Yes, We Are Still Welcoming New Tax Clients!

Form 1040“Are you still taking new tax clients?” is the most frequent opening line of phone calls this week.

The answer is YES, we are still setting up appointments for new clients.  In fact, most years we continue to set up new client appointments until two or three days ahead of the tax deadline (April 17th this year).

At some point, last year is was April 3rd, we will tell potential clients that we will help them estimate their taxes, submit a request for extension to file to the IRS, and prepare their taxes as soon as we can.  We may be able to complete the returns for these clients by April 17th, but we are not able to commit to it.

We start telling new clients that they may go on extension when the partners, Charles and Geoffrey, are concerned that there isn’t enough time for back and forth exchanges that are frequently part of the tax preparation process.  Often there is “just one” piece of information that a client has to provide before we can finalize a return.  Or, we discover a deduction the client may qualify for if they provide an additional piece of information. Or, we see a reoccurring expense on a previous year’s return that the client didn’t give us any information about — we need to check to see if it should be claimed this year.

We’re fortunate that we’re a big enough firm (about 15 team members) that we don’t stop talking to potential clients even when the tax deadline is very near.  Even up to the day of the deadline I’ll talk with you about what to do to put yourself on extension, and I’ll set up an appointment for you soon after April 19th.

Yes, we are/and will continue to welcome clients!

Why We Appreciate Client Referrals So Much

San Francisco accountant Charles SterckSterck Kulik O’Neill is very appreciative when its clients recommend the firm to their friends and co-workers.

We say, “Thank you!” for suggesting that your friends trust their accounting work to us!

Why do we like clients referrals so much?

  • Clients already know our firm’s strengths and focus.  When they match us up with someone they know, they’ve already decided that we might be a good fit for what their friends need.
  • Referred clients are more likely to be ready for accounting services.  They have had a chance to talk to our client about what services are available.  They’ve made a decision that what we do will help them achieve financial success.
  • Referred clients are more likely to be active in their community and have successful businesses.  Just the fact that they knew someone to ask for a recommendation shows that they are engaged and involved.  That social interaction is good for business, and bodes well for the potential client.
  • When clients refer people to us, we feel validated.  You don’t suggest that your friends use a bad service or product. So, when someone tells us that Sally Jones suggested that they call us, we are happy to know that Sally thinks highly of the work we do for her.  We like the external sign that we are doing a good job.

Although the push for individual income tax preparation has not even started for 2012, already people are calling into our office are asking if we’re “accepting” new clients.   We don’t often say, “Yes, please refer your friends to us.”  But,  if you know someone who needs business development, accounting, or tax help, please tell them about us.  We’re not just accepting new clients, we’re welcoming them!


Embracing the Practice of Referring

As the designated contact for the first call from people looking for accounting services, I talk to a lot of folks who have never engaged a CPA before but think they need one now.

It’s fun!  Usually I get to hear about people doing new and exciting things.  They’re starting a business or buying an empire, and they are looking for professional support.

While we talk, I try to find out what accounting services would help the person calling and how Sterck Kulik O’Neill is a good fit for them. Sure,  we’re looking for new clients.  But, we want people to engage us when it makes sense for them.

I’ve discovered new business owners — especially those who have never run a business before — often really have no accounting tasks for an accountant to do!  They say that someone told them they needed a CPA and they want to talk about financial issues.  So, we talk some more about what information they want.

When the business owner is looking for help setting up accounting systems, support in managing their finances, help doing due diligence for a purchase, or taking other action that has a spot for a professional accountant, I set up a meeting for them with a partner to talk about an engagement.

But, I also know that money is tight for new businesses.  If the owners just want to talk with an experienced person about what they’re planning, I offer them two options.

  • They can meet with a partner for an hour or more for a development consultation.  We work a lot with established businesses to grow their profits, and we can provide hourly support that helps someone just starting out.
  • They can contact their local office of SCORE. SCORE is a non-profit organization with offices across the country.  They provide a free one-hour consultation for new entrepreneurs and they offer many free or low-cost seminars on business basics.

I usually suggest that they go to SCORE first, even if it means we’ll miss a hour of consultation.

SCORE San Francisco logo

We want people to get good value for their money when we work for them, and SCORE’s price of FREE is a good one for a new business.  The advisors at SCORE can talk about their personal experiences, how they set up their QuickBooks, how they paid estimated taxes, and how they handled rent, utilities, payroll, and other nuts and bolts issues.

We are not in competition with SCORE, and I am happy to refer people to them when it’s appropriate.  In fact, SCORE is just one of several organizations and businesses I suggest to people when they’ve call us to talk about accounting.

I like that Sterck Kulik O’Neill doesn’t try to get everyone to sign up for their services.  When it’s a good fit, I’ll encourage a prospective client to meet with a partner.  And, I am happy to have the freedom to suggest more appropriate solutions when someone doesn’t need our services TODAY.