There are no big clients or small clients — just clients The Pub­lic Fo­rum of Ac­count­ing

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Accounting Today - - Opinion - By Ed Mendlowitz

In the movie “No Time for Sergeants” — a real oldie — Andy Grif­fith sees an of­fi­cer who is also a woman. He has been taught to see and re­spect the uni­form and not the wearer of that uni­form. When his friends com­ment about the woman’s fig­ure, he says he doesn’t see a woman — all he sees is an of­fi­cer. They think he has gone blind or batty. Well, you might say that the same ap­plies to me. Just sub­sti­tute “client” for “uni­form.”

I was once asked why I had so many women clients. I had never thought about that and had to think for a mo­ment or two. Then I replied, “Be­cause I treat them the same as my men clients.” Now, I am not a psy­chol­o­gist and haven’t re­ally looked too deeply into this, but it turns out that my deal­ings with women clients were the same as with my men clients. I never made a dis­tinc­tion. To me they were clients and paid my “salary.”

At that time, though, I did think about it. I also then re­al­ized that I treated all my clients the same — with the ut­most in­ter­est, care, at­ten­tion, fo­cus and re­spect. They all con­trib­uted to pay­ing my salary. This also means I treated smaller clients the same as my larger clients. The larger clients did get more time and ser­vices, so in that re­gard they were treated dif­fer­ently, but that refers to a time or work el­e­ment and not to the in­cor­po­real as­pects of the re­la­tion­ship. All clients are im­por­tant and should be treated in the man­ner they be­lieve they should be treated. If we start dis­tin­guish­ing be­tween good and bad, or A, B and C, or im­por­tant and less im­por­tant clients, then I truly be­lieve we will treat ev­ery client the way we treat the worst client on that rat­ing scale. Note that this is “prov­able” — when you lose a large client and are told you “weren’t ‘con­nected’ or re­lat­ing to us any­more,” think about that!

If you “rate” your clients, stop. If you place clients in cat­e­gories un­re­lated to the ser­vices you pro­vide, stop. If you in­ter­rupt a meet­ing with a client to take a call from a larger client, stop. If you push aside some­thing that is im­por­tant to one of your clients to do some­thing for a larger client, stop. Pri­or­i­tize your re­la­tion­ships — all clients are equally im­por­tant, and the size of the fees is not the de­ter­mi­nant.

I am not sug­gest­ing you ig­nore your largest clients. I am sug­gest­ing that if you give pri­or­ity ser­vice to a larger client at the ex­pense of a smaller client, you will even­tu­ally, if not al­ready, re­duce your level of ser­vice to all your clients.

The ‘Ed Mendlowitz fac­tor’

When a client en­gages me for any type of ser­vice, there are spe­cific de­scrip­tions of what we will do and the goal or end re­sult of the ser­vices. What is not fig­ured in is “the Ed Mendlowitz fac­tor.”

Once some­one signs on with me, my radar gets turned on 24/7. What this is, is my think­ing about them, their busi­ness or sit­u­a­tion, and fo­cus­ing on how I can help them ad­di­tion­ally with any is­sues or prob­lems they have, and also to add un­ex­pected value. In­cluded is the full ap­pli­ca­tion of my knowl­edge and vast and ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing my in­tense de­sire to ap­ply what I can to help clients with their sit­u­a­tion. This is all “thrown in” gratis with my plea­sure.

The re­al­ity is that we are just an­other ven­dor to our clients re­gard­less of how they act and re­spond when we are to­gether. I am sure they greatly ap­pre­ci­ate what we do for them, but when we are gone, so are their thoughts of us. This is not so for me and I am sure many of my col­leagues. We take the re­la­tion­ships per­son­ally, dwell on ev­ery is­sue, and care­fully look for ways to pro­vide tremen­dous value to them. Our mind works “over­time” think­ing about them. We care, and I be­lieve it is ev­i­dent in the re­sults. That is the pri­mary rea­son for the long re­la­tion­ships most ac­coun­tants have with their clients.

When clients en­gage ac­coun­tants, they bar­gain for spe­cific ser­vices, and they get that, and much more. In my case it is the “Ed Mendlowitz fac­tor.” Gratis!

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

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