Interview Series with Successful CPA Firms – Part 1 with Frank Gutta

Email Stopwatch is starting a new interview series with accounting firms that really know how to run their CPA firm like a business.

The first interview is with a Fort Lauderdale CPA firm that’s been around for more than 25 years, Frank Gutta and Co.. Frank was the perfect candidate since he really understands the value of running an efficient office and focusing his time on practice management and marketing.

Firm: Frank Gutta of Frank Gutta & Co. CPA, PA
Highlights of his website: The great testimonials featured on every page and the free book “Must Know Tax Tips for Small Business” (if you’re not sure why these are so great, check out this post on how to improve your CPA website).

What are your top three time-management tips?
1. As a company that bills mainly by the hour, Frank Gutta and Co. use electronic time sheets to keep track of it all in the software Practice Solutions by Thomson Reuters. This saves time by allowing all employees to input time electronically, rather than using paper, then having to manually enter the data, creating twice the work. Practice Solutions also generates a monthly report showing how efficiently everyone’s working and whether adjustments need to be made to any client’s bills.

2. My favorite- Frank and the rest of the team create a ‘to do’ list everyday. The list always includes something they need to today, in next few days, in next few weeks, and includes long term items. The ‘to do’ list is great because it keeps you focused on tasks that need to get done. For more specific tips on how to set up an extremely effective ‘to do’ list, check this out.

3. Using Practice Solution has made work flow seamlessly through the office. Documents are logged in by the receptionist, then sent straight to the staff accountant responsible for that client, where they get an alert. Once the work has been completed by that staff member it moves on to the supervisor, who signs off, then to Frank, who again double checks and signs off. After Frank’s approval, the client is invoiced and they receive the work. The system keeps the work moving fluidly throughout the office.

What’s something you wish you had known when you started your CPA practice?
Frank admitted that when he started out in accounting thought the technical knowledge would be enough. ‘I thought all you had to do was be knowledgeable and provide good service, and that would be good enough to bring in and keep clients’. He eventually realized that marketing was very important and that a CPA firm was like any other business, you need to make time to market it. Word of mouth isn’t enough.

Frank’s suggestion to new CPA firm owners, ‘Go to marketing seminars and make sure you’re doing practice development. One of your main jobs as the firm owner is practice management, not accounting’. For practice management, he specifically suggests documenting all processes and procedures in the office so other people can easily step into that job. Don’t keep it all in your head!

Do you have any suggestions for hiring the best CPAs to work at your firm?
Frank quickly realized in starting a firm, when you’re hiring, don’t just look for the technical knowledge. In order for the office to run smoothly, there’s got to be synergy and good teamwork. There are various ways of figuring this out about potential candidates but he suggests questions specifically designed to evaluate how well people work in a team and cooperate, as well as personality tests that evaluate this.

How would you advise people to work ‘on their practice’ better, rather than working ‘in their practice’?
Frank knew right away when I asked this question that this was a mistake most firm owners make. They don’t delegate anything, thinking it’ll just be easier to do it all themselves. Frank himself admitted that he tried to do everything when he first started out, answering the phone, meeting with clients, even making photocopies. The result of this- long hours and stress. He suggests, as was mentioned previously, document all office procedures and allow the employees to take over most of the accounting. Your job is to work on client relationships, marketing and run the practice efficiently.

Is there any changes you have made around the office since you started to make it run more efficiently?
The most efficient change at Frank Gutta and Co. has been the switch to a paperless office. Since the switch in 2006, nothing is mis-filed, clients can send and receive documents electronically and no longer have to come into the office, and everything around the office just flows more smoothly.

What are your best time-tracking secrets?
Practice Solution has really with the office’s time-tracking. It allows employees to enter their time into an electronic time sheet, so there’s no longer any pencil and paper notebooks that have to be manually entered. Practice Solutions also gives a monthly report on the profitability and productivity of each employee, letting Frank know right away how employees are performing and if billing adjustments need to be made for a client.

Are there any great software products you use around the office that you’d recommend?
Frank highly recommends Practice Solutions, everything flows through the office so easily. They also use Ultratax for individual and personal tax returns, which links to their electronic filing cabinet and can link corporate taxes to personal tax returns.

We want to thank Frank for his time and wisdom.

Please leave any additional questions in the comments.

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