R-E-S-P-E-C-T – sing it out loud, and help your staff earn it from you and your clients. Self-esteem is so important to happiness and well-being, especially in times when our high work volume causes stress for the entire office. I also feel that the work environment should be attractive and welcoming. Our office has great artwork, comfortable seating and up-to-date equipment, and we eliminated many annoying repetitive administrative tasks through software applications. Our office space and our staff demeanor puts our clients at ease when they come in to drop off paperwork, meet us for the first time or connect to work via video conference.
APPRECIATION – show it. Rewards should be meaningful to the recipient. People are not necessarily incentivized by tax season and holiday bonuses, and in many offices, they are expected. Acknowledging a job well done with a special treat such as ordering in lunch on the spur of the moment, and bringing in baked goods or flowers, are great ways to show appreciation. When you see it, say it; a simple “Thanks! You did a great job on this project!” can go a long way.
SUPPORT – give it. Good processes, especially when the workload seems overwhelming, gives your staff the best hope for success. For example, a properly installed practice management or workflow management program will enable any staff member to answer, at the touch of a button, a client inquiry about an appointment date, project status or open item list.
It should go without saying, but investing in appropriate and continuous training is a must. We add specific training goals to our 90-day action plans. In addition, issues that come about during the review process make great pop-up mini training sessions. If one team member is making an error, chances are someone else is also making the same error. With continuous training and positive feedback, employees can take on more responsibility and advance within the firm.
GOOD LIVING – encourage it. I try to take a run on the beach at sunrise or take an alternative workout most mornings; when I don’t, my staff orders me back outside. I feel it is important to take time for yourself to clear your head. We also encourage each other to continue our routines during tax season. We also celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and births, no matter when they occur. It’s always time for celebration!
In our office we have several sayings that help us feel we are on track, even in stressful times:
“Start with the end in mind.”
“It’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity.”
“Any day I learn something new is a good day.”
We recite these and other sayings during tax season, and work to tweak our processes so that the next tax season will run even smoother. Most firms went into this past season knowing that the promise of tax simplification from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was going to be anything but simple. In my office, we prepared by getting extra training for ourselves and informing our clients about foreseeable issues. Anticipation and preparation definitely went a long way toward setting the stage for a better experience for my team and clients.