Tis the Season to ... Fire Clients!

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Gift giving is one of the major ways our firm motivates and retains quality employees and clients. Finding out what a client or employee really likes and wants, their interests and hobbies, will tell you what to proffer and have it well received (if you are willing to listen and get to know these people).

One of the best gifts we give our people is firing clients.

Who do we select, how are they chosen and how is the separation executed?

Way back in grade school in Chicago there was a much more descriptive grading system before the standard and meaningless A,B,C,D,E protocol was instituted. They used the following:

S= Superior
E= Excellent
G= Good
F= Fair
U= Unsatisfactory

We use the same grading system for our clients in order to let everyone on staff know the client's position in our firm. This grading is reevaluated every Christmas Season as we close the books on another year.

This grading process is conducted over a catered lunch. The office manager prepares the client list and each client is graded by the group, alphabetically.

Obviously the bigger clients are better known to the staff, but their grade is voted on from scratch. Therefore, in a group setting, each client is evaluated. This goes quicker than you might think as some of the clients are once a year tax clients and there isn't much to discuss except willingness to pay fees, referrals received and given, and payment.

Positions are defended, and charges and complaints explored.

Problem clients are reviewed and it is discussed as to what to do with them. Sometimes a client's decline into a lower grade can be resolved via a discussion of their business situation.

Clients that the firm wants to keep need to get talked to in order to change how they are relating to the firm. This is done in person by the person in charge of that client over coffee or lunch.

One of the benefits of this "group therapy" is it gives our people the knowledge and pride that they have ownership of what happens in the management of the firm, and the firm considers their input valued. Of course, if you have ever worked in our profession, or most businesses outside our profession, employees are rarely considered for important insight and input for almost any matter affecting the firm.

When I asked why partners don't include staff in decision-making, one partner in a midwest firm summarized the opinion of many of his peers, "It's our (the partners') firm," he replied.

If it is decided that a client be "disengaged" by the firm, it is important to document or notify the client formally via (certified) letter, that they need to quickly determine who are going to be their accountants moving forward. If a long-time, formerly good client, this is done in person.

There are few other acts management can take that generate as much goodwill within the firm. It shows we care about our people and how they are treated, and is an intangible gift that later reaps very tangible rewards for all.

May you and your enjoy a blessed Christmas and Hanukkah season!

Allan S. Boress, CPA, CVA is the author of 12 published books on marketing, selling and managing the business development process for CPAs.  The "I-Hate-Selling" Book is available at: www.ihateselling.com

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