Although written to the accounting profession, this article is just as pertinent for business coaches & consultants, lawyers, bankers, financial planners, recruiters, and the like. ___________________________
The larger accounting firms are getting larger. Grant Thornton has just bought BDO. PwC is purchasing high-powered boutique firms like Ashley Munro. It’s unlikely there will be any shift from this strategy by the players in the accounting world and in fact they may accelerate and delve deeper into the smaller and specialised end of the market. Competition is king and dangerously so for smaller accounting firms.
Will you be able to not only survive but continue to reward yourself and your people adequately to make the effort worthwhile? How might your firm compete and stand firm against the globals and multi-nationals penetrating your market space and client-markets?
Protect your existing book. Today's clients are your foundation to build future worth in increasingly competitive markets and economies. The big boys have already started cold calling and direct mailing. Examine your work with each client frequently, to assure that you are satisfactorily meeting your client’s current needs. Be sure you understand the client’s industry as well as his or her business. Be sure your person to person relationship is in good shape. And above all, pay strict attention to the quality of your own work.
You are not in the accounting business, you are in the relationship business. Your purpose is to grow strong client relationships that guarantee you are remembered and respected by them. The greater the respect and the more deliberate the relationship, the more likely your clients will contact you when things aren't quite right because they feel safe to confront you. You also can expect that when your competitors go duchessing for their business, they will speak with you before making any decision to leave you for them, giving you an opportunity to protect that client and retain their business.
Proactively seek and secure referrals, recommendations and repeat business from existing clients. Your practice should set an objective to achieve 15-20% annual growth in business from existing clients, in spite of turbulent economic factors. Frequency, recency and front-of-mind: the key to making this happen. Have conversations with clients where you are speaking less than 30% of the time. While ever you are talking you're not listening. And, if you're not listening attentively you may miss opportunities to accept referrals, recommendations and additional work with your existing clients. Be cognisant that your client’s business is no more static than yours, and is understandably, changing and evolving, reacting and responding to market conditions.
Delegates from the Chinese Institute of CPAs in Brisbane with Ric Willmot
Don't assume your practice is of no interest or immune from competition. An economy that is facilitating the demise of firms like BDO to GT is an economy that may very well expose your firm's vulnerabilities.
Make certain you, your people and your practice are better today than yesterday. Continually gain the knowledge, skills and experience to be of continual and ongoing value to your clients and prospects. Accounting is a knowledge-based profession¹. Continuing education in technical skills, professional skills, soft skills, people skills and the like should be actively undertaken by everyone within your practice. Be clear: it's a necessity, not a luxury.
Professional accounting isn't solely about the technical skills of the profession. To be the trusted and valued advisor, accountants must know more about all facets of business, economics, finance, trade, globalisation, technology, staffing, etc. The modern accountant is informed and competent about the global village, and is learned about context, not simply technical skills.
Everyone appreciates that marketing is necessary to grow a professional services firm. In light of increased competition from the "big end of town" marketing is vital for survival. Marketing an accounting practice is not the same as marketing a product or commodity. Accounting professionals need to acquire marketing skills and learn to become comfortable working with marketing professionals. You've lost the option to consider marketing as a discretionary function by dint of the improved and aggressive way your competitors are going about theirs.
Organisational Culture: Accountants have naively believed that clients will flock to them and be in awe of their knowledge. Accountants have a business because it's regulated that taxpaying entities must file returns; and audits must be completed where necessary. However, is your practice the immediate choice for these professional services? Competition is everywhere: services, expertise, standards, service, price, and more. To successfully compete, the culture of accounting firms must shift from an intellectual profession to a value-based, service-centric advisory profession.
Organisational Productivity: Control operating costs, invest in technology that delivers time savings, learn what you need to know about technology to make informed decisions, invest in your people and yourself, and eliminate waste. Manage your practice for profit. If you’re profitable you can afford to invest for growth.
Organisational Innovation: Strive for a culture of creativity, innovation, ownership, challenge, and successful failure. Be a dynamic practice that attracts young, enthusiastic, vibrant, intelligent professionals to you. Finding and keeping quality professional staff is becoming more difficult—it would seem—on an almost daily basis. Innovation, challenge and fun are characteristics that are appealing to people even in the smallest firms. Demand these attributes of your people and provide them with the resources to deliver and contribute. Hire for attitude and educate for skill.
In all of my consulting work with accountants, lawyers, financial planners, recruiters and the like, I have never been witness to an organisation with unhappy, disgruntled, demotivated staff having happy and satisfied clients.
Ric Willmot sharing his Executive Wisdom with CPA Accountants
To win the Green Jacket at the Masters you do not need to shoot four perfect rounds of golf. You simply need to be one shot better than the next best player. The horse that comes in first wins ten times the purse of the second place mount but it need not run a perfect race and be five lengths in front of the other horses. Just simply be a nose in front when they reach the post. Your accounting practice doesn’t have to be seven times better than your competition. However, your existing and potential clients have to be able to recognise an incremental advantage of you over your competition that relates to a clear benefit for them in choosing to engage your services.
Have a better understanding of your market and their needs. Have more visibility in places where your clients will be. Be more active in reaching out, sharing your knowledge and growing your brand and repute. You just need to be a nose in front!
Media leads for Ric's Forum Members 5 February 2013
If you are a member of Ric's Forum you are able to click on the links to access the details of journalists, media, online magazines, websites and blogs who are seeking contributions. This is a marvelous marketing and promotional opportunity for you and your business.
Live Webcast Wednesday 6 February 12pm Australian EST
Learn how to make networking a successful rainmaking process to acquire more clients, continually.
Every person in professional services needs to network. But many confuse networking with socialising and indiscriminately handing out a gazillion business cards hoping that someone will call them the next day offering to throw money at them. During this live webinar you will learn:
Setting your strategy.
Develop a plan and be effective with your time.
Know what NOT to do.
How to follow-up on opportunity.
Create memorable impressions and develop relationships by becoming a person of interest to others.
There is a nominal fee of $10 to attend. This is—in some small way—to deter people registering and then not attending the webinar. Because of technology restraints we have limited places available and it is disappointing for any who genuinely wish to attend missing their opportunity.
Ric's Online Business Forums is a password-protected area. And, many ask what is the Forum and what's in the Premium Members Area. Here's just 10 of the many reasons why you should be a member:
Benchmark Research: Access to research reports by Executive Wisdom Consulting Group.
"The Vault": A repository of Ric's newsletters, published articles, premium articles, and more.
Attend all live Webcasts, Webinars, Teleconferences and Teleseminars free and have unlimited access to the recordings via the Library. This way you can view when it's convenient for you.
Management, Marketing and Sales Articles: Get best-in-class advice.
Browse by Category
Browse by topic
Podcasts: Listen to weekly tips and interviews with Ric Willmot, his colleagues and other experts from around the world.
Executive Wisdom Survey Reports.
Premium Templates, Tools, and Guides: Gain practical knowledge you can immediately put to use.
Receive Premium-Member discounts on registration to Executive Wisdom's Public Workshops and Seminars.
Premium Case Studies: Learn what's working in professional services strategy, management, marketing and sales.
Media and Press Leads: Opportunities to gain free media publicity by responding to callouts by journalists in Ric's community or elsewhere. Details of possible interviews, article submissions, etc. are posted daily in Ric's Forums giving you a chance to get your organisation, products and services in the press or on radio and television.
Learn more about Executive Wisdom Premium Member benefits by contacting us.
Ric's Forums and Premium Access Members can Login to immediately gain access to this premium content.
Not a Member? Sign up today! Here are your options:
There may be no bigger opportunity for business people than finding other like-minded peers who would benefit from being connected and sharing real-world business ideas, opinions and answers. Not social media connections like Facebook where most of the interaction is replications of information elsewhere, or regurgitations of frivolous jokes, videos and photos. Not like LinkedIn where invariably you get spammed by people trying to sell you something.
No. Something better. An online portal where you can create business value for others and receive value yourself.
A place where you can go online anywhere in the world and discuss issues, problems, share ideas and ask questions of others from around the world. Of people who are in business and have lived it. Not people who've read a book and instantly become experts at change management for example.
A place where you build networks to generate information useful to others.
A network of business leaders and owners who understand what it's like when business gets tough and what to do about it.
A place where confidentiality is sacrosanct and honesty is non-discretionary.
What would that be like?
What would that be worth?
To you, what would it be worth?
Would you be willing to pay $5,000 per year?
What about $1,000?
Perhaps you'd jump at the opportunity if it was only $500 per year?
Even better if it was only $297 per year?
So, if I said to you, that you can become a member for life for a once-only investment of only $297, the decision wouldn't be a hard one?
Well, that's exactly what I'm offering you. Join my Online Business Forum and all you will ever pay is a once-only membership of $297.
Posted Wednesday, December 19, 2012 by Ric Willmot
Another year and I am thinking of you at your busiest time doing your magic work for all the world. I trust Mrs Claus and your little elves are all well, and that the reindeer are feeling strong and enthusiastic. We’re still hearing some rumours that the North Pole is melting, although there’s some dispute about the facts.
It would be easier to believe the warming alarmists if they didn’t earn so much money from the alarmism they create. I mean Al Gore has no credibility flying around the world first class, being chauffeured in petrol-powered limousines, receiving $100,000 for each speaking engagement, and has a $36,000 annual heating bill in just one of the homes he owns. And, Prof. Flannery who tells us all we’re going to drown under rising sea levels, has his residence less than 8 meters from the waters-edge.
Santa, I know my daughter has already been on to you asking for a swing set and monkey bars; and I know that at my age I probably shouldn’t be still asking you for presents. But I wondered if I could impose just one more time?
Santa, could you somehow provide just a little peace and solace in the lives of all the people in Newtown, Connecticut? I cannot imagine their pain, confusion, and loss. However, I feel for the parents, siblings, family and friends in that community; the intensity of emotion and devastation must be almost unbearable. If you could somehow let their aching hearts know that the world is praying for them. Our sadness and grief, though unlike theirs, is real. Our heartache, though unlike theirs, is ever present. Our lives, though unlike theirs, will be influenced like never before and forever more. Let those innocent people know that we will honour the memory of those who are lost to urge everyone to lead better lives and prevent any such tragedy again.
Might you also remind those opponents of gun control who use the shallow and frivolous argument that criminals don’t obey gun control laws that criminals also don’t obey laws such as: traffic, fraud, robbery, drugs, rape, and the like, but we still have those laws to provide us with a mechanism to combat the issues even if they can never be completely eradicated.
I’m wondering too, if you could somehow manage some politicians who actually were intelligent. They don’t have to be Einstein’s but at least an IQ greater than 67. Can they also be honest? They need to be goal-focused on improving the lives of their constituents and not solely focused on becoming Prime Minister, traveling the world first-class, staying in $1,600 per night hotel rooms abroad, avoiding honestly answering questions about slush funds for criminal union mates, or giving billions of dollars to corrupt African governments to win a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council, to only then slash previously agreed funding to genuine international aid programs.
Could we also have some cogent decision-making by bureaucrats regarding the illegal immigrants? Some call them asylum-seekers but that’s not completely accurate.
Santa, perhaps, as you’re loading up your sack, might you bring a sense of security to the global financial markets? I’m not asking for great returns on my investments. It would be wonderful if we didn’t have any dramatic meltdowns in 2013 because our current treasurer has already trashed the only profitable industry Australia had and the resources boom is less likely to continue to prop up our economy.
Santa, don’t forget to bring me some freedom of speech and freedom of the press. I know that the socialist politicians want to pass into legislation even more controls over the media so as to strangle any publication of objective and critical thinking regarding their performance. Isn’t it better to have a few polarised journalists, who we can choose to ignore if we disagree with their views, than to become a nanny-state or worse, a government-controlled nation like North Korea or China where there is no free thinking, independent thought, or objective dissent based upon intelligent consideration of people with opposing views?
I mean, seriously, Santa, if I don’t agree with what a newspaper is printing, I don’t have to buy it. If I think a particular television station is off the rails, I can change channels. If I consider the socialist, left-thinking of the ABC-taxpayer-funded media is egregiously biased, I never have to turn it on.
And Santa, most of all, if you can, may we please move quickly towards world peace. It would be sensational to not need weapons. Think of all the additional money governments could reallocate to provide water, food, clothing, medical, education and housing to impoverished peoples. World peace would be the best Christmas present, ever!
Thank you, Santa. My daughter will leave your milk and cookies, and the reindeer’s carrots on the coffee table in the lounge room, as always.
At conferences and symposiums I sometimes have the opportunity to sit in the back row or skulk in the shadows of the wings and listen to the speaker preceding me. I'm amazed at how much people can talk and not say anything. I'm astounded by how far presenters are willing to beat their audiences up with PowerPoint and not share any insights. I'm flummoxed at how "experts" and "gurus" focus more on the "smiley" sheets and getting a good rating than challenging the delegates to rethink their current behaviours and norms.
Trawl the website scanning the home pages of professional services firms and you achieve the same level of bewilderment very quickly. One example: "Our firm is leading-edge and admired by our competitors in a constantly changing market for legal services by implementing innovative and effective methods of providing cost-effective, quality representation and services for our clients."
What the heck does that mean?
If that's all you've got far better to remain silent.
Brevity reduces not the impact of a message if that message is pertinent, deliberate, and effective. Be provocative, challenging and confronting. Sometimes you not only need to rock the boat, but tip the boat over. Dipping your toes in the water will never deliver splashy results.
Challenge the people in your organisation to change, to improve, to do better, always and repeatedly.
Ask your people: "What can you improve by just 1% to do better?"
How are you delivering exceptional value to your customers so they choose you over all others?
What are you doing every day to deliver sensational value to your customers?
Many work hard to craft the delivery of a message that says nothing at all. Many strive to be liked and receive standing ovations. Your value is not in being liked, but in getting your audiences, employees, stakeholders, partners, etc., to improve organisational and individual performance. In this current economy your organisation needs to stand out from the crowd and get to where the money is. And, where is the money? In value! Not in discounts and price wars. There will always be someone with deeper pockets then you.
Many a time I'm with professional associations, organisations or executive leadership and declare, "You have to become comfortable with and promote successful failure within your people and make it a part of your organisational culture."
"Ric, failure isn't an option here at Acme."
That may be true if you're a:
Deep sea diver
Or, perhaps, caught in the grip of extreme poverty. I completely understand that in those circumstances there is no room for error. But for the general masses like you and I, there's a space that allows us latitude.
In business failure is hardly ever fatal. There's no excuse for making the same mistakes repeatedly. But, if someone says they're not making mistakes one of three factors hold true:
They're not attempting anything extraordinary.
They ARE failing but don't realise it.
They're telling untruths.
The more successful you become and the more resources you obtain the less relevant failure becomes. Failure transitions from being a significant threat to being annoying to becoming an opportunity. You've earned the freedom to fail. Improvement and advancement are greatly hindered if you're fearful of being wrong. Become open to and comfortable with successful failures.
Posted Wednesday, December 12, 2012 by Ric Willmot
Here is the list of monthly webinars being hosted by Ric Willmot and Executive Wisdom in 2013.
All live webcasts are held at 12:00NOON Australian Eastern Time. Many people use this as a working lunch with educational learning. These webcasts are 60 minutes, and recordings are available free of charge to attendees and for sale to others who do not attend.
There is a nominal fee of $10 to attend. This is—in some small way—to deter people registering and then not attending the webinar. Because of technology restraints we have limited places available and it is disappointing for any who genuinely wish to attend missing their opportunity when others just don't show up.
The big news is we have passed 2,000 posts in the Forum!
Here is a summary of the latest discussions, questions, opinions, and the like. You will need your username and password to log in, view, and reply to these discussions. We look forward to your contributions:
What I learned in 2012 from this community - Entrepreneurship
Understanding the effects of leadership on organisational performance - Leadership & Management
Marketing to hardly anybody - Marketing
Why you should send handwritten correspondence - Best Practices
Who is getting in your face and making you feel uncomfortable? - Self-Development
Watch me write the book: Whirlpool Marketing - Self-Development
Employer responsibility at the Christmas party - Farrago
Objectives - Measures - Value - Professional Services & Consulting
Effective Prioritisation - Life Balance
A new Case Study Challenge #RF17: Client declines your best technique
The Vault is a repository of Ric Willmot's intellectual property. Here you are able to review past editions and issues of all newsletters and Ric's Forums Articles - never-before-published articles on unusual or provocative subjects.
Are you making the most of your membership? Do you log in every day or so to see what's new? Do you share your expertise and knowledge with other members seeking guidance in the Forum? Do you ask questions to help you improve your results? Those who are involved in the Forum the most appear to be the individuals making dramatic improvements in their business.
If you have forgotten your username and password in order to gain access to this members-only forum, or if you would like assistance in setting up your signature file, contact us by e-mailing: RicsForum@ExecutiveWisdom.com
If we can be of help, contact us. We're here to help.