Nurturing Client Relationships: The Importance of Staying Proactive

Attention: This is a machine-generated transcript. As such, there may be spelling, grammar, and accuracy errors throughout. Thank you for your understanding!

Heidi: [00:00:00] This podcast is sponsored by Engineered Tax Services, a subsidiary of Engineered Advisory, whose goal is to support CPAs and their clients to achieve the highest and best use of time and resources. Ets offers specialty tax services and incentives which help expand your capabilities and ensure that your clients are paying only what is required in taxes and nothing more. To learn more about Engineered tax services, go to Engineered Tax and mention the healthy, Wealthy and Wise podcast to receive project discounts and a free CPA partnership book. Hi, everyone. This is Heidi Henderson and you are listening to the Healthy, Wealthy and Wise podcast for accountants. I am really passionate about people and the industry, and I truly believe that the accounting industry can do better for both our clients and it's professionals. So I'm going to share insights from people who have found professional success and who have managed to balance that with their physical, mental and personal health. So I hope you enjoy and I hope you get inspired. Accountants can earn free CPA From listening to this episode, just visit Earmark cpcomm. Download the app, take a short quiz and get your CPA certificate. And now on to the episode. Hello and welcome to today's podcast. I'm always excited to talk with Amanda Garner. Today. She is today's guest who happens to be my colleague. Although we are in different companies, we're sort of in the same family, I guess we'll say a family of companies. And that's been about for the last three years. Amanda Garner is currently the head of Outsource Marketing with the Growth Partnership. And the Growth Partnership is a group that specifically works to consult and coach firms in soft skill training and development, leadership development. And Amanda has this whole aspect of whole team that does outsourced marketing for the industry. And I think it's pretty fascinating because she's been in this space or with the Growth Partnership specifically. Amanda 21 years now.

Amanda: [00:02:23] Yeah, 21 years. Amazing. So 21.

Heidi: [00:02:26] Years. And her background, I would say, may be unmatched in this space. And, you know, she's she's head in all day every day in this industry with CPA accounting firms really understanding what's working, what's not, what the goals are, what the pain points are. And so I think this is going to be a fun conversation. We're going to pick your brain and understand what's happening. So, Amanda, thank you so much for joining.

Amanda: [00:02:52] My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Heidi: [00:02:54] Absolutely. Okay. So so I gave you a sort of very high level bio spiel a little bit. But tell us a little bit more about yourself. Where do you live and how did you get here?

Amanda: [00:03:05] Well, I'm located in central Pennsylvania. And it's funny because, you know, my background was really political television. And then I you know, I ran a congressional campaign and I wasn't sure where my career path was headed. And I found my way to a big accounting firm here in central Pennsylvania with about five offices. I love where I live. It's so cool. Central PA has a really great vibe to it and it's very proximal to a lot of big cities on the Eastern seaboard. So I was really keen to stay here. But working in house for a CPA firm as a marketing director, especially when I started, when we built the first ever website for this firm. Wow. So really dating myself. Um, but you know, I recognize that marketing was a little bit of an overhead expense to most accounting firms, especially back then. And so I happened upon Jeff Paulo, who was just starting the Growth Partnership at a conference in Toronto 21 years ago and wasn't really sure where I was headed with my career. And he said, Hey, join me in Saint Louis. And I said, Over my dead body, will I leave Pennsylvania? And it took him a few months to agree to that. But eventually I held my ground, stayed in PA and have been enjoying, you know, the idea of outsourced marketing compared to in-house marketing. It really kind of changes the dynamic for firms. I think the value proposition comes up a little bit and marketing is then seen as less administrative. So yeah, that's a little bit about how I got to where I am in my career.

Heidi: [00:04:41] I love it. I know and I've heard your stories a little bit about being in journalism and being in that space, and it's really kind of kind of funny actually, that you went from there into the accounting space or CPA space. Yeah, that's a pretty, pretty big jump. But I mean, communications is such a huge part of it. And with a lot of CPAs and a lot of CPA firms marketing and communications and client touch client relationship building may be one of the most difficult things or one of the hardest things for firms to understand or for business owner to understand. It's foreign territory. And I want to clarify, you know, when I have experienced myself in marketing and I think sometimes it's easier for people who are in, in, in marketing or in something related to that to just kind of talk about marketing in general. But there are so many different components or verticals that encompasses marketing, especially today. I mean between Google search engine optimization and where do you rank and how do you write content and how do you email clients? And what about your website and what's your networking plan? And I mean, there are all these parts. What what would you say are like the top 5 or 6 pieces of that puzzle that fall under the umbrella of marketing?

Amanda: [00:06:04] Yeah, I mean, the way we look at it, we say that you have to nurture your crops. And I love that analogy. It really ties to, you know, Dr. Ivan Misner from Business Networking International talked about, you know, real good networkers. They are thinking of it not like hunting, but more like farming. And so I love the analogy of. Crops because I think it is farming. You know, we're we're looking to build long term relationships and it's really what the profession has been based on. But there's still discomfort with that. So we kind of look at it in these these four areas that we call crops. The sea and crop stands for clients. How do we nurture and protect key client relationships and then how do we make sure that in addition to nurturing and protecting those key client relationships, we leverage them because that's where the lowest hanging fruit is. The are in crop stands for referral development. How do we make sure that you are connected with the centers of influence in the community that are going to make a big difference? And for everybody that's a little bit different. I was even talking to a prospect this morning and they were like, Hey, we just want to do, you know, client advisory services. That's what we really want to market and we want to market it, you know, primarily to construction. Perfect. We need to know what that looks like. Who are the centers of influence in that sphere that would help them to really build their practice out.

Amanda: [00:07:33] And then the P in crops is for prospects. You know, historically, I think accounting firms have often thrown the phone book on the table and said, this is my prospect set. But that's not really true anymore. I mean, it probably was never true, but that has certainly not remained true given the cost of employment and the difficulty finding team members today. We can't be all things to all people. We have to narrow the field. So who is our real prospect set by geography? You know, we have to have geography demographic. What size is the ideal target? And even by need, you know, what is it that they really need? What is their industry? Is that something we really specialize in? And so the more narrow we can make, that prospect set the better. And then the S in crops is supporting activities. And that's where I think most people get tripped up in marketing because that's what they think of as marketing, because supporting activities are things like brochures or websites or, you know, social media. And that stuff, while necessary, is it's a trap in a way because you can throw a lot of money at that stuff, not focus on the first three areas and fall down and fail. So we like to think that a good marketing plan would include all four areas and that we only do as much in supporting activities as is necessary to suit up to get on the court to play the game.

Heidi: [00:09:06] Huh? Well, I mean, it's it's an interesting perspective because even when I think of marketing, it's like, well, yeah, I need to have a good website and I need to make sure I have good pages that say what I do and I'm advertising or all of these things. But, you know, it sounds like you guys are really focusing more on clients, on nurturing those relationships and really understanding their markets. How are you how do you actually come in and work with a firm in that capacity? I mean, how do you help them understand where to even go?

Amanda: [00:09:35] Yeah, great question. I think the the first thing that we do is we make sure that they know how their clients are feeling about them. Less than half of the firms or less than half the clients of accounting firms say that they receive a client satisfaction survey, which to me is bonkers. We should be asking our clients how we're doing. I mean, primarily in the professional services arena, we are delivering customer service. That's a piece of what we offer. And because of that, if we're not asking how are we actually doing, we're really missing the mark. It's also funny, Heidi, you'll love this because every firm that I talk to, I'll go in and I'll sit down and I'll say, okay, what differentiates you from your competitors? And without fail, every firm says, Oh, our service is better. And I'm like, Oh, well, how did you make your service better? Like, what do you do? And they're like, Well, it just is. Oh, so you trained your people to do better service? No, no training. We just have a culture like that. And I'm like, okay, I bet if we ask the clients, they would not necessarily agree, right? Because every firm, that's what they will say. So I like to start off with the premise that everybody probably doesn't actually know the answer to how they're doing it, serving their clients and kind of challenge them to find out what we're really doing successfully.

Amanda: [00:10:49] The second thing that we will do is we often it's probably my favorite activity we do for firms actually is the client spotlight process. I don't know about you, but even in even with my client relationships that have been around a long time, sometimes it's easy to kind of think, Oh, I can do the same thing I did last year, the Sally Disease, if you will. Yeah, when we have a new provider, what makes that relationship so inspiring is that initial feeling that somebody cares about you more, right? They're really paying attention. They asked all the right questions, but then five years down the road, they're not asking any new questions. They're just filing your. Stuff. And so I think it is about taking a pause. Our client spotlight process and really reflecting on what's the real situation for the client right now and what could we do be doing to help them protect or preserve or grow their business? And a lot of times firms will come up with all kinds of ideas to better serve a client that they've been serving for 5 or 10 years. If they just sit down and pause and reflect on what could they be doing to help that client more effectively. So and so that's the client. That's probably my favorite thing we do. Sorry.

Heidi: [00:12:04] That's the client spotlight. Yes. So what exactly is that like? How do you what does that look like? And how often are you suggesting that a firm does that? And with how many clients? Tell us. Tell me more.

Amanda: [00:12:16] Yeah. So I usually I usually say probably each partner should aim to do two a year. They should target their B clients, not their A's, because their A's already get a ton of attention. That's why they're an A, But the B's are the non squeaky wheels who pay their bill and they're pretty happy, but they don't really ask for a lot. And so I like the idea of taking those clients that you like, but we don't pay all that much attention to and just taking a pause and sitting down as an engagement team and asking ourselves, What have we done for them lately and what could we be doing for them that might help them protect, preserve or grow their business? And then during that discussion, they'll often come up with things like, you know what, They have not updated their buy sell. They are exploring a new service line that they might be rolling out. We should really talk about how they're going to benchmark that or maybe they need a KPI report or a budget, or perhaps they have a controller, a CFO that's getting a lot older and they need to think about, you know, the succession plan for that internal resource and perhaps even do some documentation of their your operations so that if that person was gone tomorrow, they could continue to perpetuate the business. And so I find that it's just a good dialog that takes them out of the, hey, we just got to do our compliance work and gets them thinking from an advisory mindset. How can we really help this client?

Heidi: [00:13:48] So tell me about first off, I Love you said how can we protect, preserve and help them grow their business? And it's it's taking that step back. And you also teach some of the classes in the partner Institute That's another incredible program, three year training leadership growth program. And you teach a lot on prioritizing and quadrants and how to really focus on what's important. So I can see how the client spotlight it does. It makes you really sit back and think, Do you have any like real world examples of a scenario where you had a firm do a client spotlight and had some awesome results from it?

Amanda: [00:14:24] Yeah, I have a couple. I had a firm. This is a really funny one. It's been a firm of ours for probably 20 of my 21 years, and the now managing partner was a younger manager at the firm and he completed his spotlight, but he never delivered it to the client and I was giving him a hard time about it. He mailed it, but he never took it to the client and met with them, so it just got dropped in the mail. It was lazy approach, right? But probably two months later he calls me on the phone and he said, You would not believe this. Sorry. This is a little bit of a morbid story, but it's it's crazy how true it is. The guy calls him and says, hey, I'm in the parking lot. I just left the hospital. I had a heart attack this week and you're my first stop because I have this letter you sent me a few months ago. And you're talking about, like wills and estate plans. And I guess I ought to do that now.

Heidi: [00:15:21] Wow.

Amanda: [00:15:22] I know it's a it's a morbid story, but I thought how apropos he left it there. But even just leaving it, there was a better approach than not communicating it, because in any other circumstance, that gentleman might have called his attorney on the way home, but instead he's sitting in the parking lot of a CPA firm knowing that that CPA could help him to ensure that his legacy was protected. So that's one great example. Another one that I have is that we facilitated in one year. There are about eight partners at a firm that we work with out in the Northwest, and in one year they did 16 spotlights. So each partner did a spotlight and they delivered 11 of those spotlights. And out of the 11, they had over $150,000 worth of new business work come out of it.

Heidi: [00:16:15] Wow.

Amanda: [00:16:15] And I think even just with the five that they left on the table, boy, we could have had more.

Heidi: [00:16:22] That's amazing.

Amanda: [00:16:23] And you think about the way that that protects client relationships, because what'll happen when we get to same as last year, 5 or 10. Years down the road. That's when a competitor firm will come in and sweep them off their feet by offering new love, right?

Heidi: [00:16:39] Absolutely.

Amanda: [00:16:40] My last one is probably my favorite one is a firm I was working with in Saint Louis and the managing partner. While they were while they were doing the spotlight, he kept telling me, this is my favorite client. I've had this client forever and I love them. They're my favorite. And he called me after he met with the client to walk through the recommendations that came out of the Spotlight meeting. And he said, Amanda, the client told me on the phone while I was talking to them that they didn't feel like they were getting any new ideas from us anymore and that they were just about to fire us and hire another firm.

Heidi: [00:17:13] Wow.

Amanda: [00:17:15] This was the moment that protected that relationship. And so, you know, over the years, I've facilitated a lot of these spotlights and they are my favorite. But I think that, you know, the worst it does is plant some seeds and the best it does is harvest some fruit.

Heidi: [00:17:32] How cool. Okay. Those are some pretty those are pretty, pretty cool stories. So tell me more about how you've how you've really seen these change, the perspective of some of your clients, this CPA, specifically.

Amanda: [00:17:50] The the spotlight process? Yeah.

Heidi: [00:17:53] Yeah.

Amanda: [00:17:54] I think, um, I had I had one managing partner tell me once that it was the first time in a long time that he had felt like a real advisor. Um, and that I think is probably one of my favorite moments. You know, he felt like he was really making a difference as opposed to just doing the basics. And I think that's when we see the light bulb go off for professionals when they feel like this matters. What I'm doing really matters to the long term efficacy of this owner or this person who is trying to leave a legacy. I think that's one of the disconnects. You know, I was teaching a leadership class yesterday for a firm, and I think it's often one of the disconnects that leadership and accounting firms miss If our team members come in with with a back in hands mentality where I'm just I'm coming in here to just put some numbers on a form and then go home. Then we haven't really connected the why of what we do to their hearts. If we want our people to bring their head and their heart to work every day to to really feel like they're engaged in their work, I think we have to help them understand the big picture that accounting makes a huge difference for the people that are served by it. That it's more than just numbers. It's more than compliance. It's about bettering lives and helping people preserve legacies and. And so much more.

Heidi: [00:19:26] Yeah, well, it's interesting because there's so much talk in the the accounting industry about the importance of shifting to advisory. And it's like every conference they're talking about it and there's there's this constant reminder that clients want more and clients want to feel like you're coaching them and you're a partner in their business and you're bringing all this value add stuff. But I think what we lack at times is clear direction on how to do that. What does that actually look like in practice? So your client spotlight is interesting because it is something extremely tangible that you can work on and and it leads them down that path of really stepping into that. And another aspect of that would also be over time, as I think as professionals, we're always growing and expanding our network and our our sphere of influence in terms of who we trust and who trusts us and other partners in the space. That sort of leads a little bit into our group called Engineered Advisory or the Advisory Accelerator, which really we started to recognize this this need in the industry of, okay, yeah, we're talking about advisory, we're coaching and we're training people and we're giving them tools like this to become more focused client centric and how can we solve problems for our clients? But then sometimes one of the difficulties is, is people don't know where to go or who they can contact or have resources for adding in other things. So talk a little bit about that and kind of developing what we're trying to build just because we're trying to solve problems for what we see in the industry, right?

Amanda: [00:21:07] Yeah. So two years ago when we joined up with Engineered Tech Services, this became a focus for me particularly, and I have been working on build out of our engineered advisory accelerator with our team for, for a couple of years now. And I find it incredibly aspirational. It excites me because I think especially, you know, it was a goal I think, for a lot of CPA firms to provide some of these advisory services in-house. But realistically, it's becoming more and more of an impossibility between the demands of the regulatory agencies and the compression of deadlines and the lack of qualified staffing. It has become more and more critical that CPA firms can tap into other resources to help them solve those big issues that they may not have the internal resources for, whether that be, you know, a state tax issue or a property tax issue, whether that be something like cost segregation or research and development. There's a lot of things that they just don't have the qualifications for but that are accessible to them. And they may understand that it is accessible to a client. They just can't deliver on it. And so rather than, you know, go to a bigger firm and refer it out better to find resources that aren't competitive to them that they can tap into and build relationships with, And in a lot of cases, they can even capitalize on a revenue source there, which I think is, you know, extra appealing.

Amanda: [00:22:46] So I think what we have really envisioned is and is coming to life with our engineered advisory accelerator is helping to vet out who those advisory partners might be and then, you know, helping with the negotiation process of how you would interface with each of those partners and creating, you know, we have a conference in August that is so fun, but it's really more Ted Talk style than the traditional CPA conference where you're getting all your CPA. But my gosh, it's so much technical and can be sometimes a little sleep inducing, dry. So, um, so the 20 minute Ted talk version is, as someone pointed out last year, it's more like speed dating for services, right? It's learning like which, which of these things would apply to my clients and, and how can I take these lessons back and apply them in my firm? So I'm really excited. This will be our second conference coming up in August and I'm really excited to continue to help CPA firms plug in to the resources. And sometimes they have some. Those resources through their associations. But I think this gives them a clear path to how they interface with those relationships successfully.

Heidi: [00:24:00] Yeah, absolutely. Well, I know it's been huge and our our people that came last year. Yes, we had a blast. It was so much fun with amazing providers and partners. And I think the collaboration, it was like the discussions there was this dynamic because it's not like a conference with vendors. It was more like it was a room filled with people that are looking to really expand their their wheelhouse, expand their knowledge base and solve problems. And it was like somehow we pulled in that energy. And I think that's really what was cool because, yeah, you have all these people that are talking and they're talking about specific clients, they're talking with other firms that are like, Yes, we really want to become more of an advisor to our clients. We're really looking to expand. And another area, I think it's really interesting and I'm interested on your your feedback on this is as we're seeing more and more firms begin to outsource overseas, I mean, we've got these groups that now are providing outsourced staffing, whether it's in the Philippines or South Africa or India or other places where they're able to find labor because it's not just a cost point item anymore. It's literally just the labor force. It's just there are not enough accountants to be able to do the work. And these firms are kind of overrun.

Heidi: [00:25:21] They're having staffing problems. So the solution really is becoming more and more about outsourcing overseas and providing this this service. But I had a conversation I was at AICPA Engage recently and I was talking to one of our CPA firms we've worked for for years. And he just he hit the nail on the head because he said we have been able to build our offshore team to do a lot of more of those menial, tedious tasks. And what it's done is it's made our internal staff and our tax teams be able to step back and look at the big picture and start to do things that they actually enjoy doing more and interacting with clients better and really finding that they have more passion for what they're doing than when they were stuck just having to complete 1040 and and, you know, tax forms all day long, every day. And he says So that's something we didn't expect when we implemented sort of this offshore team. But it's really changing the whole dynamic of our firm and that I hadn't really thought about that as much, but I thought it was incredible to hear him really express the difference they've seen in their firm. By implementing that change. Have you seen the same or have those conversations? Yeah.

Amanda: [00:26:42] Um, you know, this is not getting any better. We know that for sure. The average number of students matriculating to accounting and finance programs in the country is depleted by as much as 40% the last year. The Wall Street Journal tells us that 300,000 US accountants and auditors left their jobs, 17% decline. And what is happening here in this country is not what's happening in other countries. From what I understand, in the Philippines, 70% of the university graduates, 70% are coming out with accounting and finance degrees.

Heidi: [00:27:21] Wow.

Amanda: [00:27:22] Yeah. So what's happening here and what's happening elsewhere is not the same. So we have an opportunity to capitalize on that. And I think, you know, it's interesting because the pandemic put an exclamation point on it in some ways, right? People reassess their careers and and maybe that's why we saw some of the attrition in the in the space. But even so, it allowed us to recognize that the accounting profession can do some things virtually. Holy cow. Right? That allows us to start to think about this virtual outsourcing element. And, you know, in a lot of cases, the security that you're experiencing with some of these outsourced enterprises is far greater than what you have internally. You know, a lot of them have bank level securities that people have to come in and check their phones and lockers. So, you know, their security is high. It is a a well-oiled machine and we can tap into that. And in doing so, we can relieve pressure because right now what's happening for firms is there's a lot of pressure. And that pressure, you know, between the compressed deadlines and the amount of work and the lack of staff and the lack of knowledge has created more problems because we don't even have time to train staff. So to me, this opportunity to outsource does exactly what you said, Heidi. It takes off the pressure. Now we have time to effectively train, to get people up to speed, to get them doing. Things they enjoy doing to get them out of menial tasks and into critical functions that support our ability to build higher rates. So in a lot of ways, we are seeing that when firms have embraced the idea of outsourcing, that not only are they not experiencing frustration amongst clients, they're able to deliver better client service, they're able to reduce their turnover and they're able to, I think, focus on higher level work. So a lot of good things coming out of the idea of outsourcing.

Heidi: [00:29:29] Yeah, interesting. It's such a it's such an interesting shift. And to see the level of adoption that I'm hearing in speaking with our firms and seeing what people are doing. One question I remembered I want to ask when you had mentioned the client satisfaction surveys. Two questions, actually. First off, I being a little bit I'm a realist. I'm not negative. Client satisfaction surveys are so difficult because who wants to fill out a survey? Every single website we go to wants you to do a survey every time you do anything. And typically the response rates are ridiculously low. How have you guys dealt with that? Handled that because? Because I think in your outsourced marketing. Service. This is something you're actually implementing. You're actually helping the firm set up these satisfaction surveys, creating the questions. How are you first off, deploying those in a way to actually get clients to respond and what type of response rate are you getting?

Amanda: [00:30:32] It depends on the firm response rate wise, but what we do is electronic, so we do an electronic submission for the survey. The clients will receive a link. They complete a very short survey, typically 12 questions is the max. A lot of those are radio buttons. So they're selecting, you know, one of five options from dissatisfied to very satisfied or, you know, we ask the Net promoter score question, which is how likely would you be to refer this business? To a friend or a colleague, and then we leave one open ended question at the end. Do you have any additional comments? So we keep it really short. That is critical. So those 12 questions we typically say are loyalty and satisfaction questions. Did I get the cheeseburger I ordered? And was the experience of getting that cheeseburger so good that I would pay more for it and or never go anyplace else? So we ask those questions and then we have a automatic scoring system that comes back with pie charts and graphs that helps them understand where their strengths and weaknesses are in terms of response rate, it can be between 20 and 40%. But I think one really important thing, and I should have the stats up here in front of me, but Harvard Business School actually produced an article on how.

Amanda: [00:32:00] The simple act of surveying improves client satisfaction, even if they don't answer. It improves client satisfaction. And I think this is true because, like you said, there's sometimes that I'm not going to I'm not going to respond to the survey. I mean, Southwest asks me every time I fly, how was it? And I'm like, it was the same as it was last time. Except every once in a while I'll have a flight attendant that I loved and I'll go ahead and complete the survey. Or alternatively, I might have one I didn't like, and I'll go ahead and complete the survey. So you recognize you're probably getting both ends of the spectrum of insight. The middle might drop out, but that's okay because they're middle. But what we find is that just asking can actually help because it feels like your opinion matters. Even if I don't respond to Southwest, I feel like my opinion matters. They're not asking for no reason. Yeah, so that's a good perspective.

Heidi: [00:33:02] Yeah.

Amanda: [00:33:03] So I often when clients are struggling with, Hey, does this really matter? Do we need to do it? I'll often give them the Harvard Business Review article about how it can crank up your overall satisfaction quite a bit just by asking.

Heidi: [00:33:16] Yeah. Yeah, that's interesting. I wouldn't have thought about that in in the survey. I don't know if you're asking any specific questions, but do you gather any information on your surveys that are more specific to what do clients want, like feedback, like, okay, what are you getting versus what do you want? And if so, what are you seeing in terms of, you know, I'm always fascinated by this because I think that what some CPAs think their client wants, what they think their clients getting is different than what the client feels or what the client wants. So I'm curious if you've been able to gather any of that data and see really what is it these clients are saying they need and they want.

Amanda: [00:33:56] You know, the two biggest difficult spots, muddy spots that I think CPA firms get dinged on, scores on are probably surprising. You know, we'll ask how are the materials, how responsive were they? How how much do they know your industry? And a variety of questions. Like I said, it's kind of did you get the cheeseburger you ordered and how great was the experience of it? And what we find is that the muddy waters are twofold. The first one is timely responsiveness. Often times I think consumers feel like they drop their stuff off and then they have no idea when it's going to get done and they just are lucky to receive it at some point. So some kind of communication about timing or, you know, when we're going to get back to you to ask you questions or maybe setting a check mark or a signpost along the way. I think a lot of clients just feel lost in that timeliness issue. And the second thing that we hear is communication. And we're not talking about a newsletter. I mean, I want to know that you're checking in on me, that you are talking to me if there's a big issue or a regulatory change that I should be aware of. And so we'll often hear just proactive communication is probably the other big rub, if you will, where clients feel underserved. One thing I do want to highlight, the Bay Street Group did a study a couple a few years back, and I love this one because they asked CPA firms and the clients of CPA firms this very question that you're inquiring about, Heidi, and the CPA firms.

Amanda: [00:35:37] They said, you know, what do you think is most important to your clients and how they and how they work with you and the CPA firms? I think 80 some percent said fees, huh? And the accounting firms or the the clients, less than 17% said fees had anything to do with it. It was all about customer service and timeliness, understanding my industry. And then we asked the CPAs or he asked the CPAs, why would clients leave you? And the CPA said, Well, fees or they died. Those are the only two reasons they would leave. And it amused me to no end. It does make you laugh, right? Because we know that's not true. When CPA firms go in and they go on a proposal meeting, they will say to the the prospect, why are you changing firms and death or fees never come up. It's always well, didn't feel like I was getting enough information. I didn't feel like they were proactive enough at helping me. And so they know that's not true. But they want to defer to it because I think it's a lot comfortable, more comfortable than saying the client just didn't like me anymore, huh?

Heidi: [00:36:48] Yeah, right. Taking sometimes responsibility hurts. Sometimes the truth hurts a little bit when we recognize that we failed in terms of being proactive. And I think really it all boils, you know, timeliness, communication. It all boils down to being proactive. Um, I was talking to a firm over dinner at an event and they very proactive firm. I had such a great conversation and they are doing some really interesting things. I was like, Oh my gosh, Like, I love that they're thinking outside the box and they're doing things that are very proactive and they're doing like I have loom loom and it's like this, you know, video thing. It records your, your, your screen and you can point it and it also has your camera on there. Easiest thing in the world. And then it does a video, it drops into an email super easy. So they do this now with their clients. Whenever they see something that they think they may have a question about, instead of emailing the client and saying, Hey so-and-so, we should schedule a call to discuss this. I notice your cost of goods are a little higher this month and wanted to see if something had changed or whatever. They do a loom. They'll pull it up. They'll look at the PNL and they'll say, okay, see this number here compared to last month? You know, I noticed that this is a little off and I thought, you want to be aware and this is why. And also a little bit of education on it. You know, their face is there. It's video. It's audio. They're pointing to the the report. Quick three minute video. Send it out to the client in the body of an email with a link to schedule a call if they have any questions about it. If they do want to schedule a call. They said it has reduced their time on calls with clients like by by 60%.

Amanda: [00:38:32] Yeah, I bet.

Heidi: [00:38:32] And the clients are thrilled because they're learning. They're they're being shown that they're looking outside the box. They're they're watching out for them. So there are things like this that I think is so cool because we we don't see this enough and there are tools out there to make us much more proactive. And and that communication aspect that I think clients I mean I feel the same way with my CPA. Yeah. Like I the only time I ever hear from him is I'm banging down the door going, where are things at? What are we doing?

Amanda: [00:39:04] What's. Yep. Even. Yeah. And I say, I tell people that all the time, even when I've changed CPAs every year because I can't get anybody to be responsive. And I stopped hiring clients because then I had to fire them. Yeah. Yeah, that's.

Heidi: [00:39:17] That's uncomfortable.

Amanda: [00:39:19] That's right. Exactly. But it is. It is. It's endemic for firms that, you know, they'll take on clients that they probably shouldn't take on because they're not in their wheelhouse and then they aren't proactive about it because same as last year. Yeah. So yeah, yeah. We I think thinking about it as customer service is really important and I'll come back and say, you know, in addition to the systems that we roll out like Spotlight or the Client Satisfaction survey, we're always pairing it with training. And you know, you kind of referenced this when you talked about our Partner Institute program. When we go in with a marketing plan, we talk about systems and competencies. Firms who want to say they have that customer service is their greatest skill set and don't train it. They're missing an opportunity. So, you know, we typically pair our systems with some good CPE in house. So we sit with the staff and talk about what good customer service is, and then we make the survey visible to them. So that year after year they can see are they improving or are they moving the needle on some of those core functions that drive customer satisfaction? And you know, I remember a firm in Lansing that we worked with where they started at like a 55 net promoter score. And by the end of our time working with them, you know, they were in the 90s and that was consistent year over year. So, you know, it really can change the dynamic of a firm to put that at the forefront. Wow.

Heidi: [00:40:49] Yeah, absolutely. Well, it's amazing. I mean, I think everything I mean, obviously I'm a little biased, but even with my bias, I think everything that the growth partnership is doing is is is very proactive. And it's very it's so valuable with really building a firm and helping these firms understand how to grow their business. So to your point, protect, preserve their client and help their clients grow their businesses. And also growing these CPA firms as well, because it just isn't trained. It's not trained in in schooling. We have all this technical knowledge. We have all this education on how to do taxes and accounting and all this stuff. But the soft skill, you know, day to day, how do I manage my business? How do I manage clients? How do I imagine my time? They are things that that so often we don't have. And it is the difference between being highly successful and not so true. Yeah, well, Amanda, you're amazing and I really appreciate you being on. Talk about how listeners can connect with you or find you, whether it's on LinkedIn or reach out to you. If they have questions or want to talk to you about what you're doing.

Amanda: [00:41:59] Easiest way is probably via email. I have a 24 hour response policy via email, as you know, so people can reach out to me at A Garner Garner at the Growth I am in the middle, I coach baseball and I am in the middle of our busy season at the Growth Partnership. And also I we just launched our all star team. So we're headed, I hope to Williamsport for Little League, um, for the Little League World Series. We'll see. Wow, that's awesome. Yeah, So I'm just starting that as well. So a little extra busy this time of year, but, you know, it's. All worth it, right?

Heidi: [00:42:41] Exactly. Exactly. And before we close up my final well, actually, I have two questions, because these are really probing into Amanda. How what is your what is one of the top things that you've been able to incorporate in your life to balance all of it, to balance your family, your son, your your, your self, physically, mentally, emotionally, whatever it is Like what is it for you that you've been able to incorporate to really make sure that you're balanced?

Amanda: [00:43:08] I mean, you know, I'm blessed that we are an organization that does a lot of training for this stuff. I think I probably naturally gravitated towards some of the necessities to protect myself, like really healthy boundaries. But also, I think, you know, years teaching things like the five choices of extraordinary productivity and seven habits of highly effective people have probably helped me through a lot of things. Yeah. But I think the one thing that, you know, I coach a lot of aspiring partners or new partners as well. And I think the one thing that I lean into a lot is really deciding what the boundaries are for you. What does it look like for you? I think sometimes we can get so wrapped up in this is how it's done and it's the only way it's done. And I like particularly telling young women this in the profession because I think they often tap out before they realize that they could actually be a partner someday. Mm hmm. Um, but I often think that all we have to do is set our boundaries. If I don't want to work 80 hours a week during tax season, but I'm willing to do 70, that might be worth a conversation.

Amanda: [00:44:27] Or perhaps I just can't work Saturdays. I just can't. And so for me, it's always been about boundaries. In fact, I'll tell you just a random story. But when I first had my son, I was really committed to the idea of having one day. That was not a weekend day that I spent with him. You know, you don't get this time back. It's one time shot. And so for his first 18 months, I took every Monday off. They were Adventure Mondays. And he may not remember them, Heidi, because he was so little. But every Monday we would, you know, put all the baby stuff in the car and we'd head to some adventure. You know, as he got a little older, we still did this, but we'd go learn how pretzels were made in Lancaster or we'd go to the Turkey Hill factory and see how ice cream was made or, you know, there was just always some adventure. We'd go on every Monday. And for me, man, I do not regret one single second of those days that I set that boundary for myself because I can't get that time back. And it was super special.

Heidi: [00:45:29] That's amazing.

Amanda: [00:45:31] I think as professionals, whether male or female, so I don't want to make this sound one sided. I think setting healthy boundaries for yourself, knowing what they look like, it mentors better behavior for your younger generations coming through. And it also makes sure, like I just told one of my coaches yesterday, they're better off with a little bit of you than none of you. Mhm. So you decide what your boundary is and then that's what you do.

Heidi: [00:45:58] Amazing. Yeah. And then it allows everybody to set expectations and manage them.

Amanda: [00:46:04] That's right.

Heidi: [00:46:04] And manage them. Amazing. And final question. Yes. Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your 20 year old self?

Amanda: [00:46:16] Mhm. That's a deep one.

Heidi: [00:46:19] Mhm.

Amanda: [00:46:20] I think. To have more grace with myself.

Heidi: [00:46:25] Mm.

Amanda: [00:46:27] I think I'm learning still every day how to row my boat and. I think I'm a little bit of a perfectionist, maybe. You know, I want to be the best mom and the best baseball coach and.

Amanda: [00:46:43] The.

Amanda: [00:46:44] The best leader of my team and the best trainer there is. And sometimes I think I need to have a little grace with myself and say, you know what? You're giving your best. It doesn't have to be the best, but if you're giving the best that you've got, that's pretty great. And so I think sometimes it's just more grace for myself, and sometimes we need to have that grace because circumstances are tough, whether it was, you know, trying to work and have a child in elementary school or, you know, in the middle of a pandemic, or whether it's, you know, doing the absolute best fruit tray for the school or, you know, whatever it is, I think I'm going to do what what I can, what is the best that I can do, but not necessarily think that it has to be perfect. Yeah, but I'm learning that every day.

Heidi: [00:47:37] That's awesome. I mean, I think it's huge because I think very often we give other people more of a benefit of the doubt or more grace than we oftentimes give ourselves. For some reason I'm like, I would never be as harsh to someone else as I am to myself internally. You know what I'm telling myself in my head. And so that's that's great. I really appreciate that. And I think it's huge. It's profound. So thank you. Thanks. All right. Well, thank you so much. I'm so happy we got to do this. Hope all the listeners enjoyed gleaning all this amazing information from Amanda. Again, you can go to the growth You can also reach out to me directly or reach out to Amanda mentioned the podcast and you know what great services. The Growth Partnership again has a lot of training programs. It's a shameless pitch here, but you know, really such a great group of people that are doing great services. I think it's amazing because it can be very catered as kind of an a la carte service based on exactly what a firm needs at that moment. So it's not like, look, you're all in and it's this massive amount regardless. This is it's, you know, it's all this or nothing. And you guys are able to really cater a program to exactly what is needed, whether someone has an internal marketing director or whether they have nobody at all in marketing or, you know, and the full spectrum. And I think that's one thing that's really fantastic about what you guys have built. So awesome.

Amanda: [00:49:09] Have me back. I want to come talk about more boundaries. That's fun.

Heidi: [00:49:13] Okay, sounds good. Well, we'll do a Boundaries podcast. I like that.

Amanda: [00:49:17] There you go. Heidi, Thanks so much for having me. Really appreciate it. Okay.

Heidi: [00:49:20] Thank you, Amanda. We'll talk to you soon.

Creators and Guests

Heidi Henderson
Heidi Henderson
I am a Tax Consultant and Real Estate Investor, and podcast host of Healthy, Wealthy & Wise. I advise clients on the application of Tax Efficiencies relating to their investments both directly and indirectly. My education is in Accounting but my entrepreneurial spirit has led me through many business ventures. But I love finding money for people who didn't know it was there! Cost Segregation, 179D deduction, 45L credits, R&D tax credits, Historical Tax Credits, Conservation Easements, Opportunity Zones, Alternative Investments, and Captive Insurance are a few tools we can help you with. As the Executive Vice President and Board Member of Engineered Tax Services I help plan for growth and operational improvements internally, while working externally with investment minded individuals to optimize their investment. I also teach over 30+ Continuing Education courses annually to CPA's, Design Build Professionals and Real Estate Professionals across the U.S. If synergies are apparent, please send me a connection request and let's see how we can work together.
Nurturing Client Relationships: The Importance of Staying Proactive
Broadcast by