There is a growing problem in the tax accounting industry. Attend a continuing education program for tax professionals and the problem is impossible to miss: the silver in the crowd is worse than Sunday morning church service.
The tax profession is aging. Attracting new people to the profession is difficult because it lacks the glamour of other professions. But sit in any public forum and mention you are a tax professional and you will be inundated with tax questions and offers to take them on as new clients. The tax profession is a good field with ample opportunity to do good, but few even consider accounting or tax as a career option.
Those of us still practicing know the qualified tax professional shortage is bad and getting worse. Hiring a qualified tax professional is as hard as finding a unicorn.
Demand for our services grows while the number of people available to service this demand shrinks. Tax professionals have taken extraordinary steps to fix the problem with automation, reducing client lists and outsourcing. Each action has its unique set of benefits and pitfalls which we will explore.
Getting Work Done Correctly and in a Timely Fashion
For several years now I’ve experimented in my office with a variety of methods to deal with the workflow and demands of regular clients and those seeking to be clients.
These issues are of interest to the client and other tax professionals alike. Each new method instituted (or merely tested) in my office had its benefits and pitfalls. Clients need to understand the difficulty tax professionals have keeping their head about the paper waterline and tax professionals will continue to explore extraordinary means of managing growing demand with a smaller workforce.
The easiest—and most logical—way to solve the problem of too much demand is to cut your client list to a manageable size and decline taking on new clients. While this solution works, it lacks a satisfying outcome. There is an uncomfortable feeling knowing you can help someone and passing anyway.
If no other options exist then a reduced client list is the only choice. If you are nearing the later stages of your career this might be a good way to transition certain types of clients to new tax professionals. For everyone else in the crowd we need better options that both serve your client and allow you to retain your sanity.
I will review 3 solid options with special emphasis on outsourcing tax work.
1: Maximizing the value of experienced staff
Experienced tax professionals probably remember the days when they did all the work alone. They would meet with the client when the return was dropped off, they would prepare all aspects of the return, have support staff print the return and call the client, and finally, meet with the client at pickup to review the results and answer any questions the client has.
The old way of doing things no longer works when there are not enough experienced tax professionals to go around.
The solution used in my office focuses each task of the tax preparation process to different teams. Clients drop off their material with a receptionist; notes are taken for the tax accountant. Most of the tax return is processed by a team scanning and preparing the return for the CPA or enrolled agent. Data processors, many with no tax knowledge, enter the raw data.
Once the data processors enter as much as they can the file goes to the CPA’s desk. For all intents and purposes the CPA moves straight to review unless there are serious tax issues unresolved by data entry.
Experienced staff are always working at their highest capacity under this method. Raw data entry doesn’t consume the tax expert’s time. However, many returns have significant tax issues only an experienced team member can handle. While data processors help, the tax pro still spends significant time with each file, but does avoid the mundane part of the preparation process.
At the end we sit with every client to review the return. This is where we discover if we misinterpreted documentation the client provided and to answer questions.
It’s not a perfect solution, but it allows for the maximum value extraction from each experienced members of the team.
Automation has been an integral part of the tax office for decades. We moved from paper to e-filing; from filing cabinets to digital storage; from hand preparation to tax software.
There are additional automation processes too few tax professionals use. In my office we use Gruntworx, for example.
Depending on the tax software you use, there are similar programs offering the same service to tax offices. I use Drake Software and Gruntworx is built right into the program.
What Gruntworx and similar programs do is enter the basics from standard forms (W-2, 1099, K-1, etc.). Unfortunately this doesn’t offer more benefits to the skilled CPAs in the office. Gruntworx partially replaces the data processors only.
The biggest advantage of Gruntworx is cost. It is a poor use of time entering W-2s when the computer does it automatically for pennies.
There is one pitfall to consider. These programs reading forms and entering data periodically make mistakes. The reviewer must double-check the entire return! The same issue applies to human data processors. The review process is a redundancy designed to reduce errors.
This is what I really wanted to talk with you about. Outsourcing payroll and bookkeeping is rather easy. Tax returns are another issue.
First we need to define what I mean by outsourcing. Gruntworx is not outsourcing! Outsourcing, as I will refer to it here, is the sending of the entire return to another firm for preparation with only a review required at home office end.
My office has tried several outsourcing models the last few years with the gracious permission of a few clients to allow me the luxury. My results are decidedly mixed so if you ever considered outsourcing tax returns you will want to review my experiences.
Outsourcing to a domestic (U.S. based) firm requires less disclosure to the client. I recommend always being upfront with the client and disclosing anyway.
The biggest drawback of domestic outsourcing is cost. I have never been able to find a domestic outsourcing company that was cost effective so I never used one. Therefore, I can’t vouch for the quality of any of these services.
Also be aware that there are several firms claiming to be domestic when they are not! Just because they have a New York office doesn’t absolve you of disclosure rules. My first foray into tax outsourcing was with one of these firms. I outsourced my own return as a test and they crucified the return. At least it didn’t cost me anything.
True Tax Outsourcing
After a few false starts and reviewing several outsourcing firms I found one that had it all put together. They had a good portal to transfer documents and a good team domestically and in India (where most outsourced tax returns go).
Once I was satisfied with their work and security I asked a few clients permission to send their tax file to this firm. (The name of the firm will not be mentioned because they did what they promised. Since I’m pulling the plug at a large loss it would not be fair to them since they did nothing wrong.) This was last summer. The additional test returns came back prepared correctly.
A good outsourcing firm requires money for their service. My firm paid $16,750 for the smallest contract they had. (The low-ball guys are not professional and should be avoided. You want quality first, price second.)
The biggest advantages of outsourcing to a quality firm include better quality preparation and less need to find additional in-house staff (qualified tax professionals).
However, there are serious pitfalls I could not resolve.
It became painfully obvious early in the tax season this year the outsourcing firm lacked the most important qualification: knowing the client. The time it took to ready materials for the outsourcing firm along with the excessive time needed to review the returns they prepared did NOT save meaningful time of experienced tax accountants in my office! It wasn’t their fault. The issues always revolved around knowing the client and they had no way of knowing the client as I do. And the problem is unsolvable.
It is hard to grasp how powerful and valuable the accountant-client relationship is until you see tax work done without the relationship.
This one glaring issue caused me to pull the plug with only $2,000 of the contract used. The rest is a loss for my firm. If it weren’t for this blog I wouldn’t try out so many of these things. But with a large number of tax professionals haunting this blog I feel it my duty to try things and share the results so readers can benefit without the extraordinary expense.
Clients of tax firms also get a peak under the hood of how things work when they submit their return for preparation.
There is one additional glaring issue: disclosure.
I sent a modest number of clients a disclosure statement. If they signed I was allowed to send their return to outsourcing. (Only a few select clients were chosen and they were not required to sign.)
Some signed; other, not.
What brought this home for me is when one client signed the form and later read it completely and called begging we don’t send his return to outsourcing. We complied.
The truth is there is no shortcut. While outsourcing offers the promise of a better back office, anything is further from the truth. Even a good firm with quality preparers can’t give the service required without knowing the client. It’s just too large a hurdle to overcome!
It is my informed opinion that all tax offices should tread lightly and slowly if they are considering outsourcing of tax returns. I can’t find a way to provide the quality I demand for my clients from a distant source so outsourcing is starting to look like a rear view mirror issue for me.
Automation is fine. Gruntworx and similar programs work within the framework of your tax software and is only a data processing system. When it comes to a full outsourcing, total return preparation, there is nothing like handling it in-house where the accountant and client have an intimate relationship built to serve the client; the way it should be.
Even though my outsourcing days are over I still intend to educate myself on the subject and share the inside information with you. In May I’m attending an outsourcing conference to learn more on a variety of outsourcing options. The conference cost a cool $1,000, plus hotel and travel costs. You will get the important information for simply stopping by this blog in late May or June to read all about it.
Now you know why I have ads on this blog and other forms of monitization. I’m not trying to irritate you. I just need funding to try these experiments so you don’t have to.
And unlike other blogs, the experiments we conduct here sometimes cost more than a few dollars.
My goal is to reinvigorate this graying industry. We need to spread the message this is a very good career choice. Even your favorite accountant is looking toward his last decade in the field as a full-time practitioner. (If I didn’t shave my head the gray would be showing on me as well.)
My practice in unlikely to grow much in the future. My job is to teach the next generation and figure out all this new stuff we need to think about.
Thank you for coming along for the ride. If there is something you would like me to test be sure to leave a note in the comments.
New or old hat, our profession is in high demand. People are in desperate need of our services.
If we don’t rise to the challenge, only the wealthiest will have access to quality tax help in the future. The middle class and poor can’t afford that. And we have our work cut out for us.
More Wealth Building Resources
Credit Cards can be a powerful money management tool when used correctly. Use this link to find a listing of the best credit card offers. You can expand your search to maximize cash and travel rewards.
Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?
Side Hustle Selling tradelines yields a high return compared to time invested, as much as $1,000 per hour. The tradeline company I use is Tradeline Supply Company. Let Darren know you are from The Wealthy Accountant. Call 888-844-8910, email Darren@TradelineSupply.com or read my review.
Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.
QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.
A cost segregation study can reduce taxes $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregation studies work and how to get one yourself.
Amazon is a good way to control costs by comparison shopping. The cost of a product includes travel to the store. When you start a shopping trip to Amazon here it also supports this blog. Thank you very much!
It had to happen. Reading personal finance blogs finally paid off. Your side gig or business idea exploded to the upside. Maybe you decided it was time to hire a household employee (nanny or groundskeeper).
Worse, you started reading this blog and finally pulled the trigger on your own accounting/tax firm. Now you have clients with payroll issues and you don’t want to spend the time or deal with the headaches of payroll. Your goal was a side gig, not an albatross.
You might have your own small business turning a tidy profit, but the taxes are killing you. You stumbled into this room and discovered there is another way, a way where you can earn the income and pay only a small portion in taxes.
There was more work involved than originally anticipated. It was all worth the effort. I have a major national payroll service with dedicated staff trained in my tax and wealth building philosophy.
You can do it yourself and take a chance you get it wrong; you will. Or you can cough up a hairball buying payroll software that is more expensive in many cases than hiring a professional team to do all the work for you. Time value of money, folks. Time value of money.
Don’t get me wrong. You can do it yourself correctly if you spend enough time at it. QuickBooks and similar software has made the complexities of payroll easier than ever. The problem is payroll is best handled by people who do it all day long and are on top of payroll law changes as they happen.
In my office I could not handle everything so I sold my payroll department to the company I will introduce shortly. The transfer was smooth except from my end, once again. (You either do a lot of payroll with dedicated staff or farm it out so it gets done right.)
No more delay, it’s ADP. I have been hard at work training a team inside this awesome payroll service company so they understand the FIRE (financial independence/retire early) community. This team understands maxing out retirement accounts and optimizing small businesses to reduce taxes to the lowest allowed by law.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could hire this same team? At a discount! And that is what I did. I have a lead at ADP, the largest payroll service in the nation, who will handle your personal payroll and even payroll for larger businesses, (and tax offices wanting to focus on tax only) with a 20% discount just for mentioning The Wealthy Accountant. This means your side gig tax prep firm doesn’t lose high fee clients with payroll because you don’t handle payroll. Problem solved!
If you want to engage the same team at ADP I work with, call Chris Dudley at 414-502-9884 or email at Christopher.Dudley@adp.com. Tell Chris you are from the Wealthy Accountant blog and you will receive a 20% discount based on your circumstances. (Payroll can vary between companies so work with Chris. He is awesome at getting you the best deal.)
As an added bonus, if you use Chris you will also have me as a backdoor. I can review your situation with your approval. No more guessing if you are paying yourself correctly to pass IRS scrutiny. (This involves the LLC and S corp issues for those wondering.)
Don’t worry if you live far from my office. I worked with ADP to extend our reach into every section of the country. A qualified rep from ADP near you will help you with your payroll needs. You do this all through Chris so he can orchestrate the process and contact me if there are any issues.
That’s it. No long winded post from yours truly today. Hard, honest, straight to the point information. (That and I leave for Camp Mustache today and time is tight. I speak twice at Camp this weekend.)
Note: I have a surprise for you in next Monday’s post (Memorial Day here in the States). You don’t want to miss it and a Camp Mustache IV roundup is scheduled for next Wednesday. Now all I need to do is decide what I want to share on Friday’s post.
Enjoy the gateway weekend to summer, kind readers. If you have any ideas to improve the payroll service offered, be sure to leave a comment below. There is no doubt this strategic alliance will evolve as more businesses and accounting firms join the train.
Note: Updated information will be provided on TWA Recommends page. Check there for any additional contact information
Starting a business is an act of love and courage. Enjoying a task soon becomes a business. You might start working out of the home or buy a small store front. The previous hobby now commands more of your precious time. A business is about more than making money. Small business owners love the work they do and get paid to do it. Awesome! Then reality sets in.
When I was a sophomore in high school I fell in love with the stock market crash of 1929. The teacher said economists don’t know what really caused the crash. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff was probably the trigger but many other events also played a role. I could not let it go. Every book in the school and public library in my small town was in my paw, devoured for any tidbit of information on why things went so wrong in 1929. I never found a definitive answer, but I did learn a lot about economics.
And the stock market. From that point on I wanted to be a stockbroker. When I was in college I took a business class, accounting, and macro and micro economics. Though I never earned a degree I learned a lot that has helped me in my career. It gave me a start on where and what to study to get good at finance.
Years later I saw an H&R Block tax course and took it. I was already preparing returns on the side and was ready to make the leap into a full-time seasonal business. I enjoyed preparing taxes and research. Tax Prep & Services was born. Later I would incorporate as Tax Prep & Accounting Services (TPAS). The name was intentionally generic. Schroder’s Tax Service or some other machination with my name was out. The day I started my business I already had an exit plan. There was a chance I would take that early retirement thing folks talk so much about, cutting short a practice I so enjoyed. The generic name made it easier to merge the company with another. In the back of my mind I was think General Motors, General Mills, and General Electric. I actually toyed with General Tax, but decided that would send the wrong message.
The business started as a tax practice, evolved into an accounting practice, and now is evolving into a personal finance communications company. By 2005 my office prepared north of 2,000 tax returns annually. It drove me insane! I spent my entire day managing people and the company. I prepared fewer tax returns than anyone else in the office, save the front desk staff. What I loved doing I was no longer doing! I had people for that. I was no longer happy.
That is when I decided to transform the company into an accounting firm. I added payroll and bookkeeping to the mix of services offered. We had few than 10 clients in this area and increased to over 100 in six months. At the same time I reduced head count in the preparation department. Unprofitable tax returns were gone and clients who required too much of my time was out. There is only one me and I have limited hours each day.
Fast forward to the last few years. TPAS was down to a comfortable size. I wanted to expand because I have a sickness. This time I had to be smarter. For several years I have had an online portal where you can prepare your own tax return using commercial grade tax software, the same software used in my office. This, I felt, was a vast improvement from other online programs. The issue was marketing. I could not figure out how to get it done.
Then it dawned on me I could offer the program to personal finance bloggers. If I shared revenue it would be a great way to promote that line of my business. The plan was in place until I met my first personal finance blogger, Pete, from Mr. Money Mustache. In less than thirty seconds my plan was in the ash heap. He was not interested in the DIY tax program, but wanted me to do his taxes. He was gracious, giving my brainchild a favorable mention.
Too Much Growth
There was no doubt such a visible client would bring a deluge of new clients, more clients than a small office can handle. I was happy with 700 clients and a handful of employees. I did not have to work much as my team did most of the work and I could prepare taxes for a few months of the year to my heart’s content. That is history now.
Giving up my practice was a consideration. If it was only about money it would have been an easy call. TPAS, presented to potential buyers with the new stream of clients, was worth a cool seven figures. Not bad for a country boy. But it isn’t “only” about money. If it were I would never have met Pete because I would have cashed a check a long time ago.
The problem persisted. Readers of MMM wanted me to write a blog. I do write on some shitty blogger blogs and content farms, but it had been a few years since I focused my writing so heavy on finance. The Wealthy Accountant url was already owned by TPAS for 18 months. Now was the time for it to see the light of day. And still more people want to be clients.
I learned to say no a lot this year. A lot of people I could help were left to suffer because there was no room at the inn.
Automate Your Personal Life
Simplifying life with automation is easier than ever. Most spending can go on a credit card where they pay you a bit back and the credit card payment can also be on autopilot. A few minutes setting up the automation frees many hours over the years and saves on postage costs.
Amazon and other online retailers allow you to automate regular purchases. Coffee in the office never runs out; Amazon sends a new package on a regular basis so I don’t have to waste time reordering and Amazon gives me an additional discount for doing so.
Automating the Business
I had a choice: leave a lot of clients on the table (I have been) or find a way to manage the influx of new clients. I chose the latter. The stream of clients has slowed over the summer, but I am under no illusion tax season will be a quite time for me to relax.
This summer I have worked harder than any time of my life. As long as I can see the light at the end of the tunnel I was willing to do it. Bringing in thousands of new tax clients was possible if I engaged some of the grey matter between the ears. Enter: outsourcing.
Finding enough qualified employees is hard. Training employees on a different way to run an accounting office did not work. Time to get serious. Over the summer I worked on several outsourcing projects. I found several businesses I could train to handle my work flow. My employee count is actually lower (!) because a few employees left for greener pastures. I think they will regret not applying themselves later. The workload will drop, revenue will increase, and payroll for the staff I have will rise significantly.
I inked the first of several outsourcing agreements this last week. All payroll clients in the office will be outsourced to this firm. I worked hard training them on my program. The best part is I got paid to turn my payroll over. The next best part is the clients are still working with my office and me to get the best tax deals. I now have more time to work with more clients and serve them better.
The best use of my time is to work with each client to get them setup and then turn the work over. Business management time is limited so outsourcing is a massive advantage. Most bookkeeping will be outsourced by the end of the year to local firms, once again trained by me. By working with a group of twenty payroll clerks and bookkeepers I leverage my time. I accomplish more in less time. Everybody wins. Profitability is up! Stress is down!!
Even some tax returns will be outsourced to firms I can personally train. This will be the hard part. I refuse to use outsourcing outside the country. My clients would have to give permission and I am uncomfortable sending personal information to a non-US source.
There are two massive benefits to me as a business owner. One, I get paid a very nice amount of money to technically sell this portion of my business. In reality I still have the clients. New payroll clients will also generate revenue for TPAS. Since I don’t have economies of scale in payroll, the sale/outsourcing of the payroll accounts brought in over 20 years of profits in that department all in one day and the partner company can do it cheaper, faster, and better. Two, I work less and get paid more. When a new client comes in, we handle tax setups and consultations. Then the payroll service pays me to get the payroll portion of the account. The client is served better with a dedicated staff and I keep my sanity
The same strategies apply to the bookkeeping and tax preparation end of the business. The best news is I stay in business doing what I love, get to talk with clients all day long about saving them money, and can serve thousands of people more than my small office could ever do on its own.
The hardest part for a small business owner is letting go of the reins. The business thrived due to hard work and an attention to detail. Business owners have a hard time trusting someone else will step in and do the job right. That is the number one reason a small business stays small. Your favorite accountant is guilty as changed. Nobody can do the job as good as me. Well, now I will leave thousands of clients in the dirt if I don’t step up my game. I found a solution which requires I let go. I trained these people. If I am so darn good then they should thrive too. What I have found is they do a better job and faster. When you get spread too thin it hurts quality. Time for the Wealthy Accountant to man up.
Instead of managing a dozen employees, I will manage workflow. A regular review of work performed by other firms will ensure quality. The client will be served better than ever! And that is why they emailed me for help.
It took a while to find an analogy to help me let go. Then I had it. Warren Buffett runs one of the largest companies on the planet with 24 people at the corporate office, plus himself. Berkshire Hathaway has over 300,000 additional employees. To me this means Buffett finds good people to run his companies and goes out and finds new businesses to buy. I am no Warren Buffett. Still, I can channel his talent and apply it. And so I am.
Even Non-clients Benefit
Never satisfied with mediocre, I am expanding these services to you, my dear readers, even if you are not a TPAS client. The final plans are in place. Once I am certain the outsourcing firm can handle the payroll properly with the additional influx of clients I will share the links in a future post. (I will also update this post to include the links.) All small business owners reading about the advantages of an LLC treated as an S-corp will now be able to hire the same outsourcing firms I use. Some of these firms are huge. I trained the people inside these firms necessary to get the job done right and maximize tax advantages.
Bookkeeping will be a bit slower setting up and you are already able to prepare your taxes online with TPAS. The number of clients served in 2017 should increase somewhere around 500%. By focusing my time on training outsourcing companies to get the work done rather than individual employees, I can focus on helping new clients get on the right track and set the process in motion so their personal finance plan is automatic.
Few accounting firms provide such a level of automation to their clients. My unique situation gave me an either/or choice. I choose or. (As in, I can either sell the business and retire (the real retire), or I can step up my game.)
What I am building is usable by other tax offices, too. The outsourcing strategies and resources I am developing are something anyone can use. Before the end of the year I will provide links to the contact person for payroll outsourcing. This person has a fully developed team well aware of the strategies I use with my clients to maximize tax savings. When it comes to LLCs treated as S-corps, I will tell you what you want to get paid to optimize taxes. My team of partner companies will understand what I am doing and execute with laser precision.
I am so excited! A summer of hard work is coming together. My expanded team allows me to help a massive number of people and businesses. One small tax office building, TPAS, will provide the tax/accounting/payroll services of a massive accounting firm at prices lower than any major firm charges. Bigger, better, faster.
Outsourcing is about focusing on tasks. The jack-of-all-trades never provides premium work. I tried it. It doesn’t work. I am a tax office. That is how I started; it is how I will end. All the other related services will still be available through TPAS. My outsourcing partners will keep work flowing smoothly as I work with larger and larger groups of people.
The results are already bearing fruit. In the last few weeks as payroll is slowly moving to the outsourcing company I have used the extra time to add 32 new clients. This would never have been possible without the new automated system. I have an excited group of businesses eager to serve the people I bring in. Keep your eyes open for more updates.
If you contacted me in the past, I am working through the list. When things came in too fast I had to skip large chunks of emails just to stay somewhat current. I will keep working back until I get to the people who emailed me months ago or even during tax season. Soon I will have staff helping me manage my email flow, sometimes over 300 per day. It takes a good plan to handle that volume. I finally have the first pieces in place to get the job done.
Business is like that. Your plans can change often and rapidly. Where you start is not where you end. My tax office is different than anything I imagined even a few short years ago. Business is exciting and addicting. The world changes and I am part of that change. I am inspired and humbled all at the same time. The accounting/tax industry needs radical changes to serve our communities. If I end up a leader in that transformation it will be the greatest thrill of my life. The accounting industry is uniquely positioned to transform our society from one that focuses on spending and long working hours into a society freed from the mundane tasks, freed to reach for the stars and dream dreams never dreamed before.
There is a sickness spreading in the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) community. This sickness threatens to topple the best laid plans of intelligent young men and women everywhere. The mentality is that you must do everything yourself to save a dollar and reach your FI goal as soon as possible. Except this DIY mantra is the surest way to delay FI and early retirement by a substantial amount of time.
The worst disasters at my office and lowest times of profitability are when I, as the boss, either refuse to delegate or do not have qualified employees to delegate to. The same applies in personal life. When you do every possible job yourself you lose the economies of scale a professional can bring to the table at a lower cost, faster completion, and a better finished product. Your FIRE goal can be delayed because you refused to delegate.
What are Friends For
The past tax season was a challenge to say the least. Two factors played a role: lack of qualified employees for me to delegate to and the refusal to delegate projects I should only be overseeing once qualified employees were in place. It took a while, but I have a good team in place handling the additional workload. The weak link was yours truly. I reluctantly delegated work as it piled up behind my desk. Finally, when I had nowhere to run, I delegated the bulk of my workload. Stuff sitting behind my desk for months was getting done and out to the clients. It also increased profit margins.
Delegating is difficult for many, especially over achievers. Business owners feel they are the best qualified to handle the job. If that is true you suck as a boss and business owner. Smart business owners train their employees to handle all the jobs the business performs. When I do my job best I spend my day studying, researching, and talking with clients and perspective clients. Doing the actual work means profits are down and so is quality. As smart as I think I am there is no way I can run at full speed day in and day out. Eventually I will make mistakes due to fatigue.
Once I hired and trained additional staff I started letting things drift from my desk to my team. I still review, but I now have my life back. The number of days per week at the office is down almost to the level of a year or so ago. And good thing. I was beginning to think a real retirement looked better than my dream job. The last bit of delegation for me is to hand over the processing of new clients. I get a lot of email from potential new clients and contact very few; I just don’t have the time. The new system currently going into operation will allow me to follow-up on a larger number of requests. My admin will qualify clients and set phone appointments. This will allow me to make better use of my time and spend more quality time with clients and have more free time for me.
Look Who is Talking
My delegating abilities are short of stellar. The last seven months proved that. However, years of experience brought me back into line before a real disaster developed. My desk is cleared and now there is one more job I need to perform as boss: teach my office manager to delegate.
Karen is an awesome office manager and team player; I trust her with my life. Karen has a desk problem similar to mine; she has too many projects for one person. She needs to delegate as badly as I did. Karen, like me, trusts herself more than anyone else. She wants the client to come first no matter what; a great quality, but impossible to uphold if you don’t engage your team.
As the boss I sat Karen down and had to make a sale. I had to sell her on taking the work off her desk and allowing her capable team to handle the workflow. Karen’s main job with all the new employees is to manage the employees, train them, and help employees reach their potential while keeping the client first. The sale was made. Now Karen is in the process of moving the bulk of her current workload to the rest of the office team. Once again, profits will rise and stress will decline.
Personal life is worse than the office and I bet you are as bad as I am. Jobs around the house are part of my daily schedule. Clipping lawn, shoveling snow, and feeding/cleaning the farm animals make sense for me to do. I like the work so I keep it all for my very own. Mrs. Accountant helps with feeding the animals and getting the eggs twice a day.
Big projects are a different story. A few years back my farm needed to update the septic system. When I bought the place it had a holding tank (an expensive pain in the ass to constantly pump). We could not upgrade at the time because we could not get a perk test to pass. However, once I decided to stop raising steers more land opened for a possible mound system. I dragged my feet updating the septic system because I wanted to do it myself. I know how to do it and am perfectly capable of handling the job with a bit of help from a family member.
During my knuckle dragging, ah, I mean foot dragging I wasted over $2,000 nursing the old holding tank setup. Finally I had it. The time required for me to install a mound system was more than I was willing to commit to. I delegated (hired a contractor I trusted) the project. The work was done in less than two months from the time I got the quote. Here is the funny thing. I costed out the whole project doing it myself. For some reason I would have saved around $2,000 when I was done renting equipment and buying supplies, the same amount I wasted convincing myself I could do it myself.
That does not mean I can’t do a job (how do you like the double negative?). Delegation does not require delegation of every job, even ones I enjoy, until I have nothing to do all day except hold myself. I still change the oil in my car and handle light repairs. Working on farm equipment or a tractor is a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon or a snowy January day. Projects around the house fill a day with satisfaction so I keep the jobs in-house (pun intended).
Here is where it gets interesting. Some projects you have to delegate. I hate shopping so I delegate the job to Mrs. Accountant (she hates shopping slightly less than I do). Shopping fortunately is no longer the chore it once was. Rather than run around town looking for the right part and the best price, I can shop online and have the parts delivered to my door in a day or two for less than it would cost me to run around town.
Karen’s husband, Chris, is a military guy (in the Reserve). He has plenty of time at home when he isn’t deployed. He loves working remodeling jobs and is better at it than me. He also gets to work faster than I do and completes projects in an acceptable time frame, something I am developmentally challenged at.
Several projects needed attention around the office, but I dragged my feet, expecting time to become available to do them myself. (Are you noticing a pattern to my behavior? As I write this it is becoming clear I need mental therapy.) One project involved the sump pump. Tubing leaked and caused some water damage where the hose exited the building. The damage got worse as I procrastinated. It also made a mess. I finally broke down and called Chris to fix the leak. The cost was under $100, including new hose and patching damaged wood. He also ran and got all the parts. There is no way I could do that job for under a hundred dollars. The value of my time is worth more.
If I enjoyed the work it would be a different matter. I dragged my feet because it isn’t my favorite way to spend a day. And all over $100! I have learned my lesson. The ladies have been begging me to update the kitchen at the office. I finally broke down and told Chris to have at it. He uses my credit card to buy supplies and charges $150 per day for his time. Highway robbery! (That was a joke. At $150 a day it is I who am committing highway robbery.) He figures he will be dome in 3-4 days. The time away from Mrs. Accountant and my girls over $450-$600 is insane. Worse, I will easily earn more money doing what I do best in the time it takes Chris to give the kitchen the once-over.
Delegating is one of the most powerful tools you have available to build FI. It is not a sign of weakness or laziness. Hiring people who specialize at a job makes sense since they can do it faster, cheaper, and better. If you enjoy the work feel free to pitch in. Another set of hands is always welcome.