Episode 17: Managing the Production and Communication Traffic in your Accounting Firm | Wize Mentoring
In this episode of The Wize Guys, Brenton Ward with Ed Chan discusses how you can overcome the biggest challenges of managing your firm’s traffic flow by looking at how traffic flows in an organization, how it should be moving, and dissecting the types of traffic that go into your firm.
Find out more about communication traffic management and some useful tips in responding to emails that you can best apply in your accounting practice or business process.
0:51 - How to dissect traffic flow
0:59 - 2 Different types of traffic
1:10 - What is the communication traffic?
2:11 - How sales process is related to your traffic flow
2:14 - Tips for responding to clients’ emails
4:11 - The importance of taking ownership and leadership in communication
5:19 - How people’s personalities can affect workflow and productivity
6:19 - Figuring out the right people for a position
“You've got to take leadership because if you don't take leadership of that conversation, the client will just think that you're happy to just give the time away for free.” - Ed Chan
“..you've got to work it so that everybody's in their flow. And the deep and narrow structure is the best way to manage the traffic flow. Because you've got people who are really good at talking to people, managing client's expectations. They're people-people. They're good at communicating with people like them. So they're in their flow. If they're a senior client manager, and then you've got people who are really good production people and, and keep them in their float. And if you, if you have this narrow deep structure, you find that people are a lot more productive. They are a lot happier.” - Ed Chan
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Brenton Ward: Probably the right thing to start in terms of looking at it again. Probably more of the context of how traffic flow moves through the organization, how it should be moving through the organization based on infrastructure, and dissecting that traffic flow.
So where would you like to start in terms of breaking this down?
Ed Chan: Well, the first thing is dissecting traffic flow into communication type traffic and production traffic. So there are two different types of traffic.
Let's just talk about communication traffic. Communication traffic is things like phone calls, emails, meetings, strategy, work, that kind of thing. It's also about getting an email that comes through to you and it's got 5 questions on it and the production person in yourself goes in and answers it. You might spend an hour and answer that email perfectly, but you've invested an hour of your time. So you think, well, that's fair enough. I've just seen the client bill for an hour of my time. And then you get this response from the client. Like, ‘I didn't know you're going to charge me and I'm not paying for that.’ I'll never know and so forth.
It's typically what happens when you don't manage the client's expectations. And you don't understand that it's not just a production process. It's also a sales process and you need to get the sales process correct. So often, the way I do it is that if I get an email with 5 questions on it. I don't know whether it's just a throwaway line that the client just had to have a throwaway line, have a thought bubble in his head. And he sent you these 5 questions, but he really doesn't really need it, if you're going to charge in time. So I just go, ‘yes-no,-yes kind of answer that one which needs more information. I hope that's okay. If you need me to spend more time on it, let me know, and I'll let you know how much can it cost.’ And I find that 50% of the time they go, ‘Oh, no, right. It's just a thought bubble.’ And they don't use those words, but it was just, they didn't really want you if you're spending more time on it, which is great. They're not going to spend time with someone who's going to pay me.
And then the other 50. So 50 spent at the time they say ‘Yes, please go ahead and give me a quote for that.’ Or sometimes I give a real quick answer and I'll say, ‘Would you like me to give you a quote?’ But that's my cue to going from a discovery session where I'm asking them exactly what they're after to putting an order in, ‘would you like me to quote for that.’ That's the cue to stick to ceasing that discovery session and moving it into an order. To order, I put it, it an ordering, depending, of course, I say, ‘Yes, please.’ You put the proposal to them with a quote and in, and then once they accept that, then it goes into production. And that process, they break down with most accountants. ‘I don't know how to,’ to know when to stop that sales process. They just keep going and going. And they don't also don't know whether it's just a thought bubble from the clients and whether they just want to have a chat. I wonder why she took time and you've got to take ownership.
You've got to take leadership because if you don't take leadership of that conversation, the client will just think that you're happy to just give the time away for free. So if you don't step in and show that leadership, and that's what happens, the client will drag you into the nightmare. It's not really the client's fault because he's waiting for you to tell him what to do. And if you don't say, ‘Can I give you a quote for that?’Then he'll just keep going.
So, but for most of us, it's difficult because as I said, we came up from the production division where we completed the work that we're expected to do sales. And, hence the reason why we've got the narrow and deep structure. You can see from the diagram, the senior client manager has that kind of skill, right? If they firstly, got to show that they've got that kind of skill, and of course, then you've got to do some training with them to really hone up those skills. You can see that the green person, who's the senior production person and their personality and then nature is in production and they don't want to sell, they don't want to talk for clients. They don't want to be able to sell to the clients. I don't want to move the client from a discovery session to order. And they just want to sit there and do the work. Then, you've got to gotta got to know where your personality is because we talk about finding the right state for the team. What people in the right scene, the right past, they'll find it very difficult and they'll end up leaving because they're not in their flow. So you've got to work it so that everybody's in their flow. And the deep and narrow structure is the best way to manage the traffic flow. Because you've got people who are really good at talking to people, managing client's expectations. They're people-people. They're good at communicating with people like them. So they're in their flow. If they're a senior client manager, and then you've got people who are really good production people and, and keep them in their float. And if you, if you have this narrow deep structure, you find that people are a lot more productive. They are a lot happier.
Therefore they're a lot more productive and they're doing what they really enjoy doing, and where we might, we, most accountancy practices or businesses fail is having a very flat structure. And I've seen that with nearly most firms I go into now. They have this senior client manager who is expected to do everything. Then the symptom of that is that they're always going over budget and then the management has to right time off or they become, the invoice has become very, very expensive to the client. And then you ended up losing it or having lots of arguments.