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Nerd's Guide to the Galaxy

The Difference Between What I Can and Can’t Control

nntap Feb 17, 2023

Nerd's Notes To Accounting Professionals

So you’re working on a client. You’ve set aside the time and the client promised you they would upload all of the statements and documents you need. You counted on that when you scheduled the time to work
for this client. 


But the needed documents aren’t there!


Or, you’re setting up an app that you want to use to (eg.) pay their bills but you run into a snag. There’s a bug, or something isn’t working right and you can’t figure it out, or you straight up need support.


You scheduled yourself to work on this client at 9AM, and now it’s 9:15. You spent time getting acclimated and ready to go, but now you’re stuck.


So you take to Twitter or Facebook, or Instagram, or wherever you go to vent. You write your post describing your client or the app, maybe anonymously and complaining about how things don’t work right and how it shouldn’t be this hard. 


And maybe you throw in the #TaxTwitter hashtag to invite support. And you get it. Because THEY get it. And now you have a nice little thread going with several people interacting and sharing war stories with you about similar struggles they’ve had. 


Now it’s 9:30, maybe even 10AM and you still haven’t gotten anything meaningful done, have you?


The support might feel good at the moment, but in reality, not only haven’t you put any money in the bank, you’ve taken dollars out based on the opportunity cost of not staying focused. 


And this would be fine if it was at a time that you designated for yourself to relax and enjoy some social interaction with colleagues. But, based on the above, this was not that time. It was a time you had set aside to be productive. To make money.


What should you have done instead?


It comes down to understanding (a) what you can and cannot control and (b) how that informs your very next action. 


You can’t control the fact that your client didn’t provide what you needed, nor can you control when an app isn’t working right. 


In the case of the missing documentation, here’s what you CAN control and how that informs the next right indicated actions:


First, notify the client that you sat down to do the work at the scheduled time and you didn’t have the documents you needed. Ask them to please make sure to get you the needed items and list them out for extreme clarity in bullet point fashion.


Then let them know that once they notify you, you will confirm when 100% of the items on this list are satisfied and then you will schedule the time again to work on their stuff. This doesn’t mean you will work on it THAT day. It means you will then and only then figure out when you CAN work on it next. 


This gives you control over your own schedule to make sure you don’t waste any more of your own precious time. 


This also sets a boundary with your client, making clear that they need to deliver what they promise or there will be a consequence. In this case, that consequence is the delay in getting their books up to date. 


This is how you don’t allow your client to waste your time (intentionally or unintentionally).


The other thing you can do here is stress that any of this kind of friction can be eliminated if they give you access and empower you to get what you need on your own. Either your own logins or theirs. 


Assuming you know you will never do anything nefarious with their logins, then you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. And of course, you should exercise extreme care with how you handle their sensitive information. 


In the case of the app not working, the one and only next right indicated action is to ping their support. And be VERY detailed in your explanation of what is happening and where you need help. The more information you give, the less back and forth they will need with you for clarification. Be disproportionately clear with them. In other words, go the extra ten miles to make your situation clear. And stress the urgency. 


After that, no matter how much it sucks that you have to wait for a response, that is literally all you can do. If, as in the example I gave, we’re dealing with a bill pay app you may need to find an alternate way to get your clients bills paid while you wait. 


Now go communicate with your client using the same extreme clarity in your communication. Make it clear that you’re handling it, but you just want to keep them in the loop and you will update them as you know more. 


In either case, when the above is done, there is only one thing left to do…


Move on. 


If there are other things you can do for that client, great. Do that. 


If not, then make some notes in a place you can trust so that you can re-acclimate yourself quickly the next time you are ready to work on it. 


Then move on to the next client or project. Period. 


And stay off of social media with this stuff. Do you want to know who looks bad when you are constantly on social media complaining about stuff?




If anything, you should go on social media later that day and inspire people by talking about how you practiced my solution here and wound up having a really productive day, in spite of the obstacles that presented themselves. 


Now THAT is worthy of a post on social media!


P.S. imagine how your client would feel if they saw you complaining about them on social media? 


Even if you kept them anonymous, THEY may have enough context to know it is about them. That won’t bode well for your relationship with them. I once got into a REALLY bad pickle with a client doing something like this I had NO idea one of their employees read my blog 😨.


Case in point I just got a connection request from an employee of my newest client. Imagine if I accepted that request and the first thing he sees in my feed is a post about how awful “this client” is to work with. Even if it wasn’t about his company, it could only make him wonder if it is, or if I might post something like that about his company next!


Instead this is what he’ll see:


In short, it is just a terrible idea to complain about your clients in ANY public forum. 

Vibe in private! This is my new motto for life.


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