The Importance Of Using Systems In Your Practice

When I was in the Navy, I operated nuclear power plant equipment on board the largest, most complex warships ever constructed: Nimitz class aircraft carriers. The equipment that I was entrusted with on a daily basis had price tags in the hundreds of millions of dollars. In addition, our equipment simply couldn’t be down: An entire crew of nearly 5,000 other people relied on those of us down in the engineering spaces to provide them with water, power, propulsion, and steam (required to operate the catapults that launched aircraft off the flight deck).

The most incredible part of all this? All this machinery was primarily left in the hands of people like me that were barely out of high school, and often with little or no supervision from senior personnel.

How on Earth do a bunch of kids become entrusted with such a task, and how do they avoid screwing it up every day?

The answer is very simple, actually.

First of all, all nuclear operators spend a year in school, learning their trade and nuclear theory. It’s considered one of the most rigorous academic programs in the world, and at the time I went through, there was a fail out rate of over 50%. So, by the end of this training, we knew a ton of theory regarding how everything in a large nuclear plant interacted and operated.

Second, with that theoretical background in place, nuclear operators are introduced to the most important concept in all of nuclear power. In fact, this concept exists in just about all industrial facilities, including chemical factories, oil refineries, and manufacturing plant assembly lines, just to name a few. What is this magical concept?

Simply put, it’s this: Verbatim compliance with written procedures.

See, everything…and I do mean *everything*, in a nuclear power plant has a written, step-by-step procedure for getting anything done. No valve is turned, button is pushed, maintenance performed, without referencing the proper checklist.

This concept is so important to the safe operation of a nuclear power plant that after that year of classroom training, Navy nukes are sent to a training ship for 6 months where they learn and become qualified to operate the equipment on board using the procedures. Basically, it’s 6 months of learning how to follow checklists in books. Then, and only then, is that sailor sent to the fleet to operate a seafaring vessel.

What does this have to with … Continue reading

Connecting With Your Clients

You will often hear me discuss the concept of making sure that you proactively do things to ensure that you keep the clients that you already have. After all, getting a new client is roughly 10 times more expensive than keeping an existing one.

One of the simplest ways to ensure that your existing clients stick is through good ol’ fashioned communication. If your clients here from you regularly, not just at tax time or when you update their Quickbooks, then you forge a stronger relationship over time with them.

Maintaining regular communication with your clients really isn’t that difficult, nor does it need to be expensive, especially these days with “social media” being all the rage (just don’t get caught up in all the hype — you’re not going to get millions of new clients from just using social media).

Here are some ideas to stay engaged with your clients (and prospective clients):

1. Encourage them to follow you on Twitter and “like” your Facebook page.

2. Mail all clients a monthly newsletter.

3. Create an email newsletter to send.

4. Invite clients to monthly or quarterly educational seminars to cover financial topics. Bring in outside experts, such as financial planners, attorneys, or insurance agents as necessary to cover appropriate topics.

What are some things you are already doing to stay in touch with clients? Leave a comment below to share with other readers so that everybody can benefit from shared knowledge.… Continue reading

Filling your tax season appointment calendar

Tax season is right around the corner, which means that right now is the time to be doing two things to ensure you have a great tax season:

1. Get in touch with all your past clients to schedule their appointments for 2012.

2. Advertise to get new clients in.

Simple postcards or letters to your past clients should be going out now to remind them to schedule an appointment to get their 2011 tax return prepared.

For getting new clients, here are some suggestions for where to advertise:

1. Your local MoneyMailer or ValPak, which is a thick envelope of coupons delivered to houses in most cities.

2. Local special interest newspapers with an offer targeting that interest group. Examples from my local area include weekly Spanish language and senior citizen newspapers, a monthly outdoor/sports enthusiast magazine, a weekly business newspaper, and a weekly printed newsletter targeted to farmers and ranchers.

3. Send direct mail offers, either postcards or letters, to the residential postal delivery areas closest to your location.

4. Put up flyers with detachable coupons or phone number at supermarkets, flea markets, parks, malls, and anywhere else with free public flyer boards (I’ve seen entire tax practices built from this simplest of all marketing methods).

5. Put up small signs along roads and major intersections. Check with your local authorities to determine if this is legal and if you need a permit.

6. Deliver flyers or door hangars door-to-door in your target residential neighborhoods. Again, check local laws and permit requirements for this.

Any ones of the above 6 methods can fill up and entire tax season for a solo practitioner or small tax office. Used in combination, the results can be simply astonishing. On top of that, most of these methods are not all that expensive, and some are even free.

If you haven’t already, you should get your hands on time-tested tax firm marketing ads, flyers, and mailers to assist in your marketing efforts.

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