Should you put your fee rates on your website?

I came across this question recently on a general business forum and offered my view which I have adapted below for ambitious professionals.  I’d be interested in what conclusions others have reached. In my experience very few firms have even considered the point.

I can only recall one occasion when I have seen specific reference to the fee levels of a professional adviser on a website. It  was a menu of prices for completing basic tax returns and the extras for each supplementary page (together with a caveat that additional fees would be quoted and charged if the client’s records were a mess – or words to that effect).

My view on the other forum was to suggest that the service provider indicated an entry level price – to keep out the time wasters.

Beyond that a service business has a choice:
– Commoditise each service and quote typical prices so that those that take longer than average are balanced by those that take less time than average (this is the menu approach outlined above);
– Give indicative prices or price bands but make clear that each case depends on exactly what is required in order to provide the desired outcome in individual cases (this is a variation on the menu approach outlined above).
– Not to mention any specific prices – which is by far the most common approach adopted by providers of professional services.

The advantage of the first route is you avoid spending time negotiating fees. The corollary is that you could spend additional time and effort before the work is agreed but you have no facility to reflect this hassle factor in your fee. It also denies you the facility to highlight the value side of your proposition.  Everything is just down to price.  It’s not an approach that would be adopted by many ambitious professionals I don’t think.

The second approach enables you to maximise your fees and to take account of all surrounding factors including the amount of time and effort it has taken to win the piece of work in question.

The last approach is, in some ways, akin to the expensive clothes shops that have garments in the window but do not put price tags on them. If you go into the shop you know it’s going to be expensive. Is that the impression you want to give?

In practice the first approach is generally preferable for low value work. The middle approach is better for high value work.

Some might say that the final approach is used by those who are unsure and don’t mind confusing their audience. However in the context of professional service firms it is the predominant approach so there’s not much chance of confusion.  But just imagine if you became the first to break the mould and to give some indication of your fees for recurring ‘compliance’ services on your website. Do you think that would increase or reduce the number of enquiries you receive and the number of good new clients you create?

There’s an obvious question that visitors to my BookMarkLee website might like to ask me in the light of my observations above.  I look forward to hearing from you!

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Filling vacancies at professional firms (part two)

Since posting the first part of this blog on filling vacancies at professional firms I have been delighted by the general agreement that has met my observations. I have also received a number of requests to share what I think could be included on professional firms’ websites to attract the best candidates. And let’s be clear, in some cases we’re not just talking about staff and managers. Some firms are keen to attract prospective partners.

Your website is your first chance to impress anyone who has seen your advert, been approached by a headhunter, or been referred there by a colleague or a recruitment consultant. You will also want your website to reinforce the positive image presented during an interview, whilst networking or through third party referrals.

We all know how important this can be in converting prospective clients and most websites attempt to do the necessary in this regard. But it’s equally important to do the same to attract prospective candidates to fill vacancies. Get it wrong and your website can damage your branding, counter any good impression given previously and negate your recruitment efforts.

I’ve commented previously on the whole ‘websites for professional firms‘ subject so this time I’ll confine my comments to ideas relevant to recruitment. What sort of things might you consider including?

  • Pictures of the office environment – inside and out;
  • Details of any social arrangements that the staff enjoy – eg: football team, quiz nights, regular post-billing celebrations;
  • Quotes from happy staff – especially from some who have joined you from bigger firms and why they prefer your firm – also from some who have joined you from smaller firms and why they prefer your firm;
  • Anything that YOUR STAFF have told you makes your firm special and different;
  • Pictures of happy, smiling partners and evidence that they are nice people to work for;
  • Summary of standard benefits that you provide;
  • A mention of any exciting or unusual clients (eg: TV actors, sportspeople, MPs, models, cartoonists);
  • Evidence of how and when staff can expect to benefit from personal development as well as technical training;
  • A note of the firm’s commitment (if any) to personal coaching and mentoring by a reputable third party;
  • The team spirit that permeates the office;
  • The firm’s commitment to effective communication using an intranet;
  • How the firm endeavours to remove the drudgery of basic tasks – eg: through outsourcing or specific computer programmes;
  • Whether home-working is permitted and, if so, the IT links that facilitate this;
  • Evidence as far as possible to support what are probably pretty standard and common assertions about working at the firm;
  • Reference to any awards for which the firm, partners or teams have been nominated and/or won;
  • Comments that evidence the firm recognises that the quality of its service to clients and its long term profitability are dependent upon the quality and happiness of all who work in the firm;

Overall the aim should be to make it quite clear that prospective staff, managers and parters are just as important an audience as are prospective clients and that you offer careers rather than just want to fill vacancies.

If you’re aware of good examples of this sort of thing or can think of anything I’ve omitted from this list please add your comments and links to this posting.

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"You get what you reward". Is it really as simple as that?

Ambitious professionals, like most people, will tend to act in what they perceive to be their best interests. It’s human nature. That tends to suggest that if everyone knows what behaviour (and the consequential results) is to be rewarded that this is the behaviour that will be encouraged.

Hence the old adage – You get what you reward – sometimes clarified as You get the results that you reward.

However, those responsible for running professional firms often fall into an all to common trap when they take certain aspects of behaviour for granted. It’s important to recognise that what matters is the staff and partners’ perception of the behaviour that is going to be rewarded – as distinct from the business owner/manager’s intentions.

Another way of looking at this is to recognise that in real life You get the results that you are seen to record. ie: What is seen to be recorded impacts on motivation and behaviour and therefore on results.

One example will suffice. Most professional firms record and report to partners and staff the new client gains and who won each new client each month. This publicity for the client winners is implicitly rewarding those people for winning the new work. By recording and rewarding such work it is evidently being encouraged. Most people would see that as a good thing – and it is. BUT if it is done in isolation such a recording and rewarding system encourages a focus only on winning new clients.

It is often preferable, easier and more profitable for the business to secure more work from existing clients. To ‘upsell’ and to ‘cross sell’. These are common aspirations within professional firms but rarely are the related behaviours recorded or reported on in such a way as to show how importantly they are perceived. All too often the results of such efforts are neither properly recorded, reported or rewarded. Thus, even when the managing partner says they want everyone to focus on achieving more cross selling, their requests fall on deaf ears because that’s not what they’re seen to be recording, reporting or rewarding.

It is critical in my view to implement a system whereby the additional work and new engagements to be performed for existing clients are shared (rewarded) in an equivalent way to the new client wins. I know that’s easier said than done in practice. But if achieved it will, almost, guarantee more effort is made to secure such new work for existing clients. And as this is generally more profitable than the first pieces of work for new clients, the firm’s profits should benefit.

Perhaps then the full formulation of the ‘old’ adage is best stated as: You get the results that you are seen to record, report and reward.

Postscript: When I was in practice there were occasions when I could sense the weaknesses in the firms’ systems. I used to pride myself on dong what I thought was best for the firm rather than focusing on what might have been best for me as regards short-term rewards. I reckoned that my approach would be better for me in the longer term. It also enabled me to stay true to my principles rather than to chase modest bonuses that were dependent on my short-term performance.

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“You get what you reward”. Is it really as simple as that?

Ambitious professionals, like most people, will tend to act in what they perceive to be their best interests. It’s human nature. That tends to suggest that if everyone knows what behaviour (and the consequential results) is to be rewarded that this is the behaviour that will be encouraged.

Hence the old adage – You get what you reward – sometimes clarified as You get the results that you reward.

However, those responsible for running professional firms often fall into an all to common trap when they take certain aspects of behaviour for granted. It’s important to recognise that what matters is the staff and partners’ perception of the behaviour that is going to be rewarded – as distinct from the business owner/manager’s intentions.

Another way of looking at this is to recognise that in real life You get the results that you are seen to record. ie: What is seen to be recorded impacts on motivation and behaviour and therefore on results.

One example will suffice. Most professional firms record and report to partners and staff the new client gains and who won each new client each month. This publicity for the client winners is implicitly rewarding those people for winning the new work. By recording and rewarding such work it is evidently being encouraged. Most people would see that as a good thing – and it is. BUT if it is done in isolation such a recording and rewarding system encourages a focus only on winning new clients.

It is often preferable, easier and more profitable for the business to secure more work from existing clients. To ‘upsell’ and to ‘cross sell’. These are common aspirations within professional firms but rarely are the related behaviours recorded or reported on in such a way as to show how importantly they are perceived. All too often the results of such efforts are neither properly recorded, reported or rewarded. Thus, even when the managing partner says they want everyone to focus on achieving more cross selling, their requests fall on deaf ears because that’s not what they’re seen to be recording, reporting or rewarding.

It is critical in my view to implement a system whereby the additional work and new engagements to be performed for existing clients are shared (rewarded) in an equivalent way to the new client wins. I know that’s easier said than done in practice. But if achieved it will, almost, guarantee more effort is made to secure such new work for existing clients. And as this is generally more profitable than the first pieces of work for new clients, the firm’s profits should benefit.

Perhaps then the full formulation of the ‘old’ adage is best stated as: You get the results that you are seen to record, report and reward.

Postscript: When I was in practice there were occasions when I could sense the weaknesses in the firms’ systems. I used to pride myself on dong what I thought was best for the firm rather than focusing on what might have been best for me as regards short-term rewards. I reckoned that my approach would be better for me in the longer term. It also enabled me to stay true to my principles rather than to chase modest bonuses that were dependent on my short-term performance.

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