Even homeless people use systems

Back when I was living in my car, one of the biggest daily challenges was finding a new place to park each night in order to sleep.

Since I still had to show up for work each day, it was important for me to stay within a reasonable proximity to my office each night. I also needed to be fairly close each morning to a 24-Hour Fitness location, since this was where I would shower every morning.

Within these geographical restrictions, there were also other concerns, particularly the police. I had to park overnight in areas where a vehicle wouldn’t be viewed as out of place, so that local residents and passing patrol officers wouldn’t see my vehicle as suspicious and come looking in windows. Of course, I also had a desire to stay away from rough parts of town, for my own safety.

What all this created was the necessity for a set of rules — a checklist — for evaluating parking spots for the night. After a few weeks with a significant amount of lost sleep, certain patterns started to emerge. For example, working class neighborhoods tend to have far more vehicles parked on the street overnight, making it easier to blend in. Locations with dead end streets have lower through traffic, but residential cul-de-sacs have more vigilant neighbors and more police patrols. Ideal locations tended to be on the streets behind high-traffic commercial areas and their adjacent working class neighborhoods.

These observations, along with many other factors, went into my written parking spot evaluation checklist. I also had other written checklists for other aspects of my life, such as a weekly vehicle evaluation checklist to go through and verify that, from the outside looking in, my vehicle didn’t obviously look lived in.

On occasion, particularly in Boulder, CO, I would speak to another person that was more obviously living in their vehicle, and it would come out that they, too, used various types of systems for determining where to park, maintaining personal hygiene, cooking meals, etc. When you live in a tiny space, and your lifestyle is technically illegal, it’s a necessity to plan ahead for things that you don’t give a second thought to when you live in a house or apartment.

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Systems can give structure to an unpleasant situation, and make the situation more workable, less chaotic. Systems also introduce efficiency. For example, the use of my parking spot checklist prevented me from wasting gas by driving around for hours and hours, which I just didn’t have the money to do at the time.

Systems work the same way in your tax practice. Rather than reinventing the wheel every day, systems make sure that things get done properly every time. Systems increase productivity, prevent mistakes, increase revenue, and decrease expenses. The use of procedures can directly impact your bottom line in very meaningful ways.

With tax season upon us, I encourage you to implement procedures within your office. You should have a written procedure for how clients are greeted when they arrive. You should have a written procedure for how the tax return interview is conducted, the paperwork flow of the return around your office, the return review process, etc. These procedures, based on written checklists, increase efficiency, allowing you to handle a higher client volume or have a smaller seasonal payroll for the same client volume. Systems literally put money in your pocket.

If you are a tax resolution practitioner and don’t already have a copy of the Tax Resolution Systems manual, I’d encourage you to order one today. It contains all of my checklists for running an efficient tax resolution practice, including the marketing and sales process, as well as case work and working with your professional network.

In my next post, I’ll be sharing with you the story of two very similar single-person CPA firms that have very different tax seasons based on their own actions before and during tax season.