In the movie “No Time for Sergeants,” a real oldie, Andy Griffith sees an officer who is also a woman. He has been taught to see and respect the uniform and not the wearer of that uniform. When his friends comment about the woman’s figure, he says he doesn’t see a woman — all he sees is an officer. They think he has gone blind or batty. Well, you might say that the same applies to me. Just substitute client for uniform.
I was once asked why I had so many women clients. I had never thought about that and had to think for a moment or two. Then I replied, “Because I treat them the same as my men clients.” Now, I am not a psychologist and haven’t really looked too deeply into this, but it turns out that my dealings with women clients were the same as with my men clients. I never made a distinction. To me they were clients and paid my “salary.”
At that time, though, I did think about it. I also then realized that I treated all my clients the same — with utmost interest, care, attention, focus and respect. They all contributed to paying my salary. This also means I treated smaller clients the same as my larger clients. The larger clients did get more time and services so in that regard they were treated differently, but that refers to a time or work element and not to the incorporeal aspects of the relationship. All clients are important and should be treated in the manner they believe they should be treated. If we start distinguishing between good and bad, or A, B and C, or important and less important clients, then I truly believe we will treat every client the way we treat the worst client on that rating scale. Note that this is “provable” — when you lose a large client and are told you “weren’t ‘connected’ or relating to us anymore,” think about that!
If you “rate” your clients, stop. If you place clients in categories unrelated to the services you provide, stop. If you interrupt a meeting with a client to take a call from a larger client, stop. If you push aside something that is important to one of your clients to do something for a larger client, stop. Prioritize your relationships — all clients are equally important, and the size of the fees is not the determinant.
I am not suggesting you ignore your largest clients. I am suggesting that if you give priority service to a larger client at the expense of a smaller client, you will eventually, if not already, reduce your level of service to all your clients.
Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is on the Accounting Today Top 100 Influential People List. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz, and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition.” Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com along with the Pay-Less-Tax Man blog for Bottom Line. Ed is an adjunct professor in the MBA program at Fairleigh Dickinson University teaching end user applications of financial statements. Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.