Posts

Be an accountant who is known for great communication (2 of 3)

The second hallmark of effective communication is the ability to listen – really listen. In earlier posts you would have heard me bang on about the importance of listening when meeting and discussing issues with clients and pitching for new business.

I found an excellent list of barriers to effective listening and strategies to promote better listening.

Barriers to effective listening

There are many reasons as to why individuals fail to listen successfully, These include:

  1. Interrupting
  2. Faking attention and tuning out
  3. Becoming emotional
  4. Jumping to conclusions
  5. Getting distracted
  6. Pre-judging the subject
    Wrong focus
  7. Gathering only facts
  8. Inflexibility while listening
  9. Avoiding complicated subjects

Strategies to promote better listening

You can improve your listening skills by following some of the strategies mentioned below:

  • Maintain eye contact with the speaker.
  • Provide clues that you are actively involved in listening.
  • Focus on content, not delivery
  • Avoid emotional involvement
  • Avoid distractions
  • Refrain from formulating an immediate response
    Ask questions
  • Use the gap between the rate of speech.
  • Be willing to accept revisions
  • Choose the right environment
  • Stay active by asking questions for yourself

(Source: http://hubpages.com/hub/Importance-of-Listening-Skills-in-Professional-Life)

I remember my dad saying to me years ago … “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a very good reason … make sure you use them in the that ratio” It took me some time to work out that meant you should listen twice as much as you talk! Admittedly I was quite young at the time 🙂

Until next time.

James E

Are all accounting firms created equal? (2 of 3)

Following on from our last post, here is the 2nd feature of great accounting firms.

2. Asking questions and listening.

Great accounting firms seem to have a higher proportion of partners and staff who ask good questions and really listen to the responses given. You would have read in my posts before the statement – if you want a better answer, then ask a better question then listen to what the client or prospective client is saying.

Here is the true story of a friend of mine and the question he asked and how it changed the way he sold his services in the future.

As an adviser to the SME market, I often tell others about an event that occurred with a potential new client back in 2008. It was a busy time of the year, and I had been referred a potential client from another professional to assist with a transaction. Needless to say, I had a busy few days leading up to meeting with the potential client and was unable to do my usually pitch approach.

When meeting a potential new client for the first time, I often do research about them (where possible) and the industry that they service to get a better understanding of the client and the market that they trade in before I actually meet with them. I would do this to assist me in identifying potential talking points. Unfortunately, or fortunately as it turned out, I didn’t have the time to do the usual preparation and was actually 10 minutes late to our meeting. I was so unprepared that the first thing I said after introducing myself was to say, “How can I help you?”

It wasn’t until the potential client spent the next hour telling me about their business that I realised how important those words were to them, and that they were actually looking for an adviser who would listen to their needs fi rst and then see where (if at all) they could add value to their business. I must admit that this changed the way I sold my services, from identifying what I could do (talking points), to actually seeing if there was a need for my services in the first place (listening points). This ensured whatever services I sold were valued. As an adviser I keep reminding existing clients that I need to know how I can help them before I can actually help them.

Tune into the next post to read the final installment in what makes an accounting firm great!

All my best,

James E.

The art of conversation

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 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 few weeks 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 to 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.

Listen more than you speak

The second hallmark of effective professional is the ability to listen – really listen. In earlier posts you would have heard me bang on about the importance of listening when meeting and discussing issues with clients and pitching for new business.

I found an excellent list of barriers to effective listening and strategies to promote better listening.

Barriers to effective listening

There are many reasons as to why individuals fail to listen successfully, These include:

  1. Interrupting
  2. Faking attention and tuning out
  3. Becoming emotional
  4. Jumping to conclusions
  5. Getting distracted
  6. Pre-judging the subject
    Wrong focus
  7. Gathering only facts
  8. Inflexibility while listening
  9. Avoiding complicated subjects

Strategies to promote better listening

You can improve your listening skills by following some of the strategies mentioned below:

  • Maintain eye contact with the speaker.
  • Provide clues that you are actively involved in listening.
  • Focus on content, not delivery
  • Avoid emotional involvement
  • Avoid distractions
  • Refrain from formulating an immediate response
    Ask questions
  • Use the gap between the rate of speech.
  • Be willing to accept revisions
  • Choose the right environment
  • Stay active by asking questions for yourself

(Source: http://hubpages.com/hub/Importance-of-Listening-Skills-in-Professional-Life)

I remember my dad saying to me years ago … “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a very good reason … make sure you use them in the that ratio” It took me some time to work out that meant you should listen twice as much as you talk! Admittedly I was quite young at the time 🙂

Until next time.

James E

Do accountants make good first impressions?

We have all heard the old saying – you never get a second chance at a first impression. As I’m sure you’ve read me write before … cliches are often cliches because they are true!

Anyone engaged in professional services, most of all accountants (given that a lot of people outside the profession see them as boring, unimaginative bean counters) need to make a good first impression when they meet with people for the first time and try to build rapport.

The other day I found a great article in Forbes magazine quoting the research of a couple of academics from Princeton University. For the full article go to http://www.forbes.com/sites/yec/2011/11/02/5-ways-to-make-a-killer-first-impression/

Here are a few ways you can make sure people’s first impression of you is a good one:

  1. Set an intention. The most important thing to do for giving a good impression is to set your intention. This is especially important before any kind of big event where you would be meeting a lot of people — i.e. conferences, networking events or friend’s parties. As you get ready or when you are driving over think about what kind of people you want to meet and what kind of interactions you want to have. This can be an incredibly grounding experience and works very well to focus on what kind of energy you want to have for your event.

  2. Think about your ornaments. Clothes, make-up, jewelry, watches and shoes are all types of ornamentation and people definitely take these into account when making initial judgments. I highly recommend getting some of your favorite outfits or ornaments together and asking friends you trust what they think of when they see them. For many men, they do not realize that their watch can say a lot about them. For women, purses and large earrings or jewelry can also indicate a lot to a new person they are meeting. Make sure that what you are wearing and how you do your hair or make-up says what you want it to say to the people you are meeting for the first time.

  3. Be Conscious of Your Body Language. Body language is a crucial part of first impressions. Everything from your posture to how you carry yourself to the way you’re angling your body. Often, simply being aware of your body language can result in immediate improvements. Another way to examine your body language is to look at yourself on a video walking around a room. Subconscious cues to keep in mind include noticing where you point your feet, the position of your shoulders, and the way you shake hands.

  4. Avoid bad days. People who go to cocktail events or mixers after having had a bad day typically continue to have a bad day. If you are in a depressed or anxious mood, others will pick up on this from your facial expressions, comments and body language. If you’re having a bad day, stay home! Otherwise, find a way to snap yourself out of your bad mood. I find working out or watching funny YouTube videos before events often gets me in a more social, feel good mood.

  5. Be interested and interesting. If you are truly interested in meeting people and are open to learning about who they are, they will get this in a first impression. We have all had the experience of meeting someone and knowing instantly that they were dragged here by a friend and are just waiting to get out the door and head home. When you are meeting people for the first time approach others with a genuine interest in who they are. This is often contagious and you will have better conversations and lasting connections when you are interested because they become interested.

See you next post,

James E

Accounting Firms – are all created equal? (part 2 of 3)

Following on from our last post, here is the 2nd feature of great accounting firms.

2. Asking questions and listening.

Great accounting firms seem to have a higher proportion of partners and staff who ask good questions and really listen to the responses given. You would have read in my posts before the statement – if you want a better answer, then ask a better question then listen to what the client or prospective client is saying.

Here is the true story of a friend of mine and the question he asked and how it changed the way he sold his services in the future.

As an adviser to the SME market, I often tell others about an event that occurred with a potential new client back in 2008. It was a busy time of the year, and I had been referred a potential client from another professional to assist with a transaction. Needless to say, I had a busy few days leading up to meeting with the potential client and was unable to do my usually pitch approach.
When meeting a potential new client for the fi rst time, I often do research about them (where possible) and the industry that they service to get a better understanding of the client and the market that they trade in before I actually
meet with them. I would do this to assist me in identifying potential talking points.
Unfortunately, or fortunately as it turned out, I didn’t have the time to do the usual preparation and was actually 10 minutes late to our meeting. I was so unprepared that the fi rst thing I said after introducing myself was to say, “How can I help you?”

It wasn’t until the potential client spent the next hour telling me about their business that I realised how important those words were to them, and that they were actually looking for an adviser who would listen to their needs fi rst and then see where (if at all) they could add value to their business. I must admit that this changed the way I sold my services, from identifying what I could do (talking points), to actually seeing if there was a need for my services in the first place (listening points). This ensured whatever services I sold were valued. As an adviser I keep reminding existing clients that I need to know how I can help them before I can actually help them.

Tune into the next post to read the final installment in what makes an accounting firm great!

All my best,

James E.

Accounting standards should include listening

In earlier posts you would have heard me bang on about the importance of listening when meeting and discussing issues with clients and pitching for new business.

I was scanning the web recently and found an excellent list of barriers to effective listening and strategies to promote better listening.

Barriers to effective listening

There are many reasons as to why individuals fail to listen successfully, These include:

  1. Interrupting
  2. Faking attention and tuning out
  3. Becoming emotional
  4. Jumping to conclusions
  5. Getting distracted
  6. Pre-judging the subject
  7. Wrong focus
  8. Gathering only facts
  9. Inflexibility while listening
  10. Avoiding complicated subjects

Strategies to promote better listening

You can improve your listening skills by following some of the strategies mentioned below: Maintain eye contact with the speaker.

  1. Provide clues that you are actively involved in listening.
  2. Focus on content, not delivery
  3. Avoid emotional involvement
  4. Avoid distractions
  5. Refrain from formulating an immediate response
  6. Ask questions
  7. Use the gap between the rate of speech.
  8. Be willing to accept revisions
  9. Choose the right environment
  10. Stay active by asking questions for yourself

(Source: http://hubpages.com/hub/Importance-of-Listening-Skills-in-Professional-Life)

I remember my dad saying to me years ago … “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a very good reason … make sure you use them in the that ratio” It took me some time to work out that meant you should listen twice as much as you talk! Admittedly I was quite young at the time  🙂

Since then I’ve found out that the original quote was from Socrates –  “We have been given two ears, two eyes, and one tongue. This means that we should hear and see more than we speak.” Socrates (469 BC–399 BC)

So if you really want to stand out to your clients listen to what they are saying. If for example, a client asks you about collecting debt from their clients, by simply listening you can uncover a variety of issues. In this example cash flow would be an issue that you can certainly help your client with!

See you next post.

James E

A word from the Australian Rugby Union

Here is an extract of an interview with Ashley Selwood, CFO, Australian Rugby Union.

What is the most important quality or attribute you look for in an accountant?

The times that we’ve engaged an external accountant have been mainly around projects. We’ve tended to engage accountants and others for project-type work, so they’d come in to complete a specific task. There has been some advice from time to time on tax issues, but we’re a not-forprofit, so although we don’t pay tax we still have tax issues. We’ve still got fringe benefits, GST and the like. My comments are around where we’ve engaged accountants on the basis of projects.

Set against this background, one of the attributes I’d look for is the ability for the person (or persons) to sit down and spend the time up front getting to know our business. In my experience many accountants use pre-defined work processes, templates, checklists, software and so on. This is good and helps in a lot of business settings such as audit assignments.

However, I find at times that external accountants already have some preconceived ideas about what the solution is before they spend the time to actually get to know our business. We’re a sport and nine out of ten people who walk in the door are either followers of rugby or at the very least know a bit about rugby. When you’re dealing with sport there’s a lot more heart than head involved and sometimes people will walk in the door as a consultant or an accountant and the first thing they’ll do is spend an hour telling you what’s wrong with the Wallabies! Once you get through that, they always seem to have quite fixed ideas of what the solutions are without actually spending the time to get to know our business. In my view this is a fundamental mistake. It not only applies to accountants but all other external professional consultants irrespective of their discipline.

With sport, people understand it or think they do. What they don’t understand is the business of sport, which is why we are engaging them in the first place. The challenge, in our case, is that the core of our business is run on six Saturday nights during the year. We play six test matches annually against countries from around the world; we drive all our revenue for the year from those six matches.

When you’re sitting down and talking to an accountant and looking at what attributes you want them to have, you want them to set aside their preconceived ideas and get to really know what our business is about before they start, and get into the process of providing the advice or whatever the work they need to do.

Enough said?

See you next post,

James E

Funny lessons for work & life (2 of 2)

Following on from the last post … here is a continuation of some funny lessons for life & work.

Story No.4

The boy rode on the donkey and the old man walked. As they went along, they passed some people who remarked, “it was a shame the old man was walking and the boy was riding.” The man and the boy thought maybe the critics were right, so they changed positions.

Later, they passed some people who remarked, “What a shame, he makes that little boy walk.” They decided they both would walk!

Soon they passed some more people who thought they were stupid to walk when they had a decent donkey to ride. So they both rode the donkey!

Now they passed some people that shamed them by saying, “how awful to put such a load on a poor donkey.”

The boy and man said they were probably right so they decided to carry the donkey. As they crossed a bridge, they lost their grip on the animal and he fell into the river and drowned.

Lesson: If you try to please everyone, you will eventually lose your ass.

Story No.5

Once upon a time a scorpion wanted to cross a brook. On the bank he saw a frog and asked if the frog would give him a ride to the other side.

“Oh no,” says the frog, “If I carry you on my back you will sting me.”

“But why would I sting you when we would both surely perish,” replied the scorpion.

The frog eventually conceded that the scorpion had a point, and agreed to the request.

Half way across, the scorpion stang the frog, and they both began to drown.

“But why did you break your word and sting me, knowing it would be certain death for us both?” cried the frog.

“Because it is in my nature.” said the scorpion.

Lesson: People are true to their nature. If you’re instincts tell you to watch you back with certain people in the office, then listen to your gut reaction. Otherwise, prepare to get stung.

Story No.6

In the land of inflatables (bear with me..), at the inflatable office, what did the inflatable boss say to the idiot employee caught misbehaving with a pin? “You let me down, you let yourself down, and worst of all you let the whole office down.”

Lesson: Watch your mistakes, they are not all created equal.

Two ears and one mouth

I’m roughly about halfway through the book I’m currently working on titled “What do Accounting Clients Really Want?”

In earlier posts you would have heard me bang on about the importance of listening when meeting and discussing issues with clients and pitching for new business.

I was scanning the web the other day and found an excellent list of barriers to effective listening and strategies to promote better listening.

Barriers to effective listening

There are many reasons as to why individuals fail to listen successfully, These include:

  1. Interrupting
  2. Faking attention and tuning out
  3. Becoming emotional
  4. Jumping to conclusions
  5. Getting distracted
  6. Pre-judging the subject
  7. Wrong focus
  8. Gathering only facts
  9. Inflexibility while listening
  10. Avoiding complicated subjects

Strategies to promote better listening

You can improve your listening skills by following some of the strategies mentioned below: Maintain eye contact with the speaker.

  1. Provide clues that you are actively involved in listening.
  2. Focus on content, not delivery
  3. Avoid emotional involvement
  4. Avoid distractions
  5. Refrain from formulating an immediate response
  6. Ask questions
  7. Use the gap between the rate of speech.
  8. Be willing to accept revisions
  9. Choose the right environment
  10. Stay active by asking questions for yourself

(Source: http://hubpages.com/hub/Importance-of-Listening-Skills-in-Professional-Life)

I remember my dad saying to me years ago … “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a very good reason … make sure you use them in the that ratio” It took me some time to work out that meant you should listen twice as much as you talk! Admittedly I was quite young at the time  🙂

See you next post.

James E