January ’19

Getting into a rhythm for 2019: To support efforts of getting better every day!

By Darren Root, CEO

As far back as I can remember, after closing out December, I take some time to reflect on the past year. During this time, I ask myself what I could have done better, and based on what I’ve learned, what changes I need to make in the New Year to continue getting better every day. This sounds like a New Year’s resolution, but it’s really not. My goal each year is to identify how I can be more intentional about every aspect of my life to get into a positive, productive rhythm for success.

Being intentional is a great concept, but it requires a lot of discipline and a fair amount of situational awareness. Over the past several days, I’ve been pondering and writing about ways to be more intentional in my personal life and my business life over the coming year. I am committed to being a more intentional husband, father, friend and business leader. And this all starts with being intentional about how I use my time.

Time is one of our most precious resources, but one that is non-renewable. You can’t get it back, so you must use it wisely. If I think back to fall 2018, the last thing I remember is September. Don’t get me wrong; we accomplished a lot of good stuff, but we took on so many projects that fall became one long blur. So, I had to ask myself:  Was this using my time intentionally…when I can’t recall much of what I did?

I’m sure many of you feel the same way. It’s go, go, go all the time. So, maybe you’ve come to the same realization I have. And that is that it’s time to be more intentional about every day spent on Earth. I don’t want life to just happen and progress. I don’t want to live in a blur because I chose to move forward with the same non-stop, hectic pace. What I want is to get into a rhythm…a pace that I actually enjoy. One that allows me to be truly intentional with my time.

As both I and the entire Rootworks organization look forward to 2019, the words I want to keep in the forefront are: intentional and rhythm. My role as Rootworks CEO is to make sure we are intentional about every decision we make and how we use each of our resources…time being our most valuable. And also how we embrace our organizational rhythm in a way that supports our team and sets us up for a more predictable year.

To illustrate what I mean by embracing rhythm, the following schedule is a sample of how we’ve been intentional about creating a rhythm that is doable, predictable and will lead to greater success. Here is a glimpse of what you can expect from us this year:

  • January: Benchmarking month—Our goal is to get as many member firms as possible to fill out the benchmarking survey. We will then aggregate the information and distribute it back to our members in a meaningful way.
  • May: Rootworks GPA month—We plan to get as many member firms as possible to engage their teams in assessing their firm’s GPA. This will help provide a roadmap for improvement for your firm for the remainder of the year.
  • May: Website 2019 launch—Today, we are in the design phase for our 2019 website product. With the May release, we will offer not only a newer, fresher look and feel, but also integration between your website and Client View inside Rootworks.com. We will make it easier than ever to begin tracking prospects and executing client onboarding.
  • May: Release of Client View—We will release the latest and greatest tools and resources that make tracking and growing your client base easier and better than ever.
  • Summer: Firm Retreats—We will launch our greatly expanded set of Business Advisory Services resources. You don’t want to miss this! We will have productized much of the business advisory services model and plan to walk you and your team through how to leverage these resources to grow your firm.
  • Winter: Inspire Conference—We will launch our latest developments of Rootworks.com. We haven’t finalized our roadmap yet, but you can count on a robust summer and fall/winter development schedule with an enhanced product designed to make you and your firm look better and run more easily.

Identifying our rhythm and being intentional about our priorities has made all the difference for our team. As you reflect on 2018 and look forward to 2019, ask yourself what are the things you want to be more intentional about as you move forward. What is the right rhythm for your firm—from tax season to technology advancements? Start to chart the rhythm that allows you and your firm to operate more smoothly and with confidence in the New Year!

All my best,

PS: As we head into tax season, it’s time to give thought to your client communications and keeping them going during this busy time of year. Check out how our client magazine/content package can keep you connected to and communicating with your clients throughout busy season.

Happy tax season 2019!

 By Anna, Education Team

As we recover from the holiday hangover and tackle any accounting-related year-end processing due this month, the countdown to tax season has started for many of us. I think every year, the tax season countdown feels like a countdown to a major life event. No matter how prepared we are, no matter how many times processes and procedures are double checked, there is always something that we feel like we’re missing. In the stress leading up to and during the season, one small thing we find firms miss is the FUN. Make sure as you buckle down and work hard, that you find time to play hard too! Take a look at the tips and tricks below to make tax season more bearable.

  • Pick one day each week to follow an easy theme. For example: Casual Fridays (boring but common, Ha!), Taco Tuesdays, Margarita Mondays (or any other day). On these days, end appointments an hour early and let staff relax as they finish up the last few hours of work. Your staff will appreciate the break. Once a month, have a pajama day…and make sure to advertise to your clients!
  • Send the spouses of your staff members a small thank you gift. Let the families know you appreciate the time the staff members are taking away.
  • Plan to bring in lunch (or dinner) once a week.
  • Schedule one or two in-office activities. For example, a 15-minute massage day or a wine and canvas party.
  • Create a “Quiet Room” out of unused office space by using low lighting, bringing in a comfortable chair and designating it as an “electronics free” zone. Allow staff to use it in 10- or 15-minute intervals when they feel they need a break.
  • Create a fun competition to go through April 15th; winner gets a prize like a gift certificate to dinner out. Think outside the box. For example, collect and share client stories on how the firm has helped the client, and the staff that shares the most, WINS!  (Bonus: Create a “Bonfire Stories” Slack channel.)

If your membership level gets you access to coaching, make sure to schedule one more call with your coach to talk through things. And if you missed any of the “Getting Ready for Busy Season” webinars, make sure to look for the recordings in the Online Learning area of Rootworks.com.

Happy Tax Season 2019!

My 2019 cybersecurity predictions

By Chris Dickens, IT

It’s that time of year where we always love to dust off the crystal ball and ask, “What is going to happen this year?” Beyond the standard trustworthy statistic that the overwhelming majority of us will abandon every New Year’s resolution we made before Valentine’s Day, predicting the future is a virtually impossible task. Impossible as it may be, it’s still fun to make predictions, nonetheless. Here are my not-so-bold predictions on what will happen in cybersecurity in 2019.

Multi-factor authentication will become the standard. We’ve been advocating the use of multi-factor authentication (MFA) for applications where our most sensitive data resides for a couple of years. The scientific polling model of “show of hands” at our events is showing that multi-factor authentication is gaining momentum as a standard in many accounting firms.  This year, we should see it become a standard policy for the majority of accounting firms. If you’re not using MFA in your firm, now is the time to implement. It has already saved numerous members from a data breach.

Password managers will also become the standard. We cannot advocate lengthening passwords and using different passwords for every login you have without recommending organizing your credentials in a password management software. It takes much of the human error element out of logins. According to LastPass, the average professional manages 191 login records. An argument can be made that the accounting profession’s is well above average in this category. Look into LastPass, Keeper Security or Dashlane.

Spear phishing will become even more sophisticated. It’s the first day of 2019 as I’m typing this, and our firm has already had two very sophisticated phishing attempts to staff members trying to impersonate our CEO.  You can expect phishing to become more sophisticated, which will include an increase in vishing (voice phishing). And by the way, AI technology will go rogue and start being used in these attempts to deceive our staff.

Users will still click without verifying legitimacy of the source. As much as we train our staff with phishing simulations using KnowBe4, we still get the occasional clicker. Someone is having a bad day, is overwhelmed, is very busy, and they let their guard down. Since the potential human element of error is still there, there will still be ransomware attacks suffered by our members. To minimize this risk, as much as possible, move communications away from email. EVERY email that staff receives should be considered untrusted until it can be verified as legitimate.

Marketing New Year’s resolutions

By Chris, Marketing Team
Stay true to these rules, and you’ll make 2019 a good year.

Mary Poppins once talked about “pie-crust promises: easily made, easily broken.” Indeed, we’ve all experienced the garden-variety fails of New Year’s resolutions that crumble after a few weeks. But when it comes to your marketing discipline, it’s worth developing and sticking with some good disciplines that will help your firm get a bigger piece of the pie in 2019:

  1. Make marketing a year-round habit. If you’ve been with Rootworks any length of time, you’ve heard us harping on this one many times. And for good reason! Successful marketing isn’t an afterthought or an activity to shoehorn into fourth quarter. In the words of one long-time member, “Good marketing is like a never-ending parade that marches in front of your clients and prospects.” It never stops, and it keeps you in front of their eyes and ears with interesting, relevant value propositions.
  2. Start with goals. In order to gauge success of marketing, you need to begin with the end in mind—set marketing objectives based on your firm’s business goals. If the goal is to add $X in new revenue, determine what marketing objectives will most effectively deliver it, and focus your efforts accordingly.
  3. Make a plan, but don’t carve it in stone. Once you determine your objectives, plan your marketing activities around them. Record your plan, determine milestones and tasks, assign accountabilities, and conduct regular team meetings to keep things moving. However, realize also that there are good reasons that plans can change. You may need to pivot from the original plan if it’s not producing the desired results or if new strategic opportunities arise. Have a plan, but don’t hesitate to make tactical adjustments if conditions dictate.
  4. Know your rhythm. Darren has been talking about the concept of rhythm a lot lately. (Check out Episode 4 of the Better Every Day Podcast.) And nowhere is rhythm and cadence more important than marketing. Quarterly plans have traditionally been a starting place, but your firm may find its own pace. At Rootworks, we’ve lately adopted an approach of working in six-week cycles or “sprints,” with coordinated objectives and activities threading together our development, content, communications and management teams. Find a rhythm that works for your firm, and draft your plans around that cycle.

These are some high-level resolutions your team can make together that will help you achieve better marketing results by the time the ball drops on 2019.

Rootworks Member Survey

Owners and Firm Admin staff: The 2018 Rootworks Member Survey is open. It’s just four open-ended questions, but your input means the world to us—and the other members in the Rootworks community!

You can access the survey here: https://rootworks.com/2018membersurvey. It will only take a few minutes (maybe a little more depending on your answers). Your responses will help us understand how we can better serve our member firms in 2019.

 

Upcoming webinars

January 9 – Staff Training: Getting Ready for Busy Season Part 2 of 2

January 10 – Academy members, we’re covering the 2019 Annual Marketing plan

January 15 – Modern Firm Webinar: If you’re new to Rootworks, have new staff, or are maybe looking for a good session to watch as a group, Darren and John hit the big principles in a nice organized way.

January 16 – Staff Training: Day-to-Day Use of Practice CS

January 23 – Staff Training: Electronic Filing Refresher

January 31 – Staff Training: Go Social in 2019: A Toolkit for Getting Started

February 8 – Staff Training: Tax Return Delivery (including 8879 digital signatures)

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