My 6 must-have’s for my professional services business……
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As we get busier and we no longer have lives that fit into a 9-5 framework, meetings don’t take place in conference rooms, our priorities and perceptions are changing- life isn’t split between personal and work – they now exist in tandem.
Understanding this; understanding an office can be portable, decisions can be made on weekends or in the evening and that people can have a global market from their living room is equally beneficial to businesses, employees and customers alike.
There are always at least three stakeholders in every business interaction – the customer, the ‘frontline’ member of staff and the overall business. Only when the needs of all these stakeholders are met and when each can lean on and also elevate one another does the business really work.
From personal experience I know that the flexibility of working within the Berlad Graham business structure has been beneficial both financially and in terms of a work/life balance. From the feedback I am receiving now these benefits are also being passed onto my clients and professional contacts.
The involvement and harnessing of technology has really supported and played a key role in this. I do not profess to be a business development expert but in my first 6 months of self-employment I have realised that modern professional service businesses thrive with the use of:
- Social Media
- Facebook and LinkedIn accounts meant that clients can contact me directly and refer other potential clients to me with a “tag” or a private message or comment when people are asking for recommendations. I have had several people make contact via my personal Facebook page/messenger to make enquiries to see if I can help them in their property matters. These are generally people who I know or who I am aware of. Including some people who I have encountered professionally in the past.
- Clients also feel quite comfortable leaving reviews or sharing articles that appear on Facebook about my business. I have no need to distribute any professional advertising materials because this has created a relatively continuous stream of work. My professional contacts on LinkedIn also seem happy to endorse my skill sets within my profile. EXAMPLES: Saturday 10th March 2018. By lunchtime I had received three messages on Facebook; one asking if I would mind someone sending their friend my number as they were asking on social media for a recommendation for a solicitor. The other two asking if they were able to instruct me in their respective sale and purchase matters.
- Growing Network
- I have contacts in local estate agents or financial advisors’ offices who know they can contact me on my Facebook messenger for an estimate of costs even when I am on the other side of the world. This has also been the case for potential new clients who are my private contacts.
- I am fortunate enough to have a very supportive network; both in life and in the world of social media. This means that my business posts are often commented on or shared by people and this exposes the posts to thousands of people without a requirement for me to pay for any advertising. This, in turn, allows me to keep my overheads down and my costs competitive.
Julie Heskett, Lillingtons Estate Agents “We both strive to exceed our clients expectations and are often speaking to each other outside of office hours trying to move things forward or solve problems which unfortunately crop up from time to time. I guarantee no matter what time of evening , or where in the world she is, when I contact her, she always responds-with a smile. Always a pleasure!”
- Skype and video calling
This allows me to have meetings with the staff and partners at our head office and with other consultants and clients. The ability to see the people you are dealing with even if they are in another part of the country or in some cases the world means that it doesn’t matter where my office is based or where I am that day. As long as I have Wi-Fi I am still able to connect with my contacts.
- SOS Connect Case Management System
- The innovative nature of the system coupled with the way that our main office works means that I do not really need to keep paper files. Everything is accessible to me remotely from wherever I am in the world. My living room, a local coffee shop, on holiday in Mexico…….
- Our administrative team scans in physical mail and attaches it to the online case management system and our email accounts are also linked to the system so with the click of a few buttons we can access the most up to date position on each and every one of our files and therefore allows the swift provision of that information to other solicitors, estate agents or clients.
- Work Only Smartphone
- I operate a work mobile telephone which means that my clients have a direct line to me and I can respond quickly to enquiries as they arise. My emails arrive on that telephone, calls, voicemails, text messages can all be received and sent by me wherever I am. That is proving to be very popular as it means that everyone involved in the transaction “waste” less time trying to explain to a receptionist the nature of their call- they just ask me their questions or provide me with the information I have requested.
- It also means that I can turn that phone off when I am busy with real life and the important things in it. My clients are always advised that I will respond to enquiries as soon as it is practicable. It is made clear to them that I do work weekends and evenings when necessary and also that I have a life. Clients totally get that if it is explained to them from the outset.
- Interestingly, my work telephone very rarely rings. If it does, it is usually a new client or a regular referrer calling about a new client. My clients and contacts are provided with regular, speedy updates on matters (generally by email) when some progress is made on their file and consequently they rarely feel the need to call for an update.
“As a Mortgage broker, I’ve submitted hundreds of Mortgage applications and, in turn, dealt with hundreds of Solicitors. What frustrates me more than anything is that, in order to speak to a Solicitor, I need to overcome the interrogation from the receptionist which often takes so long that the issue could have been resolved way before I manage to speak to the Solicitor – that’s if I managed to get through! It’s not often we have to call Solicitors so when we do, it’s generally because there’s an issue to deal with which needs addressing immediately. Solicitors though, just don’t seem to have the same haste as we do. As a business, we pride ourselves on working with our clients at all times during every part of the process and inevitably that means talking calls at late hours and early mornings. Laura is without doubt the only Solicitor I’ve ever come across who echoes our ethos. She’s breaks the mould and delivers simply the best service I’ve ever received. Truly magnificent service from a wonderful, caring person. If every conveyancing Solicitor was like Laura, our industry would be magical!! Nick D’Silva, FIdenti
- Work/life balance
- The business model allows me to set my own “office hours” and this suits my clients well. I can see them in evenings or at weekends and I can give myself some time off through the week to compensate for that. I can reply to emails while I wait for the kettle to boil or while I am in an appointment at the hairdressers.
- I am able to see clients at evenings or weekends. This is much more convenient for them as it means that they do not need to take time off work to attend an office during the usual office hours. I manage my own diary entirely and that means I am able to take time off to do the things I need to do in my own life and still fit in all the necessary appointments with clients.
Case Study: Clients who both work shifts and struggle to get time off together (especially during the usual 9-5 office hours). I was able to attend their home address for an appointment on a Saturday morning. This allowed them to save their annual leave for the times they really need it…for holidays or for moving house.
“Laura provided a quick and extremely efficient service, and often answered my email queries well outside of normal office hours. Laura understands the stresses that go with a house purchase, and went that extra mile to ensure these were minimised. If other local solicitors worked as efficiently as Laura, I’d bet that the usual 6 – 8 week turnaround time would be at least halved. Very impressed with her efficiency, communications, value for money, and understanding – thankyou!” Andrew Wilkinson
My move to self-employment was to enable me to take back some control of my time and also my income. Working in this way has certainly allowed me to have a better grasp on them both. It is also clear from the recent feedback that my clients feel that it is beneficial to them too.
“My partner and I have just bought our first house, our mortgage advisor recommended Laura from Berlad Graham as she is highly rated and affordable. We emailed Laura for a quote and and she was on par with our cheapest quote so far but also recommended so we thought choosing Laura was a no brainier. From the first email until our last, Laura has been extremely efficient and professional making the process as stress free as possible. We felt vulnerable as First time buyers but Laura had our backs every step of the way and answered all of our questions no matter how silly we thought they were. I have already recommended Laura to friends and family and will be sure to use her again in the future. The service was above and beyond, we can’t recommend her enough. Sam Curran, Cheshire