Last year, the CPA firm in which I am a partner was mid its fourth consecutive year of stagnant growth with no end in sight. Our most troublesome issue was our disgruntled staff who commiserated with each other about their grievances. We knew growth would be impossible due to widespread job dissatisfaction in the firm but didn’t know how to remedy the situation.
Although the staff didn’t earn their salaries, they complained of being underpaid and under-appreciated. They said they worked harder than everyone else, yet when I brought in new business, they hung their heads to avoid being given more work. As a result, I stopped courting new clients which contributed to our lack of growth. Additionally, problems that should have been handled by the staff landed on my desk or another partner’s, tying up our time and further hurting our billings.
One day, we received a mailer from Sterling and sent away for and watched their DVD. We then spoke to a Sterling consultant who told us our technical staff should be billing a minimum of three times their salaries and explained how it could be done. I was familiar with this principle which resonated for me and my partners. After finding out more about the Sterling program, we became clients.
Sterling began by having the staff complete detailed questionnaires and employment tests. Our consultant then pinpointed the source of our personnel problems: We had an instigator who, through “jokes,” was spreading discontent. Despite the onset of tax season, we dismissed this troublemaker and the situation began to improve.
A Sterling specialist consultant came on-site to help implement the program. She trained the staff on their jobs and responsibilities. Rather than passing problems to the partners, they began to resolve these issues themselves. We implemented a bonus plan based on productivity, including the technical staff billing three times their salaries. The employees were shocked to see how big their tax season bonuses were; they felt their jobs were valuable and saw how they fit into the grand scheme of things. Now they ask for more work to increase the billings.
Sterling also helped us organize. During tax season, we assigned an employee to gather client information to complete their returns. All of a sudden, returns that normally went out in April were going out in February and March. By April, we were in good shape with much less stress.
Thanks to Sterling, our revenues are up for the first time in four years. We are growing again with the backup of our productive staff. Life is so much better with Sterling on our team.
Laura Bradford, CPA