Our special guest for this bonus episode is Ron Saharyan, the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Profit First Professionals. He has over fifteen years of experience in managing organizational growth and is sharing his recession-proof formula for connecting and communicating with your clients to help keep them at ease, be of more service, and keep your firm running.
If you’re finding these times challenging and want to be prepared for anything that may come your way in the future, this episode is for you!
Here’s a few things we talked about:
If you’re having a challenging or stressful time in your firm right now, we’re offering complimentary coaching sessions to help you through it! Visit theabundantcall.com to learn more and schedule.
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About Ron Saharyan
Ron Saharyan is co-founder and managing partner of Profit First Professionals. Having built multiple companies in the staffing industry, Ron leads Profit First’s membership of world-class accountants, bookkeepers and business coaches who guide entrepreneurs to the highest degrees of profitability.
He has over 15 years experience in managing organizational growth, is a thought leader in business cash flow management and is a popular speaker on the topic of, you guessed it, profit.
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How To Recession-Proof Your Firm During COVID-19 And Beyond With Ron Saharyan
In this episode, we have a very special guest, the Cofounder and Managing Partner of Profit First Professionals. He has several years of experience in managing organizational growth and built multiple companies in the staffing industry prior to launching Profit First Professionals. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and their daughter.
Some of you being accounting professionals might be a little bit frustrated, overwhelmed and slightly stressed trying to get the fees that you want to charge and having no control over whom you work with and how much you can charge. You probably don’t even believe that you can get someone to say yes to high monthly fees on an engagement base that you think a client can afford and pay you.
It’s not your fault. Nobody is trained on how to fix those problems and connect the dots. If you’re interested in learning how to fix those problems and connect the dots, you can book a free call with me at TheAbundantCall.com if you’ve been in business for at least two years. I can help you build your dream practice, work a lot less and still have the time and money to enjoy with your family and your kids.
Head on over to TheAbundantCall.com to schedule your free coaching session with yours truly or my teammate, Denise. This episode is brought to you by Xero. As an accountant, when you join Xero, you’ll gain access to a full range of practice management tools so you can manage your practice and your clients from almost anywhere. To learn more about building a better practice with Xero, visit Xero.com. Let’s welcome Ron to the show.
Thanks, Michelle. I’m glad to be back.
It’s awesome to have you here. In times like where we’re in, you and the Profit First community are so helpful and are such a great resource. Probably everyone reading knows you guys but for those that might not know who you are, can you share who you are and what you all do?
We are a membership organization of accountants, bookkeepers and financial coaches that subscribe to the Profit First Cashflow methodology.
Cashflow is of high importance to a lot of people reading and all of their clients. Prior to starting this episode, we were talking about this EVOLVE communication method. We’re going to dive deep into that to share with each of you reading how you can take this time to not only help your clients evolve but also communicate to the best level to help them, which will help you create more abundance in your firm. I’m super happy to have you on again, Ron, and share your guys’ wisdom because you and Mike are always coming up with the best stuff.
Thank you very much. Cash is king, as we all know. In this climate, the conversation is key. One of the methods that we’re teaching and learning, even more, is the EVOLVE Communication Method. We’ve broken that down into six blocks. The first block is Empathy. Empathy is key because of heightened awareness of what’s going on.Cash is king, as we all know, but in today's climate, communication is key. Click To Tweet
I would want somebody to be empathetic with my situation. My accountants and bookkeepers are. I called Kathy and Karen. They were very empathetic to the situation. We wouldn’t want ourselves to be treated that way. Here’s a situation. One of our members over in Europe approached Mike and me with some concerns and questions.
Basic knee-jerk reactions were my initial response because I know this member very well. He would normally be like, “Come on. Knock that off. You’re overblowing it. It’s not that bad yet. Your finances haven’t been hit.” I’m thinking to myself, “Would I want to be spoken to like that?” I had to realize that it wasn’t what she was asking for. It was that she wanted to be heard and know that we had her back. Empathizing and understanding allowed that relationship to continue to flourish versus me not realizing or being as empathetic as I should be. That’s the first key.
One of the accountants reading is like, “How did you show that you were listening to her, she was heard and that you had her back instead of our traditional knee-jerk reaction?” It’s like you have members calling frantic and you know her well. You’re like, “This isn’t it.” For those that have never maybe read Chris Voss’ book yet, Never Split the Difference, which talks all about empathy, how did you do it? What did you say to her?
I love the book by Chris Voss. I’m looking at it. It’s on my desk. One of the things that we’ve learned is to reiterate and acknowledge by restating what they’re asking and looking for. That’s the number one thing that I would share that assures the other person that you are truly listening to the whole conversation.
One thing that’s helped me is I take notes, allowing people to say, “I’m going to take some notes to make sure I get everything of what you’re saying.” What was her challenge, if you don’t mind sharing? Were you able to restate what she was looking for or reiterate and acknowledge so she felt heard and that you still had her back and the relationship is still flourishing?
The question was along the lines of, “I’m not going to be able to make this investment.” I do what you mentioned as well. As our member was speaking, I was writing the notes down and simply said, “I want to make sure that I have this correct.” I reiterated exactly what some of her points were as to why she was looking for a reduction or to cancel. After listening, the business reasons were not necessarily on target. It was a knee-jerk reaction.
What we did is we discussed it. We talked about it. We dug deeper to take a look at, “Let’s come up with a plan. What happens if 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, 60% or 70% of the revenue dips?” At each one of those points of decrease, the business questions that we ask and the decisions that we make are going to be different.
By coming up with a strategic plan, I was able to help her say, “This is what we want to do.” You’re going to make a lot of different decisions at a 70% reduction in revenue than you are at 5%. One of the things though is she left a feeling of a plan. “I have a plan.” Even though it was roughed out but these are the questions we want to ask and decisions that we want to make. It was a consultative call with her. In the end, it was like, “I love you, guys. Thank you so much. We’ve got this. We’re in this together.”
She didn’t want to reduce anything and cancel. A lot of the accountants reading, from what I’ve heard, are afraid that some of their business clients aren’t going to want them for their Profit First services, can them for bookkeeping or take a reduction. This segues well for those of you that might need to create a strategic plan. If the business loses 10%, what can you do? If the business loses 70%, it’s going to be different. If you get these PPL, SBA and all these other opportunities and grants that are out there, it could be a different boat but the clients need to feel like they were heard and left with a plan.
Vision & Opportunity
Piggybacking off of that, the next letter in EVOLVE communication is the Vision. Vision is more about what is their vision that they’re trying to achieve by this? What are the realistic and positive outcomes that they desire? By working with your customers, the vision that they had is remaining. One of the techniques within the vision is to ask certain questions such as, “If I proceed with this consideration, what are the impacts that it’s going to have in 10 minutes, 10 months or 10 years?”
That’s the vision. “If I don’t proceed with this particular consideration, what’s going to happen in 10 minutes, 10 months or 10 ten years?” Work with them on what their vision is and tie it into their ask or what considerations are going to happen immediately. Also, we have to look down the road 10 months and 10 years from now.
Ten months from now is crucial because that leads to one of your other letters, Opportunity. There’s so much uncertainty and fear. People want to be heard. The vision be it in 10 minutes or 10 months or 10 years is what impacts others’ decision-making too.
You hit the nail on the head. Opportunity. That’s our third one. We’re not talking about being opportunistic. We’re talking about what opportunities we can do. Other than cutting, is there a way to improve efficiencies or technology? What we’re doing is communicating in a way where we’re working to help them see that there is an opportunity to fix the business.
It’s a delicate balance. We want to deploy a balanced approach to defense and offense. Meaning, we don’t want to be defensive and then miss the opportunity. We don’t want to be overly optimistic and stick our hands in the sand. The next minute we know, the company’s out of business. By looking at some of the internal opportunities there are, it’s also giving the business owner the confidence that you’re riding shotgun with them through this.
This is an important point. I love how you said the defense and offense because I’ve been focusing on defense first and then also on the offense probably a 60/40 split. On the defense side, there are a lot of short-term opportunities that can help us. Especially for the accountants reading, which will help your clients see how they can make their business more efficient.
I was talking to somebody. Their goal is always to be a virtual firm. Here’s your opportunity for everyone who’s been thinking about it. If you read Chris’ book, you can negotiate yourself out of a lease too. How do you get rid of the extra overhead that maybe isn’t necessary? I love how you said that. What’s the percentage of defense and offense that you and Mike are sharing with your members as the frantic stuff is going on and how to not be too opportunistic? What can we do and improve efficiencies?
We’re taking a very measured and strategic approach to anything. The opportunity is for us to share a lot of the teachings and get information like this into the hands of not only accountants and bookkeepers but business owners. I’ll get into it when we get to the values but we want to make sure that we’re not going all in and sticking our heads in the sand. An example is, “We’re going to be running a couple of ads.”
Let’s make sure that the tonality of the ads has empathy in them. We’re getting 1 or 2 opinions. We’re not asking everybody in the company. We’re coming up with an initial mockup and then it’s sent to me. I say, “Tweak at this.” I send it over to Billie Anne for a final look from another set and then it’s great. It took more time to do this than it has ever taken us in the past because we are being very cognizant of what we’re doing and saying. That’s how Mike and I are balancing it, not based on percentage but based on what opportunities there are.
You have a webinar coming up. Where do they go for that, Ron?
They can go to ProfitFirstProfessionals.com.
Sign up there. If you miss it, you can watch the recording. This is an opportunity to share. It’s funny you say that because I was having a call with my accountability groups. I was like, “What else can I do to help them? How can I take a month to share more with them and support them?” Everyone’s inundated with all these calls so we came up with some efficient ways. I’m helping them go through an enrollment conversation on how to offer emergency cashflow packages and different offers to their clients, stuff that’s brand new. Coming from an empathetic place, it’s like, “I get it. I’ll help you through this.” In the future, it’ll pay off for everybody.
The other opportunity that I’ve often discounted leads us to the next letter. That’s L, Listening. We can be of such great service by simply listening. Giving our customers the safe zone to know that it’s okay to cry, be frustrated and feeling this way. It’s not productive to keep these things bottled up. If we can ask open-ended questions such as, “How do you feel? What can we realistically do about this? What has worked best in the past?” These are open-ended questions that not only share that we’re listening but also opens the conversation up to who knows where it’s going to take. I found that listening more is very powerful.In business, it's okay to be frustrated or to cry. It's not productive to keep these things bottled up. Click To Tweet
I did Chris Voss’ in-person training. When he talked about the listening department, I was talking about the 80/20 principle. If you listen 80% of the time and you talk 20%, you’re going to be in a good position. He took it to a whole other level. He’s like, “It’s more like 90% of the time you should be listening.” It goes hand in hand with empathy.
I’m a professional sales guy. You’re a professional sales expert. It’s very tough for me to stay quiet. The technique that I use is to bite my upper lip. I hold that until the other person is finished speaking.
Do you want a Chris Voss trick?
If you talk too much, stick a pencil in your face so you’re smiling. When the word does come out, you’re going to start talking from a smile position.
I love it. I have a little smiley face on all my monitors to make sure. Optimism is the only mindset of value. That segues to the second to last letter in EVOLVE. That’s V, Values. This is very important because our values drive our behaviors. We adhere to them but often can forget them under distress. One of the values that are very important to me is not taking advantage if you don’t need help. There’s been a lot of talk about rent reduction and forgoing rent. My landlord and I are buddies. He’s been a great landlord. There were talks like, “Stop paying rent, immediately.” Often in these markets or climate-great situations, we weren’t in a position to ask for that yet. Hopefully never will be.Optimism is the only mindset of value. Click To Tweet
I would feel that I was tempted to pick up the phone and say, “Steve, I don’t know if we’re going to make it out of here. I need to pause our rent. I need a reduction in rent.” I knew that we had rent already allocated. We have a rent account. It was flushed for the month of April and May 2020. I’m paying April 2020 at rack rate, full rate.
Does that mean May 2020 is going to be a full rate? Probably not, considering that my company hasn’t been able to use the rent for 2 to 3 months. Immediately, sometimes our values can be compromised under distress. Know that. Sometimes people suggest doing things that sound good. Let’s take a step back and make a measured data-driven decision.
Data-driven decisions by your bank accounts. Ron, I have a question. If you aren’t able to make your May 2020 rent, what do you recommend? I’m curious because I want to learn something from you too. Almost everyone has a brick and mortar business or even the rent where they live, their houses and mortgages. How would you communicate that you need to be able to reduce your rent or have forgiveness for 1 or 2 months? What are you going to say? How are you going to structure that conversation to have it encompass everything in this EVOLVE formula?
I’m going to share with Steve that I understand his business is not necessarily doing well, as well as ours. My long-term vision is to remain in his building and that there’s going to be an opportunity from the government to potentially make small businesses hold whether it’s through this or that. I’m going to him with an ask based upon, “Steve, I’ve gone over our financials. We’ve lost X amount of revenue here. We haven’t been able to utilize the office since this date. I’m sorry to have to do this but I’m going to be forgoing paying rent because I need that opportunity for the survivability of my household.”
In Chris’ book, he calls that accusation audit. Sharing with him that you understand that his business isn’t even great and that he’s probably struggling and he’s having a challenge. For the accountants reading, even sharing that with your landlords is important. Everyone’s in it together but the government has to make this whole. It is a matter of time and probably cleaning up all the messes with the PPL and SBA. I was filling all these papers out, Ron.
Keep in mind too that this isn’t necessarily free money. If your business hasn’t been adversely affected at X percent, you’re going to have to pay that back. Make sure that the loan that you’re going for is in true need. My position is, “Let those that really need it to go to the front of the line. If I can keep holding on the best I can, then I’ll go for the handout when necessary.” I don’t want to stockpile it to have it.
It’s like all the people stockpiling paper towels and toilet paper. I went to Target and everything’s gone.
I went to our local Walmart and there were toiletries on the shelves. There was toilet paper. Not a lot but there were no lines and people weren’t scrambling for it. I just took what I needed.
Take what you need and the people that need the most help go to the front of the line. Everyone else will come whole. Ron, thank you so much for this insight. Is there anything else that you’d love to share about EVOLVE? Any of the other letters or a story that popped into your mind that would be helpful for someone reading?
Yes. The last letter.
What I’ve learned, whether it’s from a sports perspective, coaching perspective or management especially, sometimes giving advice builds resistance. Hearing in situations like this, “You should have done this. You should do this. I suggest to you,” means the person hearing that has already failed to do it. Instead, we like to frame it with, “In my experience, this has worked well for me. In my experience, I did this. In similar situations when Irma hit, Sandy hit and the floods in Houston hit, my company did this.”Sometimes giving advice builds resistance. Click To Tweet
There are a lot of experiences that we’ve had through natural disasters and economic turmoil from the banking crisis. It was never on the scale of this but there have been catastrophes in the past where accountants and bookkeepers have provided great advice. They can share those experiences and relate them to themselves. The EVOLVE method of communication is Empathy, Vision, Opportunity, Listening, Values and Experience. Michelle, I’ll be more than happy to send you a PDF of this chart that I’m reading so that all your readers can have a copy of it as well.
Ron, thank you so much for being here with us on the show. It’s always fun to have you. You and Mike are always coming up with great ways to help the accounting community. It’s an honor to have you.
Thank you very much. It’s an honor to be here, Michelle. I know how good you are and how great your services are. Our members use you. You’ve come to ProfitCon. You’ve come in again. Keep doing what you’re doing. We appreciate it as well.
Thank you so much. I appreciate those kind words. Ron, stay safe and healthy.
You, too. Thanks, Michelle.
Thank you all so much for joining Ron and me on another episode. Remember the EVOLVE Method, not only in times like this but also in the future. This is a recession-proof formula. Empathy, Vision, Opportunity, Listening, Values and Experiences will help you even further past today. If I share with you from the sales side perspective, we were mentioning the book, Never Split the Difference written by Chris Voss, which is probably one you should pick up. Empathy, listening and sharing your experiences and how it’s supported you to help your clients is king.
As Ron said in the way beginning, “Conversation is king.” We always say cash is king. You’ve probably heard it from me multiple times that the first thing on your P&L is revenue or sales but we can’t have any of that if our conversations aren’t in place. The fact now and in the future to have a recession-proof way to communicate with your clients, I would grab a pen and paper and read this episode one more time.
Remember that conversation is king. If you’re having any challenges with your conversations or maybe you’re frustrated and stressed because you’re doing so much work but no one is willing to pay you truly your value or your worth, I get it. I’ve had a lot of frustrated clients. One of them is Jonathan. He sent me an email.
The email said he lived in the world of scarcity and that he couldn’t afford anything. He broke through that. Now, he’s able to charge $1,000 for a consultation call or even upwards of $20,000 for an engagement. If you’re having those challenges or thoughts and want to get good at the conversation department so you can capitalize on the other stuff in the future, head on over to TheAbundantCall.com. You can schedule your free coaching session with yours truly or my partner Denise.
We’d be happy to get to the truth of where your conversations with your clients are going south. Ultimately, you can build a dream practice, work a lot less and increase the time and money that you have to spend more time with your family and kids. The only thing I ask is that you’ve been in business for at least two years. You’ve had clients walk away or you’ve had that feeling that you have to discount your services to get a client. If that’s you, head on over to TheAbundantCall.com.
Also, thank you so much for leaving all your amazing written reviews. I appreciate those and it helps other colleagues of yours find this show. Keep helping and serving. Remember, your conversations are king, listening 90% of the time and how can you show little empathy? Have a great time. I’ll see you in the next episode.