Do you stand out on LinkedIn?

LinkedIn_logoLast night I had the pleasure of presenting on the above topic to a group of UTS Alumnus. I faced the unenviable task of squeezing a one day workshop into a little less than an hour. The gathered group were most patient with me!

There were three big things I wanted to get across last night. I’ve uploaded the presentation onto Slideshare to give you a taste of the presentation (http://www.slideshare.net/JamesEvangelidis/do-you-stand-out-on-linkedin)

You can’t stand out on LinkedIn. There are over 430million LinkedIn members and about 3.5million in Australia alone. If Heads of State, Nobel Prize winners and world famous entertainers/sports people can’t stand out on LinkedIn, then you & I have little chance. But there is good news. You don’t have to stand out on LinkedIn – all you have to do is stand out in YOUR part of LinkedIn! By your part I mean your community, your networks, your tribe.

Have a decent profile photo. The big point I want to get across here is that LinkedIn is not Facebook or Instagram or Tinder. A professional looking head & shoulders image wearing the type of clothing you wear when working is all you need.

Use your headline the right way. The headline section of your profile (i.e. those 2-3 lines that appear under your name at the top of the profile page) is in my humble view the most valuable real estate on your profile. So don’t waste it one something like your position title & the business you work for. Get creative! Here is my headline to get you started – Helping professional services firms better understand their clients & markets.

Hope the above helps!

Until next time.

 

James

 

 

Accountants – how to really upset your client! (1 of 2)

Recently I had a coffee with a friend of mine who happens to be a CFO of a big law firm in Australia. As always to protect the innocent let’s call my friend Jeremy as in Jeremy Irons.

Jeremy had been unhappy with the accounting firm he was using for the last couple of years. So to bring the matter to a head he arranged a tender and invited 5 major accounting firms to bid and to keep things fair he invited the incumbent to also lodge a bid.

After a few weeks, all submissions were made and the “beauty parade” commenced. Of the six firms tendering 2 were stand outs, 2 were average and 2, as Jeremy succinctly put it, “were rubbish”. Their old accounting firm was one of the bottom 2.

I asked Jeremy why the incumbent firm had rated so poorly; was their a bias in his business that they had to change accounting firms no matter what? Jeremy had said no – the selection panel was more than willing to give them a fair go. However, in the period leading up to the tender and during the process the incumbent firm did themselves no favours. Jeremy shared the following two examples.

Example1:

Not long before the tender was announced Jeremy got a phone call from a senior partner in the accounting firm. The partner told Jeremy that another partner who was working on an important piece of advisory work for Jeremy was leaving their firm to join a competitor. Jeremy thought to himself well this isn’t good news but at least we’ll have a month or two to transition to another partner so the work can continue. Jeremy almost exploded in anger when the accounting partner told him, ” by the way … today is his last day” Jeremy was furious. He since found out that the partner doing the advisory work had resigned 3 months earlier and here he was being told that today was his last day! Jeremy considered the height of unprofessionalism and an incredible lack of transparency. Not a good look to say he least.

Tune into the next post to read example 2

James E

Are you trustworthy?

Recently I was watching a TED video. If you’re not familiar with TED you’re missing out. TED is a not-for-profit group running a series of live and online events with the purpose of providing a forum to ideas worth spreading. TED has been in operation since 1984. TED conferences bring together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes or less). By the way TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design – the three worlds in which speakers are drawn from.

The video I watched was a talk given by Baroness Onora O’Neill a philosopher who focuses on international justice and the roles of trust and accountability in public life. She is a member of the British House of Lords, is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Cambridge and chairs the Equality and Human Rights Commission for the United Kingdom. Not a bad curriculum vitae to be sure!

In her 9-minute talk she addressed head-on the view that many in wider society trust others less.

According to the Baroness there are three important things to know and think about the issue of trust.

Firsly, is the claim that there has been a great decline in trust.

Secondly, given the above claim, we think there should be the aim to have more trust.

Thirdly, as individuals, society, governments, businesses and institutions, we should have the goal to rebuild trust.

Go to the TED link below and have a look – it is well worth it!

Until next time.

All my best,

James

TED Talk – Onora O’Neill: What we don’t understand about trust

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.

Good invoices equates to good business

The other week I had an electrician come to my house to do some basic maintenance work. Nothing major, just a couple of hours of fixing some light fittings and changing the position of a few power points. I’ve used this chap several times before and have always considered him to be professional and a really good operator.

A few hours after the electrician left, I received an email with his invoice attached. Even though he was at my house for about 2 hours he provided me with a detailed, itemised and easy to understand bill. I knew exactly what he was charging me for and I was pleased to pay the bill right away. The bill amount was $198.25. If a busy electrician can find the time and make the effort to provide his clients with completely transparent bills, how much more should an accountant, lawyer, consultant, adviser and the like provide the same? I’ve heard many stories from business clients, irrespective of their size or industry, receive bills from professional services firms saying something like: “For services provided during August 2013 ……. $18,575 + GST” Come on good people – is that fair to your client?

Until next time.

James E

Accountants – this video will help you win more business!

This will more than likely be the shortest post I have ever posted!

Go to the Video below. Watch the video right through. Then think about how the lessons & exercises suggested by Professor Amy Cuddy of Harvard University apply to you & your practice.

See you next post.

James E

What Do Clients Really Want

Marketing tips for accountants (3 of 3)

Here is the last installment of this 3 post series on marketing tips by Harry Kafka @ HDK Consultants.

How do you get prospects interested in changing over to your accounting services?

Let me dispense of a myth first: You don’t make a difference by using superlatives about your own skills and superiority.

See. EVERYONE does that already, so that’s NOT DIFFERENT.

Quite the contrary… by using the traditional marketing & presentation methods only serve to prove conclusively that you’re THE SAME as their current accountant.

He, too, did just that. He told them how great he is, how good his services are… and now the business owner KNOWS it was all “not true.”

What we have to understand here is that the human thinking evolves around self-made truths.

What’s true for him is true… and that’s the long and short of it.

The problem here is that if you try to reason with someone whose self-made certainty is based on a negative FEELING, they just refuse to accept “your truth” and the more you try, the more they’ll stick to their view… and the harder it becomes to convince him or her otherwise.

So the solution is that you DON’T try to “talk sense” to them at all.

Instead, you let THEM tell you how “useless all accountants are…”

The way this is done involves quite a lot of skill though. It needs to be done so that the prospect realises on his own a few things along the way.

See you next post,

James E

Marketing tips for accountants (2 of 3)

Following on from the last post, here is a continuation of the article by Harry Kafka @ HDK Consultants.

WHY THEY DON’T CHANGE ACCOUNTANTS?

As things stand, the “negative ignorance” out there about accounting ensures that business owners do NOT CHANGE accountants easily.

Let’s compare it to a car and the difference becomes evident. Everyone is eager to change their car, provided the car isn’t brand new and they can afford to change… and often even when they can’t.

Why? Well, because a new, better, bigger, faster, fancier vehicle represents POSITIVE things.

They UNDERSTAND the values that come with a better, newer model of an automobile.

Status, pride of ownership, pleasure of the ride, sense of fulfilment… all positive things.

Now, let me assure you that research shows most business owners are DISSATISFIED with their current accounting services.

And yet, they DO NOT WANT TO CHANGE ACCOUNTANTS.

Not only would it be “free of charge” (as the new service would not cost that much more than the one they’re already paying for) but the BENEFITS of a better service would far outweigh any problems of transition… you’d think, right?

But it’s not so.

It’s not so because they’re negative about accounting and emotions take over.

We all know that where people react emotionally, logic goes out the window.

We make silly decisions if upset… and some say we make equally illogical decisions when in love.

Be that as it may, the fact remains that the operating principle with most business owners in this matter is…

“…better the devil you know than the one you don’t.”

Believe it or not, THEIR basic thinking is that “all accountants are the same so why go into the trouble and expense of CHANGING?”

“Once you’ve seen one accounting professional you’ve seen them all,” in other words.

This lengthy explanation actually shows WHY you (like most other accounting professionals) find it so very difficult to acquire new clients.

The problem is that you offer “an identical accounting service” (as seen by business owners) so they don’t see any reason to CHANGE.

You don’t change a dollar to a dollar… that’s the logic here on their part.

To create interest for your services in order to sign on new clients, you need to offer something BETTER.

One more post will round out this mini-series of marketing tips.

Bye for now,

James E

Marketing tips for accountants (1 of 3)

I was doing some research on the web a while back  and came across some excellent material put out by a group called HDK Consultants in the UK. Here is what I found – its is definitely a worthwhile read!

“I was a CFO at a software company, moved back into public practice which I haven’t done since college. Been a year now and have 5 accounting clients. How do I attract business?”

Essentially, there are a few “hidden” barriers to acquiring new accounting clients.

First and foremost, the average accounting / CPA client simply does NOT understand the service he receives.

This is due to his lack of knowledge in accounting procedures and financial planning.

Additionally, the necessity to use accounting services – to keep books, to file annual reports, taxes, collect sales tax and whatnot – is enforced upon him by legislation, and not something he does voluntarily.

I’m not taking a stand for or against taxation or legislation here, merely pointing out that anything we are ORDERED to do under threat of punishment does NOT bring about POSITIVE feelings.

Thus, we have TWO main factors here, both of which make the average business owner negative about all that has to do with accounting.

He doesn’t understand the information he receives from his accountant and he doesn’t like having to pay for it.

Subsequently, he feels negative about his accountant TOO although it’s illogical.

YOU are there to HELP him handle these demands set by the government, YOU didn’t legistlate those laws, right?

Right you are… but here enter the frailties of human thinking where it is based on negative emotions.

“I don’t know and I don’t care” becomes the “defence” against any sensible advise from the accountant.

Tune in next time to read the next installment from the chaps @ HDK!

Bye for now,

James E