When you think of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, you probably imagine horse-drawn carriages and homes lit by lanterns, given the traditions of the “plain people” like the Amish and Mennonites who live there. It’s a quaint community largely untouched by the passage of time.
But if you think community members have no need for high-tech accounting solutions there, think again. Landis & Associates in Lancaster, Pa., proves otherwise. The firm is thriving precisely because it understands the unique needs of the community – for all its clients, both English and Amish.
Led by Richard C. Landis, CPA, owner and founder, the firm specializes in working with small- and medium-sized businesses – largely entrepreneurs who are skilled in their work but may not be adept at accounting.
“Most of our clients just want to go out and swing their hammer, and they’re very good at it – they’re excellent craftsmen,” Landis says. “But they really don’t have any interest in running a business, so we take care of all that for them.”
Landis & Associates offers a virtual back office service called BOSS™ (Back Office Support System). BOSS is a complete, customizable solution that handles everything on behalf of a business: paying bills, recording deposits, preparing payroll and all the necessary paperwork, plus handling tax returns, providing financial and tax advice – and much more. Everything can be done online, in real time, and many of the firm’s clients take full advantage of secure online portals.
The Amish population of Pennsylvania Dutch Country still adheres to tradition at home, but their churches now allow the use of technology for business, Landis explains.
“To compete today, they recognize that they have to use technology in business,” he says. “We have a number of Amish clients who do all their business with us through an online portal.”
Taking Care of Business
Many of the firm’s Amish clients leave school after eighth grade so they can begin working in their trade or on their family farm. That makes the consulting services Landis & Associates offers especially valuable.
“All of our clients – English and Amish, no matter what their trade or industry – rely on us to show them ways to better manage their businesses so they can grow and be more profitable,” Landis explains. “We’ll create action plans, for example, and check in to make sure they’re meeting their targets. Because the software lets us manage their data in real time, we’re able to be much more proactive than we could be back in the days when all the reports were 45 days old.”
Landis began using Thomson Reuters software in 2010. He recognized that his previous provider was not keeping up with the pace of changing technology – and that Thomson Reuters was constantly innovating. Landis switched to CS Professional Suite and never looked back.
“You just configure it and it works,” he says. “I value the forward-thinking direction of the company and how everything in the suite works together. Those were the two main deciding factors for me.”
Since making the switch, Landis has seen increased efficiency at the firm. Practice CS, for example, lets the team track every project at every step of the way, monitoring due dates and milestones.
“Before, we’d be doing something in Excel or, even worse, just keeping track of it in our heads,” he says. “Now we know, step-by-step, where everything is, from the time it comes in the door to the time the e-file has been accepted by the IRS.”
Another tool the firm relies on heavily is myPay Solutions. Because payroll is such a specialized area, Landis feels it requires dedicated attention. For a firm with just four full-time employees, including Landis, it made more sense to let Thomson Reuters handle payroll services for the firm’s clients.
“I’d rather focus on the strengths of the people on our team, and payroll just isn’t one of them,” he says. “With myPay Solutions, it’s really easy to get a client set up and ready to go with it.”
Appreciating A Smart Solution
Soon after Landis started using Thomson Reuters software, he had an especially compelling need to get up to speed quickly: He was diagnosed with a non-cancerous brain tumor, which was treated with surgery. His doctors said he couldn’t go to the office for a month but he was allowed to work from home.
Landis planned to have his sons courier paperwork back and forth from the office, but that wasn’t necessary because of Thomson Reuters software.
“Thanks to Practice CS and FileCabinet CS and the rest of the suite, I was able to manage everything from home – and it was completely paperless,” he says. “Without those tools, it would have been a real challenge. It would have gotten done, but it would not have been nearly as efficient.”
Although Landis needed a second surgery, the entire tumor was removed successfully and he’s feeling great. “I wouldn’t recommend it,” he jokes, “but it’s a non-issue now.”
Maintaining A Personal Practice
There’s a reason Landis remained optimistic during his medical challenges, and it’s something that influences everything he does at work and in his life: his faith. With a deep respect for the beliefs of the people in his community, he is committed to serving his clients with honesty and integrity. “As one guy I work with often says, ‘I don’t think God’s going to ask us how strong our balance sheet is when we meet him,'” Landis says. “I think about the kind of legacy I’m leaving.”
The firm also takes pride in providing individualized service with a personal touch. Landis knows that people don’t enjoy doing their taxes or thinking about financial planning, so the firm works hard to make the experience a pleasant one.
“We’re very personable, from the minute clients walk in the door,” Landis says. “We all spend time talking with our clients about their families and their interests, and they tell us it’s something they really appreciate.”
Of course, a friendly demeanor will only get you so far, even in a tight-knit community. That’s why Landis & Associates strives to provide not just great service but exceptional service. The firm is always looking to improve, which is one reason Landis s
tays up to date on new advances, attends the SYNERGY Users’ Conference every year, and has been to a Partner Summit.
“I’m constantly pushing our team to be proactive, to be in a position to give the client answers before they even ask the question – sometimes, even before they know what the question is,” Landis says. “Our clients really look to us to take care of their business for them, so they can focus on doing the work they love.”