Value Pathing: Adding Value To Client Services - with Sylvia Pate

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Sylvia Pate
Quicksilver Consulting

Session Moderator: Hi All! I'm Scott Cytron and I'll be your moderator today. The workshop format is intended to be interactive. If you have a thought or question, please jump in! I'll do you a favor and pick up the questions that we miss along the way, so don't worry about your question not being answered. Now, I'll introduce our workshop leader.

QuickSilver Consulting, Inc. (QSC) is a business management practice established in 1995 as a resource to businesses and business consultants. It is based in Dallas, Texas, and led by Sylvia Pate, long-time consulting practice executive. QSC clients include some of the highest profile consulting organizations in the world. Personally, Sylvia has worked with companies of all sizes-from small to Fortune 1000-across all industries, some of which contributed to the development of Business InSight Tools. Welcome Sylvia!

Sylvia Pate: Welcome and thanks for joining this session. We have a lively hour planned! By its conclusion we hope to have surfaced and addressed issues you face as your work to achieve high value results. To generate ideas and feedback, questions will be posed to you throughout the session. Please offer your thoughts freely! To find ways to increase the value of your efforts we have 3 components to address. The first is The VALUE EQUATION: the framework to make Value-add Decisions for your Clients and Firm.

The Value Equation gives you a framework for making decisions that increase value. During this chat session you'll see how the Value Equation helps create Value Add whether the consumer is your client or firm. Already, you use the Value Equation everyday. From here on we hope you are more conscious of when and how you use it to achieve important benefits. The Value Equation is based on the assumption that for every effort you put forth there is a RESULT and a COST. It's simple economics as you see in the formula:

RESULTS minus COST=Value For this session, let's focus on actions that increase your RESULTS while keeping costs the same. Question for you: What RESULTS are expected of you currently?

Session Moderator: Do you mean like a tax return or an audit?

Sylvia Pate: Yes. At a high level. Results might actually be finding ways to save your clients money. Or meeting with clients to discuss their needs. Specific ACTIONS that are on your job description. Another way to think of it...are what actions MUST you do to keep your job?

Denine Rood: Provide value to our clients by assisting them in becoming mature, financially stable, professionally managed organizations.

Session Moderator: So for a tax return - you may require accurate information and a timely delivery?

Sylvia Pate: Yes. And think about the specific actions that it take to get a tax return done on time, accurately, and efficiently.

Session Moderator: what about what Denine said?

Sylvia Pate: What we find is that one of the reasons people have such a hard time finding ways to increase value is that the actions to focus on are at a 35,000 foot level. So Denine, what are specific activities you take to help your clients?

Denine Rood: Interviewing at all levels of the organization to determine what is working and what is not working. Then assist the company in implementing solutions

Mark Stowers: So, by specific action, you mean, lets automate your reporting process, with a list of step to implemented, replacing manual reporting

Denine Rood: Monitoring and benchmarking, of course, come into play.

Sylvia Pate: Great! Your answers look like job responsibilities that might exist in any firm. The more specific you can be about actions you do each day to meet your client needs the easier it is to identify ways to increase value. Let's move on!!!

Question: What factors impact the cost of your work? Payroll? Overhead? Benefits? The costs to consider are those that the firm pays for your employment. What we're focusing on is both your RESULTS and COSTS. That's the framework for seeing the VALUE you bring...the difference between RESULTS AND COST. The equation for VALUE ADD is slightly different than before it is:

equals your VALUE ADD.

No matter what part of the equations you aim your efforts, every decision you make impacts your value!

II. Every Decision Impacts Value

Results of our market research with companies employing 600000 people confirm that 95% of all companies ask for Value Add but they don't know how to define it. Its no wonder people get frustrated.

Session Moderator: Sylvia, you mean with companies employing a total of 600,000 people?

Sylvia Pate: Yes a total of 600,000 employees with companies like Andersen, American Airlines, Southwest Air, etc. It's no wonder people are frustrated. With so little clarity employees end up questioning their value to the firm and its clients. Do you all find that?

Session Moderator: So what you are saying is that companies tell employees to add value but they never define - value added?

Ryan Travis: Sylvia, how does upskilling and delegation fit into this equation?

Sylvia Pate: That's correct. Creating Additional Value is really about creating and protecting market share. And therefore, employees just don't add value? As hard as it is to define in reality every decision you make impacts your value. Decisions you make that achieve minimum job requirements and deliver just enough value to protect your job is called VALUE EXPECTED. When you increase your RESULTS, yet maintain or reduce COSTS you create VALUE ADDED!

Jack Fox: How does an accountant communicate value added to a client as justification for higher fees?

Rick Solomon: Keep a focus on the client's goals, dreams, concerns, and all else follows

Sylvia Pate: Getting ideas about where to increase your value add is tough! Lets look at a familiar situation. How about DINING OUT? Let's take one segment of a dining experience. Think of what you observe when you enter the restaurant:

  1. As you approach the front door you note the general upkeep and looks of the building and landscaping.
  2. As you enter the front door you tune into the atmosphere…sounds, smells, appearance and cleanliness
  3. You note how quickly and enthusiastically you are greeted
  4. How quickly are you taken to a table and at what pace?
  5. What condition is the table in when you arrive?
  6. What condition is the surrounding area? Is the sound level good? Who's seated near by?
  7. Does the hostess take special care in helping you get seated?
  8. Who provides the menus and what information is offered?

Value Added actions often cause us to make enthusiastic recommendations to our friends about our experiences. What if you were called by name at the front door and by the server? Or if you were asked about particular dietary needs or if you have a timeframe in which to finish your meal? Or if you were offered a complimentary "Death by Chocolate" dessert? What if the announcement of a birthday meant a free meal?

What actions occur that either keep you coming back or not?

Rick and Jack...what SPECIFIC ACTIONS do you take that show your are focusing on your clients goals etc? And when you do these what does it cost the firm or the client?

Rick Solomon: Ask questions about their world. Listen receptively, with empathy. Experience what they experience. It costs nothing, and gives everything

Sylvia Pate: ALRIGHT!!!! YOU GOT IT!!! You just provided very specific actions that allow you to see concretely where your opportunities are to increase value. And I love your answer about COST. You can do these actions at no additional COST which means your VALUE ADD.

Jack Fox: I get the client to be specific (in measurable results) about the client's expectations

Session Moderator: but don't those things cost time?

Sylvia Pate: In the restaurant situation there were no added costs because it was the hostess and server who worked hard to think of ways to meet your special needs and produce a memorable result.

They didn't add more time but put their brains to work to find ways to get your special needs met and to provide greater value. And in line with the Value Equation, they produced greater RESULTS at the same COSTS!

Session Moderator: In an accounting firm, if an accountant spends half an hour talking about these things - there IS a cost for it.

Sylvia Pate: To identify the Value Expected and Added actions of your dining experience, we use "Value Pathing". It's an audit of activities that show what actions increase your value. Value Pathing uncovers actions that are Value Expected and actions that are or can be Value Added.

You know a VALUE ADD action - Given your market conditions ie. competition for customers how is that cost best covered?

Session Moderator: That probably is up to the individual firms to decide.

Vicky Lanier: If you don't "give" away some of your time learning about your client, how else are you going to let them know about other consulting services your have to offer?

Session Moderator: Vicky, you are absolutely right and there's an intrinsic value to this "marketing" value add.

Stuart Jones: I often find that by giving away time I recover more than the "lost time" in additional services.

Vicky Lanier: My point exactly.

Sylvia Pate: Value paths uncover actions that are value added. As a group, let's do a Value Path for a project more familiar to you. How about an Audit? And to make it manageable let's focus on the first phase of an Audit, the Planning stage.

First step: Quickly list the actions that occur during the Planning phase of an Audit:

For you non-auditors the answers here are instinctive. An example activity is to review records from the previous year audit!

1. Audit is scheduled.
2. Audit team assigned.
3. Client provides current inventory data.
4. Prior year reports are reviewed.
5. Dollar value of client inventory established.
6. Audit is reconfirmed.
7. Audit team arrives (to client's horror)

Any other thoughts? Now for the second step, identify actions that are VALUE EXPECTED…those that if not done you may lose the client! These tasks are Value EXPECTED. If not done, the consequences are not good.

For the third step, go back to Audit Planning list one more time. Identify actions where RESULTS can be increased for the customer at the same (or less) costs.

  1. Review competitive trends and benchmarks for your client's industry so that you can make money-saving or business-building suggestions.
  2. For clients who have you do their tax work, gather and disseminate information during the audit that makes their tax prep more efficient.
  3. Find other ways to save time for your client during Audits.

These tasks are Value Added. By doing them you create a uniquely positive experience for your client.

Value Pathing helps you see how actions you already take can be adjusted (slightly in many cases) to become Value Add. Value Pathing is a simple method to identify actions that bring more value to clients and your firm. You can use this same method to identify Value Add actions for your firm… and even for your personal life.

Session Moderator: I want to thank Sylvia with QuickSilver Consulting for joining us today. What an informative session! The transcript for today's workshop will be up in just a few hours and if you want to contact Sylvia, you can find her in the Vendors Directory. Thanks for joining us today and have a successful week!

Sylvia Pate: Congratulations! You did great work today!

We hope this session has reinforced that the value you bring to the firm and its' clients is critical. Remember that greater RESULTS at lower COSTS equates to high value!

Thanks to all!!!!

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