How to Communicate & Work with Clients in Turbulent Times

Join Charles Clark, Marketing Director of BOMA, and Brad Turville, Business Development Consultant, as they discuss how to communicate and work with clients in these challenging times – and where to start.

During this webinar they’ll cover:

– Why in these times your support is more critical than ever for your clients

– What kinds of support you can be giving to your clients

– How should you be communicating with your clients

NB: You can also read a full transcript of this session below.


‘How to Communicate & Work with Clients in Turbulent Times’ Transcript

Charles Clark:

So welcome to the How to Communicate and Work with Clients in Turbulent Times webinar. Just while we wait for a few more people to join us, I thought I would just launch a quick poll. This is just about how you’ve been connecting with your clients recently. So I’ll just launch that now and if you just take a few seconds just to engage with that, we’ll go through the results a little bit later on down the webinar.

And the reason for this poll, just a bit of background, is that on social media, a lot on LinkedIn and Facebook, I’ve been seeing a lot of comments from people in the accounting and financial advisor space and a lot of them have been saying they’ve been hearing stories that a lot of small businesses haven’t been hearing from accountants. And so that was sort of one of the reasons that Brad and I decided to do this webinar is it’s a critical time and obviously, we need to think about how we can support those clients. But equally, given the difficult times we’re in, a lot of people may not quite be sure how to go about doing that. So that’s kind of the genesis for this webinar. So I think we’ll get started. I’m really thrilled to be joined today by Brad Turville. Brad has had his own accounting firm for a number of years, and now he does business development consulting to small businesses and accounting firms. So welcome Brad, great to have you with us.

Brad Turville:

Thanks, Charles. Happy to be here. And also interested in seeing some of these poll results when we get to them a little bit later because I’ve been hearing and seeing similar things about accountants not being able to get to all of their clients and also small businesses coming out of the woodwork and even reaching out to me personally saying, “Hey, I know you’re not in practise anymore but we need some help.” And one of my questions has been, “Aren’t you speaking to your accountant?” So it would be good to get into a few ideas and strategies today, some strategies of my own and some that I see a lot of other accountants doing very well.

Charles Clark:

Fantastic. Well look, we’ll dive straight in because I know everyone is pretty short on time these days. But just to reiterate that the world is looking pretty different today than it was last week or even a few weeks ago. And the paradigm has really shifted. And for a lot of businesses, especially small businesses, it is unprecedented times. And that is throughout the world, New Zealand, Australia, the UK obviously, but really everywhere throughout the world, small businesses are facing a landscape that looks very different than it did earlier in the year. And really at this time, they really need their financial advisors. So accountants, bookkeepers, advisors, they are going to be turning to you to help them navigate these times and obviously try and keep their business viable and keep it going. So that’s what we’re talking about today, and Brad has a really strong background on this, hence why he’s joined us. So Brad, as we’re both saying, we’ve seen a lot of businesses which haven’t necessarily heard from their advisors. And can you just talk us through why it is so critical that they do have that connection with their advisor?

Brad Turville:

Yeah, sure. So I don’t need to explain in too much detail what’s going on at the moment from an economic, from a social, from a health point of view and so on. Businesses, and when I say business, I’m being very broad here and this includes everyone even on the call today, advisors, accountants, bookkeepers and so on. We are all under prepared for this. No one really saw this coming or the rapid increase in what has occurred. So we’re under prepared and with that, there comes a certain amount of uncertainty and we don’t even really know a timeline at the moment. And so when there’s uncertainty, we tend to get a little bit scared because we’ll always start to think of certain things, not always best case, but more so worst case scenario. So under prepared, we’re scared. Businesses, they don’t really know who to turn to and what they’re generally going to do is turn to their accountant because that’s generally that go to person that helps them with anything business related.

It could be a bookkeeper if they’ve got a strong relationship there and so on. They also don’t know exactly what to do or they don’t know what order to do things in. And that can actually be really important because things are changing so quickly. If we get the order out of whack and we’re focusing on something that’s not that mission critical, even though it might feel like it, that could be detrimental to the business. So one of the overarching lessons from what myself and Charles are going to talk about today is I don’t want you to wait for them to come to you. I want you to be proactive and go to them, and we’re going to expand on that over the next 40-odd minutes, but be proactive and go to them. And that’s going to be the way to go about that because you’re probably already thinking, “How do I speak to everyone one on one?”

Well, we’re going to be looking at some more leverage strategies about how to do that. I was talking to a firm last night and they’ve got thousands of business clients. Well, it’s almost impossible for them to speak to every client one on one. And if they did speak to them all one on one, by the time they got to the last one, they literally have to go back to the first one again and start again. So we need to implement some leverage where we can think of it like a funnel. We can go one to many and educate and support on a leverage scale because there’s not only the communication, but there’s work that you already had in the pipeline before this happened. Now we’re dealing with what’s happening and there’s going to be work that’s going to come out from those conversations, whether it’s what you can access from the government, what you can access from your tax departments or your revenue departments, with your team, so on and so forth. So lot more ideas we’re going to be sharing today.

Part of that is really showing a lot of empathy and if we look at empathy on a dial, I guess between zero and 10, I need you to turn it up to 100. I know 100 isn’t even on the dial, but you just need to keep turning this thing all the way up. Using sensitive language, so when you’re talking to a client, I’m even being careful here looking at some of my delivery notes, even being careful and sensitive with what I’m saying today. And whether that’s just in a conversation, could be on a Zoom call like this, it could be on a phone call, it could be maybe emails that you’re sending out to your different lists and types of clients just being sensitive when the language and maybe even getting someone else on your team just to run their eye over it.

Just because things, you can have good intentions with what you say can sometimes be a little bit interpreted differently and everyone’s a little bit more sensitive right now. Also be aware of the role that you need to play for your clients. So that role is, for lack of a better word, the trusted advisor, the go-to person, the business guru, someone that knows infinitely more about the taxation system than what I do. I might be a business owner, I might be a plumber and I might be really good at… I’ve got no idea about plumbing, so I’m just going to say plumbers just fix pipes and that’s what I’m really good at. But that doesn’t make me a good financial manager, business manager, strategic marketer. It doesn’t make me good at collaborating. It doesn’t give me a thorough understanding on what all these stimulus packages mean and they’re constantly moving and changing.

I mean I’m an accountant and I can’t even stay on top of what’s going on and get my head around it, let alone a small business owner that’s very far removed from working in the accounting world and industry for a long time. So just remind yourself of the role that you are playing but also this is now the role that you have, almost whether you like it or not, is that this is I guess an opportunity to stand up and to really help and support your clients at this time. With that said, this also all applies to you. So you need to look after yourself and you need to think of your family and how you can best help and be around and support them, and your extended family, which is your team members because a lot of them, you aren’t now all in the office or the factory together next to one another.

We’re doing things like this. We’re looking at each other virtually. We’re having a virtual coffee together. So the lesson there is remember to put your own oxygen mask on first because if something happens to you or you start to get a little bit worn down or sleep deprived or touch wood, if you get sick, and you have got the ability to influence hundreds of business owners and even just moms and dads and individual clients, that’s the influence that you’ve got at the moment. If you are no good, then that’s now got a big impact and influence on them. So put your own oxygen mask on first. And third point I want to make here is with your business clients, there can be some mistakes that they could make through their decision making process, whether to do something or not do something that can dramatically impact the business.

So again, that word sensitivity comes up, but instead of sensitive language, we’re almost talking here about if we really look at financial analysis, we’re talking about a sensitivity analysis. And the point here is that there’s going to be sensitivities to the downside. So some businesses could make a few changes. I’ve seen some business models completely pivot, go from online to offline, go from delivering to this market to that market, different pricing, different terms just to try and cater for these changes. Generally the upside, it’s not enormous. It’s more about how can we be sustainable and viable and get through this. And some businesses, we’re all going to have businesses that aren’t going to make it through this if I’m to be honest. We’re going to have a lot that we’ll get through it and some will come out the other side and it will be the same as before, but some are going to change.

So they’re currently changing now and when they come out of this, they will remain changed and that will be for a number of reasons. Their consumers now may actually prefer the change that they’ve made. For you, accountants and bookkeepers, if you’ve done lots of face to face work forever just because that’s just how you’ve done it and it’s worked, if you now start to do more meetings like this and your clients love it, they might actually say in, let’s call it six months time to pick a number, that they would prefer to have meetings like this going forward. So there are going to be some changes that occur that will hang around going forward. So with the sensitivity, it’s about the downside. If I do something wrong, it can go drastically wrong versus when we’re in more of a stable economy, in a stable environment and stable consumer buying patterns and I guess consumer stability, certain decisions you make may not be as sensitive, meaning you could make… Let’s call it cash flow just to pick the topic that’s at the height of everyone’s agenda at the moment.

If they make a cash flow decision that in hindsight maybe wasn’t the best decision, in a strong economy, you might be able to get away with it. Or in different times though I should say. You might be able to get away with it. You’ll have a bit of a dip, but you’ll get through it. Now you’re going to be a bit more sensitive to it. So the low will be lower and we want to try and mitigate that and I want you to try and help your business clients mitigate that by what we’re actually about to talk to next so I won’t jump ahead of myself, but a number of support and services you can offer them to try and guide them through what they’re doing, what they’re going to do, and also a little bit of a sounding board which they need, so someone, an expert to go and talk to that’s not the husband or wife or partner or friend or colleague or whatever. Someone a little bit external who’s an expert, who’s got experience and who’s got experience over a wide range.

It’s a great thing with accountants and bookkeepers. A plumber only knows plumbing and generally other plumbers. You see all sorts of industries and so you can start to cherry pick different ideas, especially when they need to make changes to the business that they don’t see because it’s a blind spot that they have. So they’re probably the top three points in regards to why now is very critical for support.

Charles Clark:

I really liked your point about the sensitivity and looking after yourself because the new normal is going to go on for quite some time and you obviously want to be at the height of your abilities in terms of making sure that your own house is in order, your family’s looked after so that you can then be of a clear head and a clear mind to then be advising other people on how they should be looking after their business and their family. So that’s a really nice pearl in there.

So we thought that this was quite a good image because usually in rock climbing, unless you are sort of free soloing where it’s very risky, people make it at the top and they always have a belayer, who is there supporting them and who if something happens is there to catch them and then help them get reattached so they can keep on climbing that person’s sort of mountain, which is pretty much where we are here. So I just thought there’s a nice metaphor in this image and it really talks to what some of Brad’s ideas about that support and how it’s not just necessarily going in there and teaching them about cash flow management. It could be updating them on the most recent policies and regulations that impact them. So I think Brad, you’ve got a really nice well rounded idea of what that support could look like. Can you expand on it a little bit?

Brad Turville:

Yeah, sure. So the first one is going to be top of mind for especially many tax agents and compliance orientated firms on the call. So that’s that rapidly unfolding landscape around what the government and the banks are providing. And so it’s going to be support to business clients and definitely even individuals here around what that means for them and how it impacts them and what they’re entitled to. And a guy called Sam Walton, who is the famous founder of Walmart in America, he talks about this notion of being a bit of a scrappy promoter, and part of that is that’s how a lot of your clients are at the moment is they’re really trying to grasp at what’s for me and what decision do I need to make today and should I lay off these people or should I hold off or what’s in store? And it’s a little bit of a juggle because things are being announced Australia, New Zealand, UK, everywhere around the world, plus the media is putting their own filter on it.

So just a little side tip, be careful of the media and what you’re hearing. There are some great accounting support groups out there as well that are helping interpret a lot of the data and what that then means for your client. So you are in the best position to help interpret this because some of it is quite, I’ll call it accountantese, especially the legislation as it’s been released. Anyone that’s ever read legislation before knows it’s not the most riveting reading nor ability to interpret it and interpret certain, let’s call it eligibility criteria can sometimes be a bit grey.

And so we need to be a little bit careful there. So I want you to take the position of being able to interpret and advise your clients and different groups of clients because you’re going to have business clients where there’s going to be specific support criteria that apply to them, which your individual clients aren’t going to really be interested in nor does it apply to them and vice versa. Let’s say something specific in Australia is around superannuation. There might be some impacts there that certain business clients that might have that type of service with you or interest in it, they don’t really want to hear about. So that ability to segment, which Charles you might be able to comment on about getting the right communication to the right people.

Charles Clark:

Yeah, exactly. And actually just harking back to a point in terms of the policies and everything that’s coming out, so I mean for those of you who might be bimodal or GAAP users, we’ve actually got a whole lot of content. So it’s updated at the moment every day or two for the UK, Australia and New Zealand with the latest take on, as Brad said, it could be anything from superannuation to unemployment benefits to tax breaks for businesses. So we are trying to give that to you as an easy, I suppose, resource for you to disseminate out to your clients and when you are going out to your clients, just be aware that you’ll probably have a variety. So to use Brad’s example of a plumber, maybe you might be an accountant or a bookkeeper who only has plumbing clients, but as Brad’s pointed out, mostly you’ll have a variety of clients.

So be aware of that and then think about the information that you’re putting out there and who it would be useful to be seen by. So don’t necessarily just always send some information out to everyone because it will only be relevant to some of them or most likely it will be only relevant to some of them. So when we talk about segmenting, that’s just a really easy way to look at it is just to think of your clients in different buckets. So you might have a plumbing bucket, you might have a retail bucket and you might have an agricultural bucket. And then think about the information that would be most relevant to them in terms of those updates that Brad was alluding to.

Brad Turville:

Great. I’ve got a couple more points here that I want to make around the kind of support that you can offer. So a suggested starting point is going to be around business continuity planning. So the difference with this type of plan versus a business plan or a bigger strategic plan is this is specifically to deal with this current unfolding landscape that we’re dealing with right now. You could almost call it like an emergency plan or a emergency plan’s probably a good idea. So it’s a high level view of what you need to be aware of in these times, what you need to think about, some certain things you need to plan for. So I guess a few high level pillars within that plan would be about you. I said earlier, put your own oxygen mask on. The plan starts with this. So that’s you, your family, even just your personal budget at home or your family’s asset planning.

Next, we’ve got your team. So have you got, say a COVID-19 policy in place in your team or what’s allowable? What’s not? What’s best practice? What should you be doing or not doing? And also over communicating and really supporting your team members. We’ve got a bit of a checklist later on where I share a few more tactics that you can start to implement on a regular basis. Supporting and retaining your customers, obviously our business still needs to roll on with customers. They’re the one keeping the business alive and the business rolling and the cash coming in. So what are some things we can start to think about? We might need to change some things. We might need to update some things to continue to hold onto those relationships and that sales volume preferably and help support your customers, which on the flip side is going to be your suppliers.

So something that I would like to point out there is around talking to your suppliers about their stability. So if you have what I call single point sensitivity, which means if you have one supplier, so a single point and there comes that word again, sensitivity, if you are relying on them to supply a product or a service to your business, which you then on sell or repackaged to your clients, if something happens to them, that supply chain from them through you to your customer has now been impacted. So there’s a massive sensitivity on their stability and ability to provide the product or the service in a timely manner over the course of the coming months. Are there any planned interruptions? So on and so forth.

Your business, again cash is going to come up because not only do we need to help our clients with cash, but you’ve got your own business. So what does our cash flow look like? Bank assistance, we’d look at potentially insurances. What can we get from our tax departments? What can we get from our government? And then we’ll put a little bit of a action plan in place. So what are the three or four high level goals we want to achieve over probably it’s going to be quite regular cycle here, so probably over the next 30 days. You might even have some clients you need to chat to weekly.

What are the goals we want to achieve? Who’s responsible for them and by when? So if you’ve heard of that SMART framework around setting goals, we want to get quite specific on it’s really sort of the who, what, where, when, why, because now we’ve got clarity. What we need to do, who’s responsible, by when, here’s the actions we need to take. Now we just need to go and do it. So that’s a quick high level overview on some of the pillars of putting together a business continuity plan. Within that, and what will probably fall on the back of a meeting like this and a planning session like this, whether you do it together with the client or the client does it and then you might spend some time reviewing it or the client just wants to do it on their own. My strongest suggestion has been, as someone advising a business, I want you to do it.

So that’s my number one priority is for you to do it and to get it done. Now how much support you want from me, that can come after, but I want you to do it. So what will fall from these plans will probably be some help with cash flow and forecasting the next, it’s going to be short period and it’s probably going to be a week-by-week type forecast and looking at what does our cash burn look like based on our current conditions. And if we’ve got, let’s say you’ve got a massive amount of WIP or stock or debtors that you can call on, reduce your stock, try and bill out a lot of your WIP, try and call in a lot of those debtors just to build this type of cash war chest is, you’re not going to go wrong with doing that at the moment.

So you also want to have to think about when you’re looking at your cash flow, what will things look like if revenue drops? And I mean I probably wrote some notes about a week ago, so when I say if revenue drops, the way I would probably phrase it now is what does it look like as revenue drops? Because that was sort of like, if it happens, it’s really now happening to most businesses. Renegotiating lease and rents, especially I can speak for in Australia, there’s a lot of support there about being able to renegotiate lease and rents. Unfortunately a lot of businesses will be standing down team members or making team members redundant. So what does that look like? How’s that going to impact your cash flow? Plus keeping in our mind the whole legal element of standing down, redundancies, the team and so on and so forth, so being very careful there.

Plan what actions you need to take on a weekly and monthly basis. You can even take the weekly and break it down to daily. I know I personally have a daily one that flows up into a weekly that then flows up into a monthly because when you look at the daily one, you now know these are the three to four things I have to do today. Let alone all the other things, these are the priorities. The focus is helping them build a cash flow war chest and by understanding what does the short term future cash flows look like and where potentially are some changes you can implement right now to try and try and bring some cash in. So that’s probably going to be the first support service that will drop from it. And you don’t have to be too fancy with doing this. We just want to see some insights and see how we can manage it and how we can get some more cash in.

So it doesn’t need to be the most fanciest thing ever. I was looking at a bit of a cash forecast just yesterday and it was really just a slap together Excel worksheet, but it solved. The problem we’ve got is I need to see what it looks like. Where are the inflows outflows, where’s the wastage, where’s the bottleneck? That’s probably the two things. What’s being wasted? Where are the bottlenecks? What can I do about it now? Number two, ongoing financial management meetings. You could also call it ongoing coaching for the business owner. You need to set some goals and if you don’t want to use the word goals, use the word focus. We need to keep them focused, otherwise they will get overwhelmed. They’re going to get emotional. They might get sidetracked. That’s going to happen. Everyone’s overwhelmed. Everyone’s sidetracked and emotional.

But trying to stay focused on what can I control? And that’s probably I guess a lesson we can all take from today is I can only control what I can control and there’s other things going on which are outside of my control that are impacting me. I have to adapt and respond to that. And if I don’t, well choosing not to is also a choice. And it may also be the worst choice. So some type of regular ongoing financial management coaching cadence that you can have, which not only updates them on what’s happening from a government bank tax perspective, but also they’ve got access to your smarts essentially. So instead of going it alone and making a decision based on guesswork, you are able to maybe provide some financial oversight or insights, or my next point here being… I’m jumping ahead a little bit but being a sounding board, so I’ll get to that in a sec.

And then all sorts of additional support. So stock management, are they holding too much? Are there certain lines we just need to get rid of? Are there low margin lines? What to reorder? How much to reorder? Marketing expenditure, and I’m not saying stop marketing the business. I’m one of the very few accountants that always used to say, “I don’t think you’re spending enough on marketing.” Now I would look at, usually you look at a P&L and every type of marketing is lumped into one line item. I’d be looking at what’s actually in there and what should we still be spending. But there might be other areas. You might have been thinking of doing a live event in the next couple of months. You might want to pull the budget on that and allocate it elsewhere. Account receivable, get tight, super tight money policy around the tasks in your accounts receivable. CapEx, review that and obviously team size plus the capacity for the workload that you’ve got.

And there might have to be some hard decisions around team size for your business clients. And to round out this topic here of what kind of support can you provide is being that sounding board. There are probably three parts to it. One, emotional, we’ve got to find that a lot. Being a commercial sounding board, so what commercial decisions can we help our clients make? And probably a professional sounding board as well, especially for businesses that need to rapidly reinvent their business model. I spoke to someone last week and they said, “We supply refrigerated perishable goods to hospitality businesses, and now no one will even return our calls or our emails and we’ve got $400,000 worth of stock sitting in the fridges. What do we do?” They have run it this way forever. They now need to change really quickly and we brainstorm a whole lot of new and different ideas that they can go about it.

So that’s the point of there being is anybody is just throwing out lots of different ideas, but also being that commercial and professional and emotional support person. Last point here, use the framework, which is two ears and one mouth. So I want you to be listening twice as much as you’re talking. Now the irony is not lost on me that I’m the one sitting here doing 99% of the talking and 1% of the listening. But in this particular environment, it’s about education. But if I was working with a business owner, I’m asking questions and then I want to hear what they’ve got to say. So just a little idea is the two ears and one mouth, listen twice as much as you’re talking and that probably rounds out my ideas on the support, at least the initial support you can be providing.

Charles Clark:

And I think, look, it’s probably a really good time to revisit the poll that we did because I think that really links into how much of you guys are supporting your clients and especially the next section we’re talking about, leveraging and communicating with the clients. And Brad, I’ve got to say I’m really thrilled to see that 90% of the people on this call have either contacted all of them or most of them, which I think is fantastic.

Brad Turville:

Yeah, I think so too. We’ve obviously only got the good accountants and bookkeepers on the call today because from what I’ve been hearing firsthand, it’s been a little bit different, not from a lack of not caring though. It’s just stretched way too thin and maybe already being over capacity in January, let alone what’s going on now in March. So I’m a little bit surprised and a little bit excited to see a lot of people in the all of them or most of them category and we’ll be able to share now, well I went to your channels, but we’re going to look at some ways to maybe improve it or do it a bit more and do it a bit better.

Charles Clark:

Yeah, exactly. And look, as Brad said, it’s a busy time of year even notwithstanding the current situation, it’s year-end in New Zealand soon for example. And one of the things that we’ve heard is that an accountant will say to us, “I’ve only got so many hours in the day to reach out and speak to these people.” And as Brad was saying earlier, look, maybe this is the time that the old ways of doing things need to change. And so the first thing that we know is that there are no face to face meetings anymore. You can’t go around to your client’s office and have a coffee and have catch up. And because of how stressed your clients will be and reaching out to you probably as well, the amount of time and capacity you have to be communicating effectively is really small.

So you have to really think strategically about how you’re going to do that. So what Brad and I have here, just I suppose a few ideas of how you could leverage technology so that you can communicate at scale. And what we’ve likened it down to is a bit of a funnel. At the top, you’re communicating to a lot of people, more general ideas, the updates that we were talking about earlier. And then as you move down the funnel stages, you might have emails and then you might end up on the phone or a one-to-one video chat. So the idea is to use technology to speak to a lot of people, get that information out to all your clients if it’s critical information and then those who are ready and in the right frame of mind, you can take those and have those more personal conversations, but only once they indicate that they’re in that frame of mind to be talking about a particular topic.

So I think probably a good place to start off here, Brad, is the fact that you guys can use a webinar just like we are doing. It’s a super, super effective low cost and very scalable solution if you want to reach a lot of your clients. And the great thing is you can have guests or colleagues on here and you can talk about almost anything. Any particular topic that is relevant might be something that happened that day or maybe it’s just something that’s come up in the last week or two. You can tell your clients about it. You can also post it on social media. You might get a few people who maybe their accountants or bookkeepers haven’t been in touch and they’re looking for other sources of information and then they can, from the comfort of their own home realistically is probably where they’re going to be calling in from, they can come and be educated on really useful topics. And I know Brad, you’ve done quite a few webinars and I suppose Zoom meetings with your clients, haven’t you?

Brad Turville:

Yeah, 100%. And even when I was in practise, it was almost a novelty if we saw someone face to face. It was so done online. I remember I had a client that would have been, their office is probably 200 metres down the road from our office and I would’ve seen them online four times out of five and they were walking distance away. Because of the convenience of just clicking a button and you’re on and also the ability to record the meeting as well, which is sometimes helpful. So this is all about something I call modern firm practises. So your hand has now been forced a little bit to think differently and part of thinking differently is implementing these modern firm type practises, of which there are a few pillars, but we’ll specifically talk about communicating. So technology is your friend and I want you to use it.

And the irony again isn’t lost on me that we’re using technology here. I’m in Australia. Charles is in New Zealand. We’ve got attendees from all over the place. We were able to collaborate to put all of this together just as you are able to do the same thing to then collaborate with a lot of your clients. So the ability to use tech to communicate and personalise communication, I mean this isn’t a recording. I’m actually sitting here talking and personalise it en masse and also efficiently. So if I look at all the attendees on the call today, if I were to call you all one on one and have this exact Zoom meeting one on one, it would take forever. But what if we just flip that around and say, “Well, what if we just invite you all in and give the exact same presentation we would have done one on one? You can still see me, I’m still here, so is Charles. You can send in questions. We can do polls and so on and so forth.”

It’s now a great use of everyone’s time. Plus we’re able to record it and then make it available for future uses. At the same time, something like, I’ll use BOMA for example, is you’re able to quickly set up a message and send it out to your specific list, my business client list or my individuals list or my list of that niche plumbing clients that I’ve had. Plumbing seems to be the flavour of this webinar, but you’re not writing 50 emails and then sending them to 50 different people. You’re writing the one and you’re just selecting the group and bam, it can just go out to everyone. I want to use the phrase especially now is progress, not perfection. So your clients aren’t expecting something super polished and that can be, if we look in the marketing world, can be quite reflected well in that super polished videos have got their place, but people are very responsive to just the selfie type shoot with your camera and that’s acceptable. So what I’m trying to share here is don’t get too hung up on making this super polished or fancy. I want you to be getting out there and educating and supporting and helping.

So I guess this is a time accountants and bookkeepers need to adapt as well. I used that word a little bit earlier about your business clients adapting to the change. You are also a business and you also need to adapt to the change, and our hand has been forced and all of your team now are probably sitting at home and you found a way you can work together. Some of you might have already had infrastructure in place. Some of you might have just learned about Zoom a week ago, but you are adapting. And so I want you to keep that adapting in mind. Learn about the new tech solutions that are available. The great thing is, especially in the accounting and bookkeeping community, a lot of people are getting together and talking about, “Here’s how I do it. Here’s how someone else is doing it.” You can pick and you can try things. You might try and it may not just be a fit for you.

Now isn’t the time for business as usual. Again, that’s probably another lesson. So phone calls, one-on-one meetings, yes there’s going to be a lot of them, but if you can do more webinars like this, Charles just touched on it, you’re able to mass communicate the same message personalised to a lot of people at once. And that means you can just help influence and support a lot of people at once, not just the ones that pay you the most or ones that are in the most urgent need or the ones that you can just get to today before you will go home or move from your home office back to outside with your family. Webinars are great for this. There’s heaps of options available. This is Zoom webinars. The cost is nominal and you can have tens to hundreds to thousands of people on it at once communicating the one message, because most people are going to have the same questions. Now they’ll be individualised, “How does this specific thing apply to me?”

But if you can start to tick off most of the educational and support questions on a platform like this, it’s going to free up your time, which is key to helping you get through this. How can I best support and be there for my clients and free up my time? Little bit of a seesaw, but doing this is going to help you with it. Another idea is what if you ran a webinar, and I’ve got an accountant that I coach and what he’s doing is he’s running a webinar twice a week on a Tuesday and a Thursday, and the first little part of it is about education and updates. So now it’s more about the new package or the change to this or they spoke about delivering this type of stimulus, but now that it’s gone through the Senate and through government, they’ve refined it a little bit more.

So here’s an update and then they just open for Q&A and that could go for an hour, geez especially now, that could potentially go for two hours. But if in two hours, they get 50 questions come in from 50 different clients, the alternative to two hours Q&A on the webinar is 50 calls, which frankly they’re probably going to be half an hour each. So there’s 25 hours worth of phone calls as opposed to doing a two hour Q&A once or twice a week. You can see the massive difference in leverage.

Charles Clark:

I was just going to say, Brad on that point, during this time, a lot of businesses are tightening their belts and they may take a dim view if they call you up to ask a question and then find out that you’re billing them for it. And there’s obviously lots of arguments either way because obviously you are a business as well. But if you can say, “This webinar is an education piece and I will be giving my time to all my clients.” So they’ll be getting value and the same end result, which is they’ll have the answer to their question and they’ll appreciate that even more so because it will be a value add from you rather than they get the bill saying, “Well I spoke to you for 10 minutes and that was, I’m going to charge that to you.”, which in these days is that I suppose sensitivity and putting oneself in the other person’s shoes I think would go a long way to especially building loyalty and trust, which longer term I think would really help solidify those relationships as client relationships.

Brad Turville:

Yeah, 100% and maybe billing out that 10 minutes could quickly lose you a few clients along the journey. So it’s a good point, not only about leveraging your time but leveraging it on a complimentary basis. Now you might need to do, and you would need to judge this by the feedback you’re getting, the amount of attendees and ask them as well. If you want to know what a client wants, ask them. I mean who would have thought that you would need advice there? But you might find you need to do a little bit more right now because there’s a lot happening and it’s escalated quite quickly, but in a couple of weeks, it might start to back off. You could go maybe one call a week. You could maybe go then to one call a fortnight. You could maybe, when I was in practise, I used to do it monthly and just pick a new topic and talk on it, then open for Q&A. It was just a great way for people to get together.

Also in something like a Zoom webinar, and I don’t want to focus on the tech or specific products, but the great thing with some type of webinar platform is it’s anonymous. So I can see everyone but all the attendees can’t see one another. So that might be important because you want to see all of your clients and who’s on, but people might be sensitive around privacy or they might want to ask a question but don’t want to know that everyone that oh, Charles from BOMA’s asked this question and Charles is sort of thinking, “Oh I didn’t want everyone to know about what’s going on.” So just again, you’re being sensitive and you’re being careful with your communications. Think about, I’m going to jump back to some of my points here. Think about I guess the micro communications that you’re then having. So it’s more of that ongoing centralised type support. So I know some firms have got a Facebook channel. They’ve got a Slack group. They’ve got a WhatsApp group. So it’s centralised where you can have all the questions come in and you can put an update of text, of audio or of video that might apply to some people on the call that may not apply to others, but it’s an option and I’m seeing it being used quite well.

The weekly webinar I touched on, educational and open Q&A. And the great thing with doing webinars or even just if you got a group of clients together is you can have it set up where they just need to click the link. You might not want them to register. That’s the point I’m chasing here. So they don’t need to register and then it’s on in a week or whatever. You could just have it set up as a regular recurring webinar where they just literally click the link and bang, they’re in there. It’s frictionless. You want to make it easy for them as well. And sending regular reminders, so getting info out there to clients that’s up to date about what’s going on. There’s something that I love to do, which is, and I’ve been doing this for a lot of firms I coach, is every Friday I shoot a Loom video. Anyone that doesn’t know Loom, you can go Google Loom. It records your screen or just records you.

And I would sit here like this and just shoot a 10 to 15 minute video talking about the week, what’s going on. If you need me, I’m here, what to think about. And the one I did last Friday from memory, it was more of a, “Hey, I’m still here and here’s an update, but there’s not really an update.” So they’re still hearing from me. I don’t have a whole lot to say, but it’s more of just a, “I’m still here. I’m still thinking of you. Reach out if you need me.” So keep in mind the update when there’s no update because your clients will appreciate it and they might not respond to that email or that outreach saying, “Oh thanks for reaching out or thanks for sending me the email even though it’s not telling me anything.” They’re not going to respond but they’ll feel it. They’ll feel the love. That’s essentially what it is. And they’re scared and worried. You’re just letting them know you haven’t forgotten about them. And the point there is you’re now over-communicating through leverage, which is like a webinar. It might be a Loom video. It might just be an email that goes out.

Charles Clark:

That’s fantastic. Look, I’m just aware of time. We’ve done a lot of the talking as Brad said. Does anyone have any questions? Just aware we have gone over, but we’re very happy to stick around for a few minutes if you guys have anything you’d like to ask. I think while you have a think about if you have any questions, Brad, should we just take a couple of minutes just to run through that checklist? And if you want to type in any questions, we can answer them as we go. So this is just the weekly to-do checklist, which Brad sent me earlier and I just thought this is too good not to cover.

Brad Turville:

Yeah, cool. All right so I could probably do a whole webinar on these points but I won’t. I’m looking at the clock as well. So point one, aggregate the overwhelming flow and complexity of information, aggregate meaning you are getting everything together and you’re going to turn it into something that the layman can understand, the average Joe Blow can read and understand. So point there being don’t talk accountantese. If you’ve got children, hand it to them if they can read it and understand it. I’m not saying your clients are children. I’m saying we want the level of understanding of it to be as basic as possible. Our point here isn’t to show off by quoting legislation and this and that.

Send a weekly email of updates and here’s my comment on using Loom and even sending the update when there’s no update. Number three, run the weekly webinar with an open Q&A. If you’ve never done them before, great time to start. They’re simple, they’re easy. Just be you. I’m me. Charles is sitting at home and then he’s being him and have some delivery notes and it doesn’t need to be super polished. I really want you to do it and have a go at doing it. And you know what? You can even flick me a message if you’ve got any particulars you want to know or if you just want someone just to give you a bit of a nudge. I want to run a morning 10 minute standup meeting with your team. This is sort of a business as usual with your team in any environment, but especially now because you’re not all together in the room.

So this can be done, you can do it on Zoom. Just get everyone to jump on. Three questions. What were your wins in the last 24 hours? So someone might have finished a job. They might have had a great breakthrough with the client. It doesn’t matter what it is. You still want to be able to celebrate some of the good things that are going on with the team. What are you working on today? That does two things. Number one, your team members now need to be clear because I would say run this meeting in the morning. They need to be clear on what they’re actually doing today. So by them answering that question, they have to know what they’re working on, and you as a manager can re-prioritise if you need to. So if they say something at last, I’m going to do that later. And for you that’s important. You can then say, “Oh my Charles, I actually want you to do that first and then send it through to me.”

So wins in the last 24 hours, what’s on today and what are you struggling with? Don’t tell me at 4:00 p.m. I want to know now at 8:00 a.m. And also if the thing they’re struggling with is you and it’s your fault, then you need to help them there. They might be trying to check something with you or get advice from you or something from you. So keep in mind you might also be the problem.

Five, run a weekly one-on-one with your direct reports. Call it like a virtual coffee. Do it over Zoom. Who cares if you’re doing it like this or if you’ve just got the phone and you’re doing Zoom or FaceTime? Don’t get hung up on the tech. As long as you can see each other and you’ve both, I haven’t got my coffee [inaudible 00:53:57] but you’ve got a coffee, it’s good enough. And it’s not just direct report with them as to what were your billables this week. That might be a component of how you’re going at work, but especially now, how are you going at home? How are things with you? How’s the family? Is everyone keeping well? Are you getting enough sleep and exercise? Is there anything I can do? Is there something, a question I should be asking you that I haven’t? Those sort of things.

What else have we got? Yeah, free up time to run your business continuity planning sessions. You’ll have to find time for them. So if that’s going to be mission critical and super helpful for your clients, you need to give it some priority. So find the time. You might need to push things out of the way. That’s how it is. Manage your own cash flow. You need your own oxygen mask on first. So we have to be careful here. But you’re going to be chasing up late payers. Get your own invoices out quickly. Use something like a practise ignition or go proposal or go cardless. There’s a range. Anything that’s going to speed up getting it out, getting it signed, getting the cash in is going to help your accounts receivable. Build a very simple 13-week cash flow forecast, not only for your clients. They’re going to need that. You need it for yourself as well.

Something I love to do is I call it plan tomorrow today. So at the end of today, I will plan tomorrow. So when I get up tomorrow, when I jump on, I’ve already got my plan for the day, meetings, schedule, to-do list, et cetera. And the last point here is take breaks. Again, it comes back to your own oxygen mask. Walk around the house, get plenty of sleep. Search Google if you want to do some yoga exercises. Go for a walk or a run. I know I’ve been going up to the bush every couple of days and I go for a run. There’s no one up there. It’s fresh air. I can tune out for a bit. It’s not only physical but it’s also a bit of mental health there. Or download a mindfulness app. Get up early. Chuck their AirPods in. Chuck it on, and listen to someone’s soothing words to just tune out of what’s going on for five minutes. And these are things I want you to do every week. Don’t just go and do them this week. I want you to review these every week because it’s going to help. If you think about these tactics and how they apply, they’re really about helping your client, helping yourself, helping your team, helping your family. That’s really what they fall under. So I hope some of them are helpful.

Charles Clark:

Thanks so much for joining us, everyone. And Brad, thank you. I think some really fantastic insights in there. It’s going to be a challenging time for all of us, but hopefully, there are some tools that we’ve given you today to both help yourself and help your clients in the coming weeks and months. So thanks again from me. Thanks, Brad for coming along and we’ll see you all again on another webinar.

Brad Turville:

Thanks, Charles.