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Runagood

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Automated, affordable business consultancy and advice for small and micro businesses

Jun 12

Surveys: A Key Element for Researching and Analysing Your Market [Part 1]

When it comes to understanding your own position in the marketplace, and 
 identifying new areas of growth, surveys are almost always a good way to 
 start. Surveys are a key way to understand your market potential, as well 
 as your current position. It provides an objective way for you to get to 
 know your client base better, while simultaneously improving your business…

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Feb 25

What Business Advisory isn't... quite

A young accountant with an MBA called me to say that his practice boss having asked him to introduce business advisory services keeps passing him Runagood® marketing emails claiming to do the same. He was understandably irritated, feeling he had already done that and didn’t need our help. He explained that he had introduced the following new client services, trained everyone and results were looking promising: Management accounting  Budgeting  Cashflow forecasting  Business planning  KPI reporting  Management review sessions  Since that is impressive as accountants certainly should offer these to its clients (but most don’t) it’s definitely the place to begin, so I complimented him on making a great start.  “Only a start?” he asked. “Yes” I said. “What happens when these processes expose problems that the client needs solutions for, how do you advise them? “What sort of problems?” “Well, practical stuff like how to improve: New customer acquisition   Customer retention     Operating efficiency   People productivity and commitment  Profits Crisis management  Business / exit value  Growth  Lifestyle  Personal effectiveness  Diversification  Business risk management”  “Ah, that’s all covered” he said. “We subscribe to an app that issues fact sheets and templates on all those and more, which we download and pass to clients” I then asked if clients actually use these to implement changes, whether the suggested actions are followed up at the regular client review meetings, and if performance changes are tracked. “That’s down to the client” he said “but if I’m honest they aren’t good at implementation. We keep hearing that they didn’t find the time, so it never happened, and some have gone to consultants who charged a lot, whilst others had decided to live with the problem.”  “Is that a worry?” I asked.  “I suppose it is, but what else can we do? We can’t be experts on all that stuff, and they seem happy to pay for the new services we are introducing” I asked if he understood the difference between an expert and a process consultant. He narrowed his eyes, worried that his MBA training may have missed something. “Why not tell me your version” he parried. “OK, so think about lawyers, doctors, accountants, engineers. They are all experts. Why?” “Umm, I suppose they are specialists. They can do something you never will be able to do, so you give them the whole problem and they fix it all for you” “Absolutely” I said. “Now think about teachers, counsellors, mentors, coaches. Are they experts?” “Well,” I suppose they work with their students or clients to pass on knowledge, develop skills, find answers together?” “Exactly” I said. “So, the expert consultant solves the whole thing personally, hands it back completed, the client learns nothing, but has got rid of a problem.  The process consultant, on the other hand, collaborates with the client and works with them to find and implement solutions to problems in ways that develop new skills in the client and keep the business moving up. S/he becomes a permanent part of the client’s life” “I see” says my MBA “very interesting, but how does it work in practice?”     “OK” I respond, “What you need is an end-to-end process, a journey plan that starts with assessing where the business is now, where it should be, what the owner wants, what’s getting in the way, and a road map for shifting it, and the owner, upwards. Note that I used the word ‘process’.” “Right then, where is there a process that does all that?” “Well, that’s why your boss keeps sending you our emails. The Runagood® Business Process is what we sell. I think what he’s saying is that he wants your team to develop process skills that set up a continuation project with a client once the problems and ambitions are uncovered by what you are already doing” “Hmmm. Fascinating. You’d better take me through this Runagood® Business Process then, I’ll have to seriously consider it!” So, we book an hour on Zoom and I ask the boss to join, having established that he’s happy to share practice finances with his MBA.  We generate a Business Dashboard® Report, showing: Losing £100K pa through underperformance in marketing  Overperforming by £100K pa in client retention – excessive dependency  Par for systems / tech efficiency  Underperforming in people productivity - £200K unused capacity  Underperforming for profits – £30K below benchmark  Value £300K instead of £1m    “I agree” says the boss. “we aren’t doing any marketing, our clients are slowly disappearing, we’ve spent a lot on systems, so good to know it was money well spent. My people are all working from home and have slowed down, profits are suffering, and I need this practice to sell for £1m in 5 years’ time.  That’s why I hired the MBA because 5 years from now, there won’t be much compliance work left for accountants to do” “What’s next?” he asks So, I generate a 5-year Forecast showing a green feasibility light for achieving £1m value. I ask him which of the other 5 metrics he wants to work on first “Hmm. It’s between marketing, profits and people, all of which need attention. Let’s start with marketing. So, I open the Marketing Plan template and together we select the: Vision; Mission; Objectives.   “Ah” says the MBA “now what? This is exactly where we get to with clients, when we give them a marketing fact sheet telling them what to do” “Indeed” I respond, and they don’t do it, do they!” I open the 14 Marketing Methods, ask the boss where he wants to begin and he says, “with the Research Module, we need to stop guessing who our market is and what they want from us.” So, I open it, we review its 17 individual action plans and he chooses to start by implementing the one that installs a proper CRM system. “Fine” says the boss “we’ll do the programme, but what help do we get?” “We provide you with a business coach who sets out each plan in detail – names – dates – budget and contacts you every week to keep it moving and unblock any holdups” “OK, subject to fixing a fair price we’ll do it, won’t we Mr MBA?” And the MBA to his credit says “Definitely. I see this will develop the practice with practical skills and solutions that we can then use with clients. And I really like ‘learning by doing’ I really don’t need any more academic stuff!”.  Find out more about the Runagood® Business System By Duncan CollinsFounder of Runagood.com Ltd

Read full article >

Feb 25

What Business Advisory isn't... quite

A young accountant with an MBA called me to say that his practice boss having asked him to introduce business advisory services keeps passing him Runagood® marketing emails claiming to do the same. He was understandably irritated, feeling he had already done that and didn’t need our help. He explained that he had introduced the following new client services, trained everyone and results were looking promising: Management accounting  Budgeting  Cashflow forecasting  Business planning  KPI reporting  Management review sessions  Since that is impressive as accountants certainly should offer these to its clients (but most don’t) it’s definitely the place to begin, so I complimented him on making a great start.  “Only a start?” he asked. “Yes” I said. “What happens when these processes expose problems that the client needs solutions for, how do you advise them? “What sort of problems?” “Well, practical stuff like how to improve: New customer acquisition   Customer retention     Operating efficiency   People productivity and commitment  Profits Crisis management  Business / exit value  Growth  Lifestyle  Personal effectiveness  Diversification  Business risk management”  “Ah, that’s all covered” he said. “We subscribe to an app that issues fact sheets and templates on all those and more, which we download and pass to clients” I then asked if clients actually use these to implement changes, whether the suggested actions are followed up at the regular client review meetings, and if performance changes are tracked. “That’s down to the client” he said “but if I’m honest they aren’t good at implementation. We keep hearing that they didn’t find the time, so it never happened, and some have gone to consultants who charged a lot, whilst others had decided to live with the problem.”  “Is that a worry?” I asked.  “I suppose it is, but what else can we do? We can’t be experts on all that stuff, and they seem happy to pay for the new services we are introducing” I asked if he understood the difference between an expert and a process consultant. He narrowed his eyes, worried that his MBA training may have missed something. “Why not tell me your version” he parried. “OK, so think about lawyers, doctors, accountants, engineers. They are all experts. Why?” “Umm, I suppose they are specialists. They can do something you never will be able to do, so you give them the whole problem and they fix it all for you” “Absolutely” I said. “Now think about teachers, counsellors, mentors, coaches. Are they experts?” “Well,” I suppose they work with their students or clients to pass on knowledge, develop skills, find answers together?” “Exactly” I said. “So, the expert consultant solves the whole thing personally, hands it back completed, the client learns nothing, but has got rid of a problem.  The process consultant, on the other hand, collaborates with the client and works with them to find and implement solutions to problems in ways that develop new skills in the client and keep the business moving up. S/he becomes a permanent part of the client’s life” “I see” says my MBA “very interesting, but how does it work in practice?”     “OK” I respond, “What you need is an end-to-end process, a journey plan that starts with assessing where the business is now, where it should be, what the owner wants, what’s getting in the way, and a road map for shifting it, and the owner, upwards. Note that I used the word ‘process’.” “Right then, where is there a process that does all that?” “Well, that’s why your boss keeps sending you our emails. The Runagood® Business Process is what we sell. I think what he’s saying is that he wants your team to develop process skills that set up a continuation project with a client once the problems and ambitions are uncovered by what you are already doing” “Hmmm. Fascinating. You’d better take me through this Runagood® Business Process then, I’ll have to seriously consider it!” So, we book an hour on Zoom and I ask the boss to join, having established that he’s happy to share practice finances with his MBA.  We generate a Business Dashboard® Report, showing: Losing £100K pa through underperformance in marketing  Overperforming by £100K pa in client retention – excessive dependency  Par for systems / tech efficiency  Underperforming in people productivity - £200K unused capacity  Underperforming for profits – £30K below benchmark  Value £300K instead of £1m    “I agree” says the boss. “we aren’t doing any marketing, our clients are slowly disappearing, we’ve spent a lot on systems, so good to know it was money well spent. My people are all working from home and have slowed down, profits are suffering, and I need this practice to sell for £1m in 5 years’ time.  That’s why I hired the MBA because 5 years from now, there won’t be much compliance work left for accountants to do” “What’s next?” he asks So, I generate a 5-year Forecast showing a green feasibility light for achieving £1m value. I ask him which of the other 5 metrics he wants to work on first “Hmm. It’s between marketing, profits and people, all of which need attention. Let’s start with marketing. So, I open the Marketing Plan template and together we select the: Vision; Mission; Objectives.   “Ah” says the MBA “now what? This is exactly where we get to with clients, when we give them a marketing fact sheet telling them what to do” “Indeed” I respond, and they don’t do it, do they!” I open the 14 Marketing Methods, ask the boss where he wants to begin and he says, “with the Research Module, we need to stop guessing who our market is and what they want from us.” So, I open it, we review its 17 individual action plans and he chooses to start by implementing the one that installs a proper CRM system. “Fine” says the boss “we’ll do the programme, but what help do we get?” “We provide you with a business coach who sets out each plan in detail – names – dates – budget and contacts you every week to keep it moving and unblock any holdups” “OK, subject to fixing a fair price we’ll do it, won’t we Mr MBA?” And the MBA to his credit says “Definitely. I see this will develop the practice with practical skills and solutions that we can then use with clients. And I really like ‘learning by doing’ I really don’t need any more academic stuff!”.  Find out more about the Runagood® Business System By Duncan CollinsFounder of Runagood.com Ltd

Read full article >

Feb 12

“Physician, heal thyself”

This old taunt is about people who offer advice to others whilst not taking it themselves. In my own case, I can advise anyone on their golf swing whilst having broken 100 once only.But when it comes to business advice, I can hold my own, given 32 years consultancy experience and of running my own business throughout.And all the accountants whom I know can hold their own on compliance given their professional training and experience.But the great challenges of the day for consultants are how to advise on any aspect of a business credibly and affordably. And without the benefits of professional training (there is none) and assistive technology (very little available) they are not able to ‘heal themselves’.And the great challenge of the day for accountants is how to reconcile compliance work with business advisory work so they can diversify their services into business services practice. The 2 disciplines (accountancy and consultancy) are superficially similar, but practically very different. And as people who also run their own businesses, how can accountants ‘heal themselves’?Well, for me it starts with a definition of ‘business advisory’ about which there is so much misunderstanding in the accountancy world. I simply cannot believe the sheer volume of products and services on offer that claim to turn accountants into business advisors. But do not.Why?Because none of it provides practical solutions to any problem or ambition that a business owner has nor enables them to immediately implement them.The consultant’s definition of business advisory is to ‘help a business to improve its future performance’. Scary, because the future is an unknown place, so any strategies they propose have no guarantee of success, and that comes with consequences. But their classic personality profile (high D/I) enables them to deal with that, and not lose sleep.And here is the dichotomy…Accountants, steeped in the ways of historic analysis, double entry bookkeeping and accurate compliance of company records against laid down regulations are dealing with what has already happened. That is the environment in which they have trained and worked for years so a 180-degree pivot into the client’s future takes them to an uncomfortable place, especially if they have the classic (high S/C) profile.So how does this get resolved?Important, because it’s holding so many accountants back from making this ultimately essential transition.Well, here is the model we have evolved with the brave accountants who are doing it and it works very well for them:Turning Your Accountancy Practice into A ‘Whole Business’ Advisory Centre It’s a matter of redefining what the practice exists to do eg:“Our Mission is to help business owners solve problems and realise their ambitions”And…“Our vision is that we will be the first port of call for every local business owner with an unresolved problem or ambition by 2026”The above diagram sets out everything that the practice exists to do which involves every single aspect of any business client and a readymade solution with skilled support to implement it.That means the business-facing people in the practice start from a new place with every prospect and client. A mindset that wants to learn “what’s this business about, where is it now, where does the owner wish to take it and when by?”Classic consultant questions but laced with the objectivity of the accountant to see how that translates from numbers now, to numbers in the future.Confidence for the accountant to ask such questions in the first place and then proceed into a client partnership to help achieve it all profitably comes from training in the human skills of consultancy backed by technology that provides detailed answers and implementable solutions.All very well but how will these new clients be found?It is the big remaining question that stops most accountants getting started. From a lifetime of acquiring new clients by referral and introduction to suddenly becoming a marketing and sales wizz is more like a 270 degree turn and highly disconcerting. It’s a very serious point because being salesy conflicts with the accountant’s professionalism, the need to be respected as the expert who is consulted because of his / her reputation and standing.This proposition has the more dramatic solution of reorienting the practice to be about the provision of professional services that solve business problems and help business owners to achieve true value.The marketing needs to be educational, getting local businesses conditioned into an understanding that every problem has a solution and that its analysis and diagnosis is uniquely free and impartial. Thus, trust is built that the practice is not a sales organisation, but a reliable source of professional advice backed by fairly priced support, if they choose to buy it.It is a process that takes 12 months to show serious results and then keeps growing. That is as it should be, given the absolute need establish a long-term enterprise of quality at the hub of the business community.Practices that undertake this transformation (as all must ultimately) need training in the analytical and systematic skills of marketing and the psychological skills of soft-selling. But accessing a readymade kit of marketing resources designed for promoting ‘whole business;’ advisory resources gives a flying start as the skills develop into self-sufficiency.Is it easy?No. But neither is it difficult.It’s about learning and applying processes systematically which works well for accountants, accustomed as they are to training and process.So, it’s a matter of convergence between accounting and consultancy disciplines to deliver holistic and enjoyable services that range across the whole of a client’s business. Find out more By Duncan CollinsFounder of Runagood.com Ltd

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