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Is this any way to treat someone? (2 of 2)

Following on from my last post here are just some of the things that happened in the meeting with said accounting firm.

I started the presentation. Just to remind you this was a presentation about their market so I would have thought they would have been somewhat interested. However, of the group of about 12 people, only 3 were paying attention. The other 9 were doing a combination of checking their Blackberrys, reading the notes for the next meeting & one guy even took a call!

My presentation style is very interactive and as such it depends on people listening to what is being said and of course making some effort on their part when asked to. At one point I asked one of the partners to tell me & the group what the term “proactive” means in the context of accountants working and communicating with their clients. Believe it or not, after a slight pause, he replied “I don’t know.” I (of course) don’t mind if people don’t know the answer to a question but what really disappointed me about this particular exchange is that he didn’t even try. When I asked him the question he was reading some notes for a meeting later that day; after he replied to my question, he went back to reading his notes.

A little later in the presentation I asked another partner about his thoughts regarding a section on accounting client expectations I had just finished outlining. He looked up from his sandwich and said “Sorry, I can’t answer that question … I wasn’t listening” Ironically a big part of the proceeding segment of the presentation was on the importance of listening!

The icing on the cake was the arrival of a 13th partner just over an hour late to the meeting. His excuse was that he thought the meeting was scheduled on daylight savings time since we had moved back to Eastern Standard time the day before. Hmmm … I don’t want to comment on what I was thinking at the time 🙂

I’m really sorry if the above sounds like a rant. I was just saddened that this one meeting almost typified so many things that people out there believe about accountants – dull, unengaged, conservative and unimaginative. In my experience over many years I’m glad to say that the opposite is true of the majority of accounting firms I have worked with and that I know 🙂

Until next time,

James E

Is this any way to treat someone? (1 of 2)

I had a most interesting experience last week. I was treated like a lost dog.

If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any amount of time you would know that last year I wrote a book “What do Accounting Clients Really Want?” published by Thomson Reuters. Since the book has come out I’ve presented to many accounting firms the salient points of the book as a way of getting the word out and promoting the book.

What I usually do is send the managing partner of an accounting firm a copy of the book along with an offer to present to the partners & selected staff followed by a q & a session completely free of charge. Nice and simple.

Well, I presented to a top 25 accounting firm last week that was one of the most telling speaking experiences of my entire career.

Here is how it all unfolded.

I was to present at a lunch time meeting of the partners of the firm set down for 1.00pm. It usually takes me about 20 minutes to set up my laptop and check that all the connections and my slideshow is working properly. So I asked this firm if I could have access to the meeting room at 12.30pm – this would give me a full 30 minutes to set up and not eat into the partners precious time in the meeting itself.

I arrived at the firm just before 12.30pm, spoke to the receptionist and was given access to the room along with the one the firm’s IT team to help connect my laptop to their in- house data projector. Great! Fantastic! Everything was going fine.

About 10 minutes into my setup I was asked to leave the room because it had been double-booked by one of the partners for an internal meeting. Hmm – not real good. I was confident everything would work fine so I left the room and waited outside as requested. Funny … I booked the set up time over a week before the meeting and was told it would be fine. This was dog moment No.1.

For most of the time I waited I was standing in a short hallway that led to the meeting room I waited there for about 15 minutes. About 8 people walked past me and not one person asked if I needed help or even who I was. This was dog moment No.2.

Just before 1pm I knocked on the door and asked if I could come in and finish setting up my equipment. I was told in rather short language to do it and got busy to make sure the presentation was working which only (thankfully) took about 3 minutes.

I then turned from the screen and laptop and faced the long boardroom table as people were speaking amongst themselves, checking their mobiles and reading papers. I stood there for 5 minutes. Everyone could see me and not one person introduced themselves let alone ask who I was. 5 minutes. Count to 300. That is a long, long time for someone to stand in front of a group of say 12 people and not one person acknowledge my presence. These are not just 12 random people from the street – they are 12 educated, experienced professionals who aim at helping individuals and businesses grow and prosper. This was dog moment no.3.

It may sound a little self serving but I could have been anyone – what if I was a client or key strategic supplier to the firm? Man alive – it is not a good look.

Ironically, the chap who invited me to speak was half an hour late to the meeting he arranged! Although to be fair he did apologise afterwards for his lateness.

Read the next post to find out what happened in the meeting!

See you next time.

James E.

Do you like waiting?

I was in an accounting firm the other day (think a top 10 Australian firm) to visit a professional referred to me by a friend. My friend’s friend was kind enough to help me with some input on a project I’m working on on behalf of a client.

It was just before 11am as I exited the elevator and walked to the reception desk. After announcing myself to the receptionist, I was asked to take a seat in the lounge chairs which occupied the space in front of the elevators. So I did.

The chairs were comfortable, the surrounding artwork was interesting and the coffee table presented some eclectic reading choices. There was a woman, probably in her mid-fifties, seated opposite me reading a newspaper. She looked like a client. Although dressed neatly she didn’t give the air of a supplier/vendor to the firm in any way. She had nothing but a handbag. I noticed her sitting there when I got out of the elevator.

Like most people I don’t like waiting. Please don’t judge me too harshly but I’m the type of person who views punctuality as a virtue and lateness as  a sin. Unless there is some dire emergency or major reason I’m always on time for business engagements. If, by chance, I’m running late, I always call the person I’m scheduled to meet and apologise and tell them that I’m running 5 or 10 minutes late – its just the way I’m wired.

Now the chap I was meeting was doing me a favour so I really didn’t mind that although our meeting was scheduled for 11am he had not come to the foyer until about 11.15am. It was ok.

What wasn’t ok was that this woman, quietly seated, had obviously been waiting longer than me for her person to arrive. He had just arrived before my chap came. Given his apologies and the way he related to the woman it was obvious to me that she was either a prospective client or a new one; otherwise he wouldn’t have said, “Nice to meet you.”

My question is this. The woman was there before I was and her chap arrived just before mine. She was waiting at the very least
15 minutes. In reality she had most likely waited longer. Is this any way to treat a client, let alone a new one you would like to impress and have a long term relationship with?

Do you like waiting? Don’t answer that right away. Count to 900 and then tell me (Hint: 15 minutes = 900 seconds 🙂 )

Talk with you next time,

James