Is it possible to delegate when you operate your firm as a sole proprietor? While delegating is not possible since you don’t have staff, it is possible to be efficient during tax season by creating an environment that allows you to work in a streamlined and more efficient manner, helping increase productivity and bottom line profit.
You may be one of the many sole practitioners who prefers not to have staff, and there is nothing wrong with that. While you operate your business alone, there are three things you should consider for the upcoming tax season that will make life a lot easier.
1. First, you should review the policies and technologies that you currently have in effect. With policies, I am not referring to those that you would implement when you have employees, but rather those that you set in place for your clients. Every firm should have policies in place for their clients, or else you run the risk of letting your clients treat you in an unacceptable manner. If you give your clients an inch, they will pull a mile. Consider implementing policies that help you manage your client meetings, how and when clients submit their records, signing the firm engagement letter and e-file authorization forms, paying your fee, and most importantly, not taking advantage of you by abusing your time. Tax season is the time when none of us can afford to let our clients abuse us. Having policies in effect helps keep our client relationships professional and respectful, and provides efficiency when it is needed the most.
2. Depending on the size of your practice, you might consider hiring seasonal staff to help with the overload of work that comes in during the peak of tax season. There are many great people who are experienced in administrative duties and data entry, and provide skills that can be used during tax season. You should consider looking for seasonal staff in November and December so that you have time to not only find someone you feel is qualified, but who will also compliment you and help make your business operate efficiently even if your clients never interact with your temporary staff. Having time to train someone to meet your expectations is important if you expect for seasonal staff to enhance your productivity when you need it most.
What better than to receive compliments from your clients telling you how amazing you are and what great service you offer, while not knowing that you don’t do it all yourself behind the scenes?
The question for all of us is, how do you find that perfect person? With technology and social media, it is very easy to post online ads and ask your network of friends if they know anyone. The old-fashioned method of a good referral and word of mouth still works well.
If you have colleagues that you interact with in your area, consider reaching out to see if they may know of someone that would be a good fit. For example, one of my close friends in the industry always reaches out when he needs seasonal help. Six years ago, he asked if I knew of a good bookkeeper that he could hire part time, and if it worked out it would transition into full-time employment. At the time, I was teaching monthly QuickBooks® seminars in Atlanta and had developed my own QuickBooks DVD, so I had plenty of people attending my seminars. A lady who attended my class was a bookkeeper and was looking for employment. I was impressed with her skills in class and asked for her resume to keep on file in case I hear of any job opportunities. When my friend reached out, I sent him her resume and told him that I think she would be a good fit for his practice, but to interview her and make the decision based on his needs and not what I think. Today, the lady is employed full time, and they are both thankful that I made the introduction.
Another way to find seasonal staff is by using a recruiter or employment agency; however, keep in mind of the cost associated with using a recruiting agency. It may be worth the cost if you are seeking full-time employment, but perhaps not as cost prohibitive for something seasonal. Another option is to consider reaching out to accounting and bookkeeping associations, as they may have a database of people in your local community that you can reach out to see if anyone is interested in seasonal employment.
3. Last, and most importantly, you should keep in mind that technologies go a long way. The more you adapt to changing technologies, the more efficient you can be, even as a one-person firm. You can use technologies, such as a website with secure portals, electronic faxing and VoIP, to be efficient without having staff. There are many cloud-based services in today’s marketplace, and managing them wisely can help you manage your business and delegate when necessary, without feeling overpowered by the latest technologies. Doing a bit of research and embracing the newest technologies in the marketplace goes a long way towards being efficient, managing your clients and any seasonal staff that you hire.
Tax season is only a few weeks away, but there is still time to implement new technologies, policies and staff so that you can operate efficiently, and with less stress, in the upcoming tax season. Always remember that technology is wonderful, and never be fearful of making changes.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on the Intuit® Firm of the Future blog.