13 Sep September 2018
This is such a powerful question, not only in business but in each of our personal lives. I’ve been working hard in my own life to ask myself this question about a lot of different things. I grew up in a small, conservative, southern Indiana town with a fairly narrow perspective on many of the issues of the day. I was fortunate, though; as I reached adulthood I became an avid reader. Reading has been a gift that’s helped me expand my mind. It’s one thing to learn new things; however, it’s a different matter to adjust one’s thinking regarding something already ingrained. How would asking the question “What if I saw things differently?” impact one’s thinking and potentially one’s life?
For me personally I began asking this question a number of years ago about my firm. What if I ran my firm differently, not buying into the long-held dogma of the accounting profession? Would it really be possible to break free of the long hours, heavy tax seasons and the feeling that only I could do the work for my clients? By seeing things differently, by adjusting my thinking ever so slightly, it changed the course of my accounting firm. And, for that matter, my life.
More recently, I’ve found myself asking this question in many areas of my personal life. I’m trying to better understand both sides of the political divide and have more empathy for movements across our nation that have traditionally not directly affected me. Steven Covey’s fifth habit, “seek first to understand, then to be understood,” has a lot of power. Even in my relationship with my wife and our adult children, asking that simple question, “If I saw this or that just a little bit differently, how would that impact the trajectory of our relationships for the good?”
Breaking free of old ways of thinking and seeing things differently is empowering. Every time I’ve challenged my old way of thinking, I’ve made significant strides personally and professionally. This year, I’ve challenged many of the established technologies our firm has been using. It seems like we’ve been trapped waiting on technology to catch up, so our team can work the way we know we should be able to in today’s world. It’s not been a single solution empowering our shift, but more of a mindset change that all started with the simple question, “What if we saw things differently?”
This small thing has had an impact on how I watch the news, what news I watch, how I read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. It’s affected how I run my business and the tools I select to do so. And most importantly it’s affected how I interact with other humans: my wife, kids, best friends, mentors and people I work with every day, including you.
When I started Rootworks, my intent was to help accounting firm leaders and the people they employ find different ways—better ways. Although we’ve evolved and grown tremendously since our early days, we’re still driven by that same intent: to help you grow continuously by always seeing and doing things differently.
P.S. Now that fall is here, my thoughts are turning toward sunny Florida and our year-end Inspire Conference. Are you registered yet? I really hope I see you there.
Fall is a great time of year to do a little housekeeping! Chances are that you’ll start thinking about year end staff reviews, new engagement letters for clients, review analytics from the last year, determine if you need to hire and a variety of additional little things that make owning a business and working in a business so much fun.
Your team here at Rootworks works hard to provide you with best practices and resources to help make some of these mundane tasks easy. Just check out some of the options and resources you have available to you below.
- Year End Reviews: If you’ve been conducting year end reviews, make this your last year! Commit to quarterly reviews with staff and put the power in your staff’s hands using the 3-3-1 template. This template and quarterly format empower staff to highlight 3 things that have gone well, 3 things they want to work on, and 1 goal to have completed by the next quarter.
- Engagement letters: Commit to getting signed engagement letters for every client. Use the engagement letter templates available and tweak them to the services in your firm. There are templates available for a variety of situations that have been developed by our team as well as new member provided templates.
- Analytics: Rootworks recommends reviewing how much time staff spends on admin vs billable work and reviewing billable percentages at both a client, staff and engagement level.
- Hiring: Hiring can be uncomfortable for a candidate as well as the business owner. Take a look at our new job posting examples, interview questions, offer letter and more! Don’t forget to update your descriptions of employee roles while you’re at it.
To stay up to date on all the new resources we provide, make sure to attend each Resource Update Webinar, usually provided around a quarterly basis. And if you miss them you can always watch the recording!
Among the more popular questions we get when it comes to authentication and passwords are those about security password managers. Password managers store passwords securely encrypted in an application. You can structure the application to share passwords with various people, and you can use browser extensions to pass the credentials to sites so that that you do not need to manually enter usernames and passwords. The question “Are password management apps really secure?” can be answered in a couple of ways:
Answer 1: Compared to what? Is a password management application more secure compared to how you are handling passwords right now? Are you currently storing passwords unencrypted in Practice CS notes? Perhaps you are storing them on Post-it notes under your keyboard? Or maybe you have them all in an Excel spreadsheet that has a master password? A Microsoft statistic states that on average, hackers are in a network 146 days before revealing themselves. With that in mind, it could be possible that the Excel file with your passwords has already been stolen, and the master password cracked with the freely available cracking tools out on the Internet, and you wouldn’t know it. No solution is fail proof. While I could argue that some methods are better than others, the main point I like to stress is that any solution has a risk profile. You must analyze and account for those risks in your incident response planning.
Answer 2: You’re asking the wrong question. There is a concept in cybersecurity called the CIA Triad. Not to be confused with our nation’s intelligence agency, CIA is an acronym for Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability. The confidentiality and integrity of data are concepts that most people would understand within the context of cybersecurity. However, the concept of availability is often overlooked. If you attended a Firm Retreat this summer, you know that Darren has set a bold vision for world class client experience in a mobile format. Delivering on this experience necessitates almost real time collaboration between client and firm, and between staff in the firm. With this requirement, coordinating login credentials becomes a requirement for successful implementation. Availability, therefore, becomes a high priority for consideration in security. With that in mind, it is my job as the firm cybersecurity officer to identify the risks associated with any collaborative password application utilized and to mitigate those risks as best we can. As stated above, all solutions have risk. So, the better question is, what do you want your client experience to be? Based on the answer to this question, your needs become more clear, and security efforts in regard to password management and user credentials can steered toward supporting that model, for each side of the CIA triad.
If you do use password managers, two-factor authentication is essential, and your passphrase should be the most complex passphrase in your arsenal. You should also think through what your response needs to be if the software was compromised, or if you lost your credentials.
Rootworks will be conducting a webinar in October to review a few password managers and their features. If this topic interests you, be sure to register.
Part 3: Rhythm and Habits
“Eighty percent of life is just showing up.” That Woody Allen quote may be an oversimplification, but it’s also insightful. Like anything in life, if you want to get traction with marketing, you need to develop habits of consistency. A big part of marketing is just being there—being visible and keeping a steady presence with your audience.
On the tax side of business, the purchase cycle is regular and seasonal, which makes the marketing rhythm easy to figure out. But when it comes to attracting weekly and monthly clients, the purchase cycle is irregular; it depends on complex variables, and once you sign an engagement, it could be for a lifetime. In other words, selling your business services isn’t like selling breakfast cereal and oil changes on a clear, regular purchase cycle.
The path to your new client relationships is built over time, establishing beliefs of trust, dependability and business acumen, based on your communication—an endeavor perfectly suited for a steady stream of content marketing.
As we’ve discussed in the past, content marketing is offering useful information to people, dressed up with your brand identity. As best-selling author and Rootworks friend Jay Baer says, “It’s marketing so useful, people would actually pay a few bucks for it.”
Good content is the fuel for keeping your social media channels humming on a steady basis with useful, shareable information, and you can extend content marketing into other creative channels as well, such as educational seminars.
The cumulative effect is to establish your brand as a voice of credibility and earn valuable share of mind among people who may find themselves in need of services, if not tomorrow, perhaps a couple of years down the road. Like Woody Allen said, it’s mostly about showing up. Keeping up a presence on a reasonably consistent basis is important. You may not see immediate gratification or even be able to directly tie your content publication to specific new business, but it’s an important part of the overall marketing mix. It’s your voice in the big, wide world.
So, what do you say with that voice and how often? How do you come up with good content presented in a good cadence? Here are a few tips:
- Daily or semi-weekly: Try short social media posts on a daily basis or twice weekly. These can be tweets or status updates sharing relevant news stories from around the web or simply documenting interesting things happening around the office. Use these touchpoints to show the human side of your firm and give them a sense of your culture. This can help when it comes to recruiting good staff, too!
- Monthly: Got a blog? A monthly rhythm is a good pace for a firm partner or leader to sound off on a relevant topic and offer good, practical advice for readers. If you’re a Rootworks Academy member, you have the option of an automatic monthly update with our syndicated content.
- Quarterly or Biannually: Take your content offline and go face-to-face with your audience. Design and host an educational seminar for small businesses about a timely aspect of financial strategy or management. You can double-up your efforts by live streaming your event on social media. And, of course, you should use your social channels to promote the event in advance, as well.
- Seasonally: Ingrain your brand in the life of the community with sponsorships, whether it’s the arts, athletics, education, charity… put your money where your heart is and make your brand’s voice a part it. Get your staff involved with volunteer support, and you’ll have more firm activity to document on social media, as well. Ask everyone on your team to make suggestions on what causes to adopt and make it an organic part of your firm culture.
- Take Advantage of Rootworks Content: Our Academy and Advantage member firms have the option of subscribing to our content packages, including digital and optional print versions of a bi-monthly firm magazine for clients and prospects. And each new edition comes with 60 days’ worth of pre-written social media posts to help you promote the content on your channels.
These are a few good, basic habits you can adopt to keep your brand’s voice heard during the long, complex process of earning a new business client. Just remember that it’s not about instant gratification—the seeds you plant today may take a few years to germinate. Keep them watered and nurtured with regular content marketing. Make these good habits central to your firm’s marketing culture.
New to Rootworks? We still have space in the Modern Firm Workshop on September 20-21 at our Indianapolis Learning Center. The Modern Firm Workshop is designed for firms that are new to Rootworks. Don’t miss an opportunity to attend if you can. Register here.
Advantage and Academy Members
- September 19, Staff Training: “Preparing for and Managing a Remote Workforce”
- September 26, Staff Training, Part 3 of 3 (optional): “Modern Document Management: Integrating Onvio Document into Your Processes”
- October 3, Staff Training: “Creating Worthwhile Client Surveys”
- October 17, Staff Training: “Staff Reviews and Evaluations”
Inspire Conference Registrations Underway
Register now for your year-end conference in sunny Sarasota, Florida. Get agenda details and register here. Don’t wait—hotel accommodations will fill up!