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Posts Tagged ‘personal development’

Let’s face it.  As service providers in the accounting profession, not only are we expected to deliver world-class service to our clients, but it is imperative that we bring in new business to propel growth.  We work in a very competitive marketplace, thus we need to spend a lot of time and energy visiting prospects and pitching our services. When I hear that we lost an opportunity due to fees, I can’t help but wonder if we just didn’t sell our value well enough.  There will always be someone offering the same services for lower fees… sometimes much lower fees.

“Selling value” means having the ability to clearly explain how we can solve those problems which plague these prospects at that time. In order to establish the value or worth of our services and solutions, we first need to learn about the problem they are facing and how it affects the performance of their company. This can be expressed in terms of sales, profits, employee turnover, order accuracy, customer retention or satisfaction, time to market, market share, etc. Learn to ask tough, high-value questions that will help you understand the impact of the problem. Most people are uncomfortable asking deep, probing questions because they believe that the prospect will think that they are prying. However, personal experience has taught me that most key decision makers respect professionals who ask tough questions. Once we are in front of a prospect, you can ask questions such as:

  • “What are your long term goals?”
  • “Do you have a succession plan?”
  • “What is keeping you up at night?”
  • “How good are your controls?…..over cash receipts?…..cash disbursements?”
  • “How is that affecting…?”
  • “What impact is that having on customer loyalty, market share, etc.?”
  • “What is that costing you in terms of lost sales, profitability, etc.?”
  • “How important is this compared to other projects you have on your plate right now?”
  • “If we had an appropriate solution, what would that mean to your company or you personally?”

After you have determined the importance and the impact of a particular problem, you can then demonstrate the worth or value of our services to the prospect. What value do Withum professionals have to offer?

  1. We solve problems. Remember the pitch to a potential client is all about them and their pain. If we ask questions similar to those listed above and we successfully uncover why they are even entertaining us for the work, we need to demonstrate how we can provide a solution to their problem. This could include an offer to review past tax returns for free (we would charge to implement suggestions) or send out one of our internal controls people for a day to do a review of key controls (again, we would charge to implement suggestions). This will demonstrate to the potential client that we care about their business and that we are there to partner with them in making their business more successful, of course always being within the bounds of maintaining independence where necessary.
  1. We offer world-class client service. The purpose behind most everything we do at our firm revolves around the betterment of our relationships with our clients. This is the impetus behind providing ‘world-class client service.’ We fully appreciate that our clients need accounting services, but choose to work with our firm.
  1. We have deep industry expertise. We believe that to put our clients in a position of strength, we need to be at the heart of their industry. Focused industry expertise is a core attribute of our talent. Our partners and managers specialize in key lines of business to provide the best possible service, taking the time to intimately understand what drives their market — and their success.
  1. We have many long-term relationships. Our stability has permitted us to develop long-term relationships in the banking, legal and financial services fields.  With strong roots in the business community, we have built relationships which afford our clients with referrals to the finest services available in these areas. As for our clients, we have many who have been with us for nearly four decades.
  1. We offer the Withum Way Culture. Our people are smart, passionate, loyal and dedicated. We respect and care for each other, both personally and professionally. You are not just another client; you are a friend of the firm; a member of the Withum family. And we are there for our clients as a strategic partner in helping them succeed.

Please refer to our Firm brochure if you are looking for more ammunition on our value.  It’s a great tool.

Remember, if you have not fully uncovered your prospect’s problem and determined exactly how our services can help them solve a particular business issue, then our fees will always seem too high unless we happen to be the lowest priced bid. There is a significant difference between cost and worth.  And working with the talented professionals at our firm is worth the extra fees in the short-term, with the prospective client reaping the benefits of our expertise in the long-term.

Thanks and have a great week.

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In today’s MP Message, we will be covering the second topic from Jack & Suzy Welch’s book, The Real-Life MBA: Your No-BS Guide to Winning the Game, Building a Team, and Growing Your Career, which is: You Gotta Have Growth.

The only thing that is constant is change, as the old adage states. Moving forward and staying competitive requires constant adaptability, development and growth.  We continually see many changes in our firm, be it the addition of new staff at every level, new titles within departments, new software being implemented… all done in the spirit of accommodating growth and staying on top of our game. Growth is great because it is what gives people job security, pays for a child’s college tuition, buys a home and all the while builds meaningful careers. Growth is a huge part of what makes business fun.

The Real Life MBA shares these six levers which have proven to be effective catalysts for growth:

  1. Eyes Wide Open (or ‘fresh eyes’) – If you want growth, no matter the size of a company or where you sit in it, be it a leading niche or department, don’t be afraid of a new pair (or more!) of fresh eyes on your team.  And by that, we refer to the newly hired people we bring in. As a firm, we are excited to recruit the best and brightest in the profession from other firms, or merge in smaller firms. These professionals are always willing to integrate into our culture and ways of doing things, of course. But remember to tap into the value they bring with their experience and new perspective on the current way we do things here. The fact is, we don’t know what we don’t know. So a fresh point of view can help recharge a team or help spark ideas on new growth initiatives.
  1. Concentrate, Don’t Dilute – When allocating budget resources, sprinkling a little here or a little there tends to be ineffective, particularly with growth initiatives. Focus on what will make the most impact and go with that. Quoting Jack Welch, “If you want growth, don’t hedge your bets. Go big to get big.” As we all know, we keep a close eye on our spending as a firm and can’t offer enough money for every last growth initiative. When looking at department or niche budget allocations, spend what you have to, spend what you can. Just no sprinkling. Concentrate on a few things for bigger impact.
  1. All Hands on Deck – In business, we hear the word ‘innovate’ frequently within the scope of growth. And maybe epic inventors such as Steve Jobs or Bill Gates comes to mind immediately, leaving you feeling a bit intimidated when asked to contribute to the innovation within a team. Don’t be! Innovation in business is likely to occur when it is defined to mean incremental improvements that are held to everyone’s job. It can and should be a mindset that has everyone saying everyday as they walk through the door, “I’m going to find a better way to do my job today.” Amazing ideas can be born when done collectively as a team.
  1. Match Talent to the Task – If you want growth, you have to staff the engines of growth with your best. This seems like a no-brainer, but it is a point that is oftentimes overlooked because of time constraints or lack of resources. Assign projects to the right people. Growth doesn’t lead itself.
  1. Keep Compensation Fresh – Measure and compensate your people for their performance accordingly. According to the book, “Performance and compensation systems go stale with time… So you may think your organization measures people for the right things, and pays them for the right things, but such thinking could be more wishful than accurate.” As a firm, we have looked and continue to look at how our professionals are compensated to keep them motivated and satisfied. We encourage you to be very mindful of evaluations and niche member ratings, as these are the basis of raises, bonuses and promotions.
  1. The Competition… Inside – You know the ones… jealous, petty resisters who moan and groan about new ideas or processes or people. And their subterfuge can take a real toll on the psyche of team members. I’ve seen it first hand: talented, bright staff who get turned off completely by this type of nonsense. If you are aware of it, I ask you to let me know immediately, or at least let your PIC know. There’s enough competition going on outside of our firm; we won’t allow for this type of influence within the firm.

I hope you enjoyed this installment of the thought leadership coming from The Real Life MBA.

Have a great week!

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I had the pleasure of sitting in on a few of the staff evaluations conducted in May and June. It confirmed what I already know: we have many talented, great people working at WithumSmith+Brown in all of our departments –professional staff, administrative support, finance, HR, Marketing and IT.

Our people also have great ambition with a desire to build satisfying life-long careers. We are well aware that opportunities outside of the firm are continually being presented to our staff.  When I came to our firm in 1980, I expected to stay five years as part of my own professional development plan, and then move on elsewhere.  But what I discovered was that the best long-term plan was to stay right here at our firm. Throughout my career, I received many calls from recruiters and offers from clients to join them. But after careful consideration of each opportunity, I decided to remain with Withum. And on many levels – intellectually, professionally and financially – that consistently reaffirmed decision to stay has paid off. Now granted, we are a different firm compared to when I was making these decisions. But in many ways, the career opportunities offered today are even greater. We are a growing, thriving firm in an intellectually stimulating profession, and the long-term financial rewards can be significant.

My lessons here can be applied to those in any position.  In the spirit of professional growth and opportunity, we want to share a list we put together of “Top 10 Ways to Get You Moving Up the Ladder”:

  1. Feel confident and know every aspect of the position you have now. Always ask questions when you aren’t sure how to do something. Performing your current role 110% makes you an asset to your team and the firm we always need to remember to provide value to our firm and clients.
  2. Find out everything you can about the roles and responsibilities associated with the next level of advancement you want to achieve. Feel free to ask your Career Coach (see #4), PIC or department leader on what is expected of you in order to move up to the next level. Then ask yourself if what you are doing is helping you stay on the path to that promotion. A rule of thumb we like to offer is that you should walk-the-walk of the next level to get that promotion you want.
  3. Be a team player. Because so much of our work is accomplished through teams – departmental, niche or cross-functional – it becomes even more important to share successes with your team and to avoid pointing your finger when there are failures. By being a team player, you build a positive reputation and increase your value to the firm. Always share credit when things go well and take the blame when they don’t.
  4. Cultivate a relationship with a mentor. One recent study found that in four out of five promotions, those promoted had a mentoring relationship with someone higher in their company who helped spread the good word about them. We have formed a successful Career Coach Program to encourage the professional development of our accounting staff.
  5. Go above and beyond the call of duty. Be known as being willing to take on extra tasks when asked. Many times people make the mistake of just trying to fulfill their current job requirements. If you want to move up, you need to perform the tasks necessary for the NEXT level.
  6. Keep a positive outlook on things, even when in tough situations. Remember, enthusiasm for the job is infectious, and a smile and a pleasant attitude can work wonders. Keep in mind “life is good” at all times. Read the Dale Carnegie book, How to Win Friends and Influence People; this will help you put work and career challenges in perspective.
  7. Be punctual, reliable and accessible. It is a very good thing when a partner calls or e-mails you with a question, and you are there to respond right away. Always show up to meetings 10-15 minutes in advance and call into conference calls 5 minutes in advance.
  8. Join one of our Industry or Service niches. There’s no better way to build your personal brand as a thought leader and a professional – both inside and outside of the firm – than by getting involved with one (or two max) niche groups. Take advantage of the many networking and education opportunities the niches present by attending internal development meetings, industry conferences and networking events, or by joining a committee. We understand that these events sometimes take place outside of normal business hours, but they create tremendous opportunities for you to grow in your career and expand your business network. Participating in these activities helps to convert your efforts from “doing your job” to “building your career.”
  9. Join a board or committee of a community-based or professional organization. Part of our mission is to give back to the communities we serve and to support our profession. We strongly encourage our staff to get involved in both areas. This is also a great way to expand your network.
  10. Take all training opportunities offered and stay informed. It goes without saying that one of the best ways to succeed in being promoted is to expand your knowledge and skill sets in areas that are critical to our profession. As laws and regulations – and even technology – change rapidly, you need an ever-increasing skill set to perform your job. Attend the CPE programs we offer (pay attention while there) and keep apprised of accounting profession news by reading publications such as Accounting Today and NJ CPA, in addition to mainstream business news.

I hope you found this information useful. Following these suggestions will put you in a position of strength when being considered for future advancement.

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Recently, I had the pleasure of hearing Tom Flick speak for the second time in three months.  We had the privilege of having him as a presenter at our annual partners retreat held in October, and he was the keynote speaker at the Winning is Everything conference in Las Vegas this past month. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Tom, he is a former NFL quarterback who is now a respected motivational speaker, presenting on topics such as leadership, teamwork, change and personal growth, basing much of his content on his experiences in the NFL.

 

When he spoke at our partners retreat, we asked him to concentrate on encouraging our partners to push beyond their comfort zones and stress constant personal improvement. It was important that we bring home the message that while we are all successful in our own right, we can never “rest on our laurels”. The current competitive business climate requires us to constantly update our approach to the market and be on top of client service demands. If we fall short at this, we can certainly count on our competitors to fill the void. Tom spoke to our group about using “Go Language” in our business lives, going out of our way to reach beyond our comfort zones and the benefits of building legacy teams within our organization.

 

This was the first time we used a presenter outside of our profession and by all accounts it was a success. Like the senior executives in any organization, the partners in our Firm are critical to our success and keeping them motivated and all “on the same page” is extremely important to our long-term success.

 

Bill

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