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Best practice examples of tax firms: Dawn Brolin

Practice Management Stars

Dawn-Brolin-2Welcome to another in a series of profiles of tax firms that are dynamic, engaged, and champions for their clients. Dawn Brolin, CPA, CFE, has in-depth tax and accounting expertise, coupled with a personal understanding of the challenges of running a business. Through her experiences as a business owner, she has discovered the importance of the relationship between good accounting records, good business processes, and running a successful business.

Intuit Accountants: Can you talk about your introduction into the tax and accounting profession, and what made you want to pursue it? 

Dawn Brolin: When I was in high school, I took an accounting class and absolutely fell in love with it. I loved how the numbers came together like puzzle pieces to tell a story. After that, I went to college and took accounting classes, then launched my own bookkeeping business. From then on, I kept gaining education in the profession and in order to help my clients succeed.

IA: What is the best piece of advice you received when starting your career? 

DW: A lot of the best advice I’ve learned stemmed from being an athlete in high school and college. The most important thing I’ve learned is that not everyone will bring their all to a team, but in order for everyone to be successful, you have to. Also, you get what you give, and there are no shortcuts to success.

IA: How do you make your firm stand out from others in the profession?

DW: I am laser focused on what we will and won’t do. We are a tax firm and we do that very well. IRS representation is our bread and butter, and so is tax fraud. Typically, there aren’t a lot of tax fraud cases, but we have made it very well known what our firm does.

IA: What is your biggest advice for increasing productivity and profitability for the upcoming tax season?

DW: Being able to integrate your technology solutions is fundamental to having a workflow that allows you to be as efficient and productive as possible. My advice is the same strategy I use in my own firm—always be open to looking at new solutions and new ways of doing things.

IA: What are the technology staples you use at your firm? 

DW: For my tech stack, I have what I call my Starting Lineup: the A-players I can count on to get the job done, and always evolve to meet my firm’s needs and the expectations of my clients. In my firm, these include Intuit® Lacerte® Tax, Karbon, SmartVault, ADP, Liscio, Keap, QuickBooks®, Quotient, Fishbowl, Bookkeep, Jirav, and Truly Financial.

This softball analogy really applies to building the best-of-breed tech stack for an accounting firm. Every firm needs certain positions filled depending on the services they offer, and they need to be filled with the best possible players—the ones that always perform at a high level.

IA: What made you start your Designated Motivator series and write a book on the topic?

DW: I have always believed in leaving people better than I found them, and try to do this with every interaction. I want to lift others up so they can achieve their highest potential. However, I had a pivotal experience in 2019 when I made the decision, during tax season no less, to be an assistant coach of the Lady Warriors softball team at Eastern Connecticut State University. It was then that I realized the right person, a Designated Motivator, really can help others achieve more than they ever thought possible.

That year, the team went to the state championships, after not even having the belief they could the year before. It proved my point out: If you have the right motivator you can achieve anything.

IA: What has been the most rewarding part of the Designated Motivator journey and best feedback you’ve received? 

DW: The most rewarding part is seeing that I actually am helping people and having a positive impact. The Designated Motivator philosophy and framework is helping other professionals reassess their success, and take control of their firms and their destinies. This is my why and it’s amazing to see it come to life.

IA: How do you advise clients on preparing for the unthinkable, like the pandemic? 

DW: I have always been a proponent of having a business continuity plan. It’s essential … just like Lacerte is to my firm. First off, everything needs to be in the cloud so you can access it and your team can access it in the case of an emergency—if you can’t then it’s game over for your firm.

IA: Is there specific advice you give clients on how to create a better work life balance? How do you specifically manage balance? 

DW: t’s taken some time to get to a place where I feel like I do have balance. I think the biggest part of having work life balance is giving yourself permission to take that time and do something other than work. You have to decide what you want and how much work you need to do to achieve your goals, without sacrificing too much of what makes life enjoyable.

For me, having the right tech stack allows me to be super productive when I am in my office. I work about six hours a day in my firm and I know that with the workflow I have, I can be profitable and scalable when needed during busy seasons.

IA: In your latest webinar you discussed tech stack; how do you ensure clients have the right tech stack for their practice? 

DW: It really comes down to what they need to accomplish. We always start there. For example, our go-to accounting solution is QuickBooks, and when clients get to a certain level, we move them to QuickBooks Enterprise. For clients with inventory, we set them up with Fishbowl, and then, when they need a payroll provider, we have our partner, ADP, take care of them. By knowing the positions and the players, it’s much easier and more efficient to create their workflow and tech stack.

IA: Are there any topics you feel are underrepresented in the profession and want to spread advice or knowledge on? 

DW: I think, in general, our profession doesn’t pay enough attention to our own mental and physical well-being. So many of us are people pleasers and helpers. We want to be there for our clients—and we really need to be there for ourselves and each other. The last couple of years have really taught me that and a lot of my peers, too. The pandemic created mental, physical, and financial stress for a lot of people, accounting professionals included.

IA: What are some myths in the tax world you want to debunk? 

DW: I think one of the biggest ones is that tax reparation is “all” we can do if we are going to focus on tax services. As I mentioned before, I love tax representation and tax fraud client cases. I think the other thing is that the IRS is going to be an accessible resource for us … we are filling in the gaps there between the government and our clients. It’s not going to change anytime soon in my opinion, so you need to use solutions like CallEnQ.com, a service that cuts your waiting time with the IRS significantly.

IA: What are your passions outside of the tax and accounting world?

DW: Definitely my family first Softball and coaching are integral to who I am, mentoring others, being on my boat, and I love a good game of Candy Crush!

IA: How do you remain so upbeat and positive during the stressful tax season and stay motivated?

DW: I stay motivated, because first and foremost, I am helping people and I love to do that for my clients! Over the 20-plus years I have been in practice I have seen a lot and experienced a lot, and that gives you perspective to know that whatever is happening won’t last forever. I also give myself grace and space to take a little time out to recharge. As I said before, having the tech stack integrated as much as possible is absolutely fundamental to being able to minimize stress and maximize productivity.

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