The pressure on accountants is intense at the moment and it’s crucial to find ways to prioritise your clients so you work effectively. If you don’t, you risk wasting time on things that you don’t really need to do; not having enough time for the really important tasks; and not supporting your clients in the most effective way.
A recent Accountants Helping Accountants webinar brought together four practitioners to share their ideas for dealing with some of the most urgent issues. Here are their thoughts on how to prioritise your clients effectively.
Identify your clients’ needs
The funding available to businesses has different criteria, timescales and providers. So you need to be sure that you are covering all your clients’ needs. Alan Woods of Woods Squared on the Wirral adapted the opportunity spotting chart he was already using for his practice. He created a matrix of his clients and available support.
“We tailored the Windows of Opportunity chart concept, so instead of it being based around our traditional services, it was based on the support that we had or that clients had access to. So whether they could get the rates grants or CBILS or the Bounce Back Loan, or whether the self-employed grant applied to them, or whether the Job Retention Scheme was applicable. We just filled it in and if something wasn’t relevant, we just blacked out that particular box. If it was something that we felt they should know about, we put it in green. And if there was something that we thought perhaps they could consider again, we put it in amber.
“Then when we were speaking to clients, we knew straightaway what information we needed to share with them. We knew which clients were more pressing, because they maybe had more grants or more time sensitive grants that they might need to look up, because of that matrix. And straightaway then, we could make sure that we weren’t either covering information that was irrelevant to that client or we weren’t repeating ourselves. We had that systemisation so that we knew exactly what people wanted and we could keep a track of that.”
Spread the load
Keeping in touch with clients is essential, but time consuming; too much for one human being alone. Val Wishart of Beyond the Numbers in Edinburgh has brought her team in to help.
“During the first lockdown, I made it my personal mission that I was going to get around all of my clients and speak to every single one of them, which I did. I was on webinars and all sorts of things, just constantly chatting to people about how we could help and what we could do and where they could get help from. I exhausted myself, because I was trying to keep up and keep in touch with everybody. And I realised that actually, that was not really very sensible because I was just going to find an early grave for myself if I carried on.
“We have concentrated our efforts on clients that have needed us the most, but we have kept up with everybody by spreading the load amongst the team. So we do quarterly reviews for clients, where we just basically will talk to the client, ask how the business is going, talk about if there’s anything that they need help with, etc. And actually, it’s my team that do that now. They will get in touch with the client and just look at everything, look at how everything’s doing. So it’s now spread amongst different people that are keeping in touch with the clients. It’s not just about what you can say to them as the business owner or the partner.”
Target your support
Make sure you give the right kind of help to your clients so you don’t waste your time doing the wrong things.
Dawn McLaughlin of Dawn McLaughlin & Co. in Derry runs action planning sessions for clients so they are clear on their goals and where they want to go. This means that Dawn and her team can work effectively to help them get there.
“We used to do office hangouts where we had clients and non-clients round, and we had discussions and networking. So we decided to take that online through Zoom. And what we did was use the AVN 24 hour Action Plan as a basis for that first meeting. It’s an absolutely great basis for any kind of a session. And we took them back to basics in terms of what were their goals? What were their personal and business goals? How did they feel when they started up? Where were they now in comparison to that? We gave them time to go away and think about it and work through that.
We also tried to say to them, look, what’s going to happen going forward? Because some of them had to close; some of them actually, were doing very well. But we made them think about how they could maybe reimagine their business or pivot their services. And it worked out very well and we got great feedback from that.”
And Steven Carey of Plymouth-based The Numbers also found a way to target his clients. He increased the channels he uses to communicate with clients, posting updates on funding and finance on social media.
“I started to use Facebook for the first time ever, and joined a couple of business support groups. Starting to communicate with people using the mass media, social media, MailChimp and things like that, I was getting touchpoints with everybody on a far more regular basis than I might otherwise have done.”
His posts generated messages from the clients they were relevant to. “I think that was as a result of me actually being on the front foot and starting to tell people what I thought they needed to know, rather than specifically contacting each individual client. We do this throughout the year using some of the AVN tools that are there in our locker already.”
Could you implement these ideas in your practice? Just doing one will help you make the best use of your time, reduce the sense of overwhelm and make you more effective.
The full webinar also includes tips and advice on relieving stress and anxiety and leveraging your time. It is available to watch on the AVN Know How Hub. The Know How Hub is full of tips, advice and resources for accountants. It will help you and your clients survive the current crisis and thrive in the world beyond. Find out more.