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Communicate With Clients Using Plain English

Published by Summit Marketing Team on 08 Jun 2022

The Virtual CPA Success Show: Episode 56


In this episode, Jamie Nau, our host and Summit CPA's Director of Accounting/Virtual CFO and Jody Grunden, our CEO and Co-founder sits down with The Accidental Accountant®, Peter Margaritis to talk about how communicating effectively with clients is an integral part to maintain good relationships with clients. He will give us tips and tricks from years of experience so that we can communicate better with our clients in plain English.






How to Communicate With Your Clients in Plain English with Peter Margaritis


Jamie Nau: Hello, everybody.

Welcome to today's show. Today we have a guest that really needs no introduction. He is all over the internet and all over the accounting world. And he does a lot of speaking, and I'm really excited about this guest and to get into this topic. But before we get there, want to welcome Jodie back to the show.

Jody Grunden: Yeah. Thanks, Jamie. I'm really looking forward to talking with Peter. We met him for the first time at the DCPA just this last year and really enjoyed the conversations that he had with the team at the talk that he had. It was pretty enlightening, and I thought this would be a great individual to have on our podcast for sure. I’m looking forward to. 

Jamie Nau: Yeah, definitely. So as Jody mentioned, Peter Margaritis is our guest today, and he's from Accidental Accountants. So, Peter, do you want to talk a little bit about that name and the kind of work that you do? 

Peter Margaritis: Well, thank you guys for having me on the podcast. We're looking forward to this a lot. During a performance review, when I used to work on Victoria's Secret catalog, not as a model, you guys, but I appreciate the thoughts.

My cheeks hadn't hit the seat, and my boss looked at me and said, “How in the heck did you ever become a CPA? CPAs can get down here in the numbers; you only get you this far. You're an accidental account.” 

And I actually thanked her because that's the nicest thing she said to me all year. Yeah. So, that's how that name came about. This story is a lot longer, but it gets a little bit boring after a while. So, we'll just go with that piece. 

Jamie Nau: Yeah. Once you mentioned a Victoria’s Secret, I think a lot of our listeners got interested and then it went right out from there. So yeah.

All right. So, prior to the show, we talked a little bit about, I think that there's a lot of technical language out there. And a lot of times, people in fields really, when they public speak or when they're talking to their customers or their clients, they really get caught up in the technical jargon.

I think talking to people's intelligence level and really translating stuff to plain English is kind of what one of your strengths is Peter. So, I think that's what we'd like to talk about today: how to take that technical jargon and really get it so everybody can understand it. So, let's start there.

Peter Margaritis: Well first, I'll speak to any technical profession, whether it's IT, whether it’s academy, whether it’s art or medical, you have a technical language that only you know. For example, my doc called me one Friday afternoon at 4:30, and it was her. That's never good when your doctor calls. And then she goes, “We got the test results back,” and went into this litany of medical lingo.

And we were like maybe 15, 20 seconds in. I said, “Doc, stop, stop. Just put it in plain English for me.” 

“Oh, okay. Pete, you might have cancer.” 

Okay. At least now I know she was able to do it, but I had to stop her. But a lot of times, we think everybody understands that language. 

I tell accountants, I asked people, “What foreign language do you speak?”

A few people raised their hands, maybe Spanish or Japanese or something. And I go, “Oh I asked the question wrong how many of you speak the foreign language of business called accounting?” 

And they all start laughing. And I go, “It's funny, right? But have you ever put somebody to sleep talking to them?”

Cause you can see the deer in the headlights eyes, and now I’m doing just exactly what you did, Jamie. Everybody's shaking their head, and it doesn't matter if you're in IT, medical, accounting, or whatever. 

We have to realize that we speak this technical language riddled with acronyms. That when our audience isn't like us, we need to find a way to translate it into plain English, so there's understanding. 

Jamie Nau: Yeah, I know one thing. So, in my previous life, I was working at an airline company, Frontier Airlines, and I would always tell this to my team. They'd come in, and they were trying to explain some error and hedge accounting to me, and they spent five minutes and I would just sit there and look at them and I'd be like, “Okay, you need to explain this to me like I'm my 12-year-old daughter. My 12-year-old daughter needs to understand what you're saying here so we can understand exactly what happened.” 

And again, I'm an accountant, I'm a CPA, and it's how technical some accountants can get, or even people in other careers can get, it’s just crippling at times. 

Peter Margaritis: I was doing an A&A update in Arizona back in 2013. And one of the things on the docket was consolidations of variable interest entities. And I'm going, “Oh my goodness!” 

And I tried to get out of doing it. I say, “You sure you want me to put this next to [audio inaudible]. 

So, the night before I'm sitting there looking at my slides, riddled with words riddled with all this. And I said, “I'm going to be an anesthesiologist.”

So, I said to myself, “What are they trying to do? What really are they trying to do?”

They're trying to take something from here and put it over here. And I went, “Wait a minute. They're trying to move something through here. And move it in over here, but over here doesn't want it.” 

And it dawned an idea.

So, the next day, when I got to that slide, I saw everybody begin to conference pray; they immediately grabbed their phones and bowed their head because it's boring. And I said, “This is my second or third year here. Just play along with me.” 

So I asked everybody in the audience, “How many of you are married?” 

Well, these hands go up. 

How many of you have a mother-in-law?” And these hands stay up.

I said, “I want you to think of your mother-in-law as a variable interest entity, and your spouse wants their mother to move into your household permanently. Let me rephrase that. Your spouse wants their mother to consolidate onto your balance sheet.”

And I just ran with that. And, Jamie, I got a really cool last name. Yeah. I get a lot of comments on it, but when I go back there to Arizona, if anybody was at that conference, “You're the mother-in-law guy.” That is the best compliment I could get because I created this fictitious story that was relatable to almost everybody in that room.

And somebody asked me, “How did you do that?” 

And I went, “Unbeknownst to me, I was using the improv principle to connect to things that don't seem like they would ever connect to each other and create a story out of it.” 

And I did it. I, I was pleasantly surprised that it worked. 

Jamie Nau: Yeah, that's a great analogy.

And again, I've been in so many of those conferences where you look at the topic and you're like, “Oh boy, I have a CPA talking to me about variable interest entities. And I'm just going to sit in the back and play on my phone or do what I can just to get my CP on this credit cause there's no way I’m going to be able to follow what this person's talking about. 

And I think that doing it in presentations is great. And I know, Jody, we do something similar I think when we go out and talk to our clients. I think that's one of the ways we've picked up so many clients. 

Jody Grunden: Oh yeah, for sure. I mean, just the way that we dress, the way that we talk, the way that we communicate, the way that we listen, you know, a lot of that is important.

When we first got started, you know, I was asked to speak in front of like 30 owners of CPA firms, really brilliant individuals, you know, that came from all over the United States — some actually from other countries. And I was the loan finance guy on the docket. Right. And I started off, so it was one of those things I'm really prepared a lot. Not really, I didn't prepare at all! I couldn't think of anything, you know, cause they said, no PowerPoints, you know, just be yourself, you know, mostly answer questions, you know, all that kind of stuff.

And so, I'm like, I just don't know what to talk about. And so, then it dawned on me. It's like, well, let me kind of relay and show these folks how to be profitable. 

And so, I got the easel board out cause again, no PowerPoints or anything like that. And I started to write down, you know, first I started off and asked everybody. “If they could increase, if everybody in the room could increase, their pricing by a dollar, would they lose a client?” 

And everybody kept their hand up. 

And then I said, “Now drop your hand as I get further along.” 

They went $5, hands up, $10, couple of hands went down. You know, I got all the way up to like $50 an hour. And finally, I got like four or five people.

So, I said, “Okay, so fit for $50 an hour. A lot of people in here could raise their prices and still maintain their clients.” 

They're like, “Yeah, sure.”

Like, okay, let's, you know, keep that in mind. And so, then I went through, and I said, “Okay, here's an individual.” 

And I got my, my perfect, you know, I mean, I'm in front of a bunch of creative agencies and, they really have a really a knack for being able to write and draw pictures really well.

Well, here I am an accountant who can't draw at all. And so, I start with my stick figures. Actually, it's kind of funny, and I hate to admit this, I can't even calculate in my head very well. So, I actually had one of the people pull out a calculator, and I told them, “I can't calculate very well, so I'm gonna need you to do some calculations for me.”

So he started with the little stick figure. And I said, “You know, one person should work 2000 hours a year.”

Basically, I started with 2080 hours a year, and then I broke it down into, you know, basically utilization, average bill rate, you know, what they should charge per hour. And I came down to, you know, hey, this person should, you know, every person should bill about, $200,000 a year for an agency.

And I'm like, wow, that's pretty cool. And then he multiplied that by 20 people or 30 people, whatever it was ended up being like 300, you know, a big, a big revenue number. Then I show, hey, here's the profitability. So every person should generate this much profit for it. 

And I built that out. And, so, I started the conversation that everybody should, everybody in the room or every company should at least maintain 10% of their annualized revenue of the bank at all times, which was, you know, for a $3 million firm, you're looking at $300,000.

And I go, “How many people have 10%?” Hardly anybody in the room. 

Then I go, “I'm going to show you how to do that.”

And, so, I said, “Okay, so, let's go ahead and change the average bill rate just by $10. Everybody here said they could do it by 50 bucks and wouldn't hardly lose a client, so $10 shouldn't be a problem.”

They did that. And it came up to an extra $300,000 a year. And it was like, it was like, wow. It was like really cool. It was like, the lights went off and was like, boy, this is pretty cool. I could do this just by, you know, teaching them how everything should run in a business, you know, and how they can influence that.

And, basically, it came down to the dollar amounts. And, so, I guess, to your point there, it was like, again, taking the very easy thing and making it so that it's very relatable for them to understand. Not once did I say anything about accounting in there, at all. It was more like, ‘Hey, here's the people, here's how it works.’

You know? And, I called utilization, average bill rate sales, you know, their average price, you know, all that kind of stuff. And Twitter just kind of blew up on me. And at that point, I didn't even really know what Twitter was or didn't really, I have a good grasp on Twitter. And, you know, it was one of those things that they, you know, they were just Twittering away about how great this guy is and how relatable it was and that sort of thing.

And that's what kind of what got me sparked or got me started, you know, talking to different groups and conferences like that because it was just so fun. First of all, it was, it was fun. It was really educational. It was value-added to them by far. And they, they really took response to it. So, it was pretty cool. But again, to your point. 

Jamie Nau: Yeah. I think the stories both of you told as I was hearing, you know, you guys kind of tell your stories. I think the first thing you did was make it relatable. Right? So, Peter, talking about, ‘okay, who in here is married?’ and you know, again, any room you're going to be in here, hopefully, 75% of the group, you know, is probably getting married. So that's one relation. 

And then, Jody, obviously bringing it back to something they live and breathe every day, their businesses. And, so, I think, you know, again, like the analogy used, it was great as well. Peter, we have like the let's disconnect to things that are really far apart from each other, but also something that's relatable to wide group of the room. And, so, I think that's also key there. 

Peter Margaritis: Yeah. ‘It's how relatable can we make?’ And, ‘how can we get away from acronyms?’ as well. I mean, Jody, you said DCPA, is that the ‘Delaware CPA Association’ or is that the ‘Disorganized CPA’? Or was a ‘Digital CPA Conference’?

I did a presentation for the construction department at Target. And in preparation for this, cause they were taking two of my books and blending it together, the [audio inaudible] is no joke. It takes the [audio inaudible] by the numbers. I asked them for what acronyms do you use? They sent me eight pages — front and back of acronyms. And I just started laughing hysterically, and I contacted one of my comedic friends and I said, “Hey, help me write something on this.”

So, we created this eye test for the, you know, you're looking at an eye chart and “Can you read line 31?” 

And then, I just started making, creating my own titles for these things, just to bring the humor around it. It's like, this is ridiculous, but all organizations have it, and we speak. 

And you know, you say SEC. That can be the Southeastern Conference and the Security Exchange Commission, depending on what part of the country you're in. If you're in Alabama, it doesn't matter. It's still the Southeastern Conference.

So, the more relatable to what they do, and, to Jody's point, he's curing a pain point. And, he's busting down a wall because, you know, you might have some tire kickers and those you, as you referred to some folks, that they're just trying to test drive it, but when you can show them in real numbers and talk to them in a relatable way, oh my God, light bulbs just go off. They just start switching on. 

And there's an emotional attachment there that, you know. Our brains can handle thousands and tons of data, facts, and figures, but that doesn't track decision-making. Emotions drive decisions making.

JamieNau: Yeah, no, I agree. And I was going to talk about the acronyms a little bit. And I think the funny thing is now that, you know, we work from home, a lot of people are on their computers all the time. Like I was in a meeting the other day, and someone mentioned one, and I had to like Google it. So, I was typing in the letters, and I Google it. It's crazy. 

Like you said, all the things that come up, especially like, you know, if an urban dictionary link comes up, like, oh, okay. I can see that you hope you find the right ones and add to the conversation there. 

Jody Grunden: You know, I, think we could all get better at, you know, taking the large words out of the conversation. You know, it's so often that, you know, the acronyms, the large words, that maybe people just, not everybody in the room, not every room knows or understands.

And it's, more, I think more for us to say that we understand. So, it's kind of a justification that we understand something. So, we use the acronyms, we use the, you know, the large words. Whereas when you're talking to people, you can't assume that everybody understands, you know, all your big fancy words, right?

You kinda have to bring it down to, you know, like I think you had mentioned, Jamie, you know, what your eighth grader or what your 10th grader would understand. You know, I think that's the key to speaking. It's key to writing, definitely. I mean, like I could write, but my books would be boring if they were just talked about, you know, big, fancy words and really getting into the dictionary definition where you write a book or when you need to do a speech or a talk, or when you're even just talking with a client, I think it's important to try to avoid that as much as possible. 

Peter Margaritis: I think it also goes a lot to someone's ego. Some people like to use big, fancy words just to make them sound smarter than they are.

Or, you know, ‘look at me; I'm the smartest guy or gal in the room.’ But they're making it about themselves. They're not making it about the audience. And that's the other piece; this is not about you. You're just a conduit of the vast amounts of information that you need to translate. So, somebody can actually act on it, versus going, ‘I have no idea what you're talking about at all.’ 

Jody Grunden: Yeah. And when they hear that big word, their focus just went away because, now they're trying to think, ‘what does that word mean?’ And here you've talked three or four different sentences, maybe paragraphs or you've maybe spoke for five more minutes, and they're still trying, their brain is still back there trying to figure out what that meant. It's a loss of concentration. 

So, I mean, I truly agree with you 100%, that the acronyms, they really need to go; And big words really need to be used very limited. 

PeterMargaritis: Right. I mean, you think about a non-accountant where they hear the word ‘depreciation,’ and they think that's the value they lose in their car when they drive off a new car lot. But the account will go, ‘no, no, no, no, no. It's a systematic allocation of an asset over time.’

Jamie Nau: Yeah. There's the reason that people avoid us at parties, right? Like, oh, there's the CPA in the room. Like ‘this guy is going to be like, I want to get talking to him about business. It's just going to put me to sleep.’ 

But I think that, you know, even in the interview process and when we're talking to people, especially at the CFO level, definitely one of the things I look for is, okay, is this person going to come in and be the guy that quotes literature or reads quotes exactly from books, or whatever, or is this person going to be someone that's down to earth and can just talk business with me. And, you know, like I said, those are the people that really are successful in this field that we're in.

Peter Margaritis: Absolutely. I was sharing a story at the conference about a colleague of mine. I referred her to an accounting firm. It was a rough go at first because she, while she's brilliant at what she does, she doesn’t do accounting. She does the real stuff — coaches, executive coach, and all that heavy-lifting stuff.

And we had talked about it — to give them some time to work through it. And then about 10 months into the project, she called me crying. And I’m going, “What are you doing crying? What's the matter?” 

“I just got off a virtual meeting with my CPA firm. I didn't understand a word they said. They made me feel stupid.” 

This was not their intent, but that was the realization. And they put the spreadsheet on the screen.

She goes, “It felt like there was like 300 columns and 800 rows on this thing. And they were just talking right through this, and I almost had to get like an air sick bag.”

So, actually, she convinced me to be her virtual or fractional CFO and be the translator between the firm and her, so she has an understanding of the business now. 

And I've talked to the firm a little bit about this. Here's where I heard ‘we're trying, but we're just so busy. Sometimes we can't.’

I bit my tongue; I bit my tongue and said, ‘that's not good enough.’ 

And same thing with IT and all these various technical professions — we have to take the time to make the time and find a charge code like I'm translating IT into English. I'm developing an app for that, or I'm developing the accounting-to-English app. And spend time trying to figure out ways of translating. 

Jamie Nau: I think the first point there is great. So, I think for our listeners, if you were working with a CPA firm and you don't look forward to the final statement meeting and you know that it's going to be like a 30-minute nap or a 45-minute nap, then, you know, get someone else; get someone that can translate for you because financials are too important to be that boring, you know? 

And I think that's, you know when I train our internal CFOs, I tell them all the time, I'm like, okay, ‘Don't go page by page, word by word. No one wants to hear that. Call out the highlights, and then make it relatable. Let's talk about their business. Let's talk about the future because that's what the people want to listen to us.’

So, I think definitely for our listeners, like, again, if you're listening to a financial statement meeting and you regret it and you don't want to be there, then it might be time to find someone that can translate for you. 

Jody Grunden: Yeah. If you just simply get the financial statements and have no idea how to read them, you know, seek out somebody that can translate, like Peter did.

Peter Margaritis: I just interviewed this woman who's a managing partner of a firm in Iowa, and she gets it. I mean, she goes, “we actually try to teach our small-business owners about what we do, but we don't use the words and stuff.” 

And what they do in their financial meetings is, they record them, and they send it to them. And it's like 10-minute and they’re just going through and hitting the highlights and send it to them because they might not be able to spend an hour with them or so, at 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon, but they can watch it at night or first thing in the morning. If they have questions, they call them. I thought that was a brilliant idea on their part. 

Jamie Nau: Yeah, my favorite financial meetings I've ever had are ones where I talk for like two minutes and then whatever I said, brought up a question and we go completely different direction of what I thought we were going to talk about. And we're in that meeting and an hour's up already and I’m like, ‘oh, wow! We just talked for an hour about something that I had no idea we would talk about.’ 

But the one thing I said, in the beginning, triggered this question that got us down this road. Like again, some people would be terrified by that. Like, I had this whole agenda, I had all these things I wanted to talk about, and I didn't get to any of them. That, to me, being in the best financial statement meeting is where you actually hit a topic and you just keep going into it because that's what they're interested in.

Great. So let's turn the corner here a little bit. We've talked a lot about the CPA front, so let's talk about it for other industries and other languages. Where is this important? Again, I think we've talked about the speaking, the public speaking part, but let's talk about the sales side of things and how important it is to have the communication and the good language when it comes to sales when you're in a very technical industry. So, gentlemen, I’ll let you talk about this a little bit to start off. 

Jody Grunden: Yeah, the way with our sales process, it's a fairly a simple process. It's an hour-long process. A lot of times, it doesn't even go that long. And with that, you know, the first thing we're doing is we're trying to figure out, you know, why are they here? Why are they sitting in front of us? 

You know, because we didn't go out and drag them into the sales call. They came to us. And so, it's important to figure out: What issues do we need to solve? Or where are the kinks in the armor with what they currently have?

Asking tons of just leading questions, just basically starting with ‘Hey, so how can I help you?’ And that kind of rolls into that. And then from there, breaking it down, even simpler, and then presenting to them a very easy way to price their program. Like with ours, we have a pricing calculator we just pop right up, and it’s like Carvana — you click on what you like and what you don't like. And boom, you've got a price, and it is what it is. 

It's not like Carvana where you go back and say, ‘Can I get a better price?’ That is the price. And that's how we use our calculator, and clients love it because, even though we only close about 40% of our leads (which, I think is pretty solid, I'd say a 100% of the people that go through the process, we get a compliment. 

You know, like, ‘Hey, that was pretty cool. You know, I appreciate that. It was real straight. Real easy. I wish other people did this.’

It made the process so simple for them that they could make an informed decision right there.

And I'd say probably out of that, we probably get 5 to 10% of the clients that we close are ready to sign on the dotted line that day after that conversation. And, and it's kind of amazing because our average price is about $70,000 to do our service. And it goes from like 30,000 to $150,000–$200,000, but the average is around 70 and that's a lot of money to, within an hour, make that decision. 

And it happens 40% of the time. Cause again, it's more of a conversation; we don't talk accounting at all. You know, we talk about how we can help them out and basically answer the questions and problems that they might have. And so again, making it very easy for them to make that decision is important. 

JamieNau: And I think there, too, and, Peter, I'm gonna throw this over to you, I think we've all been in those sales calls where I think you used the word “showing off” earlier, Peter, but like the person is trying to show off their knowledge to you.

Like, you know, you're thinking, ‘Okay, we're going to add this new process. We're going to add this new application to our system.’ And they're trying to explain the ins and outs of how it works and doing a demonstration for you. And you're just like, ‘Wow, this is way too technical for me.’

And I think this is really where you can help out with this question, Peter. In the sales process, how do you translate it and relate it to the clients, so they're not just bored with the technical jargon of it?

Peter Margaritis: CPAs and technical people, they like to give all the information down to the nano piece. And it's just this flood of numbers and words and data and facts and figures and data and facts and figures. 

And really, what's the three most important things of the selling point? One, we're trying to cure a pain point. So, let's figure out what that pain point is; and two, how do we put it in place?

But, you know, I was talking to a firm not too long ago. And they said we had this one gentleman, and the guy's brilliant, technically sound, he's a tax-code head, you know, he’s a code head. And we, as a firm, had to make a decision that we would not ever put him in front of a client or do a presentation.

So, we had to make a decision on, ‘Do we keep him?’ Or do we tell him ‘You've gone as far as you can.’ Tell them to go someplace else. And they realized he brought value, but they weren't going to put them in front of clients. 

And that’s the same thing: Are we putting the right people in front of the client when we're on a sales call? And how much sales training do they actually have? 

A buddy of mine was a pharmaceutical sales rep. He just recently retired, and he likes to remind me of it every time he calls me — he's retired.  Pharmaceutical sales is very strict, and very structured. Towards the end [of his career] he'd come in with his iPad and slides and stuff in one of the last sales call he made. He walked in the doctor's office. I forgot what drug he was [selling] at the time. And he told the doctor of all the side effects were related to this drug. And it wasn't just a few, I mean, it was a lot, and the doc says, “Well, why would I like to write this script?” 

And then he slowly hears the benefits. And just going on about the benefits of it flipped that sales call. And guess what? Who's writing a script now for? 

Well, the guy made Champion’s Club three consecutive years in a row because he knew how to sell because he would also do something else. He would listen. And a lot of times in sales meetings, we're not listening because we've already scripted this thing out in our head.

And this is where we need to go off-script. We're prepared, but then you walk into that room, and you wad that script up and you throw it away and you listened to what the client is asking for or telling you, and you react in that manner — not the way you've scripted; it goes a long way. 

But a lot of times, we're not listening because [you think] ‘Ok if he says this, I'm going to do this. Or this is going to happen, or I need to follow this flow chart further along the way.’ 

And let’s be honest; I think good listeners could listen and ask a lot of questions. 

Jamie Nau: Yeah. I've been in those sales processes before where, you know, they asked me a question. I spend seven or eight minutes answering it. And then the next question is it seems like it's coming from left field. 

Like I just gave them seven minutes of information about my company, about what we do. And then the next question is just like totally random, totally scripted. You're like, ‘Okay, you, must've not just listened to a word I said. I am going to go with it. You didn't take any of it.’ 

So yeah, it just doesn't feel good. You know, when someone's not listening to you. 

Jody Grunden: How many times have we been, even outside of the sales process, you know, go into a financial statement, presentation or a, you know, a strategy meeting or whatever having this great spreadsheet or whatever the presentation is. And all of a sudden, you know, you're asking, ‘Hey, what's going on?’

And it goes in a completely different direction, you know? And you never even talk about the spreadsheet that you spent hours on. You may have mentioned it or gotten to one point but never really got into it. 

And a lot of the CPAs, they're so defensive or they're so proud of it or there's something there. We'll steer them back to that spreadsheet. The client doesn't really care about the spreadsheet at all; they cared about something that they were trying to explain to you or tell you or the issue that they had.

And you know, I guess the listing part is the huge part because you can be prepared in a sales presentation. You can be overly prepared on a financial statement presentation, but by listing, it could go a completely different direction and you've got to take it in that direction. You want to take it the way that the client or the prospect is leaning toward. 

Peter Margaritis: I got a question. Do you think that, in those situations where Jamie's describing and gave his seven minutes worth of primal material, they didn't even take that in? Makes me think that they really don't know their client.

They might know them from the financial statement, but they'd never been inside the building. They've never been watched how the flow stuff comes in, gets churned and goes out. They just see it on a financial statement related to the numbers. They don't have operational knowledge of the business.

And I think that's where another big breakdown is — how well do you know your client, your customer? And how well do you know their internal processes and procedures that you can step away from the financial statement and make it more relatable? ‘Remember when we had that huge snowstorm, and we couldn't get stuff in the building? That's why things were running behind. That's why this is this and that is that.’ Versus: ‘You're down 20% in profitability.’ 

Jamie Nau: I love the accounting voice by the way. It sounds so familiar. 

Jamie Nau: I think there, too, to the point as well, the other part of that is I think a lot of people, and again, I know when I work with our CFOs, especially when they first start is you are looking at your calendar of like, ‘Okay, I gotta survive this day. Right. Okay. I have four meetings today at four financial state means I just got to get through them.’

And so you're going, ‘Okay, the meeting, we’re 20 minutes in. Okay. I can just move to the next point; as opposed to saying, okay, I'm going to go into this meeting and add value and listen, and really just have a conversation with someone.’

And then once you get to that point, it takes a lot of the pressure, off to Jody's point.

Like, again, I know it's frustrating when you spend three hours preparing for a meeting, and you put all these pretty spreadsheets together and they don't get used. But at end of the day, if that's what the client's looking for, that meeting ends up going a lot easier. And that prep you did, that three hours of prep that you did building something else, also had you in the right state of mind where you can easily pivot.

And, so I think that's the key there; to that point, it was just about, don't just go through your day; don't just like take things off your list. Go into those meetings being invested and being ready to talk. I think is key there. 

Jody Grunden: Yeah. And, Peter, you've made a great point. How well do you know your client? You know, when you’re a brick and mortar, when you can actually physically walk into their location, or if you were in the same city and you know that there was a snowstorm or whatever that might be. How would you do that in a remote environment where, really, a lot of times you don't ever shake hands with the client? you don't ever visit their factory or their place of employment, or really get to meet their team on a personal basis — like you would on a brick-and-mortar type of thing. 

One thing I would say is, and I'd like to get your thoughts on it as well as, when we go through financials and we go through the numbers, instead of just assuming, ‘Hey, labor's down 24%, blah, blah, blah.’ We just ask simple questions:

“Why do you think that happened? What happened last month that could have caused that to happen?”

And boom, the client then starts getting more involved in the discussion. 

‘Oh, because of the snowstorm that we had.’

‘Oh, that makes sense. I heard about that.’

And then you can kind of relate more and more into it. So, in a distributed world, the way that we get around that, as we ask questions; we don't assume that we know the answer to everything. And, I think that should be the way in any situation. But, you know, by asking those questions all the time, you’re making yourself vulnerable, the client really feeds into that and that really helps them solve their own problems a lot of times. 

How do you go about that? What other recommendations would you make outside of asking questions? 

Peter Margaritis: Well, I think that's the key — asking questions. ‘Tell me about your business.’ 

A lot of times somebody will come up to me and say, ‘So what do you do? I said, ‘Tell me about what you do first.’ 

And what entrepreneur doesn't like to talk about their business?

So you flip that and then, they're giving you all this information upfront. So, you just started to learn about the business. We're asking questions, but I think maybe even taking them to another level depending on, how many different departments that they have? 

I think the one thing I wanted to talk to is the head of sales and find out how/what that sales process is and what does that pipeline look like? How has it been? And get more information from that aspect.

And then hit distribution; talk to the head of distribution and find out what, challenges do they run into? What issues do they have? We can sort of tell from the financial statements if their equipment might be a little bit older than normal, and maybe I need to get some new equipment? But if we can get access to the heads of those departments, to just have maybe a 15- to 30-minute conversation with us, we learn a little bit more about their business.

I think it goes a long way and being that trusted business advisor that the AICP has been taunting for years and years and years. However, I'll probably never get another AICP job again. But they're working more on the trusted financial advisor versus the business advisor. The business advisor understands what goes on in HR sales, distribution, customer customers, all those areas, not just the financials.

Jamie Nau: We always tell our CPAs, that the financial statements are the language of business. And once you understand that, it's not too hard to translate to any other area. So yeah, I think it's a great point. So, we're actually right on time here. So, I wanted to make sure we could wrap this up, but I think we've done a really nice job kind of hitting on the three sides of the triangle of relatability.

I think the one is public speaking.

Two was in sales and 

I think three is with existing customers, especially when you're in the service side. 

So I think we've done a nice job covering those things, but I want to give each of you guys a second for a last thought here. So we'll, we'll start with our guests.

Peter, you'd go first. What's your last thought? 

Peter Margaritis: If you're in a technical profession, think about how you can translate it to the language of your client in a way that they can understand and act on. And don't just be a data dump. Find the emotion there, you know, that helps in decision-making. I like Jody showing, well, it, the emotion, if you just add $10, look what could happen here.

Now that's a fact, that's a pain point, but that's also $10. We have an emotional attraction towards money, right. That drives a lot of us. So yeah, it makes you, you bring emotion into that conversation. 

Jamie Nau: Great. 

Jody Grunden: I would say, you know emotion is what drives everything. I mean, it drives, you know, like you mentioned, the sales processes drives how well you're relatable to clients, you know, clients like you, your clients trust you, all that kind of stuff.

But, also, I can't overemphasize just being down to earth and don't talk over the client. I mean, that does nothing, you know. Like you mentioned the doctor's scenario. You know, the doctor didn't mean anything about it. I mean, probably didn't even realize that she was doing it, right. And it wasn't and not doing it. And then all of a sudden, there's that disconnect.

We as accountants do it all the time; lawyers do it all the time. Engineers do it all the time. All professionals do it all the time, and we don't have to pound our chest and act like we're the smartest and best person ever; just be down to earth and talk to people on their level.

And it goes so, so far. The conversation is much more enjoyable; they are much more understandable and very relatable. And I think that's really the key to public speaking. And it's the key that we use when we teach our CFOs, ‘hey, don't talk accounting, nobody wants to hear accounting; talk about their business.’

What drives their business? How many trucks do they need to put through in order to get the revenue they need to have? No one can just magically increase your revenue next year by 10%. What does it take to do that? It takes 20 widgets a month, you know, and you can kind of break it down to where they can relate and control.

I think that’s really the key — just to make everything relatable. Okay. 

Jamie Nau: Yeah. Well, I definitely appreciate both of you, Peter and Jody. I think this was a great show, and it might be a one that I'll listen to after the fact.

Peter Margaritis: you guys, thanks for having me guys appreciate it.


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