Golden Business Ideas

BY STANLEY ZAROWIN

Keep Clients Happy
Arvid Mostad, a senior partner at Mostad and Christensen Inc., a CPA firm in Oak Harbor, Washington, says he learned a business lesson the hard way—by losing clients.

Many clients, he explains, initially engaged his firm for the personal service it offered—and, initially, they got just that: A senior partner made all the client contacts. In time, though, recognizing it would not be possible for those senior partners to make every client call—especially for minor questions or issues that could be addressed in a telephone conversation—he arranged for subordinates to make those contacts. So, for example, when the need arose, Bob in bookkeeping or Carol in payroll would call a client for information or handle a client’s inquiry.

Shortly thereafter, Mostad says, he was surprised when some clients began to leave. When he asked them why, they said they felt they no longer were getting personal service, that they were being handed off to subordinates. Apparently, clients were interpreting those contacts from subordinates as evidence junior staff members now were servicing them. His explanation that senior partners always provided full oversight came too late; they already had engaged a new firm.

It didn’t take Mostad long to decide timing was the problem. “We therefore made it a point to immediately explain the firm’s policy that senior managers would always provide oversight and that specialist staff members would be handling routine issues,” he added. “We explained that these specialists could get the work done faster and at a lower fee than if a senior partner made the contact.”

Still one client, an insurance agency with a staff of 15, wasn’t convinced. Its manager insisted he didn’t want anyone working on his files except a senior partner. “He saw the light when I pointed out to him that he personally did not collect my premiums or handle my claims and that such duties were delegated.”

Mostad says the process of better communication has made for happier clients, better retention and more referrals.

Have you solved a similar problem? Consider sharing the solution. Send the information to me at zarowin@mindspring.com .

Avoid Flight Delays
Although airline travel is getting more frustrating, there are a few things you can do to speed your trip.

Book the first flight out or as early in the morning as possible. Most early flights originate at the airport you’re leaving from and are less prone to delay than flights coming in from other cities.

Select a small airport whenever possible. They are less likely to be swamped with flights so they tend to have fewer delays.

Although more airlines now issue paperless, electronic tickets, ask for a conventional paper ticket or at least a paper receipt. Reason: Airline computers don’t “talk” to each other well, so in the event you need to rebook to another airline, the paper ticket transfers easier.

STANLEY ZAROWIN, a former JofA senior editor, is now a contributing editor to the magazine. His e-mail address is zarowin@mindspring.com .

An Invitation
The JofA publishes a monthly collection of Golden Business Ideas and invites readers to contribute their favorites (for attribution, if you like).

Send your ideas to contributing editor Stanley Zarowin via e-mail at zarowin@mindspring.com or regular mail at the Journal of Accountancy , Harborside Financial Center, 201 Plaza Three, Jersey City, NJ 07311-3881.

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