Client meetings are a great relationship building tool, but they’re too often conducted as a “check-in” call that doesn’t deliver added value and fails in pushing the relationship forward. The most productive and effective meetings
have a clear purpose in mind.
While our client base may differ in size and select different service packages based on their current needs and business goals, we have found that there are a few core meetings that are crucial to successfully delivering services. By providing the client with services that actually help them achieve their business goals, we are also able to retain and grow our client base. With that said, highlighted below are more details regarding these core meetings and their impact.
The Financial Performance Meeting
In this meeting, we review our clients' financial statements, which is standard practice for most accounting firms and also a service we provide for most of our clients. This meeting is incredibly important because it serves as a great indication of how you’re performing as a service provider. It also highlights any financial areas of interest that we feel we should pay attention to moving forward.
This meeting also serves as a way to introduce other services to your clients. We often use this meeting as a way to pitch our forecasting services. For clients who are looking to grow their business, it's imperative that they have financial expectations in place so they can compare their current financials to their expected (or desired) income. Without projections, one is forced to measure a client's financial growth in part by looking at the amount of income they made in previous months, then comparing those figures to how they are currently performing. A lack of projections makes conducting a financial statement review for a client more difficult and also gives the client little to no insight into the revenue they can expect to generate in the coming months.
Consider having financial performance meetings occur at least once a month, and take the time to highlight the importance of forecasting. Doing so will allow you to assist more clients with attaining their financial goals and works to extend the reach of your services.
The Forecasting Meeting
As mentioned above, the importance of forecasting knows no bounds for you and your clients. That is why we suggest holding a forecasting meeting on a monthly basis. Currently we do this with our controllership clients and with our Virtual CFO services as requested. In this meeting, we focus on proper revenue recognition, as most clients calculate recognized revenue incorrectly. We then use that revenue recognition to adjust our projections moving forward. We're also able to forecast the client's financials more accurately because we can compare our forecasts from the previous month to what occurred in the present month.
In short, we use this meeting to shape the client's forecast and set expectations for the months ahead, which is extremely helpful for clients looking to scale in size.
The Cash Flow Meeting
Some of our clients use us to manage their cash flow through short-term cash flow forecasting (i.e., predicting cash flow approximately 13 weeks out). These meetings are typically shorter weekly calls that take place with someone on our team who is not acting as the client's Virtual CFO along with the client's internal accountant. After meeting with the accountant, we then provide a summary to the client.
Throughout our time offering cash flow management services, we have found that these meetings serve as great opportunities to keep clients on their toes regarding their Accounts Receivable. By speaking with them and analyzing their cash flow, we're able to determine areas of improvement and show the client the negative impact of late collections. The client can then better manage the Accounts Receivable process by executing tactics like following up on collections in a timely fashion.
Meeting with a client regularly about their cash flow is also an excellent way to get familiar with their business and how it's functioning. You are able to get "into the weeds" with their expenses through this service, and can then apply that knowledge to your creation of financial statements, which allows you to expedite your month-end close.
Meeting with your team is also an essential component of successfully serving your clientele. We find that there are many moving pieces, as well as several scheduled and impromptu meetings that take place with clients and different members of our team. Therefore, it's important that when offering our services, we take the time to ensure that our team is on the same page about a client. For example, since the Virtual CFO services we offer consist of a team of both a CPA acting as a client's CFO and an additional accountant, these two staff members must remain in conversation about their separate meetings with the client. The check-in meetings held with both parties help these team members ensure a seamless delivery of services to the client because both employees are using the same information to excel in their role.
It's important that you have a core set of meetings in place that reference the services you offer and adhere to a specific cadence (i.e., meeting time, length, and frequency). Having set meetings consistently helps maintain open lines of communication between your team and your client. However, it would be best if you kept in mind that while effective external meetings are a must, it's also essential that your in-house team meets regularly to maintain efficient processes and ensure client satisfaction. Doing so will allow them to deliver services to the best of their ability, thereby helping your client achieve their financial goals and, ultimately, extending the reach of your services while bolstering your client retention rates.