Practicing CPA Feature Focus: Keep Calm and Carry On

The “Keep Calm and Carry On” signs seem to be cropping up everywhere. Believe it or not, they were originally created by the British Government to boost morale just before the start of the Second World War. As busy season kicks into high gear, perhaps you and your firm are feeling the weight of your clients who are counting on you to deliver big this year. Perhaps you are needing a few reminders on how to keep calm and carry on amid the chaos. Here are five best practices to consider.

  • One Thing at a Time – Worrying about all that you have to do weakens your focus and breeds additional anxiety. Focus on one thing at a time to achieve better, stress-free results. Stay in the moment until you complete each assignment. Then take pride in knowing that you’ve done your best.

  • Focus on the Prize – Display a picture or visual image to remind yourself why you’re working so hard. It might be a family photo, a list of new ideas you’ve uncovered for clients or a bottle of sun screen for an upcoming vacation.

  • Give Yourself a Break – Research shows that you can reduce stress by stepping away from your desk regularly. Stretch. Take walks. Get outside. Find a quiet place to relax, recharge. Not only will these breathers clear your mind and calm you, they will strengthen your focus and productivity.

  • Respect Your Neighbors – Sure, it’s easy to take your tension out on those around you without your realizing it. Unfortunately your actions and attitudes are contagious. Be mindful that your colleagues are stressed, too. Share a smile or a funny story to help keep your team calm and moving forward.

  • Celebrate Success – Revel in your accomplishments at the end of each day. Acknowledge your efforts by answering “What did I achieve today?” and “What clients did I help?” Check things off your “To Do” list. Whether it’s one task of 20, take pride in your hard work.

What mistakes should you avoid?

Yes, busy season may be stressful, but it also presents a great opportunity to interact with clients. In fact, some have said that busy season should be more appropriately named ‘opportunity season.’ As you juggle the many ups and downs of this time of year, it’s important to avoid missteps like the following.

  • Don’t allow the due date list to drive relationships. Relationships, not the due date list, should drive all your dealings with clients. Clients may choose your firm because of your quality services and strong reputation, but they stick with you because of their relationship with you. Keep this in mind as your phone rings and inbox builds during this time of year.

  • Don’t give in to scope creep. Is a well-intentioned staff person inadvertently doing more work than the client is paying for? Are you? Practitioners should have fee conversations with clients whenever new steps or tasks are added to an engagement. They should ensure that staff understand the scope of their assignment and speak up before it expands, so that the additional fee can be discussed with the client.

  • Don’t miss the value conversation. Clients turn to their CPAs for knowledge, but they often have difficulty appreciating the value and importance of that knowledge. Reinforce the benefits of your hard work and the actual results it generates. Create a strategic memo for tax returns and extensions that highlights the value that you provided by showing quantified results.

  • Don’t stick to the same old engagement planning and service delivery. Is there a more effective way to tackle the engagement? Do the fees you’re charging still suit the work being done? Are there overlooked service opportunities? Are your service delivery procedures outdated? Instead of simply following last year’s approach, ask these questions now and enable better planning.

  • Don’t fail to be tough about client selection. Don’t fall victim to those last minute clients or new potential clients who walk in the door on April 14th. Stand firm in your client acceptance policies and remember the traits you desire in your client base.

  • Don’t forget about new opportunities. Manage the seasonal lows right now during tax season. Keep a running list of issues and new potential service offerings to discuss with clients once the crunch has passed. Remind your staff to do the same.

  • Don’t simply hope they know you care. Perceived indifference is the number one reason firms lose clients. Don’t assume your clients understand your commitment. Initiate contact with them during and/or after their work is complete. Remind them of the many reasons that you are their most trusted adviser.

What should be on your radar?

We know you’re busy, so The Practicing CPA will not be published during busy season, but what resources should you be using during the next few months? What should be on your radar?

  • PCPS Busy Season Calendar - The best intentions of having fun during busy season are often derailed by, well, work. When you make a plan to have fun, you and your staff can ensure they are available to participate. Although busy season hasn’t kicked into high gear, January is a good time to begin laying plans for minimizing stress and getting off on the right foot.

  • Tax Practitioners Toolkit - In the midst of increased competition and potential consumer confusion over who provides the best tax services, this toolkit helps practitioners position themselves as the premier provider of tax services. Categorized to fit the needs of all firm sizes, learn how to articulate the value of your tax services, how to engage with clients to stay top of mind, and how to promote your firm to attract new clients.

  • 1040 Tax Return Status Updates - Compare your 1040 tax return status reports with this dashboard that provides year over year comparison of key data points (number of individual 1040 tax returns completed, in process, and not started) as reported by users of XCM’s workflow solution. The dashboard will be updated the 15th of each month.

  • Identity Theft Resources - Tax practitioners and their clients are concerned about the growing epidemic of tax-related identity theft. AICPA shares members’ concerns and the AICPA’s Tax Section has accumulated a number of resources to help practitioners learn more about this issue and advise clients.

  • PCPS Exploring SSARS No. 21 Toolkit - SSARS No. 21 draws a bright line between accounting (preparation) and reporting (compilation and review) services. This toolkit will help you transition to SSARS No. 21, which is effective for periods ending on or after December 15, 2015.

  • Conferences – Take a quick look at 2016 conferences and get them on your calendar. In fact, registering now will save you money when you apply certain early bird discounts. The popular. Practitioners Symposium and Tech+ Conference will be back in Vegas on June 5-8 this year and the PCPS team would love to meet you!

And, as always, don’t forget that the PCPS team is here for you. Contact us any time at or 800-CPA-FIRM for questions about tools and resources or website navigation. Wishing you a calm season of new opportunities and renewed client relationships!

Last updated: 21 October 2019