How To Keep Your Family Business Clients On Track
By Kyle Danner - January 23, 2020
This blog includes excerpts from my book "The Advisor's Guide to Successful Family Business Engagements." Purchase a full copy of the book for more tips on how to manage family business drama, keep clients happy, and earn positive referrals.
You’ve just finished a meeting with a business owner. You’re ready to get started on the next step. But they need to finish their marching orders or To-Do list before you can finish your work.
Maybe there are phone calls to make, forms to complete or documents to pull together. They assure you they’ll “work on it,” but history tells you they won’t. Not because they’re lazy or don’t care but because urgent matters, like those daily fires in any business, take priority over important ones, like the legal or financial services you offer. And what seems important now suddenly loses its urgency. Then, a few weeks later, you’re begging them to get it done.
If this sounds familiar, consider the following approach to help keep your clients on track:
1. Get their permission first.
You don’t want to be a taskmaster, but you do want to help them stay on track with the important things. So ask for their permission to send them reminders. In most cases, this isn't a problem. After all, if it wasn’t important to them, they wouldn’t be talking to you in the first place.
2. Set an appointment.
It’s easy for business owners to get distracted because of the demands on their time. Suggest they set an appointment to work on the project while you’re sitting there. It’s a way to get additional buy-in from the owner and to reinforce the importance of getting it done.
3. Look to the near future.
Chances are, if you ask them to pull up their calendar, the next two weeks are already over-scheduled. Time probably won’t open up until week three. Suggest they set the appointment then, when they aren’t overbooked, and give them permission to forget it about it until the scheduled time.
4. Send a reminder 24 hours before.
Note when they set the appointment; then send a reminder email the day before. If it helps, include copies of whatever they need to work on. That way, it’s at their fingertips when the time comes, and it’ll be easier for them to start. Frame your reminder in a positive, friendly light, such as: "I'm looking forward to catching up with you tomorrow."
5. Follow up the day after
Many times, after an appointment ends and your client returns to business as usual, tasks are easily forgotten. If tasks frequently slip their mind, consider checking-in by phone or sending an email the day after to see how things went and when you can meet next.
6. Offer a reward.
If your client is especially notorious at not following through, sweeten the deal by offering a reward. Consider doubling it if they finish early. This doesn’t have to be extravagant. Maybe it’s a gift card to a coffee shop or free lunch at a favorite restaurant. The promise of a reward may be the thing they need to get the work done.
Keep Your Clients on Track and Your Project Moving Smoothly
Few things are as frustrating to family business advisors as clients who can’t stay on track. It puts you behind schedule and prevents you from being able to complete your tasks as well. Additionally, as an advisor, you truly want to see the business succeed. If the client can’t seem to make time for your services, how can you help them meet their goals?
By following these six strategies, you can help encourage your family business clients to make their meetings, complete their work in a timely manner, and meet deadlines for the full duration of the project. That way, you’ll remain an invaluable asset to the business and help your client succeed.
Is something else preventing your client from sticking to a schedule? Often, family businesses have underlying issues that eat away at their motivation and productivity. Until this conflict is addressed, you’ll likely find yourself at a stand-still.
The first step to getting the business back on track is to identify the elephant in the family business. My book, "The Advisor's Guide to Successful Family Business Engagements," can help you do just that. Click the button below to purchase your copy and learn the secret to keeping clients happy and engaged throughout the process.