Networking – what's not to like?

Yesterday’s short intro seminar on ‘Networking for accountants who don’t like networking’ seemed to be well received.

Much of the content was drawn from my previous talks on the subject of Networking – and from the related posts on this blog. I did however update the slides and add one under the title: ‘What’s not to like?’ My list seemed to resonate with the audience:

  • Pushy sales types
  • Being ignored
  • The boring ones
  • The noisy ones
  • The smelly ones
  • Getting stuck
  • No sales leads
  • And more…..

What else would you add?

PS: I have written a 10,000+ word book specifically for accountants who want to Network more effectively. Click here for full details>>>

If you would like to book me to speak on the subject at your in-house conference or training session, do get in touch. There’s an outline of my talk on ‘How to ensure your networking activity is successful’ here>>>  

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Social media policies for accountancy firms (part two)

This is the second of a 2 part blog series in which I set out some practical, commercial and informed thoughts re social media policy making for accountancy firms. Part one is here.

Let’s start here with a couple of bizarre practices I have heard that some ill-informed firms have attempted to implement as regards Linkedin.

“We don’t want you to connect with clients” – This is normally due to the fallacious fear that such connections would reveal the firm’s client base to other firms of accountants who could seek to poach them. This fear is based on a misunderstanding of Linkedin and a lack of confidence in the strength of client relationships. Such a policy makes a nonsense of being on Linkedin. How will a competitor know who are clients and who are simply contacts and prospects? And what does the firm want to be done when a Linkedin contact becomes a client or joins a client business? Or what if a client contact tries to connect with a staff member/partner? how are they to explain their reluctance to accept the connection?

“When you leave the firm you must disconnect yourself from the firm’s clients” – Whilst I understand the desire I can’t see this as practical or enforceable. Better to ensure that the firm encourages more than one person to maintain a relationship with each client. When someone leaves it is upto the client whether they want to retain a relationship with the ex-member of staff/partner. Yes, Linkedin does make it easier to breach no poaching covenants. But equally it makes it easier to obtain evidence of a deliberate campaign to do do this. So it’s not all one-way.

What happens when someone leaves if they have loads of connections with key clients? I’m afraid that you need to face reality. It’s what you do before people leave that will be key. You can no more dictate to clients who they should and should not connect with on Linkedin than could King Canute hold back the tide. If you have no policy you have no rules and you have no cause for complaint.

I suggest that firms need to run regular (at least annual) in-house sessions to remind everyone re personal and corporate branding issues, effective and ineffective use of social media and how to protect themselves and their future career prospects by what they post on facebook and other social networking sites. Reviewing and setting their privacy settings appropriately is key. Another is to be careful what they post. Is it something they would be happy for their grandmother to read? The firm is interested in the well-being of its staff and partners. And also in their reputation as facebook profiles often mention where people work.

Remind everyone that it’s best to avoid saying anything that might be termed or interpreted as ‘inappropriate’. That includes political comments, coarse language, and especially any comments that could be construed as advice. Equally wrong would be any posting that could be interpreted as the disclosure of confidential information, bullying or harassment.

Like this post? You can now obtain my 10,000 word ebook containing loads more Social Media related insights, short-cuts, tips and advice aimed specifically at accountants. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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Social media policies for accountancy firms – think MLR (part one)

I was interviewed recently to provide my views as regards social media policies that accounting firms might wish to institute in-house. I’ve summarised the key points I made and spread them over a couple of blog posts. Part one below. Part two later today.

There are two very different issues here.

The first is the extent to which the firm wishes someone to tweet or post other social media updates on its behalf. That’s a marketing related question – and one that most firms get completely wrong. Without side-tracking, let me just reiterate a point I have made many times on this blog.  Social Media is not something most firms can use effectively for broadcasting and promotional purposes – whatever the social media and marketing junkies tell you. Social Media only works when you recognise it relies on conversation and engagement.

The second and main issue I will address in these two blogs concerns the limitations and constraints that partners may wish to place on members of staff or partners who use social media and who are identifiable as being members of the firm.

I’m not a fan of including a standard note in online profiles that “All comments are my own”. Of course they are. Accountants are not in the same position as top independent journalists and broadcasters. I understand why THEY need to make clear that spontaneous status updates and tweets (personal views) are distinguishable from those that have been vetted and approved to appear in print/on air.

I can see an argument for treating social media training in the same way as anti-money laundering training. The Money Laundering regulations (MLR) impose obligations on accountants to operate specific procedures. It’s no good simply specifying these in a handbook, document or page on the intranet. Everyone has to receive training to ensure they understand their obligations.

I would suggest that the same is true re a firm’s social media policies. Indeed, regular updates are also required and these should be interactive and participative. They also need to avoid patronising anyone (That means talking down to them!) 😉

You need to address privacy issues and consider how important it is for everyone’s profiles to use the same description of the firm, their service areas and expertise. Who is to be responsible for establishing the firm’s business profile on Linkedin and, if considered worthwhile, on facebook?

There are employment law issues to consider too – in terms of what it is reasonable behaviour by employers, to what extent can new restrictions be imposed and what recourse employers can pursue if they feel they’ve been harmed by inappropriate social media activity. Also you need to consider how detailed you want to be in contracts of employment and internal procedure manuals. I tend to favour general guidelines and trusting staff/partners to apply common sense.

Will anyone in the firm take on responsibility for monitoring the linkedin accounts, facebook profiles and twitter accounts (as well as any other social media platforms) to ensure that everyone has included on approved ‘standard’ references to the firm? I would doubt that any firm has an automatic right to limit or constrain what staff/partners can include in their profiles. And i doubt that many firms are (yet) considering the implications either.

The second part of this blog post is here.

Like this post? You can now obtain my 10,000 word ebook containing loads more Social Media related insights, short-cuts, tips and advice aimed specifically at accountants. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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6 Client fundamentals

The following six ‘client fundamentals’ are highlighted in Robert Craven’s book: Grow your service firm. I’ve added my interpretation of each of them in square brackets.

1 – Don’t waste my time [Don’t keep me waiting at the start of scheduled meetings. Also when explaining issues, in writing or face to face. Doctors manage well in this regard despite dealing with life and death issues and the risk of being sued for malpractice]

2 – Understand who I am – the client who pays your fees and thus your wages [Don’t take clients for granted, respond promptly when they communicate, keep them informed of progress (and delays) and treat them with due respect]

3 – Make it easy for me to buy and to get service [Among my pet peeves are accountants’ websites with no contact name on them. People buy from people. Who should they ask for when they approach your firm – by phone or email? Ensure you have a straightforward client ‘take-on’ process with no delays. This includes clarity over your fees and terms of business. Can you produce these easily and address all new client issues promptly?]

4 – Make sure your service delights me or at least “does what it says on the tin” [Are you ‘Accountants and business advisers’? If so you should be advising on business issues as a matter of course and without being asked. Unless you are super-human you cannot expect to be able to advise on every single matter that a client may raise. But you should know where you will go if a client asks for (or you perceive they need) advice on tax or other issues that are a little out of the ordinary.

5 – Customise your product service to my specific needs [Tailor your standard letters to suit specific clients. Use appropriate terminology and adapt your style and language as required]

6 – Don’t treat me like a moron [Clients are not trained to understand accounts and tax returns. They may well have built up a fair understanding of the numbers around their business or their tax affairs. Never assume to the contrary.]

The book is aimed at a wide variety of service providers – including accountants. Do you agree that these 6 client fundamentals should be taken on board by ambitious accountants? Are there others you would add to the list?

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads of valuable insights, short-cuts, tips and advice for accountants who want to STANDOUT and speed up their success. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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