2020 Offseason Planning for the Lazy Tax Professional

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Busy season is almost over and if you’re anything like me, you’re daydreaming about a relaxing vacation somewhere beautiful. Well, we live in the time of Covid-19 and gorgeous foreign paradises are off-limits. So, what are we to do with all of the upcoming free time?

Off-season is the perfect time to focus on improving your practice. Considering how difficult this year has been for all of us, I have catered my ideas to the supremely lazy firm owner that also needs a significant break.

Define your ideal client

Write down what engagements went well, and which went poorly. From there, define the parameters of each engagement – what were you doing for the client? What type of client was it? Are they in a specific niche? How big are they? For the ones you enjoyed the most, what were the commonalities and trends? This is a great place to start to define your ideal client. Having my ideal client written down allows me to be picky with the prospect meetings we take and which companies we propose on the work for.

Send planning emails

We all have a million great tax planning ideas while we are preparing returns. However, it seems they come when there is little excess time to communicate them effectively to clients. I believe this year we can leverage the impersonal nature of Covid-19 to send planning emails instead of setting meetings.

Contemplate software changes

Similarly to how I recommended dissecting the best and worst clients, take some time to review your technology. Did you have any major failures with it? What areas do you believe could be improved? Instead of just signing a contract with the same package that you used last year, why not review your options?

An easier place to start on technology modifications is with your document management system and client portal. There are a few key indicators for firms that they may consider something new. First, there are still manual steps to download and upload the documents. Second, the firm relies primarily on email communication to send and receive documents from clients (this is inefficient and has significant security concerns).

Hire now

It is best to start the hiring process early to get the best talent for busy season. When you are deciding what level to bring in, consider your growth trajectory. Do you need another person that can develop into an advisor? Or do you need someone super-efficient with compliance (we all do need this person)? Think about your goals and expectations for the next three years at a minimum when determining what level to recruit. It is worth the up-front investment to hire someone that you can develop into what you will need in the near future.

Set a content and social calendar

Marketing does not have to be difficult. You as a tax professional have in your head so much knowledge that potential clients (and current clients) are hungry for. Start writing it down! If you do not actually like to write, you can easily hire a content writer (start with Upwork, Guru, and Fiverr) and hand over outlines to receive blog content. Having blog articles on your website is great, and it’s even better when you can share those articles to generate traffic. You could also curate some really well written articles on other publications to post to your social media to increase engagement with your brand. To set a content calendar, I start with an excel sheet (because, well, I am an accountant). I set up a template tab with each week in columns and copy the tab for each month of the year. I then start adding all of my ideas. I get them all out without analyzing if they are good ideas or not and then I refine as the year goes.

Additionally, if you are not using a social media management software to schedule posts, you absolutely should. You can set them up months in advance and even have content recirculated (check Publer, Hootsuite, Buffer)! During tax season your social can look like you are active and consistently sharing ideas, while you are actually knee deep in tax compliance.

Take a vacation

Yes, this is actually practice management! Studies have shown that there can be significant increases in energy and outlook at work after a relaxing vacation. According to this Harvard Business Review Article, “We also found that if you plan ahead, create social connections on the trip, go far from your work, and feel safe, 94% of vacations have a good ROI in terms of your energy and outlook upon returning to work. Just make sure you plan the trip at least a month in advance, as one of the key predictors of vacation ROI is the amount of stress caused by not planning ahead.”

2020 may not be the idyllic year for vacations, however, you can still rent beautiful Airbnbs in relaxing locations. The studies indicate that you should plan everything in advance and find a place that does not stress you out, you will come back refreshed and ready to tackle the world.

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Liz Mason
Liz Mason is a serial entrepreneur, a giant nerd, and an involved accounting vanguard. She is CEO and Founder of High Rock Accounting, TheDepartment.Tax, and a few other related brands. Liz speaks on a national stage, guests stars on podcasts, publishes a YouTube show (The Hot Accounts), and writes frequently. To further her passion for the advancement of the accounting profession, Liz currently serves as a Xero National Ambassador and as the Content Strategist for Tax Practice News. Liz started her career in tax at Grant Thornton (at 20) and automated a portion of her job landing her in the national tax practice. She spent a decade in large public accounting firms working on highly technical tax consulting before branching off on her own. Liz utilizes her creativity and passion at her company to uproot traditional practices and replace them with innovative concepts. She finds joy in efficient technology and her core belief is that everyone and everything can continuously improve (she says "be better" too often). When Liz isn't planning world domination in accounting, she is a die-hard skier, down for any adventure, plays the ukulele, reads everything, and has a good sense of humor. If you're looking for her, you can find her traveling the world and enjoying new food and cultures with her husband and young son. Follow Liz and High Rock Accounting on Twitter at @LizzyNorMa and @HighRockCPAs.