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Tax season forecast: Sanity

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Your firm’s filing season culture really is in your control.

Most firm owners have lived through their fair share of busy seasons. You know that feeling when March hits — the dark cloud that can engulf your firm and take your culture from calm to chaotic. Many firm owners have simply accepted the standard tax season forecast: a 100 percent chance of panicked taxpayers, missing documentation that bottlenecks the tax workflow, and elevated levels of burnout among staff.

The fact is that you really can control all of this. So, make this the year you change your tax season forecast to sanity!

I’ve worked with many firms that have learned that they can absolutely control their firm’s culture — no matter the time of year. This has led to eliminating the traditional seasonal chaos and maintaining happier clients, happier staff and a far more palatable firm culture. Here are the three truths that got them there:

1. Firm culture begins with the firm owner. Stress and anxiety are a choice that begins with the leader. How you lead your staff directly affects your culture. With this in mind, be intentional about your “posture” while in the office. For example, take the time to greet every employee (with a positive, authentic tone) before tackling the day’s to-dos. Encourage staff to take a collective deep breath before the day begins and remind your team that you are all in this together. Think about it — if you set the expectation that people need to work days, nights and weekends, it’s going to be stressful. How you lead directly affects the overall tone of your office.

2. You’re in charge of your time. It’s tempting to just let the day happen, but that approach can only lead to stress. Schedule your days to approach work in an organized and calm manner. For example, set up client meetings in the morning only from 9-11 a.m., or maybe schedule on specific days like Tuesdays and Thursdays. The more you can schedule your day, the more time you have to get tax returns done and the more intentional you can be about communicating with your staff and maintaining a calm culture.

3. Employees come before clients. You know this to be true, but do you always follow this truth? Would your staff agree that they come before clients? When employees begin to believe that revenue and work are top priorities in your firm, heightened levels of stress will inevitably creep in. Take control of your firm’s “climate” by choosing your team first. Make sure they know you care about them. Maintain regular communications and check-ins throughout tax season. How are they feeling? Should you order lunch in for everyone? Does the team need to schedule quick “reboots” during the day such as a short walk outside or even just around the office? The more you can check in with staff, the more appreciated they will feel, which is a natural stress reducer.

Tax season will always throw a few things at you that are out of your control, but your office culture should not be one of them. You really do have control, so choose sanity and calm this year.

For a deeper dive on the topics discussed in this article and more, subscribe to Darren’s “Better Every Day” podcast on iTunes, or listen from the Rootworks website at rootworks.com/podcast.

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Tax season Tax preparation Workplace culture Practice management Work-life balance