“I bet you must be SUPER busy these days.”
“Are you swamped already now that it is “busy season”?”
“I know that given the time of the year (tax season), you really don’t have time to talk on the phone and answer my questions but….”
If you have ever worked a single day in public accounting, you are all too familiar with these statements from everybody in your life, clients, referral partners, friends and even family members and loved ones. You can’t get through a single day between January 1st and April 15th without hearing this refrain multiple times each day. This is because in our industry, this time of the year has become synonymous with long hours and no personal life. There is a long standing tradition in our industry of wearing the number of hours we work in a week or over the course of January through April as a badge of honor.
It is always difficult for me to answer this question or statement these days when it is presented to me. Why is it difficult? At Harvest Tax & Accounting we are NOT this way. It is not that we are struggling with a lack of business, just the opposite actually!
Why then are we not all working long and crazy hours? It’s all about our approach and what we have decided to build at Harvest Tax & Accounting, and the culture that we have very intentionally created.
I recently had a discussion with one of our business partners, Heather Allen with Belle Communication about how even during this time of the year we put a very high emphasis on making sure that our team members are keeping their workload and work hours to a manageable level. I was describing to Heather how this is our 2nd year that we have kept our policy in place of having a 4-day weekend every month. That our office closes and the team are off to be able to rest, recover and spend time with family. We have been able to successfully keep this policy in place even during these “busy months” of Jan through April. We have found that despite the closure our team are significantly more productive and able to assist our partners that we work with. I knew the culture that Belle has built over the years at their amazing company but it was still a shock to hear Heather’s response which was “It makes it so much easier and more enjoyable to work with strategic partners such as yourself that have their vision and culture so closely mirroring ours.”
When I started Harvest Tax & Accounting back in the summer of 2020 I knew that I wanted to create a firm that was different from all of the firms that I had worked at over the course of my career. I was having a discussion with one of my close friends Karl Kreunen, and lamenting about how I really felt that our industry was missing a great opportunity coming out of the Covid time frame to make what could have been industry wide changes in how we operated. Sadly our industry has quickly reverted back to the status quo and back to the “You signed up for this, so you get no life until after April 15th.”
Karl made a very profound statement to me that day that honestly did not truly set in for a few weeks after. That statement to me was “Eric, you are in a very unique position. You are not able to change your industry but because you own your own firm with your own team, you are able to be the change that you want to see in your industry”. I admit it took a few weeks for this statement to truly sink in but when it did WOW what an impact it has had on my firm!
We have decided to be very intentional with the culture that we are creating and building at Harvest Tax & Accounting. Our focus and emphasis is on making sure that our team has at all times a family-first focus with plenty of time to spend with their friends, family and loved ones. We know that if our team members are rested, focused and happy, that this is going to directly impact the level and quality of service that our team provides to our business partners. We do this in a variety of ways:
- We give our team flexibility in where they decide to work and even when they are going to be working. We do have a physical office where team member are able to come and work, but when we choose all of our technology stack and tools each and every item was selected with an emphasis on remote work. Our motto with the team is, if you take care of your business partner and you are available then everything else takes care of itself. Location just is not an obstacle any longer in doing business.
- We give the team many regular recovery time periods that are scheduled out for the entire year so they can plan. We have a 4-day weekend office closure every month. In addition to that we also close our offices for 5 days at the Thanksgiving Holiday and we close the office from Christmas Eve until New Year’s Day. We communicate these dates ahead of time to all of our business partners and we have it listed on our Google page and also on our website. For our 4-day weekends we try to add some humor to these days and we choose a funny “National or International” day to say we are celebrating over those weekends.
- Once each quarter we try to schedule a team event that can vary from an after hours social event to a glass blowing class we are all going to be taking soon. During the summer or fall we have a family event where all the family members are invited so that we can also see and know the people that are behind our team supporting them in all they do for us!
- We do not keep any time in our firm. The team does not keep time sheets, they do not record time on any of our business partners projects and they are not given any kind of “billable hours” mandates or goals. They are given the freedom to spend the right amount of time on any specific project to make sure that the project and the business partner get to the best possible end result for the business partner.
Are we perfect in our firm? Not a chance. There are times that we have to work more hours than I would like to see us working but in the end we are striving towards a goal that I feel will make the lives of our team members and through them our business partners better!
So when you are asked “I bet you are really busy right now aren’t you?” how do you respond right now? How would you like to respond to that question? Are you leading your firm to be the change that you want to see in our industry?