needs, we created one.
We developed the Pacesetter Tax app to make client interactions more convenient, secure and free-flowing. For our advisers and front-desk staff, we took processes we established for over 20 years and created a customized workflow task management system that could be personalized to a firm of 20 or fewer.
Whether you’re contemplating change or in the middle of it, remember that we need all tax practitioners to keep things moving in the right direction for the tax community. For additional insights, listen to my Tax Section Odyssey podcast episode on the future-focused tax practitioner for ways to automate and become a modern firm with a sustainable model.