Archive for April 2016

Show appreciating with stories

Do you value your team? Do you show them as often as you should? I’m working on getting better at that.

When you work with other people, everyone has to rely on the skills of their team members to get the job done.

Their work lets me focus on helping clients solve problems that often are only somewhat related to their taxes. I’m honored by the amount of trust that my clients place in my hands when we start talking about their taxes. Because even though taxes are what we start talking about, we end up talking about their lives.

I’m so grateful for the hard work my team puts in so that I can have those conversations with our clients. One of the newer ways I show appreciation to my team is sharing stories with them of the clients that our agency has been able to help. Here’s one of them.

Once, I was meeting with a woman to do her family’s taxes. It was pretty routine. But toward the end of our conversation, she reached into her purse, telling me, “You’ll need to have these, too.” She pulled out about 400 pieces of paper and set them on my desk.

Those were 400 gambling receipts. You’d be surprised how often I encounter gambling problems when I work with the finances of families. It’s not something people really talk about, but I assure you that in any crowd, there are people struggling with a gambling addiction.

I walked over to my door, shut it, and sat back down. I told her that her gambling was something we needed to talk about. It turned out that she had been sneaking out at night while her husband was sleeping to gamble at a nearby casino, coming back before their alarm went off. He had no idea.

This was something that she needed outside help with, she admitted. So I gave her my phone number. I set a specific ring tone to play whenever she called, and I told her to call whenever she got the urge to gamble. So far, we’ve had several conversations and I’ve been able to talk her out of this destructive choice.

Now, her husband knows about her gambling problem and she’s working to overcome it. And none of it would have happened if she hadn’t shared those receipts with me.

It hit me, after I met with this woman, that those positive life changes couldn’t have happened if my team didn’t dig into the work that they do behind the scenes.

I’m so fortunate to be able to sit with clients and enjoy the richness of walking through decisions with them and serving them, but my team doesn’t have that opportunity. I realized then that I had to share this story with them. They had to know what good was happening in the world because of their hard work.

Every time we have a team meeting, now, I select a story to tell them about a client. I tell them in a very concrete way how their work is making a differ

ence in a someone’s life. And you know what? It’s a great work environment when everyone feels appreciated and valued.

To honor the hard work that my team puts in, I now make a point to talk about the good outcomes that this work creates. What does it mean to appreciate your team in your context?

Plan for next year’s taxes now

I know—if you’re like most people, when you get your tax return, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief and say, “Well, I’m glad that’s done. I never want to look at that again.” And you’ll put it in a box so it’s in a safe place, which means you’ll have to try to find it again this time next year.

Even though you’ll be relieved that your taxes are done, there’s some prep work you should do after you get your tax return that will make next year go smoothly.

Because April is the time everyone associates with taxes anyway, it’s a great time of the year to do your tax planning for next year. You can use the tax return you just did to plan out what you’ll need to do next year.

For all tax claims, there are three phases: planning, implementation, and maintenance. You have all three in one package with your return, so you can use that to plan for next tax season.

Figure out what you need to withhold and save for by considering what changes you expect. If your family is expecting a child to be born this year, or for one of your kids to stop being a dependent, plan for that. Getting a new job, retiring, or going back to work after some time off? Those are good things to consider.

Having your last return fresh in your mind when you plan for the next tax year will also help you not make any of the same mistakes next year!

This is especially important to do if you’re self-employed. Some questions to consider:

  • Do you need to buy equipment?
  • Will you be hiring someone or downsizing this year?
  • Are any big purchases going to be paid off?
  • Will you need to buy an office building?
  • Is your customer base in jeopardy with the state of the economy?

Thinking about the next tax season now might seem like a stretch, but it can help you plan for what you’ll need to accomplish for success this time next year. And of course, when you have a tax professional that you’re working with on an ongoing basis, there should be no surprises each year about how much you owe, or else they’re not doing their job.