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.
When I started on this journey my focus was on tools and process. I believed that if you do what I have done then you can expect to get the same results. In other words, follow the process, use the tools and the results will follow. In a sense this is common sense but I’ve learned that common sense is not commonly practiced.
Validation that at least some people have benefited from my work comes from the frequent call or emails I get from clients, past or present, confirming that their life has indeed changed because they have changed. And that is a really important point.
Last night I had a call from a past client who, among other things, told me that he had not been my “most diligent” student. He didn’t use these exact words but that was the essence of his admission. He had heard me say on dozens of occasions that you need to carefully select the clients you choose to work with, they should be the ones in respect of whom you can create most value (and a few other criteria) and this will inevitably require a culling of some clients.
He agreed with this advice but could not bring himself to do it. Why? Fear is the answer I believe but it is a fear born out of a set of limiting beliefs such as: (1) I may not be able to replace these clients, (2) I want to do more higher value work but I don’t have the necessary skill, (3) If I let these clients go they might tell people not to deal with me. You may be able to add a few more reasons.
However, after talking a really close look at himself, his past and the beliefs that had been holding him back he simply made a decision to change his thinking and amazingly, when he changed his thinking everything else changed. I’m not going to go into that now but there is a neuro-scientific explanation for this happening.
He had been working with 50 clients, 20 did not meet his retention criteria so he let them go. He told me that from the remaining 30 clients he was able to create value that resulted in doubling the fees he had lost with the 20 clients.
Wonderful news though that was it came as absolutely no surprise. That is what happens when you rid yourself of clients that are a bad fit for you but the reason it happened was not that he fired some clients (method) it was because he changed the way he saw his role, a role that he could only play with the 30 clients who remained. And he has continued to build his practice with more of these types of clients and guess what? He’s happier and wealthier. All it took was a change in thinking i.e. personal development NOT the implementation of “best practice” methods.
What I have learned from those who have successfully implemented the ideas we share is that it’s an inside-out process. This is exactly what Stephen Covey talks about is The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. By inside-out I mean personal development comes before practice development. In one sentence it means taking responsibility for creating the future you want by dismantling the limiting beliefs that are holding you back.
When I talk in these terms I’m sure some people believe I’ve morphed into a meditating, vegan, hippie who doesn’t cut or wash his hair any more. Nothing could be further from the truth.
When we promote a webinar with the title “How you can create a $1 million practice” 500 people will register and 300 will turn up. A webinar with the title “How to create a great practice through your own personal development” 50 people will register and 10 will turn up.
Interestingly of the 500 people who register for the first webinar maybe 10 will actually follow the advice. Most of the rest will be satisfied just to get their CPE credits and pass the time of day watching the presentation and thinking: “If only that guy new what I know about our team members, our clients, our competitors and our environment.”
This view of the world reflects what is called a set limiting beliefs but the over-riding limiting belief is that circumstances determine your destiny and the best you can do is react to those circumstances. The fact that some people have created a practice that’s sending them home with in excess of $1 million is assumed to be the result of luck or skill that “I” don’t possess – just another limiting belief. Please don’t assume that I think you should aspire to building a $million practice if for no other reason than even if you accomplish that it’s highly unlikely it will make you happy – money rarely, if ever, does.
Accountants generally see themselves as a group of no BS, concrete thinkers so when I talk about the idea that personal development must be accomplished before significant practice development will occur I’m sure many think I’ve morphed into a meditating, vegan, hippie who neither washes nor cuts his hair and has lost contact with the “real” world. Nothing could be further from the truth. I can say this after 30 years in the trenches – sustainable change in a practice results from a change in the way it is led and that is just another way of saying a change in its leader(s).
One of my very influential mentors is Zig Zigler who sadly passed away in 2012. He was blessed with a skill of being able to communicate in very simple language profoundly important ideas on how to live a better life. Take a 5 minutes to view this video of him sharing a couple of critically important life lessons. And then make the time to click around YouTube and check out the many other presentations that lend credibility to what I’m talking about here.