A lot of people look forward to retirement so they can finally start living the life they want. I know what that is like.
I used to look forward to retiring myself. But since becoming a Sterling client, I have gained the skills necessary to not only meet my financial goals, but I have more time to spend with my family and do the other things I love as well.
I have been an accountant since 1970 and opened an office in my own name twenty-five years ago. It is an eight-person office—two CPAs, an office manager and five people who do monthly writeup work—which specializes in serving the motel industry.
I started with Sterling in October 1999 and went through the two-week management course. I had a relatively good practice, but I knew it needed to become more organized and that I needed to learn how to be a better manager. Those were the two main things I wanted to accomplish and did accomplish in my training there.
My practice has grown quite a bit since then. When I started the program, I set a collections target that I wanted to achieve for the office, though I didn’t think that we would ever actually reach that figure. Well, last year we did break through that level and we are up again this year, even though I am working fewer hours than I used to. We did it without increasing the number of employees—we have no more people now than before I started with Sterling.
The biggest thing that I brought back from the training is the ability to separate out the different hats that I wear in the office. Now, when I am being an accountant, I do accounting. When I am being the manager, I manage the office. I don’t mix the two hats. This makes it much easier to get work done instead of starting one thing and getting interrupted 45 times.
When I returned home, my first action was to hire and train an office manager and then start training the rest of the staff to bring them up to the skill level needed. We established orderly systems and policies in the office that had been missing. We are still a relaxed office, but now we have established procedures that everyone in the office must adhere to, including me. In times past, after meeting with the client, I would lay the file down on my desk, then someone would interrupt me and the file would get buried under other work. Now, however, I immediately turn the information in to the office manager who puts it into the computer system so nothing slips through the cracks.
When something arrives in the office, it gets signed in and everything that leaves now gets logged out. It is amazing the number of headaches that has eliminated. In fact, it probably even saved me a client. He stopped by my office one day and he said he was not receiving the work. I said we were getting it back to him within a couple of days. We then walked over to the wall where the reports are maintained, showed when it came in and when it went out. That salvaged a client for me. Before I would never have been able to do that. It made me look good to him.
I have an accountant who used to work for me before I started with Sterling. When she came back to work here again in January, she said it was the difference between night and day as to the way things flow through the office. Nothing gets lost or misplaced. Before it was not unusual to spend hours looking for a file. That doesn’t happen anymore because of the structure we were able to establish.
It’s also more fun to practice accounting today than it ever was prior to my trip to Sterling. I enjoy the job more and my own take-home has increased even though I’m not working nearly as hard as I did before. I now have plenty of time for other interests so I’m not looking forward to retirement the way I used to. For example, I play on a senior softball team. Once or twice a month we travel out of town to play a tournament. We go all over the place—Savannah, Denver, Dallas. Last weekend we were in Atlanta. If I did not have this place organized as well as I do, I never would have been able to get away. But, as it is, I’m out of the office for two days once or twice a month for softball, plus I fit in a golf game every other week.
My family also appreciates that I have more time to do family activities than I ever had before. I have the flexibility to do this now, to take time off and enjoy life, knowing that the work will get done anyway.
Larry Stophel, CPA