TFYW#088: Getting What You Want

May 17, 2024

This week is an invitation to look at how you can start getting more of what you want. 

Awkward Conversations

In my second year as an operations controller, my boss took us to a management retreat. 

We spend three days hiking in the Rocky Mountains and planning the next year.

One management consultant suggested we needed to be more cohesive as a management team. 

He invited us to sit face to face and, in brutal honesty, tell each other one thing we liked and didn’t like about each other. 

When we started the exercise, everyone’s anxiety was off the chart. 

My boss went first.  

I went second.

I told my boss that I didn’t like how I thought he put himself above his employees. 

My boss was decently wealthy. He had a couple of nice carsvacation properties and he travelled a lot. 

I continued that he ‘flaunted’ his wealth, which disconnected him from his front-line employees. There was probably some jealousy buried in my comments. 

I told him that he needed to be more relatable and less flashy. 

My boss nodded and accepted the suggestion. 

After the management retreat, he didn’t change anything. 

He continued to drive his BMW M3 to work and take his 10 weeks of vacation. 

But it took me five years of struggling with needing to be and do certain things to realize that my ‘selfish’ boss had figured it out. 

He was doing what he wanted to do. 

He didn’t explicitly flaunt his wealth or set himself above others. He had a plan and wouldn’t be derailed by needing to accommodate anyone else, especially what I thought he needed to do.

 

Needing Vs. Wanting

The book 10X Is Easier Than 2X recently reinforced the difference between needing and wanting. 

Many of the actions we take in our firms are driven by needs. 

Need implies external validation or justification. When we need to do something, it is a requirement beyond ourselves. 

Want implies internal motivation. It is something that we have decided we want.  

Now, I understand that, given our credentials and the work we do, we need to follow certain guidelines and standards of conduct. 

But for everything else, there is no strict need. 

 

If you don’t remember anything else from this newsletter, remember this:

 

There are no rules in how we run our firms. There are only consequences. 

 

As a new firm owner, I spent a lot of time worrying about what I needed to do. Everything felt like a requirement. 

The idea of wanting anything was put on the back burner. 

In some circles, ‘wanting’ has a negative connotation. 

For me, growing up in a conservative, religious household, wanting something, especially money, was considered a bad thing. 

Cautionary tales like ‘The love of money is the root of all evil’ floated in my head.

I know now that my cash flow issues were caused by the idea that I needed to justify my prices. 

My prices needed to be ‘fair‘, and I shouldn’t charge more than I absolutely needed.  

In reality, my fees were so low that it was difficult to hire properly and deliver consistent service.

I was busy fighting low margins in my firm because I had to justify my prices to appease an ideal in my head.   

Whatever influences you in your firm, know that if you feel compelled or need to do something, you’re probably building a firm you won’t want in the future.

This newsletter is named The Firm You Want for a reason

Striking the Right Balance

So where do needs stop and wants take over? 

Most of what we do is because we need cash flow. 

It is not possible to turn that need off when our livelihoods depend on it. 

But the more you practice making decisions based on what you want, the easier it gets. 

In a profession where many things are prescribed, we tend to minimize what we want.   

To be honest, some of us don’t know what we want to want. That’s not a typo. 

I know this was true for me. 

Here are a few ways you can get more of what you want:

Taking payments upfront

In the beginning, I never dreamed of taking payments upfront.

I thought I had to wait until the work was done to collect payment. 

There is great tech now, so you can charge your fees or get details to take payment before the client signs the engagement letter. 

You don’t need to subsidize your client’s business while you are doing their work. 

If you want to collect the cash upfront, do it. 

Be out of the office on Mondays and Fridays

Being available Monday to Friday doesn’t have to be a thing in your firm. 

Your schedule does not need to conform to a 40 hour week, being available 9 to 5 every work day. Just communicate your schedule upfront. 

Your email signatures can indicate when days you and your team are in the office. You can also include your working hours, letting clients know that you’re only available in the afternoons.  

You can either take those days/time off or reserve that time to remove client interruptions so you and your team can get deep work done. 

You don’t need to be available based on ‘the typical work day’ or what your clients want.

All client requests go through another team member

Someone else can triage all client emails and requests. 

If you need to provide direct input in an email, that should be the final step, not the first one.

Firms have set up centralized inboxes via Zendesk or other ticket-based email tools, where all requests are received in one inbox. 

Client communications is the number one administrative black hole besides billing and invoicing.  

You don’t need to manage your inbox. 

Charge for all the little extras 

If your engagements don’t already charge for all the little extras that every engagement inevitably has, build a price list for the most common requests.

You can create payment forms to send to clients when they make one of the common requests.

These payment forms will collect the request details, take payment, and send the request to the correct person to fulfill the request. You won’t need to touch the request.

These requests can include getting another copy of their tax return, or a copy of their financial statements or booking a consultation call.

You don’t need to cover the costs of your client’s disorganization and musings.

I hope these examples trigger more ideas on how to start tailoring your firm to what you want.

Build the firm you want.

Mark

P.S. Email Mark@FirmNexus.com with something that you want me to talk about. I’ll add it to the list. 

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