Here’s what ConvergenceCoaching has been up to:
Jen Wilson Named to the Accounting Today 2018 Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting and Tamera Loerzel Named One of Accounting Today’s 2018 People to Watch
Congratulations to all of the influencers on the Accounting Today Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting and the 2018 People to Watch lists! Jennifer Wilson and Tamera Loerzel are in good company and are grateful to be honored with you all! We are grateful for the work we get to do with our clients every day. To learn more about the Accounting Today Top 100 list, click here.
Jennifer Wilson and Tamera Loerzel Receive 2018 Most Powerful Women in Accounting Recognition by AICPA / CPA Practice Advisor
Jennifer Wilson, Partner and Co-founder, and Tamera Loerzel, Partner, have both been recognized by AICPA / CPA Practice Advisor as two of the 2018 Most Powerful Women in Accounting. We are honored to have our partners recognized for their contributions to our clients’ success. To learn more about or to see the full list of recipients, visit www.cpapracticeadvisor.com or read the full press release here.
Jennifer Wilson was quoted in the Bloomberg BNA Accounting Policy & Practice Report, “Big Four Digital Consultants Cash In on Companies’ Tax Savings.” The article explores the increase in digital consulting services that CPA firms are offering for clients, and the technology investments that are helping companies change the way they operate. You can read the full article on Bloomberg’s website, here.
For Immediate Release
ConvergenceCoaching®, LLC, a national leadership and management consulting firm that works exclusively with CPA firms, has announced the 2017-18 Spring Transformational Leadership Program™ (TLP) graduating class!
“Our Spring 2017-2018 program completed on May 30th and we are pleased to congratulate our most recent TLP graduating class,” commented Tamera Loerzel, Partner at ConvergenceCoaching. “We are honored to have been a part of our graduates’ leadership journey. It is truly our privilege to guide NextGen leaders as they practice new leadership and management techniques and position themselves for future leadership with their firms.”
Congratulations to the graduates of the Spring 2017-2018 program! View all the TLP graduates and read the full press release here.
The look and feel of our workplaces are changing. With more firms adopting flexible work policies, many are now adopting more casual dress codes as well. This year, we’ve seen the emergence of the “dress for your day” (DFYD) policy – where employees are allowed to choose what they wear to work each day based on their own schedule.
Here’s how most DFYD policies work: employees are permitted to wear business casual clothing any day of the week on which they plan to work at the office. Business casual in a DFYD policy usually includes nice, dressy jeans without holes or distressed marks. The policies we’ve seen usually do not permit shorts, midriff-baring tops, baseball hats, spaghetti strap tops, leggings or flip flops. On days that a professional has a client meeting, they are expected to dress in accordance with that client’s dress code. Whether the client traditionally wears suits or jeans, the employee would be expected to dress similarly.
We love this policy! Name an easier, more cost-effective way to empower your people in the way they work than by allowing them to have greater control in the way they dress. It’s a definite benefit that progressive firms who have adopted can tout for now, but we expect this type of policy to be the norm soon.
Even though it’s a great people empowerment strategy, some firm leaders may still be hesitant to make the switch to a DFYD policy. In this post, we’ll explore four objections that may be holding you back from moving to a DFYD policy and we’ll identify strategies to address them. That way, you and your team members can experience the morale boost from this great benefit.
The four most common objections include:
- Losing your professional image as a firm and a profession.
This is the most philosophical part of our discussion and an understandable fear. You likely feel great pride in the work that you do and the client relationships you foster. You’re highly regarded for your technical expertise and your ability to problem solve. These abilities do not have to change because of a DFYD policy.
If you look at your clients, their workplaces are changing, too. If you’re dressing in a full suit and your client shows up in jeans and a collared shirt, you’re overdressing for that client. If the client shows up even more casually, you’re lucky they still feel related to you! Your clients want to relate to you and this especially rings true for your NextGen clients. They may feel like you don’t understand their workplace culture or their industry if you’re repeatedly overdressing. Even worse, they may feel like you’re “out of touch” and stuck in the old way of doing things.
There is another contributor to this fear to consider, too. Some studies suggest there may be a correlation between the type of clothing you wear and your productivity and confidence levels (e.g. people feel more fit when wearing workout clothes and more confident and bold when wearing a suit). This is interesting research, however, I don’t think it means that people are more productive in professional dress. In fact, some may be more productive in comfortable clothes like jeans. I don’t believe this fear merits sticking to your firm’s existing, more formal dress code. As long as you’re effectively setting performance measures and expectations, then people will work to meet them – regardless of what they’re wearing.
Explain to your people the importance of professional presence and how you can still achieve that with a loosened dress code. Talk about the various studies available and how greater feelings of personal power, confidence and boldness are correlated with what you choose to wear. Agree on what it looks like to have a crisp, polished image with a more casual dress code. Facilitate discussions about how your people’s clothing choices affect how they feel at work and encourage those who prefer to “dress up” more to continue doing so. The beauty of DFYD is that it simply allows more flexibility for your people to make choices in their workdays.
While there is more research to be done, definitions of business dress will continue to change and so will the expectations of clients. A significant population of public accounting professionals remember the days they wore suits to the office. Therefore, they may still associate the suit with a sense of professionalism in the workplace. As new generations enter the workforce, less people will associate the suit in the same way and will instead associate whatever the current dress style is as appropriate for that profession or industry.
- People will abuse the policy.
Even if you have the most formal dress code policy in place, you are still highly likely to have someone who abuses the policy. When this happens, it’s almost always a result of that individual not being clear on the policy expectations or a difference in judgement about what is and is not acceptable. Rarely is it their true intention to abuse the policy. No matter the root of the issue or the level of formality in the dress code, the misstep should be addressed with a review of the policy and agreed upon next steps.
- It sounds fine for us to dress up when we meet at our clients’ offices, but if a client visits our office, they’ll see our employees who aren’t dressed up, which could make a poor impression!
First, make sure you communicate the policy with all clients when it’s rolled out (announce it as a great new benefit to your people!). Then, consider a few approaches for ongoing communication about the policy. We have one client who keeps a sign at their reception desk letting visitors know about their DFYD policy. Another option is to simply let the client or visitor know when you greet them that your office promotes a DFYD work policy as a benefit to your employees. Most clients won’t care. Those who do may be great candidates to start meeting at their offices going forward.
- We have unexpected meetings emerge – we don’t have time for our employees to go home to change their clothes.
We want you to take people out every time you visit with 3rd parties, but we want you to plan ahead and give your people notice so they can dress and plan appropriately. When there are extenuating circumstances that haven’t allowed you to plan ahead, there are a few options to consider. (1) You can encourage employees to keep a nice change of clothes in their car or an office closet so that they’re always prepared. (2) If your workspace includes private offices and/or cubicles, they can keep the change of clothes at their office area. (3) Some firms have installed lockers or large closets to allow for the storage of dress options for employees. (4) Another great option is to be upfront with the individual(s) you’re meeting. Let them know that your firm promotes a DFYD policy and that you asked your colleague to participate in the meeting at the last minute so they could provide their expertise. They weren’t originally planning to have any client-facing meetings today and that’s why they’re slightly more casual for the meeting. Since many DFYD policies are not allowing truly casual wear, it’s unlikely that the individual’s clothing would be unacceptably out of line. (5) If the colleague had major concern about attending in their more casual attire, another possibility could be for them to call into the meeting or participate virtually through a web conferencing platform.
For some, dress code may seem like a trivial subject. For others, the way they dress is a very personal choice. Like any firm-wide change, it’s helpful to ask for input on the subject from both your existing and future leaders. Once you’ve made the decision and developed your policy, remember to draft your communications plan and how you’ll announce the change internally and externally. Consider creating an internal FAQ document that helps employees address situations like numbers 3 and 4 above. Take the time to do the planning and communicating around the change and you’ll be surprised by how easy the transition will be.
Has your firm made the change to DFYD? If so, what challenges and benefits have you experienced so far? If not, what’s holding your firm back from making the switch or even considering it? We’d love to learn from your experiences!
Such devastation. The September 11 terrorist attack on our nation. The impact of hurricane Irma in Florida and the southeast. The mayhem left behind by hurricane Harvey in Texas.
As we’ve prayed about these events this week, we have also been praying for my partner, and long-time bestie, Tamera Loerzel, as she and her family celebrated the life of her father, Terry, who passed away on Labor Day after a valiant battle with cancer.
The loss and sadness associated with these events can make it easy to become overwhelmed and to even allow fear and hopelessness to creep in.
But God (or whatever name you may use) always provides a bright light. And the bright light for me this week came in the amazing reminder that there is love and support all around us, and available to us, in the form of our family, friends, neighbors, first responders, military service personnel and from complete strangers, too. In the face of devastation, destruction, loss, violence, and hate, there are always those who will lend a hand, join your cause, and ease your pain.
Examples of these everyday heroes fill the stories of 9/11 – people who rushed into the buildings while others were rushing out, people who risked their lives to lead others to safety and so much more. We have seen similar images from both Harvey and Irma – neighbors helping neighbors, 1st responders risking safety to rescue others, local businesses providing refuge.
Witnessing my partner’s journey these past few weeks, she has been uplifted by the kind acts of hospice workers, her neighbors, her church family, co-workers, clients, friends and family, too. Her pathway is painful but there are many sharing her pain, working to ease her suffering.
As I write this blog today, I am humbled by the generosity and love of others and I know that this is truly God’s love, freely shared with each of us, in the gesture, words or touch of another human being.
Everyday heroes. Always present. Ready to act in support. How can we live in fear knowing this? To me, today, there is nothing more hopeful or empowering as that.
“As a company, you need to get to the future first, ahead of your customers, and be ready to greet them when they arrive.” – Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce
Your client base is changing. At least it should be to sustain your firm into the future. That’s because by 2025, Millennials will make up three-quarters of the workforce and Gen Z will count for more than one-fifth. If the only change you see in your client base is that it’s aging, refer to Marc’s quote above and realize that it’s time to act. You must become intentional about attracting and retaining client organizations run by NextGen leaders.
First, let’s explore who is considered a “NextGen” client. They are clients or prospects who have similar motivators and are often (not always) led by younger Gen X or Millennial leaders. They are interested in technology, efficiency, transparency, flexibility and experiences. In the same way that these professionals seek different ways of working, managing others and being managed, they seek a different relationship with their advisors. Firms that are appealing to the motivators and interests of the NextGen business leader will find more success in sustaining their client relationships across generations. They will be better apt to provide the kind of value and solutions that NextGen professionals seek from their advisors.
One benefit of learning about your NextGen clients’ needs and interests is that they are parallel to those of your NextGen talent. Become smarter about this client demographic, and you’ll simultaneously become smarter about your talent demographic. Then, to be competitive, being more intentional and progressive in implementing changes will provide you a sustainable competitive advantage.
Now, let’s explore three ways to better appeal to the NextGen client:
Assess Your Firm’s Visibility
A recent Bill.com survey of 1,000 business owners found that Millennial business owners use referrals from family members and peers as their top source when searching for accounting services. Searching the internet is the next used resource. The survey also found that leaders age 30 and younger are almost four times more likely to use social media and three times more likely to use conferences as resources in their search for accounting firms. What we first learn from these insights is that it’s imperative to always work on deepening relationships with your existing clients and traditional referral sources. Strong relationships with referral sources and happy clients creates a greater likelihood of them speaking positively about your firm and referring you new business.
After your potential NextGen clients have obtained the advice and opinions of their family and friends regarding accounting service providers, they will move their search to the internet to learn more. Here’s an exercise to try: without typing a word of your firm’s name, what keywords must be typed in search for your firm to show up on the first page of results? If it’s taking you a long time to figure it out, it’s time to conduct a digital audit and then a digital overhaul. You want to be sure that the services you provide and the target industries you serve are mentioned in multiple places throughout your website and on every one of your team members’ LinkedIn profiles. This practice, called search engine optimization (SEO) helps increase your chances of being found from an online search when someone doesn’t already know your firm name. Your marketing professional should be able to help improve your SEO and there are countless resources online to help, too.
Also, be sure that your website is responsive – meaning that a user can easily view and navigate your site from any mobile device. Otherwise, you risk those individuals leaving your site as soon as they find it. This tech-savvy demographic won’t deal with a slow-loading site or having to continuously swipe across their phone’s screen to get to the other side of your homepage.
Next, you’ll want to ensure that your firm has an active presence on social media. Young professionals are using social media platforms to interact with brands and gather information. Make sure that your firm has corporate profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and that you assign a team member to post to them at least three times a week. If you don’t have a dedicated marketing professional on your team, one of your NextGen team members might love to take on this role! Then, educate your people about being active in social media from a personal marketing perspective. When your professionals actively post and engage on these platforms, they build thought leadership and expand your firm’s reach to potential client prospects and employee candidates.
Don’t forget to consider your presence at industry conferences or startup networking events. It might make sense to promote your planned attendance in social media prior to the event and post to and follow conference hashtags throughout to maintain digital visibility. Then, be intentional about meeting with young leaders attending these events.
Rethink How You Promote Your Services
The Bill.com survey asked respondents about the services their accounting firms provide for their businesses. They found a big shift in the services being utilized by business owners 39 years and younger who are taking advantage of bookkeeping, sales tax, payroll, CFO services and consulting, accounting technology recommendations and training, bill payment, budgeting/forecasting and invoicing far more than their more mature counterparts are. In an age where efficiency is top of mind, I’ll presume that these young business owners are outsourcing things they’re not skilled to do to professionals who are so they can leverage their talents maximally.
These aren’t the only areas where NextGen business owners have a need. They also find frustration with certain aspects of accounting and there’s opportunity for firms to provide more value in these areas. According to the survey, business owners under the age of 30 view forecasting as the most frustrating part of accounting while those ages 31-39 viewed reporting as the most frustrating aspect. Smart firms will offer assistance in these areas to attract and engage NextGen clients.
Provide Flexibility in Your Client Service Experience
It’s no surprise that NextGen clients embrace technology easily. These professionals are used to instant access to information online, and seek that same ability from their advisors. Providing them the ability to utilize and leverage data analytics, self-direct investments and use multiple ways of communicating with your firm will return dividends in the form of client satisfaction. Another recent survey found that 57% of Millennial respondents would “change their bank relationship for a better technology platform.” You should make it easier for clients to access their information from your firm.
Technology allows you to provide a more customized client service experience. When you provide your clients with dashboard views of their financials and key information, they can gather their own insights at any time of day and then come to you with questions and guidance. Outside of the typical phone and email communication forms, if you also have a live chat box on your website or in your portal and video conferencing capabilities, you enable your clients and prospects to choose their preferred communication form. Another interesting finding from the Bill.com survey was that 72% of business owners ages 39 and younger cited responsiveness by firms as the most critical factor in choosing an accounting firm, followed by providing strategic guidance (52%). Therefore, having multiple ways to communicate with clients and prospects, and promoting responsiveness internally is important.
The technology investments you make will appeal to your NextGen clients and talent. You can also leverage your technology innovations by offering technology consulting for your clients. Evaluate your firm’s ability to assist clients with their cybersecurity, service organization control (SOC) reports, ERP support, and risk management needs, to name a few.
Your technology strategy is crucial to your sustainability strategy. We’re just briefly covering technology in this blog, but you can read more on why these changes are paramount in this blog by Jennifer Wilson.
Lastly, consider how you’re billing clients. NextGen clients are used to paying for subscription-based services and we often hear frustration around the traditional hourly billing model. The Bill.com survey found that fees and the national reputation of a firm were the least important traits when choosing an accounting firm (chosen by only 8% and 15% of respondents 39 and younger, respectively). Instead, this group of business owners were most interested in monthly flat rate billing, followed by fixed fee project-based work. Think about your firm’s pricing strategy and what steps you can take to price creatively and move away from hourly billing. And, create intelligent packaging for your services so that NextGen leaders understand the value of the strategic advisor services you provide. NextGen professionals expect transparency – it’s important that you’re upfront about what services are included in your pricing and what is out of scope. Outsourced CFO services are a natural place to implement packaged pricing options and many firms are creatively pricing other services, too.
As you consider the changes your firm should make to better appeal to your NextGen clients, realize that you’ll want to encourage your clients to have similar conversations about their NextGen clients or customers and how they will change their offerings to better appeal to them. Educate them as you become educated yourself.
Work hard to avoid alienating your traditional clients in the process of making your firm more NextGen client ready. Be sure that you have a communication and onboarding strategy for helping your traditional clients take advantage of the changes you make. And, realize that there may be certain situations where it’s best to allow your traditional clients to maintain the service approach they’re used to.
We’ll continue to explore the NextGen client in future posts. For now, what characteristics do you see in your NextGen clients and prospects? What changes are you making to better appeal to them? We’d love to learn from your insights!