At first we talked about “The Cloud.” Now that “The Cloud” is a no brainer, we need to look at the implications of being in the cloud.
I am not going to bore you with the usual answers here. Yes, you should always improve your skills, and yes, you should embrace technology. You should definitely do all of the obvious things that so many people write about and discuss ad nauseum. If I see one more article on the web with this noise, I may just have to write another article like this one!
So let’s focus on some less obvious things, that everyone isn’t talking about. Or instead of saying, “never stop learning, and keep increasing your skills, let’s talk about specific skills, and heaven forbid, maybe actually write an article that teaches one! It reminds me of the business coach you can hire, who, after combing through your financials, and handing you some pretty pie charts, says, “you should hire more sales people to increase your sales.”
Yes! Thank you for that stoke of genius! How much is that one going to cost me?
Here’s how I raise my stock in the eyes of my clients, every single week.
1. Send weekly reports
What I love about QuickBooks Online, is that you can automate this process. You start with the basics; Balance Sheet, Income Statement, Statement of Cash Flows (let them ask you about it).
Then I also send them activity reports on each and every bank and credit card account. QuickBooks Online has a date range setting you can use based on “past 30 days.” I love this setting. It means the client will not have to look at a ridiculously long report, but they also get to see everything more than once. If something jumps out at them, that doesn’t look right, they will let you know.
2. Engage with your clients weekly and Review their Financial Reports
This one should seem obvious. The weekly part will scare some people, and rest assured, if you are among the lucky few who aren’t scared to provide an amazing service, you will reap the rewards. You will win the clients that others are losing. Some clients will not need (or want) weekly, but I guarantee you, they will love you for offering, and graciously accept a monthly review
So many accounting firms and bookkeepers that I talk to, tell me, that all they do is send their clients reports (and I assume the bill as well).
When was the last time you got on a remote session with your clients, and reviewed their balance sheet with them?
It’s amazing how much you uncover, and learn yourself, when the client is right there with you to give immediate feedback. There are things that you, as the accountant will never know.
So you send e-mails to your client, and ask them to get back to you on their A/R Aging Report? How’s that working for you? What takes you 2 weeks in e-mails back and forth, I am done with in 5 minutes. So when someone tells me they don’t have time to meet with their clients online, I seriously wonder! After the initial on boarding, 30 minutes per week is usually all it takes to get all of he questions answered, and all of the uncategorized items, categorized.
3. Own your mistakes
It’s only natural to get defensive, when someone criticizes you. You feel attacked. Someone called your baby ugly. Your work is your life, and you take it very personally. Practice remembering that 95% of the time, when someone goes on the attack it is out of their own fear. A client who’s paying you, has their fear compounded by the fact that they are parting with their hard earned money, and you are going to take it and run.
The best thing you can do is own your mistakes, and then see what you can do, to alleviate the clients concerns and fears. Usually, all it takes is being proactive and reaching out to them, before they need to reach out to you. If you know they’re upset, don’t hide. Face it. Embrace it. You can turn a negative into a positive very easily, by simply showing them that you care.
4. How to handle difficult clients
This week I received a message from a client, saying that I had “missed” some things. This was completely inaccurate. Every month he reviews his transactions, and lets me know exactly where he wants things posted. Now he wanted some things capitalized, that we had previously recorded as expenses. This particular client has a habit of being condescending in his communications with both me, and my bookkeeper.
My initial response, started with, “I am a bit put off by the comment….I have it well detailed and documented that we review these transactions every month…” Then I went on to state that they changes had been made. Then I waited. I did not send, because I knew I was annoyed. I’m used to that with this guy. In the end I removed that remark, so that my e-mail JUST stated the facts. I made the changes. My reply ultimately ignored his comment. If he’s that insecure, and that makes him feel good, what do I care. When he asks for “extras” the response will be that I need a larger fee. I’ve done this with him in the past, and he’s balked at spending more money.
I’ve learned that it’s best to take the clients money, instead of taking their BS personally. If at any point it gets abusive, then it’s time to part company, but a client like this, is just… well… insignificant. I have the upper hand, because I don’t care if he quits as a client. It would be no big loss. He’s on my lowest pricing tier.
5. Let’s talk about embracing technology, but let’s get specific
Above I talked about engaging with your clients. Let’s take that further. How do you allow your clients to communicate with you? E-mail? Text? Personally, I hate getting texts for business related matters, but people do it. My clients do it, so I deal with it. Here’s what I am doing to resolve it.
My clients whom I work with every week, more and more, are going into Slack. The best way is to have a Slack team dedicated to each client. This way it’s completely private, and you can use channels to keep conversations organized, categorized, and easily referenced. The trick is to use the app on your desktop, so that you can easily toggle between teams.
Here’s what my Slack app looks like (you’re seeing the BWAM Team, which you can request to join here).
Notice the many teams in the left margin. As clients go inactive I can sign out. In fact the bottom most one is a client project I’d worked on last September. I needed to look up the number the client gave me for inventory for a trial balance I was preparing. I didn’t need to search my e-mails, which that far back would have taken a while. Instead I logged into the Slack Team I’d created for the project, and I clicked on the inventory channel. I had my answer within minutes, got on the phone with the client, and got their questions answered right away.
If I had to recap all of the above with a single underscored theme, I would say it really comes down to one thing. Really good communication. That’s the bottom line. Whether we’re talking about the apps that I use, while I am embracing technology, or the process of reviewing financial reports with clients to add “mega-value” to our services, it all comes down to communication.
Don’t run away from your clients. Embrace them. Constantly remind them that you are there to help. If you play hard to get, they tend to come chasing you. That might work well when you’re dating, but when it comes to client relationships, it’s the opposite. Reach out to them constantly. Be as needy as an accountant who wants to know everything that’s going on with their client should be.