The mental “inner game” of running a tax practice

Hang onto your hat — I’m about to go all soft and touchy-feely on you…

For most of us, the single most difficult part of running a tax practice or accounting firm has nothing to do with taxes and accounting. Honestly, it doesn’t have anything to do with the mechanics of sales and marketing, either.

In reality, the hardest thing for most practitioners has to do with what goes on inside our own heads. It can be motivation issues, fear of trying new things, inner conflict about time freedom versus revenue, and other hangups that often lead to inactivity or hesitation.

I refer to all these sorts of things as the “inner mental game”. What precisely is inner game? These are the thought processes that regulate what we do with our time, respond to situations, and the internal programming that guides how we think about our world and our place in it.

Inner game has everything to do with our habits, beliefs, and expectations — the things that make up what drives us.

By now, most people have seen the movie or read the book titled The Secret. If you haven’t, it’s worth watching, if for no other reason than to create perspective. The major lesson of the The Secret is that the Law of Attraction works for all of us, whether we are consciously utilizing it or not. The Law of Attraction basically says that you attract into your life that which you think about most.

While the movie and an entire self-help industry that emerged from it are built around a sort of mysticism regarding the Law of Attraction, there is a very practical element to it, and it’s this: Whatever you spend most of your time thinking about is most likely the thing you’re taking the most action on.

Let’s take a common situation most of us have seen: Broke, debt-riddled clients. I’m not talking just tax debt, either. I’m talking waist deep in consumer debt…under water on their house…you name it, they owe it. This the person that can’t pick up their already-prepared tax return from you yet because they have to wait until payday to pay you.

Why are people like this always broke, and how do they stay drowning in debt? It all has to do with their mental inner game, how they perceive themselves and their place in the world, and the Law of Attraction working against them without them knowing it. Many times, people in this situation have a very well defined self-worth level of income, for example. They think of themselves as only being worth so much money per year, and therefore they self-sabotage themselves when a money making opportunity comes along, such as a possible promotion or for business expansion.

It’s also common for folks in this position to constantly be thinking about their debt. They are always dwelling on how much they owe, and how little they make in comparison. They’re constantly worried about bill collectors calling, and they are afraid to check the mail because of the bills. This way of thinking locks them into a never ending loop of self-doubt, perhaps even shame. This mentality prevents them from taking action to actually correct the situation, and thus it never gets fixed.

Compare that person to the complete opposite way of thinking about personal finances. Now, I’m going to take the liberty of making a HUGE assumption, and hope that it doesn’t make me look like a horse’s rear. What I’m going to assume is that, to at least some degree, you have the opposite sort of mentality. The reason I make that assumption is because you’re reading this. You wouldn’t be reading this article if you didn’t have some disposition towards earning higher fees, increasing revenues, etc.

Here’s how the mental inner game might work for you. Rather than shying away from opportunities because of the potential risk, you welcome opportunity because of the potential gains. Mr. Debt sees an opportunity and wants to know what the catch is, how much money he’s going to lose by even trying. You, on the other hand, take calculated risks when it comes to opportunity, and if something doesn’t work out, you chalk it up to experience and use the results as positive feedback to do something else, and do it better the next time around.

You don’t fear the phone ringing, because you expect it to be a new client calling to book an appointment. You don’t fear going to the mailbox, because you expect there to be checks in the mail made out to you. Sure, there’s going to be the occasional bill in there, but it’s not your primary focus and concern. Since you’re not worried about your bills, even if they are big, you are instead able to put all the time and energy that the other guy puts into worrying and complaining into much more productive tasks. These tasks are likely to actually improve your financial condition, not weaken it.

You spend your time concerned with how to grow your practice, and take home more income for yourself. Rather than stressing out about how you’re going to come up with this month’s car payment, you put that same time and energy into creating and sending a small mailing to reactivate a few old clients, which brings you in more than enough new revenue to make your car payment.

Do you see how your mental perspective dictates what you do with your time and what you focus on?

The way in which you view money, and your relationship with money, has a lot to do with your success in business. Interestingly, this also comes across to your clients, through body language and how you say things. That unconscious client perception impacts whether they stick around and for how long.

Some people may have an issue with my word choice, but I often refer to these two mentalities as the “poverty mentality” and the “success mentality”. And I will be the first to admit that, for most of my life, I had a poverty mentality. Developing a success mentality took a lot of time, a lot of reflection, and a lot of agony on the part of my friend and mentor, James, whom I can never possibly repay for his part in re-programming my relationship with money and success.

I would encourage you to take time daily to reflect on your own attitudes, beliefs, expectations, habits, and thought processes. If you are not putting good, positive vibes out into the ether in regards to your personal or business life, take time to reflect on those thought patterns, and work on replacing them with better, more positive thoughts.

According to the Law of Attraction, you will attract into your life whatever you dwell upon, and this “attraction” comes via your action or inaction on the things you think about. Why not make it something awesome?