How do you, even if you are a sole practitioner, change the tone of the work in your firm so that you become increasingly valuable to your clients and so that your clients are willing to pay more money for what you do with them and for them?
In this podcast discussion with Michael Hemme of the Croydon-based accountancy firm MDH Accountants, you’ll hear Michael share what he’s doing to build what he calls “soft skills”. I actually call them hard skills, because I think that the human skills, the conversational skills, come less naturally to accountants because of the way they’re trained and because of their focus on the numbers.
But those human, conversational skills ultimately determine your true value in your clients’ hearts and minds, and Michael is wholeheartedly committed to building the knowledge and skills of his team so that they can have high-value conversations with his clients.
It's a genuinely worthwhile conversation on many levels. For instance, Michael digs out some ancient history in the form of a very old Dale Carnegie book, one on which I relied in my early formative years in business, and shares how he uses its insights and principles regarding great conversations in his own firm, insights that are as relevant today as they were 80 years ago.
He then works with his team on developing those conversational skills so that they are able to build stronger relationships with his clients. Clients become more loyal, they’re more likely to recommend the firm and they’re more likely and happier to pay more.
For more details about what Michael has to say, please listen to the podcast. Michael talks a lot about wanting his team to be the best versions of themselves and, in the podcast, you can hear the energy and enthusiasm he puts into making this happen.
Scroll down this episode page to find the contact information for Michael, as well as additional resources mentioned in the podcast.
So initially it's about getting the team comfortable with talking to people. I find team members, when they're talking to clients, have bigger problems.
We all want to please everyone and have a positive impact on people with the work that we do. I think the majority of people feel like this.
But when you're a team member, you've got two people to worry about.
It's not just ‘will the client like me?’, but also ‘will Michael think I'm doing a good job?’ So, they have double jeopardy.
So, what we do with all of our trainees is, we start them off with a book by Dale Carnegie called How to Win Friends and Influence People. The stuff in this book is complete gold, because it’s just about interacting with people and how to do it.
For example, it tells you to ask loads of open questions and then we go through the book with each of them and do some role plays where we say: ‘Right, in this situation, what would you do?’
For example, they are meeting a client, they’re nervous, so we would just get them to smile because when they're nervous, it puts people off, so smiling is a great way to overcome this.
Or if there's a confrontation with a client, give them an out so they don't look stupid.
It’s about building a lot of soft skills, as well as accountancy skills, all the way through their journey.
Connect with Michael
Connect with Paul
Resources relating to this podcast:
Michael shares the importance of Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, to both him and his team.
This is the book his firm uses with all of their new trainees. It provides information about the importance of human interaction and how best to carry it out, including the benefits of conversation and of asking lots of open questions.
Michael and his team use the insights in the book to anticipate possible real-life situations in which his team might find themselves with clients, so that they are prepared for all eventualities in client meetings and have the required skills in place.
To read this book, which was first published in 1936 and has sold over 16 million copies worldwide, click the button below.
Michael and Paul discuss the importance of developing your team’s skills and the ways in which you can do this faster and better. Michael talks about wanting to teach his team everything he had to learn, but quicker than he learned it.
This starts with the trainees and continues right through the rest of his team, with every team member being involved in client meetings, conversations, emails and phone calls. They start by sitting in on the meetings, then interact with the client on calls and eventually move to leading the meetings. (He tells a great story of taking a trainee to a construction client.)
This is the transference of insight to knowledge and then to skill.
In this Business Breakthrough report, 'Coaching Counts', you will learn how you can develop your coaching skills as a manager or owner of your firm and that, when you develop your team’s knowledge, skills and motivation towards the work they do, you grow your team and your firm.