Managing partners and firm administrators, are you preparing your firm to take advantage of this growing workforce? It could be the answer to the big challenge of finding top talent to serve your clients.
CPAs are (and think) traditional. It’s time to think non-traditional relating to so many areas of firm management.
2017 is going to be an exciting year!
Change is not merely necessary to life - it is life.
Don’t you feel wonderful when you hear those three little words?
Sure you do, everyone wants to hear “I love you.” I hope you hear them and say them daily. But wait, that’s not the “three little words” I’m talking about.
The three little words I’m referring to are three you do not want to hear. You probably hide from them and deny them.
I hear this saga very often from CPA firm managing partners, “We don’t have a succession plan. There is just no one at our firm who can take over from us. There is no one here that can do what WE do.” My question is “Whose fault is that?” – – – Baby It’s You.
If you are the managing partner at a firm (or a sole proprietor), you are in charge. The future of the firm is in your hands.
If your people are not good managers, relationship builders or passionate about the firm…
If they don’t show up at the appointed time….
If they spend too much time on the web and social media for personal reasons during the day…..
If they put too much time in a job because they don’t have a budget….
If they make you cringe some days because of the way they are dressed….
Who is responsible for these behaviors? The responsibility for all of these kinds of issues comes back to you…. the leader. Baby, it’s you.
Enjoy the Shirelles singing Baby It’s You.
Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.
If you want to really know what being a future-ready firm is all about, read this brief article (via Accounting Today), about Jody Padar’s vision. It explains so much, in a simple straight-forward manner, of where you need to be heading.
The article focuses on Four Hallmarks:
Many of you are so busy doing the work that you don’t have time to do the things the client really needs – consulting, mentoring and business advisory services.
Firms try to insert new tools into the old process, and then they’ll say it doesn’t work. Of course it doesn’t work, because the model is broken.
“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that you cannot sincerely try to help another without helping yourself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
A great client recommends your firm to a friend. A well-respected banker or attorney gives your firm’s name to one of their clients (probably along with two other firm names).
The first thing that person does is Google your firm. Isn’t that what you would do? Of course, it is.
Your website must impress them. It must be modern looking and up-to-date and it must immediately give them information.
The goal of your website is to convert visitors into clients. Make it easy for them by having your contact information easily available. Most visitors will immediately want to know where you are located. If you have only one office, put the street address at the bottom of the home page.
Clients and prospects want to see pictures of real people and be able to email them for more information. So, don’t make your email address a mystery.
Many practitioners tell me they don’t list staff emails or use their pictures because headhunters will find them. Headhunters will find them anyway so why not make it easy for your clients and prospective clients to connect with your team members?
Be sure the commonly used social media icons are on your home page: Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, Blog, etc. Prospective clients want to know as much as possible about your accounting firm.
But, remember they want to know how you can help THEM. So don’t make the website all about YOU – communicate how you can help clients save tax dollars, etc. Testimonials from current clients are a great way to communicate the value of your firm.
They might not need me; but they might. I'll let my head be just in sight. A smile as small as mine might be precisely their necessity.
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs
Have you expanded and branded the CAS you are offering to clients? Many firms are finding this area to be a rapidly growing source of revenue.
The percentage of net client fees provided by CAS, which includes outsourced finance and accounting services and other back-office support for clients, more than doubled for firms in the largest revenue segment tracked by the 2016 National Management of an Accounting Practice Survey.
Client Accounting Services is no longer just a small firm revenue source.
Mark Koziel, the AICPA executive vice president-Firm Services, credits automation and other technologies with helping to fuel the growth of client accounting services.
I find that many firms are doing a great job of branding the service and making clients aware of the benefits of outsourcing this type of work (which they usually hate doing themselves). For businesses, including CPA firms, it’s becoming an outsourced world.
“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” – James Humes
In my November newsletter, I wrote an article titled, “Let Clients Know Your Expectations.”
I covered a favorite topic of mine, training your clients. I continually hear a lot of moaning and groaning about clients who are always late with their “stuff,” clients who don’t respond to requests and clients who provide their information in a shoebox or shopping bag. We all know who they are!
I even outlined some steps you can take. You can read the article here.
In response to that article, my good friend, and client, Mike Shost sent me a copy of his Year End Letter to clients and agreed that I could share it.
Shost clearly outlines “2017 filing season dates to help you personally plan for the preparation of your 2016 individual income tax return.”
Notice he states…. to help you. He is helping the client but he is also helping himself and his valuable team members.
The letter also contains a detailed listing of Important Dates for the 2017 Filing Season. How clearly are you communicating with your clients?
Over the years I have observed that many accountants, as they move up the ladder inside growing CPA firms, actually believe that once they become a partner, they will have it made.
As a partner, they will be able to do what they want and will not have to experience those horrible performance evaluations and goal setting sessions.
Maybe this viewpoint applied in the “old” days and perhaps inside some firms it still appears that partners have the privilege of doing things their own way and not being held accountable for following firm processes and procedures.
Inside the best firms, this is no longer the case. Partners hold the weight of the entire firm, it’s clients, it’s people and their families on their shoulders.
Inside the best firms, the managing partner coaches the other partners. They receive performance feedback, and they are expected to set goals and achieve them every year. In these firms, there are consequences for poor partner performance.
Remember, inside your firm, per David Maister, you have two types of partners.Which one are you?
If you are a partner, which one are you?
If you work for partners, you might be able to divide them into these two categories.
Things work out the best for those who make the best of how things work out.
“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell.” – Seth Godin
Sally, a new manager in a growing CPA firm has just been told that to become a partner in the firm, she must be able to bring new business and increase revenue for the firm.
Sally is in shock. She had never realized that it was absolutely necessary to bring in business if she wanted to be a partner. After all, it is the life-blood of the firm.
Here are three simple tips to help people like Sally in your firm. It might also be very helpful to people who are already partners!
Build a relationship first. You meet someone at a Chamber event or other business mixer. They appear to have a thriving business. Talk to them about business, in general. Follow-up with an invitation to lunch or breakfast but don’t try to “sell” anything until you have connected, met and established common ground. Yes, this might take a while. Get to know them before you sell them.
Listen. Most prospective clients will be anxious to tell you what they want. Listen to them and then be prepared to tell them what they really need. Good listening skills are a critical part of selling.
Tell stories. Tell them success stories about the firm’s team members (including partners). Tell them how a specific team member has succeeded. Tell them success stories about how your firm has solved business challenges for clients. Tell them how you would like to help them (not how you want to sell them services).
You can also use these three steps to win clients via online activities.
Relationship: Use blogs, articles, news items, tax updates and other helpful information to build a relationship. That means you must have a website that is engaging – not something all about the firm. A site that people will visit often because it is helpful.
Listen: Make it easy for them to submit a question or make contact online. Make searching for how to make contact very easy. Offer a free initial consultation that can be done in person, via phone, via email or online video.
Stories: Use interesting bios about your people and how they have become successful. Tell success stories via tweets, Linkedin, Facebook even Instagram. Develop testimonials from some of your best clients and post them on your website. Testimonials are so powerful. The prospect might think, “Oh, Joe Smith uses this firm. His business seems to be growing like crazy!”
Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world.
“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” – Socrates
Last week during a partner retreat I was facilitating, the “busy” topic came up and was explored.
The participants all indicated that they truly felt they were too busy to focus on some of the important challenges facing the firm. They didn’t like feeling like that, but never the less, they did.
When you dig deep into why you are too busy it usually uncovers the fact that it is because of the choices you make.
Kids these days are scheduled almost 24/7. When do they have time to play outside, wade in a stream or collect beautiful colored leaves in the fall?
Adults have work that is filled with answering emails and attending meetings plus responsibilities on the home front, such as raising children. When do they have time to actually think, daydream, relax and examine the life they are living?
Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” What did he mean by that? Here’s an explanation:
Socrates‘ claim that the unexamined life is not worth living makes a satisfying climax for the deeply principled arguments that Socrates presents on behalf of the philosophical life. The claim is that only in striving to come to know ourselves and to understand ourselves do our lives have any meaning or value.
In your CPA work life, if you are always saying you are so busy or too busy, why would clients and referral sources refer others to you? Make it a rule to never say the “B” (busy) word in the office. Anyone caught saying BUSY must drop $1.00 into the money jar in the break room. Soon you will have enough for a great party!
It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about?