The im­por­tance of show­ing up — and grow­ing up

Accounting Today - - Contents - BY ED­WARD MENDLOWITZ

Be­ing avail­able is es­sen­tial for main­tain­ing and strength­en­ing re­la­tion­ships with clients … and every­one else you in­ter­act with pro­fes­sion­ally. Yet I know many col­leagues who do not un­der­stand this and when I ask them why not, they al­ways have an ex­cuse.

Ei­ther it is sum­mer and too hot, or too many peo­ple are on va­ca­tions, or they take off Fri­days or leave early. In the win­ter it is too cold, or it might snow, or peo­ple are away on cruises. In fall and spring I get sim­i­lar re­sponses. And of course, ac­coun­tants can’t take the time dur­ing tax sea­son, or for that mat­ter dur­ing the mini-tax sea­son in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber, be­cause of the ex­tended re­turns they need to get done. This re­minds me of the song in “Camelot”: “If ever I would leave you, it wouldn’t be in sum­mer … it couldn’t be in au­tumn … ” and so forth. There is al­ways an ex­cuse.

I work hard to “prove” my avail­abil­ity. I con­tin­u­ously call clients, drop in at their of­fice or fac­tory, send things, and find ex­cuses to see them. I re­al­ized early on in my ca­reer that clients like to know you are think­ing of them and are avail­able should they need you. I think avail­abil­ity is one of the most im­por­tant traits to so­lid­ify a re­la­tion­ship, elicit con­fi­dence, and get re­fer­rals. One story that shows the im­por­tance of this is when we landed a very large client be­cause they got the PCPS mem­ber­ship direc­tory from the Amer­i­can In­sti­tute of CPAS. What ac­tu­ally hap­pened is the client re­trieved a copy of our peer re­view re­port pre­pared by an­other CPA firm in our area who also got the same call. The client later told us he would have used them since they “must be bet­ter than you since you used them for your peer re­view.” How­ever, they never re­turned the call! Some­times show­ing up makes the dif­fer­ence.

Two his­toric fig­ures who also be­lieved this were Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton and Nic­colo Machi­avelli. Soon af­ter Wash­ing­ton be­came pres­i­dent, he vis­ited ev­ery state to cre­ate a bond with the peo­ple to show the “avail­abil­ity” of the pres­i­dent un­der the new con­sti­tu­tion. Machi­avelli wrote in “The Prince,” a “text­book” on lead­er­ship, about the im­por­tance of the leader’s vis­i­bil­ity and avail­abil­ity. I have been around a long time and still do what­ever it takes to have clients un­der­stand my avail­abil­ity and I make sure of it. My sug­ges­tion to col­leagues, and par­tic­u­larly my young friends, is to be avail­able. Show up!

Grow up

Many col­leagues and clients get tan­gled in the daily merry-go-round that con­sumes much of their time while push­ing aside cre­ative, in­no­va­tive and big-pic­ture think­ing about their busi­ness, how they got there, and where they are go­ing.

This was strongly in­di­cated to me re­cently when a col­league called. He is a part­ner in a sub­stan­tial, prof­itable prac­tice that wanted to grow even more. They de­cided that hir­ing a mar­ket­ing con­sul­tant would be the way to go. He asked for my views and sug­ges­tions about where they could look. I asked him a few ques­tions and found out there was no plan other than that they wanted to grow the busi­ness. Af­ter chat­ting a while, he asked me for the best way to find a part-time mar­ket­ing per­son. Part-time? I ex­plained why his think­ing was mis­guided. He ei­ther needed to en­gage a pro­fes­sional mar­ket­ing con­sul­tant, or hire a full-time em­ployee. Ac­tu­ally, even if they en­gaged a con­sul­tant, they would need an in-house per­son to pro­vide sup­port and li­ai­son. They had a sig­nif­i­cant busi­ness, and needed to rec­og­nize that and do things ac­cord­ingly, on the scale of the busi­ness presently and where they want to be go­ing. Their think­ing was where they were … early on. They needed to grow up.

It seems to me that many busi­nesses are in a time warp some­where be­tween where they were and where they are. Start­ing up and ob­tain­ing a crit­i­cal mass is one of the most dif­fi­cult stages for a busi­ness. Once a ma­tu­rity of sorts is reached, many busi­nesses seem to set­tle in, rest­ing on their lau­rels, cash­ing in on the prof­its, and re­duc­ing their propen­sity for risk-tak­ing — thus lev­el­ing off.

Nev­er­the­less, some­times an owner needs a wake-up call to over­come their lethargy, and it usu­ally comes from the firm’s in­de­pen­dent ac­coun­tant. We take a less my­opic view with broader thoughts of pos­si­bil­i­ties since we are not mired in that or­ga­ni­za­tion’s daily ac­tiv­i­ties or in the col­lec­tive his­tory of where they came from. It is up to the client to con­sider our thoughts and make the de­ci­sions on how to pro­ceed. Many times it starts with a push from us.

When val­ues, goals and sights are shown higher lim­its, along with an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of what’s been ac­com­plished, there can be even fur­ther ac­com­plish­ments. This is not some­thing just for clients and col­leagues, but also for your­self. Take a good look at your own prac­tice. Many of us ac­coun­tants are great as ad­vi­sors to oth­ers, often ne­glect­ing our No. 1 client: our­selves. Grow up! AT

Ed­ward Mendlowitz, CPA, is a part­ner at Top 100 Firm Withum­smith+brown and the au­thor of 24 books and a twice-a-week blog. Reach him at (732) 964-9329 or emend­

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