I was contacted by vouchedfor, which is a sort of Trip Advisor for accountants and solicitors. You contact clients and ask if they will give you a reference via the Vouched For site. So far it has been a fab ego trip as the clients selected by me have given lovely reviews. I am not sure if anything will come of it but what they say may be useful in helping me to understand what clients’ value about us – as per my blog on Competitive Advantage.
I have been trying to identify our competitive advantage. Most businesses think their advantage is one thing but when customers are asked they will think of other things altogether.
It is therefore important to ask customers why they chose us and then work out how to promote our competitive advantage. For example “95% of our business comes from customer referrals” not “95% of our customers are delighted with us” which is hard to prove.
We are in the process of carrying out surveys of our clients and I will try to work out what the clients specially liked and things I wouldn’t have thought about. For example one client loved us because we didn’t make her feel stupid and all her questions were treated seriously. I should hope so too.
Most lawyers like to have wealthy clients, and I now seem to be attracting quite a few. But what I really like is nice clients, wealthy or not. Luckily we have quite a few. I suppose there is a perception that we lawyers are money grasping bastards but actually we mainly just want to make a reasonable living and give a good service.
But how lovely it is when you meet people you like, you give them a good service, they appreciate it and also understand what it will cost. A true win-win.
I have just had a week on my own. It is the skiing season and that means that my colleague Beccy is away a lot. This week has been frantic with new work coming in at an unprecedented rate. I am not a great one for writing wills, which are a sort of jigsaw puzzle – all of the piece must be exactly right and fit together, and they can also be very complicated. They are also very important. Will writing is Beccy’s forte, not mine. However I have been forced to write 5, all of which I will get Beccy to check very carefully when she gets back.
Getting new staff is my current priority.
It’s a nerve wracking business. Will we get enough work to keep them busy and earn enough to cover their cost? Where will they sit? As usual I am resistant to change. We are comfortable as we are but our service is beginning to suffer as we get busier and I must (do!) have the confidence to believe that we will continue to generate more work.
I have been able to contact a number of legal executives through their local group and have met a few. There seem to be some very good people out there, which is really encouraging.
So it’s all change and exciting times.
Beating the competition was the subject of my latest business development session.
There is always lots of competition but one of my main competitors is DIY probate. I don’t blame people for wanting to do it themselves. BUT
- It doesn’t have to be expensive – shop around (to us for preference)
- It can be a huge amount of hassle – have you tried having a meaningful exchange with a share registrar or financial services provider recently?
- If it goes wrong it can be very expensive and a huge hassle to unpick
And this is not just self-serving spin, its true. I only need to find ways of telling people in ways that they can hear.
My new passion, which I tell anyone who stops for long enough to listen is an exercise class I am doing in Shepton Mallet OUTSIDE at 7am. There is something amazing about being in a park in the dark doing strenuous exercise. Though I often hate it at the time I’m back home for a hearty breakfast soon after 8 and feel brilliant, and also rather smug and pleased with myself. I am in the office by 9.
Unfortunately on the days I do the class I am also finished by about 4 pm but it seems a price worth paying. Get in touch if you want the details.
In my business we deal with the currency of death all the time. I’m inclined to use the D word, but lots of people prefer “passed away” or – in the US – “passed”. I struggled to find the right words on the website and talked about “the person who has died” rather than “the deceased” which is so pompous sounding and somehow inhuman.
I was heartened that on Thought for the Day yesterday John from the Iona community, who sounds very sensible spoke of his preference for talking about death in direct language.
Maybe I’m finely tuned to discussions about death but there seems to be a lot in the media about it at the moment – surely a good thing.
The glass ceiling is real in many areas of life. I was talking to the senior partner of an accountancy firm about why there are no women in his senior management team. He is a decent guy who has struggled with this himself. We talked about the frequent issue that women “do” and are not necessarily as good at selling. He said that he tends to find that women feel they must know all the answers, whereas men are more comfortable “winging it” and finding out afterwards. This holds them back.
It is so true – many of us women are our own worst enemies. We must learn courage: yes we can do it, even if we don’t know how yet, we have the ability to find out.
Leaders have to make decisions: I was cycling with a group of friends last weekend. There is often debate about which route to follow. Some of us are prepared to risk saying “lets go this way” and others who will always follow.
The trouble with being the one to stick your neck out is it is then your fault if the route turns out to be rubbish, or you get hopelessly lost. I think that’s why a lot of people prefer to go with the flow. But if no-one takes the lead the group goes no-where.
There’s an analogy in there somewhere for running a business.
Sales tips abound – books have been written about them, but here are a few – none ground-breaking but a good reminder:
- Do some sort of selling/marketing every day
- When you see clients ask them to give you referrals
- Don’t sweat the small stuff
- Listen to clients – 2 ears, 1 mouth. They really aren’t interested in your life story
- Tell stories
- Don’t rush – it takes time
- Turn off at night/over the weekend
We have had a horrible time with illness in the office, I am really hoping we are over it now. It’s been a frantically busy year, and when people are off sick it is a lot worse.
It dawned on me that as a result I have been focussing inwards, not outwards and that is not healthy. What I’m best at is getting out talking to people, not doing the nitty gritty work. So – just like last year – my resolution is to get more staff and get out more.
My office was open throughout the weekend for a Save the Children sale of beautiful pottery by my friends Elizabeth Raeburn and Rodney Lawrence and a super jewellery maker called Caroline Tetley.
I sent out email invites, as did Rod and Liz and the whole weekend we had a steady stream of visitors, all of them in the mood for spending.
It was in aid of Save the Children, and the local SCF committee came with home-made cakes, and served coffee and cakes for the whole weekend. It was amazing – a real win-win. My friend’s coffers have been nicely enhanced and SCF made £1,000. I felt good about myself and hopefully it was excellent marketing for the business. It was a bit like a cocktail party lasting the whole weekend with a non-stop stream of friends and clients calling. I am so unused to standing and being nice for such a long time I was completely exhausted by the end.
“Don’t negotiate against yourself” – My brother came up with this expression. I do it constantly. Without asking I assume that clients will only stomach fees of a certain level. The reality is they rarely negotiate, and if they do in my experience they tend to turn out to be clients we could do without.
My brother – who is far more financially successful than his 3 sisters would be infinitely better than me at charging the right amount, and not worrying about it. Maybe I can learn.
How much money is enough? I and many of my generation have a tendency to feel we need to make money for the sake of it. It’s fabulously liberating to think, I don’t need any more. So what if my business makes me way less than I used to earn, that is not the point – I am doing it for personal satisfaction, to give a good service and employ people in a decent environment, not make a fortune.
And in the end, who knows or cares what I do or don’t earn. As long as I have enough to do what I want to do (which I can) what does it matter?