My wife Michelle and I recently took an extended trip to Europe, visiting some great hotels in London, Paris and Lake Como. We both love Europe and great hotels, so we picked the hotels we wanted to stay in based on their incredible reputations worldwide with respect to elegance, beauty and impeccable customer service.
We stayed at Claridge’s in London, the Ritz Paris (not to be confused with The Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota, one of our other favorite hotels and where we’ll see everyone at Inspire this year), and the Grand Hotel Tremezzo at Lake Como, Italy. The interesting thing about each of these properties is that they’re not a part of any corporate chain. They’re independently family-owned businesses—much like yours.
I’ve always been fascinated by how boutique family-owned businesses reach such a status. It’s that status—call it brand recognition—that allows each of those brands to charge appropriately. The ability to charge appropriately is the economic fuel that allows a business to hire the best people, to not overfill their business funnel, to reinvest and keep standards high. And all of this further drives the brand and attracts ideal customers.
90% effort, 10%…whatever? Think again
Fast-forward to near the end of our trip. I’m having my morning coffee on the balcony of the Grand Hotel Tremezzo overlooking Lake Como (I know, but someone has to do it). I’m reading the international version of The New York Times (NYT) when I see an article about what makes a boutique business great.
According to the article, “Most businesses put in 90% of the effort to make their business workable and don’t bother with the last 10%, which is crossing all the T’s and dotting the I’s to make their business remarkable.” It went on to say, “What separates the good businesses from the legendary ones is the investment in the last 10%.” And “…the last 10% requires as much effort as the prior 90% in order to become great.”
I’ve heard so many business coaches and consultants say, “Just do the 90% and move on, because the last 10% requires too much effort and it’s not worth it.” What clearly resonated with me in this NYT article might have been the message itself—but honestly, I think it was more that it was the right message at the right time.
What made it the right time? Well, I’d just had three incredible hotel experiences where they’d put in the 90% effort to close the 10% gap to near perfection.
The freedom of boutique
It’s also become clear to me since the pandemic that the traditional accounting firm business models are no longer sustainable. By that, I mean the volume of tax season and simply chucking more clients into the system. Think about it. If you’re doing just the 90%, like everyone else, then there really isn’t anything separating you from other firms.
Let’s now take this a step further. If you do the work to create a legendary experience for clients, would that change what you could charge? If you were proactive with clients’ needs instead of reactive, would that further differentiate your firm?
It really is about the ability to generate enough revenue to power your economic engine. Enough revenue to allow you the freedom to provide an incredible client experience while also creating an amazing team experience. This also means not overburdening your staff and creating a desirable work environment.
I just experienced it at each of the hotels I visited, and I promise—it’s possible even in a boutique business like yours. In fact, it’s probably more attainable.
That magic 10%
So, what level of energy is required to perform the last 10%? According to the article, this is where another 90% effort comes in.
The magic 10% is powered by a clear business model. This means bringing in the right number of ideal clients who buy your predefined products and use the tools you’ve curated to efficiently deliver services. It’s a model where you frictionlessly collect all client data necessary to serve clients proactively and help them feel holistically served. Finally, this all happens within a beautiful environment, with a well-constructed brand, where every T is crossed and every I is dotted. Yes, it takes a lot of effort, but it’s game-changing.
I recently had a friend and fellow firm owner tell me that after a bit of analysis, he realized that 85% of his firm’s billings come from just 25% of their clients. He went on to say that 93% of their billings come from 50% of their clients.
Consider that for just a moment. Could you raise fees by 7%, close the gap and reduce your client list by 50%? Would this allow you the time to invest the 90% of energy required to be a legendary firm (to achieve that magic 10%)? If so, what would the impact be on your two biggest and best assets—your clients and your team?
Every firm should be doing the math right now, because now is the time to make the magic happen. Now is the time to create a sustainable, truly legendary boutique firm.
If you’d like more ideas on going for that magic 10%, check out this Rootworks blog article, How to offer an unparalleled client experience and crush the competition.
For years, we’ve heard that quickly changing technologies drive disruption in the accounting profession. Now, however, we’re witnessing the root of disruption coming from humans who are digging in their heels and demanding change.
It’s no secret that culture in the workplace has completely shifted. Employees want more balance in their workday with flexibility and autonomy—and employers are seeking ways to provide that balance.
The purpose of this new ThoughtLeader section is to explore all aspects of this new disruption, from how it’s impacting our profession to thought-provoking ideas that inspire action. Each month, we’ll highlight topics and trends while exploring ways to improve the health of your culture. This month, we take a look at “connection.”
Making meetings meaningful (no, really)
We often hear people say, “We don’t have time for staff meetings.” While that’s understandable, it can be a sign that the culture health of the firm is at stake. Without the expectation of connection on a consistent basis, staff feel disconnected from one another and from their work to elevate the firm’s vision.
So how do we leverage staff meetings to improve relationships and the work we’re doing instead of thinking of them as a waste of time? Make them meaningful! Here are a few suggestions to get you on track:
At the heart of every organization, you’ll find the people, not the percentages. That’s why reiterating to the team on a regular basis that their needs have been heard results in productive meetings—and more importantly, meaningful connections.
Because trust us…nothing is more gratifying to human beings than knowing that what we do makes a positive difference. So when you elevate the voice of every team member, you not only show them that you care about their input and opinions—you tell them, in the loudest and clearest voice possible, that they matter to the world, to the business and to you.
If you’d like to learn more about creating a great firm culture, check out this informative Rootworks blog article, Create an irresistible accounting firm culture.
It’s July 2022. The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in 10 years, having dropped approximately 10% over the last two years as we fought our way through the pandemic and The Great Resignation.
An astonishing—in fact, record-breaking—number of people have left their jobs since the start of the pandemic, and that’s showing no signs of subsiding anytime soon.
So if you thought you were the only one posting a job ad or listing and not receiving a single applicant…far from it. This isn’t an industry problem, it’s a global problem. A separate pandemic, if you will.
Back in 2020, most of us were forced into working from home—if you were lucky enough to have your business survive, that is. And most of us weren’t prepared for such an immediate transition. Sure, your employees had laptops and phones they could use. But what was the etiquette and the cadence for working from home? What were the expectations? What would employees not have access to at home that they once had access to in the office? How did you know your firm’s and your clients’ data would be safe, secure and protected?
Well, we’ve been doing this for two years now. Some of us longer. And hopefully, if you’re still working from home, you’ve gotten better at it as an organization. However, if you’re still struggling, let me tell you why you should keep trying to get better.
Do desperate times call for desperate measures?
How do we adapt to a market that can’t supply our demand—that demand being qualified candidates? The best way to make an immediate impact on a market like this is to adapt the qualifications of our demand to meet the supply that’s available.
Maybe that sounds desperate…although, I think it’s just simple economics. Adapting isn’t an act of desperation; rather, it’s an act of foresight. It will only start to feel like desperation if you refuse to adapt.
The point I’m trying to make here is that you need a way to attract candidates to a modern business. And modern businesses require modern solutions (aka working remotely).
So take a moment and think about your current job posting, which, for argument’s sake, let’s say reached candidates within 45 minutes of driving time from your office. If you’re not in a major metropolitan area, that’s going to be a very limited demographic—and simply not a large enough population.
But what if you could expand that to search for people within your state? How about within your time zone? Or how about the six million unemployed people across the entire country, along with those who are employed but seeking new opportunities?
You’ve just opened the door to a candidate pool you never had access to in the past. Now, let’s say you find one of these people and you want to hire them. How do you make your initial communication? How do you send secure documents like an offer letter? And how do you onboard a new employee and get them connected to the technology your business uses in a smart, efficient and secure manner?
Hiring and onboarding with smart security management
If you have an eSignature platform you already use for your client base, you should be using that internally to assist new employees in signing their offer letters safely and securely. The same goes for any kind of document management system you might be using in your firm. In fact, most of the technology you already own and use daily for your clients can likely be used for a desirable candidate as well.
When you onboard a new remote employee, you provide them with a slew of technology, including but not limited to the following:
To make sure these pieces of technology are set up securely and have fluid integration with the rest of your business, you need to be prepared.
One of the most basic ways to prepare for virtual onboarding is with a VPN/terminal or hosted server access. Only supply credentials or information to a candidate from whom you’ve received a signed offer letter. This is critical to protect your business and its data or information.
After a secure connection has been established and your candidate has all their new hardware set up, protect them immediately by granting them access or a license to your anti-virus program before they try to download any applications on their PC.
Where needed, it should be just as critical to set up multifactor authentication (MFA). Yes, it can be annoying to wait for a code to be texted or emailed to your phone. And yes, it will take longer to log in. But it’s safer and more secure than any other alternative—and worth every bit of the hassle.
You should have MFA set up for any software a new employee will access. It could be, but is not limited to, any of the following:
Your onboarding champion should be responsible for monitoring the fluidity of this process and, if possible, work with your IT team to ensure that your new hires are not only getting everything they need for successful remote work, but that they’re receiving those things securely.
If you’re in search of a tool that can help you manage your new remote onboarding process, or maybe just don’t know where to start, Rootworks members have access to our “Security checklist for remote employees” tool (account login required). Or, if you’re looking for even more details and suggestions about how to roll out remote employee onboarding, Rootworks members can also click here (account login required) to check out our “Working remotely” lesson.
Make sure you evaluate your technology to see what you’re missing. Communicate policies, expectations and digital protocols with your new employees. Develop a consistent roll-out strategy that you only change for the sake of improvement.
And keep in mind that to ensure these steps are all completed successfully, you’ll need to put your onboarding process under scrutiny—and continue to keep a watchful eye on the process to make things easier (and more secure) for you and your team.
If you’d like to learn more about conquering staffing issues, check out our Rootworks blog article, Attacking the staffing challenge: Top 4 strategies.
Here’s a topic I willingly kick every chance I get. Let’s start with some warm-up stretches (since I’m not as young as I used to be, and it takes a lot longer to recover from pulled muscles).
Domain ownership and security is a foundational piece of every modern firm’s business—but one that often gets overlooked or undervalued. Each year, we help many firms who encounter significant pain, frustration and costs associated with a lack of ownership and security around their domain. And while we’re always ready to help firms when pain exists, we prefer to help you avoid the pains altogether. Hence my propensity for swinging a leg at this topic.
In this article, I share some thoughts on how a modern firm should consider the importance of domain ownership, along with a few tips on what you can do to establish better controls and security.
Important questions to ask
Every modern firm should have solid ownership and controlled access to physical and digital assets. Firm owners, pause here for a moment and answer these two questions:
You might think, “Of course I have ownership/control of my firm’s office! This isn’t a bus station. We don’t let anyone just come and go as they please.”
I hope you’ve answered similarly for the control/security of your domain. (Swings leg.) However, we often find that firms are either unaware of who owns and controls their domain…or they willfully run in the opposite direction because the term domain sounds technical. Let me assure you that while updating settings on your domain is technical, having direct ownership and controlling access is not.
(Swings leg again.) Clear domain ownership and controlling access are key to a modern firm’s long-term success. Why? Because your domain establishes the foundation that most of your digital brand, communications and interactions will work on and through for as long as your firm is in business.
Which, of course, begs more questions:
These common situations all involve accessing or granting access to your domain at some level. When you lack ownership and control over access to your domain, you set yourself up for many frustrations, pains and time that you could invest elsewhere.
Important answers to know
Here’s what you can do (and be aware of) to establish better domain controls/security:
Need more details about what your domain is, why it’s important and how to secure it? Rootworks members can click here (account login required) to check out our “Your domain at a glance” guide.
Have you ever wondered what every accounting firm website should have? Find out in this Rootworks blog article, Must-haves: What goes on a modern accounting firm’s website.
It’s time to recognize this month’s Rootworks member anniversaries! Help us wish the following firms a Happy Rootworks Anniversary:
J.B. Merritt & Associates
Stacey CPA, LLC
A+ Accounting Inc
Neiderhiser Consulting & Accounting Group, LLC
Tracy Jones CPA LLC
Stacy Hammond CPA PLLC
Benchmark CPA Group LLC
Succentrix Business Advisors
Tax Smart Advisors LLC
Sisson Accounting PLLC
Sheila Brandenberg CPA LLC
Angela L Eyster CPA LLC
Mayolo & Associates LLC
Greenwald + Company CPAs
Stuart, Edelstein, Linderman & Co., Inc.
King McNamara Moriarty LLP
Earney & Company, L.L.P.
Paquette & Company, LTD
Brand, Blackwell & Company, P.C.
Spiegelberg Financial Services
Greene Finney Cauley, LLP
Rust & Company CPAs
Cox Holsted & Associates PC
Berg Partners LLC
Andrews Consulting LLP
Bookkeeping & Management Systems, Inc.
Congratulations on your success, and we look forward to celebrating many more anniversaries with you and your teams!
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Rootworks members can now use an early access version of Insights, which delivers customer segmentation and pricing data as well as reports for your firm and clients. Connection to QuickBooks Online is required for firms and/or clients.