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Discussion:Change in Client/Business Type

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Discussion Forum Index --> Business Growth Community --> Change in Client/Business Type


Bottom Line (talk|edits) said:

7 January 2007
When I started my practice 10 years ago, I worked out of my home and offered traveling to the clients as a no cost service. Some of this is to pick up work; some of it is to sit in the client's office and do their bookkeeping work. The practice has grown and now I'm on the road four days a week and am stuck doing the office work nights and weekends. I need to change this!!! Of course I won't take any more new "out calls". I've looked at my client list to determine which clients can be "re-trained" to send the work to me. Looks like there are only four or five that I won't be able to have them send the work to me. I'm considering US mail and/or a courier service. My husband is retiring in 17 months and we want to do some traveling. With today's technology and FedEx, we'll be able to travel and I'll be able to keep working. I'm thinking that it would be better to change the clients to mail/courier this year and then let them know about the traveling next year. That way any "bugs" could be worked out while I'm still in town. I plan to start these changes after tax season (It wouldn't affect the tax clients since I would be in town then.) Any suggestions as to how to approach the clients about this change would be helpful.

Beengel (talk|edits) said:

January 10, 2007
Talk to them about it this year as you work with them, and start the transition now, even if you are still local. You get to work out bugs, they get the confidence that you are still there if needed. I don't recall who, but one of the regular posters stated s/he moved, and retained most clients.

Deback (talk|edits) said:

January 10, 2007
I traveled to the majority of my clients' homes from 1976 through 1985 and also picked up and dropped off my accounting clients' books each month. In Sept. 1982, I retired from my full-time job at the State of Michigan, because I had 244 tax clients and had to make a change. In 1985, I was still driving, and the total was 493 tax clients, so I knew I needed to make another change. I bought a bi-level house in the town I grew up in and sold my house that was on a dirt road out in the country (10 miles from any town). At the end of 1985, when I sent out my annual letter and checklist, I told all of my clients in the letter that I would be preparing taxes in an office in my home and would no longer be driving to their homes. In 1986, I had 610 tax clients, and it just kept increasing each year, until I had 960 in 1989. Then it dropped gradually, beginning in 1990 (when tax laws changed and some of the forms and deductions were no longer available) and has been between 750 and 800 in recent years, until 2006, when the total went down more than usual, from about 775 in 2005 to 736 in 2006. I believe this is due to the many efiling services on the web and simplification of some of the tax laws. Many of the clients I used to have no longer need to file returns. I know I've lost several due to the higher standard deductions and exemptions in recent years.

Anyway, at some time in the late 80s, I just came out and told my monthly accounting clients they would have to start mailing me their monthly documents or drop them off in the drop-box on my front porch. This went smoothly, and then in about 1995, I quit accepting new monthly accounting clients, so the accounting workload has been much easier since then, especially during tax season, when I'm too busy preparing mostly individuals, small businesses, rentals, and farms to do much accounting work. I currently have four monthly accounting clients, four quarterly payroll clients, and one annual payroll client.

Bottom Line - I doubt if I've helped in any way. I just wanted to mention what it's been like for me. I don't plan on making any more changes until I retire--which I would like to do in about six years, but if I'm still able to prepare taxes by then, knowing me, I'll probably continue. Also, I haven't advertised my business in a few years and probably never will again. In the 90s, I placed an ad in the local shopping guide for 11 or 12 weeks about every other year. In the 80s, I believe I did that every year...just a cheap little ad. Nothing more than that, except word of mouth.

Deback (talk|edits) said:

January 10, 2007
What I wanted to mention and forgot to do so was that the decision to quit the State job was my first best decision and moving into town was the second best decision. After I made that change and clients were coming to my office, I was home all day to receive phone calls and make appointments. I no longer had to drive through the slush and snow banks to get from house to house, sometimes 30 or 40 miles between houses. And my third best decision was when I bought a computer and laser printer in late 1989. My middle finger no longer has that indentation it used to have for three months every year. My fourth best decision was when I bought an electric stapler many years ago. The carpal tunnel pain in my wrist completely disappeared.

DZCPA (talk|edits) said:

11 January 2007
Tell your clients how you want to do business. As long as it makes sense, most of your clients will stay with you no matter what. Start the change NOW!!!....your life will be easier and you will live a lot longer enjoying your semi retirement.

Deb, Go high tech whenever possible for increased productivity. At your volume, 1 minute saved per client is over 10 hours of time to do something else. Paperless, fast cable, fast laser printers, dual monitors, Blackberry phones, voice mail allowing clients to leave a detailed message and get your E mail address, double window envelopes. They all help.

Deback (talk|edits) said:

January 11, 2007
DZ - Thanks for the advice! It is appreciated.
  • Paperless - I don't have any extra time for the extra work involved with going paperless.
  • Fast cable - I've had that for about six years.
  • Fast laser printers - I have three laser printers in my house and have used laser printers since 1990. I efile all tax returns, so I only print two copies. I prefer having a hard copy of my own to refer to the next year without having to look at it in a computer window.
  • Dual monitors - I have no need for that to prepare tax returns, except possibly in my bedroom during the off-season, when I'm trading stocks.
  • Blackberry phone - I haven't looked into this and am not sure at this moment what I would do with one. I use regular, cordless phones and have two business lines (fax and voice) with phones in almost every room in my house.
  • Voice mail - I've had an answering system in use for I don't know how long (since they were created?) My answering machine answers any phone calls before 11 am and after 8 or 9 pm. The outgoing message states my open hours and tells them to call back during those hours. (Started this a couple of years ago, when I realized I was having to call back too many people in the mornings.) Now I don't make too many callback phone calls and the people do call back after 11 am.
  • Email address - I've had my email address listed on my year-end letters for about the last nine years, and I can only think of about 10 clients or less who actually send me email. The majority of my clients are used to my system; half of them want their returns prepared while they wait, and the other half either have larger returns or don't care about waiting, so they drop off or mail their returns to me. My turnaround time for those is usually less than a week.
  • Double window envelopes - I've never used these and prefer not to. I print all of my envelopes using my HP laser printer with the envelope feeder attachment. I use MS Word for all of my envelope and/or label printing. I also print many other forms that were created years ago and edited each year: client copy letter, estimated tax sheet, business/rental/farm income and expense list, year-end letter, year-end checklist, journal entry sheets designed for each accounting client, bank reconciliation sheets, and other forms that I use regularly.

Corptaxhelp (talk|edits) said:

January 11, 2007
Dual monitors: Amen!

Once you have two, you'll never go back to one. Two screens has increased my productivity by, easily, 25%. Since I'm one of those eight-hours-a-day-in-front-of-a-computer people, it is as though I have two extra hours in the day. Seriously, a second monitor is that valuable to me.

Bill Gates has three monitors. If I had the desk space, I'd give three a try, too.

Deback (talk|edits) said:

January 11, 2007
How is a second monitor valuable to you? I don't see how I could increase my productivity by using an extra monitor. I can have several windows open on one monitor and use alt-tab to switch between them or use my mouse to switch. When I'm preparing tax returns with no clients sitting in front of me, after I start printing one return, I'll open up the next client's file and continue working. I'm just curious what the benefit would be, if you're not daytrading?

Tdoyle (talk|edits) said:

January 11, 2007
Deb:

From what I understand, many preparers find using two monitors beneficial because they can view two programs simultaneously. Imagine being able to view last year's tax return on one monitor and the current on the other. Trial balance and tax return, source documents (if using DMS) and tax return, tax planner and tax return, perhaps email, billing, QuickBooks, etc. on one and the tax program on the other. You sound as though you're adept at Alt-tab switching between programs, but imagine if you didn't have to - if they were both visible at once.

- Tim Doyle, TaxAlmanac Moderator - Talk to me 10:04, 11 January 2007 (CST)

Corptaxhelp (talk|edits) said:

January 11, 2007
Deback, alt-tab is *so* 2001. {grin}

In my world, stuff I'm actively working on is in my left screen. Email, instant messaging, MP3 player, stock ticker, appointment schedule and, really, anything that is open all the time but more passive, is on the right screen.

When email comes in, I can look right, see if it is something I care and, if not, immediately look back to the left and what I'm working on. There is no alt-tab, no swapping windows and no interruption to what I'm typing. Sure, it only takes a couple seconds to flip from one window, check the email and flip back. However, that breaks concentration and is two seconds every time an email comes in. That's no way to work. I can flick my eyes over and back in half a second.

We rely heavily on instant messaging for both quick communications and presence. Instead of leaving voicemail, email or a post-it note for a colleague that says 'call me when you get back to your desk', the instant messaging window lets me know as soon as they return to their computer. In a small office, that might seem silly but we have people in four states and London. Having to constantly un-minimize the instant messenger anytime I see it blink to alert me of a presence change would drive me nuts.

Also, as Big-T noted, it's nice to have reference material or historical returns up on one screen while going over current returns on the other. Sometimes I'll have a client's email full of numbers or questions up on one screen and the documents I have prepared on the other. Having two screens keeps me from having to print his message and work from the hardcopy.

Some would say that a bigger monitor is better than dual monitors. I strongly disagree. You can pick up two nice 19-inch LCD monitors for half the price of a 30-inch monster LCD plus you have more screen space. As an added benefit, if you have two and one breaks, you still can function. With just one monster monitor, when you see the smoke, the game is over.

Your alt-tab point is a good one. I remember when I got my first copy of Desqview (late 1980s?) and was able to have two DOS programs open at the same time! People thought I was nuts. Why on earth would you want to have a word processor and spreadsheet open at the same time? Why not just work on one thing, finish it up, save it and then go on to the next?

I know some will find my devotion to two monitors absolutely loony. Those people have probably never used two monitors. Give two monitors a try for a week and you'll never go back.

DZCPA (talk|edits) said:

11 January 2007
Less paper office saves you time and money.Cost of paper, printing, files, time looking for files, filing them away, waiting for your copy to print. Do not go back and create paperless with old stuff. Do the future work this way. You can "print" a .pdf "your copy" to your hard drive and scan (you are copying them any way) W-2s, organizers, important docs into the hard drive. You can now look at them on your screen in the future. Works great with a program ..GOTOMYPC. This program allows you to see your files over the internet from any vacation resort in the world!!

Bottom Line (talk|edits) said:

12 January 2007
I've heard ads about GOTOMYPC but don't know anyone that's used it. DZ - I guess you've used it? What are the pros and cons for a first grade level computer person who's married to a computer geek? Sounds like everyone is thinking along the same lines I am. I'll start switching clients to me not traveling to them. I'm not going to tell them about my traveling out of state for 4-8 weeks at a stretch until next year. (I'm afraid too many changes will flip out some of them.)

Deback (talk|edits) said:

January 12, 2007
Corptax, DZ, and others - I've been using alt-tab since early 1996, when I finally gave in and installed Windows, so I could get on the Internet. I can alt-tab quicker than I can turn my head to the right or left. (This is almost true.) Believe it or not, I'm still using DOS, batch files, and the old Quicken program to post my own checks (but I use Peachtree to do the monthly accounting work for clients). I have a batch file (called bu.bat) that copies all changed or new files (business-related files and other files that I want to backup) to a separate hard drive on my business computer and copies the same files to hard drives on two other computers in my house. All I have to do is click my DOS shell button (actually, it's 4NT, which is the Windows version of the old 4DOS--a great command.com replacement that does much more than Windows' command.com) and then type "bu". It takes no more than two seconds to backup everything for the day or at any time I want to run the batch file.

I do my own computer hardware upgrades and have built several computers since 1990. I'm currently using the L1920P Flatron 19" LCD monitor in my office and bedroom. Those two computers are almost identical. The desk in my bedroom is kind of large but not big enough for a 2nd monitor. The desk in my office is larger, but if I added a 2nd monitor, it would block my view of the spouse who sits in the chair in front of the left side of my desk. (That actually might not be a bad thing.) But I know for a fact that I would not be happy with two monitors. And I know for a fact that I'm not interested in taking the extra time to scan documents. (Yes, it would take much extra time, compared to my current system, which is very fast.) I'm fairly certain I'll continue to print out copies of clients' returns for my own records, because it's easier and quicker for me to look down at what I'm working on and their prior-year return, rather than looking up into monitors and back to what I'm working on. Filing takes no longer than 10 min a day to pull and refile folders, and that's for 20+ folders almost every day in February.

When I'm preparing taxes, I'll mainly have open: my stock trading program, a browser, Mailwasher (to view incoming email), and ProSeries Pro. I don't have time to do instant messaging, listen to my 11,000+ MP3 files, or use an appointment scheduler on the computer. I have an appt notebook close to my desk, which is quicker than typing appts into the computer (the appt sheets in the notebook were created in Word and are printed out every year). I work alone, don't ever remember a client asking me to use messenger, and I only have a handful of clients that send me info in email. I live in a small city, in the middle of a few medium-sized cities and many farms. People around here, at least when they get their taxes done, don't use email or IM, I guess. Anyway, I've always tried to do things the fastest way, and I really don't think my current system could be any quicker. But I really do appreciate all the tips and advice.

Corptaxhelp (talk|edits) said:

January 12, 2007
Deback: Sounds like you know what you want and need. If that is working for you, keep doing it.

While I have convinced my professional peer group that two monitors is a heavenly experience as well as most of my family, my father is a hold-out. Ironically, he is one of the people it would benefit most.

(As an aside and as you probably already know, but I'll mention it for people who might not be as computer savvy... If you're not doing versioning in addition to simple copies, you might want to add that to your backup batch files. I have run into many people (myself included) who make backups only to find they are just propagating corrupted files. My daily backup script zips up everything I want and then prefixes the date. That way, if I don't notice I have a corrupted file or have deleted a file I need for a few weeks, I can go to an earlier backup and retrieve it. Were I just copying without versioning, I'd be stuck with identical copies of a bad file or backups that don't included the deleted file I need. It is only when I start to run low on disk space that I start whacking older versions, usually just keeping the first day of month for versions older than three months.)

Will (talk|edits) said:

13 January 2007
I wish I could add more to the praises corptaxhelp has sung regarding a dual monitor set-up. It is simply wonderful to be able to view two programs/files with only a twitch of the eye. I highly recommend it also to anyone on the fence out there...


Will

DZCPA (talk|edits) said:

14 January 2007
Bottom, GOTOMYPC is easy to use. Free demo on their site. Get it ONLY if you have need to see your files from a location other then yor office. Using the internet, you will be able to prepare, calculate, e file, print at your present location or at office, e mail, obtain files, backup.....everything as if you are sitting in front of your office computer from a remote location 24/7. Costs about $10 a month.

Deb, When a client sends work sheets with list of numbers..no need to tab click between each numbers. My 2 monitors are next to each other..no need to turn my head at all. Don't change now. You will need a larger desk. Do you get mail in returns? I encourage it. That is the best way to delegate some of your work out giving you more time to breathe.

Bottom Line (talk|edits) said:

14 January 2007
DZ - about 1/3 of my practice is weekly to quarterly bookkeeping using QuickBooks. I'm trying to get out of the "drive to their office" mode. I assume their PC must be on in order for GOTOMYPC to work so that means that I wouldn't be able to use it in the middle of the night unless I tell the client to leave their computer on. Another example - I'm in the Tampa area. Have a client in the Keys. In the past, they've emailed their QuickBooks file to me, I've done work and emailed it back. The file has now gotten too big to email so we're overnighting flash drives which means she's out of business for a day. Sounds like GOTOMYPC would work for this; am I right? Is there much computer slow down?

DZCPA (talk|edits) said:

14 January 2007
It works just like you are there. I do not notice much slow down. It works best if you need to see your personal computer. The $10 monthly e must be paid by the "home-remote in" computer..not the remote from computer. Each of your clients would have to pay since you want to remote in to their computer.

Bottom Line (talk|edits) said:

14 January 2007
Even if I pay the cost, sounds like I'll come out ahead on the first "non-trip". I guess I'll have to make one last visit to set it up at each client.

Deback (talk|edits) said:

January 14, 2007
Corptaxhelp - I haven't had any problem with corrupted files since upgrading to XP, but I did have a problem with that when copying files over the network using 98SE. I copy all of my data files to several hard drives, so I'm not really concerned with a corruption problem. I also have a lot of hard drive space on the three computers I use, so I don't have a need to zip the data files. Also, the files are copied to the same directories on the other computers, and the same programs are installed on all computers, so when I'm in my bedroom, I can open ProSeries and access the unzipped client files from the same directory that I access them on my office computer (although, on the other computers, they are only for backup purposes. I only prepare returns on my office computer.)

SHENIER (talk|edits) said:

16 January 2007
I've been using Gotomypc (GTMPC) about 4 years - it eliminated the need to drive to clients offices, kept my bookkeepers in my office (a motivaiton after 3 were hired away!). We backup up the client's Quickbooks and transfer their file through GTMPC to our office computers. We use courier to pickup and deliver source documents (or transfer a file from the clients desk of source doceuments they have scanned for us). An added benefit to our clients is that they now have a once-a-month offsite backup through this process. This has come in handy for two clients.

Corptaxhelp (talk|edits) said:

January 16, 2007
While GoToMyPC is a nice service, you can do the same thing for free using Microsoft's 'Remote Desktop'. Best of all, any computer running Windows XP or better can do it without any additional software being installed.

You can view Microsoft's how-to here....

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/mobility/getstarted/remoteintro.mspx

Don't be fearful of their instructions. It isn't as hard as they make it seem.

Once you have Remote Desktop turned on for your target computer, you can connect from any XP or better computer without any additional software, ActiveX controls or web widgets. Performance is very good (better than VNC or GoToMyPC in my opinion).

Ten bucks a month isn't much but, when I can do the same thing for free, I'm loath to pay the fee. This is especially true if you have two or three computers you want to access. That $10 adds up quick.

Deback (talk|edits) said:

January 16, 2007
CTH - I don't have this installed on the computers I have networked in my house, but I've often wondered if I should. In your opinion, would there be any benefit for me to install this on the two computers I use the most (office computer is in the lower floor of my bi-level house and bedroom computer is in the upper level)? Or would I just get less exercise by not running up and down the stairs to do what I need to do on each of the computers (usually during the off-season)?

One example that I can think of is, while I'm getting ready upstairs in the morning during tax season, but I want to get ack files from Intuit before I walk down to my office at 11 am, could I load the tax program on my office computer from my bedroom computer and request to receive acknowledgments?

Corptaxhelp (talk|edits) said:

January 16, 2007
Deback, the beauty of Remote Desktop is that if you have an Windows XP computer, it is already installed. You just have to turn it on. I have it configured on all my computers. The user experience is just like being at the computer so long as you have an ISDN (128k) or better connection. Over a LAN, WiFi or even a broadband connection, it is awesome.


I have a file/media server in a closet upstairs. It doesn't have a monitor or keyboard and it hasn't been rebooted in a year and a half. Whenever I need to access it, I use Remote Desktop. When I'm on the road and my wife needs help on her laptop, I can access it via Remote Desktop.

Deback (talk|edits) said:

January 17, 2007
Thanks, CTH. I'll have to check this out. Several months ago, I remember turning it on, but then I still didn't know how to access the other computer, and I never took the time to figure it out.

Jlittel (talk|edits) said:

17 January 2007
I use gotomypc the other way I have set up a some computers in the office with gotomypc. A new service launched last year client enters the data FOR THEIR OWN RETURN. from their home. We do several returns at the same time. by coaching the client. We are getting those that may go to TT. and really give value. I am looking for other preparers to give it a try.

Some details at my website jltax.com (do your own) and complete description for preparers Secure file transfer--- username "workshop" password "workshop" or contact me directly.

Thanks

 John

Corptaxhelp (talk|edits) said:

January 17, 2007
Deback: if you do 'Start -> Run' then execute 'mstsc' (MicroSoft Terminal Services Controller) from the controlling (as opposed to controlled) computer, that will start the connection client. After that, it is pretty easy. Just follow the directions. You may only need to put the machine's name (or IP address) in to get the connection started. It depends on how you have the controlled computer setup (logon/password or single-user all-access). Play around with it a bit and if you run into any problems, let me know (corptaxhelp@gmail.com).


John: Inventive idea. Self-service but with a bit of hand-holding. There certainly is a market for that.

Still, I'd be very cautious about allowing the unwashed masses onto my network in that fashion. It wouldn't take me any time at all to pop some spyware on your computers and then be able to snoop on everyone's returns. When a client is in as a GoToMyPC user, that person has full control over the computer and the same access rights to the network as the PC's owner. There are ways to mitigate the risk, certainly, but it sure gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Nice web site by the way; lots of content to keep clients coming back.

Bottom Line (talk|edits) said:

18 January 2007
Has anybody used QuickBooks Remote Access?

Deback (talk|edits) said:

January 18, 2007
Thanks very much, CTH! Just found your message tonight. Sorry for the delay.

Deback (talk|edits) said:

January 18, 2007
CTH - I can't believe how quick and easy that was! I enabled Remote Desktop on both computers in Control Panel/System/Remote and then ran "mstsc" on the office computer, entered "deb2" for the bedroom computer name, hit enter, and up came my bedroom desktop. The background wallpaper came up for a second and then disappeared (a picture of my one-year old grandson). Now it's a window that I can bring up by clicking on "deb2-Remote Desktop" in the taskbar. Thank you for your help with this!

Corptaxhelp (talk|edits) said:

January 19, 2007
Deback... I wouldn't lie to you. {grin} Remote Desktop is one of the few free and easy things in Windows XP. I'm glad it looks as though it will work for you. (The background wallpaper went away to save bandwidth. Remote Desktop defaults to using the least kbps possible. If you go to the options tab on mstsc, you can turn up the throughput since you have plenty of bandwidth between your internal computers.)

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