The SmartCenter Blog

Tools, tips and insights for how to manage your tax business the smart way.

How to Profit from Holiday Socializing (and still make your family happy)
December 18, 2015

By Chris Basom

Don’t be confused – I’m certainly not promoting “socializing” - I know it takes 12 hours a day 7 days a week to build the practice of your dreams! But the reality is your family (and specifically your significant other) will demand some time and attention between now and January 4th (when you return to the office).

This blog is all about making sure those hours serve “double duty” – that the time you spend having Holiday Fun represents both time invested with your family and time leveraged to build your business. (I fully recognize how broken that thinking is and am considering founding a 12-step program for the afflicted!)

One of the rules in our office is we don’t hold a meeting – ANY meeting without a clear understanding of the point – there must be a reason to get together, and I want to know it in advance. This serves several purposes.

  • It helps me focus on the task at hand; I know why I’m there, so I don’t waste the time. (I also get the chance to decide if this could be better accomplished in a memo. Don’t get together if you don’t need to – lots of Man-hours” are spent wasting away in meeting hell.)

     
  • I get the opportunity to prepare – nothing worse than showing up completely useless or worse, as a detractor to progress. One of my favorite sayings is that “luck is preparedness meeting opportunity.” And I am a firm believer in that axiom.

     
  • I’ll know my role, and how to behave. Some meetings I lead, some I attend as a contributor, and sometimes I’m just there to learn. Knowing what I’m supposed to do – who I’m supposed to be in that place, at that time, sets me up for greater success.

That said, you may not be the party animal you used to be. You may be wondering what “meetings” I’m talking about. And when it comes to the holidays it always feels like someone else is deciding where we’re headed and what we’ll be doing.

Of course, your family will have traditions or individual agendas when it comes to how they expect you to spend your time – but you can have some input. It will probably be welcomed!



Check out these opportunities to jingle in the mingle:

  • Office building party – many commercial buildings hold holiday open houses or tenant appreciation days.

     
  • Your church – holiday gatherings and events will be plentiful, attend the ones that fit your family.

     
  • Community events – like tree lightings, craft fairs, musical presentations and charity auctions are plentiful during the holidays.

     
  • Your neighborhood “block party” – connect with your neighbors, meet your kids neighborhood friends.

     
  • Family and friend’s parties. It might not be your family or even your friends – but the invitations will come, and I urge you to accept.

Here-to-fore you may have been dragged out of your cozy home to these events. Or passed on invitations because you weren’t confident they’d be “worth the effort.” Besides, Nakatomi Plaza is under siege (again) and you need to make sure the good guy saves the city. 

All of that has changed. Armed with a purpose and total preparedness, you have found new motivation! There is now a reason to attend. You can advance your business agenda, and make others happy by participating. (There will be no time wasted as long as you’re in charge.) No matter the event, you can work your magic and use these gatherings to “do some business.”

So, what’s the purpose you’ll be working to achieve? Other than the obvious “you might meet your next great client” – what else can you be doing at these events that could translate to business success? Let’s identify what strategic and tactical objectives you can accomplish at these holiday get-togethers:

1)  Soliciting clients – (Right – this is why you’ve avoided these events in the past.) But change your perspective. Don’t throw a line in the water and motor through the crowd hoping to get a strike, and don’t get cornered by someone who wants an hour’s worth of free tax advice. Look at this more like “filtering” through the crowd to find out if someone there matches your ideal client profile. Not everyone gets to be your client – but you don’t want to miss them if they also attend. So make it a point to meet as many people as you can. Only spend extended time when you resonate with someone.

 

2)  Recruiting seasonal employees – Again, it takes a special person to work in your office. Gone are your days of hiring anyone who isn’t otherwise employed. You are the employer of excellence, not the last stop for the unemployable. When you are meeting the other party guests make a mental note of people who fit the attitude you want around you – and then find out what they’re doing now, what they enjoy, and what their availability is. They might know someone who would be a good candidate...if they aren’t that candidate themselves. You could start your ask like this, “I’m looking for some help at my office this tax season...” And then see where it goes.

 

3)  Strengthening your referral network – Your clients need all kinds of help to get through their day. And a lot of that help is outside of your expertise. You may be able to help your clients and these other party guests by making some introductions after the fact. The obvious targets are complementary (not competitive) financial service professionals. Lawyers, bankers, etc. But don’t forget the butcher, baker, and candlestick maker. Your clients all use plumbers, carpet cleaners and trades people. They can be as valuable a resource to your clients as you are (given the circumstance). And remember – the person you’re talking with may know the person you are looking for. You could open with “My clients are always asking me if I know a good...”  And then see who comes up.

The accomplishment of any of these goals would make for a successful outing. Walking away from any of these gatherings with a new potential client, possible employee, or referral partner is a WIN. Having these goals will give you focus and purpose at the party – this is kind of like “gamification” of an important task - it makes both completing the task and attending the event fun for you!

Back to our meeting rules – Be Prepared! As a former Boy Scout, this is an easy concept for me to embrace. But in the context of a holiday party, what does it mean? It is important to identify the points of preparation before you show up to increase your opportunity for success. Here are the issues to prepare prior to arrival:

 

a)  Know your Ideal Client Profile – review it a couple times so that it is clear in your mind. Clarity is power. Know your Value Proposition – be able to quickly and comfortably explain why your Ideal Client will benefit from working with you (See our Referral Marketing Course if you need help with this step)

 

b)  Know what you need in HELP – have a job description in mind for each seasonal employee you are looking for. Along with that job description write down the attributes that person will need to be successful in that job. (See this post for a sample position profile)

 

c)  Make a list – of the referral partners you are looking for. These are the services you don’t want to or can’t provide to your clients that they ask you about. That doesn’t mean you wouldn’t add someone with a skill that isn’t on your list, but you want to know (top of mind) the services you most want to find.

 

d)  Put some business cards in your pocket - put a pen in your pocket (no pocket protector, please). This will help you be ready to exchange contact info when you find a solution (in the form of one of the party guests).

 

e)  Comb you hair – and choose your attire carefully. You want to put your best foot forward. So think about the gathering – who you will be meeting. Err on the side of being OVER dressed, not underdressed. (Your significant other will appreciate it as well).

 

f)  “Shine your shoes” – in other words, pay attention to the details. As you know from your accounting career “the devil is in the details.”

Now we are prepared to face the world – looking good and feeling like we’re ready to get to work! My oldest daughter’s Kindergarten teacher used to say that she wanted the kids to show up “ready to play” and keeping that in mind really helped my wife and I get Deni ready for each day. Do the same – you’ll have a better outcome!

So we’re “on purpose” and prepared for the task at hand. Only one last step to our meeting rules. We need to know what our role is, as that will guide and inform our behavior. Your role in all of these “meetings” is not to lead it (unless it’s your party) – so you are probably attending as a contributor or just to “learn” (enjoy). With this in mind, here are some “how to behave” pointers:

  1. Your attitude needs to be congenial and helpful. The host, or other guests, may need help finding a seat, carrying something, or cleaning up a spill. Be attentive to others needs and be ready to pitch-in.

     
  2. One drink (if you are going to drink at all). Remember, you are on a mission, let’s not jeopardize it by becoming the “life of the party”! No lampshades for hats, or tables for dance floors. You have this one chance to make a first impression.

     
  3. As a “learner”, ask more questions than you make statements. You are here to find your ideal client, your next office superstar, or a great referral partner. You’ll have more success asking questions and listening than you will by talking.

     
  4. Stand instead of sitting (if appropriate and applicable), it’s much easier to accomplish your objectives if you’re mobile rather than stationary.

     
  5. Leave your phone at home. You are already with your significant other, who else could be trying to reach you? And nothing looks less approachable than someone checking email…

And there it is! Instead of avoiding these public-displays-of-togetherness, you can participate fully and enthusiastically. You have your purpose, you are properly prepared, and a clear definition of your role. You can arrive with confidence, interact with care and compassion, and leave behind a great impression.

These social situations can be very helpful to you in building your ideal practice – so get out there this year and practice! Happy holidays to you and yours from all of us at SmartCenter and TaxProU!

About Chris Basom

Chris is an avid soccer fan, sailor, and certified scuba diver. When he's not helping tax pros with practice management, he's also the managing partner of a tax firm in Orange County CA. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn.