Engaging Clients with Cleanup Projects

Michelle Vilms
Posted by Michelle Vilms on Jun 10, 2022 9:34:35 AM

How many people do you know who got married without first getting engaged? Think about the similarities between an accounting client’s cleanup project and a couple’s engagement. You may have a renewed appreciation of the many benefits of bringing in a short-term project while you decide where you want the relationship to go once you know each other better.

In either scenario the following are true:

  • There is a mutual agreement with a desired end in mind.
  • Each party participates in a shorter-term project or other activities that build toward achieving a short-term goal.
  • People sometimes decide not to take the relationship beyond the terms of the initial agreement while others commit for the long haul.

All relationships change over time. We’ve all known wide-eyed newly engaged couples and new clients who tell you only the good stuff. They display their shiny best selves in the beginning, and why shouldn’t they?

However, when you are in a good personal or business relationship, you want the trust to deepen over time. Some of the shininess needs to fade to make room for that to happen. Whether it’s understanding that you may have to live with dirty socks on the floor of your bedroom or that co-mingling of funds is not a good idea, it’s important information to know while you are enjoying your time together in the beginning and preparing for a future together.

Learn from experience

Don’t feel bad if you don’t have it all figured out today. We all went on a lot of “first dates” that gave us the experience to fine-tune our unique process that supports our success.

As with any personal relationship or business relationship that you observe, there are things you may adopt or take note of to guide you on your journey. How many times have you met a friend’s partner and thought they were great, but you knew it wouldn’t be the right type of person for you to be in a relationship with? The bottom line: you learned from it, and it got you closer to finding what is right for you. We hope that sharing our experience and process does the same for our friends and colleagues.

At our firm, our process covers everything from identifying and onboarding a project, executing it, and, if it’s a good client for us, converting it to an ongoing relationship. We are not saying that our process is right for everyone, but it works for us, and we hope others can learn what they might choose to do or choose not to do from it.

Communication is key

When engaging with a new client for a cleanup project, match your communication style and content to the client. Don’t simply tell them what you are going to do; educate them on the process and why it’s to their benefit to follow your recommendations.

Do your best to use regular terminology and not too much accounting jargon, unless you are sure the contacts you are dealing with are comfortable at that level. If you have more than one contact, be prepared to tailor your content or approach to people in different roles in the company.

Resource sheets and videos are useful tools to reduce the time you and your team need to spend with individuals and they also allow clients to more easily fit tasks into their schedules. Be confident in telling stories and sharing examples of how your unique process led to success for past clients in similar situations or industries.

Back to the basics

Just like there are common ingredients at the foundation of any good relationship, there are common reports that almost every business needs to run and understand. We usually cover:

  • Summary of Reconciliations
  • Profit & Loss, year over year
  • Profit & Loss, by month
  • Balance Sheet, year over year
  • Summary of Accountant Payable
  • Summary of Accounts Receivable
  • Sometimes we include: Summary of Products and Service and Sales by Customer Summary

And since every report is only as good as the numbers that are used to build it, we also create a custom bookkeeping task list for clients. In addition to helping them to stay on track to ensure we can wrap up the project, it is a tangible example of how we all contribute to the relationship to achieve successful outcomes.

Technology is a game-changer

Technology has probably changed the way people date just as much as it has changed the way businesses do their accounting.

The latest technology is at the foundation of our process at our firm. It gives us the ability to infuse efficiency and improve accuracy by integrating systems and tasks. Real-time financial information can be at your fingertips like never before; it puts you at a huge advantage for how you run your firm and how you educate clients to use it to run their business. Some of the technologies we use are QuickBooks Online, Liscio, Ignition, ClickUp, and Bill.com.

Every good long-term relationship starts with a first date.

Think about the types of clients you would like to get to know better and who would be the best fit for your firm. Start your new client relationship by engaging in a cleanup project while you both decide if a long-term relationship is something it makes sense for you both to pursue.

This information is just the tip of the iceberg of what you can accomplish with cleanup projects. If you are interested in learning more, I hope to see you at Scaling New Heights (June 19-22) when I will be teaching even more about test-driving new clients with profitable cleanup projects using the Client Experience 2.0 method. 

Topics: Practice Growth


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