I spent six years working for three partners who’d sit in their little rooms calmly doing their accounting jobs with little thought of expansion or much else. I was frustrated. I wanted to DO something, but there was nowhere for me to go. Then I bought a tax practice. Since I knew I could do a great job on tax returns, I didn’t see any problem. I failed to notice the obvious. I was an accountant, a technical guy—running an office, managing personnel, and dealing with clients demanded different skills. I was a person in business, but not a businessperson.
We did all right, but we weren’t very efficient. I didn’t do any marketing to speak of. If I got a rough client or a job I didn’t want, I’d shrug my shoulders and say, “Well that’s just the way it is,” and resign myself to accepting whatever was thrown at me. I’d give one of my staff members a job, expect them to complete it, without me having to mention it, and be surprised when I got it back half done and have to finish it myself to get it filed on time. And we wasted a lot of production time searching for misplaced files. My practice was controlling me more than I was controlling it.
I was in practice eighteen years before I came to Sterling. I had eighteen years of baggage to get rid of. In the process of learning the practical technology of managing a business, I learned a lot about myself, how to handle my weaknesses and when to reinforce my strengths, and how to face up to and effectively deal with the hard issues I used to walk away from. I’ve grown as a business owner, as an executive, and as a person with every step.
One example: lawyers used to intimidate me with their rapid-fire questions. It was like a verbal fencing match with no winner. With Sterling’s help I’ve turned that around completely. Now I market to lawyers for probate accounting, and fiduciary work, and I do very well with it.
I’ve become more comfortable as an executive. I’ve issued office policy and work procedures. Now everybody knows exactly what’s expected of them, and where they stand. They know what our goals are, how we’re going to make them happen, and what part they play in the overall game. What a stress remover for all of us. I don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel, and they don’t have to guess.
My office is much more organized. Everything is out in the open. Nobody puts anything in a desk drawer. We may have ten or eleven foot pending baskets—that’s a joke—but we know where everybody’s pending files are, what kind of problems they’re running into, and what can be done about it. We no longer waste time searching. I can see what’s open, what’s ready for me to look at, and what I can sign off on.
I’m a lot more upbeat, more confident, and more assertive. Through Sterling, I learned the true anatomy of control. Now when I meet a new prospect, I know how to gain their confidence and let them know that they’re in good hands. This works wonders. Learning the technology has helped me predict what new clients will do, how hard or easy they’ll be to deal with, and the best way to help them. The truth of this came home to me about a year ago when I got a client who was so upbeat, so enthusiastic, that every time I talk to him, I feel myself brightening. He’s making a lot of money too. That’s the kind of client I really like to deal with. I don’t have to accept anyone that comes along.
Sterling’s courses in the technology of Communication, Financial Planning, Efficiency, Basic Organization, and Ethics, have helped me focus on what it takes to be a real executive, the person in charge of the whole place, the one responsible for marketing and administration—not necessarily doing it, but making sure it gets done.
When I was in CPA school, they never told me how to set up an office, how to organize one so the work gets done smoothly and on time, how to coordinate staff so they’re not getting in each other’s hair and causing added unnecessary work, how to plan effectively, how to face and handle situations so they never have to be handled again—how to do anything involved in running a real business.
Putting all these technologies together for myself was like getting a master’s degree. It has raised a lot of questions, given me a lot of ideas and things to think about. It hasn’t given me a bunch of pat answers. Instead, it’s given me the technologies to come up with my own answers, discover my own solutions. Sterling has me thinking like a leader rather than giving me a, “You do this,” and “You do that,” checklist. They’ve helped me become an executive rather than a worker, a technical guy. Sterling has helped me see the overall picture rather than being stuck in it.
Ken Denker, CPA