Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category

Monday, September 26th, 2016

What Kind of Impression Do Your Emails Make?

“Quality performance (and quality service) starts with a positive attitude.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

It seems that EVERYONE uses texts to communicate now. However, that doesn’t apply so much to CPAs working in public accounting. Lots of business is conducted using email.

I like Jeffrey Gitomer’s sales advice…. “Email is sales-mail!”

I believe it is also part of building your personal brand. Do you ever misspell words? Do you confuse words such as “your” and “you’re”?

We all make grammar mistakes now and then but if you are trying to impress a prospective client be EXTRA careful.

Here’s some great advice from Gitomer – 1) Every email is an impression of you. 2) The best way to get an unsolicited email opened is to ask a question in the subject line that’s specific to the recipient.

  • If leaders are to be followed, it starts with clarity of message.
  • Jeffrey Gitomer

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

You Should Be Writing For Your Clients

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
—Ernest Hemingway

It doesn’t matter to me what you write for your clients (and prospects). Just do it. Write things that will benefit their business and their personal finances. I know you have a lot of things inside that valuable brain of yours!

Use a blog, a newsletter, a newspaper column, Facebook, Twitter, or even Instagram. Just get information out there!

I write this blog for my clients (and others) every business day and have been for nearly eleven years.

I check my spelling and grammar with something call Grammarly. Every week it gives me a report of how I have done.

Here’s the one I received this week:

  • 5,844 words written – You wrote more words than 93% of Grammarly users did.
  • 64 corrections made – You were more accurate than 66% of Grammarly users.
  • 1,222 unique words used – You have a larger vocabulary than 96% of Grammarly users.
  • Missing commas are my biggest mistakes.
  • Beware of advice - - even this.
  • Carl Sandburg

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

Innovation

“When all think alike, then no one is thinking.” – Walter Lippman

It makes me SO happy when I hear about innovative things coming from people working at CPA firms.

While I often lament that we don’t see very much innovation and creativity within firms and that many firms are very happy with the status quo, there are some great firms out there leading the way for others.

The following is an announcement from CPA.com about the 2016 Innovative Practitioners’ awards.

CPA.com announced this week that Caitlin Lacher and Rachael Higginbotham, both representing Louisiana accounting and business advisory firm Postlethwaite & Netterville, have been named winners of the Innovative Practitioners 2016 Award. The annual award looks to recognize innovations in process, services or technology implementation in public accounting firms.

Lacher and Higginbotham both developed Pounce, a new business development tool, this previous summer. Pounce allows CPA firms to more easily manage and match staff resumes, industry experience, and other firm materials, allowing marketing and sales teams to quickly respond to new business opportunities.

Runner up:  (One of my clients – Congratulations, Charles!)

Charles Postal of Santos, Postal & Co., Rockville, Md. Adopted Yammer.com,Slack.com and OfficeVibe.com, among other services, to his firm to improve communication amongst staff.

Honorable Mention – a tie

    • Kathy Ryan of RoseRyan, Newark, Calif. Kathy helped develop her firm’s own in-house application, the RoseRyan Dream Team System, to automate time tracking, recruiting, revenue forecasting and more.
    • Dixie McCurley of Trusted CFO Solutions, Atlanta. Dixie helps lead CPA.com workshops on client accounting services in the cloud, but also walks the walk with her firm, developing customized accounting models for clients that deliver powerful data analytics for business decision-making.

    For more on the 2016 Innovative Practitioners Award, head to CPA.com’s site here.

  • Interviewer:

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Dress A Little Better

“Doing the right thing daily compounds over time.” – John Maxwell

CPA firms used to be a place where you could observe, first-hand, professional dress.

IMG_7704Well, that’s gone forever and I am not whining about that. It’s okay. But, making a great first impression has not gone away. It’s alive and well, quietly in the background of the minds of the people you meet. Sure, the people you meet for the first time, judge you. So do the clients and business referral sources you meet on a periodic basis.

I enjoyed a recent story via Forbes (by Carmine Gallo) Why You Should Dress 25 Percent Better Than Everyone In The Office. It is about actor Matt Damon. When he recently appeared on The Tonight Show, he wore a nicely tailored dark suit, vest, and tie. But earlier in the day, he wore a v-neck sweater for another interviewer. He dresses for the culture of the show. Jimmy Fallon always wears custom-tailored suits and Damon is going to dress as good – if not slightly better – than the host.

Follow this link to read Gallo’s article and then share it with you team members. Gallo also talked to a military hero and inquired about the secret to leading a team into battle. The hero commented that it was a long answer but it starts with how you’re dressed the first time they meet you.

George Washington “got it.” How about you?

  • If we are growing, we will always be outside our comfort zone.
  • John Maxwell

Monday, August 15th, 2016

Beginners Do Appreciate Review Notes

“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.” – Frank A. Clark

One of the services I provide to CPA firms is facilitating upward feedback surveys. I usually begin by conducting an upward feedback survey for partners in a firm. Then most of my clients continue on with asking for feedback on managers and supervisors.

One of the interesting things these surveys disclose is that people beginning their career in public accounting value review notes that are expertly communicated in an educational manner.

Many respondents, from many firms, have mentioned that a particular boss (partner, manager or supervisor) provides excellent review notes and often go on to describe how helpful the review notes are and how they learn from them.

Don’t think that this is the entire story! Many respondents, from many firms, also don’t hesitate to mention when a particular boss does not provide clear and concise (and helpful) review notes.

Review notes are such a common practice inside busy firms that we sometimes don’t even think about how helpful it would be if the firm had some sort of standard for writing review notes. If your firm has documented guidelines for writing review notes, maybe you would be open to sharing them with me via email.

One firm, when staff noted that sometimes review notes seemed harsh, actually changed the name of their Review Notes to Learning Points.

Also, don’t forget that people like some verbal feedback to go along with the written review notes.

  • I think it's very important to have a feedback loop, where you're constantly thinking about what you've done and how you could be doing it better.
  • Elon Musk

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

Becoming A Specialist

“If your clients aren’t actively telling their friends about you, maybe your work isn’t as great as you think it is.” – David Maister

Yesterday, I wrote about making yourself and your firm unique. Becoming well-known for a specialty means you attract clients that need your expertise. It is as simple as that.

I’m an example. I completely focus on CPA firm practice management. I do not work with other professional service firms, I don’t know enough about them. Under that unique niche, I am a generalist…. I don’t limit my CPA firm consulting to just marketing, just HR, just process improvement, just organizational alignment, just technology, just administration, just mergers, etc. I know how to run a CPA firm.

You, as an auto dealer CPA, for example, should know how to run an auto dealership with all it entails. You know about their HR, sales, operational challenges, etc. You attend the same industry conferences they attend and you read the same industry blogs, periodicals, magazines and newsletters they read. You immerse yourself in the auto dealer world. Just like I immerse myself in the world of public accounting.

Ed Mendlowitz, in Accounting Today recently, gives us some great insight on Becoming a Specialist – Types of Specialties. 

You need to start the process of deciding what might lead you on a lifelong professional path and Mendlowitz recommends five different types of specialization:

  1. Industry
  2. Service
  3. Size
  4. Geographic
  5. Practice management

His article explains each one.

If you are still a generalist CPA, it’s time to begin your journey to specialization. As David Maister always said…. figure out what you want to be famous for.

  • The way you get rich is don't get sucked into doing dumb stuff for people you don't like.
  • David Maister

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

Is Your Firm Special?

I enjoyed a recent article via Accounting Today – Kick Start Growth With a Defined Niche by Amy Vetter. It opens with this:

What makes your firm stand out? Why do clients come to you over the competition?

As a heavily commoditized service, a one size fits all accounting practice can easily get left behind in today’s market. To get ahead of the pack, accounting firms need to find a niche offering that will kick their growth engine into a higher gear.

If you want to be unique and have clients seek you out, become an expert! I know many very successful CPAs who are auto dealership experts, business valuation experts, estate taxation experts, agricultural experts and so on.

Per Vetter’s article, a recent survey of accounting and professional services buyers, 35% of buyers ranked specialized expertise as their top deciding factor in choosing a firm, well ahead of referrals, reputation or customer service. Expertise even came out jut ahead of existing relationships as a deciding factor.

Think about attorneys. When you need labor law assistance, you seek out a labor law attorney.

  • The greatness of art is not to find what is common but what is unique.
  • Isaac Bashevis Singer

Monday, August 8th, 2016

What Hat Do You Wear?

My post today was inspired by one last week from Seth Godin, called Scientist, Engineer, and Operations Manager. Each one has a job to do…..

Inside most CPA firms, there are three client-facing  “jobs,” partner, manager, and staff. Each one has a job to do.

The partner is key to defining the firm vision. The partner brings in new business, keeps current clients from leaving by continually working on the relationship and finds and develops new talent.

The manager manages. Yes, they manage and review the work but a key priority is managing people. They train, coach, mentor, nurture, inspire their subordinates and build career-enhancing relationships that keep talented people at the firm.

The staff does the work. They never have to worry about having enough to do because partners and managers are making sure they are professionally challenged and are assigned to engagements that will enhance their skills. The staff work as a team to help each other make progress.

I hope you do not have partners and managers doing too much work and staffers looking for work.

  • If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.
  • Henry Ford

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

Wasted Time

IMG_3660Fred, the owner of XYZ Excavating, is always last minute when it comes to providing you information to complete his tax return.

Betty, the owner of ABC Resort On The Lake, is rude, always complaining, requesting you to do some task but doesn’t want to pay for it. She thinks everything she asks is part of the tax preparation service you provide.

Barney is the pompous, solo-attorney (and old friend of one of your partners) who walks on the edge of actually harassing your female staff members.

These are “D” level clients and need to be outplaced. In our busy world, time is so valuable and these clients waste your time. This fall, take steps to finally get rid of clients that no longer fit your ideal client profile.

For years, I have heard partner groups discuss these types of clients. Some even designed a process to fire them. Then, these same partners never implemented.

To my delight, that is changing and I am hearing more and more stories from managing partners and firm administrators that their firm is actually eliminating D-level clients from their client list.

Of course, it should be done in a professional manner but don’t procrastinate once the decision is made.

If you need a Client Retention Analysis worksheet to help you through the process, let me know.

  • If you aren't fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm.
  • Vince Lombardi

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Living Up To Your Reputation

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” – Warren Buffett

You are a CPA – Certified Public Accountant. You, because of being a CPA, are known as being the most trusted advisor to business and individual clients.

OJXHDWMWV9You are in the service business – a very important service business. Can your clients trust you?

Have you ever:

Not returned a phone call to a client in a timely fashion?

Not returned a phone call because you know the client is upset?

Not answered a phone call and told your Director of First Impressions to send the caller to voicemail?

You know a client is waiting on an answer from you so you avoid eating lunch at a restaurant that the client frequents?

Blamed someone else at your firm for a delay in client service when you know it is your fault?

Routinely let your ringing phone go to voicemail even when you know it might a client?

Found out, via an administrative person, that a client is upset about their invoice and want to discuss it with you. They ask that you call them and then you don’t.

It all seems like little things. Sure, you eventually talk to these people and address various issues.

But little things make the biggest difference.

  • Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.
  • Albert Einstein