Growing pains

The challenges of transitioning to the new payment system over the past couple days has reminded me of the challenge of managing the growing pains of a tax practice.

Change management is the old buzzword for how to go about dealing with the inevitable speed bumps that come into play when growing any business. Not all things can be predicted, which means that full on contingency plans cannot be created for every scenario. What we can have, however, is a process for managing those challenges effectively and with minimal disruption in business.

For a tax practice, growing pains come in a number of different forms. For example, Congress occasionally manages to get something accomplished. It’s not uncommon for any big piece of legislation to have tax code implications. The Affordable Care Act is the current such monster that is on all of our minds. It’s a massive piece of legislation, with far reaching changes to the IRC.

Let’s stick with the ACA example for a moment. Such a significant change in the tax code has two sides to it, for us. One side has to do with our own professional education and understanding exactly what we need to do for our clients from a compliance standpoint. The other side of the coin is the marketing opportunity. Other than H&R Block’s TV ad campaign this last tax season, I haven’t seen the tax industry as a whole taking advantage of this massive marketing gift that Congress plopped under our Christmas tree.

Other forms of growing pains come when adding new service offerings. When a tax professional first adds tax resolution to their firm, there are some shocks that come with the territory. Tax resolution brings a different kind of client to your practice if you’re accepting any client with a check. It brings issues you may not have had to deal with very often, such as payment issues with clients and having clients intentionally miss IRS deadlines because they don’t care. These challenges can all be solved, and have been by many firms, but if you’re not ready for this challenges and haven’t properly managed your expectations, it can be overwhelming.

Probably the biggest growing pain as a tax practitioner has to do with staff. When you grow to the point where you need to hire people, an entire learning curve is added to your plate. From basic human resources management issues, to learning how to properly delegate, to simply getting accustomed to other people around the office… It all takes some getting used to.

No matter what growth challenges you’re currently facing, however, know that you’re not the first to ever face them. Many have been down the same road you’re on, and they’ve conquered the challenges brought to us by growth. Learn from your colleagues on these matters. This is definitely a situation where there is no need to reinvent the proverbial wheel.