Art of Accounting: 80s on 8 on Sirius

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My new car came with a free trial of Sirius, so I’ve been going through the many, many stations giving them a look-see. One of the stations, "80s on 8," has music I have always loved. But some of it now is a little tiring.

Most are very familiar and I literally listened to some of them 80 times when they came out. I even know the words to many of them. However, I realized many were not as exciting now as they were when I first heard them. They were familiar, but not fresh. They weren’t old-fashioned or old-school, just that the original WOW! wasn’t there. This got me thinking about the services accountants provide to clients. Is there a WOW! or is what we do the same old familiar that clients are used to?

I spend a lot of time thinking about things like this. Sometimes I overthink or overanalyze, but I try to WOW! clients at every interaction with them. It is not always easy, but I think it is pretty much always doable. I also know that without trying, there will be nothing new to WOW! the clients with.

Do not get me wrong: We are accountants, not performers. Consistency is a hallmark of our profession. However, I have always felt that if I do not excite clients, I have less of a hold on them and the relationship than I should. Being realistic, every client knows many other accountants and are also bombarded with solicitations from many other accountants. I feel that if I do not WOW! my clients consistently, I will have a greater risk of losing them than if I provided a WOW!

I do not like losing clients. In fact, I hate losing clients. I also figured out a long time ago that if I never lost a client, I would do pretty well in my accounting business. I might not create an empire, but would do pretty well.

I also felt that if I could convey my real feelings about my relationship with a client, I would never lose them. I always felt my side of the relationship was to do the best job possible for the client, to try to always deliver more than I was hired to do and to occasionally WOW! them. The way I convey this is by providing enough WOWs! for them to understand that I am working hard for them and that I care. Also by always being available, not just physically but by listening, understanding their needs and pressures, and then being either a secure, knowledgeable, experienced sounding board or by presenting possible solutions for them to consider.

My practice is also a business — my business — and as such it needs staff to represent me and to do work instead of me and to help convey a sense of control by me over the relationship. And that needs techniques, procedures, protocols and staff accountability. One way to accomplish staff oversight and review is to have checklists they could follow or use as a guide, depending upon the situation and experience of the staff person in a given situation.

I also insist on WOWing a client at every interaction. Maybe that’s not possible, but falling a little short like every other time is still not so bad. There are many ways to do this. I certainly have written a lot on this, but an easy way to start and for me to train staff on what to do is to have a checklist. Now I know that some of you are saying I am nutsy with checklists. Maybe I am and actually I would take that as a compliment. Imagine how McDonald’s or Burger King would be if they did not have checklists. Anyway, I have a checklist of 77 things that my staff and I, or any accountant, could do to WOW! a client and in ways that do not take much time at all. I’ve done all 77 and many iterations of them, and of course much more, but these 77 are a great start. I instruct staff to do one or two things every time they work on a client — no matter what type of work they are doing. Pick one and do it. I did and do them, so I know what I am talking about.

And, being the generous sort I am, I will share this list with you. Just send me an email with “77” as the subject. Please no messages. I do this myself and sometimes I get totally overloaded with requests and cannot read any messages, no matter the temptation. Email me at GoodiesFromEd@withum.com and I’ll reply with the list. If you use it, I know it will help you WOW! your clients.

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Client relations Client strategies Ed Mendlowitz Practice management Client retention