Top 5 Common Challenges Facing Accounting Practices

For six weeks this past summer, I had the great fortune of working closely with a group of QuickBooks ProAdvisors®. During this time, I discovered that, regardless of the length of time in business, we all have similar issues in our practices.

Here are the top 5 issues I found:

Practices don’t have good legal protection in place. I was surprised that so many of the ProAdvisors I worked with did not have any legal documentation in place with their clients. This is like not having a force field around your star destroyer; it’s just crazy!

Years ago, I hired a tax attorney to write a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) and an engagement letter for my bookkeeping practice. The engagement letter spells out exactly the responsibilities for myself and the client, includes payment terms, how we’ll handle conflicts if they arise, and most importantly, that the client is responsible for the accuracy of the information. In other words, “Hey IRS, I didn’t hide anything.” Giving the client an engagement letter and an NDA from the get-go just makes good sense; the client will never have a question about your intentions or the scope of work involved.

We’re not making the most of technology. As a self-proclaimed geek and app-addict, I love technology. I eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and review apps for fun. All of the ProAdvisors I worked with over the summer were online and very comfortable working in the cloud, but they weren’t using technology to its full advantage. It’s not that it doesn’t occur to them to find easier ways to work; because there are so many options out there, I think they feel overwhelmed.

Take managing email, for example. I recently presented a free webinar to show one of my favorite apps, a Google Chrome extension called Boomerang for Gmail. This tool allows me to add read receipts to my emails, “boomerang” emails for the ones I don’t get replies to and schedule emails to be sent in the future, such as meeting reminders. This app makes my life SO MUCH easier, especially when I’m traveling or spending time with the kids. While that’s just one example, think about all the other time-wasters you encounter every day. I’ll bet there’s an app out there for it.

Managing the problem clients. Excuse my bluntness, but why do we continue to work with jerks? You know the ones – they call at 11 p.m. on a Friday and want an answer RIGHT NOW, always have last minute projects, don’t treat you with respect, keep piling on the work, and won’t agree to your fees. They also ask you how to do something, but never, ever do what you tell them to do. Then, they complain because the outcome isn’t what they “envisioned.”

It was a happy day when I realized I wasn’t making any money off of these crappy clients, and even if I was, I didn’t want that money. It wasn’t worth the sinking feeling in my gut every time I saw an email in my inbox, a call coming in or a text on my phone. Cutting them loose freed up time and energy, SO MUCH ENERGY that I was quickly able to fill my practice with better clients. It felt risky, but I’ve discovered that every time I’ve done it, it always pays off.

Did I mention that this ALWAYS pays off? Always. Every time! Even my husband, who has nothing to with the day-to-day operations of my business, recognizes this and reminds me of it if I even start to wander down that road of self doubt.

We don’t make enough time for ourselves. There is no easy solution to this one. This universal problem had me redesigning my entire bookkeeping practice last year, looking at the clients we take on, how we get them in the door (market and sell to them) and my value pricing process. The changes I made to my practice were designed to free up more time – and it worked. My revenue and client retention is higher than ever, and believe it or not, I have more time. As an added benefit, some of the research I did resulted in a Work/Life Harmony course that I will be presenting at QuickBooks Connect 2015.

Growth is not the #1 priority for everyone. So often, conferences for accounting professionals are geared toward marketing, sales and how to get more revenue. While growth is still important, not all ProAdvisors want to grow their practice. In fact, in a recent and very informal survey I did, 52% of respondents said they don’t plan on hiring in the future. Of those, only 31% said it was because they didn’t know what steps to take. Many are content with the size and income they have, but are looking for more time and better ways to manage their practice. As we create conference sessions and training programs for ProAdvisors, we need to keep in mind the real issues out there and that everyone has different goals for their practice.

What kinds of issues do you face? Send them my way or comment below; I’d love to hear from you.