How To Create Systems For Use In Your Practice

Yesterday I wrote to you about why systems and procedures are so important to have in your business. Today, let’s delve into actually creating a checklist.

To begin with, I think it’s important to start from the big picture and then delve deeper into your business processes. With that said, what are the major, big picture things that a business has to focus on? For a tax practice, this list might look something like this:

1. Client acquisition (marketing & sales)
2. Client retention
3. Client case work

From this, you can develop sets of systems that focus on each of these areas.

Yesterday, I mentioned my friend James Orr and what he’s done in regards to building systems. On his real estate blog, for example, he shares his real estate investor daily marketing checklist. Take a look at this, and notice that this checklist itself branches off into more detailed checklists.

For a real estate investor that is looking to purchase properties at below market value, he has to conduct a number of different marketing campaigns to achieve multiple, parallel objectives in his business. He has to buy houses, sell houses, rent houses, etc. The same is true for your tax practice. Depending on your particular practice areas you may have very different marketing to do to fill various holes in your client activity. For example, your daily marketing checklist might look like this:

1. Marketing to acquire 1040 preparation clients
2. Marketing to acquire 1120/1065 preparation clients
3. Marketing to acquire payroll service clients
4. Marketing to acquire clients for wealth management services
5. Marketing to sell tax resolution services
6. Marketing to sell examination representation services

Then, you need to look at each of these particular items and create procedures for them. If this sounds overly complicated, it’s not. In all reality, you probably already have some sort of process going on in your firm for getting an objective accomplished, it just isn’t documented in writing yet.

In order to begin documenting your existing systems, start with the person that actually performs the task already. Have them write out what they do, how they do it, and any hidden stumbling blocks, “gotchas”, or tricks that only that person knows regarding being successful at the task.

While this might sound pointless, it’s not: It gives you a place to start, which is the most important thing. Once you have something in writing, … Continue reading

The Importance Of Using Systems In Your Practice

When I was in the Navy, I operated nuclear power plant equipment on board the largest, most complex warships ever constructed: Nimitz class aircraft carriers. The equipment that I was entrusted with on a daily basis had price tags in the hundreds of millions of dollars. In addition, our equipment simply couldn’t be down: An entire crew of nearly 5,000 other people relied on those of us down in the engineering spaces to provide them with water, power, propulsion, and steam (required to operate the catapults that launched aircraft off the flight deck).

The most incredible part of all this? All this machinery was primarily left in the hands of people like me that were barely out of high school, and often with little or no supervision from senior personnel.

How on Earth do a bunch of kids become entrusted with such a task, and how do they avoid screwing it up every day?

The answer is very simple, actually.

First of all, all nuclear operators spend a year in school, learning their trade and nuclear theory. It’s considered one of the most rigorous academic programs in the world, and at the time I went through, there was a fail out rate of over 50%. So, by the end of this training, we knew a ton of theory regarding how everything in a large nuclear plant interacted and operated.

Second, with that theoretical background in place, nuclear operators are introduced to the most important concept in all of nuclear power. In fact, this concept exists in just about all industrial facilities, including chemical factories, oil refineries, and manufacturing plant assembly lines, just to name a few. What is this magical concept?

Simply put, it’s this: Verbatim compliance with written procedures.

See, everything…and I do mean *everything*, in a nuclear power plant has a written, step-by-step procedure for getting anything done. No valve is turned, button is pushed, maintenance performed, without referencing the proper checklist.

This concept is so important to the safe operation of a nuclear power plant that after that year of classroom training, Navy nukes are sent to a training ship for 6 months where they learn and become qualified to operate the equipment on board using the procedures. Basically, it’s 6 months of learning how to follow checklists in books. Then, and only then, is that sailor sent to the fleet to operate a seafaring vessel.

What does this have to with … Continue reading

Connecting With Your Clients

You will often hear me discuss the concept of making sure that you proactively do things to ensure that you keep the clients that you already have. After all, getting a new client is roughly 10 times more expensive than keeping an existing one.

One of the simplest ways to ensure that your existing clients stick is through good ol’ fashioned communication. If your clients here from you regularly, not just at tax time or when you update their Quickbooks, then you forge a stronger relationship over time with them.

Maintaining regular communication with your clients really isn’t that difficult, nor does it need to be expensive, especially these days with “social media” being all the rage (just don’t get caught up in all the hype — you’re not going to get millions of new clients from just using social media).

Here are some ideas to stay engaged with your clients (and prospective clients):

1. Encourage them to follow you on Twitter and “like” your Facebook page.

2. Mail all clients a monthly newsletter.

3. Create an email newsletter to send.

4. Invite clients to monthly or quarterly educational seminars to cover financial topics. Bring in outside experts, such as financial planners, attorneys, or insurance agents as necessary to cover appropriate topics.

What are some things you are already doing to stay in touch with clients? Leave a comment below to share with other readers so that everybody can benefit from shared knowledge.… Continue reading