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5 Best Practices Merger-Minded CPA Firms Must Follow During Tax Season and Beyond

CPA firms commonly earn the bulk of their revenue from calendar year-end and personal tax work performed during busy/tax season. During this period, the heavy focus on production for tax season takes too many practices away from strong practice management discipline for considerable blocks of time during the winter crunch and the September 15 and October 15 deadlines. Practice management best practices are a 365-day-a-year discipline, and those who work it every day see the difference.

Keeping your business healthy will go a long way toward improving happiness for your team. Maintaining these five best practices will also enhance your firm's succession options, and give you more leverage in M&A.

  1. Be in touch with your top 15 clients every month. Top clients need to feel your love and attention frequently. The more you can build out the relationship, the stronger the commitment and the more secure your practice will be. Successors are very focused on client stability and quality. Merger mates want to grow relationships, and want to know that the clients are used to doing more and are very committed. The more you stay in touch, the better.

  2. Bill timely and aggressively. You need strong cash flow and profitability to warrant the increased stress of servicing clients and managing staff. Clients have short memories so the longer you take to bill, the less they appreciate your results and efforts. Successors will be looking for a dependable and rewarding cash flow, and merger mates will be looking for clients and partners who demonstrate good financial behavior.

  3. Concentrate on engagement excellence. Firms have projects they do better than others and areas of expertise that run deeper or more effectively. The sweet spots of the practice should be emphasized year-round, and the firm must stay oriented towards making them better and adding clients with those service profiles. Successors are going to be data-driven, so businesses that are more focused on excellence will be more manageable, and therefore more appealing. Merger mates want to see well-defined, quality synergies or diversity.

  4. Be superstar-centric. Firms all want top performers and the definition of superstar will differ from firm to firm. Know how you define superstar no matter what level and support, so the person(s) will achieve and stick with you. Get to know what drives people professionally and personally, and engage with them one-on-one multiple times a week to help and support their performance and motivation. Successors want the best people available, and value their continuity and loyalty.

  5. Make metrics consequential. Motivating people is a year-round exercise, so bonus and rewards should also be year-round. Measure performance with varying benchmarks for every quarter and pay for performance at multiple points. The more entrepreneurial your firm, the more you stand to build internal successors – and the more merger mates will be interested in your firm.

Accounting firms are busy year-round. The benefits of running your practice with a discipline that maintains year-round best practices will bring you rewards at any time of the year – making your opportunities to prosper that much more attainable.

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