COVID-19: August Insights

COVID-19: August Insights

Lessons Learned from COVID

If the ongoing pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that there is no shortage of advice and opinions when it comes to managing your business during COVID. From industry experts to your next-door neighbor, the amount of information is overwhelming and often difficult to assess whether it is relevant to your business or your team.

As we approach the 6-month mark of doing business during COVID, we took the opportunity to evaluate our own efforts and best practices when it comes to managing client relationships. Given the reality of ongoing pandemic uncertainty and a difficult economy, there are several questions we should all ask to ensure we are effective in strengthening relationships with our key stakeholders.

We’ve identified four key questions that we feel are valuable for organizations to ask themselves.

1. Can you add value for your clients without stretching yourself thin?

In these 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 their thinking. However, you need to be selective in where and how you choose to help as it is easy to take on too much and jeopardize the quality of your core offering. Be selective and focus on one or two good ideas that you can execute effectively without overwhelming your internal team and systems.

There are many simple ways to add value without investing more money or dramatically increasing your time 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?


2. Can you increase senior level touch points?

When clients hire professional advisors, 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. During the pandemic, context changes quickly. Senior members of your team will be more able to make decisions and provide advice in real time during meetings. More junior members of your team will still play an active role in service delivery, but COVID has demanded an increase in the contact senior members of your team have with your clients’ senior decision makers.

        • Are clients in regular contact with the individual in your firm who is best able to provide them with insightful guidance?
        • Do the senior members of your team have a clear understanding of the current realities your clients are experiencing – or are they working with outdated information?
        • Is there someone with the expertise and authority to reassess and adapt current workplans that is staying close to each client and engagement?
        • Can you provide your clients with increased access to your senior team?


3. Can you be more proactive in your business relationships?

If you are doing your job right, you aren’t sitting back and checking boxes for your clients. You are coming to your clients with suggestions to solve problems and inefficiencies that you’ve identified. Take the proactive approach of periodically reassessing your client’s contract to determine if it is best serving their needs and be prepared to adjust and offer new solutions. This is especially relevant for long-term contracts. There is a higher value placed on firms who can be proactive rather than reactive. This way, you demonstrate your ability to advise and demonstrate your dedication to your client’s success.

        • Can you redistribute or streamline the budget 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? For example:

        • Phased Approach: Can you set up a system where clients don’t have to commit to the entire process up front, but instead can proceed with a step-by-step approach?
        • Contingency Model: Can you reduce your fees in exchange for a ‘pay for results’ model? Where you take on some risk in receiving less up front, but are positioned as a strategic partner, not a supplier.
        • Reciprocal Work: Can you exchange services with your client? This allows both parties to benefit, while maintaining a balance in cash flows in and out.
        • Grants: Do you know any grants that your clients can apply for that, if awarded, would help your clients cover the costs of your services? COVID has resulted in a number of new government programs that may apply to your business or industry.
        • 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. Success in tough times means constantly adapting and adjusting to meet current market realities and actively working to strengthen client relationships.

 

Jesse Meyer
[email protected]


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