Can Your Accounting Firm Receptionist Be A Profit Center?

I once visited my friend, Mike, a successful and progressive lawyer in Vancouver. I had been to his office several times and called him countless times. I noted with some disdain that the receptionist NEVER seemed to answer the phone, and when I arrived, she seemed to be on a permanent coffee break.

So, one day, I asked Mike why he bothered to hire her. “Well,” he said, grinning, “I don’t have one. That’s why you keep missing her.”

What? A large firm of lawyers with no receptionist? No secretary? “No,” he told me. “We did a study and found out that the phone was never for her and our clients almost never came here.”

I was perplexed. That was 10 years ago. The story never left me. So, one day I asked our secretary, “What do you not like doing?” She went on to tell me that she had to put up with some telephone calls from people who wanted an answer and that they were mad at her for not giving them tax advice when I wasn’t available. And, she added, “I hate filing.” Sheesh.

When filing went away in our paperless office, and creating reports was turned over to Jazz-It and Caseview templates, I thought, “Maybe I can do without her.” At her suggestion, we put the phones on at night, included our locals, and moved her into a position where she ensured we had all the electronic data before we started year-ends, tax returns and the like. All the while, leaving her desk at the front so she could greet incoming clients.

It took some time for our clients to get used to the change. One mused how “unprofessional” it was not to have a receptionist. Guess which one he was? It was the same guy who got mad at her for not giving him tax advice! What we ended up was someone who was 86% chargeable and 110% recoverable, all from a previously mostly unproductive source! Eureka – Profit!

Lesson: Look for productivity from all your sources. You will find some in unusual places.