Six steps to a better busy season

Posted on Monday, December 16, 2019 by Nicole Fracasso

For many firms, busy season is the most lucrative time of the year, according to a recent article from Journal of Accountancy. However, it is also the most stressful time for many. In this article, experienced CPAs offer their thoughts on the best ways to reduce stress during this time.

One way to a better busy season is to mobilize early. Eric Rigby, CPA, founder and principal of Rigby Financial Group in New Orleans, recommends “making return preparation the final step in a year of good planning.” Rigby and his team members suggest reaching out to clients for updates on their lives, and then create individualized plans based on that information.

“We don’t like surprises, and our clients don’t either,” Rigby said.

Another tip for reducing busy season stress is to use smart planning to avoid overtime. For example, Avizo Group, Inc., a firm in Alabama has what’s called Project 40, a way for the firm’s employees to work 40 hours during the busy season. This is a team of administration personnel, newer and midlevel staff members, and firm leaders that help identify inefficiencies, according to managing shareholder Dennis Sherrin, CPA.

“Our people averaged 45-hour weeks last tax season, so we’re pretty close,” he said. “We’re getting the same or more work done in fewer hours.”

Third, clarifying client expectations can help improve the busy season. For example, Melody Feniks, CPA, owner of Feniks & Company, LLC, in Fairbanks, Alaska, says it’s important to communicate the client’s responsibilities.

“If we’ve told a client we want their information by a certain date based on our scheduling, it removes the guilt when we explain they lost their place if they don’t satisfy their responsibility,” she said.

Another suggestion for reducing stress is to harness technology. Embracing new technologies can ultimately make data easier to manage. For example, Sherrin’s firm uses SurePrep tax automation software to help with individualized tax forms.

“We love anything that will free up our people to do things that have greater value for clients,” he said.

It’s also important to stop stress before it starts. Fenik recommends hosting a preseason planning discussion for team members to share ideas on reducing stress. Some ideas include working out, meditating, eating well, and taking lunch every day, writes author Anita Dennis.

Lastly, firms must adapt and evolve. For example, Fenik and her team work together to determine the best hours to work in the busy season. Some of her CPAs choose never to work weekends, but instead stay late on week days.

It’s important for firms to create a culture that brings out the best in everyone, according to Goering.

“You can’t be rigid and stick to what you’ve always done,” she said. “You have to keep growing and evolving.

Leave a comment