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Ideas for the journey to better every day.

Our summer Firm Retreats will be well worth your time!

By Darren Root, CEO

A peek at what you get…

It’s hard to believe that we are back in “working ON your business” season. That time of year, just after tax season, when we turn our focus back to building a better firm. And while you’ve been hard at work on tax returns, our team has been developing content that is based on a clear, cohesive strategy to make our Firm Retreats better than ever.

A lot has been going on within Rootworks that has helped us create a fantastic Firm Retreat agenda. Over the past few months, I’ve been meeting with vendors to better understand their current software platforms, their plans for long-term enhancements, and when we can expect to see new features and functionality released. Additionally, I attended the 12-person Think Tank held annually at the AICPA corporate office in New York. We spent two days discussing the profession and where we believe things are going. We also evaluated what’s working well inside our firms and what can be improved. And lastly, we studied trends across other industries to see what applies to the tax and accounting profession.

The following offers a peek at what we will discuss at this year’s Firm Retreats…

Much is happening in the technology world. Artificial intelligence and machine learning developments are being funded to disrupt our industry and represent a clear evolution to the cloud for all applications. There are also some scary statistics floating around. One comes from Thomson Reuters, predicting a significant decline in professional tax return preparation due to artificial intelligence. The data Thomson offered is as follows:

  • Mainstream individual tax returns by the end of tax season 2020 will fall to a negligible amount.
  • High net worth tax returns by the end of tax season 2025 will fall to a negligible amount.
  • Business tax returns by the end of tax season 2030 will be reduced by 50 percent.

We can disagree with this data, but it does send a clear message that artificial intelligence will have a significant impact on our businesses in the near future.

Taking away what was learned from the Think Tank session and our experience over the past tax season, we designed our Firm Retreats. This includes updates on new technologies and what to expect from vendors in the future, how to enhance firm culture, improve our business models, and refine client touchpoints. We will be discussing the latest and greatest ideas, which are encompassed in the following agenda items:

  • Open For Business—The 2020 Mindset. We will answer such questions as:
    What does being open-minded about change really mean? Will artificial intelligence really have an impact on our firms? If so, how do we position ourselves for these shifts? In addition, how are clients’ expectations continuing to shift? Is mobile really as important as we know it to be in our own lives?
  • Your GPA, Your Roadmap. Before you can plan for improvement, you have to identify your starting point. Our Rootworks GPA Tool is designed to help you see where your firm stands currently. You will have access to your prior year data, and we will work through the results to help you chart a plan of action.
  • Stop the Hunches. It’s time to stop making decisions based on gut feelings and discover what our clients and our staff really want from us as leaders.
  • What are Modern Advisory Services? It’s about more than just spending time with your clients to create a better tax plan. We will discuss what our clients really want from us as their most trusted advisor.
  • Customer Expectations, How They Are Shifting? We will discuss the tools necessary to meet our customers’ expectations. It’s no longer good enough to use technology tools that are meant just for the profession—customers expect a consumer-level experience equal to what they get with brand giants like Amazon, Starbucks, Delta and Marriott.
  • What’s the Scoop with Onvio? Should you be making the move this year? We’ll show you the approach RootAdvisors is taking.
  • Creating a Security Culture. The security journey continues. Fraud among accounting firms was up 40 percent during busy season this year over last, making this a continued hot topic.

As always, we have a full agenda this year. Please register for a Firm Retreat today, because seats are filling fast!

Register for your Firm Retreat Now

I look forward to seeing you this summer and sharing everything we’ve learned.

All my best,

Evaluate Your Tax Process

 By Anna, Education Team

Now that we’ve had time to celebrate the end of tax season (Thanks for all the great tips in last month’s column, Amy!), it’s time to evaluate your tax process and your staff. It can be hard to look back so soon after the end, but it’s best to review where you’ve been with things fresh in your mind. We mentioned a new resource, the “Tax Season Scorecard,” in the Spring Resource Webinar on April 26. If you missed the webinar, it was recorded and is available in the Education Resources area of Grow. This scorecard was designed specifically to get feedback from staff. 

Today, we’re thinking about staff success. Many of you are running reports to determine potential bonuses; others may have a different reward system. Staff performance is just one aspect of overall staff “health” that should be addressed. You also need to decide if you need another position somewhere in your processes and possibly reallocate staff that might not be in the right position but are right for the firm. 

  1. Reviews: A lot of people dread the annual review and for good reason. If it is the only review process you have, many of the points may be old, details forgotten and/or irrelevant. Make this year the year you commit to having monthly informal reviews and, no matter what position you have in the firm, buy yourself a stack of thank you cards to hand out in the moment when you see someone else going above and beyond. A verbal or written thank you goes so much further than a point on a review or email.
  2. Training: What areas do staff have weaknesses? What can you do to make sure they have all the tools to be successful? Whether it’s Rootworks training, association based training or something else, invest in staff and make ongoing education a priority.
  3. Hiring: If you decide after this season that you do need to hire, make sure you find the right skill set AND the right fit for your culture. Include job shadowing as part of your interview process and allow staff to have input on the prospect. Pay attention to what questions the prospect asks while shadowing, are they just salary and benefit related or are they truly interested in what’s going on?

There is much more that could be discussed on these topics! We’ll be continuing the conversation this summer at our Indianapolis Learning Center. Have you registered for your Firm Retreat yet? Seats are filling fast; complete your registration here.

NIST—Protect

By Chris Dickens, IT

Previously, we covered the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and its five core functions and dove into the first function called “Identify.” The next function, “Protect,” is where most firms are already focusing attention, but it can always use some improvement in execution. Here is a review of the categories under the Protect function:

Access Control—User logins and good password policies are the key elements. Recently, multi-factor authentication is gaining traction in aiding with access control to reduce risk.

Awareness and Training—Staff trainings, phishing simulations, education services like Knowbe4.com are all useful ways to create awareness and diligence with staff.

Data Security—How information and its supporting architecture is stored, transmitted, utilized, and backed up. Your network design and software all work together to create a framework of operations and processes. Your IT service provider has a lead role here in ensuring all elements of data security have been vetted and addressed.

Maintenance—Regular software updates of all your assets, their operating systems and firmware, to ensure any known critical vulnerabilities are patched.

Protective Technology—Antivirus, endpoint protection, firewalls and Intrusion Prevention (IPS).

Info Protection Processes and Procedures—Having a written IT Security policy, an identified Cybersecurity Officer (CSO) and procedures for reporting.

The biggest improvements we have seen in the Protect function in recent months have been in user training and access control. Many firms have adopted user training resources as well as multi-factor authentication services. The results have been a reduction in the number of cybersecurity incidents that have been reported to us from our members. Also, having a general security policy and identified security officer can go a long way for creating a more secure firm.

Five Habits to Set Yourself Up for Marketing Success

By Chris Rund, Marketing Team

Fast forward to next December 31. You’ll be rolling across the finish line of another calendar year and preparing for busy season ahead. And in that moment, you’ll take stock of whether 2018 was a successful marketing year. That quick flash forward is a wake-up call for what needs to happen now. Good marketing results in the future begin with good marketing habits now.

So let’s come back to the present and look at five good habits you can adopt to give you the marketing results you want to see at year’s end:

  1. Begin with the end in mind—set goals! Last month, we re-published a detailed look at the process of marketing goal setting, beginning with the big picture SWOT analysis. Good goal setting is of paramount importance, because it lays out the strategic pathway to find the revenue your firm needs. And, importantly, goal setting gives you the frame of reference to measure success or failure when it’s all said and done. Remember to set SMART goals, using this formula:
    • Specific: Identify what you want to achieve in precise terms
    • Measurable: Tie your goals to hard numbers that can be reliably determined
    • Agreed-upon: Get buy-in from your team; they’ll be the ones executing the plan
    • Relevant: Make sure your goals align with your overall vision
    • Time-constrained: Set deadlines to help you create a plan for action and accountabilities
  2. Make a plan. Achieving goals is best managed when you break it down into intermediate milestones or objectives along the way and identify the tactics to achieve them. Assign timelines, ownership and accountabilities for each part of the plan. A master calendar or Gantt chart is essential in your planning process.
  3. Re-make the plan. Don’t be inflexibly attached to a bum plan. If results are sluggish, try to analyze contributing factors and don’t hesitate to redraw your battle plans accordingly. Like good coaches, good managers make adjustments to overcome obstacles and find the right way to win.
  4. Beware the DIY approach. Your brand image is important; don’t undermine it with less-than-professional design or writing. Developing good marketing content takes some cultivated skill. If no one on your staff has the skill set, be prepared to hire freelance help and make allowances in your budget to do so. Don’t skimp here, or your brand will suffer.
  5. Take good care of new clients. The easiest path to grow revenue is to increase your engagements with existing clients. A happy entry-level client today may be a far more valuable client tomorrow. Study the client experience you’re delivering end-to-end. Look for any gaps in customer care that need to be filled, and consider creative ways to differentiate your client experience from what your competitors provide.

Is this an exhaustive list? Not by a long shot, but these foundational habits will lay the groundwork for a solid marketing culture in your firm and put you on the path to celebrate success come December. Start now!

All Members

Upcoming Educational Webinars

  • May 10—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.

Friendly reminder in case you missed it last month: 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’ll find more information in Grow under Learn → Vendor Information.

 

Advantage & Academy Members

Staff Training Webinars in May:

  • May 16—Staff Training: Cybersecurity

 

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.

Four dates are available in 2018—register now via Rootworks Grow.

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