I recently listened to a podcast by professional services guru, David Maister. It was a recording of a presentation he had given to a group of lawyers in which he accused them of being ‘stupid’. Vividly, loudly and sincerely. When he explained why he had levelled this accusation at them they had no choice but to agree. Listening to this exchange I realised that David was making the same point as one that I highlight during my talks and training courses on Making more profits from your smaller clients.
To an extent I also paraphrased my advice on this point in a recent post on this blog: First focus on what you have – before you try to win new clients
What David did was to ask the lawyers how they got most of their new valuable work. The most common response was that such work typically came from word of mouth personal introductions and referrals. I tend to get a similar response when I ask accountants the same question. Is it true for you too?
During my talks I highlight the often quoted statistic that it typically takes ten times as much time and effort to secure valuable work from a new contact as it does to get similarly valuable work from or through an existing client. TEN TIMES.
Now let’s consider how you allocate your non-billable marketing and networking time. Do you or your bosses or colleagues sanction time spent preparing adverts and marketing events? What about attending those events, networking meetings and external functions? If you’re like most accountants looking to grow their practices you will make time for many such activities.
What about your existing clients? Again, if you are like many accountants, and certainly those in larger firms, you will be encouraged to record all time spent with clients as potentially billable. Irrecoverable time costs are frowned upon so best avoided. What behaviour does that approach, that VERY COMMON approach, discourage? In effect it acts as a disincentive to spend time building and developing relationships that could, indeed should, help you to win more valuable and profitable work than your more general and unfocused networking and advertising.
So tell me, are accountants as ‘stupid’ as lawyers?