Close, personal relationships are key to advisory success. But how do you build these close relationships with your clients, your team, and your community? Tory Wagg, Managing Director of Panthera Accounting, has employed a number of strategies to strengthen the ties she has already established, and create new ones for future success.
A big part of this, surprisingly, is a result of giving and receiving help. In a recent webinar, hosted by our UK-based Account Manager Daniel Harper, Tory outlines why the exchange of assistance, whether within your own team, with your clients, or amongst your community, can be powerful. They also discussed how empathy is best deployed, why personal goals are intrinsic to business success, and the value of financial education, amongst other topics.
To watch the full webinar, click here. Otherwise, here are a few points they touched upon:
The team at Panthera Accounting
The power of asking for help
Tory acknowledges that asking for help can be difficult, and that she herself used to be reluctant to reach out. To get used to the idea, she started small. First she reached out internally, and asked her team to take on a few tasks overburdening her. While this was initially hard to do, what Tory found was that her team wanted to help her, and that by asking, she’d shown that she trusted them. Sharing responsibilities also allowed staff to develop different skills, work more collaboratively, and learn to be confident in more client-facing roles. In short, by asking for help, and then delegating tasks, Tory helped her team grow.
Over the lockdown, Panthera Accounting also reached out to other professionals inside and outside the accounting industry for help. Tory found it valuable to network with other accountants—even competitors—to see what was working amongst them, and how they could all benefit from employing these strategies. They also held a joint Facebook Live Q&A session with an HR company, to answer client questions around the furlough scheme. Teaming up meant that a broader range of topics could be answered, with more expertise.
Tory encourages reaching out to other professionals to ask for help
Reaching out to clients for help can also engender trust. Tory asked loyal customers to help Panthera Accounting by following them on social media, reviewing their services, and submitting feedback forms. She even asked favourite clients to film short videos of gratitude for her less client-facing team, to share the love around. Little things like this, she found, made a huge difference for their community.
Finally, Tory quickly realised that calling her software Account Managers for help was a lot faster than battling through technical difficulties herself.
“I’ve gotten much better, especially over the lockdown period, at just banging out a quick message, or picking up the phone and saying, ‘I’m stuck on this thing, this bit of software isn’t doing what I thought it would do, help me,” she says. “And suddenly, you get answers much more quickly, you’re not spending lots of time trawling through stuff—that’s been very helpful.”
Why personal goals are intrinsically tied to business success
Understanding what your clients really want means having some important, meaningful conversations, and a solid relationship. While some may be reluctant to open up about their personal goals, a roadmap for success makes no sense if you’re plotting a path to the wrong destination.
Tory gives the example of a successful business owner who they assumed would be wanting to focus on growing profits, but whose goal was actually to only work three days a week. Without this context, they wouldn’t have been able to give the right advice.
Three things to keep in mind:
- Digging for personal goal gold isn’t something you can do in ten minutes over the phone. Schedule in a lengthy face-to-face (or Zoom) meeting, to really get to know your client. Find out who they are, what their situation is like, what their context is. What do they want—nor just out of their business, but out of life?
- It might take more than one conversation to get to the heart of your client. In the meantime, build the relationship by remembering salient points from your last meeting, and asking after what your client finds important.
- Once you feel you understand their idea of success, advisory work becomes an easy sell—the specific is always much easier to explain than the general. Let them know why they need a Cashflow Forecast in order to reach a first-home deposit/retire in five years/buy a yacht/support their child through university, and they’re more likely to engage with what you have to offer.
Tory is a strong Spotlight Reporting advocate
Empowering clients through education
Ideally, all clients who need a Management Accountant would have one—but the reality is that many just can’t afford it, especially right now. To help fill the gap, Tory’s team teaches their money-strapped clients how to read their own financial data, and understand the metrics that matter.
“My job is to get them the best outcome that they possibly can have, by empowering them,” says Tory. “And that’s done by making sure they can get their hands on the right data, and understand it. That’s where using something like Spotlight really comes in, because rather than us saying, ‘don’t worry, there there, we’ll sort it all out for you’, (which doesn’t really solve the problem in the long run) we can say, ‘right, let’s fill the Dashboard together, or we’ll build a forecast together, we’ll get it to give you the information that you need, and then you go and do something with that information.’”
This has been especially useful, she says, for clients who are lacking in confidence. Giving them the tools to navigate their own finances empowers them as both owners and leaders. Furthermore, it doesn’t detract from what Tory and her team has to offer, but more showcases what advisory could be.
“We’ll make sure that you’ve got a plan, we can help you with all of that stuff, and we can hold you accountable—but the bit in the middle is, you’ve got to do something with that data, you’ve got to build the better business,” says Tory. “... That doesn’t mean that we’re letting you go, to sort it all out by yourself, or that we’re not available. It’s this middle path where we’re standing shoulder to shoulder with you.”
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