Integrity is another of the four pillars on which we stand at The Profitable Firm.
Unfortunately, the word ‘integrity’ is the kind of word that businesses love to put into vision statements or mission statements or on website landing pages, but it doesn’t always mean much in terms of the work the company does. Worse, it is sometimes used by companies who don’t mean it.
We assure you that we do mean it at The Profitable Firm: and to help you understand how we implement it, we’re applying the #integritypillar to content marketing for accountants – because that’s how you can ensure that you’re getting the best results for your clients, too.
Integrity means striving to get things right: not perfection itself.
One of the most important things we identify in our partnership agreement is that we – from time to time – will get things wrong.
It’s important to identify this clearly, because:
- Everyone does get things wrong from time to time
- It means we’re human
- It helps us (and you) focus on priorities if things do go wrong (ie, let’s get this marketing material finished first, and then talk about why and how later)
- Most accountants are perfectionists, so there’s a temptation to hold all suppliers to the perfection standard
What most people want is integrity in communication.
It has really struck me recently how powerful it is to contact a client with an update.
Sometimes a client will get in touch and ask “How’s this project coming along?” Back in the early days of providing services, I used to get those emails and panic a little. “Oh no! We’re behind schedule! The client is unhappy! It’s all falling apart!”
Over time I’ve discovered that most of the time what that means is, “I don’t have clarity on what’s happening.” Naturally if you’re getting too many of those emails, you may be overcommitted and it’s time to address resourcing, hiring, or systems. But in general, integrity means sharing the honest truth about where things are: including “whoops, we forgot to send you this file” or “I’m afraid we’re a little behind on this one”.
When you’re seeking to build trust with prospective clients, honesty and full disclosure helps immensely. For new website projects, I’ve stopped giving the best case scenario when it comes to project deadlines. All that does is frustrate and discourage people, because in my experience there is hardly a website project in the world that is launched on the original (very optimistic) scheduled date. Far better to say, “It can take anywhere from 3-6 months, depending on how quickly we hear from you, any delays in getting meetings arranged, and additional custom items added once we start.”
Integrity does mean doing what’s right.
In our culture of “everyone is entitled to their own opinion”, we’re navigating deep waters when we start talking about right and wrong. Oddly enough, though, we all seem to still have that internal moral compass that tells us what these are – and that holds true in providing business services:
- Don’t honour yourself above others.
- Tell the truth.
- Don’t lie.
- Don’t promise what you can’t deliver.
- Show respect for other people.
- Be generous and give.
- Honour those with experience and wisdom. Don’t be arrogant.
- Don’t sabotage someone else to get ahead.
- Don’t steal others’ things (intellectual property, content, images, graphics, ideas).
- Think about how you would feel if the situation were happening to you.
Those are some of the guiding principles we live by at The Profitable Firm – and our clients do, too. If we ever get a hint that we’re working with (or about to work with) someone who has no wish to respect these principles, the relationship won’t last long.
Similarly, when we connect with a potential strategic partner, or someone working with our target audience, and their online and offline activities show that they are a person of integrity, it’s far more likely that we’ll work with them. It’s an easy indicator.
Integrity is what your prospective clients are looking for.
When someone is looking actively for an accountant, chances are they’ve been let down by their existing accountant. Most of the time (we hope) it’s the kind of reasons that could happen to anyone. It wasn’t a fit, they grew out of a small local accountant, things were delayed or not done on time, there was no communication.
But for some, it’s for more serious reasons. Their accountant failed to file something on time, costing them thousands in penalties. They went into bankruptcy because they had a bad accountant. Or even worse.
The right kind of clients – the type accountants tell me they want – are looking for an accountant with integrity. And this includes all the things we’ve talked about above.
They want you to not only deliver good quality services, but provide more than they knew was possible, with good communication along the way.
It’s achievable: many of our clients are doing this daily.
Sadly, it’s also still fairly rare: I’ve lost count of the number of accountants who tell me they signed another client because the previous accountant was less than honest.
The great news is that every time other accountants aren’t living up to the possibilities and what prospects need, you’ve got the opportunity to stand out. Be truly different (not simply say so on your website).
We trust our focus on integrity at The Profitable Firm encourages you to consider how you can implement it into your own firm – and be real about it within your marketing.
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