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Top 3 Ways to Build Client Relationships with Hannah Hood

Published by Summit Marketing Team on Feb 17, 2023 6:00:00 AM

The Modern CPA Success Show: Episode 83


In this episode, our host and Summit’s Virtual CFO, Tom Wadelton, and Adam Hale, Partner at Anders CPAs + Advisors, chat with Hannah Hood, one of Summit’s Senior Accountants, about her top three ways to build client relationships. Discover these three tips to help you grow deeper in your relationships with clients.





[00:00:00] Tom Wadelton: Okay, welcome to today's episode. So what I'll emphasize at the beginning is this building trust idea. It is the number one way to improve client relationships. As a fractional CFO, it's becomes really important and the kind of service that we do as we see our, we're not seeing our clients every single day and we're not seeing them in person.

[00:00:17] So building that trust is really important. So Adam and I are joined today by Hannah Hood, and she's one of our really superstar senior accountants that we have. And this is really an expertise of hers. So we'd love to get her opinion, do some teaching, and Adam and I get to learn along with all of you as we do that.

[00:00:33] So, Hannah, we title the episode, The Top Three Things People Can Do to Build Client Relationships. You wanna tell us what those three are and then we can dig into it a little bit.

[00:00:43] Hannah Hood: Yeah, of course. Thanks so much for having me. I'm excited to talk about this. It's something that I have been able to develop over the past, I would say, 13 to 15 years as I've been in the workforce. So it's not something that has come easily or overnight, but things that I've learned along the way are the top three things that people can do.

[00:01:02] Client relationships or to take a posture of people over profit, to see people outside of the scope of work whenever you go into that client engagement. The second thing is follow through and follow up. And the third is it's not about you to understand their goals and their needs before you go into really trying to provide.

[00:01:23] Trying to have a basis of understanding first. [00:01:26]

Adam Hale: The last one doesn't sound a whole lot fun, but we'll dig into it. 

[00:01:29] Tom Wadelton: See, Adam might go for two outta three. Can I build good relationships and doing two outta three? 

[00:01:34] Adam Hale: Yeah. Two. Two outta three’s not bad. I mean, so 

[00:01:37] Tom Wadelton: Are we digging into your first tip first? Profits over people.  Is that right?

Hannah Hood:  Yeah, of course. Exactly.

[00:01:42] Tom Wadelton: You can see I'm going already. 

[00:01:49] Adam Hale: I caught it. I would've loved to see anybody 

[00:01:52] Tom Wadelton: Having trouble. Number three, I can't do number one, and I teach. Yes. 

[00:01:59] Hannah Hood: Clearly I'm here [00:02:00] for a reason. It's okay. But yes, if people over profit is something, an approach that I try to take, not just in my client relationships, but just in all aspects of life, is just trying to see people for who they are.

[00:02:12] First. People really love to talk about themselves. Like I don't know if y'all have come across that as you go into client relationships, but if you will give them the floor to just talk about themselves first, then to me that is a foundation for building trust, which is one of the key benefits that you, that I personally aim to achieve through building the client relationships.

[00:02:34] And if I'm able to do that on a personal level. First and foremost, before I even jump into the meat of what I'm even on the call with the person for, I have found that having the hard conversations are a whole lot easier. We develop transparency. We, I can set my expectations and have alignment with what's going on in their life that might affect our, our scope of work and our engagement and how things are going to be received and how things are going to be performed.

[00:03:01] So that one, I would say is, Probably top of my list because it's something that I prioritize on a daily basis as I go into the relationships with my clients.

[00:03:11] Adam Hale: And do you find that what I've noticed too is like, obviously you start off with like rumble rumer questions and stuff like that, talking about the weather, what's going on, that kind of a thing.

[00:03:20] You know, particularly I'd say in a virtual environment, you gotta be a lot more intentional about that kind of stuff. But what I found. I guess a little, what I've noticed is that it takes a little bit of vulnerability and you kind of have to lead with your own personal stories a little bit. Now, I heard what you said earlier.

[00:03:35] Everybody you know, kind of wants to talk about themselves and do that kind of stuff, but before they feel really open about sharing, sometimes it's like, you know, you have to kind of humanize it a little bit and be like, oh yeah. You know, this happened or that happened and then they start talking about theirs and then really digging in and asking a lot of questions.

[00:03:52] You, that's at least been my experience with that kind of conversation. Doing it in a virtual environment, do you find it more difficult to dig into some of those [00:04:00] things knowing that you got a 50 minute meeting, that you're gotta get some stuff done? 

[00:04:04] Hannah Hood: Absolutely. It takes intentionality every single time that I meet to it's icebreakers.

[00:04:09] I mean, some things, it's gonna be really awkward at first, especially if you're not used to doing it, and I found that this is an opportunity too for you to let your personality shine for them to get to know you. In the same respect as you're trying to get to know them as well, is to be true to yourself.

[00:04:22] Of course, but find a way to do that in a way that can build those client relationships. It can be asking how their weekend was or if they've got kids following up and asking about their kids or seeing what their weekend plans are. And then also taking that a step further and once you've started to have those conversations in the next one, ask follow up questions about the things that you talked about in the first one.

[00:04:43] Just going that extra step and just remembering those things, I think speaks volumes to the client and will continue to help you build on that as you go. But it is certainly harder in a virtual environment because, I mean, I'm a big fan of having a camera on with a client, so that helps. I feel like when I'm going into these conversations, but in a more traditional workplace or in an engagement, they would be able to see my expressions more and see my interactions with other people, but more to know.

[00:05:12] And get to observe my personality not just in the setting of our relationship, but in the setting of others as well. And you don't get that in a virtual relationship. So it is much harder, but it is not impossible. 

[00:05:25] Tom Wadelton: So I'm in hearing some of the small talk and I'm thinking of different personalities.

[00:05:28] As, you know, we've done some different tests like the DISC profile, and there would be some people like the S the more social, that small talk feels really good and there's some people on the more D driver where that can make someone feel like you're not spending time. Is valuable. Do you adjust your approach a little bit and maybe the kind of things you talk about, depending on who you're talking to?

[00:05:50] Hannah Hood: Absolutely. Some things I know that are just gonna be surface level with some people until I really break that barrier and get to know them and can really start learning their personality more and the [00:06:00] things that are valuable to them and that they do wanna spend time talking about outside of what we're there to meet about while it's others, it's much easier.

[00:06:06] I'm an, I so fellow eyes. It is much easier to engage in that type of conversation cuz we like the small talk. However, it is much harder to have the small talk with the S's and the C's. So it is , there is a level of adjustment that has to happen and you have to read the room. To and know, like whenever you're just like not getting those answers and just trying a little too hard at the small talk, definitely read the room.

[00:06:31] But I would tell people who live in those other personality types to embrace it. Embrace the awkward, embrace the small talk. I think there was a podcast guest that talked about Embrace Embracing the Awkward, and I just loved that phrase. Because it, it's true, it's not gonna be comfortable at first, but it will become easier and easier as you go.

[00:06:50] Adam Hale: And I get to the point, yes, I'm a D.

[00:06:53] Adam Hale: Tom says, whoa, whoa, he's an S so he like, oh, we talk all day. So sorry for, sorry for all the disc profiling, but I think, Tom you make a great point, is that, you know, we do have to be cognizant of how other people receive information.

[00:07:07] and how they want to utilize their time. So it's important still to make a personal connection in a different way. And for us, a very simplistic way of doing that is just a lot of self realization training around our own Disc Profiles, and then being able to recognize that in the people that we're talking to.

[00:07:23] So you can kind of shift gears. You know, I think that's really important as a consultant. It's great. You know, wanna be the smartest person in the room and all that kind of stuff. But if you can't relate to the person then I think that that becomes a challenge. The other thing that I was kind of thinking about in terms of tips that I talk to the team about a lot of times and, and you know, maybe we'll kind of talk a little bit more about it in one of the other pieces, but whenever it comes to like humanizing it what I often do is, I mean, I make my cell phone available to my clients.

[00:07:49] I know people. They hiss at me sometimes whenever they hear that, but I've got caller ID. So if I don't wanna pick up, I'm not gonna pick up. It doesn't really bother me. And it's not like people abuse that. I do the same [00:08:00] with my clients. And whenever it comes to having like crucial conversations and building trust with the client and building relationships sometimes, you know, being on that meeting's not the best place to have those conversations.

[00:08:10] You know, they have two or three people on the team, you can tell that the person's pulling away not feeling it. You're not gonna call that person out in the middle and saying, Hey, this doesn't seem like it's going over well, but what I'll do oftentimes is later that evening or that afternoon, I'll text the person, just say, Hey, you got a few minutes to chat.

[00:08:27] And then I'll just kind of, you know, talk to 'em and be like, Hey, I'm concerned. I mm-hmm. , I felt a lot of tension. I felt that you're kind of pulling away what's going on. Help me out. Like, and sometimes they've got personal stuff going on. Sometimes it's other things, you know, happening and it's just a great opportunity.

[00:08:43] You know, to also just again, humanize the relationship that, you know, especially in a virtual environment, you don't get the opportunity to do Yeah. You know, at the water cooler I, or out in the parking lot. 

[00:08:55] Hannah Hood: And I think that's a really good point, is we've got to remember that people have lives outside of our jobs too.

[00:09:00] In terms of things that are going on is just really easy, especially whenever you don't have a foundation of trust and you haven't built that client relationship. Whenever you receive feedback, maybe even in a harsh way. To take it personally when real realistically there may be something bigger going on in that client's life.

[00:09:17] I know I experienced that recently. I would say it would be easy to sit here and talk about how easy building client relationships is and the ones that have gone really well. But I have experienced some that have been really difficult and some that have not been overnight. Most recently about six months ago with a client I turned off zoom.

[00:09:37] And I cried. Yeah. For what happened in that exchange. It's not my proudest moment, but he delivered some feedback that was just really harsh and it was very hard for me in that moment to not take it personally. In fact, like I was ready to walk away from the client, not the company. Let me be clear.

[00:09:57] I was ready to walk away from the client and [00:10:00] just say like, okay, somebody else is gonna take this over. I don't think I'm gonna win with this client. And, but I decided I was not gonna let that be the case. I was not gonna let this defeat me. I was gonna keep trying because I felt like. There. It was just, it was a very tough shell, but there was one there that could be cracked.

[00:10:17] So I saw glimpses of that over the last six months on a weekly basis, going into our cash flow meetings, there would be, this is a person who would talk mostly just business, like all that's all they wanted to talk about. But then suddenly, a couple weeks ago, we weren't talking business and I was like, Hmm.

[00:10:33] Like I think maybe we're getting there. And then this past week, He even laughed like I reported to the CFO that I work with on the client. I was like, I'm just here to tell you. He laughed today. And that that was a big deal for me is getting to that point where we were, we were laughing and we were having non metric related conversations, and it felt really good.

[00:10:54] It felt really good to get to that point and to overcome it and to finally feel like I had broken through that barrier and that layer. So I personally tend to gauge success, and I know success looks different for everybody, but I gauge success for me with my clients based on the strength of our relationship and how I feel like that is going.

[00:11:15] Adam Hale: Did  you celebrate that with the client? I mean, what I see a lot of times is people have great meetings and they don't take a minute to just like, Celebrate it and say it out loud. It's like, oh my gosh, I made Hannah laugh. You know, like make a joke of it. Like, Hey, we're getting somewhere, are we? You know?

[00:11:29] And then, you know, then you'll find the client like, yeah, yeah, yeah, you got me. And then you can kind of poke fun at 'em. And then it does help to again, like it's not awkward or weird just to, again, that'd be another tip that I think really helps build that trust is. Calling those out whenever they do happen.

[00:11:47] So did, did you do any of that or did you just kind of enjoy the moment and basketball?

[00:11:52] Hannah Hood: I enjoyed the moment. However, I shifted a little bit back to, because it had just been a rocky engagement in general with this client and shifted [00:12:00] back to you like, you know, I really feel like we're getting into a rhythm.

[00:12:02] I feel like things are going better. And he was like, absolutely, I agree. And was very complimentary of the services that we're providing. And that was huge as well because there had really not been any positive. Feedback from him up to this point. So in a way, yes, but more related around the engagement.

[00:12:21] But I felt like that was an intro into having that conversation because we'd finally been able to like 

[00:12:28] Tom Wadelton: For several reasons. Hannah, a big part of it is showing when it's not so easy, right? It'd be easy to say, if you just do this, these couple little tricks, it's all gonna work. And you showed one.

[00:12:37] And also your approach was much more of a long play. I think you, did you say that was six weeks ago or six months? Six months ago. That's a long time ago, six months ago. Just a laugh at a person. Mm-hmm. . But I assume if this is gonna be a client for a year or so, it's gonna be well worth you saying, okay, now it's a better relationship.

[00:12:52] Versus either you hit bailed or maybe just decide, okay, this is gonna be a meeting that I'm gonna hate every single week and I'm just gonna get through it, and no one's happy in that position.

[00:13:05] Hannah Hood: Absolutely. And I will say too, something I was thinking about as I was just thinking about this topic in general is this is not a one and done. I'm not at the top of the mountain. I'm like, woo-hoo. I achieved it. I'm done. This is something that is going to have to continue as I go forward over time and just continue to build.

[00:13:21] So it is not, I don't feel like I'm at a finish line because I finally feel like I've broken that shell. I feel like I've only just begun truly, and I. In client relationships in general, it is ongoing o over the course of whatever the span of that is. It's never something that you can stop being intentional about as you go forward in those relationships.

[00:13:40] Adam Hale: Well, I think that's important that you kind of memorialized it maybe in a little different way than I would've, but just in general, like getting the client to acknowledge things are going better. Things are going well, I think mm-hmm. , if you don't take inventory of those wins, sometimes the other stuff just has a tendency to creep up.

[00:13:57] So don't I guess don't hesitate to toot your own horn a little bit. Like whenever something is going really well I think it'll pay dividends whenever it comes time for evaluation or, you know, thinking about other stuff that happens that, that maybe they won't give you as much grace.

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[00:14:52] Tom Wadelton: Yeah. Before we move on, the next one, how do you decide, or what process do you have in place that you bring something up from a previous meeting? Is this a I review my notes and kind of glance through and remember what are you doing to help people put that in practice?

[00:15:08] Hannah Hood: Over time, I've just come to remember, I just, it's one thing I like to do is I just, I, and it's because I feel so fulfilled in that relationship as well, that for me, it is very fulfilling to get to know my clients on that level and to try to remember the small things. However, I would give advice to someone who maybe this isn't a strength for them, or they're just starting out trying to really hone in.

[00:15:28] Is to make notes. I would say that these notes that you could make just even on a client and on a personal front or whatever those conversations are, are just as valuable as you're making regarding the engagement of what you're doing for them as well. So that way you can bring those up cuz if you just need to jot out a note of their Disney lovers and you wanna bring that up in a few weeks, whenever it's coming close to a break and asking if they're gonna visit Disney again soon.

[00:15:53] Those little small things that you can bring up in the future. Just make note of those good in a way that works for you.

[00:15:58] Tom Wadelton: Okay. Tip number two, [00:16:00] follow through and follow up. Is that right or did I reverse the order again? 

[00:16:05] Hannah Hood: Yes. Well, okay. Thank you for, I would say, I mean, they're interchangeable, so that's ok.

[00:16:11] of course. Yes. This is a big one in terms of building trust with a client. That can go a long way. It can be little things even. I know Tom, you and I had talked about this with a client that you and I are on together is there was a simple report that whenever this client transitioned to me, I was made aware that he wanted on a monthly basis, so I've been sending it on a monthly basis to him and he responded to me recently and was like, you know, I really appreciate you sending this report to me.

[00:16:37] It is super helpful to see things this way. I appreciate it very much. Like he was just super, super appreciative. Not only via email in one of our, in one of our meetings as well, and I felt like. I had not realized how much that was valuable to him is just following through and following up with sending that report on a monthly basis because it was something that he really looked forward to seeing.

[00:17:01] So I, from what I understand, there may have been people in the past who dropped the ball on that and how that lack of follow through or follow up. Lessen that trust in, in that instance. So just even small things that you're following through and following up on can be a huge deal to building trust with the client because they know you are gonna do what you say you're gonna do at the end of the day and that goes a long way.

[00:17:26] Tom Wadelton: [00:17:27] Iterate that a little bit more. Previous seniors were good, they weren't great about doing that, and he would politely remind them, Hey, can I have the the vendor expense report each month? Each time he's doing that. He was getting frustrated though, and it included him having to remember what we had committed to do versus knowing it was just gonna come in.

[00:17:43] And that's why I think the relief was there. But for me, one of the key things was he never like exploded and said, how come you guys can't get this right? He was always nice, but I think we were working our way down in his sort of how he felt about us over time as that wasn't getting done. So yes, that, that's a good simple example.

[00:17:59] Adam Hale: It, [00:18:00] it, yeah, it erodes trust and I mean, it's one of those things like anytime I get negative feedback, cuz sometimes I'll have to handle that from clients, you know, it's time to jump in. All of a sudden you get the laundry list of stuff and it's just little tiny stuff, you know, you're just like, Hmm, okay.

[00:18:15] Hmm. Okay. But they're like, but it's the. Combination of all that stuff that's really, you know, irritating me and so again, yeah, and our, we're supposed to be more, you know, push rather than, you know, they shouldn't have to pull documents in and those kind of reports. But I think even, you know, outside of the standard deliverables, I think just in terms of responsiveness, I think it's really important upfront.

[00:18:38] To set, you know, the rules for how you're gonna respond and when you're gonna respond so the client knows, cuz you know, that used to be, this is what we've talked about a lot. So one of the things, building client relationships was always a struggle for Summit. If I got 10 negative cards, it was always communication.

[00:18:53] And then I'd go, Hey Hannah, how come you're not communicating to Tom and you're like, I talked to him four times today. Mm-hmm. , I don't know what you're talking about. I haven't talked to the other client in a month, but I've talked to him four times today. And so a lot of times it's just expectation settings.

[00:19:06] So we got really good in onboarding about talking about how we're going to respond, when we're gonna respond, and then hopefully following those actions up. And I think more important too is like in that same vein, is acknowledging receipt of questions is more important than delivering the answer. And I think everybody's experienced this, 

[00:19:25] but if Tom, if you ask me a question and say, Hey, where's the such and such report? Or, you know, what is this number? If I respond back within an hour or two and just say, Hey, got it. I'll get it to you next Friday. Now you might say, Hey, I need it this Friday. Oh, cool. Okay. Cool. I'll get it to you on Friday.

[00:19:42] Not a problem If I ghost you and I get it to you this Thursday. You know, and it's like Wednesday even, and I get it to you Thursday, the client still might be irritated and upset because, you know, whenever they say something and request something outta my mouth, into your ears, yep. Outta my brain, kind of a thing, and they [00:20:00] don't think about it again until they're worried about it.

[00:20:02] Now you've just created unnecessary worry on whether or not you've received, you know, the information that you need. So I think in that same vein of, you know, following through and following up, it's also on those little small pieces of communication with nothing more than a. Got it. Get it to you here. So, you know, acknowledge it and then set yourself a deadline, and then obviously put it on your calendar or write it down, whatever you do to make sure that you, you know, deliver on your promise, obviously.

[00:20:30] Hannah Hood: And sometimes that follow through, follow up looks like, Hey, something came up and I'm gonna have to get this to you the next day. Or just letting them know and setting the expectation of being transparent with them I think goes a long way as well. But making sure that you're keeping that line of communication open regardless of the circumstances surrounding Yes.

[00:20:48] Tom Wadelton: What you're following through, following up on. Great. Can you talk a little bit about and maybe this comes into what we use with the click up application, but ways that you keep track of what to do to people.

[00:21:00] Hannah Hood: Yeah, so click up is a great way that I keep up with that. I use OneNote as well. I use OneNote. I have a running to-do list of items that are high priority that I need to get done, along with due dates of when I need to get them done by, so that way I can prioritize those throughout the week. I know some people I've seen use pen and paper for it, so I would say whatever the method is, whether it's a Trello board.

[00:21:23] Yeah, exactly. Trello board, click up OneNote, do something that you can stick to consistently across the board and things aren't in multiple places. I would say, I feel like I kind of struggled with that in the beginning at Summit, was figuring out what worked for me, if it was click up that I wanted to use, if it was pen and paper that I really wanted to use because.

[00:21:41] Pretty much what I'd used in the past, or if it was OneNote, if I only, I've landed on one note because that seems to be the most consistent place that I can put things and put them quickly and keep up with them and move them around on a weekly basis. But having a method in general is I would say the first.

[00:21:56] Mm-hmm. key. Piece in that, in the follow through and follow [00:22:00] up is having a way that you can track that, especially if you're working amongst multiple clients 

[00:22:04] Tom Wadelton: One thing I think of has gone really well with clients and I do it probably half the time. I should do it more as you get to the end of the meeting summarizing what the follow ups are and usually they're on my plate, but reminding the client.

[00:22:15] But I've had times where it just feels like they're much happier at the end of the meeting when I say, okay, there are these three things. I'm gonna follow up with this person next week, I'll have this for you. And remember, you were gonna give us access to something else. And if you're really good the next meeting, then you're coming and saying, Hey, here's what we said we were gonna do.

[00:22:29] All three of these got done. Did you get your part done? I think just gives them confidence. As Adam said, kind of getting it out of their head. They're like, okay, you've got it. I can sort of close that loop and I'm not trying to remember to go back later and tell you what to do. 

[00:22:39] Adam Hale: [00:22:44] Yeah. Yeah. If you can do that in your OneNote you know, I think that is the best way, you know, cuz what I would do whenever I would hand write it onto my iPad is at the end, to Tom's point, I would write 'em in big, huge letters, intentionally what those two or three things were and just make sure, and also it's a nice way to end cap a meeting early.

[00:23:02] So, you know, we talk about death by meetings a lot of times. And if you're in a 50 minute meeting and it only needs to last 30. Well, all you gotta do is like, okay, cool. Like I've got some work to do. It sounds like I need to do this, this, and this. You need to do this, this, and this. I think we're good here.

[00:23:16] I'm gonna go ahead and work on these things. You work on those and next week we should be in a good spot. And so again, it's a good way to break a meeting early and they know that. You know, you're gonna spend the, the remainder of your time. And Tom, you and I talk about this a lot, the remainder of your time on them, thinking about them taking care of stuff instead of just being in the meeting for. Yeah, 

[00:23:38] Tom Wadelton: I've taken that tip from you, Adam, and it works well.

[00:23:39] And I think it also, you can avoid the client thinking, oh, I thought I was sort of paying for 50 minutes and I only got 30, versus I can get these done right now. And usually they're like, cool. Yeah, that'd be great to get that message out to someone, you know, in the next five minutes kind of thing. So yeah, that's been a really good.

[00:23:56] Okay. Should we move on to number three?[00:24:00]

[00:24:02] Hannah Hood: Number three. Yep. It's not about you to understand their goals and their needs first and foremost. I know I have been either the person asking the question or been in a meeting when I've seen the question asked of asking a client, what is your involvement in the business? Three years from now, five years from now, and truly asking that from a place of concern of like, Hey, I wanna understand this.

[00:24:26] So that way as we develop the plans for you going forward, we're keeping that in mind. And I've had some clients that are like, well, you know, and they, they sit back like, I've never asked this before. I've had or been asked this before. I've had clients who said, specifically. You know, I've never been asked this before.

[00:24:42] I've never really thought about that. And to me that goes a long way in building that relationship because it shows that we're coming at this from all angles, not just one specific one in forecasting and figuring out what their KPIs are, whatever that looks like. Like we truly care about them and their needs and their concerns and what they want out of this, their business and their goals for their lives.

[00:25:05] And then I think it tags back into the follow through and follow up, because if we can identify. Then we also have those to follow through and follow up on as time goes on in three years from now, because we've built that great client relationship on the front end, and we have maintained this engagement over that span of time, we can say, okay, like this is how far we've come.

[00:25:25] Let's go back to this and see where we're at. Yeah. 

[00:25:28] Tom Wadelton: You don't heard Zach, who helps us do personal development, make the comment that we're not the hero on the journey. Right. We're the guide. And I think keeping that in mind can be so important to have that. 

[00:25:37] Adam Hale: I think there's an important distinction there too.

[00:25:39] So whenever I hear you're not the hero of the story, I think it's, you know active and adaptive listening is extremely important, obviously. It's kind of what I hear is like, you know, I should be asking, you know, whenever you said people like to talk about themselves, that kind of thing. Like, yeah.

[00:25:51] Get it. So you want them to talk about the problem, because a lot of times the word guide to me is helping them self-discover. Most of the time what [00:26:00] we'll find is, We don't know the answer. Like we're really good at finance and we can tell 'em what works and what doesn't work. Obviously but the solution to whatever problem they're looking for operationally or whatever, they typically already know the answer.

[00:26:13] Now they haven't really thought about it or thought it was an issue or those kind of things, but if we can kind of guide them through the logic of, okay, now what you're saying can't make sense from a financial perspective because this happens, and then they start thinking about it, and then you just kind of keep poking at 'em and guiding.

[00:26:29] Pushing them in what you feel is probably the right direction. But again, ultimately they're the ones that know the solution. They're the ones that's gonna implement the solution. So it's important to still take an active role in that. So it just can't be like whenever we talked about this a long time ago with a lot of our CFOs, it was like, don't just ask questions for question's sake either though, you know, don't just be a really good listener and sit back.

[00:26:52] It's gotta have purpose. It's gotta have momentum. You gotta be pushing people towards something, even if that's the wrong something, you're pushing them, they'll, they'll help you, you know, gently go, well nope, that can't happen and here's why. Oh, good to know. I didn't understand that. And then you kind of guide 'em the other direction and you're just kind of going on that journey together, I guess.

[00:27:11] Tom Wadelton: Yeah, I think it's a really good point. I can think of an example when it wasn't. I'm first I was at a big company where the CFO was presenting financial results and the company had done really well and his sort of joke at the beginning was, the reason we're doing so well is because you have the smartest CFO in the world.

[00:27:26] And everyone sort of laughed and I'm like, wow, it is really about you. Look how good I am. And he was such a good chance to say, you guys have done great. I've kept score for the year and it's been an awesome thing, but that's always stuck with me of that was not putting everyone else first. . 

[00:27:39] Adam Hale: Shit, shit.

[00:27:40] I've been doing that on rest of my meetings. I won again. I'll write that down. I'll, I won't lead with that one anymore.

[00:27:49] Tom Wadelton:  And Hannah, as you and I talked, I think it was yesterday about this, if you do have that five year plan, so maybe it's someone saying, Hey, in five years what I would like to do is exit.

[00:27:56] It'd be great to sell the company and do this. I think it's important to know that you're [00:28:00] continuing to check in on that and not just say, okay, you know, three years ago you told me that, so I know that in two years we're doing that, versus, Hey, is that still the plan? Because obviously people's plans change and how are we doing toward that?

[00:28:10] So that check in you mentioned, I think is really important and maybe someone does adjust what they're saying that that plan is.

[00:28:19] Hannah Hood: Yes, exactly. And keeping up with that too. It's just keeping a temperature check on where they are at any given time will be so important and just, I think it speaks volumes to the fact that we care about them, because again, it goes back to caring about them as people, because that's what it comes from, is caring about them as people in the relationship.

[00:28:37] And whether that's, you know, at the beginning or at the end of it, or midway through, like we need to do those check-ins periodically to see where they’re at. 

[00:28:46] Adam Hale: Yeah, I think you know, one thing that we didn't really hit on and, and maybe if one of you two have kind of a story maybe to talk through a little bit, but, you know, I think being candid is extremely important.

[00:28:56] I think that. Mm-hmm. , you mentioned Zach earlier. He's our people ops guru. You know, he often talks about, and everything we've talked about, you know, these three tips are fantastic and it's all about, again, building trust. And as he mentions, and he talks to us all the time, is trust is like this big glass jar, and you're in day to day, week to week, month to month, you're putting one marble in at a time, right?

[00:29:19] So you're slowly building it up and building it up, and it really only takes like one bad thing. Break the jar. Yeah. Completely open. You know, so again, if you do small stuff and you've got a pretty big bank of marbles, then it's not that big of a deal and it's easy to kind of gloss over. But if something happens, I mean, it can crash and shatter that jar pretty quickly.

[00:29:41] And I think it's important to be candid with the client, take ownership of what happened and how it's going to get fixed. And you know. Express your disappointment and say, Hey, this is how we're gonna handle it and this is how we're gonna get through it. Not that of course you two have ever made a mistake or not done something or followed through anything, but can you think [00:30:00] of any kind of examples of anything?

[00:30:02] I mean, I've got more than my share. You can't. But where we, I definitely, we've had those,

[00:30:06] Tom Wadelton: And I think it also goes to the uniqueness of each person. So this is the client that you know of, Adam, and so we have a monthly report that we send to the bank, the borrowing base certificate that is part of the covenant of the bank is once a month you'll tell us kind of how your receivables and things are doing.

[00:30:22] We were late doing that and so the banker sent a very friendly message to the owner saying, Hey, we didn't get it. Can we get this? The client was livid about it and the reason he was livid is cuz he had gone through a bankruptcy and the bankers in his mind were terrible to him and what he called me and told me, and he said how frustrated was, I don't want any reason for the bank for me to be on the bad side of the bank.

[00:30:42] It was a great example. And I think in your, in my mind, that's a very small marble. You don't want to happen all the time, but someone remind you, you get a report, doesn't often feel like that big of a deal to him. This was like the biggest marble you could have that was in there. And so I think knowing what those things are for people, but then, I mean, Hannah, we didn't follow through the way we were supposed to, but to me that was one that something big came out and we had to go say, okay, let's never let that happen again.

[00:31:03] Cuz they're very sensitive to us following through in this case.

[00:31:10] Hannah Hood: and I would say my story relates to the hard to crack client. A couple months ago in a financial statement meeting, he noticed the sub subcontractor expense looked off to him and there was one that had not been accrued like it should have been. I didn't catch it hands down, I didn't catch it. I admitted in that meeting that I did not catch it.

[00:31:28] However, because I had built that trust, I was able to, in that moment feel like I could say, listen. I apologize. I absolutely did not. How can I make this better going forward? What can I do to rectify this? What does this process look like? So that way I do catch this next time. And that again, I feel like helped me get to this point where I'm at now because I was just very candidly just self aware that it, it should have been me that called it and able to say, what can I do to fix it?

[00:31:56] I'm all ears. I wanna know.

[00:31:57] Tom Wadelton: Sounds like you realized it was a marble coming out too which is good.

[00:32:02] Adam Hale: Yeah. And again, sometimes the jar completely shatters a recent client that I was dealing with a lot of times delivering having crucial conversations is just difficult. So we're in the business of forecasting, so we're always kind of looking at the crystal ball for clients, and I think this is a difficult thing for most consultants and a lesson that's you.

[00:32:23] It's one of those that I, I feel like no matter how much I preach this to new CFOs, they almost have to live it themselves before they really can take inventory of the situation and what happened. But oftentimes it's like we're seeing stuff and clients are kind of doing their things their own way. You know, they're just, they're listening to you, but it's like, yeah, yeah, sales are bad, but mm-hmm.

[00:32:42] They'll get better. Sales are bad, but they'll get better. They're optimistic or they're spending too much money, personally, whatever that is, you know, they're just, you know, we're kind of saying, Hey there's a, you know, there's a, you know, a problem ahead. There's a problem ahead, but we're kind of whispering it and we're saying it, but we're not really meaning it and we're not really grabbing 'em by the shoulders and telling them.

[00:33:00] And so we just recently had this situation with a client where they came to us and they're just like, look like we understand. We understood that we missed our sales target for the quarter. We also understood that, you know, we're starting to erode at our cash reserves. What we were saying is we think that the, there's gonna be a problem and we just wanted to have a conversation about expenses.

[00:33:21] And the result is, is that we have a emergency meeting from our CFO that says, Hey, you should probably get rid of a bunch of people and you should probably do it like right now. And it's like, , you know, the conversations behind the scene with the team and, you know, they said, well, we started digging in and naturally we were worried.

[00:33:39] So we started looking at it and we're like, yeah, you're right. Mm-hmm. like, we do need to probably let go of some people and we probably do need to do it right away. Obviously the conversations that we've had internally with the leadership team is like, well, we've lost all trust . In Summit. Like we can't, we're gonna naturally let them go.

[00:33:55] Right? Like, we're not going to work with them anymore, cuz why wouldn't they have let us know what's [00:34:00] going on? And you know, I took ownership of it and I said, Hey, you know what? We have these signs and these things that we're saying, Hey, it's bad, it's bad, it's bad. But we could have done a better job of saying no.

[00:34:11] What we mean is that if you do that one more time. We're gonna have a real big problem. And we never really, you know, and again if you talk to the CFOs, myself included, I've had dozens of these where they've come back to me, I'm like, Hey, it's gonna be bad. It's gonna be bad, but I haven't really shown them what bad looks like and really had that formal conversation.

[00:34:30] So with that client, we were able to, because we do all the planning, we work with them really well, do all these kind of things, we were able to put together and devise a plan for who to let go, when to let go, what the. What the cash flow looked like for the next three or four months with the pipeline and what the permanent plan looks like.

[00:34:48] We were able to do that in a couple hours on an afternoon, within a day. So all, and they said that the week leading up to it was the worst week they've ever had in the history of running their business for 15 years cuz they've never had to term anybody. They've personally recruited people and all of a sudden, , we were able to obviously not fill the whole marble jar back up, but we put a lot back in the jar.

[00:35:12] Whenever we were able to do that in real time and show them, you know, what we were able to do. So I think you know, taking ownership of that stuff, having crucial conversations and making sure people are hearing what you're saying. And I know the client you were talking about, Tom, and I can't tell you how many times I'd be like, I mean, he was, he was a strong personality, so he loved it whenever you'd give it back to him again, you gotta know your client, but I'd like snap my fingers and be like, yes, you're not listening to me.

[00:35:39] You know, I, you hear what I'm saying, but you're not listening to me. This is going to happen if you do this. Yes. I want to hear you say you understand me. And he would be like, yeah, man, I hear, but that's important. I'm like, yeah, that's important. He did acknowledge it, that, yeah, it. Because I've burnt myself trying to be nice as a [00:36:00] consultant, and they're there.

[00:36:00] They want us to push back. So you gotta understand the person's personality, how they hear information, and I think that's, you know, really important. Which Tom, I know. You know the other big thing is NPS scores, and so 

[00:36:14] Tom Wadelton: we've talked about these top three ways to build client relationships, but kind of understanding how are you doing?

[00:36:18] And so my suggestion if you've got a company or a firm is how do you sort of collect this over time and say, are we doing well? So net promoter scores one of the ways you can do it. We're currently using a tool called Ask Nicely that goes out to people. I think it's on a monthly basis that they get this.

[00:36:33] I'll tell you a couple things I think make this work well for us. We take it seriously internally, but for us it's a very simple, can we have a score from one to five and can you give us a comment? And I've had at least two clients say to me, the reason I fill out the Summit one is cuz you make it so simple.

[00:36:48] So my suggestion would be to do that cuz I think we've all had the experience of getting a survey and once you get in you realize it's something that's really long and then you just bail. Right? And so I think giving them something like, yes, it takes me 30 seconds. So to me that's one of the really important things.

[00:37:01] And we do look at it. We have a weekly meeting with this pod that I'm in, and we always look at, here are the scores, the good and the bad, and here are the comments. And we do that. The other thing I'll mention, I learned, I learned the importance of this from a friend who was an executive at ibm and they put in place a policy that you can't survey customers unless you already have some way that you're gonna follow up internally.

[00:37:22] And he just said, imagine how frustrated people get if they give you, for example, a terrible score and then nothing happens, right? It's going into some machine that says, Hey, our score ticked down from 3.6 to 3.5 or something. So we do have a place that if you give us a score, you will get follow up. It used to be a phone call.

[00:37:39] Adam, Jamie, our director of accounting, someone will call and say, Hey, can you tell me what's going on? We've now formalized it a little bit more that we have account managers, they'll meet with the client, talk through, they come up with an action plan. And I've had clients who have gone through this process where then they meet with me and the team and say, okay, here are the seven things.

[00:37:53] They said, we've got these actions and by the way, I have to, as a account manager, go back to the client. So I'm gonna be on you to make sure I can go [00:38:00] back and say, we promised seven things, four done, three are in process, things like that. So getting that information and following up I think is just really important.

[00:38:08] Lemme take a breath and let you guys say if you have any additional thoughts about that.

[00:38:15] Adam Hale: Nope. I think you nailed it. I think tracking it is step one. And then making it actionable is obviously step two. The immediate, you can't, you can't overemphasize the immediacy factor. I can't tell you, whenever I handed off the rains, like whenever I would see stuff like that come in, it was within the next hour or two, I was looking for gaps in meetings and I was reaching out.

[00:38:35] Whenever I handed off to a couple other people in the team, they're like, oh. I go, did you see that? I haven't seen a response. And it's the next day. And they're like, oh yeah, I'm gonna try to get to it today. Or maybe in the morning. I'm like, no, no, no, no. This has to take priority over everything else.

[00:38:48] And so having those dedicated people that understand what that process looks like and the immediacy of reaching out also shows the customer that you really are concerned and you care.

[00:39:00] Tom Wadelton:  I think. So that's, I think this idea of the net promoter score, what it, what emphasized to me is it would be easy to say, oh, Adam gave me a low score.

[00:39:06] Adam's just a cranky person and he's always difficult. Things like that and, and, okay, maybe that's true. Maybe it's not true. Fair. The net promoter score tells me, well, if Adam's cranky and anyone says, Hey, do you have a firm that you would recommend for this kind of service? If he's upset about, he might be saying, well, who?

[00:39:20] Here's who you shouldn't use, and what you want is him saying either. Nothing. Or more importantly, here's who you should be using. So to me, that's a really important, you might lose them as a client. That's a bad outcome. Them influencing people to not come to you as a horrible outcome. That I think, Adam, your point of get on it quickly and follow up is really important.

[00:39:39] Adam Hale: Yeah. 

[00:39:40] Hannah Hood: And I would say from my perspective of knowing that those scores and those ask are happening, I know that I prioritize the client relationship even more so than just my personal fulfillment. It's because I know that this is a top firm. Goal and priority as well. So it just helps me keep that top of mind and [00:40:00] prioritizing that as I go into every single meeting, every single new engagement with the clients that I have.

[00:40:06] Adam Hale: Great points.

[00:40:06] Tom Wadelton: Maybe a summary hand. You wanna walk back through the three of 'em and you'll get 'em in the right order. So that's why I'm not gonna try to do it and we can kind of cap it with that

[00:40:17] Hannah Hood: Of course, maybe. So I would say that we talked about the thought top three things that people can do to build client relationships would be take a posture of people over profit, not profit over people, but people over profit. To follow through and follow up and to remember going into those relationships that it's, it's not about you.

[00:40:35] Take yourself out of the equation first and understand your client's goals. That's great.

[00:40:39] Tom Wadelton: They help us emphasize the importance of it, but then some really practical tips on how to do it. Hannah, thanks very much for, for joining us and I know I learned a lot during the session,

[00:40:51] Adam Hale: Yeah, good. It's a pleasure having you on the team and yeah, we definitely appreciate everything and thank you for sharing, so thank you. 

[00:40:59] Hannah Hood: Of course. Thanks so much y'all. 

[00:41:00] Enjoy this podcast. Visit our website@summitcpa.net to get more tips and strategies for achieving modern CPA firm success. We're here to be a resource in this ever changing industry.


Top 3 Ways to Build Client Relationships with Hannah Hood


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