Tag Archives: performance

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

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.

An Accountant’s Top 10 for Professional Service Providers

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

1. Forget the timeclock. Ask a client why they came to you and they won’t say to buy hours. Whatever you value in your office is what your staff will emphasize. If you stress that all staff time should be chargeable then they will make sure all their time is billed but their emphasis will be on billing time rather than solving client problems.. However, if you ask the client what they want, they want results. Hours have very little correlation to results. If you start measuring success the way the client measures it, then your staff will put their efforts to accomplishing that. Another problem in the current model is when we bill a client for little things that have no relation to what the clients want such as billing for copies, long distance, etc. When you go to Wal-Mart you pick an item off the shelf and you say I am willing to pay the marked price for this item. You agree on value and go on. Compare this to the service industry, which says we can help you but that will be $500 per hour plus expenses. If you expect the bill to be $1,000 then estimate it at $1,300 and take the unknown out of the picture for the client. Now they agree on what they are paying for the result they want. You get a premium price because you took the risk and they get a fixed price, which they are comfortable with. Why is that concept so hard for service firms to grasp?

2. Measure client excitement by number of referrals. An excited client tells many, a happy client tells few, a satisfied client tells no one, an unhappy client tells everyone. Consider rewarding staff for referrals from clients. What you reward is what staff will emphasize. Very few clients will refer someone they are not excited about. Therefore, by simply rewarding referrals you will encourage staff to do all the things necessary to make a client excited. Send the client a little special gift thanking them when they refer someone. Clients love it when you appreciate what they do. On the other hand if you have to beg them for referrals, they are often uncomfortable because they equate this with all the high pressure door to door sales they have experienced in life. If you aren’t getting referrals you need to look at your services, how you deliver them and reinvent your business. More on that in item 8 below.

3. Do what is important, hand off the rest. Most professionals got in business because they were good at their profession and that does not necessarily translate to being good at running their own business. When you started your business you had to do it all because there was no one else. As you grow, you have to step back and ask yourself what is most important to the growth of your business. There are typically just a few key things that the “rainmaker” in the business does to drive the business. Once you identify those key drivers you need to hire or contract with others to get rid of all but those key tasks. The true cost is not what you pay to outsource day-to-day tasks. The true cost is what it costs in lost profits by you diverting your time away from the key drivers of your business.

4. Contract with someone to harness the power of the web. SEO, key words, social media, etc. Professionals are slow to change so your competition isn’t doing it YET. The older you are, the more afraid you are of the internet and that is good when it comes to professional service firms because most are not very creative or open to change. That means the first one to embrace change gets the biggest piece of the pie at the lowest cost. Many industries stay on the leading edge in technology but professional service firms are usually late adopters. When it comes to driving business via the web look for someone who has been successful. I recently started working with a web firm that ran an analysis and predicted a 7 to 1 return for the fees they charge me. That is an easy decision. If they can deliver then I gain $7 in new revenue for every $1 I spend with them. Once you start looking in this area you will be bombarded but narrow your search to those who are willing to deliver a return on your investment and have some track record you can check out.

5. Find an accountant who can read the tea leaves in your financials to you. Your financials tell a story of where you’ve been and where you need to go if you will just read the book. Numbers are pretty boring and most professionals like to get their financial statement and stick it in the drawer. I always tell people everyone makes mistakes but we try and not make the same mistake twice. If you don’t understand what your financials are telling you, how can you avoid repeating the same problems you had in the past? The numbers in your financials can help you spot trends, compare to industry standards, see where costs are out of line, predict your ability to take on new debt, predict the value of your business, tell you when labor costs are out of line and lots of other things. If you don’t understand the numbers, find someone who does and pay them well to help you use the numbers to manage your business.

Join un next Monday, November 29th, for the conclusion of this series.

Photo credit by bredmaker.