The Wize Guys

Episode 3: How to stop drowning in all the communication traffic flowing through your firm right now

June 18, 2021 Wize Mentoring for Accountants and Bookkeepers Season 1 Episode 3
The Wize Guys
Episode 3: How to stop drowning in all the communication traffic flowing through your firm right now
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

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Episode 3: How to stop drowning in all the communication traffic flowing through your firm right now

“You've gotta take ownership, you've gotta take leadership. ‘Cause if you don't take leadership of that conversation, the client will just think that you are happy to just giving your time away for free.” 

In this episode of The Wize Guys, Brenton Ward, Jamie Johns, and Ed Chan talk about the importance of having a flow in terms of communication traffic for your firm.

This follows nicely from last week - removing yourself from your firm's everyday operations and developing relationships with your team leaders. Communication traffic takes up a huge amount of time in a firm, whether that's talking to clients, or passing information around internally. With first-hand experience building systems that reduce this, we hope to give you some useful information to put into practice at your own firm.  


Timestamps:

1:17 - Defining communication traffic in today’s situation of CoVid-19

5:57 - How to manage the traffic flow

6:13 - 2 different types of traffic ~ communication VS production

11:43 - The importance of leadership skills in communicating with your clients

15:30 - Tips for transitioning to a deep and narrow team structure

23:20 - Getting the fundamentals right

27:28 - Why you should have communication policies in your firm

31:34 - Finding the balance in handling client’s queries

34:18 - The massive impact of technology in the current work setup

39:01 - The catalyst of improving systems and flow

42:45 - How to implement an assistant client manager


Quotations:

“... if you fix the problem and do not address the symptoms and you don't have any pain in growing.” - Ed Chan 

“It's all about managing your client's expectations rather than letting your clients manage you.” - Ed Chan 

“You really need to plan ahead. And it's the same old thing if you fail to plan your plan to fail.” - Jamie Johns 



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Download the full transcript here.

Episode 3: How to stop drowning in all the communication traffic flowing through your firm right now


“You've gotta take ownership, you've gotta take leadership. ‘Cause if you don't take leadership of that conversation, the client will just think that you are happy to just giving your time away for free.” 

Brenton Ward: How are we, Jamie 

Jamie Johns: Brenton? Yeah, I'm going. Well, thanks. 

Brenton Ward: Are you coming from Sydney today? 

Jamie Johns: I just thought it'd confuse everyone and make them think that I am in Sydney with Ed. 

Brenton Ward: How are you doing Ed? 

Ed Chan: Yeah, I'm in the real Sydney, not to pretend Sydney that Jamie's got, but it's a bit chilly. I went for a bike ride and it was like 60 degrees or something. 

Brenton Ward: I think it was freezing. It's really getting into the winter season. I can't complain. It's been absolutely stunning here in Dublin the last couple of weeks. So, as it would be with everyone locked in four walls, the sun's out and shining.

Ed, you've often said that communication and traffic flow in general is one of the biggest blockages to any firm's growth. So I think we should start by putting this into the context of both the situation we find ourselves in and the increased traffic. But also for maybe the newcomers, some of your context and background on why traffic flows are so important in terms of managing.

Ed Chan: Yeah, the thing that kills most business practices, if you like is the amount of traffic that comes through. I'm not talking about just answering emails, answering phone calls, and all that. I'm just talking about being able to monetize that meaning make some money out of it. Most accounts practices spend hours and hours and hours doing that and they don’t how to charge for it. If you give all your time away, then you're gonna go broke. Or you work very, very long hours and you don't get a commensurate return on the time that you spend in practice. Then you end up burning out and you get very despondent and you get to a point where I even hated clients. I hated the fact. I hated to see a client. I was just drowning in it. And you become very negative and this is a common problem. 

When you have a problem such as this and you put it under pressure, like in this current CoVid environment where there's the government's, these packages all your clients are ringing up, and accounting firms spend hours on the phone and working extremely long hours and they can't and they don’t how to charge for it. It's a symptom of a system that's broken. If it's broken and you put that broken system under enormous pressure, then really falls apart. I need to fix it up. Not just to be able to handle a situation like the CoVid situation that we've we're experiencing at the moment, but just so you can grow. Because most firms say to me that they don't want to grow anymore. And what they're really saying is that there's pain associated with growth. So the more clients they have, the more painful it is. So they don't wanna grow anymore. But if you fix the problem and do not address the symptoms and you don't have any pain in growing. Why wouldn't you wanna grow? So it's all about that. 

It's all about managing your client's expectations rather than letting your clients manage you. ‘Cause if you allow your clients to manage you, they generally drag you into their nightmare because most clients are not very organized. And if you let them manage you, they'll drag you into their nightmare. They'll keep you on the phone for hours, and then they don't wanna pay you. It's about you taking leadership and taking ownership and managing their expectations. 

For most of us who've grown up in this environment, we grew up in the production division and in Wize, there are seven divisions. There are the board, marketing, sales, production, quality, admin, and accounts, and we've all grown up in production. In production, we get a job to do and we get the job done. We do it well and we do it really comfortably. But when you run a business, you also have this thing called sales or we'd like to see ourselves as being a trusted advisor, but you want to be able to go from sales to ordering to production very quickly because if you say in sales or the discovery section of the process and not go into production, then you'll never make any money.

So talk about that in general today. I'll use quite a lot of examples because there's everything from I see people putting in out of the office and they'll say something like, ‘out of the office for a day,’ or ‘call the office if you need something that creates a do effect all the way through. So I'm gonna cover all those off, but I just thought I'd give you a global look at it. 

Brenton Ward: Yeah, absolutely. And Jamie, you're obviously Sky Accountants in the thick of it as much as any other firm. You, you, not so much obviously cause you don't deal with clients, but what are some of your observations from the team kind of managing that traffic flow situation at the moment?

Jamie Johns: Yeah, exactly as Ed said, it's with the CoVid-19 and the government stimulus packages and every western country or country in the world's had some sort of stimulus packages speaking to a chat from the US this morning. Same issue there. There are small business loans that are urgent that needs to be done. And so what happens is this communication traffic, it just gets the breakdowns to occur when there's just such a massive ramp up that we've had at the moment with every second client that we've got needing help. So it identifies the breakdowns in your system and in your team processes. 

So at Sky, for example, we've seen that firsthand just everyone, the managers being flat out on the phone the whole time and some of the managers deal with it better than others. They manage their client's expectations better than others. And that just comes through on the KPIs, it comes through in the figures how they manage the communication traffic and how they deal with it.

I think it's a great timely session on this is how to distinguish between discussions that are actually these discussions and how to treat that as sales versus actually taking an order as Ed would say, putting the order into the firm and then through to the production team and that whole process. So that sky, the last two months, I've seen that done really, really well and then not so well. So it's really a great topic to talk about. 

Brenton Ward: Yeah, it's an interesting point you touch on there as well because last month we obviously touched on the Fab 5 and the KPI dashboard that ultimately any firm should be running with and it's interesting to start seeing those KPIs reflect the current situation, certainly on based on how different managers manage their team. So in terms of block up and work balances and net promoter scores and things like that. So might get you to touch on that when we get to the implementation tips later in the clinic. 

So it's, it's probably the right thing to start in terms of looking again, probably more of the context of how traffic flow moves through the organization, how it should be moving through the organization based on team structure 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. So I'll just talk about communication traffic. Communication traffic is things like phone calls, emails, meetings, strategy work, and that kind of thing. And it's also about getting an email come through to you and it's got five questions on it and the production person in yourself goes in and answers it. So you might spend an hour and you answer that email perfectly, but you've invested an hour of your time so you think, well that's fair enough. I'll just send the client a bill for an hour of my time. And then you get this response from the client like, ‘I didn't know you were gonna charge me and I'm not paying for that.’ I never, and so forth and so forth. And that'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. 

The way I do it is that, you know, if I get an email with five questions on it, I don't know whether it's just a throwaway line that the client just had a throwaway line, have a thought bubble in his head and he sent you these five questions, but he really doesn't really need it if you're gonna charge in time. So I just go, ‘Yes, can't answer that one. Need 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 it's gonna cost.’ And I find that 50% at a time they go, ‘Oh no, right. It was just a thought bubble.’ They don't use those words, but it was just a thought bubble. They didn't really want you to spend more time on it, which is great. Then I can spend time with someone who's gonna pay me. And then the other 50% 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 go 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 say that discovery session and moving it into an order to order, put an order in. Then of course, once they say, ‘Yes please,’ you put the proposal to them with a quote and in. 

Then once they accept that it goes into production and that process there breaks down with most accountants. They don't know how to know when to stop that sales process and they just keep going and going and going. And they don't also don't know whether it's just a thought bubble from the clients and whether just they just wanna have a chat, and they wanna waste your time and you've gotta take ownership, you've gotta take leadership. ‘Cause if you don't take leadership of that conversation, the client will just think that you are happy to just give your time away for free. So if you don't step up and show that leadership, then that's what happens. The client will drag you into their nightmare and 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.

For most of us, it's difficult because as I said, we came up from a production division where we completed the work and we expected to do sales, hence the reason why we've got a narrow and deep structure. So you can see from the diagram, the senior client manager has that kind of skill, right? If they first you've gotta show that they've got that kind of skill. Of course, then you gotta do some training with them to really hone up those skills. You can see that the green person who's a senior production person and their personality and nature is in production and they don't want sell, they don't wanna talk for clients, they don't wanna be able to sell to the clients, they don't wanna move the client from a discovery session to order and they just want to sit there and do the work. So you gotta know where your personality is because we talk about finding the right place for your team, people in the right seat, in the right bus. They'll find it very difficult and they'll end up leaving because they're not in their flow. 

So you gotta 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 and managing clients' expectations. They're people, they're good at communicating with people like them. So they're in their flow if they're a senior client manager. Then you've got people who are really good production people and you keep them in their flow. And if you have this narrow deep structure, you'll find that people are a lot more productive, they're a lot happier, and therefore they're a lot more productive and they're doing what they really enjoy doing. And where most account practices or businesses fail is having a very structure. I've seen that with nearly most firms I go into their structure, they have the senior client manager who is expected to do everything, and then the symptom of that is that they're always going over budget and they've got. Then the management has the right time off or they become their invoices become very, very expensive to the client and then you end up losing or having lots of arguments with the client. And all those problems that come up are because there are symptoms of the problem, which is a flat structure, not a narrow deep structure. 

Brenton Ward: A lot of firms will obviously be invested in the Wize way of doing things and they're currently transitioning through this process of ultimately transitioning from shallow and wide to deep and narrow teams based on what we teach. Now we all know that's a journey. It's not an overnight solution and we're in the thick of the communication that's coming through at the moment.  So what do you say that is that isn't in this ideal situation of a deep and narrow team, but still trying to manage that transition whilst managing all the communication? 

Ed Chan: You've gotta do it slowly, but you've gotta have a blueprint. You've gotta start with a blueprint and then you look at the team and see who you've got and you've gotta try and fit the people that you've got into this blueprint. And the blueprint is what you've seen on the screen if you start off and so you've been around for a long time, you've got lots of lots of stuff there, then some of them may not fit that, that deep and narrow structure. So you've gotta work it very slowly in educating the right people in the right areas, but it won't happen overnight.  So you start off at the blueprint and then you look at what you've got and you can see how it fits into the blueprint. 

Brenton Ward: Okay. And Jamie, any comments on that? Because you obviously shifted from that shallow and wide to deepen narrow team structure, maybe not necessarily in the same sort of environment that we currently find ourselves in. But still, as you pointed out before if we've got issues with communication traffic, it's only just heightened at the moment. So we've still got issues on either side of a crisis. So how did you manage that situation?

Jamie Johns: If you're in the thick of it like we have been the last four weeks, you're still putting a team together, then you have to deal with it as best you can. So I got my client managed together and I just said, ‘Look, let's get back to some fundamentals. Your phone's going off all the time, your emails are going off all the time. How are we gonna cope with it?’ So we went back to fundamentals and we said that you just can't answer your phone all the time. So we said to direct the traffic to communication traffic back to the receptionist and where you can't call the client straight away, book it in. So using the personal touch, the receptionist would call the client and book the appointment. Because what we found was you had this phone hockey or, or phone tag, and emails back and forth are just not always the best way. 

So what the client managers did, it took it on board is as soon as they got an inquiry because we had lots of inquiries, that's everyone would understand, we booked them in, they had a session with the client and what the receptionist was trained to do was get an agenda. So every second question was about what's the government stimulus package, and what was in it for me. So the receptionist tried to get an agenda of exactly what the client wanted to discuss. So straight away we had a system to deal with that traffic and not the manager trying or the partner trying to be overwhelmed because that's how they would've been with all the emails and phone calls.

That was sort of the first point from a real practical perspective, and look I've seen some firms use a system called Calendly where an email or a newsletter might go out and you could automatically book a time in that person's calendar. Now that's probably less personal, but that's a system that you can use as well.

From there you really need to plan ahead. And it's the same old thing if you fail to plan your plan to fail. What I mean by that is having a playbook, having a sales playbook just like we've got in the Wize, well it's just that the government stimulus package was, was a different product if you like, we had a different product. So I got with my managers and we said, ‘Well what's a value proposition we can do to these clients?’ Yes, we'll discuss it with you for 15 to 20 minutes, but after that, if you want us to assess whether you're eligible if you want us to go through and process all the paperwork, we had to articulate them, ‘What was the value in it for them?’ And we could do that with our spreadsheets. We account, we worked out what the government could offer people. 

So we followed a really tight process there Brenton on articulating the value and not just giving and not just doing all the work for the client. And then like some firms are spoken to, they're left high and dry spending hours and hours on this and not managing the client's expectations around. ‘Well, am I gonna get a bill for your time or are you gonna charge me upfront?’ So in the end, we developed a system and mine knew we had to do all this really quickly with the government stimulus package. I'm just using that as an example, but it also applies to the broader concept of the sales process if we developed a proposal. 

So from the discussion with the lead, we booked an appointment. Once the appointment is done, we moved to the sales process, we showed them the proposal, ‘This is what we'll do, this is what you'll get, this is how long it'll take and this is what it'll cost.’ And so we went through that sales process and the guys were very successful at deriving the value but in a win-win. This is what the client would get, this is how we'd support them, but also we got paid for it as well. So if you don't plan that process, and Ed always says sell the sizzle but not the sausage, right? So if you don't plan that sales process like you do all your other work, yes, you'll end up working hours and hours for nothing and your whip will go up and you'll have all these write-offs.  So you know, the critical question is how do you handle the traffic flow? Now Ed's gone into the fundamentals of the team design and that's foundational stuff. Like once you get that right, then you can develop the next team then the next team and then you can scale with a lot more confidence. 

But in terms of the orange people there that you can see, you've gotta really train them and show leadership around how do I handle all my phone calls, how do I handle all my emails. So that you don't, I've spoken to accounts and they've just overwhelmed. The last few weeks are just overwhelming with being busy and trying to handle all the questions and everything clients. So the key is to plan it out. And now that we get through this CoVid-19, we get through the stimulus packages, whichever country you're in. It's important to follow the sales process developer playbook and train new people, your finders train your people that have the client relationships around following that process. As Ed said, what happens is you can go down the track and everyone drifts off for a while, everyone forgets and they start not following the sales playbook. And that's where you need to continuously come back in, take the plane off autopilot, have a training session, have your weekly meetings and discuss around, what's our policy, what's the procedure, and get people back on track and then we can put things back on autopilot. But you know, as Ed said, we're we come up through production, we come up filling out in traditional sense the timesheet and we're just so focused on that. We're never taught about what the sales process is. And when I was managing a client base, I'd give people a certain amount of time, it might be 15, 20 minutes, but then I'd say, ‘Look, Joe, I could talk about this all day.’ I'd say with respect many times, ‘Look, I'd love to speak to you all day, but I can't. I've got other people to get to. I'll share a proposal. This is the benefit for you, we'll go through it, we'll do the sales, and then if, if we can go for there and it's win-win, we can sign you up, and get it done.’ 99% of the time, that was how I would educate the clients and of the time they were fine. There'd be some 1% of clients who would just try continuous emails, try to call you, and get information for free. But at the end of the day, you can't respect yourself around that and you lose respect for them and they're better off with someone else anyway.

Ed Chan: For example, in China we have, we have around 21,000 clients, about 9,000 paying clients, and about 11,000 prospects. We picked up so many new clients this time around because the prospects who were not using us as accountants, were using their own accountants, they came over to us because some of the comments were my accountant couldn't return my call and I need some information on this. They were just too busy. So we picked up. Now the difference I guess is you can imagine with 21,000 clients. The volume of phone calls and the volume of emails is coming through our offices. So the first thing we did was a lot of those got questions and things were just a lot of that traffic was just questions about what's going on. So we did Q& with commonly asked questions and we sent that all out to them. Sometimes when they run out, we'd say, ‘Please have a read of this first and then we can have a chat and we can book you in an assessment discovery session to see whether you qualify for some of these packages.’ So that was, we did a video to explain some of the packages. 

Now I often say you've gotta systematize 80% of it so that you can personalize the last 20%. Now with the firms who are drowning, they didn't systematize 80% of it, so they're trying to answer every single question. That was silly because you've only got 8 hours in a day or 10 hours a day or 12 hours in a day, you can't get to everybody. So you've got a system. So a Q&A was the best thing. Then we created a menu of services, so out of all the stimulus packages. There are different packages that people qualified for. We had menu service which we sent out to everybody and then we then booked a 10-15 minute call with everybody that we felt was qualified. In that 10-15 minute phone call, we simply identified which product they were gonna qualify for. 

Now in the large clients, which required more than 15 minutes, we booked them into a discovery session, which could take up to 2 hours. There was a cost to that. It could be $300 or it could be $400, whatever the case may be. But it was part of the menu services and the client managers who were on the phone, they were not had to try and keep it down to 15 minutes, and then they had to then progress to an order and then a proposal, and that was the training that they were put through. And then of course, once a proposal was accepted, he then went into production.

So it became very, very sleek, very, very efficient, and we got through to traffic very, very quickly. But that's the same fundamentals that you've gotta create when you look after the rest of the business because you've got a huge amount of traffic in, in all different areas. And I'll just give you a real quick example of some of them. So often a client would send an email and I'll send it to four people or three people in your organization. What happens is that either three people or four people would answer that and it would've wasted three or four people's time, or everybody doesn't answer it because everybody's waiting for the other person to answer it. And you can imagine with 21,000 clients, and 160 staff, the chaos that's created through the amount of traffic that's just going all over the place if you don't have a process in place. So what we do is we have a policy, a communication policy that says that you must answer your emails on the same, the same day that receive them, but at the very least the next morning. In case you are in the meeting, the day before, you must respond. And it's a sac offense. That's what all my staff gets. It's a sac offense if you don't respond. Now that obviously most of the people that are responding are senior client managers. And because they don't do any grinding work, they don't do any production work, their whole role is to respond to their clients. So it's not an issue. 

Secondly, then we have a policy where you only send it to an email to the person that you want to reply from, and then it's cc'd to the others. The people who you're CC'd in can respond if they want to, but they don't have to. But the person who receives the send must respond otherwise it's a sackable offense.

Now, the reason why clients send it to three or four people is that no one's responding to it, and they're just hoping someone will respond. If you send it to Chan and Naylor, our office, because of our policy, they won't drag three or four people into the same email because they, because they know they'll get an answer. They'll get a timely answer. So there's no need to drag three or four people into the same email. If you extrapolate that out as you grow your business and we've got 160 staff, and if you don't have a policy on how to handle your email, it can be a complete nightmare. It'll cost you a bomb because everybody's waiting. You'll create complete chaos in the organization and everyone's waiting for somebody else to answer the email. So that's just another example. 

Another example is when you have ‘Out of office,’ and sometimes you send an email to someone, and you get an out of the office and they say, ‘Oh, I'm offering a couple of days, can you contact the office?’ The problem with that of course is that he creates a domino of the chaos below that. The reason is this when you say to contact the office, the parole receptionist doesn't know who to pass that client to. Then the staff who sit, who's there, she's asking around, who's gonna take this core and nobody wants to take the core. And then finally she gets up and takes the core and, and they get a bit bitter and twisted because they say, ‘Oh, why am I being picked on? Why do I have to answer this core?’ So it creates chaos all the way down the line. If you don't manage that properly upfront. With this statement, narrow team structure, the senior client manager, if he or she's away, should simply say in her out of office, ‘Please contact the assistant client manager,’ and put the name of that person. So when the client rings up, they know who to ask. It doesn't have to rely on the receptionist to go out there and beg someone to take the call and then create the domino problems all the way down and a whole lot of politics. And it's all to do with management. When companies have really bad politics throughout their organization, it's created because of the blame game. It's created because there are no policies. Its creation is not being managed properly. This is one classic example of not simply putting in ‘Out of office,’ and keeping contact with the office someone.

Brenton Ward: There may be things that we look over quite simply because they're an everyday business process, but there are a lot of upsides if we actually focus on the detail of the smaller things and the one percenters can make a massive difference. So totally relevant to cover.

A lot of team members, there's a heightened level of lenience in terms of allowing more time to talk to clients because of the situation that many clients or business owners are in. They're in pain, they're hurting, and they may be emotional and in fairness. We all want to help as much as we can. But how? What advice do you have for team members listening in on finding that balance between giving help and then also making sure that we're looking after ourselves and our business? 

Ed Chan: Well the first thing is the 80-20 rule because around 20% of clients are actually suffering, but 80% aren't. Some businesses doing really, really well. So you've just gotta make sure that you understand that it's not everybody. Because the biggest problem that I find is when you get a complaint, this is a little bit off-topic, but people just come and say, ‘Oh, everybody's complaining about this.’ My response is always how many are complaining because often it's less than 20%, you don't change everything to suit the when the 80% are happy. And so my response is always how many because people tend to exaggerate and tend to dramatize. You gotta get to the facts.

Facts are really important. I use this line called to look and don't listen. So you just don't listen to people, you look. You ask for evidence and facts of how many so you can make proper decisions. So to answer your question, yeah, you'll have to know there are senior client managers who will know their clients and they'll know the industries they're in. So obviously they're a gymnasium, they're gonna have a difficulty. It's your decision whether to do some pro bono work to help them out. Or you could say to them, ‘Look, I'll do the work but you don't have to pay me.’ I'll extend some terms, ‘You can pay me later on when business gets better and it's a personal core.’ All the different offices are different, but at least, you are in control of it. So you're not letting others control you. You are controlling the situation and then you educate your senior client managers to talk it through with the clients and then again, the 80-20 rule, 20% of the time they come back to the owners to put the situation to them and then they can sit down and work out a solution for the particular client in that particular circumstances. 

Brenton Ward: Okay, that makes perfect sense. 

Jamie, I wanna turn to you in terms of the situation we're in, where there is a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of moving back towards some form of the new normal, the new normality and potentially working in the office environment again. But still, there's a slight uncertainty in terms of when that may actually be. So whilst the communication traffic is still quite heightened, what are some of the things that you guys have implemented that have had a really big impact on how you manage that traffic flow at Sky, in terms of technology, have you mentioned some of the little policies and things before, but any tips and te on tech and things like that? 

Jamie Johns: Yeah, look, I think fundamentally Brenton we've stuck to a lot of the processes we've already had over the years and, part of that is your meeting and rhythm routine. Part of that is using technology for job management. So whether it's B or whether it's some other job management software. But I think at a day-to-day level so that the priorities of the team. So the priorities of the senior client manager and the clients filtered to the top again, assist that daily huddle. What jobs have we got? What are our priorities today? What are we gonna get done today? What do we need to be done today and what are we stuck on? That's a critical thing. 

As we're here today with 50-odd people from around the world, you can share your screen, you can look at your job management system, and you can filter those priorities every day so that your clients get serviced. So, that's one of the critical things. 

Recently we've just installed new phone technology called 3CX, which I shared in the Wize Tribe. That's been a big bonus just that's literally converted our computers into phones so we don't literally need phones anymore.

Brenton Ward: What was the main push for that one? Cause I think, again, without overlooking the importance that every single team member needs some sort of phone or phone access. So where did the decision come from to transition to that new system? 

Jamie Johns: Well, the decision really came out of the need to pivot the business while we all had laptops and we could very quickly with the laptop just take it home as we needed to. We really didn't have time to get the phone system sort of because, so we had team members all at home about 26-27 of us and, you know, 10 based in the Philippines as well. So we didn't have a phone. So the 3CX system literally converted the PC or laptop into a phone. And again, all the communication lines were sort of opened up, in between that we had people sort of getting messages and then sort of using their mobile. So, that system also has built-in conferencing software where you can have up to 12 simultaneous meetings at the same time. So we were just really preparing and future-proofing ourselves for obviously, we all can go back to work at some point, but I think there's gonna be some total shift in attitude across society that it's okay to work from home. I don't know if anyone saw Burning Soul. Burning Soul is a famous sort of demographer or economist I think as well. He was saying that it's gonna be the same, but it's gonna be different because the business community is much more open to people working from home now. I think as leaders we've gotta be aware that we need the technology to be able to do that. So that was sort of one point that we did. And just technology is gonna be a massive thing that is now and will continue to be particularly with working remotely. I'm not a scam monger, but some countries have had a second phase of the virus. So I just think I've always been one of implementing technology that the latest technology that we've got, so that could move forward. If you need to pivot, if you need to change, you can do it very quickly. You continue to communicate with your clients, you can continue communicating with your team and we are very lucky in our industry. That's what we can do. 

Brenton Ward: Sorry, and I just gonna get your point on that because we were semi-joking yesterday on the other side of this. Your teams won't even want to come back into the office ‘cause they're pretty well set up and productive at home. But there's a layer of seriousness in that I think on the other side of this, there will be a new norm for working at home to some capacity. So what are your thoughts on that that if you to share?

Ed Chan: Yeah, absolutely. I think it's been a catalyst. It's been a catalyst to get some firms over the line who may be tinkering on considering it because it's very easy to get into a routine doing the same thing, same all, same old, and then trying to to to step up into a different environment often is difficult when you are in the same routine. But what's happened in the last few months is that it's been a catalyst to push us into it. Even David, my business partner who's very, very non-technical. Every time I have a meeting with him, he'd call me on the phone and you know, he talked to me on about, he'd have his reports or his written thing in front of him and he'd talked to me on the phone about it and I was just trying to get him to Zoom me so we can actually see the document himself. So we can share the document on the screen, but it was from the old school. So, because of the last few months he's actually adopted it and he has actually pushed him into using Zoom and he learned how to share documents. 

So, I think it's a good thing from that perspective because like I'm looking at my practice, there's one particular client manager who always complained that used to take her an hour to get to work and an hour back and she's got two little kids and now we can work it so that she can do most of away from home, but come in for the meetings with clients. And because of Zoom and all the technology on top of the work with the managing her staff. So she's got a really good handle on what they're doing. So it actually, pushed us into making this work much quicker than it. We probably would've got there, but it probably would've taken another two or three years. But it's actually fast-tracked that whole process. So I think it's a good thing.

Jamie Johns: Even even moving. I've spoken to accounting firms and bookkeeping firms that aren't in the payless environment yet, Brenton. The more that you can innovate and move the times, it's just a given that you'll keep up with it and we are better placed for change if and when change comes. So, just being paperless. I still know firms that have compactors and reams of paper. 

Brenton Ward: Yeah, it's funny actually, I've been trying for the last 18 months to get insurance companies in Dublin to take DocuSign-accepted signatures on application forms and they wouldn't have a buyer of it. 

Funnily enough, within two weeks of the whole situation in the last couple of weeks, all insurance companies are now taking DocuSigned application forms. So I think that's just one example of this catalyst of a situation that has actually will improve a lot of systems and processes across the board in many different businesses. So I think it's important, whilst we're so busy, we do look for those opportunities to innovate in the current situation and call on people like yourself who have done a lot of that innovation beforehand, but have started to improve it and tweak it. 

Jamie, any other sort of implementation tips that you wanted to touch on? 

Jamie Johns: Yeah, I just think come back to fundamentals. With the firm watching, they're all at different fee levels, and often when Ed and I delve into some clients with some coaching, and mentoring, one of the first questions we'll ask is, ‘What is your turnover?’ We ask that question because of the traditional barriers, whether it's the coronavirus right now and that'll pass, but the traditional barriers still remain there to grow your firm. It is roughly around 600 and the next step is really a million.

So once you sort of hit says 600, the decision comes down to the fundamentals and that's building that team and following that traffic flow. So, for some firms that might mean Brenton, they need an assistant client manager and there's a great video on the vault, I can't remember exactly which one, but it might be WizeVault Video 5.3: How do you implement an assistant client manager to look after your C and D class clients. Because when you take steps like that, they are massive steps in the right direction as if someone's simply just handling the client base. As we've seen, if you take some of these steps and learn how to hand over those C and D class clients to an assistant client manager for example. It's still a fundamental foundational pillar that you're putting in place for your firm. And then, I know of other firms that are looking at hiring a senior production manager.

Brenton Ward: I think it's a great point to touch on because a lot of firms have just gone. Well, let's sideline all of these things that we know we should be doing, but we have to deal with the current situation. But in the grand scheme of things, there's no better time than the present to actually dig in and implement some of these things. 

Jamie Johns: Yeah, you've still gotta put these foundational pillars in place that Ed and I and yourself always talk about and still what I'm doing at Sky Accounts. I've got the teams where I've got a couple of guys who have seen assistant client managers, and they've just thrived during this time because they've had the people power to deal with the traffic. The teams are well in place and got the people in the right seat. They've really thrived at this time and their billings have just increased and taken advantage of the opportunity to help their clients. Where the other teams just haven't had that perhaps human capital, the people in the right sea haven't done so well. So I think we need to come back to the fundamentals to keep getting those right pillars in place.

Brenton Ward: Excellent. Everyone listening in, take care. I hope you're well and healthy. Thank you for joining us, Jamie. Thank you, Ed, thank you and we'll see you all very soon. 


Defining communication traffic in today’s situation of CoVid-19
How to manage the traffic flow
2 different types of traffic ~ communication VS production
The importance of leadership skills in communicating with your clients
Tips for transitioning to a deep and narrow team structure
Getting the fundamentals right
Why you should have communication policies in your firm
Finding the balance in handling client’s queries
The massive impact of technology in the current work setup
The catalyst of improving systems and flow
How to implement an assistant client manager