14 Mar March 2017
I remember back— probably about 1995—when I would walk into my office with its different variations of carpet in each area and employee workspaces that were inconsistent at best. I had made a feeble attempt at creating a logo, and man did we have paper—paper was everywhere. It was uninspiring for me and, I’m assuming, for my staff as well. Tax return after tax return, making money was the goal. I’m sure you can relate.
Uninspiring—that’s what’s causing our staffing issues in my mind. People want to work for a purpose. Changing small business owners’ lives is a purpose, not cranking out tax returns so you can make more money. But you can’t just say, “We’re here to change the lives of small business owners” and expect your staff to respond. You have to own that phrase and live it in everything you do.
I’ve recently been attracted to a brand called Lessonly. They used to have the domain lesson.ly and recently acquired lessonly.com. A little more background: A guy I know sold his business to Salesforce for around $2.5B (yes that’s a B) and started an incubator in Indianapolis (on the circle) called High Alpha Studios. It was there that I first saw the Lessonly brand. I was immediately drawn to how, well, I would say “cool” the brand appeared. From there I checked them out online and was thoroughly impressed with the coolness of their online presence and the simplicity of their products. From there, I got connected with their CEO, Max, whom I visited in early March at their new offices. Max is 29 years old, the founder and CEO, a graduate of Indiana University (is there really any other place?) and now, after four years, he has 65 employees that reside in an old schoolhouse in the hottest part of downtown Indianapolis.
There’s a lot to unpack in the last paragraph that you might have missed:
- Max started his company at 25
- Four years later he has 65 employees
- He took the Lesson.ly brand from incubation to a renovated school building
Add to that the fact that he’s developed a strong sales culture with lots of young people working for him. According to Max, he has more good résumés than he can hire right now.
If you’re thinking, “Yeah, but he’s a young kid, running a cool brand in the tech industry and I’m not,” well, I’m going to call BS on that—it’s a cop out. We haven’t had a hiring problem in RootAdvisors since I began paying attention. All Max is doing is paying attention, and it makes a difference. He didn’t have to rent space in an old schoolhouse to support his Lessonly brand. He didn’t have to invest in his brand identity and web platform. He didn’t have to prioritize creating an enjoyable culture and surrounding his company with creative people. You see, it’s all these little choices we make that create he culture that drives our business and eventually our success.
Cranking out tax returns is necessary, but uninspiring. So how do we change that?
Here are three things to add to your 2017 strategic project list to make your company more inspiring:
- Examine your physical space. We are in the process of adding another 6,000 square feet to our building that will include an exercise area, a bar and café, a fireplace and open areas for our team to get out of their offices and collaborate with others. Our space is designed to host entrepreneurial events for those in the community—both clients and non-clients, and we plan to partner with local businesses, like restaurants and bars, to create a since of community around these events.
- Examine your vision and core values. We recently spent a day re-examining our vision, brand promise and core values. We are now working to bring everything we do into alignment. I’ve included ours as follows:
- Vision — Inspire and empower entrepreneurs and their teams to improve their businesses with focused intention to enrich their lives and the lives of others.
- Brand Promise — With an accounting firm at our core, we thoroughly vet and improve technology solutions, develop and deliver world-class education, coaching, and creative services, all designed within our structured entrepreneurial framework.We provide these benefits through a vibrant, active community built on personal and professional friendships.
- Core Values
Elegance – Style, design, and simplicity in everything we do.
Relationships – People and relationships matter most to us.
Inspiration – We encourage others to be the best version of themselves.
Modern – We anticipate future needs and create smart solutions.
Freedom – We aspire to be the best versions of ourselves.
Drive – We are dedicated to being world-class in all that we do.
- Examine your company culture. How’s your communication within your organization? Are you inspiring? Do you strive to keep everyone on the same page? Are you listening to your team’s feedback? Are you providing them a place to commune and get to know each other on a personal level? Is “8:00am-to-whenever” still your culture? Are you having a hard time seeing beyond that?
From my experience this all takes real work. I grew up in an “8:00am-to-whenever” culture; that’s not working for my team anymore. I grew up with a heads-down, work hard mindset. With my three adult children now working for the company, I’m being forced to re-evaluate my own thinking about communication, their commitment, and my expectations. I’m really focused on creating a world-class company culture.
Max is 29 and he’s inspiring me. He and I are now connected and mentoring each other. I’ve never had more fun than I am now. Nor have I been more challenged. There was a time when I was uninspired and money was the primary driver. That time no longer exists. My hope for you this summer is that we can put a huge dent in that thinking for you.
I look forward to seeing you in Indianapolis, my friend.
Now that the tax season is in full swing, you may or may not be encountering things that either don’t make sense, are demanding extra time, or just don’t seem efficient. Here are some recommendations:
- Keep a log of issues and either address them in the following ways:
- Meet as a group and decide the biggest takeaways from tax season, both good and bad.
- Prioritize items that fall in the bad category.
- Create your own plan or work with your Rootworks coach to to build a plan and implement things that can change the pain points.
- Consider these tips that can be implemented at any time that usually can make things start to run smoother:
- Have one person own your extension process. Do not have everyone in the firm filing the extensions. If you find the extension process is chaotic, it likely is because everyone is doing their own thing.
- Have one person contact the clients with missing information. Use your project management solution to track the client missing information and have a clear communication channel for getting that information over to the correct person.
- Make sure you keep your important conversations with clients documented, whether printing to your document management, using a client/contact management, etc. Nothing is more irritating than trying to find information about a client that has already been discussed.
Another note to keep in mind: Hackers are actively trying to break accounting (and other industry) firewalls. We have heard about multiple firms that have suffered data breaches or had ransomware take over their servers or computers, etc. While there are many technical things you need to make sure are in place, you can eliminate a significant risk with easy-to-implement policies: 1) Not opening email attachments from what appear to be your clients; 2) Pointing clients to your secure portal solution even if they email you; and 3) Not clicking links in emails. Many emails look legit and point to Dropbox, Box, Google, etc., but in reality are links that download ransomware.
We know, it’s annoying to have to tell a client to login to a portal and upload their documents and we need the document right away. However, saving that time or potential minor inconvenience on the client could cost you thousands of dollars in employee time and IT time. Keep your firm secure!
It happens during every interaction with your clients and prospects
We bring our exploration of the four “Ps” of marketing (Product, Price, Place and Promotion) full-circle this month with the final component: Promotion. Think of promotion in the broad sense as “communication”—telling the interested people in your world about how your firm and its products are relevant to them and will help them solve problems.
It’s a big concept, because there are so many different ways to communicate. In studies, consumers have identified more than 100 distinct ways that brands communicate with them, from the explicit (i.e. advertising), to implicit (i.e. the customer experience). Successful marketers take great care to make sure that every interaction with customers is a clear and consistent expression of what their brand represents and promises.
Here are some basic considerations to help you bring your marketing communications into alignment:
- Who receives your message: To communicate effectively, you need your message to reach an audience that finds the content relevant. AND, it helps if your message reaches those people at a time and place where they’re most receptive to processing the message. In other words, when they’re in the proper frame of mind to consider what you’re saying.
- What you say: The content of your messages is shaped in great part by the audience with whom you’re communicating. For very broad audiences (i.e. those you would reach via mass media advertising), your message should be congruently broad—that is, focused on the least common denominator. This type of message is usually simply seeking to achieve basic brand awareness. For more selective, targeted audiences (i.e. those you would reach via niche media or direct marketing), your message can focus more intently on the specific products and benefits that are relevant to those people.
- How you say it: Consider your tone of voice and the personality of your brand. Are you casual and laid-back? Energetic and exuberant? Sparse and elegant? Serious and buttoned-down? The tone and manner of your communication should accurately reflect the personality and character of your brand.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Take a look at these examples of recent advertising for RootAdvisors:
The messages are targeted to business owners, as evidenced by the language that’s relevant to them (e.g. references to P&L statements, KPIs, etc.). The ads promise the reader a client experience that’s fully technology-enabled, empowering them to do business in ways that fit their lifestyles; they inform readers that they can “expect more from a modern firm.” The brand identity (i.e. logo) is presented clearly in its signature color palette. And, with candid imagery and minimal text, the ads convey a sense of understated authenticity and graceful simplicity—the kind of experience that makes clients confident and deeply satisfied.
Good communication conveys far more than what meets the eye or ear. It’s an intersection of business acumen and artful expression that makes every means of interacting with your clients and prospects more powerful and more memorable. But it’s challenging.
As a skill, it’s like trying to hit a baseball; don’t try to swing too hard and miss the ball entirely. A base hit beats a swing-and-a-miss every time. Take modest, incremental steps to improve your explicit and implicit communication—from letter writing to your office décor—and be open to the idea of hiring a freelancer or part-time consultant to help you with the creative aspects of telling your brand’s story.
Advantage and Academy members:
March Staff Trainings:
- March 22nd: Bookkeeping Strategy
- March 29th: QBO Ecosystem Technology Workflow
Educational Webinar calendar is released for 2017…
- Planning Workshop Webinars: Quarterly Planning workshops are time spent working ON your business. Use each session as a checkpoint throughout the year. As we did for our Q1 session in January, our goals with these is to be as interactive as possible. Be ready to share your firm successes. Make sure you have a webcam (with a microphone). Looking for an inexpensive webcam? Check out the Logitech C270. You can get them on Amazon for around $20.
- Our Q2 Planning webinar is May 4th. It will be 90 minutes. Just like we did last year, we start by recapping tax season. Be ready to share!
- Technology Webinars: Get up to speed on new technologies or existing technologies. We’ll announce the specific products we’ll be discussing a couple weeks in advance.
- Resource Update Webinars: Find out what documents, spreadsheet, and tools etc are new, why we created them, and what to do with them.
Receipt Bank–QB Desktop on Right Networks Integration
Exciting news! As you know, Receipt Bank currently works seamlessly with Quickbooks Online; and now they want to bring the same benefits to your desktop clients. They’re currently pursuing an integration with Quickbooks Desktop, hosted on Right Networks. This means you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of Receipt Bank with both your Quickbooks Online clients and your QuickBooks Desktop.
Please note that the Receipt Bank – QB Desktop integration is specific to clients on Right Networks.
This new integration functionality will be available to the profession at large in the summer, however, they already have a wait list. Rootworks members will receive priority for the wait list and, in addition, members will are also being offered special pricing.
If you’re interested in integrating QB Desktop clients with Receipt Bank, fill out this registration of interest form and the team at Receipt Bank will be in touch.
If you are interested in looking at payroll processing options…
ADP RUN is offering Rootworks members about a 50% discount off of their retail prices. If you are interested in learning more, contact Stacy Bolser at 765-994-9071 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are already using RUN and not receiving a discount, contact Stacy as well. (Please note that ADP’s offer is a benefit to being a Rootworks member. Rootworks does not use ADP software.)