How can your accounting firm become a better beacon of security and safety for your clients in these uncertain economic times?
When you are out in nature, have you ever thought about what helps you to slow down and calm down, even if for a moment? For me, activities like driving towards the mountains, watching the waves at the ocean, or looking at a distinct rocky shoreline that extends to the distance bring me that calm.
I started thinking about why, and then the realization came to me. There is a constant predictability about each of those calming actions. Those mountains are highly unlikely to move, the rocky shoreline has a steadfastness to it, and the ocean has a rhythm that you can see, hear, and feel. Each of these are present and predictable, despite the shifting environment all around. I find that when I have many moving pieces, work or personal, I find even greater calm from these elements.
This consistent source of calm — a beacon, if you will — is what your clients need from you in the role of their tax & accounting advisor. How can you maximize the impact of your role as that beacon for your clients? Let’s dive into the five key elements are necessary for you to become that needed beacon for your clients in shifting economic times.
Beacons must be visible to be effective, but not just visible to those who are close by and looking for them. They must be visible from a distance and be able to garner the attention needed. How is your firm visible during shifting economic times? Are you visible online with up-to-date newsletters, blogs, or articles that have truly relevant information? While there are many choices of medium through which to be visible, your firm must consider your clients and play in those spaces to maintain visibility.
Beacons are not only visible, but they communicate something to come. Perhaps it is that a dangerous shoreline is ahead, or the coming season as the trees on the mountain start to turn color. In this same spirit, your clients need to look to you as a predictor. This does not mean you must brush up on your fortune telling, but rather use your experience to talk about what is coming next and encourage proper expectations within your client. Many firms will tend to freeze on being predictive, because they do not have the answer for what lies five steps down the road; but, in fact, all your client needs are the next two steps.
Most beacons have a pattern to them; they are predictable in nature. Your firm wants to be predictable, even though predictable is sometimes communicated as boring. However, this predictability is what your client is craving when everything around them is shifting and moving. They need a place where the rhythms are known and communicated well. Your firm will need to evaluate if your rhythms demand change in the shifting times. And it is okay if a change is required, but that will need to be explained, and then made a part of the new rhythm predictably held to by your firm.
Confidence is a funny thing. You can give your client the proper answer while you waver, and they doubt. You can give the wrong answer with great confidence, and they trust. However, how can you be confident in times of shifting and uncertain economics? Stay within the known, and help your clients focus on the controllable. As your clients watch news reports and read market data, there is a tendency to extrapolate beyond what is reasonable and start making decisions about their business which are based on negative assumptions and non-correlated data. Your role is to confidently help them focus to what is known and in their sphere of control, even if you also have to confidently tell them those things you don’t know. As you make that distinction with your customers, not only will they use you to help slow their own thinking, but you will also become the recipient of their more thoughtful questions — which is the opportunity for you to deepen that relationship beyond where you stand today.
When things are in a state of constant change, your clients want the real you. Your authenticity is hopefully already a foundation for your communication. In times of change and uncertainty, your communication frequency with clients should rise. Your challenge here is to not shy away from being authentic. The way in which you communicate, the way you balance personal concern and confidence in your value during this time, the focus on simplicity and clarity — each of these should carry your authenticity as a visible part of the foundation.
Clearly, challenging times demand that leadership steps forward — but too often this doesn’t just happen. The reality is that many firm leaders are battling one or more fights to be able to do convey all five of these elements.
None of this may be easy, but your clients need a beacon. Yet, by stepping forward in each of these areas , you can become that beacon your tax & accounting clients need in today’s uncertain business climate.