A couple of weeks ago I delivered a presentation at Accountex.
It was all about how to grow, scale and systemise an accountancy practice, without the practice owner being stuck working in it.
Check out the pic below, standing room only…
And one of the points I made in the presentation was that in order to scale your practice, whilst removing the reliance on yourself, you need an A+ team of people that can do all the things you can.
This includes things like:
- Selling services to clients
- Delivering services to clients
- Building and maintaining client relationships
After the presentation, an attendee came over and asked me a question that I’ve heard hundreds of times before from different practice owners.
He said “Rudi, if I don’t have the relationships with my clients, what’s stopping my team from stealing them?”
I’ve heard this fear many times over the years in different guises from practices of different sizes.
And what generally happens is practice owners become paralysed.
They become scared to grow their practice, and bring on more clients, because they’re scared of their team running away with them.
In the long-term, this fear-based growth will get you nowhere. It’s not sustainable.
Is it possible that your partners or managers can try to run away with some of your clients?
Are there things you can do to minimise the risk of this happening and/or the outcome if it did?
Yes, there are.
Here are the 2 big keys you should focus on to quash your fears and reduce the risk:
1. Create a unique customer service experience
Most of the time, the loyalty of clients is with the business, not an individual.
And this is definitely the case when you create a unique customer service experience.
Check out this article here where I discuss how to WOW your clients and deliver superior customer service by systemising the ‘little things’.
It would be very difficult (or even impossible) for somebody leaving your practice, and starting up on their own, to replicate a systemised client experience like this.
And by focusing on this, you will dramatically reduce the risk of your clients leaving.
Here’s an example of this playing out in real life…
About 2 years ago one of my clients was going through a partner break-up. They were a 4-partner practice and one of the partners (who was responsible for approx. half of the clients) decided he wanted to start out on his own.
This was a nightmare situation, so we had to think fast to minimise the number of clients that might leave.
The practice was generally quite good with customer service, and to reinforce their relationships, the remaining 3 partners set about contacting all of the clients who might leave to take them for lunch, invite them in for a drink etc.
In the end, the partner that left only ended up taking less than 10% of the business with him.
As it turned out, the loyalty of the clients was with the practice, not him.
2. Invest heavily in your team
The second big key to focus on is investing heavily in your team.
You want to create an environment for them to work in that only a fool would choose to leave.
Here are some ideas and articles to help you do just that:
- Invest into their soft skills, not just their technical skills.
- Give them autonomy and responsibility in their work. And if they have an entrepreneurial flare, allow them to use that in your practice.
- Get your team to buy-in to the vision of the practice and where it’s going
- Create a desirable culture for them to work in
By focusing on the things above, you will reduce the risk of your team wanting to leave and break-free in a big way.
Here’s another example of this playing out in real life…
One of my clients (a £2M sole-proprietor) when he started with me was working 6 days a week. He quickly realised that if he was to reduce his time spent in the practice, he needed his team to step up and start looking after his clients.
And over a period of about 18 months, we managed to pass down a large number of his clients to his team, reducing his time spent working in the practice to 3 days a week.
A few months later, at one of my quarterly mastermind meetings, another one of my clients asked him “aren’t you worried about your managers running away with your clients?”.
And his response was simply “why would I be?”
Because what he’d done in his practice was build a team of people who…
- Were paid above-market salaries
- Were given full autonomy and responsibility for their work
- Were invested in regularly
… and as a result, would be crazy to leave!
Don’t let fear stop you
If you’re serious about growing and scaling your practice, whilst reducing the time you spend working in it, then you have no choice but to start letting your team take care of clients for you.
By focusing on the 2 key points above; creating a unique customer service experience and investing heavily in your team, you will minimise the risk of your clients being stolen, leaving you to focus on growing and scaling your practice.