Grow Your Firm

Can We Say “No” Again Yet?

Caleb Newquist Editor-at-Large, Gusto 
remote work

March 18, 2021

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Programming note

On the Margins will be off next week. In the meantime, go check out the archive. We’ll return April 1. No joke. 

And now, the newsletter. 

Time to say “No” again

I remember March of 2020 pretty well. I went on vacation in the second week of the month, leaving the desk at my office more or less how I always leave it: cluttered with notes and pens and no fewer than three drinks on it.

I haven’t seen it since.

My first day back at work was at home, and I immediately began reading all I could about the Families First Coronavirus Recovery Act because I needed to draft an overview of it by the following morning. For the next two months, I wrote articles on pandemic relief, unemployment benefits for individuals, and more on the Paycheck Protection Program than I care to think about. Plus, I kept writing this newsletter every week! I was working a lot, and I may have totally burned out if my second daughter hadn’t been born.

But despite the long hours and demanding work, I just wanted to help in any way I could. I had the privilege of working from home; my life wasn’t disrupted like so many others. The least I could do was try to help make sense of all the ways businesses could help themselves or inform their accountants, who were helping them directly. That would hopefully make a difference to the businesses and their employees whose livelihoods were put at risk.

And, thankfully, many have gotten help. Multiple rounds of legislation have been passed, loans have been secured, payrolls ran, and accountants have served as guides, advisors, and armchair therapists along the way. This is what many accountants love doing: serving their clients’ needs, whatever they may be. ANSWERING THE CALL.

Anyway, like me, I also have to imagine that many accountants have stretched themselves thin. We overpromised, overextended, over-caffeinated, and that may have led to more overpromising and so on and so forth. Your situation was likely far more difficult than mine because: a) you worked directly with those struggling businesses, and b) you didn’t have a new baby show up that pulled you away from your day job.

So while I had time to reset and get some distance from the unsustainable pace I was on, many of you… might… still be on it? You may feel like you don’t have a choice. There are plenty of businesses out there that still need help, after all. Even during this time of year, when many accountants are used to being busy, there may be the temptation to keep doing more.

This is why some of you might benefit from this timely reminder from Withum partner Ed Mendlowitz:

Overpromising and missing deadlines is a guaranteed way to disappoint clients. However, this can be a self-inflicted wound if not handled properly. We set the deadlines and make the promises.

Many times we succumb to urges and pleas by clients to set an unrealistic due date based upon the scope of what needs to be done and our available resources. However, it is we who “sign off” on the request or deadline. In effect, we are the ones who frame the expectation.

Yes, the missed deadline is a devastating outcome in the accounting world. But I don’t think of it as a problem, per se, as much as it is a symptom of a bigger, more profound problem. Ed is a firm partner and has client responsibilities, so he calls it: “managing expectations.” I am not, so I call it: The inability to say, “No.”

As Ed
 noted, missed deadlines are often self-inflicted when “we succumb to urges and pleas.” So I ask: why do accountants succumb? Why say, “Yes,” instead of “No”?

Again
, Ed notes, this is about disappointment. Accountants don’t want their clients to feel disappointed when thinking about their experience with them. Clients want to be delighted, they want a fighter, they want a hero. But trying to please everyone and be all things to all clients can put you on the road to misery; overpromising, overextending, etc. Rinse and repeat.

In the pandemic, saying, “No,” was especially difficult not because it felt like a client wouldn’t be pleased; it felt like you may be putting someone’s livelihood at risk. But now that the end is in sight, it’s probably about time we all started setting boundaries and managing expectations. Start saying, “No,” again. (Or start saying it for the first time.)

Deadlines

Well, crap.

The Internal Revenue Service said Wednesday that it is delaying the tax filing and payment deadline for individuals to May 17 from April 15 for 2020 tax returns.

The move responds to concerns raised by lawmakers and tax professionals that Americans need more time to file and pay taxes this year because of the coronavirus pandemic and recent legislation responding to it.

So, I think this means that while tax pros aren’t saying “No,” to clients, they are saying “No,” to deadlines? The IRS? I guess it’s a start.

EarlierYou Get an Extension! You Get an Extension! You Get an Extension!

Royal niches, redux

Some time ago, I thought aloud about the possibility of a ROYAL HNW practice. Perhaps it went unappreciated at the time, but anyone pursuing this particular strategy should know what they’re getting themselves into:

Harry and Meghan’s story, of course, is a traumatic personal drama — of fathers and sons, brothers and wives, falling out over slights, real or imagined. But it is also a workplace story — the struggles of a glamorous, independent outsider joining an established, hidebound and sometimes baffling family firm.

That probably doesn’t sound unusual for those of you in the HNW space. Just another day at the (home) office. For others, this likely isn’t your cup of tea.

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Caleb Newquist
Caleb Newquist Caleb is Editor-at-Large at Gusto. In 2009, he became the founding editor of Going Concern, the one-of-a-kind voice on the accounting profession, serving in the role for 9 years. Prior to Going Concern, Caleb worked as a CPA for nearly 6 years in New York and Denver. He lives in Denver with his wife, two daughters, and two cats.

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