Ten years ago I opened my accounting practice in Flower Mound, Texas. We are now up to nine staff doing tax work and payroll administration. My favorite part of the job is doing tax planning. That is where we can provide some real value to our clients, helping them save money on their taxes rather than just plugging numbers into their tax return.
Prior to becoming a Sterling client, my practice was both stressful and unprofitable. The practice was holding on, the bills were being paid, but I wasn’t making any money. There was a broker who kept calling me every year to see if I wanted to sell the practice. He knew I probably wasn’t making any money, but was only working to pay the employees. Every time he called me, I would feel like he was almost right, but not quite. Something was missing from that picture.
Finally I received a letter from a Sterling client that contained the missing piece. She said she felt like she was on the verge of turning the corner, so why sell the practice and let someone else have the profits? That struck a chord with me. After spending years struggling to build up my practice, it wasn’t time to bail out. It was time to learn those extra bits I needed to push on through to profitability. That is what I learned from Sterling.
When I returned home from my Sterling training, there was an immediate increase in productivity as the office became better organized. There were fewer distractions and interruptions so people got more work done in less time. This made a huge difference in the profitability as well as improving the general mood in the office. The stress lowered a little bit at a time to the point where I had none. Well, occasionally there is some, such as when I was preparing to leave on a trip this year in the middle of tax season. It felt strange to have some stress and I found myself thinking, “Wow! I remember this old feeling and I don’t like it.” (Why was I taking a trip in the middle of tax season? Because I could. I knew my staff could handle the work.)
I have now gone through two tax seasons as a Sterling client and the most recent one was almost stress-free. I worked fewer hours—in fact the whole staff worked fewer hours—yet we improved our profitability. I didn’t even hit 55 hours a week this tax season, unlike the 90 hours of previous years when I was just running off adrenaline and would work till I dropped.
When I first started with Sterling, the biggest thing I wanted was improved profitability. Since that area has turned around, now I would say the quality of my life is what matters most. I am enjoying life. I am working to live, not living to work. I am able to take a lot more vacations. Before, I wouldn’t even think about running to the grocery store to buy some milk. Now I take some time off every month.
Prior to Sterling I didn’t think I could make it through one more tax season. Now I feel like I could do it for another twenty years. I enjoy my work, and I no longer take problems home with me. This has helped me be a much better parent. As I was starting to lighten up, I started laughing and playing around more with my children, and I could see the change in their faces. They were looking at me like “Is this my mom?” Yes, this is the real me, and I am never going back to being the overworked, stressed-out person I once was.
Rochelle Chandler, CPA