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When you and your team have conquered the annual accounts and tax returns for the year, it’s time to tackle the annual meetings, and ideally, the entire team would work through the process.
we hear that while members and partners are comfortable handling the annual meetings, often their staff don’t necessarily know what to do, leaving the meetings the responsibility of the higher-level team. This reduces the strength of the team and is one of the many reasons you should empower your entire team to manage annual meetings.
Why Train Your Team to Handle Accounting Annual Meetings?
Reduce Strain on Yourself
The first and most obvious reason is that it will reduce the strain on yourself and your higher-level team in a very busy time.
Improve Customer Service
With more people handling the annual meetings, more time and attention can be paid to each customer.
Clients are Expecting More
The days of just producing work accounts are over. Clients are expecting more from their accountants, including clear, face-to-face communication.
It can form an important part of building up the experience of your team, which can feed into your succession planning in case you’re incapacitated or have the pleasure of extended leave.
What is Holding People Back?
There could be a combination of reasons people are hesitant to take on the annual meeting.
The Nature of Accounting
Accounting, especially in its traditional form, involves significant solitary work. It requires attention to detail, concentration, and long hours spent with numbers and data. These tasks often favour those who thrive in quiet, focused environments.
Historical Role of Accounting
Historically, accountants were not front-facing members of a business. We worked behind the scenes, and, unlike sales or public relations, our roles didn't require constant interaction with people.
Stereotypes of Accountants
Popular media often portrays accountants as quiet, reserved, boring, detail-oriented, analytical, and anti-social. While not necessarily true, these stereotypes are reinforced by media representation.
Typically, interpersonal and communication skills are not something accountants are trained in, with the focus more on technical skills.
The end result is that we end up with a pipeline of talent that wants to be head down, punching out work.
But the Environment is Changing
We’re currently going through an evolution of the public accountant. Technology is taking over manual tasks. For example, the traditional job of coding up a bank statement with the cloud-based single ledger doesn’t take anywhere near as much time as it once did.
On the plus side, this allows you to choose the role for you and your team going forward, and compliance advisory services are well within the accounting wheelhouse.
There are many advisory areas you can enter, including:
- Best business structures,
- Estate planning,
- Tax planning.
- Cash flow,
- Succession planning,
- Asset Protection,
- Tax impact of SMSF, and
- Tech and process automation.
However, advising requires the soft skills of communication and business acumen. The good news is that your staff already have the technical skills, they just need the way to frame it to your clients.
How to Build Soft Skills
Building the soft skills of your team will be a time-consuming and perhaps uncomfortable task, but one that will pay dividends for you.
Create a Culture of Learning and Growing
Start by ensuring you’re creating a culture of learning and growing for all of your employees. Make sure they know it’s okay to say “I don’t know” and where to find the answer, and role model the conduct you want to see.
“You can’t be what you can’t see. So, display the behaviour you want to see.”
~ Scott Peeler-Hammond, Head of Sales, ChangeGPS
Encourage Personal Growth
Select staff you think are ready to start handling client meetings and literally tell them so. Limit your expectations of them and role-play annual meetings.
Prepare for their First Annual Meeting with Them
Spend time with your staff and work through the situations that are likely to occur and the lines they can use in those situations.
ChangeGPS VPP emails and Reports have good introductions and explanations that can be used as scripts in meetings.
Build their Individual Confidence
Give them permission to discuss a certain area and provide them with a playbook to clearly outline what they can talk about and how to talk about it.
ChangeGPS has a number of strategy and planning sheets that can be used as playbooks.
Be patient. This is a skill set that is outside the comfort zone of the typical accountant, so expect to have to build up their experience over time.
Information that matters, just like that.
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