“Getting rid of time slips was a great step forward because it helped change our perspective from ‘what is my time worth,’ to ‘what is this service worth to the client,’ which is more important,” Jennifer noted. “Every client has different needs and expectations, and value pricing gives greater flexibility so that we can find a way to meet those needs.”
She said it also helps set the parameters of the client relationship. “It’s much better to give them accurate pricing instead of vague estimates, and it also helps the firm better manage its time.”
Their new growth has generally been with those who are more progressive with technology, which matches the service style of Hardee Accounting. The young and all-female firm has a staff of six, with multiple monitors on all workstations. And they try to steer clients into technologies that help both the client and the firm, such as online accounting and billing solutions, as well as document sharing and collaboration tools. The practice scored a 275 on CPA Practice Advisor’s Productivity Survey (www.CPAPracticeAdvisor.com/productivity), a free online assessment tool that helps measure and benchmark a firm’s use of technology and workflow processes.
Jennifer is also an active user of remote computing technologies, which allows her to spend less time at the office (six to seven hours per day) than partners at other firms, and more time with her family. With about 350 individual returns, tax season does stretch the workday a bit, of course, during which time she works about 60 hours per week. She says the firm added a seasonal staffer last year to help with administrative functions, and this year will be adding one more. The firm will also be implementing training sessions to help get all employees ramped up for busy season.
Jennifer’s interest in accounting may be hereditary, as she follows in the footsteps of her mom, who continues as a bookkeeper at a local business, her father, who owned and managed a nursing facility, and her grandfather, who was a successful banker. But following the family trend wasn’t her original plan in college. Instead, Jennifer and her then-boyfriend Gavin (now her husband) had started toward degrees in music before she changed to accounting and he changed to economics, which has led to his career as an analyst for a managed care organization.
The Cook family, which includes two year-old son Pierce, lives in nearby White House, Tennessee, and is still involved in some recreational music. In early December, Jennifer was one of the featured singing and dancing performers in “A Night of Broadway,” a revue put on by the Willow Oak Center for Arts and Learning (www.WillowOakArts.org) that included performances from “Les Miserables,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” and other notable musicals.