Deb Defer, the Managing Director of Business Services and Outsourcing at BDO, sees how hard it is to retain millennial accountants in today's fast pace society. The older generation blames the millennials, millennials blame the older generation. It's a back-and-forth battle that may not end for another decade or two. Deb isn't here to make waves, she's here to help older partners retain the future of their firms. In this episode of the Growing Your Firm Podcast, David Cristello and Deb Defer dive into:
- How to retain millennial accountants in today's firms
- The best way to project manage a client and develop solutions so to do your most efficient work
- Her viewpoints on the importance of Artificial Intelligence (AI)
How to Solve Your Client's Problems Right Now:Deb Defer, Managing Director at Business Services and Outsourcing at BDO (one of the largest firms in the US) was a Top 100 ProAdvisor in 2016 and 2017. Part of the reason she got there was she knows how to take care of her clients. At BDO, they have branches for assurance and tax. Now, they're growing out their consulting side and Deb gets to spearhead that. With her job, she gets to build relationships with future clients and also gets to study the new technologies bubbling up. 20% of her work is project-based. Here she is discovering client problems and designing solutions that she then helps implement. This has made her an expert in solving your client's problems right now. Her best piece of advice is somewhat a gut punch...she recommends taking a 'listening course.' While we like to think clients all need what you're selling, it's not so. The very first skill you should build is understanding where your client is at this moment, then what does the client understand about their own business. After that, they need to know how to utilize systems to get better. Notice, none of what was listed has anything to do with talking about your services or firm. What may seem like common knowledge for you, isn't for your clients. Deb reports 32% of business owners have little to no automation in their business. That's 1/3 of businesses in the country that need help implementing solutions.
DAVID'S TIP: It's tempting to think 'inward' when developing solutions, but really, to solve your client's problems, you need to look 'outwards.'Deb's admitted she learned these valuable tips from mistakes she's made herself. Her steps to begin a client relationship and listening go like this:
- Ask: "What are your pain points?" --- listen to the answer without trying to solve them
- Ask: "What do you feel is keeping your business from moving forward this year?"
- Ask: "What's keeping you up at night?"
- Know that it takes time to get comfortable asking these questions and listening without judging