The Benefits of a Good Attitude in Bad Times
Iacopi, John T., Journal of Accountancy
THE BENEFITS OF A GOOD ATTITUDE IN BAD TIMES
In these turbulent economic times, CPAs and other business people are looking for ways to increase their earnings (or cut losses). John T. Iacopi, CPA, president, Iacopi, Lenz & Co., 3031 West March Lane, Suite 300E, Stockton, California 95219, describes his own firm's secret to success.
Because of the tough economy, CPA firms have extended work hours, downsized, controlled costs and reduced billing charges to attract (or keep) business. In my own firm we have trimmed costs and reduced staff, and our per-person productivity has increased as a result.
But success today requires more than that. We continue to find that what once was an extra effort invested in the practice now is mandatory at both staff and owner levels. Evening and weekend appointments are offered cheerfully to accommodate clients' schedules and needs. Our goal is for all clients to receive high-quality, prompt, courteous, professional services, and we must be at their service at all times. We try to convey gratitude and appreciation to every client who selects our firm.
In following this policy, I believe we are using an asset that has contributed greatly to our ongoing success but that often is overlooked by the majority. A positive attitude--and the tangible changes in client service that it produces--is our most important asset in these changing and demanding times.
EFFECT ON CLIENTS
Clients welcome the opportunity to deal with a positive and appreciative CPA regardless of the news to be conveyed. Lately, I approached a number of engagements and client consultations in a cheery, upbeat mood even though the topics to be covered were depressing. This attitude set the tone of the meetings and the grim news I conveyed was received in a better light, with all of us searching for the bright spots among the adverse conditions. We found them.
When clients see that their CPAs have time for them and are pleased to serve their needs, they, in turn, change their attitudes. They are more willing to pay for services received and, most likely, will request additional ones.
On a number of occasions, clients came to my office for an appointment depressed about their business problems. Following our consultations, I saw them to the door with completely different attitudes. How was this accomplished?
A new perspective. When a client complains about how bad business is, I take the time to note the business's positive aspects. I also list the negatives, but soon the positives outweigh the negatives. When CPAs offer clients hope, good things begin to happen.
Last year, I rendered considerable services to a client who was experiencing financial difficulties. I billed $26,000 to the client and collected $20,000. The remaining $6,000 appeared in jeopardy. I did not push because I knew the client's situation. Finally, the client sent me a letter saying he could not pay the $6,000 balance and that it could take him several months to make a payment on his account.
I responded immediately by thanking him for his good faith and his past patronage. I expressed my confidence in him and my willingness to ride with him for the balance of the year. This was not an easy letter to write, but I approached it in an upbeat manner. As soon as the client had money available (from an unexpected inheritance), he made a payment to our firm. Further, he wants to do more business with us now that he's in better shape financially. He later said my note had given him hope.
BETTER CLIENT SERVICE IDEAS
Being positive leads to creative thinking and new techniques to improve a practice and increase client goodwill.
In late 1992, I had 4"x5" cards printed showing my name, title, phone and fax numbers and address. I left the balance of the cards blank so I could write personal notes. I find that when clients …
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Publication information: Article title: The Benefits of a Good Attitude in Bad Times. Contributors: Iacopi, John T. - Author. Journal title: Journal of Accountancy. Volume: 177. Issue: 5 Publication date: May 1994. Page number: 95+. © 2009 American Institute of CPA's. COPYRIGHT 1994 Gale Group.
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