Firing a Client: What They Didn’t Ask You on the CPA Exam

Though letting clients go is not specific to CPA professions, it occurs more in this industry than in any other. Learning to cut ties with clients is a difficult task, but—when done correctly—you can save your name and maintain some semblance of a professional relationship. “Firing” a client can happen for several reasons; they may consistently make late payments, or they may not be able to pay off their invoices at all. Perhaps other parts of your business are suffering because a client takes up too much time, or maybe your client is rude, complaining about your prices and threatening to take business elsewhere. All of the above scenarios can result in letting a customer go. Here’s how to do it gracefully.

 

If your client needs too much handholding, consider bringing in a trusted employee. These clients require too much hands-on support. Before firing the client, try bringing on another employee to help with their business. The client may get more comfortable with this new CPA, and you may eventually be able to transfer their business to this new employee. If the client insists on working with you, be frank about your professional needs. If your business is growing, you’ll have a difficult time providing a client with the personal attention they deserve. Try suggesting other accountants you know have the time and bandwidth to handle these types of accounts.

 

If your client doesn’t pay, keep documents and be frank. If your client has difficulty paying your fees, talk honestly with them about their financial situation, suggesting ways they can get back on track. If your client agrees to pay in advance, set up a monthly retainer, or try creating a payment plan that works for both of you. If, however, the client avoids calls and ignores other forms of communication, let them know immediately that your professional relationship is terminated. Be sure to include specific reasoning. Then, save all correspondence from the relationship—if you are owed money, you will need proof that payment is warranted.

 

If your prices have grown out of what they can afford, provide plenty of notice and suggest alternatives. CPA businesses can grow fast, and you may feel comfortable raising your prices. If you choose to do this, provide clients with plenty of notice. You may be able to negotiate fewer services for the same price. The client may also leave on their own. It is always a nice gesture to recommend other, more affordable accountants to soften the blow.

 

Expanding CPA Jobs Beyond Tax Preparation

CPAs enter the workforce with a variety of essential skills. However, most CPAs get into the business to focus on tasks like tax advisement and funds management. Though these services are absolutely essential, becoming a CPA doesn’t necessarily mean an individual has to take these jobs. In fact, CPA skills are highly marketable in dozens of other fields. If you’re looking for a change of pace or a creative way to apply the skills gained in your certification, see below for a few strategies and suggestions.

 

Property development

When working on new or existing property, developers and investors need accountants to “run the numbers” on how profitable a type of building might be once completed. “Running the numbers,” as it turns out, can be a full-time job. Earning a position as a type of assessor for a development company or city government is an excellent way to apply your skills in a unique setting. CPAs have tools to assess profitability of retail, residential, and general commercial spaces. Put those skills to the test.

 

Government accountants/auditors

Accountants are utilized by federal, state, and local government for a variety of reasons. They’ll audit businesses and individuals and keep tabs on government agency spending. Federal government accountants may work for the IRS, or they may be responsible for auditing branches of government organizations to ensure that financial objectives are met.

 

Forensic accounting

A combination of CPA and criminal investigator, this type of service or position puts CPAs to work uncovering financial fraud. Companies lose billions each year to fraud, making this an incredibly fast-growing sector. This type of position is often offered within large companies or as part of government law enforcement agencies.

 

While the above jobs may not be what you have in mind as a CPA, it helps to cast a wide net when looking for positions. If you already work at an established accounting firm, consider expanding your services to include these types of offerings. You’ll draw in new business, add marketability to yourself and your company, and earn a profit.

 

5 Traits that Make an Accountant Indispensable

Every CPA is instilled with a set of skills when they earn their title. Certain traits, however, must be intuited, learned on the job, or part of a professional’s personality. These qualities are what separate good accountants from indispensable accountants; rather than viewing your CPA as a person who provides a service, you should see them as a person with whom you have an essential relationship. Below, we have isolated five traits that mark a great accountant.

 

Creativity

A great CPA needs to be creative. No, this doesn’t need he or she should have an artistic hobby. It means your accountant should have the capacity to think outside the box. A creative mind can see and present a situation in a new and interesting way, generating unique solutions to even the toughest of accounting problems. Most client problems aren’t textbook cases, and they require special attention, personalization, and a lot of creativity.

 

Commitment to the industry

An accountant should be passionate about doing the math and helping clients. For a CPA to be truly indispensable, they need to be passionate about their career and the service they provide; it should not just be a way to make money. This is essential for the level and quality of work output and for employment turnover. If a person loves what they do, they’re likely to stick around for a while.

 

Trustworthiness

CPAs handle a lot of sensitive material; some joke that they know their clients better than most family members. Most forms and figures that pass through an accountant’s hands are confidential, and CPAs must be vigilant in their commitment to privacy. This should extend beyond the workplace; if an accountant spends their free time gossiping about co-workers and clients, they’re likely not a good fit for a position.

 

Interest in technology and development

Accounting work hasn’t changed much, but the ways accountants work shift with every round of software releases. According to Daniel Hood, the Editor-in-Chief of Accounting Today, an invaluable CPA should have an interest in and willingness to experiment with new and developing technology. Flexibility and the ability to adapt and learn on the job are essential for good accounting.

 

Focus on personal and partner development

Michael Platt, Principal of the Platt Group, has said that pushing for firm, partner, and personal development is one of the most essential characteristics for a CPA. This might mean earning a concomitant degree, or perhaps taking on certain projects just for the experience. This might mean providing guidance to younger or lower-level CPAs in a firm, or perhaps providing constructive suggestions in meetings. Whatever the case, your CPA should not be content with quality of work; they should always strive to do better.

 

 

Qualities to Look for Before Hiring a CPA

With over 650,000 actively licensed CPAs in the United States, you shouldn’t have a problem, you shouldn’t have a problem finding an individual to fill a position or fill a personal accounting need. However, certain traits allow CPAs to stand apart from the crowd. While interviewing and reviewing applications, keep the following qualities in mind. These characteristics make for a competent and efficient CPA.

 

Attention to detail

Accounting work can be a tricky business. All calculations need to be exact; every figure needs to be accurate. A good CPA will have a strategy for keeping track of details—whether that means reviewing forms two to three times before submitting or keeping diligent notes during work and meetings.

 

Excellent organization

This trait is important for every industry worker, but it is especially essential for CPAs. Accountants often juggle dozens of clients at a time, and those clients often require different services and support. A CPA needs to maintain an organizational system in order to keep up with figures, data, and paperwork they accumulate on the job. Great organization leads to maximum productivity.

 

Communication

This is one of the most important skills for any client-facing professional. A good CPA should be able to clearly and articulately explain their process and figures to clients, peers, and higher-ups. If there is any confusion about a specific task, they should feel comfortable in asking for clarification and direction. Communication goes hand-in-hand with trustworthiness and accuracy, all of which are essential in a good accountant.

 

Time management

This skill is in line with attention to detail and communication, but it merits its own mention. Time-management is imperative to efficient accounting work. If you’re trying to find a good CPA, ask about their time management strategies; if nothing comes to mind, they likely haven’t developed an efficiency system. If they already have a tried and true strategy for tackling several problems at once, they know how to prioritize needs and skills.

 

Well-rounded

You want a CPA who has broad financial experience, whether that means financial planning, tax law, or auditing history. Though accountants often specialize in a specific service, finding a professional with a range of experience and interests guarantees their ability to work beyond their professional niche when necessary. They can also provide invaluable insight and problem-solving skills in tough situations.

 

 

What is the AICPA?

The AICPA is the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. This is the national professional organization of CPAs within he United States; it has over 418,000 members working in business, industry, public practice, government, education, and as international associates. This is the organization responsible for setting the ethical standards for all CPAs, including auditing standards within and for private companies, non-profit organizations, and government. The AICPA is over 130 years old, making it one of the oldest professional organizations in America.

 

Per the AICPA’s website, the organization’s mission is to, “power the success of global business, CPAs, CGMAs, and specialty credentials by providing the most relevant knowledge, resources, and advocacy, and protecting the evolving public interest.” The organization sets professional and technical standards for CPAs, partnering with other CPA organizations to prioritize skill development.

 

So, why do you need to know about the AICPA? This organization is responsible for developing and grading the Uniform CPA Examination. They are also responsible for offering credentialing programs in certain subject areas—similar to the state board certifications provided to attorneys. The AICPA offers the following credentials:

 

  • Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV)
  • Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)
  • Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF)
  • Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP)
  • Certified in Entity and Intangible Valuations (CEIV)

 

In essence, the AICPA is responsible for providing and maintaining your certification status. This is the organization you should consult if you want to expand your services and abilities as a CPA; in achieving these credentials, you can begin to build a more specialized educational and professional portfolio. Furthermore, becoming a member of the AICPA provides CPAs with an essential professional and support network.