This week, a bunch of CPAs were learning about “design thinking” from my friend Jason Blumer. They were learning to take a real interest in their clients (isn’t that crazy?) in order to help their clients grow and get better. Suffice to say… these aren’t your typical accountants!
As part of the experience, Jason brought in a few of his own clients and local business owners to serve as guinea pigs or lab rats. (I was just going to go with lab rat, but lab rats are injected or exposed to all kinds of funky chemicals before the chemicals are packaged for people to use or ingest… or something like that. Guinea pigs seem relatively useless but are probably better looking. So let’s go with guinea pig.)
So, as the guinea pig, I offer this “client” perspective on the experience to show the value of engaging your own clients in these kinds of conversations. There are at least four benefits to your clients:
1. Focused time. I spent close to two hours ignoring my phone while we talked about my business. My laptop was safely packed away in my bag. In all honesty, it’s not that common to have that kind of uninterrupted time to focus. It’s hard to find undistracted time to work on the business instead of in the business.
2. Fresh eyes. These CPAs had never met me. They had some general knowledge of how health insurance (I’m an insurance broker) works, but brought, for me, an outsider perspective that is useful since I live in this thing. A fresh set of eyes can sometimes ask better questions (especially “why” questions) than another insurance dude could.
3. Outside interest. Let’s be very honest. It’s awfully rare for someone to take a genuine interest in my business. An insurance agency is just not that sexy, and I felt a bit bad for the group that was assigned to work with me. Other groups had a developer who builds really cool platforms for online education, a couple entrepreneurial business coaches, and a lawyer who races go-carts in Portugal. (Really.) My group got an insurance agent who coaches pee-wee soccer and makes quesadillas. Yee-ha. But they genuinely dug in and shot all kinds of questions at me and had me talk about myself and my business for a long time. I mean, I nearly lost my voice. And every real client, in their heart of hearts, will enjoy and appreciate that.
4. New Ideas. At the end of the day, I emerged with some interesting ideas. The process itself got my brain moving and helped me articulate some things better and gave me some new ideas, as well as new ways of communicating older ideas. But the team I worked with came up with some pretty interesting ideas for me as well.
So, it should be clear by now that there’s definitely value in the design thinking process. If you begin to engage your clients in this process, they will know you really care about them, they will enjoy the time spent with you, and they will probably derive some real benefits… and all of that will increase their commitment to working with you.
And suddenly you’ll be more than just a CPA or a tax dude (or dudette). You’ll be a trusted adviser; a coach. Isn’t that cool?
Alex is vice president of AC Forrest Insurance Group, an independent insurance agency specializing in innovative health insurance solutions for small businesses and families. The father of three small kids, he’s also a human jungle gym, a peewee soccer coach, and cooks a mean quesadilla. To talk with Alex about your insurance situation (or anything else), find him @alexcforrest on Twitter. You can learn more about AC Forrest Insurance Group at www.acforrest.com.