If you’ve been an accountant for long enough, you can probably relate. There’s a client who brings along just as many troubles as payments for services rendered. Is the CPA/client relationship worth saving? Oftentimes, no.
Not every accountant and client can work out a disagreement, and not every client should be saved at all cost. If you’re teetering on the edge of giving someone the old heave-ho, here’s why it’s OK to let go and how to do the deed without causing too much strife.
Never Put Your Own Career on the Line
You know the tax laws. Maybe your client doesn’t, or maybe they want to skirt as many as they can. That puts you in an uncomfortable position. In some cases, it could put you on the wrong side of the law.
If a client asks you to bend the rules or break laws to save them a little money, chances are they’re trouble for you and your firm just waiting to happen. Bloomberg BNA says it’s just not worth the risk. If you feel uncomfortable about the direction a client wants you to go, save yourself the headaches, fines and possibly more by showing them the door.
Know the Signs of a “Bad” Client
Sometimes, a personality clash is enough to sever the accountant/client relationship. Life’s too short to argue or struggle with someone who’s paying you for your expertise. Verbal abuse, of course, should never be tolerated, and neither should failure to pay on time.
Here are several other signs, according to Accounting Web, that it’s not just OK, but probably a good idea to hand a client their pink slip.
- Constant billing complaints
- Unwillingness to pay for extra services
- Questionable conduct, including verbal abuse, with you or anyone else on staff
- Too many emergencies because the client fails to prepare
- Client’s lack of trust in your abilities or knowledge
- Withholding information or telling outright lies in person and in documentation
- Any behavior that puts you or the firm at risk
- Failure to comply with providing information or communicating in a timely manner
Don’t be Afraid to Call it Quits
Their business helps pay the bills. It’s hard to let go of any client, even the rotten eggs. But sometimes, the big picture shows a liability. The additional work and time spent encouraging the client to follow directions or pay bills could put the firm in the red, at least compared to other clients.
Don’t be afraid to let go. The time you spend handholding one client could be better spent bringing in more business and working with someone new. If you still find it hard to muster up enough courage to fire a client, here are a few suggestions from Accounting Web.
- Raise your rates
- Layer on fees
- Become more aggressive about collecting on unpaid billings
- Sell the client to another firm who needs the business
Make it Short and Sweet
If you decide to pull the plug, it’s better to avoid beating around the bush. Get right to the point, says Bloomberg BNA, but don’t try to prove a point or drive home what you view as deficiencies in the client’s behavior. “A termination letter isn’t the time to win an argument with a client.” Make the letter short and sweet, then let it go.
This ties into professional conduct and accounting ethics, Bloomberg explains. If the client is detrimental to the firm, chances are the firm struggles to provide the best service to the client. That’s enough of an ethical dilemma to support terminating the relationship. It’s in the best interest of the client as well as the firm.
Drumming up business takes time and marketing isn’t free. It’s natural to strive for a beneficial client relationship, even with people who seem to drain more of your time and resources than anyone else. If there’s more strife than benefit, it’s probably time to let go.
Firing a client isn’t easy. But more than likely, there’s another CPA just around the corner who wants their business. That frees you and your firm to focus on what’s most beneficial for your business.
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