I have been spending time mentoring fellow accountants in practise who have moved from the world of industry to working for themselves as accountants to SMEs.
As with many business owners one of their key problems is a lack of confidence, not in their abilities as accountants, but in determining the value they bring to their clients. This leads to them taking on work which is below their qualifications and experience, because it is easier to ‘sell’ lower level work if you don’t understand the value to clients of more challenging projects.
It is then very easy to get onto the tread mill of having to take on lots of low value clients/projects just to pay the bills. Because all their time is taken up servicing clients, rather than developing their business, they don’t have time to go after higher value work. This then means they find it very difficult to break out of the rut they have dug for themselves.
Another problem is that, even if they are trying to go after higher level projects, they are not clear enough on what their ‘perfect’ client looks like. To the ‘perfect’ client the work professionals can do for them is of real value. They want the service and are prepared to pay an appropriate fee for it.
Other clients may have been told they need the service but it has less value to them because they do not get why it is important to them. These clients will view a professional’s fees as a cost and are much more likely to want the service at a cut down fee. In this situation the management accountant (in this scenario) may still be in the position of doing a large number of hours for a relatively low rate and have the same problem as detailed above.
They have become their own worst enemy!
The key to understanding the value you can bring to customers is to talk to them! I know this sounds obvious but we are often put off from talking to our clients because we are afraid they will tell us something we don’t want to hear. However, it is more likely they will tell us something we DO want to hear!
If you don’t have any ‘perfect’ clients you will still have introducers and other business professionals with whom you can talk to chrystalise your value proposition.
Although this blog has focused largely on accountants the same problems can be found with other professional service providers and the solutions are the same:
– Have confidence in yourself and your abilities
– Understand the value your clients realise from what you do and charge accordingly
– Concentrate on projects in which you have particular expertise
– Identify your perfect clients and market to them
Become your best friend and give yourself the best chance of running the business you deserve