As December comes upon us, it not only marks the end of 2016, but something equally imperative: the beginning of Busy Season that always comes with the New Year.
Typically, Busy Season begins in mid-January; and while this may seem like a while away, we all know how hectic and intense tax season is. But this doesn’t always have to be the case. The earlier you prepare for Busy Season, the better. As you have a month left before this tedious time begins, here’s what you and your firm can do to help your staff and clients have a better, smoother Busy Season.
1. Analyze your past Busy Season to improve the next one
Similar to the way coaches force their athletes to watch themselves and their games on video, so should upper management in firms review their past busy season to gain insight on what their strengths and weaknesses were. Have a sit down with staff at all levels and see what everyone can do to streamline processes to make returns more efficient and effective. Everyone plays an important role in Busy Season; therefore it’s important for everyone to learn from past mistakes, improve, and be on the same page for the next one.
2. Train your staff to respond adequately to different situations
There’s no going around it. There will be minor and major fires to put out during Busy Season. Technology will decide not to work; paperwork may get lost; or a client will be especially difficult. While you can’t stop these things from happening, what you can do is to anticipate and prepare for them.
Have your staff make a list of everything that went wrong last year and things that can possibly go wrong this year. Then have procedures set in place that they can follow to resolve the problem quickly and competently. To go a step further and to ensure that these procedures are being followed correctly, hold training sessions for your staff to go through all the scenarios and even scripts they can utilize to have a resourceful and productive Busy Season.
3. Be aware of new tax regulations and/or audit/accounting issues that can impact last year’s returns
Make sure your staff is up to date on the latest tax regulations or changes that will affect the return process this year (where it didn’t last year.) It’s not only important to know these changes—but why these changes are happening. That way they can answer client questions more thoroughly should they have any, and won’t be hit with any surprises. It’s a good idea to hold training sessions or regular meetings to go over any potential changes with your staff.
4. Make sure you and your clients know what to expect from one another and when
Take a look at your client list and make sure it’s completely updated. For all the clients you plan to retain, reach out to them and find out if they have any new developments you need to be made aware—especially if it will affect their taxes. Learning about whether they have undergone any changes or have remained relatively the same will help you have a game plan in advance rather than finding out last minute.
Another helpful thing to do is make sure your clients know what you will need from them and when. Based on your check-in conversation with them and how they worked with you in previous years, give them deadlines for submissions. Conversely, let them know what they can expect from you, such as touchpoints and meeting dates. Being upfront and planning ahead will be greatly appreciated by both parties. It allows you to get their taxes done on time and they will know that you’re on top of your game.
5. Spruce up the office & offer perks to be conducive with Busy Season
Last, but not least, it’s important to remember that we’re all people. And as people, we need breaks, motivation, and appreciation. So make sure you show your staff all of these things this Busy Season by offering fun office perks to make this intense time of a year a little less stressful and a little more doable. Many firms bring in massage therapists, do dance/gym classes, cater food, go out for happy hour, play games, and much more. Create an office events calendar and book vendors/make reservations in advance so you’re not scrambling for fun activities at the eleventh hour.
No matter how big or small your firm is, these are things you can do now to have a smoother, brighter Busy Season later.