12 Apr April 2018
As another tax season comes to a close I hope all has gone well. I had one firm report to me this week that they implemented and trained their team on Audit and ID Protection and it has so far this tax season generated an additional $53,000 in revenue and they anticipate by the time the season is completed that figure will reach $65,000. That’s exciting and makes me smile, but so many firms hear ideas and do nothing with them. It’s been said that “vision without execution is just hallucination.”
We’ve been talking about the approach of 2020 for a couple years now, and the summer of 2018 is just one more step closer to what I believe will be a significant milestone in how business is done. As you move out of tax season, it’s more important than ever to get a jump on working ON your business, because the one that is certain for us is that “things, they are a changin.’”
We’ve had our heads down working feverishly on ideas, tools and products designed to help you move your firm forward this summer. Standing still this year is not a good choice; there are so many new players entering the tax and accounting space with the notion of disrupting the ways things have always been done. This summer at our Firm Retreats in Indianapolis, we’ll spend time discussing new ideas, better tools and product enhancements designed to make you more effective, efficient, and help your firm create a better customer experience.
I’ve put together a short list of exciting things we and others have been working on while you’ve been heads-down during tax season:
- The evolution to consultative services. I’m a part of a think tank (there are only 12 of us) that meets at the AICPA in New York each spring. I just returned from this year’s event, which was themed on transitioning the profession to a more consultative role with clients. This is not a new topic, but there has been increased focus by the AICPA, owing to what they see as some very disruptive factors that are, and will be, impacting the profession.
- Shortly after April 15, RootAdvisors will be converting File Cabinet Solution to Thomson Reuters’ new cloud-based Onvio Documents. I talked about this at our Firm Retreats last summer, and the time has arrived. We’ll be the guinea pig and map out the journey; plan to hear what we’ve learned at our Firm Retreats this summer.
- On May 1, we’ll launch the 2018 version of Rootworks’ Core Website product. If you haven’t updated your firm’s site in the past couple of years, now is a great time to consider it. I love the idea of refreshing our firm’s site, root.com, on an annual or biennial basis to keep our firm fresh and moving forward.
- On or about May 15, we will be launching our new and greatly improved Grow platform. We have completely rebuilt Grow from the ground up. And we’ve also integrated it with rootworks.com to create a single, unified experience. In our initial release, you’ll see a vastly improved RW Connect, an elegant new version of the Rootworks GPA Assessment and Benchmarking, a place to track the Working ON Your Firm projects and tasks, and a new Learning Center that is drop-dead simple, making it easy to find all our resources and courses at the click of a mouse. There are plenty of additional new features, and we’ll be sharing our roadmap for making Grow increasingly more valuable to you and your firm.
As you can see, this is just a sampling of things going on. This post tax season is going to be a very important time. Make sure to get registered for an event, because we are planning a great time for you at our Indianapolis Learning Center this summer. There’s much to be done. Finish tax season strong, take a short break, and let’s get started.
All my best,
A good tax season deserves a great after-party
In Sarasota a few months ago we talked about ideas for making tax season suck less. And from some stories we have heard and seen on social media, leaders of our member firms are doing a fantastic job of easing everyone’s stress levels.
Now that we’re all emerging into the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s time to think about celebrating the hard work that everyone in the firm has been doing all season!
No matter how your firm celebrates after tax season (imbibing, sleep, relaxation, family time, gaming, etc.) here are extremely important ingredients for your firm’s after-tax-season party:
- Verbally share the accomplishments achieved as a firm
- Each team member deserves to be recognized for their efforts, share how each person—verbally or in writing—how he or she specifically played a critical role in the firm’s success
- Everyone wants to feel appreciated, and everyone is unique
- Find out what makes a staff member feel appreciated before the party, then make that happen at the party
- Encourage staff to bring ideas of what they appreciated about other staff to the party
- Gather memorable moments, whether good or bad
- The firm doesn’t have to make plans to change processes at the party, but sharing memorable moments will get some ideas to put on the table for the meeting you’ll have after everyone unwinds
If you’ve been doing these things throughout the last few months, keep it going! The more intentional you are about recognizing and appreciating everyone in the firm, the better your firm will be.
Previously, we covered the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, and its five core functions. Let’s expand on the first of those functions, which is Identify. Identify can be broken down into three basic steps:
- Identifying core assets. Assets are technology components that need to be tracked. You can collect this data manually, or using software. The advantage of software is that you can identify assets on your computer network that you may not know about. Software like Spiceworks, for example, will do a sweep of your network and find all assets that have a network address. Ask your IT Professional for assistance in collect your assets, along with any network diagrams and documentation.
- Identifying core processes. What are the core functions and business operations that have risk of being disrupted as a result of a cybersecurity breach or attack? Everyone firm will be different in how they identify core processes.
- Compliance/Governance. For any firm that processes credit cards, your merchant will request PCI DSS reports and compliance. In Addition, the AICPA has published Service and Organizational Controls (SOC) that governs compliance and reporting standards for CPA firms. While not a regulation, working toward meeting the standards will organize your controls and reporting mechanisms.
Once you have identified your assets, processes, and governance, the NIST framework encourages you to identify each of these into low, medium and high impact on your operations. I would recommend simplifying that into low and high. These classifications will then help determine what level of resources (time, resources, funds, etc.) needs to be deployed for risk mitigation.
How to Begin With The End in Mind
This month, we’re revisiting our column from April 2017. With precious little time between tax deadlines now available for firms to implement marketing plans, the foundational aspects of strategic planning and goal setting are worth repeating. Get started, before time slips away!
Now that the tax rush is wrapping up, it’s time to think about your selling season and how you’ll undertake a focused, productive marketing effort. Like every aspect of running a business, good marketing begins with a strategic vision of the desired outcome—your goals.
Spend time reviewing the strategic guideposts below. They’ll lead you to effective goal-setting for your marketing plan. (Read all the way to the end for advice on how to turn this into action!)
- Call in the SWOT Team: The acronym SWOT stands for Strengths, Opportunities, Weaknesses, and Threats. It’s the basic framework for assessing the internal and external forces that are working for and against your organization. Strengths and Weaknesses are internal factors; you have control over these. Opportunities and Threats are external forces that are shaped by demands and conditions in the marketplace. You don’t have control over these forces, but you can connect them with your organization’s strengths and weaknesses to create a strategic path for your marketing efforts. To conduct your SWOT analysis, gather your strategic planning team and begin mapping the factors using a grid like this:
|SWOT Analysis||Opportunities (External, positive)
• List your Opportunities here
|Threats (External, negative)
• List your Threats here
• List your Strengths here
Which of your strengths can be used to maximize your opportunities?
Which of your strengths can be used to neutralize or minimize your threats?
• List your Weaknesses here
What initiatives can you take to mitigate the effects of your weaknesses on your opportunities?
How can you reduce the effects of your weaknesses to avoid being impacted by the threats you identified?
- Evaluate Key Elements of Your Marketing Mix: Ask how each of the strategies above relates to these aspects of your business:
- Your Products/Services: Are you offering the right solutions? Are they designed to fit within your strategic framework outlined in your SWOT analysis?
- Pricing: Is your pricing strategy aligned to take full advantage of your strengths and opportunities?
- Place: Should you expand or more tightly focus the geographic scope of your marketing efforts? Should you consider more thoroughly developing an area of specialization based on your opportunities or threats?
- Set SMART Goals: Here’s another acronym to help you be effective with goal setting. SMART stands for:
- Specific: Make your goals tightly defined; no ambiguity.
- Measurable: Define what success will look like; establish a means to determine when you’ve reached the finish line.
- Agreed Upon: Be certain everyone on the team shares a common understanding of the goals; eliminate any chances of misinterpretation.
- Realistic: Don’t try to boil the ocean. Be certain that goals are achievable with your available resources, skills and time. If not, you’re setting your team up for failure.
- Time-Based: Establish a timeline and set intermediate milestones or objectives along the way. Don’t be too aggressive, but do set a pace that assures steady progress.
Sound overwhelming? You can do it! And here’s the first step: Right now, put a date on your calendar after your team has had a chance to decompress from tax time. Make that date a retreat day for your partners or strategic planning team. With one day’s worth of focused intention, you should be able to work through the roadmap outlined above.
You’ll come away with a solid, realistic set of marketing goals for the year, as well as extraordinary clarity on the strategic direction of your firm, which will also help focus your leadership initiatives. It’ll be time well spent for your firm!
Upcoming Educational Webinars
Be sure to register for our Planning, Resource Update, and Technology webinars which are scheduled regularly through December.
Our first three spring webinars are:
- April 26th—Resource Update webinar: There have been many new additions to our Resources so tune in to learn what we’ve created and how you can use everything.
- May 10th—Planning Workshop webinar with Tax Season Recap: As we’ve done each of the last two years, we’ll review tax season and then look ahead. Be ready to share how tax season went at your office.
- May 24—Technology webinar: Covers new software and improvements to existing software. See what we’ve been keeping an eye on.
We have established a formal relationship with Ledgersync. Ledgersync retrieves bank statements, retrieves check images for most banks and downloads transactions that can be imported into QB Desktop or QBO. This is a good solution for firms that do a lot of traditional write-up.
You can use the https://ledgersync.com/banks/ page to look to see if common banks that your clients work with are currently supported.
Rootworks members receive 15% off during the sign up process which starts here: https://www.ledgersyncapp.com/ls0002/signup you must enter Rootworks15 in the Coupon field.
You’ll find more information in Grow under Learn–>Vendor Information.
Advantage & Academy Members
We have two Staff Training Webinars at the end of April:
- Apr 18—Staff Training: Bookkeeping Strategy
- Apr 25—Staff Training: Bookkeeping Technology Workflow
New Rootworks Members or Member Firm New Staff
Modern Firm Workshops
Be sure to register for a Modern Firm Workshop this summer at our Indianapolis Learning Center. The Modern Firm Workshop is the first event new member firms or new staff should attend—it’s a day-and-a-half orientation session that presents important foundational content for the Rootworks model and membership experience.
Three dates are available in 2018—register now through via Rootworks Grow.