I opened my office in Boulder, Colorado eighteen years ago. I currently have six year-round employees and add another four or five during tax season.
About six years ago, I started running into some trouble. In September 1999 I moved my office and the following January took over another practice which was sixty percent the size of my existing practice. We burst at the seams. It was extremely stressful and I was working a zillion hours to keep the place going.
Last year, I reached the point where I decided to bring in Sterling to help me straighten it out. I had seen the Sterling DVDs and promotional materials over the last fifteen years, but what really caught my attention was the presentation that one of their consultants did at the NAEA Large Tax Practice Group’s annual retreat in Monterey, CA. It looked like a program that would provide what I needed: a way to get rid of the stress, conflicts, and confusion, replacing them with cohesiveness and harmony. I was looking to create a synergistic operation with good employees delivering excellent work in a timely manner to high-quality clients.
My wife and I went to Sterling in December for ten days of management training and I bought my staff for a weekend workshop in January. The program validated a lot of what I was doing, but it also served as a wake-up call on one staff member with whom I had worked with for years, but was never going to turn around. I spoke with her and it became clear that she wasn’t going to change, and I also realized I didn’t have to work with employees who are not forwarding my vision for the practice.
The tax season this year went much smoother than in past years. I was able to cut back my hours by about fifteen percent. Maybe no one else notices I am working fewer hours, but I sure do. Plus, the time I spend at work is much more pleasant without all the conflicts going on.
The practice is a lot healthier; it doesn’t have the chronic health problems that used to plague it. People can relax and breathe. It is easier to see the issues that come up and deal with them. It has put us all on the same page working as a team. The staff no longer look at it as “the boss” and “the worker bees,” but see that we are all in this together.
The Sterling program has provided our office with greater focus and clarity. I am much more relaxed because I know that we are headed in the right direction.
David Brewster, E.A.