Recently, a practitioner named Frank Stitely, CPA posted his thoughts in CPA Trendlines on how charging a very high fee for work that only took a few hours can backfire. Understandingly, this post invoked a lot reaction from the proponents of value pricing including me. Read more…
Listen to this and form your own view about what really counts if you want to create something great whether it be a business or a product. You’ll recognize the voices I’m sure.
For the better part of 30+ years I have been on a journey to share with my colleagues in the accounting profession some ideas I have that will help them help their clients and themselves have a better life by having a better business. This has become our by-line Better Business*Better Life. Read more…
One of the most common questions I get asked is: “What do you think of the idea of trashing timesheets?” My standard answer is: “It might be a great initiative for your firm if it is a catalyst for creating a client value centric business model but some form of time monitoring does provide useful management information.” Read more…
Recently I was talking to the owner of a business who I admire greatly and I asked him if he would nominate a book that he could confidently recommend as a source of inspiration and advice to anyone who wanted to build a really successful business. I was expecting him to refer to one of the modern popular works on management from the likes of Peter Drucker and his ilk but he instantly (and without hesitation) said “Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography.” Read more…
In exactly 7 days from now I travel to San Diego to deliver an 18 minute presentation on how to create a firm that yields a net profit per owner of at least $1 million. Less than 2% of firms are able to achieve a result of that magnitude and an even smaller percentage are able to sustain that for an extended period of time. In an industry where business practices are highly transparent and there are few, if any, proprietary technologies that confer a competitive advantage, the question needs to be asked: why can’t all firms achieve a result of this magnitude? I suggest they can and in this post I explain how. Read more…
Some time ago I presented a webinar on the 5 questions business advisers frequently ask which you can view by clicking this link. Or if you would prefer to listen to an audio of the presentation with the player below.
In the presentation I referred to Aristotle’s 3 means of persuasion which I consider to lie at the heart of selling. They are Lagos (conveying the logic that sits behind your offering – the commercial value proposition), Pathos (helping your client establish an emotional connection to the outcome – the experiential value proposition) and Ethos (establishing a credibility connection – the trustworthiness value proposition.)
When I was reviewing the Webinar before posting it occurred to me that what I should have underlined more strongly is the fact that any interaction with a client is a brand building exercise in which you are really putting yourself out there for them to form a view about whether they want to invite you into their (business) life or not. For that to happen they need to trust you and what you can do, they need to feel the connection between where they are and where they could be and they need to see the numbers.
I suggest that you take a look at the video presented by Simon Sinek, the author of Start With Why, in which he makes the point that people want to deal with organizations that believe what they believe – his Golden Circle idea is definitely relevant to your firm’s brand, your personal brand and to your sales process. If you haven’t already watched the video please do it now – it’ll take 18 minutes.
Not long after he came back to Apple, Steve Jobs did a presentation to a group of developers in which he talked about marketing being about value and how your success is going to be tied closely to giving people a reason to want to identify with you. This video is worth taking a look at.
Harry Beckwith, the author of The Invisible Touch: The Four Keys to Modern Marketing and several other books (they are probably the only marketing texts a professional service firm needs) said “clients don’t care how much you know until they know how much they care.” Please think deeply about that. It’s important.
Just as I was reflecting on that I came across a brilliant little book just published be a fellow Aussie (via Ireland) named Bernadette Jiwa who lives in Perth called The Fortune Cookie Principle: The 20 keys to a Great Brand Story and Why Your Business Needs One. It’s a little book packed with big ideas that are so relevant to today’s business. One of the many relevant points she makes is “people don’t buy what you do, they buy how you make them feel.” This is a relevant adaption of something expressed by Maya Angelo an extraordinarily well known African-American poet who wrote:
People will forget what you said
People will forget what you did
But people will never forget how you made them feel.
That is exactly what I mean when I say, repeatedly, when you can’t differentiate your product or service you must differentiate the process by which you deliver it and, especially in a professional service firm. It is really about how you make the people you are servicing feel – this is what Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People is all about – it’s the only sales book you’ll ever need to buy. Take a look at Bernadette’s book it’s sure to give you some ideas for fashioning a vision for your firm which is one of the key elements for re-engineering your firm for the future.
The failure of the UK accounting firm consolidator RSM-Tenon Group sad though it is does not surprise me. In the last 90′s early 2000′s all the buzz was about how the the profession is inevitably going to consolidate and there were some major players in the market including some big accounting firms, American Express and a handful of half-baked start-ups and a few well funded entities.
The prevailing idea was that it made sense to create big firms quickly through consolidation. This, they thought, would lead to management and marketing economies because accountants have always been seen as trusted advisers and gatekeepers to their clients so there was a view that with a “bit of training in cross selling” it would be possible to leverage sales in areas such as financial planning, insurance, legal, lending, HR, IT …. you name it the list goes on.
When I first saw American Express get into the play my first reaction was “this could be the thin edge of the wedge.” I thought when companies of that size got into the game with the resources they had available and the global distribution channel they had in place it could spell disaster for smaller firms.
At the time I was the CEO & President of Results Accountants’ Systems. We had the privileged of working with literally thousands of small to mid sized accounting firms around the world and we had created the world’s largest network of independent accounting firms called the Results Accountants’ Network (RAN). My first reaction prospect of a consolidating industry was that it would seriously threaten or network (in fact several of our member firms did sell to the consolidators in all the countries we had a presence.)
But then I thought deeply about what was happening and concluded that for fundamental economic reasons the industry would not and could not successfully consolidate. My views were set out in a White Paper titled The Challenges Faced By Consolidators are Going to be Huge. A summary of this was published as an article in the Australian Business magazine BRW at the time. I also distributed a copy of it to our member firms.
If this made long term economic sense—as opposed to the opportunity for short term entrepreneurial profit for the promoters—my own company would have done it two years ago when it started in the US with Century Business Services (Cbiz) and American Express Tax and Business Services. We looked very seriously at doing a roll-up of the 3,000 firms in our global network and came to the conclusion that the concept of consolidation flies in the face of the fundamental economics of the industry and it will not work.
If you are interested in the more detailed explanation of why a consolidation will not engulf our profession you can download the original white paper. There may be a few things I would change if I were writing it today but not much. The paper also covers some interesting discussion on the keys to practice profitability.
I believe all this all happened before Tenon got going in the UK and some of the companies that were involved in the consolidation play in the US (CBIZ and American Express Tax & Business Services – now part of RSM McGladrey) and Australia (WHK) have managed to survive but in a dramatically different form to what was originally envisaged. But consolidation is a far cry from the tsunami of acquisition activity that some people had predicted.
My views about consolidation do not mean that I believe there will not continue to be active M&A activity in the profession. That will always take place but soon after a couple of large firms get together, a few partners or others inevitably go out and start their own firm with a handful of clients and some other clients of one or both of the merged firms take the opportunity to move somewhere else and another firm gets a little bigger and the game of musical chairs continues.
In April 2013 I wrote a blog post called What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: Lessons for New Leaders. That post is worth taking a look at if you’re interested in really developing your practice but I’m mentioning it because in it I refer to a book written by Seth Godin called The Dip that contains a message that is the subject of this post. Read more…
You’ve got to be in it to win it. By that I mean if you want to grow your business you must, I repeat must, get out from behind your desk and talk to people. And one great way to do that is to have conversations with clients about things that are not directly associated with the typical stuff that accountants do. Read more…