It is often said that first impressions are lasting impressions. That is surely true when you walk into the reception of a professional firm. Your immediate thoughts might be one of being favourably impressed. But then again that might not be the case.
Here is my Great Reception Test. How many can you say ‘yes’ to?
- Is the reception area spacious?
- Well furnished?
- Smartly decorated – definitely not looking tired
- Good artwork?
- Quality seating?
- Internet access?
- Maybe magazines or firm literature?
- Possibly a drinks menu?
- No boxes of client records or other such ‘clutter’?
- Warm welcome from the reception
If you scored more than 8 – well done. If you scored 8 or less – where can you improve?
Timescales for completion of your reception upgrade
- 1-3 months – well done
- 4-6 months – ‘fine’
- 7 months or longer – surely you could improve
Now, the last test referred to your reception welcome. How important is the welcome? Very. Your receptionist is a key firm team member. It is likely that callers talk two or three times more frequently with this member of staff than with you. Here are some suggestions for developing the role of your receptionist:
- Rename your receptionist – “Director of First Impressions.” My thanks to Paul Dunn for this wonderful suggestion.
- You could involve your receptionist in your client survey programme. Your Director of First Impressions should ask clients as they are waiting in reception “while you are waiting would you mind completing a brief client survey?”
- Maybe your receptionist could arrange for your visitor to have a drink of their choice.
RECEPTION – TEN IDEAS
- Make sure clients have Wi-Fi access. Log in? Maybe ‘great accountants’?!
- Tip board – use a white board and keep up-to-date every week
- Welcome board – with names of visitors to your office
- Drinks – keep a record of what your clients like to drink. Have a wide selection
- Literature – newsletters. Press cuttings. Magazines
- A menu of your services. Like restaurants, show all of your service offerings. Service cards maybe?
- Artwork – have good artwork in reception
- Don’t display your professional certificates – they are not of interest to anyone – except maybe you!
- A warm welcome from reception and a fond farewell
- Make sure reception is clean, tidy and clear with no clients records left on show.
BULLET SUGGESTIONS STAFF – A FEW MORE SUGGESTIONS FROM MANAGEMENT CONFERENCES
- “Do all you can to shine the spotlight on your people and make sure they feel like they are central to the firm and not on the periphery.”
- “We are not good at dealing with poor performers and some long-term managers are holding others back because they are doing the work that others should be doing.”
- “Speak positively about each other and your firm at every opportunity. One of my mantras is that we should always believe the best.”
- “Do everything you can with staff with enthusiasm – it’s contagious.”
- “Our staff need to develop so that the DNA of the business is built into them.”
- “We need to invest into our staff so that they become better business people.”
- “Do all you can to take care of your staff.” One firm talked a lot about the importance of work-life balance and then held a firm retreat on a Saturday!
- “Walk the talk consistently.”
Q: What are you doing to use the available expertise embedded in all the people around you?
Typically accounting firms are not good at dealing with poor performers and in some firms there are long-term managers who are holding others back because they are doing work that could be delegated. This is one reason why some firms are seeing their personnel costs heading toward and even beyond the 50 per cent of income barrier.
In addition to developing your staff technically, make sure you train and mentor them in such areas and skills as: Marketing and networking – how to be business developers. It’s usually too late when they are just about to become partners and they are told that the final crowning will come when they have demonstrated they can win business. You need to train them right from the outset. Start training them in their first year with the firm.
- Train them in community service. Show them how it works and where the firm is involved.
- Train them how to conduct meetings.
- Train them on how to be impactful.
IMPROVING STAFF MORALE PRACTICE MANAGEMENT QUOTES
“The number one motivator for staff is the opportunity to advance.”
What flexibility do you offer staff? Flexible hours? Reduced working week? Do you hire in staff during busy seasons to ensure permanent staff do not become too stressed?
Feedback has to be at least four times positive for every negative for the perception to be at least 50:50. People have an emotional reservoir which needs to be built up with positive feedback. That will help carry them through a tough time.
“In the factory we make cosmetics. In the store we sell hope.”Charles H. Revlon, founder of Revlon cosmetics
- Do you provide public recognition of staff achievements?
- Praise and compliment other people. There are however two conditions:
- It must be true
- The praise must be specific, e.g. “I appreciate it when you did this.”
But, be careful not to praise too often because as you do the value of your praise goes down.
- Do you hold regular staff meetings to update people on what’s going on in the firm?
- Do you hold firm socials? They can be great for morale but fin d something of interest and challenge
- Do you have systems that encourage staff to make suggestions on how to improve the firm and assure them that management will respond to their suggestions?
- Maybe the staff could have lunch with the partners?
- Is there an effective new staff employee orientation programme?
- Is there a staff policy manual?
- Are staff involved in client meetings?
- Don’t defer dealing with people problems. They affect others.
- But, ultimately, if you can’t help the staff change, then you are left with little option other than to change the staff.
TEN COMMON CHARACTERISTICS OF THE EXCEPTIONAL ACCOUNTING FIRM
I compiled these while listening to my friend and colleague Allan Koltin
- The partners respect and value leadership and management
- At least 25 per cent of the partner group are ‘repeat’ rainmakers
- The firm is run like a country and not a country club
- The partners are all willing to perform in the area of extension services
- The partners have the ability to select and retain the right clients, the commitment to flow through service and have what it takes to fire clients
- The partners all get it when it comes to building relationships
- The firm demonstrates that it can take risks and make tough decisions
- More than one third of partners have winning traits…
- Self esteem
- Belief in self-worth and value
- The firm has a positive culture and is looking to continuously raise the bar
- Each partner’s unique self is aligned to the firm’s greatness.