Buy In

Is everyone in your firm on the same page? Are you all signing off the same song sheet? Are the partners aligned? Is there anyone on your bus that has their hand firmly on the handbrake of the bus?

You need the partners (if you have them) and the team all rowing in the same direction. If you do not have ‘buy in’ then you will have a hard job implementing anything. Getting buy in is not a singular event. As fabulous as our seminars are, sending all of your team to just one of them does not change the behaviour.

You need to create ‘buy in’ events on a regular basis. Our coachingclub members use a series of on-line learning resources to educate and continually get buy in from the troops.

The more ‘buy in’ you have the easier implementation is.

Almost everyone reading this article has had a good idea that they have not implemented. Or you set a goal and the necessary action steps were not implemented – thus the goal was not achieved.

The ideas may have come from a seminar, a book, a podcast, the internet, or even one of my articles or blog posts!

All good ideas at the time but little or no implementation. What a waste of energy coming up with the idea. As my friend Michael Sheargold says “the power of an idea is in its implementation”.

I am an implementer. I get things done and I get them done because I follow my 9 step process. Each day for the next 9 days I will add one more step.

Motivation

You need to start with WHY you would want to implement something. People are either motivated by fixing something or achieving something. If you are 100% delighted with your business progress then you will implement nothing.

As an adviser to Accounting firms my biggest competitor is perceived apathy. The perception is that everything is OK so you get comfortable and apathy kicks in. You need to work out WHY you want to do something different. When we ask our coachingclub members they tell us it is a mix of 8 reasons WHY they implement. Maybe

  1. Cashflow improvement
  2. Reduced risk
  3. Increased profit
  4. Team excellence
  5. Client delight
  6. Personal excellence
  7. Revenue growth
  8. Lifestyle improvement.

Work out a strong set of reasons WHY and you will start implementing.

This marks my 17th year helping Accounting firms grow and develop their businesses. I am not an accountant by training – in fact I left school when I was 16 so I do not have a ‘formal’ peice of paper to my name.

I fell into the Accounting profession in May 1994 when a lovely man called Ellis Ryan turned up to one of my seminars in Dubbo NSW. It was a very very small seminar (by today’s standards) with only about 8 people in attendance. Ellis was an Accountant from Coonamble (population circa 2,500) which is about 2 hours north of Dubbo. He said to me ‘will you come to my town and do this seminar for my clients’.

Never one to miss an opportunity I grasped at the idea. he would promote my event to his clients, I’d collect the profit and he would get the kudos.

He had 126 clients. After 2 mailers (email not invented back then) 56 people turned up to the Coonamble RSL club. They loved it and I made a profit of $2,500 for the night. I was hooked on Accountants. They could fill a room based on their credibility and they could lower my marketing costs to almost zero. After that event I scrapped all other direct marketing (TV, Radio, Press, Mail etc) and started cold calling Accountants offering them a Value Added seminar which cost them nothing.

We started filling rooms. And as they say the rest is history. After over 1,600 speaking engagements, 4 companies, countless articles, books, products, software, web technology, learning tools and thousands upon thousands of lives positively effected I started to realise why Accountants.

All of my work has been centered around helping Accounting firms run better businesses for themselves and their clients. It was about 10 years ago the penny dropped. Every single business in the world is connected to a trusted advisor – their Accountant.

If we can help enough Accounting firms sort their businesses out (cashflow, profit, growth, reinvesting back into the community) and then we can help them go to all of their clients and help them with cashflow, profit, growth & community then we can make a positive impact – on the world.

We can change the world by helping the Accountants. That’s why Accountants!

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.

>>>>

“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!

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.

Prediction # 12 – A hub of business success

When I enter the door of the new accounting firm I want to be met by my ‘client relationship manager’ (CRM) who manages my relationship with the firm. This person will assess my needs and determine which services I need to fulfil my future direction. They will then ask various professionals within the business to do the work necessary. I do not intend to visit division after division and be asked the same or similar questions.

The ‘silo’ and ‘division’ based model is an ineffective business model. This model does not encourage effective ‘cross selling’ or internal referrals. Rather it promotes ‘turf wars’, ‘client hogging’ worst of all the clients are not properly served with what they need. The client is a client of the firm – not the individual.

The new accounting firm will become a “Business Success Centre” and a hub of business – a delivery platform of likeminded providers.

Business Success Centre (see diagram)

  • Tax / Compliance (tax planning, quarterly / monthly accounts, audit)
  • Business Advisory (management accounting, budgets, cashflow, monitoring)
  • Consulting / Coaching (special projects, recruitment, succession, ongoing personal and business coaching)
  • Finance Broking (vehicles, leasing, equipment, property)
  • Risk Management (insurance and risk advisory)
  • Wealth Creation (stockbroking, financial planning, funds management, investment advice)
  • Concierge (all clients represented as nodes referring each other and the act is the central point through a web based portal)

Business success centre

The future is exciting for those firms who want to embrace it.

It is my life’s work (and that of my business) to help accounting firms dramatically improve their financial position. To supercharge your performance.

We want to lead you into this exciting new world. Come with us on the journey.

Prediction # 11 – Unless the culture changes it will be a less attractive option for young people

There is a general perception that the accounting profession is a bit dull and it does not pay that well. Unless it changes its perception (and perception is the reality in the eyes of the person perceiving) it be become a less attractive option for young people. It will be seen as a dying profession. With outward focussed marketing there is a massive opportunity to turn that on its head and offer a more compelling proposition to young talent.

Prediction # 10 – Corporate culture will prevail (see diagram)

The best run accounting firms are ones that adopt a corporate culture with a dedicated CEO who is making decisions and implementing the strategic plan. Typical firms use consensus management between partners to make decisions and as such few decisions are made – or if they are they are made very slowly. Many firms are adopting outside help such as independent chairperson and specialist business coaches to thrive. What growing business wouldn’t? It just makes sense!

The corporate culture has dedicated marketing, sales and management people doing their job and their job only. There are many successes worldwide of mergers, acquisitions and publicly listed companies within the accounting sector. This style of business will continue.

Organisation Chart - corporate model

Prediction # 9 – Marketing and sales focus will be needed to thrive

There is a ‘sea of sameness’ with the accounting profession. They pretty much all look the same and act the same way. If you want to stand out then you must market your firm. If you want to grow it then you must market for new business and have skills to sell the new business.

Firms are already hiring specific marketing people and dedicated sales people (often called ‘rain makers’) to generate new business. These skills can be bought in or learned.