I recently returned from a VeraSage Institute meeting in California and I lost a lot of sleep. When you are in a meeting full of thought leaders who are blazing trails in the professional firm space, it makes you rethink how you run your own firm. I’m still thinking through what I learned.
Tim Williams was there and he passed out his most recent book, Positioning for Professionals:How Professional Knowledge Firms can Differentiate Their Way to Success. What a great book. I highly recommend it!
He gets to the heart of the issue in the CPA space – we sell commodities and we all look the same. Freakin’ boring. Our profession is good at doing what we’ve always done and copying everybody else. Certainly, if this continues, the integrity of our profession is in jeopardy. But it doesn’t have to be.
Three points in the book stood out to me:
Calling closely relates to the book Start With Why by Simon Sinek, required reading for our participation in the VeraSage Institute. In essence, people do business based on why you do business, not what or how you do business. We so often make our techniques and our products our ultimate sales focus, but our customers want to know what we believe. Clients can align with a belief, and remain long-term customers of companies if they can get behind why you do what you do.
Customers is another area where you must tighten your definition of what your brand means. This process focuses on knowing who your best client is, and then developing a practice around that type of client. Tim reminds us that a “one size fits all” client marketing strategy is really a “one size fits none” strategy. He also speaks to our fear of going too narrow with our customer definition: “The narrower your positioning strategy, the more leverage you have in the marketplace.”
Competencies are simply capabilities that can be delivered in dependable, differentiating ways, so it is “competencies” we need to focus on, not capabilities. Tim provides a chart to help us move our firms toward High Differentiation and High Customer Value. Other variations of this model (Low Differentiation-High Value or, worse, Low Differentiation,-Low Value) don’t hit the mark of service required of today’s innovative professional knowledge firm.
Culture is also a huge part of what makes your firm different. Culture runs through everything the company does, and is the sticky part of your company that draws clients and keeps employees. It is your set of beliefs and values, or how to work at your firm often summarized in your tagline. The more memorable, differentiating and polarizing your culture message, the better. Make the culture definition very clear – you want no confusion on this front. How about these as examples: “Nurture Stupidity,” “We are not a democracy,” “Make mistakes faster” or “Don’t clean your desk.” These are certainly not for every company, but the owners who believe them have made it clear for clients and staff how to operate within the culture of their firm.
As we remake what the professional firm is and can be, it’s awesome to know that we are living in an era where disruption is so available to us. Tim’s book has been a great catalyst for that in my own firm since leaving VeraSage. I trust his book can help you disrupt your market too.
No comments yet.
You must be logged in to post a comment.