Voices

Better Every Day: People, products and platform

What it means to operate a successful firm continues to evolve. Is success measured by revenue growth? By the number of clients served? By the longevity of your staff or your market reach? Certainly, each of these elements is part of the success equation. However, I believe that the truest measure of a firm’s success is the success of its clients.

With the advent of “big-box” bookkeeping services like Pilot and Bench.co and the consistent encroachment of large firms into the small-business bookkeeping, tax and payroll space, it’s more important than ever for small firms to capitalize on the one area where no one can touch us — client relationships.

Building strong, positive relationships is something that’s at the heart of the small firm; something firm owners pride themselves on. So, when we think of success, it’s important to start here. And it all comes down to asking one question: “How can I make my clients’ lives better?” If firms can figure this out, they will enjoy great success!

Making your clients’ lives better

So, what does it mean to make your clients’ lives better? It’s actually pretty simple: it means proactively offering them products and services designed to support success both in their business and personal lives. It’s up to us, as trusted advisors, to maintain a crystal-clear picture of our clients’ needs and then proactively provide the products they require for success.

To operate within a proactive model requires a change in mindset, however. For years, many have followed a reactive model — that is, a client requests a service, and the firm customizes the services for the client and delivers it. This leads to a perpetual process of reinventing the wheel.

Transitioning to a proactive model requires that firms anticipate their clients’ needs before the request is made. To do this, access to current, accurate client data is critical. For example: Does the client have a retirement plan in place? Do they have a succession plan in place? What credit cards do they use (are they those that offer the best rewards)? Is the client using the most modern technologies to support efficient operations? These are all examples of data points that, when aggregated, provide you with clear and actionable information about your client. When you have this level of information at your fingertips, it allows you to serve clients proactively with the right products and solutions — at the right time!

The fact is, you can’t support a proactive business model if you don't have the data to back it up. And if you don’t have the data, you can’t truly be a catalyst in making your clients’ lives better.

To operate proactively, you need the right people, the right products and the right platform.

The formula to make it happen

There are three key ingredients that will lead you to your end goal of making your clients’ lives better. While the formula is straightforward, it is critical that firms dedicate ample time and resources to ensure that each element — people, products and platform — is supported within the business model.

People (clients). First and foremost, you have to know your clients inside and out. What are their current needs? Future needs? Where can you fill holes? As discussed above, this is where data is critical. When you can access current, aggregated client data, you can easily identify client profiles and answer key questions such as: Who are my ideal clients? What are their needs? How can I make their personal and professional lives better? With data in hand, you can also more easily develop marketing and sales plans to speak to both existing and prospective clients.

Products. When you have full visibility into your client base, you are far better equipped to develop turnkey products that support their needs. For example, after slicing and dicing your client data, you identify that 25 clients do not have a succession plan in place and are nearing retirement age. You then develop a standardized succession plan product that can be pulled “off the shelf” and offered to each of these clients.

The key here is productizing services so you are not constantly reinventing the wheel with each client. The goal is to have a full roster of turnkey products that you can provide as needed, based on what your data tells you.

Platform. Your platform is how you will deliver your products in a highly efficient and modern manner. This involves defining and implementing a technology stack made up of only the most advanced solutions. Your platform will enable you to deliver services with ease while providing clients with ultimate convenience and a rich experience every time.

In relation to platform, this also speaks to a firm’s internal CRM system. This is how you capture client data points and turn them into actionable information. With the right CRM, you can slice and dice your data to identify countless opportunities.

Success is right there

The competition from big-box bookkeeping providers and large firms is only starting to heat up. Not only are small firms competing for compliance work, but advisory services as well. Having the right business model in place is critical to competing for and winning clients. When you know who your ideal clients are (people), have developed the right products and implemented a powerful platform, you are well-positioned for a long and prosperous business life.

For a deeper dive on the topics discussed in this column and more, subscribe to Darren’s “Better Every Day” podcast on iTunes, or listen to it on rootworks.com/podcast.