Creating an Advisory Council Composed of Your Best Clients

By Steve Wilder, Wealth Management Academy® specialist, 1st Global
 
Think about the last time someone asked you for your opinion or your input because they value your insight and perspective? Weren’t you somewhat flattered that they reached out to you for advice?
 
Throughout my interactions with our best firms at 1st Global, I notice that they consistently exhibit some of the same traits and practices. One of those traits is the unwavering directive to identify and replicate their best clients. There is usually a two-fold reason behind this. The first is obvious – the best clients are the most fun to work with, the most profitable and the most engaged. They truly value what you do, are the most likely to listen to your input and stand to benefit the most from your guidance. When they call, you usually pick up the phone on the first ring.
 
But there’s another less obvious reason advisors seek to replicate their best clients – they are usually your best referral sources. While not all top clients carry with them a full rolodex of family, friends and acquaintances identical to them, the chances of them associating with someone similar to them is usually fairly high. We know this to be true intuitively as we ourselves tend to form friendships and associations with others with similar values, economic and political backgrounds. In other words, we typically seek relationships with others like us. And if you serve your best clients exceedingly well, the people they are likely to refer to you should most likely mirror them.
 
One of the best decisions we made in our practice was to create an advisory council composed of our best clients. Initially we established the council with the expectation that we would build good will and maybe identify a few areas of our practice in need of polishing. However, we quickly found that the council offered many benefits (both to us and to our clients) which we did not anticipate. I was surprised to learn that among our peers, we were the only practice that was enacting an advisory council composed of our top clients.
 
The premise
 
The premise of an advisory council is simple. Create a list of your top clients whom you enjoy working with and would most like to replicate. Formally invite them to serve on a council to guide your firm to the next level of client service and excellence. Meet regularly to discuss:
 
1.       Their experience with your firm
2.       Areas in which they think you can improve, and
3.       Areas of growth and opportunity, new markets, new relationships and introductions in which they would be willing to create
 
Then listen, listen, listen! Take copious notes and re-affirm their input. Foster as much feedback and insight as possible. Ask questions purposed to draw out small details lurking in the shadows of your members’ minds. If crafted and presented carefully, your questions will encourage each member to participate meaningfully. You will invariably learn something beneficial at every meeting.
 
The benefits
 
The benefits of an advisory council are numerous. They include:
 
1.       Uncovering operational or personnel issues which need to be addressed. Very often we are blind to our weaknesses and soliciting input from a different vantage point can be invaluable.  
2.       Demonstrating your commitment to excellence. By forming a council of your best clients, you are clearly demonstrating how you walk the walk. Your council differentiates you from other accounting firms.
3.       Creating a social environment where your clients can interact with other clients. Doing this visibly demonstrates the trust your clients place in you and creates a fertile ground for sharing and learning more about the full array of services and products you offer.
4.       Allowing members to demonstrate skills, talents or resources previously unknown to you. You may discover, for example, that a client of yours creates Web sites.  
5.       Re-iterating your value proposition and your target market. There is no better time to remind clients who it is you serve (people like them!), and how what you do is different from other firms.
6.       Solidifying the relationship you have with each client. By extending an invitation to be a member of the advisory council, you are saying “I value our relationship, and your input and insight is important to me.” 
 
The fundaments
 
Create a list of approximately six couples or 12 individuals. Clients you want to replicate. Members who:
 
  • Have the right attitude
  • Benefit from your firm’s services
  • Are advocates of you and your firm
 
Message to members
 
When inviting members to join, simply tell them that you value their input and perspective so much that you want them to serve on your advisory board. The board will be composed of other clients similar to them who will offer their insights and advice on how to elevate your firm to the next level of delivering exceptional client service.   
 
Logistics & follow-up
 
Find a small, intimate and quiet venue, where everyone can be seen and heard and food can be provided. A best practice would be to have one meeting a year at the office with the remainder of the meetings off site, being considerate of the geographic location of all members.
 
Additionally, employ good meeting management. Use an agenda. Take notes. Stick to the schedule. Confirm the date, time and location of the next meeting. And, don’t forget to show your members that you actually took their advice and implemented items that came out of each meeting. While most members are very willing to offer their time and insight, it’s still an imposition on their time. Reiterate how they directly have impacted your practice and how you personally are thankful for their contribution.
 
To learn more about how to take advantage of the world-class practice development curriculum offered by 1st Global, call (800) 959-8461 or LearnMore@1stGlobal.com.
 
 This article and its content have been provided by 1st Global. With more than 500 firms affiliated with 1st Global, it is one of the largest wealth management services partners for the tax, accounting and legal professions. 1st Global delivers the required capabilities essential for wealth management excellence including progressive ongoing education, which places the firm in a unique position to offer wealth management knowledge.

 1st Global was founded by CPAs on the belief that accounting, tax and estate planning firms are uniquely qualified to provide comprehensive wealth management services to their clients. Each affiliated firm is provided with education, technology, business-building framework and client solutions that make these firms leaders in their professions through dedicated professional client relationships built around wealth management.
 
1st Global Capital Corp. is a member of FINRA and SIPC and is headquartered at 8150 N. Central Expressway, Suite 500 in Dallas, Texas,(214) 265-1201. Additional information about 1st Global is available via the Internet at www.1stGlobal.com.
 

 

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