15 Apr 4 Best Practices to Help You Survive and Thrive In a Downturn
While it’s important to keep best practices top of mind at all times, it becomes much more crucial during a downturn. When faced with a tough economy, there are a number of questions we need to ask ourselves to ensure we’re managing our client relations in a way that best serves their, and our, needs.
We recently stopped to reflect on our operations, and started to ask ourselves tough questions to improve our practices. Through this process we’ve identified four key questions that we feel are valuable for all professional services to ask themselves.
1. Can you increase senior level touch points?
When clients hire a professional services firm, they expect that there will be an entire team working on their projects, but they are looking for expertise. By providing a consistent senior level contact for each client, you will ensure they are stewarded by someone with expertise in their industry and knowledge of that client’s strategic plan. Senior members of your team are also more able to make decisions and provide advice on the go.
- Are clients in contact with the individual in your firm who is best able to provide them with insightful guidance?
- Are your clients dealing with a series of different staff members?
- Is there someone with expertise and authority to reassess and improve workflow staying in touch with each client?
- Can you increase client access to your senior team?
2. Can you add value for your clients without stretching yourself thin?
In adverse market conditions, can you find ways to go above and beyond your regular service offering that will add value for your clients? This can mean looking for ways to improve their experience, grow their business, and expand opportunities. There are many ways to add value without adding dollars spent. Think about developing connections, opportunity, and ideas.
- Do you know people or businesses who would be a good source of knowledge, expertise, or work for your clients?
- Have you heard about a new opportunity that will increase their business opportunities or expand their service offering?
- Can you provide ideas or advice on any challenges they experience in their business?
3. Can you be more proactive in your business relationships?
If we’re doing our job right, we aren’t sitting back and checking boxes for our clients. We’re coming to our clients with suggestions to solve problems and inefficiencies that we’ve identified. Take the proactive approach of periodically reassessing your client’s contract to determine if it’s best serving their needs and be prepared to offer a new solution. This is especially relevant for long-term contracts and ambiguous economic realities because there is higher value of your contribution in being proactive rather than reactive. This way, we demonstrate our ability to advise and our dedication to our client’s success.
- Can you redistribute or take money off the table to create a better plan that will grow your client’s business?
- Can you demonstrate a mindfulness of their interests that repositions you from an order taker to a valued advisor?
4. Are there alternative business or billing models you could employ?
In a down market, cash flow is often an issue. Can you find ways to help your clients address that and still get the full value of your work?
Phased Approach: Can you set up a system where clients don’t have to pay up front for a large plan, but instead in a piece-by-piece approach?
- Contingency Model: Can you reduce your fees in exchange for a ‘pay for results’ model? Here you take on some risk in receiving less up front, but you are positioned as a partner, not a supplier.
- Reciprocal Work: Can you exchange services with your client? This will allow both parties to benefit, while reducing both sides’ costs.
- Grants: Do you know any grants that your clients can apply for that, if awarded, would allow for clients to pay you in full?
- Equity: If you see a high degree of potential in their work, would you consider exchanging your services for a piece of their business? This is the exception and not the rule, as the risks of return are higher.
Through this experience we’ve reinforced a value we’ve always known, that to be competitive we must stay open and flexible to improvements wherever possible. Further, success in tough times means constantly adapting and adjusting to meet current market realities and actively pursuing continuous progress.