[IMGCAP(1)] One of my clients recently told me about their “fancy downtown meeting” with their bank. The purpose of the meeting was to extend their line of credit in order to purchase new equipment. This client runs a multi-million dollar operation—outsourcing mechanic work to large commercial airlines. My client and his partners are mechanics as well—your typical blue-collar millionaire!

The key message was that the client and his partner had to buy new suits for the fancy meeting in the big boardroom. They hated it. After all, underneath the suits they were the same hard working individuals. Would the meeting have gone differently had they shown up in jeans and met at a local eatery? Where was the real value in the “fancy” stuff?

I relate this story directly to my firm and working with my small business clients. My client base is made up of real people…people who may not like to wear suits. Real people who aren’t impressed or immersed in the corporate world. Real people who expect excellent service and knowledgeable advice from their accountant, and could care less if it all comes wrapped up in an expensive downtown office with imported cherry furniture.

As a trusted advisor to our clients, we need to get out of our suits once in a while and get real with our clients. We need to venture out of our own offices and work with clients in their environment. I learn more about my clients when I’m in their space for a few minutes then I do all day confined in my office.

And let’s not forget that with today’s advanced technology, we have more time to spend face-to-face with clients. Technology allows me to create financial statements and tax returns quickly and easily. The time I save on these tasks is put toward providing real value to my clients by meeting with them, having in-depth conversations, and really getting to know who they are and the anatomy of their business.

Spending time at the client’s site allows me to evaluate potential areas in need of improvement, such as sales processes or software/hardware needs. I can then offer sound advice on these intangibles, which is a service above and beyond the tax and accounting support I provide, but is what makes the client rave about my firm. This is an example of real value!

After their big fancy meeting, my client did get the loan. I told him that I needed to schedule a meeting so I could see those new suits. In the meantime, I will wear my jeans and hang out in their space, because that’s where I can add real value.

Jody L. Padar, CPA, MST, is a Certified Public Accountant experienced with Complex Federal & State Income Tax Compliance for Business & Individuals. Jody is an adjunct professor at Oakton Community College, where she teaches Taxation and QuickBooks Courses. She is part of Intuit Trainer Writer Network and speaks nationally on various Technologies and Taxation. Reach her at jody@matousekconsulting.com.