What kind of firm do you want to be?
What kind of firm do you want to be? Building the business of your dreams is challenging even in the best of times. During periods of tumultuous change, a crystal clear vision and the power of conviction are must haves. For most accounting and bookkeeping firms there has never been a period of greater change than there is right now. We’re simultaneously in the midst of a generational shift plus a rethinking of how we collaborate both internally with staff and externally with clients. As you navigate this environment, we’d like to offer a few ideas for consciously building your practice to meet your personal and professional goals.
Start with You
As the captain of the ship, all eyes are on you. As you go, the staff go. So setting a sustainable pace and role modeling the values you espouse are essential. Start by taking a careful inventory of your aspirations, goals, blockers, and challenges. Align your personal and business goals and make sure to find a balance and pace that you can sustain for the long term. Here are a few assessment questions to get you started:
- Is your current pace sustainable?
- Are you able to sufficiently delegate?
- Do you find yourself bogged down in details such as email?
- In your ideal world, which business activities will you continue to perform?
- In your ideal world, which business activities will you delegate or eliminate?
- How will addressing these items impact your personal life?
In his book, Clockwork, Mike Michalowicz challenges readers to design their businesses to work for them. He then recommends proving your success by planning and taking a two-week vacation without your laptop. A lofty goal! But his point is well taken, only through thoughtful business design is that possible for most senior professionals.
Assess your clients’ needs
The most successful businesses are laser focused on the continued happiness and success of their customers. For accountants and bookkeepers, it’s especially important. For example, in the previous exercise, you might have noted that ad hoc client requests, software tech support, and too much email are major drains. Well chances are they are draining for your clients as well! Understanding how your clients want to work and addressing their friction points is crucial to your success.
- Who is your ideal client?
- How do they prefer to work with you?
- Do you have multiple kinds of clients (in-person, all virtual, tech savvy, tech challenged)?
- Are clients calling and texting your personal phone?
- Are clients disorganized to the point that they miss your emails or lose files you’ve sent?
- And what about the effect that their disorganization has on your ability to serve them?
As you work through this exercise, you might realize that you have more than one category of ideal client. That’s perfectly normal. In fact, many accountants and bookkeepers are serving multiple generations across multiple industries. The key point is to understand how your clients want to work with you and optimize your service model to address each key group. You might also realize that you only want to serve one category of client — that’s fine too. You might need to nudge a few clients to fit your model or perhaps help them find a new provider.
Align your business to meet your ideal clients where they are
You give your all to your clients. So why not make sure you meet them where they are when you interact? On one end of the spectrum, you might have a group of clients who only work with paper and prefer to meet in person. On the other end, you might have clients who work paperlessly and aren’t even domiciled in the same state. That’s typical. The key is to make sure that you present your best wherever it is that you meet them. It’s exactly what top-performing brands — from Nike to the New York Times do. They know their customers, meet them wherever they are, and delight them. That’s Client Experience 2.0™
Whether you’re an established firm looking to attract a new generation of client or are a newly formed practice, your top consideration is to recognize that your future clients are highly likely to consider multiple options before making a decision. In fact according to the Bizrate Insights 2019 Consumer Shopper Survey, buyers are more likely to read ten or more reviews than to read none at all. So double down on client experience. In doing so, you can maximize the Three R’s of profitable growth: Reviews, Referrals and Retention.
Here are a few questions to consider:
- Are clients working with you more in person or online?
- How many different ways do clients have to communicate with staff?
- How much time are you spending searching for documents or answers from clients?
- Are your clients successful logging into the systems you provide?
- How much time are you spending providing tech support?
- How enjoyable is your firm’s digital experience?
Build your dream business.
Once you’ve identified your goals, your ideal clients’ needs and how you’ll serve them, it’s time to build your dream business. Start by remembering why you’re in business. Perhaps it’s because you wanted to help others. Maybe it’s because you wanted more freedom. Whatever the reason(s), keep them in mind as you consider the culture both you and your clients want you to have. In order to succeed and thrive long term, the business needs to serve both you and your clients. Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Will my day-to-day behaviors scale?
- Am I delegating enough?
- Will our people, processes and systems scale?
- Are we working at a marathoner’s pace or are we risking burnout?
- Are we attracting and retaining our ideal clients?
- Are we consistently meeting and exceeding our clients’ expectations?
- Are we continuing to learn and innovate?
Great businesses are rarely accidental. Great businesses that stay great over the long term never are. They require good planning, great people, and careful nurturing.
At Liscio, we’re proud to partner with firms of all sizes who strive every day to put their clients first, and are realizing serious benefits on the firm-side as a result. If you’re one of those firms and we haven’t met yet, we’d love to continue the conversation. Book in a free personalized demo here.
To continue your exploration of what Client Experience 2.0™ might mean for your firm, we recommend you check out this video to hear 3 practitioners share the business case for change in their firms, and the benefits they are now experiencing as a result of their mindset and technology changes.