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Why sharing clients is caring...and can help you grow

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By Sarah Johnson
December 27, 2012

Transitioning clients is often something we don’t talk about unless we have to. Many of the CPA, law and wealth management firms I work with only broach the subject when a partner or shareholder is exiting the organization. But that isn’t the only time you should be thinking about it.

Reasons to spread the love

Beyond just succession planning, an active and ongoing client transition plan can help secure your firm for the future. Here are just a few benefits we see when firms spread the relationship across the firm.

First, regularly transitioning relationships opens up rainmakers to keep doing what they do best, bringing in more business. Second, it helps the firm secure the relationship in the event the unexpected happens. Third, it can give your future leaders and opportunity to manage relationships and grow them.

Many future leaders need to walk before they run and this can be a great way to give them some experience—with good oversight, of course. Fourth, it can lead to better client service. More people on the job or familiar with the client provides an opportunity for faster response time and better ideas. After all, “two heads are better than one.”

Getting people involved

Before you actually start to transition clients, you need to get comfortable with a multi-touch point service model. Some firms have been doing this for years, while others haven’t. If you are new to the process, start by getting your staff more involved with the client.

That means including them in meetings, planning sessions and client development events (like dinner or a baseball game with the client). As they become comfortable interacting with the client, give them opportunities to participate in the conversation and eventually run point on this. While many firms have staff or associates send checklists or emails requesting missing information or asking questions, we don’t often see them involved in developing the relationship outside those requests.

Getting your people more involved is the first step towards preparing to actually transition clients.

Analyze your clients by partner every 2 years, but especially senior partners. You need to know which ones are:

•    Easy transfer: Clients that can be easily transferred without much risk of losing the client. These are typically clients to whom you may provide ongoing work but that don’t require a significant amount of the partners’ time. Or, it could involve work that has included other partners on an engagement for a significant period of time.

•    Transfer with time: Clients that have worked with others, but still rely on the primary partner as the go-to person for everything. They will need a transition period so they can get more comfortable with the incoming relationship partner. Typically this can occur within 12 to 18 months.

•    On the fence: These are relationships that you don't feel are transferable. These should be a very small number.

Sarah Johnson is the chief growth strategist with Inovautus Consulting, a firm that works with CPA, law and professional service firms to help them grow more effectively, and author of “Practical Ideas for Growth,” a blog dedicated to growing professional firms. Her counsel and strategies have helped move firms to the next level in their marketing and sales efforts. Connect with Sarah at 773-208-7170, sjohnson@inovautus.com, or www.linkedin.com/in/sjjohnson

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