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Why won’t you talk to me?

One of the most frustrating things about modern business is the apparent poor communication between business owners and colleagues and/or clients. This seems to be a ridiculous statement when, like never before we have so many avenues of communication open to us: email, texting, telephone, social media, instant messaging etc. The problem lies in the fact that few business owners document and use a communication system.

I think we all know that the key to successful business dealings is communication. If you search Google for this topic, you will find an endless number of pages – it’s a popular theme! But how do you achieve successful communication? You need a system that’s how! A communication system will ensure that everyone “talks” to each other and in business, this is crucial. Here’s how we do it here at e-BAS Accounts:

Our Communication System (for colleagues & clients)

1. Establish the following at the beginning (this is included in clients’ engagement contracts):

  • Best time to connect: which days, time of day etc.
  • Preferred method of contact: email, text, telephone, video conference, in person etc.
  • How often to meet/connect: daily, weekly, monthly, bi-monthly etc.
  • Agreed turn-around time to answer emails/phone messages: same day, 12 hours, 24 hours, 48 hours, one week etc

2. Meetings are compulsory:

  • Face-to-face meetings should be compulsory! Meet together monthly as a minimum. Colleagues can meet more regularly to discuss client projects e.g. weekly.
  • Use an agenda at every meeting. Agendas will stop things falling through the cracks. Here is our agenda template (feel free to use/change as required) e-BAS Accounts Meeting Agenda Template
  • Meetings can be scheduled the end of each meeting (see agenda).
  • If you need to meet via video conferencing, try these tools:
  1. Go To Meeting
  2. Vyew
  3. Free Conference Call
  4. Any Meeting
  5. Big Marker
  6. Skype
  7. Meeting Burner

3. Use a project management system for client projects:

  • Employees/contractors must use our project management software (TeamworkPM) when planning and creating tasks for client projects. Time spent on tasks is also recorded within the software.
  • Employees can easily see expected project completion dates within TeamworkPM and can plan their workloads accordingly.
  • Clients are encouraged to use TeamworkPM via their login details to upload important documents and leave messages for their bookkeeper.
  • All client data is to be handled with TeamworkPM – no exceptions! This ensures that everything relating to clients is in one place and can be found easily and quickly.

4. Feedback:

  • Employees are to meet with the manager once per week to report on client job status and hours used so far.
  • Clients are to be sent job status updates every two weeks via email.
  • Clients and all others involved, are to be sent copies of meeting notes, agendas and/or telephone communications. This data is kept within each client’s file within TeamworkPM.

Communication Tips:

Here are some things to think about to help you improve communication within your business:

  • Avoid using industry jargon when talking to clients
  • Don’t assume anything! If in doubt, always ask!
  • Put all questions for clients into one email (collect them over the course of the project and discuss during a meeting or send prior to completing the project) – don’t send endless emails to clients about the same topic – they are busy people too!
  • Always send copies of meeting notes/agenda to clients and colleagues after meetings and phone calls.
  • Answer emails/voice mail in a timely manner and/or at the time you agreed to answer them at the beginning of the contract. Not answering messages conveys the message “you don’t matter to me.”
  • If you know that you won’t be able to answer messages, set up auto responders for your email system and/or leave an automated message on your voice mail to explain why you cannot answer the message and when you will be answering it.
  • Be aware that sometimes words and phrases can be misunderstood. For this reason, always review meeting discussions before they end and send notes via email after telephone calls so that misunderstandings can be avoided.

This is the communication system we use here at e-BAS Accounts. It works for us and helps to keep us organised but more importantly it ensures that we have a great working relationship with our clients and colleagues. I hope that some of these ideas will assist you in your daily work 🙂