Hooray! It’s football season. For NFL and college football teams, the Labor Day weekend represented the final days to practice before the season officially kicked off, with each team striving for a winning streak. But did you know that the start of football season coincides with another season, pertinent to CPA firms?
Before you get settled on the couch, surrounded by friends and family, to watch your favorite teams battle it out, continue reading to find out how football season relates to the accounting profession and get five simple tips to help establish yourself as your firm’s financial quarterback.
“Hooray! It’s Budget Season.” OK, so you may not be as excited about budget season as you are for football season, but budget season can be very rewarding nonetheless. Many CPA firms, like the majority businesses, begin preparing next year’s budget during the last quarter. Budgeting in advance is a fiscally responsible practice. Here are some budgeting tips that will help you stay in the game longer and earn more fans for a long-term winning streak of your own.
1. Draft a realistic game plan
Your budget is your financial game plan for the coming year. Planning for the necessities is easy. Overhead, salaries, supplies, equipment, marketing, operations, etc. Marketing isn’t listed as one of your firm’s necessities? It should be. Marketing is your MVP and positions your firm for success. You won’t have a winning season without it. Make sure you put your entire budget in writing but don’t move the goalposts or set the bar too high. Rigid and unrealistic goals won’t score you any points.
2. Don’t drop the ball; budget for incidentals
Your budget needs to maintain flexibility throughout the year. Don’t just change the lineup, moving dollars from one line item to another as needed; make sure that you have enough leeway in your budget to accomplish initiatives and take advantage of opportunities that arise in the middle of the game. Give enough consideration to expenses that occur infrequently (or that may pop up suddenly) that may also have an impact on your overall strategy.
3. Keep your eye on the ball
This is essential! Once you have your budget in place, you must review it on a regular basis (at least quarterly) to see how accurate your forecasts were and what changes to the game play are necessary. Increase your hang time by evaluating your budget frequently and making adjustments as needed. Set aside the first day of each new month to review your income and expenditures and match them to your budget goals. Consider having a monthly huddle with your key team members to review not only the past month’s plays, but also the upcoming strategies. This will help you stay on track and make sure that everyone is racing toward the same goal.
4. Don’t be benched by losses
Budgets are impacted by a number of external variables. You might stick to your budget for several months and then be sidelined by unexpected expenses that throw the numbers out of whack. Don’t let this start panic. Take a deep breath and realize that there are ups and downs in each quarter. Because you’re reviewing your budget on a monthly basis, you’ll recognize that some months offer opportunities that you may not have anticipated. One loss could easily be offset by a winning opportunity – often, these opportunities come from the work of your MVP (marketing). Take advantage of low-cost marketing strategies and customer relationship practices to bring your numbers back up. Don’t underestimate the power of communication and community to get you back in the game.
5. Attitude is everything
When most people think of a budget, they picture restrictions and pain. Penalty flags and fouls. With the inherent restrictions that come with budgets, it is extremely difficult to view a budget as a positive rather than a negative, but it can be done. Remember that your budget, and keeping your eye on the ball, will enable your CPA firm to take advantage of opportunities that might otherwise be overlooked. A solid game plan, budget-wise, will ensure that you are able to run interference to ensure the first down when an obstacle comes across your path. Without a Plan A, Plan B won’t be nearly as effective.
If you follow these five simple budgeting tips, your accounting firm is more likely to have a winning season.
One last tip: use an email newsletter to foster a sense of community among your team members as well as garner support from your fans (i.e. prospects). Consider launching an email newsletter that offers strategies, tips and advice on topics that your firm’s clients will appreciate and value. Begin the dialogue with personal news about your firm, and solicit news and announcements from your clients to share (success stories and testimonials). Then educate prospects and clients on topics that will interest them, including tax and accounting tips, business strategies, operational and management keys to success, investing advice and retirement planning (to name a few).
Go for the touchdown with a CPA email newsletter for your firm. Have you already scored big points with your newsletter? Share your comments here.