Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Surprise at the Pump

I recently visited with a client in the Northeast. I stopped at a gas station on my way to the airport to fill the tank of my rental car. As usual I stepped out of the car, swiped my credit card, and started pumping gas. I looked up and noticed that a man was watching me, not saying a word. Now, I'm wondering why this man is watching me. Finally, I asked, "Is this a full service station?" He nodded and said, "Yes." What a surprise! I haven't been to a full service gas station in 20 years. He finished pumping the gas, handed me my receipt, and said, "Have a nice day."

What a pleasant experience I had at that gas station, unusual to say the least. It was like the pizza delivery man arriving earlier than expected or a retailer honoring an expired coupon. What is your firm doing to unexpectedly delight clients? Calling them rather than sending an e-mail? Taking them to lunch rather than just calling them? Delivering a project or report early? Identifying solutions to problems they didn't even know they had?

Today's economy is causing many CPA firms to refocus their marketing efforts. Client service and satisfaction is a key component. Be sure to pay attention to your clients and do what it takes to ensure their satisfaction and loyalty. Your competition is more than willing to do so if you are not.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Performance Management Do's and Don'ts

Heidi Brundage, CPA, PCPS Project Manager, AICPA, presented "Performance Management Do's and Don'ts" at the recent Practitioners Symposium. Performance management is becoming increasingly important in team development and accountability. How effective is your firm in modeling these best practices?

Managing Partner Do's:
  • Be a role model
  • Link compensation to performance
  • Support annual process training
  • Learn about diversity among team members
  • Encourage mentoring and soft skills training

Performance Champion Do's:

  • Gain executive buy-in
  • Review process periodically
  • Communicate the process
  • Tie performance plans to learning
  • Offer process training
  • Support those who counsel poor performers

Counselor Do's:

  • Practice and prepare examples
  • Understand competencies in the competency model
  • Educate counselors on opportunities for growth
  • Ask questions
  • Balance good with bad
  • Offer help in negative situations

Counselee Do's:

  • Recap what you have done over the past year
  • If successful, explain why
  • Gather feedback from multiple sources
  • If not successful, explain why and future plans to change
  • Review goals in relation to actual

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

10 Marketing Tips for Small Firms on a Budget

Thank you to those who attended our session, "10 Marketing Tips for Small Firms on a Budget," at 7:00 a.m. this morning at the AICPA Practitioners Symposium! Here are the tips that Mike Shost, CPA, Shost & Company, and I shared:
  1. Ensure client satisfaction.
  2. Determine cross-selling opportunities.
  3. Define your target markets.
  4. Work your network.
  5. Stay in front of clients, prospects, and referral sources.
  6. Don't be afraid to ask for leads.
  7. Understand the power of public relations.
  8. Demonstrate your expertise through seminars.
  9. Embrace technology and electronic media.
  10. Have a plan.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Koltin's Perspective

Coming to you live from Las Vegas. I am here attending the AICPA Practitioners Symposium. I will present "10 Marketing Tips for Small Firms on a Budget" tomorrow at 7:00 a.m. More on that tomorrow.

During his session, "Succeeding in the Changing Financial Environment," Allan Koltin, CPA, President and CEO, PDI Global, shared his perspective on many issues:
  • It is time to upgrade talent. Rate your talent on a scale of 1-10, 10 = super star and 1 = why are they here? Eliminate those rated 1-4.
  • One Big 4 firm has cut their rates by 30% in selected markets. This will increase competition with local firms in those markets.
  • More firms are willing to run their firms like a business.
  • More partners are involved in goal setting, incorporating accountability and coaching.
  • CEOs and Audit Committees are looking for firms to deliver 80% of current value for lesser fees.
  • There will be more mergers in the next five years than the last 10 years combined.
  • There has been more activity regarding lateral and merged-in partners in the past five years than there has been in the last 20 years.
  • Koltin is not seeing a lot of 30-somethings starting their own firms. Perhaps this is because there are better firms today and they don't want to leave.
  • The average growth rate for 2009 is predicted to be 3%.

Now, I'll try my luck at the slot machines. That's about as daring as I get with gambling!