Know how your clients feel (about you the accountant)

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If only you could know exactly how your clients feel.

Good news: I can tell you.

At least, I can tell you how they feel if they’re like me, because I’m a business owner using an accountant, and here’s what I’ve learned.

Your clients want the latest technology.  

One of the reasons I moved accountants last year was that our previous accountants wouldn’t use Xero.  We use our accountants because they use Xero and Crunchboards and Chaser and all those amazing integrated apps that are part of our daily life.  I forget sometimes how many people don’t know that something like ReceiptBank exists.  It’s your job to show them exactly how amazing it is.

And the whole Xero-plus-the-add-ons thing really is amazing.  I was Skyping my accountants and working on CrunchBoards forecasts the other day, and for the first time I got very excited about working on those forecasts. I could see everything being pulled in, and the cash flow being separated out, and set up new scenarios…it was actually fun.  Not to mention up to date.  When I had an Excel spreadsheet, I was constantly having to go in and make changes, or we’d be working on different versions.

It matters that you know their industry.

The second reason we changed accountants was that we wanted our accountants to understand what we care about. As a digital marketing agency, it’s reassuring knowing that my accountants work with digital creatives and everything they do is crafted to help our kind of business.  They run events we care about.  They send helpful emails.

Your clients need you for everything.

Recently we finalised the split of the LLP, so that The Profitable Firm now runs as a limited company which I own and manage fully. I’ve been a business owner for years, but in some ways we went back to the starting gate. New Xero account, new ReceiptBank account, using CrunchBoards to set up proper forecasts, the whole lot.

Best of all, we were able to have our accountants take over the bookkeeping, the payroll, the VAT, the bank recs… Eventually all I will ever have to do is play about with cash flow forecasts now and then.

If you’re only doing a few things for your clients, it’s almost a guarantee that they want more.  They just don’t know it yet – or the need hasn’t arisen yet.

Talk to your clients now and then.

Most of you do this very well – but it’s good to be reminded.  On the day the LLP split was finalised, I phoned Paul to thank him for all their support throughout. Literally could not have done it without them, and I wanted to make sure he knew it.

A two minute phone call turned into an hour of talking about my business and his business and digital marketing ideas and websites and team members, and that’s better than a formal presentation any day of the week.

When anything slightly momentous happens in the lives of your clients, call them. Or if they ring you for a quick question, don’t rush off as soon as it’s answered.  It’s not a ploy to get more business – but in the end, you will.  Because things will come up that your clients didn’t dream of mentioning to you, but now can get help with.

Your clients hate being charged by the hour.

One of the best feelings I have as a business owner is that no matter what I talk to my accountants about, it’s all part of what they do for me.

Granted, we went through the whole proposal and the list of services and it was all agreed ahead of time – but if times are ever tight, the fees to the accountant are the last thing to go.

If you have strategic partnerships, it makes your clients’ lives easier. 

It wasn’t just the accounting items I ask them about.  My accountants recommended solicitors, insurance agents, and funders – and everyone they recommended were just like them. Friendly, helpful, professional, valuable, and swift. Why would I use anyone else? (Speaking of which, if any of your clients need to raise funding and do it quickly, both Graham Niven and the people at LDF were brilliant.)

It’s okay if things don’t go perfectly.  

When you really appreciate someone you work with, you can’t expect perfection.  You expect professionalism, but also humanity.  Sometimes things got missed, or lost, or appointments got shifted. But in the end, things get done, and they get done right.

Your clients want a listening ear if something doesn’t go right.

All of us in the professional service have a bad habit of being nervous or worried if someone is upset or frustrated or something hasn’t gone right – and we can feel embarrassed or not want to talk to the client in case more things go wrong.

I’ve learned a long time ago that if a client isn’t happy for any reason, the best response is always to thank them, ask for more detail, and then do everything possible to fix it.

When I talk to my accountant, among other things I sometimes give feedback on an issue that wasn’t done perfectly. His response always is, “This is brilliant feedback – we really appreciate your telling us. Keep telling us these things so we can do better.”

This makes it far more likely that I’ll keep working with them, first because I love what they do for us, but secondly because if for any reason I don’t love it, I know they’ll listen and fix it.

That’s all your clients really want – is to know that you hear them, you want to fix it, and the status of that fixing.

Your clients need you to recognise their expertise, too.

No matter how helpful my accountants are with the profit and loss statements or VAT returns or detailed tax planning, at the end of the day I’m the one who knows my clients, my profits, my forecasts, and my business.  That message has to get across.

Each of us are experts in our own area – and we recognise that in each other.  Letting your clients continue to be the experts they are – in plumbing, in gardening, in custom woodwork, in retail, in technology, in creativity – while you do the same, is what good business is all about.

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