Start a New Type of Conversation!
Listen to this episode here: Start a New Type of Conversation!
Welcome to our blog for TALKING NUMBERS with Paul Jansz. In this article, Paul speaks with John Pititto, Partner at Mead Partners, an accounting firm that offers integrated services of business advisory, finance, asset protection, retirement planning, and more.
Advisory Vs. Relationship Building
John points out that most firms have always had advisory work in their profile. Often, the services include forecasting, going through the businesses and analysing financials, then sitting down with clients to see where their businesses are going. However, John thinks that’s just the financial side of advisory, and in recent years he had a change of mindset.
John used to believe he had to provide the solutions for clients all the time because that’s how he was taught. He realises now that the essential part of advisory is engaging with the clients, talking to them in a different way, helping them come up with their own strategic direction, and encouraging them to take ownership of that. He explains the business owners are the experts of their own businesses. The real advisory is about finding a new way to start a conversation – John prefers to call it ‘relationship building’, which is about facilitating and inspiring the client to figure out the solution.
A New Approach Leads to Revenue Growth
This new approach has added a new service potential, which led to significant growth of revenue.
Many accounting firms have a lot of clients who have been with them for a long time. Most of the time, the firms help clients with main compliance tasks and never see an ability to grow their revenue because they’ve always done the same work for the same clients. The firms were stuck and could not add any additional value.
John believes this is where they can improve upon. He suggests refreshing relationships with clients, delving deeper into the current status, and offering some fresh perspective to help the clients solve problems and create new ideas. Most clients are looking for somebody to help and assist them through the development of their business rather than just hearing the numbers.
John and his team wanted to offer the chance for their clients to seek fresh voices to help grow their businesses. Be their trusted advisor so the clients will always come back. This approach helped revenue growth and reengaged some of their long-term clients to have some important discussions. John points out this approach changes that conversation from the financial perspective to a future-thinking perspective.
Rolling Out a New Service
John points out to provide this service is not just simply adding it to a menu. He says a firm needs the right people to roll it out and the capacity to do so. To achieve this, a firm needs to invest in the right technology which allows people to create efficiencies within the practice.
John shares that they experienced a trial period before they officially roll out this new service. They provided it free of charge for the first session, and the clients’ feedback was overwhelmingly positive. The trial period gave them confidence, so they started to offer the service to other clients. They also offered a significant discount to long-term clients.
John says many people, especially professionals, often find they don’t have the time. However, in business, one has to create the time; otherwise, nothing will happen. He shared his method: write down five friendly clients that he would approach, then go and tell them that they are considering introducing a new service offering. They told the client that they wanted to use that client as a test case free of charge.
How to Implement
John shares that he often starts with a general chat in the first session. A question he likes to ask is, “If you had a magic wand, what would you do to change your business?” Then he would read 10 problems that a business might have and check with them if it exists. He then writes it up on the board and starts to tackle each problem. He says it’s important to keep challenging the client, extract important things, and then start creating a strategic plan and mind map. There will be a matrix, and they need to break it down and prioritise the items. The first session normally would aim for a one-page plan with a 90-day time frame.
After that, John and his team would monitor and work through the process with the clients. Most of the clients like to stick the one-page plan up in their office. It will work as a reminder for them to make sure they are making an effort to achieve the goals.
John says technology and tools will help achieve the capacity a firm needs to roll out new services. Firms now need to invest in technology. During COVID, technology was a key element that helped a lot of companies. But the tools are here to stay because they can greatly improve efficiency.
For John and his team, tools have helped them with all the repetitive tasks. They only have about 20% 25% of their compliance work left for the remaining of the financial year. And that freed up the ability to sit down and help the clients out. It’s also a good time to start the discussions around where the clients are and where their business is heading for the next 12 months.
Fees and Process
John shares that they are using a fixed fee arrangement now. Depending on how involved the clients want the team to be in the 90-day planning process, they have different options. It could be a monthly or quarterly meeting or just phone calls throughout the period. They also provide three different levels of offering. One is just producing the one-page plan, communicating via emails and phone calls, then catching up at the end. Another is the client drafts the one-page plan themselves, and John and the team review it. And the last one is John and the team handholding the client through the whole process.
John suggested getting the capacity within the firm, going out, and giving it a go. You will find your clients become your biggest advocates because they’re kicking their goals. If it’s not working, scrap what you’ve been doing, and talk the walk.