Cutcher & Neale in Newcastle was at the very first coachingclub meeting on February 28 2006. They are still in coachingclub and have never missed a dinner, a meeting or a conference. Compared to today we didn’t know what we were doing back then. They joined with a healthy degree of HOPE.

It worked.

When they started I always remember David Carpenter (Managing Partner) saying to me “we’re going paperless, cleaning out our old files and we will free up an entire floor of space. We intend on adding 20 or so more people”

They never did it. In fact their team size today of 80 is about that same size as it was 4 1/2 years ago. In the same time period their revenue has so far increased by 70%. They started at about $7M in revenue and have infrastructure in place to grow 4 times that.

David was very kind to write me a note yesterday. They are very committed to success, they contribute to the community in many ways, they are a wonderful team and they have changed the way they do business forever. Even for a large firm they ditched charge rates ($1 per hour) last September.

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“We have been working with Rob Nixon since February 2006 at which time our business had a turnover of approximately $7m. During this time we have completely restructured the way over business operates from a services and resourcing perspective. We are now fully operating in a less paper environment with excellent management reporting systems. We have fully identified all the service offerings we have and are working with the value pricing model. Having thrown away charge rates our staff are committed to achieving the best results they can for both the client and ourselves. We are now training our people on selling these services to both new and existing clients.

Working in the coaching club environment has enabled me to interact with wonderful accountants and we have learnt many invaluable lessons from them on a day to day practical level. We have shared many internal tools that have improved efficiency within the business.

The business is now in a very organised position. With a concise business plan in place and action plans specifically focused on achieving these goals we will see our business grow to 4 times its original size but with a vastly improved efficiency.

The coaching environment has been crucial in changing our mindsets and focussing our attention on implementing those strategies that truly allow us to deliver an unparalleled client experience.

We would not have taken our business to this level without the support of Rob and his team”.

David Carpenter, Managing Parnter, Cutcher & Neale, Newcastle, NSW

There has been much chatter on my private forum regarding existing clients and nurturing them. I.e: visiting them with improved customer service. Find out what they need and then deliver it. Many firms have met with a few and had some success yet no firm has met with all of them.

When you do this let’s remember a few things here:

1. Clients WILL say no. When you pitch ideas to them not all will accept. If you have done the best job possible, if you have the clients best interests at heart and you have given them some ideas with the greatest of sincerity and care – and then they say no. Not your problem. Get over it and move on.

2. My definition of a ‘good client relationship’ is when clients call you before they do things related to your speciality – finance, planning, tax etc. If they call you before they do whatever then you have a chance to advise them otherwise – or reassure them. How many clients do you have of that nature? Small percentage I would guess.

3. If you do not build a good relationship with your clients then someone else will

4. As I said to my 10 year old daughter before she had to give a speech to assembly….. remember these 3 rules with speaking..

1) You have the microphone and as such you are the most powerful person in the room

2) You always give 3 speeches – the one you intend on giving, the one you actually give and the one you give to yourself later

3) The audience doesn’t know what you are going to say so whatever you say is correct.

You have the power here – the trusted relationship. You already have the microphone!

Every year I organise a father & sons camping trip. Real camping with tents and no power. Mind you someone did describe our style as ‘glamping’ to me the other day (glamour camping) due to the fact that we have a camping wine rack, cheese & wine tasting, awesome coffee and the best food. We may rough it in a tent but we do not rough it in the food & beverage department.

This year marks year no. 8 in a row. It’s one of the highlights of the year for both dads and the boys. Special bonding time and a whole lotta fun. We fish, we laugh, we swim, we climb giant sandhills, we play beach sports, we tell stories, we toast marshmallows on an open fire and generally have a very wholesome time. Every year we have a ‘gadget of the year’ award. I thought I was sure fire winner this year with my new camping ute and boat (we caught decent fish for the first time) however I was outdone by a pair of $50 fluorescent lights. Lighting is always a problem – not any more.

We are creatures of habit and go the same spot every year. Yellow patch on the northern end of beautiful Moreton Island – a short ferry ride + 1hr 4WD drive from Brisbane. This year we had 8 dads and 14 boys – although the photo only shows 7 (one left early) – and every year it fluctuates between 6 – 12 dads. Very special time. Enjoy the photos!

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In the past 3 weeks I have asked 37 Accountants about the status of their client relationships. The question was ‘how many clients do you have a good relationship with’?

A good relationship defined as ‘the client calls you before they do things where you are an expert on‘. So that means they call you before they do anything to do with:

* Finance
* Major spending – incl CAPEX
* Tax
* Accounting Systems
* Budgeting
* Cashflow
* Investments
* Debt
* ATO / ASIC matters
* Debtor collection
* Planning
* Growth of business
* Wealth planning
* Property transactions

And anything else that you are the expert on. Do they call you first or do you find out later what stupid things clients have done?

With the 37 Accountants the highest was 35% of clients we have a good relationship with (not rapport) and the lowest 1%. Let’s call it 20% for the sake of it.

20% you have a good relationship with
80% of clients are at risk of someone else developing a better relationship than you.

This is sooooo bad and very risky. Clients are not calling you before they do things which could impact their future.

What are you doing this year to enhance your client relationships?

At our annual coaching conference in February (Hamilton Island, QLD) I am flying out the global leader in developing client relationships (Andrew Sobel) for professional services firms. Do not wait until Feb – start by proactively communicating more frequently – NOW.

If you are a coachingclub member and are yet to register for the conference you can do so here.

How well aligned are you and your partners/director shareholders? It’s a question worth sorting out. Often I get to meet owners where they have different agendas. Some of the owners may want to forge ahead with aggressive growth plans and others with sombre ones. Some owners are driven ‘by the dollar’ and others driven for a greater / different cause.

The worst ‘misalignment’ is when some of the owners are hungry and others are comfortable. This breads indecision and erratic behaviour. If you can come to a common ground where everyone agrees what you all want to achieve then that’s when you can create greatness.

If there are 168 hours in a week and if you sleep for around 58 of them, then you are going to be awake for around 110 hours per week. Simple maths. Out of 110 waking hours how much time is spent either getting ready for work, getting to work, at work, coming home from work or thinking about work?

More than likely half. About half of your adult waking, working life will be associated with work. HALF your life.

I hope for the benefit of your clients, your fellow team members, your loved ones at home and most importantly yourself that what you do excites you. I hope it enriches you and you are thoroughly fired up about what you do. If not it’s a long time doing something you don’t like. Do something else if it does not interest you. It’s not too late. You only have one life.

I said that to a sole owner of a small accounting firm in Western Sydney once. She told me she didn’t like owning an accounting firm and she wanted to sell it. I encouraged her to sell it. She did – the next day for $750k – cash. Take massive action.

In my office there is a bell. A big ships galley bell. It’s a sacred bell. It only rings if someone has made a sale. It is sacrosanct. You are not allowed to ring the bell unless there is ‘irrevocable ink’ or ‘money’. Everyone knows the significance of the bell. When it rings there always a clap or a loud ‘woohoo’ from the team. It is in the middle of the office so everyone gets to hear it. When the bell rings the team want to know what is going on, who the client was and what the details are.

When we have visiting clients and the bell rings they always ask what’s going on. We tell them and many love it.

It is very exciting. As the CEO I often ask ‘how many bells today’. I know the average sale value so I can work out how the day was. You’ve heard of ‘management by walking around’ – this is ‘bell management’.

Do you need a bell? I think so. It’s a form of celebration. Give the bell a reason for being. It could be a sales bell, a workflow bell, a debtors bell, a new enquiry bell. And don’t buy a little tea bell – buy a thumping BIG bell that makes a lot of noise. Bunches of accounting firms now have bells – I was in a office today and their bell was 100% bigger than mine. Hmmm

Today (our final day) we went into Marrakech to the souk markets. As soon as we got there I had a snake wrapped around my neck – lucky it was not a nasty one. Our guide took us to his ‘endorsed shops’ which we soon worked out where the ones that he got a commission on!

The markets were bustling with people and activity. You could buy just about anything – including people it seemed. One of our party was offered 50,000 camels for her to be a bride of a local man. She politely declined. We bought a range of nic nacs and with some fun negotiation we got most things 50% off the list price.

After we were done shopping we visited Vanessa Bransons (Richards sister) ‘Riad’ in downtown Marrakech. A Raid is a small hotel – Berber style. She has a 22 room hotel which was just amazing. From the street it seems very non-discript. No signage – just a big door. When you enter you go into an oasis of rooms, gardens and pools. Each room is different and one of her rooms was awarded ‘Sexiest Hotel room in the world’ – pretty cool. We had a delicious vegetarian lunch (all the produce was from the organic garden) with Vanessa and her family on the rooftop.

It was extremely hot (40 degrees) so we hit the pool as soon as we got back. Over a couple of beers I found out that one of the guests is a software / internet mogul and he owns a Forumla 1 team – one of twelve only. It’s our last night tonight so we said our good byes and with new friends and fond memories we leave tomorrow via Casablanca, Dubai and then home to Brisbane.

Rob with snake

Spices at Souk

Rob Nat at Vanessa Bransons Riad

What an unbelievable 36 hours. It started yesterday with Nat & I having breakfast with Richard Branson where we talked about a wide range of ideas. After that we went for a trek up the Atlas mountains. They said it was going to be moderate but it turned out to be more than moderate.

Then hit the pool, had ourselves painted in traditional hanna paint and then watched a tennis match. Being a golfer I opted for a couple of beers instead. Before dinner we had 2 local girls do some belly dancing. Seeing Richard belly dancing with his shirt off was quite a sight. I am sure someone will post the video footage on YouTube soon enough. Dinner was on the roof top of the resort where we had a 7 course French degustation menu which was just amazing under the stars.

Today we drove 25 km deep into the mountains where we were met with guides and mountain bikes. We had to cycle back down to a village some 3 hrs away by bike. However, it wasn’t always down hill. Many up hills as well. It was quite dangerous. I came within 10 cm of losing my life as I nearly went off a cliff edge. One of the cyclists was taken to hospital after a nasty fall (his bone was coming out of his leg) and a few others had tumbles. After contending with goats, mules, rough slippery roads, mud and the most amazing scenery you’ll be pleased to know that I was fine – just hot and sore.

Lunch was a BBQ under a Berber tent complete with carpet & Berber style furniture. The purpose of the bike ride was to raise money for Richard’s mothers (Eve) foundation. Eve is helping the village people to make clothing items to sell. She is also teaching them about life skills and really giving them a future. We all sponsored ourselves and raised quite a bit of money.

More roughing it tonight and tomorrow off to the local markets for a spot of shopping.

Trekkers

Rob pool

Richard belly dancingAnimals on track Atlas Mountains

Richard Rob on Bike

Rob Nat and Eve Branson

After traveling for 27 hours Nat & I landed in Casablanca, where we overnighted, and then onto Marrakech to stay for 4 days with Sir Richard Branson at his very awesome retreat Kasbah Tamadot. As part of my trip into space on Virgin Galactic we are here we 11 other ‘future astronauts’ and their partners.

There is no agenda on this trip (which is really cool for a change) just an opportunity to meet some truly fabulous people from around the world – including spending some quality time with Richard.

Last night we had a most engaging conversation with Richards 86 year old mother, Eve. She is an absolute hoot and full of energy. We also met the inventor of the ‘jog dial’ device for the ipod. He recently sold his company for a handsome price. It was great to catch up with some of the other fellow London marathon runners as well – war & sore stories abound.

Our accommodation is a Berber tent. As you can see by the pictures not your every day tent! We have stayed in some pretty fabulous hotels around the world – this one tops them all. It’s at the base of the Atlas mountains and right behind us is the second tallest mountain in Africa.

Today a bunch of us are going on a mountain walk and later on a tennis match.

Kasbah tamadot

Rob Nat Kasbah

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