December 2023

minute read



Thought Leader is going quarterly!

A special note to our Thought Leader subscribers: We know you’re busy enough as it is without being inundated with content—especially during tax season. That’s why Thought Leader will move to a quarterly schedule in 2024, which will give us more time to do justice to the informative, non-sales-oriented articles we’re so proud to produce for our favorite accounting professionals.

Don’t worry; our founder and chief strategist, Darren Root, will continue to lead the lineup of articles from the knowledgeable Rightworks Academy team. And we’ll make sure we have plenty of advance notice of upcoming training sessions, conferences and other important Academy information. 

So, after this issue, in 2024, look for Thought Leader to hit your email inboxes in late February, May, August and November. The Thought Leader team is energized and ready to produce our best issues yet for you!  


Optimizing operations: 5 ways accounting firms can benefit from dental practice efficiencies




One of the defining characteristics of our member firms—and really, most accounting professionals—is that they’re always searching for new ways to improve efficiency and client satisfaction. That’s where a community like Rightworks Academy comes in; there’s no better place to observe, gather tips and ask questions of other members.

But where do you go for exemplary models to follow if you’re not a member of a community? Or if you are, but you’re looking for a path not yet covered? Well, I have an excellent model, one I discovered in an unexpected place: the dental office.

5 valuable lessons from your local dentist (that don’t involve your teeth)

Over the years, dental offices have refined their operations through continual learning and adaptation, offering valuable lessons for accounting professionals who are raring to enhance their services. Here are five aspects of dental practices’ efficient operations that I believe could help your firm, too.

  1. Peer learning and collaboration. In the dental industry, professionals regularly engage in peer review and collaboration, learning from each other’s successes and challenges to refine their practices. Accounting firms can foster a similar culture of shared learning, encouraging collaboration both within the firm and with the broader accounting community. By doing so, they can stay abreast of best practices, innovative solutions and emerging technologies that could benefit their operations and service delivery.
  2. Task standardization. Just as dental treatments are standardized to ensure every patient receives consistent care, accounting tasks can follow suit. With standardized procedures for routine services, accounting firms can improve efficiency, accuracy and client confidence. Creating detailed protocols and checklists ensures that even the most complex financial tasks are handled competently and consistently.
  3. Clear and transparent pricing. Clarity in pricing is another hallmark of dental practice efficiency that accounting firms can emulate. A transparent fee structure—where clients understand what they are paying for and why—can eliminate confusion and build trust. Accountants can implement clear, upfront pricing for standard services, with a well-defined policy for additional charges.
  4. Leveraging technology for efficiency. Dental offices are often at the forefront of adopting technology that enhances patient care and office management. Accounting firms can also harness cutting-edge financial and client management software to streamline their processes—from data management to client communications—driving both efficiency and client satisfaction.
  5. Focus on customer experience. Finally, dental practices understand the importance of the patient’s experience, often going to great lengths to create a comfortable and reassuring atmosphere. Accountants can take note by ensuring their clients receive a similarly positive experience, from the comfort of the waiting room to the clarity of communication and the personal touch in service delivery.

As strange as it seems, accounting firms can learn a lot from the way dental offices operate—particularly when it comes to peer collaboration and continuous improvement. By integrating lessons from dental practice efficiencies, such as standardization, transparency, technological adoption and a focus on client experience, firms can not only streamline their operations but also elevate their client service to new heights.

Embracing these strategies could be a game-changer for you and your team, resulting in a more robust, client-oriented and successful accounting practice.  

And one last personal note: On behalf of the entire Rightworks Academy team, I wish you and your loved ones a peaceful and fulfilling holiday season—and a new year filled with happy clients and spectacular growth for you and your team. I’ll see you in the new quarterly Thought Leader in February!


Reflect and realign for the new year

As we enter the final month of 2023, let’s hit the pause button. Why? Because it’s important for you and your firm to reflect on this past year, so you can get realigned for the future—a crucial part of creating a positive and healthy firm culture.

First, let’s talk about how your firm can do this (we promise, we’ll cover the nitty-gritty details later).

  • Celebrate the wins—big and small. Did your firm stay on track with tax season capacity? Did you onboard a new ideal client successfully? These are more than victories—they’re milestones that deserve acknowledgment. When you recognize and highlight your team’s accomplishments, both individually and as a whole, you boost morale and motivation.
  • Spotlight challenges. No firm is perfect. If you had a few hiccups this year, here’s your opportunity to call out challenges and the areas where you may have fallen short. It’s important to understand what didn’t go well, so you can plan to make improvements that will help you sidestep similar pitfalls in the future.
  • Make an intentional effort. Now’s the time to think about realignment. Based on your accomplishments and your challenges, are your firm’s values, goals and processes in sync with your evolving needs? Your needs and those of your team members and clients must be fully aligned. Also, make sure you communicate your realignment efforts transparently to your team, so they understand the year-end results and your plan for the following year.

Conduct a 2024 kickoff meeting

Before you get caught up in the holidays, put a firm-wide meeting on everyone’s calendar for when everyone returns from the holiday break—and do it now. (Seriously. Don’t let this one fall off your radar.) This meeting is to help everyone reflect on the previous year and get realigned for the coming year. 

Ensure that all team members are present, or that the meeting is recorded so everyone remains involved. Develop an intentional, engaging, fun and interactive presentation that sticks to the main purpose: reflecting and realigning. (Rightworks Academy members: We have a worksheet to help you with this.)

Tips for reflection

Outline all successes

Review the goals your firm achieved this year and discuss how they made a positive impact. Highlight specific team members—and teams—who accomplished something big during the past year.

  • Recognize and appreciate the efforts of individual staff members.
  • If your staff is too large to recognize everyone individually, do so firm-wide or for individual teams.
  • Identify the clients who helped the firm. Who transitioned to a new service model? Who took your firm’s advice and implemented it in their business to improve their processes, finances or procedures?

Acknowledge challenges

Ask your team, “What was most challenging for the firm? Where did we fall short? Why?” (A note of caution: This meeting is firm-wide, so be careful not to call out or name individual team members or teams). Consider the following: 

  • Technology implementations
  • Challenging clients
  • Staffing, role realignment and/or responsibility shifts

Keep the conversation simple. Don’t get into the weeds about challenges that don’t involve the majority of the firm or the entire firm.

Remember, publicly acknowledging your firm, staff and clients for their successes is a wonderful morale boost and helps you build (and maintain) a positive culture within your firm. Being open and transparent about the challenges everyone faces helps your team feel included and heard. (Guess what? That’s another piece of the healthy-firm-culture puzzle.)

Tips for realignment

Discuss the firm’s mission, vision and values.

  • Revisit and clarify the mission, vision and core values that define your firm’s culture. (Academy members: We have a resource to help with this.)
  • Reinforce the principles that guide behavior and decision-making. Remind the team that the daily actions and behaviors of leaders and staff must align with the firm’s values.
  • Create a consistent and authentic culture that resonates throughout the firm.

Use challenges to communicate next year’s goals.

  • Discuss established, clear goals and objectives for the upcoming year based on the challenges outlined during the team’s reflection. (Academy members: Use our SMART goals guide.)
  • Allow time for input from the team regarding the goals. Do the goals make sense? What questions do they have? Who is responsible for each goal? How will the goals be measured?

Including the team during the realignment process sets a positive tone for them, giving them a sense of purpose and direction. You know what that does? It helps lead to higher engagement levels. And you know what that means? Another step toward a positive and healthy culture. 

Bonus: Don’t know where to start with realignment? We’ve got you.

The two major qualities of a modern firm are the willingness to embrace change and fostering a culture of innovation. Use these qualities to: 

  • Reflect on the past year. Identify changes in the profession, regulatory environment and market trends. Ask: Did firm leaders and the team stay informed about industry developments?
  • Identify areas of change in 2023. Ask: How did the firm handle them? What can you celebrate? What can you improve?
  • Encourage staff to think creatively and contribute ideas to help the firm stay adaptable and responsive to changes within the profession.
  • Communicate a positive attitude toward change. Embrace and incorporate new technologies and innovative practices to stay competitive.

Evaluate client relationships by reflecting on client interactions and feedback to gauge their satisfaction. You can do this by:

  • Communicating the findings of client satisfaction, needs and concerns to the team.
  • Outlining areas of improvement and strategies to enhance client engagement in 2024. This may include introducing new services, increasing fees, improving client communications, and addressing issues by working one-on-one with team members and individual clients.

Identify and communicate skill gaps by looking at areas where gaps within the team were culprits for challenges. Doing this can:

  • Show staff where they may want to focus their career growth efforts.
  • Provide an opportunity to allocate resources for training and professional development, demonstrating the firm’s commitment to the growth and success of its employees.

When thinking about balance and well-being, consider whether a challenge from the previous year was related to the balance and well-being initiatives for team members.

  • Support balance by providing new or updated flexible work arrangements, mental health programs or other initiatives that contribute to a positive and healthy workplace culture.
  • Set realistic expectations for workload and deadlines. Is it time to rethink the hours that all team members (partners and owners included) spend at the office or in front of their computers? Avoiding burnout should be a top priority in 2024!

Get to it

As we embark on 2024, let’s do so with a renewed sense of purpose and enthusiasm. By reflecting on your achievements and challenges and realigning your goals and strategies, you’re not just preparing for another year—you’re setting your firm and your team up for success. Here’s to another year!


Unwrap a stress-free 2024: 4 festive steps your accounting firm can take now




‘Tis the season, Thought Leader readers! Not only for fun and festive times spent with family and friends, but to get ready for the season accounting pros tend to dread—tax season. (Cue ominous music.)

But there’s no reason to use the most wonderful time of the year worrying about next year. If you just spend a little time now going through these four festive steps, I can pretty much guarantee your firm will be a whole lot jollier come January.

Step 1: Deck the halls with lots of firm care

We focus so much throughout the year on our clients’ books that our own books are often the last ones to receive attention. The holiday season is the perfect time to turn up the carols and dive into a review of your firm’s books. Make sure all your financial baubles are in a row by updating entries, reconciling your bank and credit card accounts, and ensuring your financial statements are as sparkling clean as freshly fallen snow.

Step 2: Don’t let the Grinch steal your data

During this season of giving, don’t forget to gift your firm with secure and efficient technology. Treat yourself to a server upgrade or cloud storage if needed, and make sure all updates and patches are installed. Remember, backing up your data is as essential as leaving cookies out for Santa. Ensuring secure storage and encryption of your data could be the star on top of your firm’s holiday tree.

Step 3: Dash through the workflow

Reviewing and streamlining your processes is like untangling the holiday lights: It may seem daunting, but the end result is worth it. Document all your processes and workflows and look for opportunities to streamline now—while you’re not distracted by the unpredictability of tax season. While the weather outside may be frightful, I promise that the feeling of having efficient workflows is so delightful! And take advantage of AI (artificial intelligence) with a platform such as Scribe to document everything in a flash.

Step 4: Give the gift of knowledge

Just as Santa relies on his elves, an accounting firm’s greatest asset is its well-trained team. Identifying areas where training or education is necessary can be like filling your advent calendar with knowledge. Consider enrolling staff in appropriate training or continuing education courses. It’s the gift that will keep on giving throughout 2024—and far beyond.

So, deck those halls, fill those stockings and ring those holiday bells! By taking these four festive steps now, your accounting firm can ride into the new year on a reindeer (or accounting team)-led sleigh of efficiency and preparedness. Here’s to a joyous year-end and a stress-free 2024!


How a holiday cyberattack can literally land on your doorstep




There is no tradition more cherished than the annual column warning you about holiday-related cyberattacks. If you can fog a mirror, you know that cyberattackers love to take advantage of the busy, the vulnerable, the naïve and the overly trusting during the dark days of December.

The audience for this column is pretty savvy—probably way too smart to click on a rogue link in an email or respond to a suspicious-looking text. So, as always, heed the typical warnings and be wise again this year. You know what not to do. If you’re running applications and storing data in the cloud, as you should be, you have experts protecting you, anyway.

While it’s hard to understand why anyone wouldn’t think cybersecurity warnings are the best part of the season, some die-hard optimists and cheerful cherubs probably think the holiday season is all about giving. OK, fine. In fact, gifts are the primary topic of this piece—little gifts you didn’t see coming. No, not socks again. Not even fruitcake or gift cards to a retailer that closed in 2020. Something much worse.

A brush with danger

Have you heard of brushing? Not your hair or your teeth (which both look fantastic, by the way). This version of brushing is a type of cyberattack, and it involves getting an unexpected package. That’s what makes brushing the most festive kind of cyberattack; you get a nice little gift out of it! Of course, the downside is that somebody has probably stolen your account details on a big online sales platform.

Here are the basics of brushing: Along with the probable hundreds of other packages that arrive at your house during the holiday season, an extra little something shows up. You didn’t order it. You don’t know what it is. It’s just there with your name on the package and either no return address or a return address you don’t recognize.

Free stuff! Yes, legally, you do get to keep the package and whatever is in it. Is some retailer sending you a sample? Trying to entice you with a free product to buy more? Actually, no. The retailer who sent you this package is going to list you as a bona fide customer…and write a glowing product review on a big online platform in your name.

After all, you really did receive the package, and the retailer really did send it. You just didn’t order it. Or review it yourself. But your name will soon be on a five-star Amazon review probably written using ChatGPT.

A victimless crime? Probably not

The retailer is often a third-party seller (in other words, not, say, Amazon or eBay itself) from outside the US attempting to build a customer base with fake reviews. So, you’re now unwittingly promoting a product you didn’t order, don’t want and didn’t know you were promoting.

Is that really the end of the world, though? As long as it’s not something too embarrassing or incriminating, you’ve just unknowingly added your name to what is likely to be a long and poorly read list of positive reviews. (Honestly, most people just look at the stars.) There’s nothing to lose sleep over, is there?

Of course there is. There always is, when it comes to unexpected cyberactivity. The retailer who sent you the package probably has your account credentials for the site you’re using, be it Amazon, eBay or some other big platform full of third-party sellers. That means someone out there can get into your account and buy stuff without you knowing it—in other words, steal your money. And anyone who has managed to snatch your account credentials probably has all sorts of private data about you—or at least knows how to get access to it. 

And here’s the real kicker—sometimes, the retailer sends a “porch pirate” to steal the unexpected package before you even get it! So, not only do you have compromised credentials, but you also don’t get the free gift you didn’t know you were promoting. How’s that for a Grinch move at the holidays? Pre-conversion Grinch, of course. We all know the Grinch and Scrooge ended up succumbing to holiday cheer and changing their ways. Your rogue retailer probably won’t.

How to brush back a brushing attack

The scary thing here is that once the unfamiliar package shows up, you know you’ve been had. Someone very likely has your account credentials and probably a lot of your other personal data too. So, what can you do? Pretty much what you’d expect, according to a basic framework of advice from the Better Business Bureau (BBB). This column also throws a couple of bonus tips into the list:

  • Notify the main online platform. That is to say Amazon, eBay or whichever site the suspicious package originated from. Every major platform has a way to contact customer service and report fraudulent reviews.
  • Try to identify the sender. Check out that return address if there is one. Look for any clues you can find, including any information stamped on shipping labels or documentation inside the package.
  • Check your account for recent orders. See if the order shows up in your account. The BBB warns that some accounts can become so full of fraudulent orders that big platforms won’t ship to them anymore. Don’t let yours become one of them.
  • Change your account passwords. This is standard practice any time you sense you’ve been the victim of an attack or breach.
  • Notify your bank and credit card providers. Some cybercriminal very possibly has your bank or card information. You might need new credit and debit cards. You’ll definitely need to change all your passwords. It’s best to let your bank and credit card providers know there may be a problem before they tell you.
  • Contact your local police. Lots of experts say getting the police involved with cyberattacks is a good idea. How much they can help depends on the situation, but you’ll be helping to keep yourself and your neighbors safe. Plus, if there’s a porch pirate situation, local law enforcement should know about it.
  • Enjoy your free stuff. OK, maybe not. But it is yours…if you want it.

Again, your best bet to keep your firm safe from all sorts of cyberattacks is to partner with a cloud provider for managed security and data backup. In the cloud, you’re much less likely to be breached, brushed or otherwise harassed. And you won’t have to worry so much about reading all the cybersecurity warnings that come out this time of year. You and your cloud partner have it all under control.


Unlocking success in 2024: Social media tips for world-class accounting firms




As we board the rollercoaster ride that will be 2024, the social media arena will no doubt have all kinds of unexpected curves, twists and dips for us along the way. If you’re at the helm of an accounting firm and looking to keep your online game strong while captivating clients, here are today’s top four social media trends and how you can use them to spotlight the great things you can do to let current and prospective clients know what’s going on in your firm.

Lights, camera, numbers!

These days, it’s video content that steals the show. Make accounting engaging with short, snappy clips, some behind-the-scenes number magic and live sessions on broad numbers-related topics that can help in everyday life (like creating a budget or even how to balance a checkbook). Add a dash of humor to show those spreadsheets who’s boss!

Niches and number crunchers

While the broad appeal I mentioned above is cool, have you considered delving into more niche topics within the financial world? Tax-saving hacks, tax planning for remote workers, budgeting tips for single parents or retirement tips for coffee enthusiasts are just a few of the places you could go if you get creative.

Vertical vibes and compelling telling

Unless you consistently hang out on social media, you might not have heard the term vertical video—a trend that’s rising faster than Willy Wonka’s Wonkavator, thanks to the increased use of mobile devices. So, elevate your content game with vertical videos and compelling storytelling. (In other words, capture attention with visuals that are optimized for mobile screens and tell stories that resonate with your audience. Honest, it’s that simple.)

Dollars with a dash of do-goodery

Showcase your firm’s heart by sharing your commitment to sustainability and social responsibility. Whether it’s your eco-friendly office habits, community service or support for local businesses, let your clients know you’re not just about the bottom line—you’ve got a heart, too.

As you roll into 2024, let’s make those spreadsheets go viral and give your clients a reason to smile through the tax season madness. Keep it casual, keep it engaging and let’s make this year a number-crunching party!


On our bookshelf

The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever
by Michael Bungay Stanier

Marketing Artificial Intelligence: AI, Marketing, and the Future of Business
by Paul Roetzer and Mike Kaput

Culture Renovation: 18 Leadership Actions to Build an Unshakeable Company
by Kevin Oakes

Inclusalytics: How Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leaders Use Data to Drive Their Work
by Victoria Mattingly, Sertrice Grice and Allison Goldstein


What’s going on at Rightworks Academy?

Events for members

Check out these events exclusively for Academy members.

Upcoming webinars

  • December 13: Getting ready for busy season, Part 1: Organizing your management solutions and processes
  • January 10: Getting ready for busy season, Part 2: Reviewing and finalizing your processes
  • January 31: Winter Culture webinar

See the entire webinar schedule and register at Community > Events in your Academy account.

In the spotlight this month: 

Webinar: How personal engagement can increase organic leads for your firm
December 12, 2023
2:00-2:30 p.m.

Join the Marketing Solutions team for a lively roundtable discussion on building organic prospect lists to market your firm and gathering organic contacts through event hosting and community involvement. (Note: This webinar is not eligible for CPE.)

Log in to your Academy account and register here

Events for members and non-members

Not a Rightworks Academy member yet? We have you covered with live and on-demand events where you can learn more about Academy and the latest hot topics in the profession.  

Visit for a continually updated schedule of events. 

In the spotlight this month: 

The Modern Firm® playbook 

Is your firm ready to redefine success in the modern age? Join Rightworks Academy member coach Tiffany Caponigro as she covers the four smart pillars of The Modern Firm playbook: Smart Team Management, Smart Firm Management, Smart Client Management and Smart Security Management. You’ll discover how to adapt to changing market dynamics, embrace innovation and drive sustainable growth by implementing the four smart pillars of a modern firm.

Register at 

What’s new on the blog?

From shopping small businesses to support your community to the perfect gift for the head of your household (aka your cat), the Rightworks blog has lots of great information Academy members can use during the holiday season and beyond. Check out our newest posts, and don’t forget to bookmark the blog so you can stay up to date.  

Read the latest posts at

Milestone member anniversaries

It’s time to recognize the Rightworks Academy member firms that have reached their first, fifth and tenth anniversaries! Help us wish the following firms a Happy Anniversary:

1 year
McDonald & Osborne PA
Glessner & Associates, PLLC
J. Michael Childress, CPA, PC
Neikirk, Mahoney & Co PLLC
Villela CPA PLLC
Walter Villela CPA 

5 years
Brookside Advisors (RM Bedell)
Cohos Advisors
Pasquesi Partners LLC
Clarity Tax and Accounting, P.C.
Eric McGlothen LLC
South & Thomas LLC
Janette Davis CPA LLC

10 years
Kinexus CPAs & Advisors
June CPA
JK Group Tax & Accounting Inc.
Menke & Company
Melton & Associates, CPAs, LLC
Pottberg Gassman & Hoffman Chartered

Congratulations on your success, and we look forward to celebrating many more anniversaries with you and your teams!