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Seahorse (UK) Ltd
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Working with the right people

In my experience, clients are broken down into the following  -

40% - Absolute pleasure to work with - value the relationship, give records timely, pay bills promptly, take their responsibilities seriously, are always polite and respectful to you and all staff

40% - Good to work with, sometimes unrelable with meetings, busy lives so don't always give things the attention they should, but good loyal clients and valued.

15% - Borderline clients - often late and disorganised but good people, value the relationship and refer and accepted because of this.

5% - An abolsutele bloody nightmare, always late, impolite, slow payers, listen to mate down the pub, cost conscious, bill quiblers, timestealers, no respect.  Should be weeded out at all costs as they drag you and staff down.

How does this compare for you?

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good question

Hi Jason - Am fortunate to have finally managed to lose the "Ds" and my A:B:C is probably 30:50:20.

What's interesting is that had I had the same clients 5 years ago it would probably have been 40:55:5, they haven't changed, but I have!

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By AS
21st Jun 2012 21:54

Absolute nightmares

The 5% absolute nightmares are increasing with what I call the Blackberry generation - they read emails on their Blackberry phones, or actually read the 1st line and skim half of the rest of the email, completely misunderstand and either ignore important action they are supposed to take or fire off loads of silly emails that waste a lot of my time.

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21st Jun 2012 22:26

As and Bs Please

this is an area that i am really focusing on at the moment ... upping fees (paul scholes - SEE, i do listen to you!) for certain clients, and just a straight decline to others.  all new clients now pay 50% of their fee upfront, balance after the year-end work is done. and, laying down the expectations in terms of records quality and timing of work. 

 

in other words, trying to focus resources on As and Bs ... and "train" the Cs to get better!  Ds .. dont take on, and fire existing Ds. it;s very liberating!

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By chatman
29th Jun 2012 12:25

iPhone Users

AS wrote:

The 5% absolute nightmares are increasing with what I call the Blackberry generation - they read emails on their Blackberry phones, or actually read the 1st line and skim half of the rest of the email, completely misunderstand and either ignore important action they are supposed to take or fire off loads of silly emails that waste a lot of my time.

I find this with iPhone users, as they do not understand the limitations of their phones; they even try to do spreadsheets on them. I suppose Apple marketing doesn't help.

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01st Jul 2012 09:19

Emails on mobiles are a massive problem

AS wrote:

The 5% absolute nightmares are increasing with what I call the Blackberry generation - they read emails on their Blackberry phones, or actually read the 1st line and skim half of the rest of the email, completely misunderstand and either ignore important action they are supposed to take or fire off loads of silly emails that waste a lot of my time.

Yep, I've posted on Aweb about those who skim read or can't get past the first line or two when they read it on their mobile.  It's caused us a lot of extra time in having to send reminders to people who read and forgot to do it, or half read and never got back to read it properly.

I'm rapidly losing patience with them.  It really is a modern curse.  Far too easy for them to "read" on the move and completely forget to read it properly when they can do properly.  Same with attachments that they can't open or can't properly read on a mobile screen - they just ignore them and have the best intentions to look at them on a proper screen, but somehow never get around to it.  If something needs printing out, like a long technical email, it used to be just a mouse click from the clients PC, but now it seems a mammoth task for them and many simply don't bother!

I'm seeing far more instances when people have to be reminded again and again, or where clients remember they've had an email, but can't find it and need it sending again.  Also, there seems to be a reduction in understanding when the recipient reads something on a mobile - I've noticed far more people are asking for further clarifications or explanations - maybe because of distractions when they're trying to read and understand?

Emails are fast becoming more of a curse than a blessing.

I've starting changing the way I send them.  I now tend to do a separate email for each separate topic.  Whereas in the past, I'd add a line at the end to remind them of something, I now send a separate email with a separate heading for every little topic and will often break down a large email into smaller emails.  I'm also starting to revert back to sending technical reports etc by snail mail.

Such a shame that email use seems to be degenerating at the moment caused by mobiles.  It seems everyone expects email messages to be short and snappy like Twitter - that's fine, but what about the messages that can't be so dumbed down to a line or two?

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22nd Jun 2012 09:04

If we all got rid of D's where would they end up ? Perhaps there a massive marketing opportunity for someone. Royalties for this idea to be put into a film investment company " to improve the quality of English cinema output"

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Been managing the D'd to another firm

Around 12 months ago, I listed out all the criteria that, for me, would make a client "perfect".

I got a list of 10 criteria.

I then went through and marked each of my clients against that list and gave them a "ranking" - A, B, C ,D

Since then I've been actively managing out all the D's to another local firm who have been hungry for the work.

It's felt so liberating!!

 

 

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22nd Jun 2012 10:02

I guess the 'D's end up with the new starters

I know I acquired a few when I first started my practice, and some 'old' accountants were generous enough to warn me about them, and I was extremely grateful for the 'heads up'.

I had enough spare time to continually chase them and try to re-educate them, but I had little success. I kept them for a while and then got rid as soon as I had enough decent clients.

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Just ranked our clients

A - 33%

B - 51%

C - 16%

D - 0%

 

I've made a point of not competing on price so that's probably why we don't have any D's.

Most of the C's need to be 'better educated' there are a couple which we'll probably part company with.

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22nd Jun 2012 16:48

D's

Again, we've "worked" on reducing the D's over the past couple of years, and are now at the point where we only have 1, and we tried to "fire" him but he wouldn't leave!! 

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23rd Jun 2012 14:42

Thanks for feedback, interesting to read that most people's ratios are similar.

I have managed to get rid of our last 'D' client this week and it is so liberating.

Am trying to train, motivate, educate and influence 'C's' to get them into the B category by (amongst others) fixing prices but only on the basis that the records are bought it by X date.  As an example, the price for year end accounts is fixed for the first six months after year end, but if the records are bought in on the 7th month the price goes up, and again month 8, and again month 9.  Same for VAT etc, fix the price on the basis that the information is provided no later than the 18th of the month.

Price also agreed on quality of records and reliability of the client.

New clients are easy to influence as that is the basis of the relationship from the start. 

I think that whilst the D's are a complete waste of time, energy and money, we all need to work with them at some point to truly appreciate:

1. How not to market to attract them

2. How to weed out at consultation

3. How to manage and not be managed

4. How not to give away time

5. How to react to changing scope of engagements

6. How to value yourself and your business

 

I think that many accountants are too worried about the reaction of the D's to ever get around to firing them.  Worried about loss of goodwill, negative word of mouth, loss of fee and so on and tolerate these people for longer than they should. I have been guilty of this myself in the past.  Do the so what test.  So what if they throw their toys out of the pram - it's only temporary pain and the flip side means you never have to see / speak to them again - So what if they talk about you negatively to their friends?  Birds of a feather usually flock together so their friends probably wouldn't be the type of client you'd want anyway, and so what if you lose the fee - use the extra time and energy to get better ones.

 

 

 

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23rd Jun 2012 15:08

Also, good point the re Blackberry age and not reading things properly, skimming etc.  This applies also to mobiles, I recently decided no more mobile works call for me so advised all clients that to ring the office number only and if it was out of hours then to email.

My voicemail message on my phone changed to 'This mobile phone is no longer used.  Place call (landline number).  Voicemails will not be checked'

I then continued to get message after message!  When pulling up the main culprit (a 'D'!) he said that he doesnt listen to voicemails, just waits for the words to finish then leaves his message!

 

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29th Jun 2012 12:12

I agree with Jason

The only thing to do with Cs is to decide whether they're Bs or Ds!  If they tell you they want to become Bs, ensure they're willing to make the commitment needed to get there and stay there before you start educating them.

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29th Jun 2012 13:48

Easy answer

There are no rubbish clients. There are organised ones that help you and are intelligent and get charged less. There are slow clients or they dont care, give you a bin liner full of 3200 crumpled receipts and you charge them 5 x as much.

 

whats the problem

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30th Jun 2012 13:36

Tom 7000

If price and profit is your only reason for being in business then I agree with you.

If you are in business and look at other factors, such as

 - Enjoyment

 - Respect

 - Creating a workplace where staff enjoy their job and are valued

 - Freedom to choose

 - Managing risk and reputation

 - Maximising efficiency

 - Time management

 - Satisfaction

 - Working with the right people to help you achieve the above

Then there is an argument against what you say.

 

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By Tosie
01st Jul 2012 10:26

when a D client is A clients son

Thanks for introducing this Jason.

One of my problems at the moment is I have been around so long that the offsprings are now coming of age and running their own businesses.  Some I have got rid of by saying Jonny needs a younger accountant to support his fantastic skills but others remain.What do you do.

This posting has jogged me into getting rid of a couple of clients that I simply do not want so here comes the disengagement letters.

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