By Phillip J. Brand
CPAs are uniquely qualified to be exceptional leaders. Not only are they extensively trained before receiving their designation, but they also possess innate attributes that draw talented people to the profession. For many CPAs, their motivations for owning their own practice is to help clients, make a reasonable living, and stay comfortable. With empathy and the ability to develop total business solutions versus just filing tax returns, these CPAs will draw even more clients to them.
Like any other industry, maintaining good relationships with clients is critically important in the accounting industry. If a client does not trust you, they won’t hire you at all. Being a CPA is being in the people business. This blog provides tips to help CPAs focus on the relationship building and leadership aspects of the profession that will pay huge dividends in the end.
Your first job is to serve – This is the foundation of the value you should hold for your clients. A true professional always delivers and always meets commitments (or lets people know well ahead of time if you may not be able to). Your actions determine whether you will earn trust and build, earn, and grow your leadership.
It’s not about you; it’s about everyone else – Leadership is about reaching a shared vision of a desirable future. It’s about the greater good, not the leader’s good. Leadership is not about you! Your philosophy of life is the greatest determining factor how successful you will be. It’s a set of principles on how you choose to live. The challenge is to constantly review, fine-tune, and change if necessary. Your accounting career can flourish or flounder strictly on the basis of your philosophy, but your clients’ philosophy matters just as much. What they think and why they believe what they do will impact your sales approach.
People are depending on you – Business in recent years has taken on many new and complex dimensions, and this trend is likely to continue. These changes have created new, exciting, and challenging possibilities in every organization. But CPAs have an advantage over other professionals in that some of the services offered are required by regulatory bodies. If they prepare tax returns or audit financial statements, the CPA’s customers are required to interact with them on a regular basis. However, in the current business environment, clients do not stay with a firm just because they have always been a client. Client needs change, and if your service is lagging, the client may seek out another firm, costing you long-term revenue and potential referrals.
It doesn’t matter whose “fault” it is – Leading an organization means accepting responsibility for what happens within it, for better and for worse. Try the practice of under-promising and over-delivering. When you surprise clients with unexpected levels of service and caring, you will knock their socks off and they will become your best advocates. Let them share news of your remarkable service to other potential clients. Delivering a promise of trust is a core tenet of CPA firms because of the profession’s status as trusted advisers and as guardians of the public interest.
Take responsibility and move on – When things go sideways, the world doesn’t stop. There’s still lots to do. Managing a crisis has, in short, four key steps:
- Own the issue.
- Deal with it swiftly, honestly, and as completely as possible.
- Pledge to not make the same mistake twice.
- Move on.
The next time you’re in the midst of a crisis, don’t try to deflect or nitpick about whose fault it was. Own the problem, take a hard-nosed approach, present a solution, get to work, and don’t do it again. You’ll fix problems faster, build trust, and get better results.
Excellence in accounting isn’t an accident. You have to make the decision that you’re going to become excellent in your field. If you want to get better in your practice and achieve superstar status, you have to become an expert in your field. Also, take the time to understand your clients and tailor your approach to every individual’s needs.
Phillip J. Brand is a motivational speaker and the author of the books, Become a Warrior at Selling and A Warrior’s Approach to Effective Sales Leadership. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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