An Accountant’s Top 10 for Professional Service Providers, Part 2

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ticked checkboxThe concluding piece in this 2-part series, read these tips to improve the performance and operation of your professional service practice.

6. Do a cost benefit analysis on media marketing. TV, radio & print are not dead but trends are changing. Any marketing should be done with Return On Investment (ROI) in mind. Most media come to your door with a set price and information as to how many people they will expose you to. That is great information to have but business today has to operate lean and mean. You have to spend your ad dollars where they deliver you the highest return. The key is to be willing to try different things but cut the costs quickly on those that don’t provide ROI. Try and run special promotions that you can measure and see what works. There is no magic solution here. However, this is truly a cost that can suck your last dollar of profit with no results. First, look at industry standards to determine what percentage of revenue others spend on advertising and then work from there on your options.

7. Your best promotion is free advice from the expert. Best way to promote your business is as an expert….speaking engagements, white papers, news articles, press releases, lunches, etc. When people have a problem they look for a solution. If no one knows you are the solution then they will never find you. You can spend huge amounts on advertising or you can spend time doing free education. Most civic clubs are always looking for speakers and topics. Do some research and find out what service you offer that solves the most pain for a particular group you want to target. Then put together a program and go after them. He who makes the claim becomes the expert. This won’t always drive people to you immediately but, when they have pain they will come.

8. Super serve your clients. Know what your client values and know what goes on in their lives. Don’t tell me how much you know until you show me how much you care. Our clients all expect a certain level of service to solve their problems. If we deliver only that level of service then we only met their expectations, which is exactly what happens when you go to McDonalds. They may not have the biggest or best meals but you know what you will get and it is a consistent product. Compare that to a five star restaurant where the wait staff greet you by name and escort you to your table with a perfect view. Then they serve you a five-course meal and everyone goes home really relaxed after a great evening of food and conversation. You need to make your office be a five star office. Make sure you understand your clients and do the little extra things it takes to let them know you care. I think it was Zig Ziglar that said you can have anything you want in life if you help enough people get what they want. We had a client come in once and our front desk staff asked them if they could get them anything. Jokingly the client said “I just had lunch, how about a piece of pie”. While the client was in my office the front desk ran out and purchased a large cream pie, which they gave the client when we finished our meeting. That client has told many others about that extra service they didn’t expect.

9. Begin with the end in mind. Set some goals on how you will exit. Most professionals never get beyond themselves being the only key to their business. The business that is worth the most is the one that runs without the owner being involved in the day to day operations. That is tough in the professional service area because the professional is a key part of the operation. First, you need to try and grow the business so it can support multiple professionals. This allows your clients to have the comfort you have a backup plan to take care of them. Second, you need to document how you run the business. You can never advance out of your position until you have someone to replace you. That means spending time documenting what you do, when you do it and why you do it. If you want consistency in your business this is a must. Third, you need to separate professional service duties from administrative and CEO duties. Those non-professional duties are often best handled by someone other than a professional.

10. Find a way to know what you don’t know. Every industry is constantly changing trends in other industries can upset your world. Get a plan to learn the trends before others. Education is never done for the professional service firm because there are always advances and changes in any profession. The big mistake most professionals make is just getting continuing education in their service area. To run a business you need to think like a CEO and that takes lots of non-professional skills. My advice is to constantly scan the headlines for information that could affect your profession and/or your clients. A good starting place is www.news.google.com and google fast flip. You need to be monitoring things like labor force changes, insurance industry changes, regulations, technology, new marketing techniques, etc. The more you know, the more valuable you are to your business and to your clients because your decisions will always be based on a broader level of knowledge than others. Whether you are helping your clients or running your business, you will find that both staff and clients want to know they are working with the best and that you will be here into the future to support their needs. Whenever, they start to question either of these two items you will lose good clients and staff. People generally want a true leader to follow. It is your job to gain the skills to be that leader and that is a constantly moving target in this rapidly changing world.

Photo credit by bredmaker.

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About Bert Doerhoff

After working for an international CPA firm Bert thought he knew it all so he moved 1,000 miles back home and started his own CPA firm from scratch in Missouri in 1978. Those first years were brutal but he learned from his mistakes and the firm was later named one of the “Digest 50” by CPA Digest as one of the top 50 most innovative firms in the nation. Since then he has been featured on the cover of Accounting Technology magazine and quoted in various national publications. Over the years he started separate firms to better serve clients in the areas of wealth management and payroll. Bert says “I always strive to hire those who care about others and are smarter than I am because I can learn from them and I want our clients to have the very best”.

In addition to professional accomplishments he has served on various civic, religious and charitable boards with a special emphasis on training the leaders of tomorrow. He was elected president of the Mo Association of Rural Education and still serves on the local public school board. Having raised four children Bert offers one last piece of advice. “Anyone who thinks they have all the answers should just raise another child.”

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