Accountants = idea generators?

Sorry everyone – didn’t blog last week! So here we go …

A while ago I was having lunch with a client of mine who had recently joined a 2nd-tier accounting firm having left one of the Big 4 for greener pastures. During the lunch my client told me about an exercise his old firm would perform on behalf of clients. It blew my socks off!

From time to time this Big 4 firm would hold a sandwich lunch for all their staff & partners in each of their offices around the country in a given week. The Brisbane office would hold their lunch on Monday, Melbourne on Tuesday, Sydney on Wednesday and so on.

The purpose of the lunch was to get as many people together – partners, directors, managers, graduates, support staff and others sitting around a table to talk and think about a particular problem or two and how they would solve it. Each table had a facilitator to help guide the conversation. The problems were real world issues that clients of the firm were facing. The purpose of the lunches is give the clients ideas they can use to solve their current business challenges.

The Big 4 firm would make an offer to their clients or even a prospect they are trying to win along the lines of, “How would you like a thousand of our staff who are amongst the best and the brightest in the market work on your problem(s)? By the way … there is no charge. It is our way of adding value to you and showing that we are here to help.”

What business or organisation would say no to such a fantastic offer? Having a thousand men and women of varying experience working on ways to solve the problems you have in your operations, marketing, recruitment and strategy is an incredibly powerful and compelling offer. The cost to the Big 4 firm  to facilitate the “ideas week” of staff lunches? Well it was simply the price of providing sandwiches and orange juice to their staff which of course would be a few thousand dollars. But think of the tremendous impact such an exercise can have on the clients and prospective clients of the firm.

Now … I know what you’re thinking. That is fine for a Big 4 firm – they have truckloads of resources and big budgets to do such things. However, since the lunch I’ve been thinking about ways in which smaller accounting firms can provide similar value for their clients irrespective of their size.

This will no doubt form the content of a future post or two 🙂

All my best,

James E

Should accountants eat lunch? (2 of 2)

Following on from the last post I now finish relating the story of Ron & Jim. Here is where we left them …

“I have to be honest here Ron. When you said at that first meeting that we’ll get together over lunch, talk some business and get to know each other I thought it was one of those empty & passing lines people use all the time.”

“Why do you say that Jim?”, Ron replied.

“Well my last accountant who was a great bloke and seemed to do an OK job for me didn’t take me out to lunch once. So its nice to have lunch and to get to know each other better”

“How long were you with your last accountant?”

Sadly, Jim said “14 years.”

There it is 14 years! Jim the client and his accountant hadn’t once met and broken bread together. I was almost too scared to ask Ron how many times Jim had had a coffee with the accountant (I’m probably thinking 14 – a tea or coffee was probably offered to Jim each year he visited his accountant’s office!)

I don’t know about you, but I think something special happens when you share food and drink with someone. It doesn’t have to be fancy – coffee & cake or sandwich & an OJ – it could be anything. What happens when you break bread with another person is that the barriers tend to come down. You’ll find that you will be talking about subjects and situations that you will never think would come up. That is the wonder of the meeting – because through that open conversation you as the accountant will definitely get to know the client much better and learn the things that excite, motivate and inspire them. You will also gain insight into those things that concern, fear and disappoint them.

Set against this background you will be in a much better position to help their business operate better and grow.

So … should accountants eat lunch? The answer is a resounding YES!

Until next time.

James E

Should accountants eat lunch? (1 of 2)

Last week I presented at a conference of small accounting firms gathered from all around Australia. I was asked by the conference organisers to give a talk on my pet subject of “What do Accounting Clients Really Want?” Although I was only needed to speak at the main dinner on the Tuesday evening I decided to attend all 3 days. I’m glad I did. I always enjoy the opportunity to meet new people and listen to their stories.

At breakfast on one of days I met a chap whom I’ll call “Ron” (not his real name of course). Over our meal I asked Ron about himself. He shared with me his background and family details and then moved on to tell me about his business. Ron is a partner in a small accounting firm with about 20 staff in Adelaide, capital city of a state called South Australia (since most readers of this blog come from outside Australia!) He told me a story about a client experience which I just have to pass on to you.

Ron, through a referral of one his long-time clients, won a new client. After the initial meeting to sort out what the new client’s needs were, Ron indicated to the other gentleman that he will be in touch down the track to meet again, talk through business and get to know him better. Let’s call this new client “Jim”.

A little less than 3 months later Ron contacted Jim and arranged to meet over lunch. They set a date, time and a place. At the lunch, Jim couldn’t help himself and told Ron exactly what he was thinking.

“I have to be honest here Ron. When you said at that first meeting that we’ll get together over lunch, talk some business and get to know each other I thought it was one of those empty & passing  lines people use all the time.”

Tune into the next post to hear what Jim says next. Hopefully you won’t be too surprised! Here is a small hint – 14 years 🙂

See you next post.

James E