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Questions & Answers

I am flabbergasted at the lack of questions that come from Accountants. In our live workshops, our on line forum, our coaching meetings and even in general conversations – not enough questions are asked.

In my world we are providing systems, tools, education & coaching about matters that our clients (Partners of Accounting firms) want to learn:

Profit, People excellence, workflow, efficiencies,  leadership, marketing, sales, value pricing etc.

These are all topics that my coaches and I are experts on. You are expert in finance, tax, structuring etc. Our clients pay good money to learn new ideas in each of the above topics yet when it comes time for questions – they seldom come.

I know we are good but we cannot be that good and explain it that well that minimal questions are forthcoming.

Why are you not more curious?

Why don’t you ‘put it out there’ and get clarification?

Why don’t you post more questions on our online forum?

I think I know the answer. You have been trained (by whom I am unsure) to be expected to know the answers. And anything less than knowing the answers is seen to be a sign of weakness.

I think by not asking questions – that is a sign of weakness. By not asking questions you are saying that you ‘know it all’. And you know what they say about people who know it all – they know little.

You might think that your question is a stupid question. Let me assure you the only stupid question is the one you do not ask.

I just don’t get it. I really don’t. There is a direct correlation between the curious ones and business success. Always seeking clarification and asking questions. Ask a better question – you might just get an answer and speed up your progress.

Go on – ask!

Christchurch

Yesterday I presented the last of my “GROWTH” seminars for Accountants in Christchurch, New Zealand. You may know that Christchurch has been hit with 3 devastating earthquakes in September 2010, February 2011 and June 2011. In total 181 people died in these horrific ‘acts of nature’. The city has had around 7,000 smaller earthquakes since the earth starting shaking last September.

Since we started this seminar tour in March my touring crew and myself were always looking forward to the last event yesterday. Not because it was the last event but because we did it for free. We wanted to help the people of Christchurch a little and give something back. We have had over 1,500 Accountants attend the tour and yesterday we had 104 Accountants from 35 firms attend and it was a raucous and exciting day. Everyone enjoyed themselves and many new ideas where learned – hopefully they will be implemented.

On Tuesday evening my friend Phil took us for a drive around the city where the earthquake did the most damage – it’s called the ‘Red Zone’. I had only seen images on TV and I did not know what to expect. It was surreal and very disturbing. Driving around we saw building after building destroyed or falling down. We saw beautiful churches destroyed. We saw schools, shops, hotels, offices – all destroyed.

Phil told us stories of how the people of the city are coping. In one example he said there have been 6 schools destroyed so the kids are ‘sharing’ schools. At one private school the boys go to school from 7am to 12noon and then the girls go to the same school from 1pm – 6pm.

I have travelled to Christchurch around 2 dozen times over the years and stayed at many of the hotels in the city centre. I have presented seminars to hundreds of people in those same hotels. They’re all gone or deemed to be demolished. Even today in the local newspaper a further 1000 properties have been deemed to be ‘inhabitable’ and will be destroyed. Thousands upon thousands of houses and buildings to be demolished.

I elected not to take photographs as I wanted to show the city and the people in it some respect. But to give you an idea what it was like just watch the movie “I am legend” with Will Smith. It was just like that. Very very disturbing. An entire city centre with no lights, no people, no cars, no movement of any kind.

The images will last in my memory for a long long time. I said to Phil “I have had enough. Please take me back to my hotel, I can’t take any more of this”.

It was interesting meeting the people at my seminar yesterday. I did not know what to expect. Were they going to be up, down, angry, motivated? We had a huge snow fall the day before so being a free seminar 27 people didn’t show due to treacherous icy conditions on the roads. That was OK – the 104 that were there were the ones that mattered.

What I found was that they were very resilient, tough and keen to get on with business. Many told me stories of how their offices where in the city centre where the quake hit and now they are now relocated into sheds, homes, temporary offices, shared offices, warehouses and any space they could find. One of the conversations I had with a partner of a firm went like this:

“We just kicked things into gear. One partner was in charge of IT, one office space, one files and the other making sure the clients are OK”

And that was the mood of the day – they just got on with it.

The people of Christchurch have been slapped in the face in a major way. They have been beaten up, knocked down, knocked down again and they just get back up and get on with it. They are not complaining about their lot in life. They are not complaining about their personal housing damage or moaning about people or clients. They are just getting on with it. Too many people complain about their lot in life. When life slaps you in the face, spare a thought to the people of Christchurch who have lost their houses, their businesses, their entertainment, their schooling and for many their friends and family.

I for one have been very inspired with this level of resilience. Thank you Christchurch for allowing me to do what we did yesterday.

Building Courage

In my work with Accountants I find that courage (lack of) and self esteem (low) is killing progress. I cover the reasons why this is so in my new book ‘Accounting Practices Don’t Add Up‘ and in this post I wanted to cover what to do about it.

How do you build courage?

1) Get testimonials from clients. Ask them and they will write nice things about you. It can be audio, video, or text. Get permission to use your clients full details and pump it out to the world. It’ll make you feel better

2) Create case studies from clients. A case study should be structured as a ‘what, now, how, how’ story. Before we started working with you what did you used to look like? Now what do you look like. How did you do it and how did we help you do it. Get it in writing, get a photo of your client and pump it out to the world.

3) Ask your clients what value you create for them. Boldly ask where you have helped them and then go to no. 1 & 2 and get it in writing / on film.

4) Ask others before you price or do a new thing. If you bounce your idea off others then they may give you confirmation or give you a better view. Our coachingclub program does that every day – and so does our online forum where 750 Accountants talk every day about issues and opportunities.

5) Do a self review of yourself. Pump yourself up and give yourself a score card on the key things you are really good at. You must be good at something.

6) On point 5 – build on the strengths. Forget the weaknesses – hire someone to do that or outsource it. Do not learn how to do things you are not inclined to do or do not enjoy doing. If you are good at something get better at it.

7) Have a BIG desire to improve and change. The bigger your desire the easier things are. When the dream is big enough the facts don’t count!

To admin or not to admin?

Accountants are funny in the way that they hire people. They would much rather hire more accountants and let the accountants do the administration work rather then hiring professional administrators to do the administration work. After interviewing about 5,500 accountants over the past 5 years I have determined that an accountant spends on average 1.5hours per day on ‘administration tasks associated with the accounting job’.

Amazing – 1.5 hours per person per day. If you have 10 accountants at an average hourly rate of $200 that works out to be $675,000 of potential capacity. 10 x 1.5 x 5 days per week x 45 weeks for the year. You could hire 2 full time administrators at a cost of $100,000 to do that work. Spend $100k to free up (new capacity) $675K – go figure!

And it gets worse. I meet partners of firms who are doing more admin work then they need to. Some are doing the ‘practice administration’, some have the euphemistic title of ‘marketing partner’ and some attempt to look after the firms IT. Give me a break. I have never met a partner of an accounting firm who is an expert in these areas.

If a partner of a firm is mucking around doing 2 hours of ‘practice administration’ versus meeting a client for 2 hours and finding some new business – then they are wasting their time. A 2 hour meeting can generate (in a lot of cases) $5K or more of new business. A full time business administration on the firm can be hired for $50 – $75 per hour. New business generation at $2,500 per hour or administration work @ $50 per hour. Go figure.

Shareholder Alignment

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.