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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.

Coffee with Matt Damon

Late last week I had a coffee meeting with a new friend of mine. To protect his identity (& the innocent ) lets call him Matt, as in
Matt Damon.

Now Matt is not an accountant, but rather an engineer. Here is just a small section from his bio.

Over a career of over 20 years in systems engineering, Matt has worked in the areas of defence, building automation, industrial control, rail automation and intelligent transport systems.  He has participated at many levels in sophisticated and complex projects involving large scale software development, safety systems, distributed real time technologies as well as mobile and remote area communications.  Matt is a strong business leader having fulfilled business development and senior management roles over the last 10 years plus.    An energetic and focused individual, Matt has extensive management and engineering skills.  He has successfully secured many millions of dollars of business for companies he has worked for, dramatically improved company processes and demonstrated finesse in leading and motivating both engineering and sales staff.  His presentation skills, deep industry experience, people management skills and commercial acumen are well proven.

My experience to date with engineers has largely been that they have brains the size of small planets and as such tend to be too technical & analytical to be interested in the commercial aspects of their organisations and clients.

However, Matt was refreshingly different. He is a super smart, articulate professional interested in his clients and what his organisation is doing to better serve their market, who just happened to be an engineer.

In all my meetings with accountants, (junior & senior) and reading through many hundreds of CVs and capability statements I can count on one hand the number of accounting professionals that can be described similar to Matt the engineer.

As a keen observer of the accounting profession and a consultant trying to help firms and their staff, I would love to hear accountant’s described as energetic, focused, commercial and generating big business for their firms and adding real value to their clients and stakeholders.

That being said, I clearly have not met all accountants in Australia or around the world. Perhaps you are one of the above-described professionals. If so, please let me know!

All my best,

James E.