About 10 years ago I was having lunch with a friend (let’s call her Jane) when she asked, 'why should I come to you as a client Mark?'. I started my usual and practised patter about quality, professionalism, great team, great service… Jane basically then told me to shut up. I’m sure that if we weren’t having lunch, she would have walked off to find someone else to talk to! Instead she said to me 'I don’t care about any of that stuff; I want my accountant to make sure I pay as little tax as I legally can and help me make more money'.
So, from that lightbulb moment came my brand promise which was to help clients ‘make more money, pay less tax, and have a great lifestyle’.
From then on, I started offering a complimentary review meeting for all my clients at least once per year to ask them why they were in business, what they were wanting to achieve, and what roadblocks we needed to break down to get them to those goals quicker.
Having run over 2000 of these meetings, I got a pretty good handle on what business clients are looking for. I call them ‘The Three Freedoms’.
- Financial Freedom.
- Time Freedom.
- Mind Freedom.
Financial Freedom is having sufficient CASHFLOW for the owner to enjoy their desired quality of life.
Financial Freedom is not at all about profit. Your clients don’t understand ‘Accountanese’; you need to speak a language your clients understand. Cashflow is universally understood. Of course, most often, you have to help your client increase their turnover and profit to help improve their cashflow, but the language is cash. ‘Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity and cashflow is reality.’
Time Freedom is making sure your clients have balance in their lives.
Balance to do the things they enjoy outside of work - getting to the children’s school sports day, getting to the gym three times per week, or never missing a line dancing practise. ‘The business is there to serve you, not the other way around; you should not be a slave to your business.’
Mind Freedom is the ability to sleep at night.
Mind Freedom is peace of mind that things are as they should be; risks are managed, there will be no tax surprises, and the business can sustain a downturn should one come along. ‘The business should deliver you the cashflow you need and the discretionary time to enjoy it.’
The best way to deliver The Three Freedoms is to use The FGG Principle; Find out what your clients want, Go and get it, and then Give it to them.
We know business owners want The Three Freedoms (believe me I’ve talked to thousands of people about this). So, let’s look at how we can make this happen. What’s possible and what services should we offer?
As you can see from the table, there is always a place for the annual accounts and compliance work - after all they provide the much needed Mind Freedom. But annual accounts and GST / VAT compliance work do not deliver Financial or Time Freedom. Understanding what the 3 Freedoms look like for your client right from your onboarding process will help you attract the right client and retain them.
Applying The FGG Principle to your clients
Find out what they want: Start running complimentary meetings with your clients. They’ll confirm that what they want is one or all of The Three Freedoms
Go and get it: Either subscribe to a cloud-based solution, or build your own. By the way it took me seven years to build what started in The Gap and it’s taken a full team nearly five years to get it where it is now.
Give it to them: Don’t procrastinate or make excuses as to why you can’t deliver these services to your clients. Get above the line. You have a duty of care to your clients to help them run a better business.
As accountants, we must remain relevant to our clients; we need to be their strategic partners. If your clients see you as a cost, they should cut that cost now. If they see you as an investment in giving them The Three Freedoms, they need you now more than ever.