Are you able to have a conversation?

Are you an accountant that can easily have a conversation with anyone? I hope for your own sake that you are.

In working with accounting firms and individual professionals for many years, I have been somewhat surprised to learn a few things about Partners and staff.

The one thing that I have uncovered  is that a lot of senior accounting professionals (and lots of others for that matter) are not good at having conversations with prospective clients.  It may be that they don’t like being out of their comfort zone or lack confidence in building new relationships or they simply haven’t been given the necessary training. I’m just not sure.

One of my clients, is a senior partner with a big 4 accounting firm. A while ago I asked him what % of partners in the top 10 accounting firms within Australia, in his view, are able to proactively engage with prospective clients and build a mutually beneficial relationship. What do you think he said? 50%, 60%? He told me, in his opinion as a 30+ year veteran professional, it was around 10 to 20%. Wow! That is not good. I’m concerned that the professionals coming through the ranks – the graduates, supervisors, managers, directors and the rest not being shown good role models by their Partner-Principals.

Its not too late. Anyone – young or old, male or female, graduate or partner can change and improve the way they work. The first thing to change is to learn the art of conversation.

You might be thinking to yourself, “Come on James … you’re being waaaaaaay too simplistic!” With respect I don’t think I am. Sometimes I think that professionals be they accountants, lawyers, management consultants, engineers, architects, financial planners etc… tend to over-complicate their interactions with clients and prospective clients.

Let me leave you with this one thought –

There is no such thing as a worthless conversation, provided you know what to listen for. And questions are the breath of life for a conversation.

This was a quote by the American author, James Nathan Miller who lived and worked in the late 1800′s.

See you next post,

James E.

What if Einstein was an accountant?

Come on – admit it. Einstein the accountant? – that would be one interesting situation. What if Einstein was an accountant rather than a physicist? Would the accounting profession be different than it is today? In my humble opinion the profession would be different for one very important reason. Einstein was smart enough to realise a very simple truth. This truth is so profound that if you really think about it it makes perfect sense. Unfortunately given the tendency of human nature to adopt the path of least resistance coupled with the centuries old tradition of the profession doing things a certain way we have a situation where things don’t change that much. What worked last year or even 5, 10 years ago seems to be  just fine for a lot of accounting firms & practitioners out there. This is not a good or healthy situation.

Einstein is one of the most quoted figures in history. From life & hope to God & education – Einstein brought his genius  to many, many topics. One of my favourite Einstein quotes is one I use in practically all my training and speaking work.  In this quote our good friend Albert defined what he thought insanity was. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

It drives me crazy when I meet individual practitioners and whole firms that seem to keep on doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Many in the profession are complaining about commodisation of many services, downward pressure on fees, demanding clients, higher staff turnover among junior & middle ranks, a flat growth market and the threat of offshoring of many processes. Fine – all this is true and will not stop. However, these forces should be seen as motivation to change the way you serve clients and run your firm and embrace new ways of working and growing. I know you have heard this all before, but at the risk of you clicking out right now – let me leave you with one just thought. Would your firm operate better if your clients paid you by direct debit for an agreed fixed fee each month or quarter? Be honest – would it? Well believe it or not there are firms out there doing that and releasing many hundreds of hours each year spent in chasing up unpaid bills, writing off bad debts and emotional energy doing things the “normal” way. That is – doing the work, sending out an invoice and waiting to be paid.

Thanks for your time & attention.

See you next time.

James E.