Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Inspiring Leader

Leadership is a hot topic these days and is one of the Seven Keys to Successful CPA Firm Management. I attended a webinar today sponsored by Soundview Executive Book Summaries about "Unlocking the Secrets of How Extraordinary Leaders Motivate." The speakers were the co-authors of The Inspiring Leader, John Zenger, Joseph Folkman and Scott Edinger.

Their research shows that inspiration is the most powerful of all leadership competencies. It is the best predictor of overall ratings of leadership effectiveness by direct reports, peers and managers. It is the quality most valued by employees. Inspiration is also the factor most correlated with employee commitment and satisfaction. And, the impact of inspiring and motivating others is consistent across different kinds of organizations and within different cultures.

During the webinar I asked, "How can inspiring leaders be held accountable?" The presenters offered this feedback:

  1. Evaluate the leader's performance on achieving his business objectives.
  2. Evaluate how people respond, which can be measured by employee retention, commitment, engagement, and their willingness to go the extra mile.
  3. Keep in mind that there are different ways to inspire. For example, enthusiasts are known for their pep talks, experts inspire using knowledge, and enhancers inspire by building relationships.

Here are a few more valuable tips:

  1. The ability to inspire doesn't require a big title.
  2. Align your firm's goals with the objectives of your people. People love their work when they feel that they are making a difference. People want to make a contribution and do something important.
  3. Find innovative ways to communicate. E-mail is impersonal. Face time is critical even if the amount of time needs to be reduced due to the economy or other factors.

What I've learned so far is that all of us have the opportunity to be inspiring leaders. The difference is that some of us take advantage of the opportunities while others just think about it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

LinkedIn: 7 Secrets for Populating Your Connections

I attended the American Marketing Association Hampton Roads Chapter luncheon today, "Lost on LinkedIn?," featuring author, speaker, consultant and radio host Mark Amtower. Mark's LinkedIn profile includes 500+ connections and 200+ recommendations. He is a member of 30+ LinkedIn groups, starting a few himself. So, he knows what he's talking about.

In the featured video Mark explains why CPAs should be LinkedIn and recommends the amount of time that should be spent managing your LinkedIn profile. Here are the Seven Secrets for Populating Your LinkedIn Connections from Mark's presentation:

  1. Your current contacts.
  2. Those connected to your connections.
  3. Those in pertinent groups.
  4. Those who answer Q&A.
  5. Those viewing your profile. (This requires a paid LinkedIn membership. Mark's advice: If you opt for a paid membership choose the least expensive one.)
  6. Those "you may know."
  7. Invite key connections from other social networks.
  8. Bonus: Look up those you read about in trade publications and see if they are in your "network."

What I've learned so far is that social media is changing our marketing world. Explore how social media tools like LinkedIn can support your marketing plan.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Key Elements of a Client Satisfaction Program

As follow up to today's webinar, "Client Satisfaction and Service: How to Retain Clients and Grow Revenue in a Recession," here are the key elements of a client satisfaction program.

The bottom line is that every CPA firm claims to deliver excellent client service. How does your firm support that claim? Do you have a formal client satisfaction and retention program? If not, today is the day to start.

How to Ask
• Written surveys (mail, online)
• Interviews
• Clients panels, focus groups
• Short surveys after completion of engagements
• Events: Seminars, social events (golf, theatre, etc.)
• Communication: Newsletters, e-newsletters

What to Ask
• How you were selected: Competitive fees, Industry expertise, Location, Integrity and ethics, Personal relationships, Professionalism, Range of services, Reputation , Size of the firm, Technical expertise
• What do you enjoy most about working with ?
• What are you dissatisfied about with your relationship with ?
• What do you think differentiates (your firm) from other accounting firms?
• In the past year have you considered changing CPA firms? If yes, why?
• Questions regarding referral activity, quality/timeliness of services, frequency/quality of communications, their engagement team,
• Cross-selling questions: You are currently providing, Another Company is Currently Providing, Planning to Purchase in the Next 12 Months
• Rate value for fees paid

When to Outsource
• When you don’t have the internal resources
• When you are interested in obtaining more unbiased feedback

You have a successful referral program when ...

As follow up to today's webinar, "Client Satisfaction and Service: How to Retain Clients and Grow Revenue in a Recession," you have a successful referral program when ...

• You can identify the bankers, attorneys, etc. of your clients.
• You meet with your referral sources/COIs on a regular basis.
• Your professional staff has specific referral marketing goals.
• You track these meetings.
• You track referrals given out/received.
• Your people can describe the type of new business you are targeting.
• You are training/mentoring/providing opportunities for your people to build their own networks.
• You utilize the networks of your colleagues to solve others’ problems.
• You ASK your clients and referral sources for leads.
• You thank your referrals sources for leads – the value of handwritten notes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Why Clients Change CPA Firms

Sixty-six percent of clients say the main reason they would terminate their CPA firm is for poor "client service and attentiveness." Yet, only 27% of CPAs see "client service and attentiveness" as a problem. Client service and retention has never been more important. In these times of fee shopping and negotiation it is critical to solidify your client relationships.

Attend our webinar, "Client Satisfaction and Service: How to Retain Clients and Grow Revenue in a Recession," October 7, 12:00-1:00 p.m. Eastern and learn:
  • What clients really think
  • Why accounting firms lose clients
  • How to manage client service to maximize client satisfaction
  • The hidden land mines in your marketing program
  • How extraordinary client service can pay off for your firm
  • Client service opportunities for tax season