*** NOTE FROM ROB BROWN: Occasionally on the Accounting Influencers PODCAST, we feature experts outside the accounting world but who bring valuable perspective and external best practice to large accounting firms. Nat Slavin was highly recommended, and didn’t disappoint. Though a heavyweight in the legal world, he understands professional firms and gives exceptional advice here on what makes good firms great. So you can see the relevance, every reference to ‘law firms’ in the interview, we’ve substituted ‘accounting firms in the show notes below. ***
Nat Slavin is a partner in the Wicker Park Group, an international consultancy focused on helping law firms strengthen and deepen their relationships with in-house counsel through client feedback and other client facing programs. He was the 2007 International President of LMA, is an inductee in the LMA Hall of Fame and a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management.
He is also the former publisher of InsideCounsel (Corporate Legal Times) and the author of more than 100 articles on legal department management and frequently speaks on best practices in the client-firm relationship. He regularly works with law firm leadership to advise on marketplace trends, consults with corporate legal departments and is intimately involved in the creation of innovative brand initiatives for a variety of consultancies, technology companies and law firms. Previously he was founding editor and publisher of U.S. Business Litigation. Shownotes:
- What drives loyalty and value in a relationship and how to gain more referrals
- The major differences between how law firms and accounting firms work with clients
- What drives your best relationships with professional service firms
- Too often accounting firms adopt the attitude of ‘we’re a good firm with great experience, with lots of resources and we all went to the right school.’ Trouble is, there are hundreds of those, so it doesn’t differentiate
- Advice for greater loyalty – don’t react to the problem, but the business needs of the client
- The biggest challenges accounting firms face – consolidation, understanding pricing and project management as clients get more sophisticated
- Accounting firms price badly because they fear uncertainty and not being able to predict the outcome
- Privacy and data security has everyone nervous right now and is changing the way you manage your employees and clients
- The best accounting firms don’t make assumptions about clients – they constantly ask them 3 questions: 1) What’s changing in your world? (2) Is this still the goal for you? and 3) What can we do to make your life easier?
- An accounting client’s needs boils down to 3 things when it comes to choosing their advisors : Do you understand my problem. 2) Do you have the ability to solve my problem? 3) Will I enjoy working with you?
- The fundamental premise of increasing client loyalty – stop keeping score. This naturally leads to great word of mouth, reputation and referrals
- What loyalty really means in professional services – when you have it, you become economy proof
- The role of resilience in professional services – handling the fact that your work will never be perfect or risk free
- The difference between a fan and an advocate and how Net Promoter Score helps define how easy and worthy you are to be recommended
- The missing link between being technically strong and winning work – the step that many accountants fail to understand on their path to partner
- The worst habit or rain making accountants – a sense of entitlement. You don’t have a right to win, and you don’t deserve it unless you can prove it
- Accountants must be sensitive when switching new clients from another firm – it’s an indictment on that client’s previous choice of advisor
- Not every accountant is going to be a great rainmaker, although they can still have a great career. AND you don’t HAVE to make partner
- Not everyone has the propensity to be client savvy and win work. But accountants who work hard, get the job done and look after client, they are the professionals that clients love
- The TWO qualities that makes a great work winner in professional firms
- How large accounting firms get strategy and culture wrong when it comes to client loyalty and client experience
- Service is not just meeting a deadline – there’s so much more to it than that
- A word of warning for accounting firms – getting bigger very year is not the path to success. It actually creates tension and problems
- The vast majority of accountants are good people with good intentions, trying to do good by their clients and they just need help to get there by breaking some bad habits and developing some good ones
- The NUMBER ONE RULE for large accounting firms who want to become more focused on client loyalty.
Nat Slavin has been to 49 US states (out of 50, which beats me by 1!) and visited almost as many countries and briefly taught bilingual/bicultural English and History in Southern California.
To contact Nat: 312-988-4898 (USA)