The Accountantsâ€™s Success Plan
No Guarantee of Results: The suggestions, comments, tactics and strategies contained herein are meant only to provide examples about running a successful business. They are not intended as a guarantee that the same or similar results can be obtained in every matter undertaken by you or your company; and you should not assume that a similar result can be obtained in any circumstance, no matter how similar to the example. The outcome of a particular strategy or tactic, or any combination thereof can depend on a variety of factors and, often, unexpected developments and circumstances beyond the control of any person, business owner or industry play a role in the resultant outcome. Professional Liability Insurance Group (PLIG) is not responsible for any action or inaction on your part as a result of reading this material. It is only to be used as a general guide. PLIG does not accept liability for any errors or omissions in the contents of this writing.
I. INTRODUCTION: Being a great accountant is not just about making sure forms are in order for tax season. Budgeting and number-crunching are inherent to your profession, and you are the guardian between the red ink and black ink for a number of people. Finances are an extremely important part of many peopleâ€™s lives, and as a finance expert, your advice and guidance are a key element in the battle to stay financially viable. But, you have your own finances to worry about as well, and with a successful practice come monetary rewards. This is why Iâ€™ve put together this success plan specifically for accounting professionals. Follow the advice in this guide and please do not hesitate to contact us if any of these tips help you along the way to a more prominent and effective accounting practice. Our main goal at The Professional Liability Insurance Group is to not only protect our clients, but to educate them as well. Your success is our success and we want nothing but the best for your practice this year! Sincerely,
Shayne Bevilacqua, MBA Principal The Professional Liability Insurance Group
II. Complying With Wage and Labor Laws As an accountant, a company can use you in any number of roles. One of those roles is the ‘payroll manager’, which means that you’ll be dealing with a mass of wage and labor regulations. Sure, your company likely has an attorney that will deal with this on a consistent basis, but it doesn’t hurt to get familiar with the basics… The most prominent law you’ll want to familiarize yourself with is the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which covers overtime issues and is an area that is violated constantly by a number of private sectors. The bottom line is, hourly workers are to receive time-and-a-half pay for any hours worked over the 40-hour mark (the exception is residential workers; their limit is 44 hours). There are certain positions that, under the law, do not need to be paid overtime. These positions must be “administrative, executive, or professional”, have some sort of supervisory power and they must make at least $455 per week. If the position is not described by any one of these caveats, then overtime pay is required. One pitfall is taking an hourly worker, making them a manager immediately and then expecting them to work 60 hours with no overtime. That will signal a red flag to the IRS. Another mistake is to designate an employee an independent contractor to be paid on a 1099 form instead of a W-2 form. When it comes to this
issue, you should review the IRS guidelines, but the general rule of thumb is: if a worker is being supervised, they are not a general contractor. The restaurant industry—for example—is a sector that has been caught on many occasions committing payroll violations. Improper averages, for instance, are far from rare. You cannot have an employee work 55 hours one week, and 25 the next and call that an average of 40 hours a week. You also have to be on the lookout for how tip-compensated employees are handled (i.e. waiters). They, of course, can receive a lower hourly wage if they receive tips. However, if they are put on part-time status with no tips, then that is a huge problem. A popular restaurant chain was fined millions of dollars for violating that one simple rule. While these guidelines are just to get you familiar with wage and labor laws, it would behoove you review the IRS statutes at the department of labor’s website. You can find the guidelines at www.dol.gov. III. 4 Online Strategies To Keep Your Client List Full When it comes to tax season, it’s difficult to even think about marketing as you’re bogged down with forms, meetings and number crunching. But, if you want to make sure that you’re
just as busy next season, you may want to set aside a little time to ensure you’re reaching out to new clients and maintaining the clients you already have. No need to scour the web for hours (we want to save time, right?) for marketing tips or even take a social media class. Compiled here are some pertinent ideas that will help increase brand recognition, web presence as well as your client list. Schedule E-Mails Ahead of Time Communication is key! I cannot stress this enough because, as we all know, “out of sight, out of mind”. That’s why you’ll want to contact your existing clients regularly to let them know that you are there for them even when tax season is over. Schedule a marketing package that begins at the start of the 1st quarter. This package can include a bi-weekly email that reminds your clients of all the services you provide as well as reminding them of important dates and times you’ll be available. Perhaps you’d like to schedule a day where you’ll be committed to providing phone consultations; a colorful and catchy e-mail is a great way to notify your clients of this. TIP: Try using MailChimp. It’s gorgeous, free, and easy and you can set the time and date for the e-mails to go out. So, you can set-up a bevy of e-mails and sit back as MailChimp sends them out as you designated.
Send Out A Monthly Newsletter There’s so much you want to tell your clients and potential clients. You want to notify them of changes in the tax laws. You want to urge them to take advantage of certain breaks and reliefs. Oh, and of course you want them to know that you can take care of their every waking financial need. What’s the best way to get all of this done in one instance? Send an eye-catching, informative newsletter every month. You don’t have to spend weeks and weeks creating a simple one-page newsletter. There are plenty of services out there that come loaded up with templates waiting for you to simply input your content. Make it dynamic. Include links to sites you recommend. Also, make sure you highlight areas of your field that will compel people to give you a phone call as soon as they get done reading it. TIP: Give Constant Contact a shot. They have newsletter templates and also have real-time reporting, so you can see who opened your e-mail and who didn’t. Take Advantage of Social Media You may not be a social media maven, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the added benefits of promoting your business on social hubs like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. The first thing you want to do is determine which platform you want to spend most of your time on. What do your clients use the most? Are you a visual person, or more of a writer? Do you just want to promote your business, or converse
with clients and potential clients? These questions are important to deciding which site would be more beneficial to you. If you want to have conversations with people, Facebook is the way to go, as there is almost no limit on the amount of characters you input per message/post. If you want to share pictures/logos/infographics, then Instagram is the way to go. Just keep in mind that Instagram has a largely youthful base of users that might not be that interested in taxes and finances. If you want to keep your messages short and sweet (i.e. a quick link or message) then give Twitter a try. It only allows 127 characters per message, but it is one of the most used social media platforms on the planet (even the President has a Twitter account!). Finally, if you want to display a fair amount of information like websites, graphics, interesting articles and more, Pinterest might be the way. You can create your own page chock-full of useful information that will educate and enlighten your audience on the topics that might point them in your direction. TIP: If you want to control all of your social media hubs from one destinationâ€”spending time on each site can be time-consumingâ€”then get yourself a HootSuite account. You can manage all of your profiles from one simple page. It really makes your social marketing a lot easier. EXTRA TIP: If you end up using Facebook as your primary social hub, take a look at the insights portion of your page. It will
provide you with statistics and graphs charting the activity on your Facebook page. Particularly interesting is the “When Your Fans Are Online” tab. It will show you the time of day that most of your audience is watching your page. Use that information to set a schedule of when to create posts. Blog, Blog, Blog Numbers and words don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start a compelling blog with keywords that will help your website (you have a website, right?) get closer to that coveted first page of Google. Beyond trying to get better Google rankings for your website, one of the most important functions of a blog is to provide readers with useful information about various accounting related topics. If people read your blog and see that you are educated and informative, they will be more likely to contact you whenever the need for an accountant arises. Try to post once a week at least, but if you do not have the time or the skills to do this, contract the job out to someone. Updating your online hub with good blogs is a great way to keep your site fresh and it’s a great way to key people into the services you provide. TIP: Create a post on Bloggerlinkup.com or Craigslist (it’s not just for selling stuff) explaining what kinds of posts you want on your blog. Both sites are free to use, and within a few days you’ll be getting e-mails from writers who are just dying to get their work online.
There are plenty of strategies that can help you garner more clients while keeping your current clients happy. Try following these few action plans first, and reap the rewards of having more eyeballs in your direction. IV. What To Look For In Errors & Omissions Insurance “Well, we all make mistakes, dear, so just put it behind you. We should regret our mistakes and learn from them, but never carry them forward into the future with us.” -L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea Accounting is not an easy gig. You’re staring at numbers all day, typing up reports, analyzing figures and making sure everything adds up correctly at the end of the day. You may be the greatest accountant in the world, but the truth is, mistakes are bound to happen. This is why E&O (errors and omissions) insurance was created-to buffer you against the harmful effects of committing a simple mistake. Then the question arises: what to look for in a good E&O insurance policy? Let’s take a look at a few areas of an insurance policy you should explore before signing on the dotted line. The Company First things first. Research the insurance company itself. When did it start? Is it a long-withstanding company that has no indications of bottoming out? Who is the company run by? Some
insurance companies were founded by people that previously ran failed insurance entities, so make sure to do your due diligence when conducting background research. Take a look at the bigwigs running the insurance company, as it would befit you to find a company that is run by accountants, or at least is run by professionals that understand the accounting industry. Finally, take a look at who endorses the company. Are there CPA organizations that have used them before? Are they spoken highly of in your professional community? Remember, just a little research can go a long way. The Coverage There’s plenty to look for when evaluating the coverage options of an E&O policy, so we’ll just go through a few items. Perhaps you have some known claims, or potential claims, that occurred in the previous policy year. Coverage for known claims is essential to your cause, as it will help mitigate the damage that might spring up should a settlement or judgment occur. Pre-claim expenses and counseling can also cost a pretty penny, so look for a policy that does not apply pre-claims expenses to your liability limit or your deductible. Not having an expense cap or sub-limit for subpoena services is also very nice to include in your policy, but not all policies offer this option. Take a look at how far-reaching, geographically, the policy protects. Some insurance policies may only cover the state, or country. Should a claim occur outside the U.S. you might be in trouble, so look for a policy that can cover you worldwide. Unlimited, or multi-year, “Tail” (Extended Reporting Period) coverage is also a rider that
you’ll want in your policy, if it’s an option for your firm. Lastly, take a long look at how the company handles claims. Is a portion of the deductible waived if you report a potential claim ahead of time? An insurance company that does this is generally a company that’s worth taking a look at. The Amenities Plenty of insurance companies offer you fluffy amenities that look great from afar, but when you get up-close they dissipate into the air. Look for things like free and unlimited expert advice (i.e. hotlines), CPE credit courses, claims assistance, a fast and easy payment system and an online hub that can help educate you on your policy and insurance carrier. It might sound trite, but if the policy you are looking at does not offer many of these simple amenities, it might be an indication that the insurance company really doesn’t care about you…they just care about gaining your business. V. 4 Apps Every Accountant Should Have Technology and Accounting are like that married couple that live next door to you. Sure, they’re nice and sweet, and they hold hands while walking and they do just about everything together. But, every now and then, you might hear some loud yelling emanating from their domicile. Technology can be a beautiful but frustrating thing at times. It is supposed to make your life easier, but at times, it can make your
life a terrible mess. Don’t worry. I’m here to provide you with a rundown of the 5 must-have apps you should be using right now. So, stop yelling at your OS and get back to work! Expensify Receipts can be a nightmare. They’re small, sometimes illegible and they always seem to disappear when you need them. That’s why you need a good receipt management app, and Expensify is one of the best free tools you’ll want to get now. Not only does it digitize your receipts, but also it goes further by providing functionality that links your credit/debit card accounts to your paper receipts for easy comparison. The indispensible “Guaranteed eReceipts” function creates electronic documentation out of every one of your credit card and bank transactions under $75. Bottom line? Get this app ASAP. Evernote Part notebook, part digital filing cabinet, this app can do it all. Evernote goes above and beyond any note-taking application by providing you with the ability to create “notebooks” in which you can file just about anything you want: pictures, webpages, notations, voice recordings and more. The search and tag function ensures that you’ll never lose anything ever again, and the app can cloud-sync between your phone and computer in a second. So, if you take a picture or make a
notation on your phone while you’re away from your computer, by the time you get back to your desktop, it’s already there. For a profession that prides itself on organization, this app is a godsend. Dropbox Tired of waiting for those pertinent documents from one of your clients to arrive in the mail? Having trouble e-mailing a large file to an associate? To relieve yourself of these problems, and more, get yourself a Dropbox account. There are pay versions of this app out there, but the free version gives you 5.0 GB of space, which is usually enough for a small business. If you haven’t heard of it yet, Dropbox is the easiest way to share files of any kind with whomever you choose. It works fast, it arranges files much in the same way any PC or MAC does, and the Dropbox menu stays on your desktop for easy access. This is as easy as file-sharing gets. Flipboard Due to the flexibility and ever-changing tax laws around the country, you want to stay on top of the most recent news regarding your profession. There are plenty of news aggregation apps out there, but if you want one that caters to your exact interests, then Flipboard is the app for you. You create a customized magazine made from all of your favorite sites, and Flipboard automatically updates each website in real-time. You can also synch Flipboard to Facebook and Twitter so your
favorite friends and followers will also pop up in your magazine whenever they post a new status or tweet. Stop trying to surf the web for all of your news and start making this your first destination when it comes to current headlines. My hope is that youâ€™ll be able to take a few suggestions or advice from this Success Plan and implement it into your accounting practice. Please, feel free to drop The Professional Liability Insurance Group a line at info@PLIGofSJ.com and let us know if you found this information useful or even if you have a few suggestions yourself. Good luck, and we wish nothing but the best for you and your practice!
Published on May 8, 2014