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Lee Estridge Presents Monthly Insights

Welcome to May 2008 "Monthly Insights"

As I look out my window and witness the unfolding of leaves and flowers, I'm reminded of how small, but significant changes in nature can literally transform the landscape on a daily basis. Similarly, the work I do with my clients leads to immediate behavioral change that ultimately creates a new landscape for their day-to-day activities, and supports larger and deeper shifts in their lives.

This month, Stuart Cohen, certified public accountant, shares some of the insights and profound changes that helped him set boundaries and change the landscape of his professional life.

 

Short Term Gains, Long Term Benefits

Stuart Cohen, CPA

Breaking the tax season cycle

As a CPA specializing in small to medium-sized businesses, my daily schedule is filled with client interactions, especially around tax season. As the New Year rang in on January 1st, I began to wonder if the upcoming tax season would be as crazy as the last one. I thought back to 2007 and remembered all the phone calls and meetings I had with clients who needed my help, and were desperate to get their finances in order. This meant that the harder I worked to help my clients, the less my own life existed. This was definitely not a pattern worth repeating, so I told myself that this year would be different. I met with Lee with a very specific goal in mind: Creating and maintaining my own life during tax season.

Lee and I got right to work on unpacking my behaviors so that I could see my own patterns and assumptions. As I talked with Lee and thought about myself, I was amazed at how much of my stress was self-driven. Each of my clients thought of me as their partner, their friend. I was a friend to everyone but myself! The idea of filing an extension on a client's tax returns was so outside the realm of possibility that I worked myself into exhaustion to avoid it.

Boundaries for All

Lee helped me see that my professional activities were creating stress in all aspects of my life. Through my discussions with Lee, I began to understand that my lack of boundaries with my clients was my primary challenge. As tax season approached, I focused on keeping my end of the business process where it needed to be, and not owning my clients' missteps. I also made a point of eating dinner with my family every night, and made a commitment to go out with my wife for "date night" once a week. One of the hardest changes for me was forcing myself to close up my office by 9:30 pm. I curbed my compulsive urge to work well into the night, and managed to get eight hours of sleep. The sleep was critical in helping me stay focused on my work, minimize emotional exhaustion, and stick to my newly formed work schedule.

Creative Balance

After two years of working with Lee, I can say that she has helped me create and sustain synergy between the business aspect of my work and the creative, artistic process of my photography. Without this synergy, my work would not have depth and feeling, nor would I be able to sustain the range of work that I produce. I've loved my work for over a quarter of a century, and my business goals now reflect that passion. The balance and focus that I have in my creative work has suffused into other aspects of my life, so I feel a clarity and energy in my relationships with family and friends. Lee has truly provided me with a lens for seeing my life as it was, and she has helped me create the vision for my life, as it is now- a work In progress.

It's not how much you make, but how much you keep

The other large piece of work that I started doing before tax season, and will continue to do in the future, is keeping my business focused on clients who match up with my style. In the past, during an initial meeting with a potential client, I would see it as a challenge to be the "one" this client could collaborate with in their business. Sometimes this worked, but sometimes I wound up taking on clients that said something like, "I've been through 3 CPA's in the last 3 years, maybe this time it will work." This type of statement is now a red flag rather than a challenge to make the relationship work. In fact, each time I politely decline to work with a client, I've noticed that I've created space for other clients who are a match for me. So, not only does my company tag line reflect my approach to accounting, it also reminds me of the value of working with clients that are a fit for me. So, I try to live my tag line on a daily basis: "It's not how much you make, but how much you keep."

www.stuartcohencpa.com