Do You Have a Client Communication Workflow?

communication-tin-canI personally believe that 95% of the problems we face day-to-day can be traced back to an issue involving communication. While I think it’s true of life in general, this definitely applies to the difficulties we all face, either constantly or just occasionally, with our clients.

Despite all the nifty technology we have to streamline communication (cell phones, instant messaging, email, etc.), the humans seem to be the source of the problems. Sometimes it’s because of choosing inappropriate methods of communication. An example of that is when an email is used instead of picking up the phone, when a time-sensitive issue crops up. Have you ever had that happen? Yeah, me too.

Other times the problem stems from more emotionally-based causes. For example, a solo bookkeeper is not quite sure how to properly book an unusual transaction, but don’t want to appear incompetent. What does she do? “Fake it” instead of reaching out to the client’s accountant for advice, or even an online peer forum for help. We’ve all had to clean up the messes created by bookkeepers who’ve had this communication problem.

So if my theory is correct and communication is at the root of a large proportion of the sticking points or downright breakdowns we have working with our clients, what’s the solution? It’s not a simple fix we can handle on our own, is it? After all, communication always involves more than one person!

Solving communication problems therefore, especially for introverts, might seem intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be. You see, I also believe that a major source of solutions to problems in business, including a bookkeeping practice, is the development and execution of top-down systems. As introverts, we’re usually pretty good at executing systems. That’s typically far less intimidating, since it’s task focused. So let’s leverage that strength and apply it to improving communication with our clients!

A Case For Using a Documented Workflow

How you get your clients’ work done month in and month out is your workflow. It can include the tools you use, the tasks your complete, and in what order. It’s a repeatable process that, when defined and then refined, should produce consistent results. That, in turn, is the mother of standardization, efficiency and scalability in your business.

A workflow exists whether you document it or not. But when moving toward improving your business efficiency (and subsequently your profitability), a workflow needs to be documented, and then tweaked or even redesigned to get optimum results for all concerned.

A very basic workflow for monthly reconciliation of bank accounts might look like this:

communication-workflow-example1

Having a documented workflow is extremely helpful for identifying and solving problems quickly. It makes it possible to immediately identify, without emotion, where the process gets stuck. Then, like a mechanic, we make small adjustments until the process runs smoothly.

The same is true for communication issues. Using a similar method for documenting and then revising the ways we communicate with clients can result in easier, more efficient, and more profitable client relationships and loyalty.

Document Your Client Communication Workflow

So how do we apply workflow to client communication? It starts the same way. Document what you’re doing now so you can see it. If it is inconsistent, include that as well, since workflow doesn’t work too well where there is inconsistency. So those spots will identify where the sticky points probably are, and their resolution can then be approached from a mechanical mindset, instead of an emotional one.

An example of a client communication workflow that reveals exactly where the flow gets stuck might look like this:

communication-workflow-example2

By visually seeing the steps and thought processes involved, it can become much easier to know exactly how to resolve problems simply and proactively.

An important point to remember when documenting workflow of any kind is to keep it simple. Also remember that it’s dynamic and can continue to change until you find the right fit and level of detail needed. Zoom out to the big picture first. Then drill down and document the next layer of detail, if needed, in any one area until you build a system that works smoothly.

Working Your Workflow

The final part of using a workflow to improve communications is to implement it and use it as a guide for consistency. Workflow processes without execution are useless. It’s when we bring them to life that the magic happens!

If using a new workflow seems challenging, simply break down the function you’re hesitant to implement into individual tasks or actions. Chunk it down to small, bite-sized steps. That way, when the emotion or fear that usually squelches communication crops up, we can take just one small step at a time to progress through the workflow. Using deadlines and timers are a great way to keep things moving too.

For example. Does your workflow say that you should pick up the phone and call your client to answer a time-sensitive question? Set an appointment for when you’ll do it, even using an alarm. The extra structure can give you that extra push to get it done until it becomes more comfortable (and successful). And most importantly, you’ll learn to be more proactive, professional and ultimately valuable for win-win results. You’ll know how to conquer the communication issues that cripple most bookkeeping businesses.

Does the idea of using workflows to solve problems in your bookkeeping practice and improving efficiency and profitability intrigue you? Then join me on the new webinar I’m hosting this week on “Streamlined Workflow & Best Practices for Virtual Bookkeepers.” In this free, live training we’ll dig into the core workflow virtual bookkeepers can use to build an entire cloud-based system. One size does not fit all, but if you have the basic framework down right, you can build a highly efficient and scalable bookkeeping business. We’ll even touch upon how you can automate some of the client communications to solve some problems before they ever begin!

Learn more and Register Here

Have you tried documenting how you’re communicating with clients? What ways have you found to resolve issues and smooth out the process for win-win results?

 

New Webinar: Streamlined Workflow for Virtual Bookkeepers with SmartVault

automated workflowThe next in our free live training webinars we’ve been holding this summer is coming up on Thursday…

“Streamlined Workflow & Best Practices for Virtual Bookkeepers”

When:  Thursday, August 11 at 2:00 PM EDT (New York) In a different Time Zone? Use this tool to find your time.

Register Here

This coming Thursday we’ll be jumping into the nuts and bolts of building and running a streamlined and profitable virtual bookkeeping business, focusing on streamlined workflow.

While there is no way to put together a one-size-fits-all solution, we can strip away all the noise with online technology and build the core chassis that will support an optimized workflow for your freelance bookkeeping practice.

Join me and my special guest, Eric Pulaski, CEO and Founder of SmartVault as we show you how to build your core virtual bookkeeping workflow to efficiently work with your clients online.

You’ll see how using SmartVault as your workflow command center is the key to building a scalable, profitable virtual bookkeeping practice quicker than you ever thought possible.

This is a free 90-minute class that includes a software demo and live Q&A segment.

If you’ve been dreading the need to sort through a multitude of online apps to simplify your bookkeeping workflow, go paperless, gather client documents electronically, and automate your systems for more accuracy and less frustration, then this free online class is for you!

Register for the LIVE event here (it’s free):
=> http://thefreelancebookkeeper.com/workflow-with-smartvault

Register for the webinar even if you can’t make it live, since the replay will only be made available to those who register for the live class, and only for a limited time.

Once you’ve saved your spot, feel free to share this post with any other bookkeepers you know who have been trying to find a way to leverage the power of
online apps to automate and streamline core bookkeeping services.

Times are changing, but together we can make it a win for you, your clients, and everyone we touch!  🙂

 

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Compliance to Advisory – Making the Switch

switchActually becoming a ‘trusted advisor’ is easier said than done.

For example, here’s a request that came in from a fellow bookkeeper recently…

“I was wondering if you have ever considered doing a topic on how to provide the value data from the financial statements.

I struggle with that and would like to be able to do that. I’m going to look into Finagraph but was just wondering if you would have any more ideas to share.”

She’s not alone. Maybe you’ve felt the same way! There’s definitely a difference between knowing how to prepare financial statements for our clients and analyzing what the numbers mean. In fact, that’s the same struggle our clients have… and why they often ignore the financial reports altogether!

Yet all our efforts to keep the books clean should not solely be so that the client has what they need to submit tax returns after the close of the year. We can provide so much more value to our clients…

  • Assess the financial health of their business…
  • Help identify positive or negative trends…
  • Forecast what demands there will be on cash flow…

… and MUCH more!

The best part is, providing analytical and strategic services for our clients, based on the information contained in the bookkeeping records and financial reports is not difficult, and can be extremely valuable from our clients’ perspective.

So how do you bridge the gap between compliance and advisory for a win-win result?

For one, we can use the tools that are readily available to us. As our colleague mentioned above, there are online analytical tools, such as Finagraph and a host of others, that can be useful in producing graphical information to our clients. Many of the software providers also include some training on how to use these tools effectively.

But not all clients will readily recognize the value of even colorful graphs and charts that show improvement or danger signs from their historical information. This is especially true of very small businesses. Financial discussions of KPIs and cost to equity ratios are too far over their heads to be useful.

To make it a truly valuable, win-win service, we need to meet our clients where they are and speak about what matters to them most. So what do clients care about? In my experience, they perk up quickly when I mention that I can help them improve their results in three key areas…

1. Increase Cash Flow
2. Increase Profits
3. Reduce Taxes

From a marketing standpoint, the most motivating one is the one that removes pain. One of the biggest pains for nearly all businesses is TAXES. If you can help reduce your clients’ tax burden by showing them simple ways to (1) know what their current tax liability is so they can plan and not be blindsided come March or April, and (2) show them how to significantly save on the taxes they owe, they will feel you are an indispensable member of their business success team.

But we are bookkeepers and most of us don’t prepare taxes for our clients. Doesn’t that mean we are not qualified to help our clients save on taxes? In a word: No.

In fact, I think if you don’t prepare taxes it can actually give you an advantage because it helps to protect your client by having two different professionals looking at their situation. You look for savings, and the preparer makes sure it’s accurate. That also helps you to build a complementary professional network and collaborate with your clients’ tax professionals and build mutually beneficial strategic relationships!

Still feeling nervous about this idea? Don’t.

There’s now a tool that makes it very simple to give you the confidence and the professional look to advise your clients easily and add simple yet valuable advisory services to your fee schedule.

Just join me and my special guest, Christopher G. Ragain, CPA, PFS on Thursday, July 28 at 2:00 PM EDT (New York) for a 90-minute webinar “Next Generation Bookkeeping: How to Simplify the Transition from Compliance to Advisory” and we’ll pull out the stops for you.

We’ll discuss how now it’s possible for us bookkeepers to have a major, positive impact on our clients, expand our service offerings to include simple tax advisory services (whether you prepare taxes or not), and use proven software that literally makes it push-button simple. Chris will give us a complete live demonstration on exactly how to do it!

Hope you can join us. This is a major step in the right direction so we can finally become that ‘Trusted Advisor’ to our bookkeeping clients!

Save Your Spot Here

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New Webinar: Next Generation Bookkeeping

next generation webniarThis week we have a brand new, future-facing free webinar for you (hey, you said you wanted more free webinars!)…

“Next Generation Bookkeeping”
How to Simplify the Transition from Compliance to Advisory

WHEN: Thursday, July 21 at 2:00 PM EDT (New York)
In a different Time Zone?

Register here for the free wbinar

Join me and my special guest, Christopher Ragain, CPA of Ragain Financial and creator of Tax Planner Pro software for this exciting new look into the future of the bookkeeping profession and how you can smoothly and easily move your practice to high-value advisory services your clients will love!

We hear lots of theory about how to become your clients'”trusted advisor,” but there’s a serious gap in seeing clear how to go from where we are now (compliance) to get to this brave new (highly profitable) advisory status.

Christopher Ragain is already doing it with his own bookkeeping services arm of his accounting practice, and he’ll share his journey, how he sees us as bookkeepers in relation to CPAs and tax professionals, and why now is the best time to make the small, simple shifts that will significantly up the level of your bookkeeping business… before the end of the year!

This is a free 90-minute class that includes a software demo and live Q&A segment.

Register for the webinar even if you can’t make it live, since the replay will only be made available to those who register for the live class.

Once you’ve saved your spot, feel free to share this email / registration link with any other bookkeepers you know who have been trying to find a way to move toward becoming a true trusted advisor to their clients.

Times are changing, but together we can make it a win for everyone involved! 🙂

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Where to Find Your Ideal Clients (6 of 6)

marketing mini-lessonSo you have a good idea about who your Ideal Clients are, that is, the type of clients you want most, but how can you find them so you can start networking with them?

You may feel like you’re all alone swimming in a vast ocean and don’t know how to find them. That’s a common feeling when first learning how to market your services by building relationships (a highly effective method to proactively grow your bookkeeping practice, by the way). Don’t despair. Today’s mini-lesson will give you what you need to move forward quickly.

My Special Guest, Martin Bissett of Upward Spiral Partnership (USP) gives some very specific actions you can take immediately to find out where your best clients gather, and how to get in front of them. You’ll learn….

  • The 3 questions you need to ask to find them quickly and effectively (even if you’re short on time)
  • How to leverage social media and learn what services they’re most interested in
  • The #1 most powerful way to attract the best of the best in your niche (and what you must do first, or your doomed)

This is just a taste of what we’ll be covering together in the full-length LIVE online class we’re doing on Tuesday, July 12, at 11:00 AM EDT (New York).

Watch the video, then act fast to reserve your seat on the LIVE webinar. (It’s free!) – it’s TOMORROW!

Want more actionable ways to grow your bookkeeping business?

Join us on the free webinar:
“How to Build Your New Client Pipeline… for Bookkeepers”

Click Here to Learn More

Don’t know who Martin Bissett is? Watch the interview I did with him not long ago, and then register for the webinar to get top-notch training to grow your bookkeeping practice like never before!

Missed any of the previous mini-lessons in this series?

Episode 1 “Marketing Confusion: How to Know What Works

Episode 2 “How Do You Attract High-Paying Clients?

Episode 3 “Are You Being Replaced by Software?

Episode 4 “How to Get the Attention of New Clients

Episode 5 “No-Cost Way to Get New Clients

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