Accountants are well aware of the challenges that come with having difficult conversations with clients. These are the conversations in which you advise your clients to implement immediate changes in order to prevent potential losses. Similarly, when a client falls significant behind on payments, you may be compelled to discontinue your services. The truth is that these challenges will not go away unless we deal with them. So, what is it that keeps us from having these challenging conversations? One reason is fear of perhaps hurting someone’s feelings.
As an accounting firm leader, you must have faced the tough decision of letting go of underperforming staff members for various reasons. Do you remember how gut wrenching it is before you got up the courage to notify an employee that it’s time to find a job that you really want? And do you remember the relief you felt after parting ways with that staff member, which made you realize that you should have acted sooner?
Like it or not, the actual value you bring to your clients and staff members is directly related to your ability to deal with challenging situations, especially difficult conversations. It does not imply that you are a creature and tough; rather, it implies that you are decisive and fair, with everyone’s best interests in mind. By reducing stress, you will be able to dedicate more time to work with your ideal clients rather than spending it on hand-holding an underperforming staff member. Remember that every minute you spend on such issues costs you and your firm dearly.
Accountants deal with reality. The factual numbers that tell a story of where a firm or individual is in terms of their finances. Accountants also have another reality to deal with the reality of having emotions attached to a situation and that’s where it often gets tough. Be honest with yourself and understand those high demand, time gobbling, marginally profitable and slow paying clients will always be there. That is until you choose to deal with them. You can advise them on how to solve their problems but you can’t solve them for them. Accept it and have that difficult conversation. Even if you have a capacity for more work, it’s best to end a difficult client relationship on your terms and not theirs.
Fortunately, there are various beneficial resources available to help you in efficiently initiating and managing difficult conversations. When managed correctly, these conversations can benefit both you and your clients by lowering stress and regaining lost productivity. You will also regain the client’s or staff member’s respect for how you handled the situation.
Remember that the best way to have one less thing to worry about is to deal with it.