Tracy Warren, a friend of mine, writes and speaks for the AICPA on a variety of issues related to practice growth. Similar to internal discussions you may have at your firm, she and I have spoken on numerous occasions about how client retention is a necessary strategy within CPA firms. Yet, many have no strategy–other than to do good technical work. Tracy and I have, on separate occasions, visited the Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs. If you’ve never been, it is worth the trip! One of only 18 hotels with the dual distinction of 5 star ratings from Mobil and AAA, the resort is legendary for amenities and service. Tracy visited with the director of staff training during a conference and came away with some insights into servicing the customer that apply to any industry–hospitality, public accounting, law, other…
“Above and Beyond Our Guests Expectations” is the vision for service at the Broadmoor, accompanied by 16 standards, including biggies for CPAs like:
- Never appear hurried–even if you are very busy &
- Learn what is expected of your department, so you anticipate the needs of (clients) you service
Tracy took these standards to heart and made the following observation:
“Clients expect more than technically sound work from CPAs. They want advisors who care about them and their business, and go out of their way to make them feel important. Many firms brag about outstanding client service, but fall short by not helping their employees understand what client service excellence really means and how to put that to work during an engagement.”
Seth Godin wrote a book a few years ago entitled Tribes. In it, he described the powerful momentum that occurs when a leader truly connects with a group of followers with passion and insight. He spoke of “movements” that occur when a compelling vision/story is shared that connects with the hearts and minds of followers and a vision for what actions need to be taken becomes commonly embraced. You can start a client retention (service) movement within your firm–if YOU believe in it.
Examine the depth of commitment of your staff to client service. Find some champions among the fold. Celebrate them! Pull them together and develop a plan for how to infect the rest of the firm–it will so pay off for you in the long run. Godin says that “almost everything that is standard now is viewed as mediocre.” It’s time for your firm to step up from mediocrity to a new standard of hospitality. We’re not making an appeal for inauthenticity here, but for heartfelt care for the client. Wow them like the Broadmoor!
Have you ever been to a social event after work on Friday at 5 pm? Did you enjoy yourself as you mingled with peers, new contacts, and others? Something about the end of the work week causes us to slow down, breath a huge sigh of relief, and relax. Wouldn’t it be nice to feel this way more often?
On the other hand, when Monday rolls around and we find ourselves after a good weekend back at the “grindstone,” it is so easy to long for Friday afternoon at 5 o’clock again. Many work with associates who drive us batty, supervisors who don’t really know us (or care to!), and customers or vendors who challenge our patience. When you add to this work environment any concerns about the economy or potential change in the way the company is run, it can be unsettling and undesirable to even go to work.
How do we bridge the gap between that which is enjoyable and that which we do to earn a living? Entrepreneurship is an option for some; for most a different series of choices is the solution. Choose to work in a field that challenges you to draw on your gifts and talents. Choose to be happy and not allow others to bring you down. Choose to make your office a great place for you and others to work.
If you are a member of the management team, you can do something about the degree to which you and other employees are engaged. Some things to think about:
- two-way feedback
- building trust
- clear-cut career development plans
- definition of the employee role in company success
- sharing of decision-making responsibility
May your work week more closely resemble the beginning of your weekend!
Restart your growth!
If your business is like many others, it has progressed through a period of growth, followed by flattening out. The future is up to you. Will you begin the decline as many mature companies before, or will you start a new season of growth? There are two primary areas to consider to energize your growth: your approach to the market, and your approach to your management team.
With regards to the market you pursue and your positioning, it is important to reassess whether doing what has brought you this far is the best course to continue. Many find that developing new products/services for an existing customer base is challenging. Commercializing new category starters often requires different skills and a cultural shift. For others, successful marketing is determined by finding new places to promote and deliver existing offerings.
Management teams in maturing companies can become stagnant. A shot in the arm in terms of professional development of soft skills can be the ideal prescription. It is too easy to allow silos to develop and technical knowledge isolates without intentional growth of individual team members. Whether it is an executive MBA, or certificate programs, or simply using industry continuing education as a way to diversify one’s competencies, do something to make your managers more valuable! Added to the value of learning new skills is the benefit of gaining greater emotional intelligence. A mentor or coach brought in from the outside can guide managers into better decision making.
The best course of action is to combine marketing/business development initiatives with management team professional growth. We hope you are successful in starting a new “S” curve in your business. Let us know if we can help!