It’s December! Many of us are scratching our heads thinking “How did this happen?” It seems like it was summer just a couple of weeks ago. I suspect that if we think about it for a minute, we probably said the same thing last year—probably the last several years.
I’ve come to a conclusion that CPAs and deadlines go well together. I’m not saying that we like deadlines, but they actually serve us really well. Whether it’s a month-end closing, the end of a budget cycle, administering and grading final exams or preparing the last set of tax returns, deadlines serve to keep us on task. They mark the end of a time often filled with tremendous angst and effort. But they also offer the hope of new beginnings—the starting of a new clock.
As a CPA in public practice focusing on tax, we talk a lot about work compression: the excess of work load in a short period of the year, namely January through April. Many of us also find that the compression recurs in the late summer as we approach extended due dates. December 31 also comes with its own set of work expectations, as clients try to finalize various transactions and need help anticipating their tax liabilities.
Unlike other deadlines, December 31 is not one we can move. There are no extensions available. When the ball drops, it’s over. In that way, the end of the year has a more significant degree of finality.
Still, there are steps we can take to make things better and to alleviate the pressures that come this time of year. Here are some ideas and questions I find helpful as I look ahead to the remainder of 2015 and plan for success in 2016:
- Reach out to those you serve, particularly those who have the greatest positive impact on your work. That could be “A” and “B” clients, your loyal customers or the most dependable volunteers. Let them know you appreciate their patronage and that you’re committed to continue serving them. Ask them how you’re performing and what else they would like help with. I expect you’ll find great ideas and opportunities to have a greater impact.
- Put yourself in your client’s shoes. What keeps them awake? What are they worried about when it comes to their financial position or tax situation? Have the services you’ve been providing helped them address these concerns? If not, can you position yourself to serve them in these areas?
- Take time to consider whether the people you’re serving are the best match for your skill set, your business objectives, and your style. It’s okay to say “no,” to turn some away, or to help them find a better fit. As you do this, you’ll create capacity and availability to focus on those things that are more meaningful and valued.
- Reflect on the experiences you had this past year. What sort of work and projects were you thrilled to be part of? Can you make these a more significant part of next year? What people did you find inspiring and who stretched you to grow? Can you surround yourself with those people more regularly?
- On the other hand, what projects were particularly painful and frustrating? Can you eliminate some of those by partnering with someone better suited for the task? What co-workers and clients do you regularly have conflict with or who are draining? Is there a way to alleviate that conflict or involve someone else who might work with them differently? Be willing to address the underlying issues; don’t keep skirting them. Otherwise you can expect the same experiences in the future.
- Are there processes and procedures you have in place that really don’t add value or aren’t critical? Are there better ways to accomplish the same goals? It’s rare to find a situation that can’t benefit from some degree of improvement.
Deadlines are here to stay. We need them. They’re good for us, even if it feels like Mom making us eat our vegetables. But they don’t have to consume and overwhelm us. There are a lot of things we can do to make our professional lives more efficient and impactful. Much of this comes down to better alignment of people and skills, and a willingness to do things differently for the sake of improvement.
I hope that the remainder of 2015 is particularly successful for you and that you take steps to make 2016 even better.
Rollin Groseclose is a shareholder at Johnson Price Sprinkle, PA, and joined the firm in 1997. He graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in accounting from the University of North Carolina at Asheville. Rollin has significant expertise in the areas of tax and business advisory services and focuses on manufacturing and distribution, construction and real estate development, and hospitality. His expertise is also extensive in purchasing and marketing cooperatives, as well as with clients that have multi-state and international activities. His dedication to researching knowledge areas and proactively probing opportunities with the client’s interest in mind are at the foundation of Rollin’s quality client-centered approach. He is a sought-after speaker on income and sales tax topics. Rollin is actively involved in the community both professionally and personally. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and son, as well as traveling, reading, playing guitar, hiking, mountain biking, and swimming.