Feb 24th 2010
By Edi Osborne
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Are you really passionate about what you do or are you just pretending? I’m not talking about that once in awhile put on a good face type of day when you would rather be doing something else. I’m talking about day in and day out; do you get excited about helping your clients be more successful? Do you seek out opportunities to learn new things that will help your clients overcome their most difficult challenges?
Good accountants would report that they invest a lot of time and money on professional education each year and be able to tell you the latest tax laws and pending IRS changes. But could they articulate the biggest industry changes coming in the next five years for their top five clients? It’s not enough anymore to be good at traditional accounting services. Not because the services have changed much, but because expectations clients have of their accounting relationship have.
It’s a sign of the times. We are a society that wants instant access to the help we need, and we are willing to pay others to cut short our learning curve. Think about it. When kids are struggling in school, they get a tutor. When they struggle in a particular sport, they get private coaching. When your child is sick in the middle of the night you call the medical hotline to get answers.
From a business perspective, CEOs often have a personal coach to help them expand their leadership capabilities. Compared to 20 years ago when owners were expected to know everything, the advent of the era of surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you are has made owners and managers increasingly comfortable relying on outside experts to help them run their business.
That’s the good news. Selling value-creation advisory services is truly a slam dunk with most modern business owners. The bad news is that, although most would say they are their clients’ most trusted advisor, few could answer the following questions in the affirmative.
Passionate accountant quiz:
- Can you name your clients’ biggest competitors and outline their key differentiators?
- Have you ever accompanied your clients to one of their industry conferences?
- Have you ever signed up for a business seminar for you and your clients to attend together?
- Do you routinely read your clients’ trade publications?
- Do you routinely read business publications, such as Inc., Fast Company, or Fortune?
- Do you monitor the activities of your clients and their industry with Google Alerts, and send them a note or pick up the phone to acknowledge the press they have received?
- Have you ever come across an article that speaks to your clients’ issues and sent it to them with a personal note?
- Have you ever sent them a personal note? Maybe a birthday card? Maybe an anniversary card of the day they became a client?
- Have you ever conducted an employee exit interview on behalf of your client?
- Do you have a copy of your client’s strategic plan? Are you included in meetings where the client discusses overall business strategy?
Give yourself 10 points for each of the questions to which you answered yes. If your total score adds up to 80 to 100 points, congratulations! You truly understand what it means to walk in your clients’ shoes and can be passionate about their success. If you are in the 50- to 80-point range, you might want to consider adding a few of the ideas above to your annual client service plan. If you are below 50 points, you cannot possibly relate to your clients’ business issues enough to be passionately involved in their success.
Now, I am not saying you need to do all these things with all your clients, but you can certainly target your top 10 percent and add a few of these high touch client activities to demonstrate your commitment to them – not just their accounting issues. You need to have really walked in their shoes, see the business from their perspective, demonstrated to your clients your commitment to their overall business goals to qualify as a Passionate Accountant. Do anything less than that and you might be accused of faking it.
About the author:
For more than 20 years, Edi Osborne, CEO at Mentor Plus, has been dedicated to helping firms make the cultural transition from being service centric to client centric. She is recognized as a leader in the area of development and delivery of performance measurement and management advisory services in the profession. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through www.mentorplus.com and www.thepassionateaccountant.com.