Know your client

Lots of client meetings this week. Yes, we need to know our clients for AML but chatting to them usually results in extra work. Sometimes it’s a quick query that can be answered straight away and earn ‘brownie points’ and client loyalty but sometimes it is paying work that earns extra fees.

How often do you speak to your clients?

People are more important than things

People are more important than things

This is one of my fundamental beliefs although it may sound a little odd for an accountant who primarily advises people how to grow their business and/or how to make it more profitable. But many of the techniques we use to make a business less dependent on its owners in order to scale are the same ones that we use to make owners less essential so that they can have a better work life balance.

It is really important to me WHO I work with as it’s about far more than money. While it is important to enjoy our work I also believe that we do our best work for people we like and where we are a good fit. That’s why I only accept about half the people who ask me about coaching.

Sometimes it’s the wrong type of business, or they require different expertise, or it may just be that I don’t feel a connection. Because if you don’t trust me you won’t follow my advice. Not that you have to follow my advice but it would be a waste of your money and my time if you NEVER followed my advice.

One element of what helps to develop a connection is shared values.

We donate 1% of our turnover to charity, we make a donation to fund a day’s education for everybody who attends our free webinars (we like to think that it will encourage the right sort of people to attend), we run a paperless office and, when we can’t avoid travel, we offset. Not surprisingly many of our clients also include charitable donations such as 1% for charity and 1% for sustainability. Or they’re members of B1G1 doing business for good.

So, if you’d like to help a girl to receive a day of education please join us for our series of Better Business webinars (for accountants and bookkeepers) or Money Matters webinars for other business owners. Details here.

How to train your clients

I see lots of people complaining or rolling their eyes at the behaviour of certain ‘vampire’ clients that suck far more time and resources than the average client. But what can you do?

  1. Don’t take them on in the first place. Learn to recognise them and say no right from the outset. Unless you’re a lawyer or a licensed taxi driver then you are not obliged to take on every single client who comes to you (and even these have ways of turning down work)
  2. Onboard well with a clear scope of work. Make sure that your onboarding process includes managing your clients’ expectations. Ensure that everything is set up well from the start and that clients know your working hours and who deals with what. For instance, we have a ‘reasonable use’ clause on our telephone support. If we can’t answer something straight away on the phone because it is complex or requires detailed calculations then this is an additional charge.
  3. Service level agreements. Be clear on your turnaround times for answering questions or delivering your finished project/product/services. We aim to respond to queries by next working day and ask clients to reply within 1 week. We prepare year end accounts within 8 weeks and ask clients to send information within 8 weeks of the year end.
  4. Automate reminders in your systems so that you don’t hold up starting work through lack of information.
  5. Charging more is an option but sometimes this just encourages clients to feel entitled to more of your time or to send things closer to deadlines.
  6. If all else fails ditch the client. There are plenty of good clients out there waiting to work with us.

Remember that it is your business and you get to choose who you work with.