A checklist can be used for quality control, for accuracy checks, as a memory assisting device, as a roadmap through a complex project and even as a guide to preparing an income tax return. As a professional you use checklists every day but do you have one for maximizing your business opportunities, or are you leaving practice development to chance?
If you are an accountant, a wealth manager, a tax preparer or a financial advisor, you have just emerged from the madness of tax season. I can almost guarantee that you have been using some kind of checklist, perhaps more than one, for the last few months. But how many of them include items for maximizing your business opportunities?
Many people think of the IRS form 1040 as a summary page for a tax return. I prefer to think of it as a checklist. As you complete the form you answer important questions about the client (marital status, age, number of dependents) that determine personal and family deductions and exemptions. The form then leads you in reviewing all sources of income and all types of deductions. Finally, you calculate the amount owed or due to be refunded by the government.
You have probably used other checklists, as well. Your firm might have a process for preparation, review, and other checks of returns before they are delivered to the client. You also might have a checklist of what materials are to be returned or delivered to the client, what is to be mailed to the IRS, and what you should retain. In some firms, you might even have a checklist of checklists.
I can guarantee, however, almost none of you have been using a checklist for maximizing your business opportunities during the last few months.
A checklist for maximizing your business opportunities should be a fundamental tool in every professional services firm.
Why? If you care about maximizing your business opportunities, you need to be as intentional and consistent about business development as you are about every other process in your firm. A checklist for maximizing your business opportunities is one of the ways you can grow your business from the inside.
Accountants and other professional and financial services professionals often prefer this approach over scouting for and selling to new prospects for maximizing your business opportunities for several reasons:
1. You are providing additional value to people with whom you already have a relationship.
2. It feels far less like selling to offer additional services you have reason to believe the client needs.
3. Clients want you to introduce new ideas; using a checklist will ensure that clients are introduced to new ideas
4. Numbers people are comfortable with process. If the question or the offer of services is part of the process, it is more comfortable.
5. Checklists are most commonly used by everyone in the firm. This puts everyone on the same page, with the same responsibilities and accountabilities.
6. Running a checklist can be objectified, documented and evaluated.
7. Checklists give the firm common language to use.
8. Checklists increase internal business and introductions.
9. Checklists allow training to be consistent and specific.
What would a checklist for maximizing your business opportunities look like? It might be an independent checklist that you run just before you deliver a tax return to the client. Another approach would be to make the maximizing you business opportunities checklist another item (or group of items) on your quality control checklist. No matter how you handle a maximizing your business opportunities checklist, it probably should occur before the final review of the documents within the firm.
A checklist for maximizing your business opportunities would list
- key personal events, changes, business activities, financial opportunities
- key business events, needs, opportunities
- key external events and changes
Each set of documents prepared for a client would be checked for each of the items on the maximizing your business opportunities list. You would then have the appropriate conversation for those circumstances with the client. For example, if the tax return indicates that the client is a business owner and has just reached age 60, maximizing your business opportunities means you should ask
- if the client has a succession plan,
- if the client has made plans for managing funds from a 401k plan or other retirement investment,
- if the client is comfortable with the current valuation of the business or would like help increasing the value of the business quickly,
- if the client needs help reviewing investments and changing strategy.
With a checklist of events and changes that offer triggers for your professional or financial services firm to provide additional services to the client, you have a significant opportunity to take comfortable action for maximizing your business opportunities and grow the firm from the inside. Whether the work you currently do for the client is accounting, tax preparation, investing, estate planning, or other services, all you need is the checklist, the commitment to take action, and comfort with the appropriate conversations in each set of circumstances.
Copyright 2010 by David Wolfskehl