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Archive for February, 2014

We call tax season “busy season” for a reason – everyone in the firm is exceptionally busy churning out the tax returns for our valuable individual and business clients.  However, it’s important to be mindful that busy season can also present additional marketing opportunities that will lead to new business after busy season.

  • Value Add.  This is a good time to work on becoming a client’s trusted advisor.  Make value added recommendations while at their offices.  Ask them what the 5 year plan is for their business’ growth and development.  And, what keeps them up at night.  With this information, we can help them achieve their goals and solve their problems.  We should get client contacts signed up for applicable firm newsletters, tax tips, seminars, etc.  This will provide contacts you’re working with information that will help them beyond tax season.
  • Ask for the referral.  Once you have a great client relationship, let them know you enjoy doing their work. Clients are your best sales people – they already believe in our firm and our abilities.
  • Don’t forget referral sources.  Call one of your top referral sources to see if they have any new leads.  Set up a lunch.  Hey, everyone needs to eat no matter how busy they are!  They will be impressed you took the time to call them during busy season.  Remember, you are helping them as much as they are helping you.
  • Client Service.  Nurture client relationships and let them know how important they are to your firm.  Don’t just assume they know this – tell them.  When appropriate, ask them if there are things we could be doing better. Client service and strong relationships with clients are critical to the future of your firm.

It is so important (and easy) to stay in front of clients and prospects during these next few months.  With just a little time each week, it is possible to turn busy season into marketing season!

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The weather hasn’t been very nice, but cheer up the first sign of spring (which is 30 days away) has occurred with pitchers and catchers reporting this weekend.

I’d like to continue expanding upon the ten traits described in the Withum Way, all of which define our culture and the behaviors which best exemplify our people.  Today we will cover point seven:

7. Embrace the Family Spirit. WS+B people are not afraid to endear themselves to one another.  They are colleagues and they are friends.

We often say what makes our Firm so special is its culture.  But, the true essence of that culture is our people and the relationships we have with one other.  One of the reasons why I enjoy walking around the offices I visit is not only to extend a personal hello to our staff, but to take a peek at the wonderful photos hanging on the walls of the cubicles and offices.  As expected, there are many of spouses, kids, and pets.  But, I also see great photos from our firm events or community outreach efforts, with staff smiling, arm-in-arm, often times wearing a Withum-blue team shirt of some sort.  I hear stories about staff meeting up outside of the office beyond normal work hours to just hang out for a drink or go to a movie, because they truly enjoy each other’s company.  This tells me we are more than co-workers.  We are friends; we are an extended family.  We aren’t afraid to care for and about each other.  Indeed, we have a very special Firm.

The challenge is to continue our great culture, so go out of your way this week to get to know another person in our Firm that you are least familiar with.

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It is always good to be reminded that our clients are the core reason why we are a thriving professional services firm.  They need and require the services we provide, but choose to remain WS+B clients.  We encourage everyone to establish a relationship with their clients, and not view their engagements as lists of to-do’s to check off as they are completed, and then you move on.  Here are a few tips to help you do the same:

  • Understand your clients internal controls, so you fully understand how your client’s business works.  If need be, leverage the talents of different groups within your company.  Certainly, if you understand your clients’ businesses, you are better able to advise against problems which may arise.
  • Get to know other key people within the company, and what it is they do that is instrumental in day-to-day operations.
    • Ask the client, “What keeps you up at night?” to see if you can help find a solution.  It’s likely that you have a deep well of talent of expertise at your firm, as well as a vast network of resources of those services we you may not directly provide (insurance, investments, payroll, etc.).  You can likely help solve any problematic issue at hand.
    • If they sell through retail or wholesale outlets, go and see how their products are actually sold.  If they manufacture a product, take a tour of the facility.  See for yourself how their core business runs.
    • Check out their website on a regular basis.  At the very least, check it right before a client visit.  It is sure to have information related to recent news or product/service offerings. And don’t forget about their blogs, Facebook page or Twitter entries, if they are active with social media.

As a Firm, we make every effort to do our part in the client retention process: hiring the best and the brightest talent possible; providing education and training to our staff; implementing cutting-edge technology for ease of client communications; and conducting annual client surveys to keep a pulse on their needs.  But the rest is up to you… the individual professional!

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Today, I’d like to share a message regarding “ownership of your work,” crediting John Mortenson, Partner-in-Charge of our Firm’s New Brunswick office, who shared this sage advice…

Ownership of your work

For staff at every level, the common theme which distinguishes whether someone is excelling or just collecting a pay check revolves around taking “ownership” to the work we do.  We use this phrase over and over but what it comes down to is assuming responsibility to ensure we provide world class client service.  Every day, I hear of examples of staff who really do understand what it means, but every now and then I hear examples of us not executing properly.  For us to be successful, we need everyone to assume ownership, which includes the following:

  • Assume responsibility for an engagement from the second it comes in, until the moment it goes out the door.  This would include not just the part of the project you are working on, but the entire engagement. 
  • Take it upon yourself to be sure that every member of the engagement team (that includes staff below and above your level) provides world class client service and not assume that someone else will do it.  
  • Do not wait until the last second to deliver the project, and yes, that may mean burning the midnight oil on occasion.  That also means you need to know the due date of the project.  It means each member of the engagement team needs to hold up their end.  When one person fails, the burden falls upon the others on the job which is not fair.  However, we also need to step up and help other staff when the situation arises.
  • Follow up with other team members on the status once you have complete your portion of the project.  Don’t wash your hands of the project just because you finished your assigned task.  Make sure the project gets completed and see if there is anything you can do help.
  • In summary, take it upon yourself to make sure we under-promise and over-deliver on every job and hold those that do not accountable. 

 

This is great advice for everyone.  Owning your work means to have the instinct and the drive to take on its responsibilities – completely.  Do it the best you can; do it the best it can be done.  And if you have to work a couple of extra nights to get the work done, then you need to do it.  Demonstrating this level of dedication to your job is how you convert from a person going to work every day to one that is spending every day building a career. That is how you win client loyalty.

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