By Lauren Prosser
Manager, Sageworks Inc. Advisory Services Group
Believe it or not, we’re nearing the halfway point of 2012. If you’re holding a mid-year partner retreat or starting to update your strategic plans, now’s a good time to step back and evaluate the best way to take a step forward. Below are 12 key things you can do during the back half of 2012 to position your firm for success in 2013 and beyond.
1. Build From Within
• Identify and communicate your firm’s unique value proposition. Get younger-generation firm members engaged and invested in it to help ensure that a consistent message is sent beyond the walls of your office.
2. Cultivate Your Clients
• Do you have a system in place for measuring your firm’s CCA (Cost of Client Acquisition) and LTV (Lifetime Value (of a client)? – These are two critical metrics that you firm should be measuring and monitoring.
• Develop new clients at a higher level of service by demonstrating the value of your industry insights and targeted, relevant service offerings.
3. Create a Forward-Looking Focus
• From mechanics to meaning. Don’t let minutiae of the day-to-day get in the way of the big picture. Do firm members at all levels see how their roles directly impact client relationships and firm success?
• As Vince Lombardi once said, “Success demands singleness of purpose.”
4. Provide Client-Centric Foresight
• Add value to client relationships by providing insight and foresight, not just hindsight.
• Transition from a historically focused, compliance-based service model to become a partner in the future success of your client’s business. Begin by dialoguing with your clients to identify their specific financial goals for this year and beyond.
5. Encourage Employees
• Go beyond just communicating firm strategy and vision to employees – solicit their input and insights.
• Cultivate a culture where firm members at all levels are committed to and invested in firm values and firm success.
• Ensure firm members see how their contributions tie into final results.
6. Become a Trusted Advisor
• Strategic guidance can greatly enhance client relationships, which in turn will strengthen retention and drive profitability.
• Value is in the eye of the beholder – Do you know what is most important to your clients? Initiate a Discovery Process to identify these key items.
• Listen to learn. To quote Lou Holtz, “I never learn anything talking. I only learn things when I ask questions.”
7. Generate Referrals
• According to a recent survey, only 16% of clients say they would be “highly likely” to recommend their CPA firm. What is your firm doing to ensure your clients are your biggest fans?
• What system of recognition and reward do you have in place to acknowledge and incentivize your top referral sources?
8. Remember: De-Commoditization = Differentiation
• Eliminate boundaries to understanding and uncovering client service needs.
• Develop cross-selling tactics to transition compliance-only clients into consulting clients.
• Be the link. Do you have a system in place for translating your client’s financial statements into management tools?
9. Create a Standard for Success
• Build a standardized consulting framework which allows you to transfer certain processes between engagements while also enabling you to identify individual client needs and opportunities.
• Leverage integrated service teams to maximize resources – this will allow clients to benefit from your firm’s full spectrum of expertise and experience.
10. Create Clarity
• Through improved means of gathering and interpreting business intelligence.
• Through improved quality and consistency of information.
• Through improved channels and means of communication.
11. Maximize Your Message
• Does your service model communicate value and benefit to the client? Does your marketing approach reiterate this?
• Start by focusing on the tangibles. Eliminate information on the periphery that may cloud your message.
• Contextualize. Place in context three messages you’re conveying to your business clients. How do the numbers you’re reviewing with your client impact what’s important to them – their financial goals, their personal goals, or what keeps them up at night?
12. Become a Solution-Provider, Not Just a Service-Provider
• Focus on becoming a solution provider, not just a service provider – clients don’t buy services, they buy solutions to problems.
• Cultivate a firm culture that rewards staff at all levels for uncovering and communicating opportunities for better serving clients.
• Commit to developing a process-focused, not just project-focused or product-focused firm.