As the owner of a CPA practice, I found myself in the same boat year after year: broke, at my wit’s end and feeling like a time bomb about to explode. Although my practice was busy, the bottom line wasn’t there; I needed more profits and fewer personnel headaches. One day I received a mailer from Sterling and decided to give them a try. My feeling was that I needed to hire more staff; Sterling showed me otherwise. The problem was not too few staff but too many doing too little.
To make matters worse, I was horrible at firing people and never would. Working together, Sterling and I identified and dismissed the nonproductive staff without replacing them. Instead, we reorganized, increased productivity and got the same amount of work done with fewer employees. This made a huge difference in my profitability.
But as I went forward, I noticed not all of the staff grasped Sterling’s program. They weren’t on board and I was unsure what to do about it. Should I train a particular manager or certain employees? On top of that, my office manager and I saw things differently. We didn’t argue but we were headed in different directions on management issues. The practice wasn’t quite where it needed to be.
We received a SPEEDO (Specialized Program for Expansion and Efficiency Delivered in Office) to address these issues and train the staff. We also wanted an outsider’s viewpoint—maybe my office manager and I were both wrong. That was just two months ago and it has already made a huge difference.
The SPEEDO was customized to what we wanted to achieve and the areas we wanted to address. We met with our SPEEDO consultant nightly to review her observations and the events of the day. That was huge because it allowed us to be part of making things work.
One issue we addressed was a lack of written policy. We did have policies but they were verbal and the staff were either continually asking me questions or doing things wrong. To remedy this, we created new policies and procedures, typed them up along with the existing ones, and put them in books for the staff. Now if they ask me questions that are in their books, I force them to look up the answers. If I don’t, they will let me hold their hands forever.
We then resolved a productivity matter with the technical staff. As the senior technical person, I sometimes request changes to returns, not because they were done wrong but because the changes better suit the clients. Since the changes could not be counted as billable hours, the staff were reluctant to make them. We modified their stats so they could count this work as production time. I still insist they get it done within a specified time frame, but now they are willing to do it and operate as a team.
Another situation we addressed was technical errors. The technical personnel were clueless as to how many mistakes they were making. To remedy this, we asked them to keep a running total of their errors. Once it was quantified, light bulbs started to go off and the quality of their work improved.
We also spent a good amount of time on developed traffic. This was very needed to increase efficiency. For instance, we were interrupting each other all day long. To resolve this, we changed the way we communicate internally and get more done.
Now the staff understand where we are headed and why. They know the rules and the reason behind them instead of thinking it’s just “the way Carla wants it done.” They know why they need to be productive, and what is considered productive.
Before the SPEEDO, I felt like I was doing most of the work. We have more to do, but I feel like my managers are taking care of business for me. And they’re doing a good job of it which has taken a lot off my plate.
Carmela Davis, CPA