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First round of pruning done…what next?

December 14, 2022
We received an email from one of our most recent members and thought it might be helpful to share the questions and our responses for the benefit of the broader group.
CPA Firm Subscription Model
Colin Dunn

We recently received an email from one of our members

We thought it might be helpful to share the questions and our responses for the benefit of the broader group.

Email received (edited for brevity and to remove personal details):

Hello Shannon and Colin,

I’m thrilled I made the changes in cutting the 1040 clients. I know that the amount of time and resources that will free up will be enormous. 

I have a really strong team. We have 6 super strong other team members for which I am extremely grateful. 

Unlike many of the other firms, we have had success in recruiting and hiring. We have a staff accountant that joined us in September and is doing well. 

We also have two people joining us next month. This is part of our intern program that we have previously used to suffer through tax season. One has graduated and will be working full time. The other is still in school and will work 2-3 days a week. I made the decision to hire them before we made the 1040 cuts.  Previously the main duty of the interns was grinding through the 1040s. We will still have around 800 returns (down from the 1000 we would have had).  A bunch of those are business returns. 

I can’t believe I’m writing this but what if I can’t keep everyone busy?  I want to stop working Sundays and my right-hand senior CPA I don’t want her working another Sunday ever again. I need to elevate the team I have so the tough work in not still on our shoulders. 

Can you help me build an org chart and come up with a plan?  

The other thing I’m struggling with is the fee increase. We do a very good job for our clients when they squeal or when I’m not completely overworked. The good clients have been frequently quasi-neglected due to the big client count. What can I do to ensure they are communicated with regularly and given good service all the time?  They are great folks and have been very patient. They know when they need us we will be there but they shouldn’t have to ask. I’d be more confident charging premium prices if we were more consistent and were not “playing from behind”. I don’t like being reactionary. I think you’ve learned me well enough to know I’ll do the work. 😁


ReNew Response


In response to the points you raise below: 


1. The decision: Very pleased that you have come to terms with the 1040 decision. Absolutely the right move for your firm

2. Team: very good news about your strong team. Some questions for you to think through: 

- If you’re concerned about filling capacity, to what extent is everyone doing what they should be doing? 

- What can you push down to free up your time and keep others productive? 

- What if you banned overtime and everyone worked a 40-hour week, even during tax season?

- If people do have free time, how can they develop their careers by moving into new areas / different sorts of work that they couldn’t get access to at their levels elsewhere? 

- The likelihood is, based on experience, that because you have more headspace to think about other opportunities to help clients, extra work will arise (abundance mindset). You just need to make sure you’re not doing all of that work personally! Challenge your team and some will step up, as I am sure you have found already

3. Clients / pricing:

- How many clients are you talking about when you refer to the good clients who have been very patient with you? 

- How can you structure a year-round program that will provide for, say, quarterly check-ins with those clients (Module 13, ReNew Your MRR, will give you a lot of the answers here)

- What are the top three activities that you personally want to be focused on during a typical week? 

- What is stopping you from focusing more on those activities (e.g., client nurturing, being more proactive)? 

- What sort of price increase do you feel comfortable with for those good clients for next year? (Go with your gut – just because others are increasing prices by 25-30% doesn’t mean you have to. Your firm, your rules)

- What does a staged approach look like to lift client service, be proactive rather than reactive, upgrade clients to a year-round ‘subscription’ model and then reset prices? 

You don’t need to do everything at once (in fact, you’d be unwise to attempt to do so) There could be two years’ work here.

4. Org chart: yes, happy to help. Perhaps as a starting point, could you send a list of your team members, level they are at, current reporting lines, the type of work they currently do and anything else you think is appropriate?

Taking Action:


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About the Author:


Colin Dunn, a Chartered Accountant with extensive experience in the accounting industry, is passionate about helping accountants transform their firms and lives. With over 25 years dedicated to creating content for to help CPAs improve their profitability, Colin shares valuable insights into firm management. Colin believes that CPAs can create a better work-life balance by learning from past experiences and applying these insights to their firms, allowing them to spend more time with their families and pursuing hobbies and leisure interests.


About Renew Group:


Are you tired of being on the diet but not seeing results? Most consultants to the CPA Profession do lots of talking and deal in 'fluff'. But there's no accountability and no focus on RESULTS.

At Renew, we start with your numbers. Our firms complete a Pareto for Profit analysis EVERY YEAR, set new targets to improve their profitability and then 'weigh in' regularly. We give you a roadmap to transform the profitability of your accounting firm by accessing our content, collaborating with other firms on a similar path and being held accountable by our coaching team and your peers.

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