For solo practitioners and small firms, success often comes down to the establishment of good habits that support the implementation of systems across the most important elements of operating a practice.
For the tax resolution practitioner, these habits can be distilled down even further to five specific tasks, for which you should have systems in place to accomplish each.
1. Client Communication
As practitioners, we generally think we only need to communicate with clients when there is something to be said. For example, many practitioners that predominantly do just 1040 tax prep work communicate with their clients only once a year, when it’s time to schedule their seasonal appointment.
If there’s nothing happening, the thought process goes, then there’s nothing to say. But the very nature of the tax resolution client is vastly different. They are constantly worried about the IRS taking aggressive collections action, and therefore have a higher ‘neediness’ level that you need to keep in mind.
Therefore, you should communicate with your active tax debt clients at least once per week. Even if this is nothing more than your assistant sending off an email or making a quick phone call to tell them that you are still waiting to hear back from the IRS, this simple act of maintaining client communication will prevent a lot of anxiety on their part.
2. Lead Follow Up
One of the most disheartening things I see practitioners do, over and over, is leaving money on the table. I understand that accountants are not historically taught sales and marketing skills, but if you’re in private practice, you’re a business owner first, and a tax professional second. In order to bring home the moolah, you must schedule time in your appointment calendar to work on marketing on a daily basis.
The most important marketing system you need to have in place, and the majority of your marketing time and dollars, should be invested into lead follow up. It’s expensive and time-consuming to generate leads, so to simply give up on them after a couple of weeks is one of the cardinal sins of marketing. As the old saying goes, you should follow up with your leads and prospects until they either buy or die.
With the incredibly low cost of email and direct mail these days, failing to contact your leads at least a couple of times per month is simply inexcusable. Let me give you an example of how powerful this can be. My personal record for the time gap between an initial consultation with a prospect that didn’t hire me immediately and when they did finally hire me is 28 months.
For those 28 months, they received my monthly print newsletter and also occasional follow-up emails. The total cost of sending those newsletters? About $30. The fee they eventually paid me for representation? $6500. I don’t know about you, but that math works for me!
3. Lead Generation
While lead follows up and conversion is the most important part of your marketing plan, you obviously need leads to work within the first place. You should do at least one thing every single day to help fill the top of your marketing funnel.
Some days you’ll do big things, and some days you’ll do small things. But even the smallest thing can help push you forward. Even if it’s just sending one email to the managing broker of one real estate office to invite him to lunch to discuss referral opportunities, do at least one thing every single day to help fill your funnel and build out your sales pipeline.
4. Process Improvement
Legendary management guru Peter Drucker once said, “Knowledge has to be improved, challenged and increased constantly or it vanishes.” This is why we take continuing education, not just because we have to but to challenge ourselves and improve our skills. The same concept needs to be continuously applied to the processes that you use to operate your business.
What we do is incredibly formulaic for greater than 90% of the cases we work. It therefore simply makes sense to be constantly reviewing and improving processes. I would encourage you to review one checklist, system, tool, or process that you use in your business on a daily basis, and see what you can do to improve it.
This might range from reviewing your Client Intake Checklist to make sure that it delivers the best possible client experience, to reviewing your Offer in Compromise checklist to make sure it accounts for recent changes in how the OIC Units process applications, to reviewing your SEO process to make sure you’re acting on the latest changes to the Google ranking algorithm.
By doing a quick review of one process per day, you’ll cycle through just about everything going on in your business within just a couple of months. You’ll also inevitably find processes that aren’t yet documented, and need to be.
5. Do Something Fun
When you’re doing tax resolution work, you’re dealing with both a frustrating bureaucracy on one hand and incredibly needy or stubborn clients on the other. Some people thrive on this, but the stereotypical accountant definitely does not. So you need to find something away from the office that will help you decompress.
After being in the IRS Collections representation business for only three months, combined with my own personal foreclosure and bankruptcy issues at the time, I definitely needed something totally different in my life in order to stay sane.
My commute took me past an ice rink every single day, and it only took one time on the ice for me to get hooked. Skating gave me a break from the stresses of the job, and I would often skate both before and after work, and sometimes even at lunch. I attribute much of my success today to the fact that I got involved with something that had nothing to do with taxes.
Spend some time each and every day focusing on these five different areas of your business and life. You’ll not only grow your business faster, but it will operate more efficiently and more profitably as a result.
About the Author Jassen Bowman, EA, CTR spent eight years exclusively representing tax debtors as an Enrolled Agent. He has presented over 300 live seminars and webinars to CPAs, EAs, and attorneys on the subjects of IRS Collections representation, practice management, and growing a tax firm. He is the author of several books, including Tax Resolution Secrets for consumers and Tax Resolution Systems, a checklist manual for practitioners.