The Art of Accounting

Your firm’s fee structure should make sense to everyone at the firm. That’s the easy part. Much more difficult is having it make sense to your clients. If you have received feedback that your fees are too high the problem may not be the fees. More likely, your clients cannot see, feel, hear or touch the added value you bring to them. The problem is communication.

I read an article online, Art of Accounting: I Lost a Client to an Accounting Firm with Cheaper Fees, that addresses that very problem. In that case, the firm partner realized that client perceptions didn’t match up with the added value the firm offered all clients. Fees were, he thought, fairly structured. The reality was he and his team were not very good at effectively communicating the value to their clients.

If you have lost clients because they perceive your fees are too high, don’t immediately restructure fees, but do take action.

The ability to communicate your firm’s value in a manner that the client can understand, completely understand, is the key to retaining clients.  If your associates are using too many accounting acronyms and jargon, along with empty words, then they are not communicating (read my blog post about Buzzwords).

Effective communication is about making a connection with another person and building long-term, sustainable relationships.

Soft Skills Training Improves Results

The-Value-of-Soft-Skills-in-a-Hard-World-1100x400Recently I read an article in Speaker Magazine, The Value of Soft Skills in a Hard World by David Ryback.  I am a big advocate of soft skills training, so I found this article particularly interesting.

Especially important for firms are the documented results other companies have experienced, results they credit to soft skills improvement after investing in training:

• Sanofi-Aventis, an Australian pharmaceutical firm, enjoyed a 12 percent increase in sales after training its sales force in soft skills. • According to the Hay/McBer Group, insurance agents trained in soft skills sold policies averaging $114,000 compared to less trained associates who sold policies averaging $54,000.

• At L’Oreal, sales agents with soft skills training sold $91,370 more than their less trained counterparts, resulting in increased revenue of $2,558,360.

• Recruiters trained in soft skills save the U.S. Air Force $3 million per year, according to a General Accounting Office report. What soft skills account for these successes? Soft skills deal with three main factors: awareness, performance and outcome.

While the term “soft skills” may sound lightweight, the impact on your business and the results derived are anything but light! I’d be happy to talk with you about soft skills training, the courses I offer and how we can customize a program to best benefit your firm.

We Have a Winner!

WSCPA pic“…and there I was, sitting at the controls of the new Boeing 777 while the captain took a nap!”

At least that’s what Hayden Williams, VP of Education with the Washington Society of CPAs, thinks I’m saying. Hayden, a $25 Starbuck’s gift card is on it’s way to you.

Thanks for all the entries and the laughs! Who says accounting can’t be fun?

Networking Tools

social_networkingBuilding a productive network of friends, colleagues and associates doesn’t just happen. It takes a bit of planning and effort. For years I’ve used two simple forms to help me Identify, build and expand my network. You may want to read my blog post, Networking: Even Accountants Can Mingle first, then feel free to use my forms as is or revise to fit your needs. With a little work, you can grow a strong network. Let me know it goes for you – I’d love to hear your success stories.

Here are my tools, hope they help you:    Identify / Build Network            Expand Network

Networking – The Mindset

In my blog posting titled Networking: Even Accountants Can Mingle, I discussed four networking tips that you can use immediately. I would like to discuss in greater detail some things around tip number one – the Mindset.

The Mindset is all about attitude – having the right attitude, believing in yourself, having a plan, and the simplest thing of all – remembering to smile!

In the months of May and June, I spoke at eight conferences and two in-house workshops that stretched across nine states.  I recognized that I would have the opportunity to meet over 1,000 individuals during this journey. So I devised a plan where I would meet at a minimum five people at each one of my stops. My plan was simple –I would simply introduce myself to people that I didn’t know either at the breaks or after my presentation ended. (You thought my plan was going to involve a lot more than that, didn’t you?)

In early July, I counted the number of business cards that I received over this timeframe, and I have 65 business cards. Wow! (65 cards divided by 8 stops = 8.125 cards per stop. I beat my goal! Now I just need to figure out who was the .125 person I met.)

I started thinking about these people that I just met and a few really stood out:

  • At the Association of Accounting Administrators Conference in Detroit, I met a woman who is a partner in a CPA firm, whose role is the office administrator, and she not a CPA.
  • At the Maryland Association of CPAs Innovation Conference in Baltimore, I met a gentleman who is the managing director of a technology company, which is located in Honolulu and he is a speaker for the AICPA.
  • At the National Association of Black Accountants Annual Convention in Nashville, I met a woman who is from Ethiopia, who is a US CPA, working for a CPA firm in Nashville.

These are just three of the fascinating individuals I had the opportunity to meet and learn about – all in a matter of two months! And all because I made a commitment to open myself up to networking. I had a positive attitude, I believed in myself, I had a plan, and I smiled! Networking really is all about the Mindset.

As the conversation would come to a close with each person I met, I would always end by saying, “please feel free to contact me at any time if I can do anything for you.”

Treat every gathering as an opportunity to meet someone fascinating.  With the right mindset, I know you will.