With Roger Knecht
Randy welcomes Roger Knecht, president of Universal Accounting Center, on Episode 93 of The Unique CPA. The host of his own podcast, Building the Premier Accounting Firm, Roger talks to Randy about the systematic approach and educational process Universal Accounting offers to firms to grow, systematize, and improve the efficiency of their practices. He also shares some helpful tips and discusses the importance of focusing on your and others’ mental health.
Hi, this is Randy Crabtree, your host of The Unique CPA podcast. We’re participating in Accounting High’s ABC March Appness, the Accounting Bracket Challenge, and we need your support to make The Unique CPA a winner. You can nominate and vote for The Unique CPA by going to bracket.accountinghigh.com, or you can text ABC to 33339. Thank you for your support, and enjoy the show.
Today, our guest is Roger Knecht. Roger is President of Universal Accounting, and Universal Accounting’s mission is to equip individuals with education—which I think is huge, as Roger points to the background there—education, skills and the confidence needed to enjoy a successful career in small business accounting, bookkeeping and tax preparation. Sounds like that might fit in nice with The Unique CPA show. I was able to meet Roger a few weeks ago, being a guest on his podcast, which I had a wonderful time on. And as you’re about to hear, Roger has a great voice for podcasting. So Roger, welcome to The Unique CPA.
It’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.
Oh, you even went deeper that time! You’re gonna you’re really playing up this voice for podcasting. Nice. I like it.
Hey, you’ve got to have fun!
Exactly. That’s one of the goals of the show, is we laugh. So we’re going there right away. So I appreciate that.
So let’s talk about Universal Accounting a little bit. I mentioned what you do, and what your goals are, which I think are great—education is a big passion of mine—you’re doing that, you’re helping individuals build these firms. But why don’t you give me a little background about Universal Accounting? And I think we talked a little bit before we started recording—the origin story, maybe, and where you have evolved to where you are now?
You bet, happy to. So, Universal was started by a gentleman named Alf Bostrom. And Alf was, prior to Universal Accounting Center, actually working as a business coach with a number of companies, many of which were failing at the time that they used his services. He actually had the nickname of the “Turnaround King” in the market. And so that was kind of fun.
But the origin of Universal is that as he was working with his clients, he oftentimes would go in and initially need the accounting information, in order to coach and advise. And too often that information didn’t exist. And so he created a program to actually get the information he needed, training the individuals inside the company to do the proper accounting that was necessary. And he found too often that whether the individual was with an accounting background or not, there were just a number of things that were missing. So he created a curriculum, trained those individuals, and it turned out that people that weren’t clients of his started to ask if they could have access to that curriculum.
And in doing so he created Universal Accounting Center, as a school that was very much in its day, a very traditional environment—you’d go to a classroom and get instruction, and in that course, actually be trained in small business accounting and bookkeeping procedures.
Now, did he have a background in that, or he just was able to absorb information over the years?
More of a background in the sense that he, through his coaching, got the experience. But no, he didn’t necessarily have an accounting background.
Huh. And so now, you mentioned earlier before we got on live, is, you’re the third president of this organization?
I am. So about eight or so years ago, the company was going through another transition—the second president was retiring, and I was asked to be the third. So I started with the business back in 1999, and I’ve been here over 20 years, having various roles within the organization. And about eight or nine years ago, I was given the opportunity to become president.
Alright. So let’s go into what you do at Universal Accounting, then. So you’re gonna go out and you’re going to help individuals. And so when you meet with somebody for the first time, they want your services, they want you to come in and help them build the firm or whatever it is, what do you ask them? What are the things that you need to find out ahead of time?
Excellent question. So yes, as a postsecondary school, we work with accounting professionals, many of whom are either starting or building their accounting businesses. And so regardless of what phase they are in, we’re working with them to basically, I would say, address what’s the most pressing fear or opportunity that they’re dealing with.
So just give you an example: When I’m working with a CPA, enrolled agent, accountant, bookkeeper, that’s working on growing their business, I have three questions that I start with. I have them pick of the three, which is the thing that they would feel is the biggest priority right now in their business, and it’s very simple. The first question: “Are you in a position where you need more clients? Are you trying to grow the business? Do you need more business?”
If not that, then the second question: “You’re in a position where you have plenty of clients, but you feel that you’re not adding enough value—you’d like to increase the revenue per client, you would actually like to offer more services. Well, that’s great. You’re wanting to go from offering accounting services to including tax services. You want to go from, let’s say bookkeeping to offering advisory services, whatever the case, you’re in a situation where you recognize that there’s more you can do with your clients.”
So you’ve got the first one, you need more clients, or you’d like to offer more services and make more money per client. Or the third, is basically, “You’re in a position where you’ve got plenty of clients and you love what you do, and you feel that you’re really meeting the needs of your clients. The challenge is that you’re not doing it efficiently and profitably—you’re working too many hours, you’re working nights and weekends, this is taking too long, you need to systematize this a little bit more. That efficiency obviously equates into profitability. If you’re working with the same number of clients doing the same services and working more efficiently, that less time means you’re earning more per hour. And so what we’re trying to do is make you basically live that dream that you’re trying to live.”
And if I ask those three questions, inevitably, you’ve got to pick one of them. Which is it? That you want to offer, you know more services, you want to work more efficiently, you need more clients? And once they identify that it’s clear what we need to be doing to work on the business.
Alright. And so do you want to expand on those? Do you want to go into those three areas, because I’m interested for sure in the efficiencies. I think as CPAs, EAs, tax preparers, I think in general, we have this notion that we need to help everybody and be available all the time. And it’s just, this, it ends up being a detriment to the owner of the business—the CPA, the EA, whoever it is—because they just are working themselves like crazy hours. And so I’d love to expand on that, but we can expand on all three, if you’d like.
Oh, we can go into all of them. So let me kind of address what you just brought up, and it’s this idea of delegation, the business is too much the owner. So there’s a quote—I love quoting myself, so here I go—I’ve said for years, that the best thing that the business owner can come to realize is that the intent is for the company to become a self-sustaining, living, breathing entity that exists outside of the business owner, independent of the business owner.
And too often what happens is the business owner, especially in the first few years of running the business, they are the company. It’s a job for them. Congratulations, you own a business—I acknowledge the fact that you are the owner, that you’re the founder, you get to choose what’s happening—but inevitably, because of the early stages of the business, it is a job. You opened it one day, got a business license, and you hired the first person, and it was you.
So that’s fine, but what we want to do is we want to move beyond that. And the evolution from job is to definitely lifestyle. It’s where you’re running a business that you can’t go work for anyone else, because they wouldn’t pay you as much as you’re earning now, as the owner. You couldn’t go work for someone else, because you’ve got a lot of perks and liberties that exist, because you have two key elements—key employees and processes. People are doing things in the business that no longer involve you on a day-to-day basis to take care of the clientele. That’s an ideal situation, where you can get to the point where your business is providing you a lifestyle you can enjoy.
But there’s one more step: The next step is that of an owner. The owner is the visionary giving direction and guidance, but because they are no longer involved in the day-to-day operations, they’re more like an investor. They’re able to maybe go pursue other interests, hobbies, maybe they can downplay their daily involvement in the business. I’ve got numerous people I work with that aspire to have that four hour workweek that you read about in the books, that go out and have four day weekends, three day weekends, that take a month off sabbatical to reinvent themselves. That’s awesome, because they’re not in that job phase, nor in the phase where you’re actually enjoying the lifestyle. They’re now at that owner phase where they’re more of an investor giving guidance. It’s Shark Tank, right? You invest, you’ve got key employees, they’re running and implementing, that’s what we’re talking about.
Alright, so that’s the efficiencies.
Are part of the efficiencies technology as well, I assume? I mean, technology in general should make you more efficient. I know CPAs—and I use the term generically—CPAs, EAs, tax preparers, bookkeepers, like you said at the beginning, all of these individuals, you know, they all have their tech stack. And I think that tech stack should make them more efficient. Sometimes I think they spend more time on the technology end of things, but I think it’s very important. I think it’s going to—should—make you more efficient. Is that something you get involved in at all? Or do they all make their own decisions on that tech stack?
Well, it’s their decisions—it’s obviously their business. But what we bring up is the importance of leveraging technology to help them and their business become more efficient. See, some people—and I would definitely say it’s the older, not the younger crowd—see technology as an encroachment in their business model, rather than the younger people who see it as a compliment and a tool.
And what we want to do is the carpenter who takes the nail and puts the nail in their lips, and with the hammer builds immaculate cabinetry, and builds the rocker and builds the armoire, that’s awesome. That’s great. That’s a skill. But that right there is not as efficient as taking that air compressor with the carpet or nail gun and going through and building something a little bit more quickly. There is an artistry to this, and I do think that’s where the accounting profession leads into the more advisory and coaching phase.
But we should be embracing technology. And the way I look at efficiency—and just to finish this up is there’s two ways to assess technology: Either it is implemented with the benefit being to the client—we’re doing something that if we implement it, it’s going to make their job easier getting this information, communicating the information back to them—this is technology that they see the win from. There’s others that are internal. The client never interacts with these things, but we’re using them to work more efficiently, to have, internally our procedures [be] more productive. And those tools, and everybody throws around the various technologies that they like, that’s awesome. But what we’re trying to do is let the business owner decide which of these tools is what they want.
And that’s where you come up with your tech stack, that’s where you get like Dawn—Dawn Brolin—she’s got her thing that she actually promotes is, “here’s what I’m utilizing in my firm to be productive.” Each of these people kind of become advocates for certain tools. And that’s what they are—tools. And so we try to get the business owner to embrace these tools to adopt them. But the big thing—I’ve already pointed out the two ways of assessing them—but the big thing you’ve got to realize is they’re all shiny objects, and you’ve got to pick one and commit to implementing it over about a three month period of time. You’ve got to learn the technology and the tool, you got to implement it, roll it out in the business, it’s got to become an integral part of the company, before you go get the next shiny object and try to roll that out into the company as well.
Yep, I agree.
So I do want to go into the “need more business, need more services,” because that intrigues me. But one last thing on this efficiency, because you said it before, on becoming more this investor or whatever you want that new role to be in the business. When I talk on this podcast, or just in general to people that have started a firm or became managing partner of a firm, you see this—the people that are doing it, what’s the right term? The best, the most efficient, I feel the smartest?—is the ones who look kind of at what you’re saying, “I don’t want to be the one that’s doing the day to day tax and accounting. I want”—and you can look at these different ways, but—“I want one of two things: I want the CPA firm to be my client, I’m managing partner of a nice sized firm, and I don’t want to get client responsibilities, because my only client should be the CPA firm,” and now they can work on that, they grow it, and that’s almost like they’ve gotten out of the shoes of the employee of the business, now they’re the one that directing where it’s going to go.
I see that, and I’ve always thought that that’s a larger firm that was able to do that. It’s really cool, because recently I’ve been seeing smaller firms do that as well, and I just didn’t even think that was a possibility but you know, a $2 million firm, let’s say, where the owner has done exactly what you’ve said—they’ve been able to go out and do new things, still be an investor in the business, they’ll be active in the business, and it gives them more opportunity to do these other things.
So I think being able to create those efficiencies—I’m going on a rant here, but being able to create those efficiencies like you’re talking about, is a lot more prevalent than I even realized. And so I guess that wasn’t a question, it was more of a comment, but anything you want to add to that would be great.
Well, I’m going to add to it this: I just had yesterday a phenomenal conversation with a person that is a non-accountant, who purchased an accounting firm. So he had a business background. He’s coming at it from more of a coach and advisory perspective. He intentionally went and purchased an accounting firm—it’s a million dollar plus firm. And his intent was “I’m not an accounting professional on this, I’m not a CPA, I’m not a bookkeeper or an accountant. I’m not a tax preparer. But I want a business that I can come in and bring the advisory and build,” and that’s what he bought. And the owner of the firm that he purchased it from was in a position where they chose to transition out.
Well, imagine what you just described. This is an individual that has no interest at all getting involved with the accounting and bookkeeping and tax at the client level. What they’re purchasing is a business where the accounting manager—that oversees the accounts of the clients, the bookkeepers, the tax preparers—they all have a process, a system that they’re able to utilize to take care of the client’s needs, and he owns the business. He’s bringing into it a whole new perspective that he’s adding a new revenue line to the business. He’s adding, in addition to the accounting and bookkeeping, the tax planning and preparation, he’s bringing in now CFO and advisory services. That’s huge. And here’s the big thing: asking him about his vision direction, just like you were alluding, he specifically said that that million dollar plus business that he has, in five years will be a $5 million business.
And we talked about his roadmap to getting there—it’s very deliberate, and that’s what we’re talking about here. He has a plan. Now some accountant, bookkeeper, tax preparer, they may say, “That’s too big. That’s not what I want. I don’t want to manage.” Guess what? It’s your business, you can do whatever you want. But the idea of where you can take this is limitless.
Yep. So you just mentioned something there, this gentleman had this mapping, or this plan in place, where they’re going to go over the next five years—1 million to 5 million. If you want to go build this firm and be this overall full service firm, or even if that’s what you should do, what would you do? Or how would you go in and help with that?
Excellent question. Because I think for the owner, they need to identify what are the services they’re intending to offer to their clients—and it’s not necessarily what are they offering today? But the big picture—a year, three, five years from now, where’s the company going? So I’m going to break it down into three core services that a full-service accounting firm would provide.
So theoretically, if you wanted to be a full service accounting firm, everything in-house, what would it look like? I refer to it as “building the premier accounting firm.”
So basically, the three services are first, your accounting and bookkeeping services. And I’m gonna go back and explain each of these. The second is tax planning and preparation services. The third is CFO and advisory services. Those are the elements that make up the full service accounting firm. So let’s go back and just kind of dissect each of these so that everyone’s on the same page.
Bookkeeping services are very important. They are distinctive from accounting services. Bookkeeping is everything being done to actually record all the transactions and prepare for the client on a monthly or quarterly basis: their financial reports, their P&L and income statement, their balance sheet, their cash flow statement. Everything at that point is then given to the business owner with the intent of them saying, “Look, everything’s accounted for you, you’ve got all the information, go forth and do with as you please.” That’s what the role of the bookkeeper is, right? I’ve given you accurate, complete, timely information.
The accountant now has another role. It’s basically taking that information and interpreting that for the business owner. Think of it for a moment: We’ve said for years, accounting is the language of business. Therefore, the role of the accountant is to be the translator, to help interpret that information, so that it’s now useful to the business owner. And that’s where the reports come in. That’s where we’re looking at and then analyzing the balance sheet, the income statement, the P&L. We’re looking at those things to say, “What’s the trend in the business? What is happening to our margins? What is the relationship between, let’s say, this month and last month, this month, and the same month last year, this quarter, and last quarter?”
What we’re doing is we’re trying as accountants to draw out, what’s the company trying to tell us? It’s like a doctor, looking at the various machines, and here’s this EKG, what’s it telling us? Here’s an x-ray, what’s it telling us? We’re interpreting it. Well, if your firm is doing that for the business owner, you’re offering quality bookkeeping and accounting services.
Let’s go to tax. Tax, there’s a huge distinction between tax preparation and tax planning. Tax preparation is literally taking and preparing those reports to file the return with the IRS—great. There’s a lot that can be done there, good money to be made in there. But there’s another stage—it’s tax planning. You can, with the individuals and business owners, go to another level where you’re coming up with strategies: legal ways to limit or lower their tax liability. That’s where you get into these tax specialties that many people can entertain, which is where they’re offering R&D tax credit services, cost segregation services, conservation, easement type planning. There’s so many things within the tax planning space that a firm can say we’re going to bring in house experts to actually help address these needs, and meet with our clients, plan strategies, address things, so that when it comes time to file tax returns, we’re preparing the return with a strategy in mind mitigating their tax responsibilities—lowering those those liabilities. Excellent. That’s excellent.
Let’s go to the third: CFO and advisory services. When you’re working as an accounting firm, you have an opportunity to get in with the client and literally in the CFO space, help actually come up with operating procedures internally, helping the business determine what are the best practices regarding accounts receivable, aging receivables, accounts payable? How do we manage cash flow, relationships with the bank, relationships with the vendors, the net terms with the vendors, all of these things are at that CFO space, because we’re helping the business owner decide what policies to have inside the company to actually control cash flow and have funds for growth and opportunity, budgeting, forecasting. That’s huge.
Let’s go to advisory. Advisory is where you’re now getting more into the coaching sphere. You’re actually now helping the business owner work on their business. You’re literally helping them build value in the company that they’re building with an exit strategy in mind—what’s the end game here? Are we going to go public, are we going to sell this? You know, what am I doing?
And an accounting firm can make money at all of these levels. Now, just to end this, let me be very clear: a firm could say, “You know what, that’s too much. I don’t want it, I don’t want to get involved in that. I’m going to do bookkeeping. and I’m going to do advisory.” The other person is going to say, “I’m going to do bookkeeping, I’m going to do tax planning.” Another person could say, “I’m going to do tax planning and tax preparation, I’m not going to do anything else.”
You can pick and choose which of these core services you’re choosing to provide. You, as the owner, can also hire an employee, individuals within the organization, that are the bookkeeping experts, the accounting experts, the tax planning expert, the tax preparation experts. The business here is limitless. Have the vision. Mind blown, right?
And one key thing you have just said there, which I agree completely, you could bring in that expert—it is, the whatever expert, the booking expert, that tax planning expert, the CFO expert—I think you need that. I think it’s hard for one person to be that, all of that, or even two of those. And honestly, even within that career as you grow, you know, you are the bookkeeping head, but now you’re bookkeeping for craft breweries, you’re bookkeeping for restaurants, you’re bookkeeping for medical, and I think then, even just getting these leads of each individual niche, let’s say, is huge, too. Because if you have somebody that’s strong in that niche, that’s just going to make you the go to firm.
I say this all the time. I probably, people listening to the podcast probably get tired of me talking about that. But I think that’s so important as well. And I assume that’s something as they grow, you help with?
Yeah, so what you’re talking about is the common conversation regarding niching. You know, “Should I niche? What should I niche in?” Well admit, if you chose to, in bookkeeping, niche in a certain industry, you could also in that niche, find opportunities to then see what are the tax advantages for that space? What are the tax things that you can actually bring to those business owners in that industry that they can be leveraging?
So take, for example, just to give you an example, let’s imagine that I’m a bookkeeping professional, that I niche with property management companies—property management companies. So I’m dealing with a lot of rent coming in, dealing with expenses associated with renovating and fixing up the properties, I’ve got, obviously, my clients, which are the owners of the properties. Well, in this space, I probably own properties of our own, the property management company owns the rentals, let’s assume. Well, in that case, I’m doing the bookkeeping, I can address the accounting, but at the same time, I can maybe get into in tax, dealing with cost segregation services, and help them understand how with certain landscaping strategies, or lighting fixtures, or electricity, I can actually, through cost segregations, help with the depreciation and the tax credits associated with that.
Well, that’s huge! So now I’m actually niching in the space where I’m doing bookkeeping, and accounting services for property management companies, providing tax planning strategies, and obviously, I’m going to file their tax returns during the tax preparation. That’s four out of the six services I mentioned. I haven’t gotten into the CFO, nor have I mentioned the advisory.
And like you said, I could have in the firm, someone that is an expert in the bookkeeping level that oversees the clients, I have somebody that’s the tax planning expert. This is just fun, in my mind. I just have fun with this.
I agree. And so we talked about those three core services, which really could even be defined as more. Do you help individuals or help companies who say “Okay, now I want to open an HR niche, or I want an IT niche, or I want to add more services?” Is that something that you could then go in and help or advise on that as well?
I do. So in the idea or the context of what’s called “mapping the business,” of the element that you’re describing is what we refer to as geometric marketing. It’s where you actually grow the business geometrically, instead of vertically growing the business—doing the same thing for more and more people—you’re trying to see what other complementary services you’re able to offer as you’re growing vertically. And so that’s where we’re getting into the bookkeeping company that’s doing great vertically, and they’re getting more and more bookkeeping clients, realizing as a business owner, “If I just hired somebody that actually could do tax preparation, I could do the tax returns for not only all these businesses, but the owners and then perhaps many of the employees, and then I can grow the tax preparation to extended people and family, and I can do”—well all of a sudden the business just in the next year, brought in brought in a whole new revenue stream. They were traditionally a bookkeeping business, but next year, you’re seeing now a 25 to 30% increase in revenue coming from a tax service that they didn’t previously offer.
Well, that tax service then grows the next year being 50% of the revenue for the business. I mean, that’s what we’re talking about. So yes, I do get involved with the niching aspect, the growing of it, and so forth.
Alright, that’s awesome. So I think that’s great. I love what you’re saying. Because that stuff in my mind, and things that I’ve learned from just doing this podcast, talking to people—you’re in there helping them and you’re educating them and giving them ideas and niching, and vertical, and all this stuff, and three core services. When you’re in there, and you’re seeing what they’re doing, how do you define success? When do we get to that point?
Okay, good question. I’m going to say that this is actually a very individual conversation, and this is very much a mental health type thing—which is to say, I work with a number of people that outward, appears that they’re successful, right? You meet them in a networking environment, you meet them at a social, they’re the owner, I’m happy, things are good. Great. I go back one-on-one, privately meet with them. We’re building rapport, we get to a safe spot, they feel safe in their conversation. And they start to divulge whether or not they’re feeling successful. So let me define success. And I’m going to do it with that caveat of there is a mental health element to it.
So the first thing is, there are basically in my mind, five things that I’ve identified over these many years working with successful business owners. And it’s very, very simple: They obviously have a passion for what they do. They’re almost work—well, not even almost—they are workaholics. We love what we do. To do what we’re doing isn’t a burden. We wake up in the morning, we’re excited to go do it. We’re in a position where we’re making a difference. We enjoy working with our customers. It’s not to say that everything’s easy. It’s not to say there’s not problems. But it’s to say you accept and embrace the challenge. It’s, just something that you excel at and are good at, and there’s a lot of accomplishment, at the end of the day.
And passionate about.
Excel at, good at, and passionate about. Yep.
So you’ve got to have passion. And the passion thing, I will end by saying what you need is something that when times become difficult, you have something you can tap into, that pushes you through that challenge. And so passion is that energy you bring to the situation that helps you propel through whatever situation you may find that’s difficult. That’s huge. So the successful business owners that I’ve worked with over the years, always have something that they draw on—it’s vision, clarity of purpose, it’s what they’re trying to build, it’s the enjoyment of what they’re doing. That’s passion.
The second thing is commitment. Time and time again, the business owners that I work with that are successful, are committed. And what I mean by that is they’ll do anything and everything. They’ll take out the garbage, they’ll clean the windows, they’ll clean the bathrooms, I don’t care what it is, they’re gonna get everything done. But when it comes to the client, if the client needs something, they work after hours, they work weekends. Time and again, they don’t come up with excuses. That’s my point. And so when I work with successful people, they just have this can-do attitude, and I love the commitment they bring.
The third thing is quality. They know that this is an extension of themselves. It’s not necessarily that their name is on it in the sense that their company has their name, perhaps. But they do know that when the client receives whatever they’re doing, they know that somehow they were involved with it, whether it was in the direct, hands-on involvement, or the systems used to deliver the product or service. And so the quality is very important to them—they want to know that it meets a certain standard when it’s finally given to the client. So that’s the third thing.
The fourth is knowledge of the numbers. Time and again, a successful person knows their numbers. They have certain KPIs—key performance indicators—that they watch. There are numbers that they’re keenly aware of, leading and lagging indicators that they’re observing. The business has numbers, and they watch those. And so I really emphasize that.
But here’s the fifth one, that’s oftentimes overlooked, and it’s perhaps of all of these, I would say the one that’s least understood, and it’s personal time. It’s the idea that as business owners, because of the passion and the workaholic attitude we bring to things, we tend to not find personal time to recharge. And I really find value when I give permission to business owners to take time for hobbies and family and so forth. Because the successful business owners I know? They work hard, but they play hard.
They do crazy, fun things. And by darn, the person that just is at that grindstone all the time isn’t doing what they need to do to, as Steven Covey says, sharpen the saw. At some point, working too hard, we’re just not efficient. We need to step back and take a moment and recharge and then we can go in and do the same task so much more quickly, simply because of the fact that we’ve got the energy we need.
Go eat a meal. I mean I used to—this is something I struggle with sometimes—sometimes I just run my vehicle down to empty merely because of the fact I can’t find the time to pull over and fill up gas in my own darn vehicle. That’s crazy! So put gas in your vehicle.
Personal time’s huge. Mental health you mentioned earlier, is huge. Because about that personal time, your mental health is gonna get affected. You and I could probably talk for an hour on mental health. But since you mentioned it, do you want to discuss that a little bit? Get into a few mental health issues that you’ve seen or you talk about?
Certainly. The first thing I would say is it needs to be discussed. I think it needs to be healthy, a healthy thing to be able to be vulnerable. We need to have people with whom we’re very comfortable and safe and saying, “I’m just tired, I need to relax, I need to decompress. I can’t talk about this,” whatever the thing is. But we also need to also recognize that it’s human, it’s natural—we’re not perfect, we’re fine.
But here’s the other thing I would say with regards to mental health. Regarding mental health, when I work with business owners, time and again, they come to me as a business coach believing that they’re going to work on their business, and they come with the intent of let’s talk about employees, let’s talk about processes, let’s talk about marketing and sales. But inevitably, within a number of weeks, when they start to feel safe and comfortable with me, they’ll open up, and they’ll talk about relationships, they’ll talk about children, they’ll talk about health—the things that are weighing on them, that mentally cause them not to be able to focus on their business.
And what I’m trying to say is that the business is only as good as the owner—the clarity that the owner can bring to the situation. If the business owner is consumed by relationship-, health-type things that’s consuming their attention, they cannot work on the business. And so to get that clarity, to get that confidence back is huge to the mental health, which then causes the business to be successful, because the business owner is on their game, top of their game.
Yep, I think there’s a disconnect there a lot in our profession is that “I’ve got to work, work, work, work, work, and then I’m gonna get stuff done.” Honestly, and you said it when you talked about personal time, step back. Take some time away. You’re going to be much more efficient, and healthier, mentally and physically, Bby taking that away time.
I’ve got a presentation that I probably have been requested to do this more than anything else these days, and I do a lot of tax talks. But this one is titled, Mental Health Awareness: Beyond Burnout. And I love this discussion. I present for a half hour, try to do a 20 minute discussion at minimum with people and figure out ways that we can address mental health issues within the profession and just in general, in the world.
And it’s amazing how much more I feel this discussion is needed out there than people want to admit. Because mental health for some reason, there’s a stigma: “I’m just gonna work through it, I’m not gonna let anybody know I’m tired. I’m not gonna let anybody know I’m burnt out, because I just gotta get this done.” So I’m really thrilled to hear that you’ve talked about that.
Well, thank you for sharing that. I’m going to add, I really feel that we need to be also conscious of attempts to self medicate, and addictions. I think self-medication and addictions can be things that are very much tied to mental health. And we need to be aware of the fact that those are indications that someone needs help, and we need to also recognize in ourselves that it’s okay to ask for help—that’s fine.
The best advice I can give you is people care. There’s someone out there who’s willing to listen. And if you can be that person who does listen—don’t judge, just listen—and oftentimes, what some people just need is merely the opportunity to vocally communicate some of these feelings and emotions that they have, and then that in and of itself can be a release. It’s kind of like an old fashioned tea kettle that’s on the stovetop—it just needs to release some steam. That’s it, and then it will be okay. And that’s one of the things that I think is so helpful in this discussion.
Yeah, you’re like hitting everything on the nail on the head. I’ve got twenty things, and I’m no health professional, I’ve just been someone who has gone through some mental health issues in the past, which are completely behind me now, which I’m very proud of. But the one thing that I talk about, of all the twenty things that we can do as individuals, listening is the biggest one, I believe. And just hearing what someone has to say and let them share and keep that conversation going. So I think you know your stuff, man. That’s pretty awesome.
Well thank you. Well, while we’re on a roll, I’ve got to share one more thing, then.
When I’m dealing with some of my clients that are in a situation where they’re depressed and so forth, one thing is I am not a professional therapist, I’m not a psychiatrist, I can’t prescribe anything. So there is actually professional resources out there that they should be able to tap into, and I want to say that there shouldn’t be a stigma associated with going out and working with a therapist or psychiatrist. Why? Because look at it this way: Rather than saying we’re broken, and I need to be fixed, I’d rather everyone hearing my voice understand that what we’re doing is we’re recognizing only that things can be better, and I’m looking for a path to improve.
That’s it. You’re not broken, there’s nothing wrong. What we’re doing is we’re just saying, “You know what, I think things can be better, I think I can be happier, I think I can be more attentive, I think I can be more engaged. I’d like to work with someone professionally to help me do that.” It’s like going and finding somebody that’s a dietician to help you eat better. It’s like going and finding a physical health coach that helps you exercise better. It’s just saying, “You know what, I think I can be better—I’m going to hire someone to help me that’s professionally aware, and can help me actually adapt more quickly and achieve the success I need.” Mental health fits in that same boat.
The other thing I would say is, from a non-professional level, the best advice I’ve given to people—family, friends, clients—when dealing with, “I’m depressed, I’m deflated, I need to recharge, I just need help.” I say well, two things: Don’t be alone. Please don’t be alone. As much as you may want to go and be by yourself, I need you to go find a family member or friend or a group of people that you can be with—even if you don’t want to be there, I want you to go be with them. The second thing is, levity is a huge medicine. If you can just find that show you like that’s funny, that just causes you to laugh, go watch it. My daughter, she’s into Friends right now. She watches the Friends sitcom. She just watches that and because of the laugh, she can just kind of get laughing and it releases those chemicals in your mind that actually help you reset, and that laughter can actually do wonders for you with your attitude. So don’t be alone, and actually go out there and find something that you know is just your go to laugh thing. Listen to a comedy, listen to a comedic routine, just start laughing.
The last thing is, don’t be afraid to call the suicide hotline. If I remember and I apologize, I believe it’s 988 is what you call, dial that number. And in doing so there’s some professional people there that can help actually talk through and listen. And if you don’t have anyone to talk to, that number is there to assist you. So call that number. It’s basically what we might remember is the old chat line, just call and talk to people. That’s what we want.
Right. And then another thing, obviously, if you’re in that situation, for sure, call that. But just in general, there’s just so many resources out there now where you can call and talk to a counselor online, you know, you can call and have a phone call with a counselor, you don’t even have to go into an office. So there’s so many opportunities, if you’re feeling any issues at all, reach out. And I love your advice—be with a family member, be with a friend—which is extremely important, and reach out to somebody.
Alright. Boy, I’d like to finish it right there.
No, no! Keep going!
Yeah, I think well, we can keep on this topic. Or we can just recap.
Well, let’s go to one more. I don’t want to end on this. I want to end on a high.
I agree. Alright, so what’s the next topic? I mean, one topic that we haven’t talked about is just you know, the definition of advisory services, because everybody seems to have their own definition of what advisory services is. Do you have yours? Or how do you define that?
Very much so. And the first thing I’d like to start by saying—I don’t want to sound as if I’m fixating on terms and becoming very, very particular about what people are saying. Honestly, these terms in a conversation I’ve learned with accounting professionals, business owners—they’re synonymous. They’re technically not, but for many people in a conversation, they use them synonymously, and I’m just not going to be the one that fixate on them. But, I’m going to answer it.
So in the profession, a lot of people question, you know, “Should I be referring to myself as a consultant as an advisor as a coach, what am I?” So let’s define these, and then you can choose what you want. Okay, the first thing I like to start with is a mentor. A lot of people bring up the mentoring. Mentoring is very simple. It is non-compensated, you’re not being paid for mentoring. Mentoring is associated with individuals from which you glean from their experience.
And so when you’re mentoring, it’s you monthly go out with somebody for breakfast, it’s you go have coffee with someone. They’ve been there, done that and they’re just sharing you the intuitions. You’re tagging along for the ride and you’re trying to glean what you can from that interaction. That’s mentoring, okay? It’s nothing that’s scheduled, there’s no appointments, they’re not coming by every month. It’s just you’re gleaning through the relationship, something.
The second is consulting. Consulting is very important. This is where you have a skill that you’re paid to perform. So in other words, there’s a task, a project that needs to be done, and you’re hired to take care of that project or task. You’re a consultant. You’re gonna go in, take care of it and you’re going to leave, okay?
The third happens to be an advisor. An advisor is, you’re coming in and educating someone for fees. You’re teaching a class one-on-one, you’re coming in as an advisor being paid to actually teach best practices, concepts, principles, that in this case, let’s say a business owner should consider and implement. But here’s the thing: whether or not they choose to implement and do these things is entirely up to them. You teach the class, you’ve taught them the principles, but it’s indifferent to you as the advisor whether or not they do anything with it. Your job, your role, is to educate and help them see what’s going on.
The coach is the pinnacle of all of this. The coach is the person who is being paid for accountability—that in addition to advising, they’re educating, they’re helping the business owner to learn certain things that they need to be doing to work on their business, accounting, and so forth. But they’re also there to ask the right questions, find out how it’s going to be implemented, holding them accountable, asking for deadlines. “So when are you going to do this? Next time we meet? Tell me how it goes.” “Hey, we’re meeting. You told me you’re going to do it last week. Did you do it last week?”
The coach is someone that’s bringing to the table two integral parts: asking the right questions, holding them accountable for what they’re doing. And that’s where you need to determine in my opinion, what the services are you’re providing, because if you want to be advisor, you’re an advisor. You’re going in and you’re regularly introducing them to various business principles that need to be aware of, but whether or not they implement them is indifferent to you. At the coach level, it’s very relevant, because you’re being paid to ensure that these things are actually being done—not because you feel they need to, but because the business owner said they’re a priority, gave you a timeline, and you’re asking for a follow up.
Alright, so those, those are the definitions of what you can pull in as advisory services or in general. So I love it. Like I said, everybody seems to have their own definition. I liked that synopsis of there’s all these different ways to define it.
Alright, before we wrap up, then, and thank you for that. Before we wrap up, you mentioned it earlier that you need to take time for yourself—that you need to have personal time as this business owner. So let’s talk about you. What do you enjoy when you’re not working? And it seems like you enjoy work, but what are your passions outside of work?
So I actually have quite a few. I do go motorcycling, I have an off road bike that I go riding on. So I do that. I just recently got into side-by-side, so I’m doing the UTV, outdoors type thing, trying that. Mine is actually in the shop right now. So it’s broken. So hopefully I get that fixed real soon. The other thing I enjoy is I actually go out shooting. I do quite a bit of target practicing and so forth.
The best way to describe what I like to do for vacations is cruise—I go on one or two cruises a year. That’s very important to me. That’s where I see that my wife decompresses the most, and so that’s very important for me.
On the principle of personal time, I know you didn’t ask this, but you’re asking what I do, and I will tell you this—there are studies that show that you need to do this no less frequently than eight to 12 weeks, there’s a whole study on it, we can talk about it later if you want. But basically, I try to have on my calendar something at least once a month that I’m looking forward to and anticipating, and I have found that that works very well for myself, and my family, and literally if you got to know me, you know I’m a very active person. Just to give you an idea, I’ll be going to Puerto Rico this year, Dominican Republic this year, actually the DR twice this year, and Hawaii in the next three months.
Nice. Nice. Yeah, my wife and I try to do quite a bit of traveling as well. So I agree with everything you said there. There’s always things that I already have—two weeks, I’ll be in West Virginia, two weeks later, I’ll be in San Diego, two weeks later, we’ll be somewhere else. So yeah, I agree completely. You need to. You work hard, and if you don’t take that time to play hard, like you mentioned, it’s not going to help the business at all.
You’re either living to work or working to live.
Yeah. I don’t feel like I work a day at all right now. I’m just having so much fun. So I’m spoiled that way. But I wish everybody gets to that point.
This was great information. I enjoyed the conversation. In fact, we’re fifty minutes in and I don’t even feel like it was two minutes. So if anybody else enjoyed it and wants to reach out to you, how can they get ahold of you?
Easy. Obviously, LinkedIn, happy to connect with you on LinkedIn. You can go to UniversalAccounting.com. You can give us a phone call at 801-265-3777. Happy to obviously help with this. Lots of free resources that we also provide on UniversalAccounting.com. And so feel free to reach out. Happy to talk to you, always happy to work with individuals as they work on their business.
Well, that’s great. And I’m actually gonna do one plug, which I normally don’t do, but we talked about it. So if anybody does want to reach out to me about hearing more about that mental health presentation I do, I would love to talk to you. So you know, go to Tri-Merit.com, our website. You can find my contact information there or reach out to me on LinkedIn or somewhere else.
So Roger, thanks again for being here. This was great. I look forward to talking again, and enjoy.
Take care. “If it’s about accounting, it’s Universal.”
About the Guest
Roger Knecht is the President of Universal Accounting Center, a position he has held for nearly nine years. He works with business owners specifically nicheing with CPA’s, EA’s, accountants, bookkeepers, and tax preparers. He and Universal Accounting specialize in client acquisition, correct pricing of services, and systematic client onboarding.
Roger also hosts the Building the Premier Accounting Firm podcast, where he discusses strategies for maximizing the potential of your accounting practice. He received his bachelor’s in communications from Brigham Young University in 1996.
Meet the Host
Randy Crabtree, CPA
Randy Crabtree, co-founder and partner of Tri-Merit Specialty Tax Professionals, is a widely followed author, lecturer and podcast host for the accounting profession.
Since 2019, he has hosted the bi-weekly “The Unique CPA,” podcast, which ranks among the world’s 5% most popular programs (Source: Listen Score). You can find articles from Randy in Accounting Today’s Voices column, the AICPA Tax Adviser (Tax-saving opportunities for the housing and construction industries) and he is a regular presenter at conferences and virtual training events hosted by CPAmerica, Prime Global, Leading Edge Alliance (LEA), Allinial Global and several state CPA societies. Crabtree also provides continuing professional education to top 100 CPA firms across the country.
Schaumberg, Illinois-based Tri-Merit is a niche professional services firm that specializes in helping CPAs and their clients benefit from R&D tax credits, cost segregation, the energy efficient commercial buildings deduction (179D), the energy efficient home credit (45L) and the employee retention credit (ERC).
Prior to joining Tri-Merit, Crabtree was managing partner of a CPA firm in the greater Chicago area. He has more than 30 years of public accounting and tax consulting experience in a wide variety of industries, and has worked closely with top executives to help them optimize their tax planning strategies.