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Are You Really a Connoisseur?

By Joey Havens

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CeCe, my wife, has a reputation for making outlandish and sometimes thought-provoking statements (being extremely cautious here) which at times leave us laughing for hours. Recently, our daughter Haley and I were talking about coffee and some of the brands and roasts that we like. 

CeCe, hearing the conversation, spoke up with a statement about her favorite flavored coffee. We explained we were discussing true specialty coffee versus some of the artificially flavored coffee which she enjoys.

When I asked if she had become a coffee connoisseur CeCe quickly stated, “Well I do drink a cup every day.” We started laughing and CeCe joined in as we all knew her experience was based on our Keurig assortment.

One week later, we’re at the airport and suddenly, she’s craving coffee. She proceeded to the coffee vendor and ordered a latte. Then, she turned to me and said, “What is a latte? I know its coffee, but what is it?” I smiled and said, “The coffee connoisseur is alive and well!” 

My permission to write this blog came when she planted her flag on being a coffee connoisseur simply because she drinks a cup every day. I did ask her if I could share this in a blog and I’m really hoping she remembers that conversation right now. Ha!

This conversation on coffee reminded me of how quickly we (as firms) can claim to be subject matter experts and advisers in numerous industries and services. Our “CeCe statement” might be based on having one client in this industry or having performed this service once, and now we are subject matter experts, obviously. 

Does our constant waving the SME flag over more industries than we can possibly have depth provide any negatives to our long-term growth and brand? I think there are some unintended consequences that we might experience by being too broad in hopes of growth or from fear of missing an opportunity.

By being too broad…

  • Do we miss the opportunity to become authentic SMEs in areas that would provide sustained growth and higher profitability?
  • Do we miss the opportunity to bring significant value or worth for our client?
  • Do we become an easy target for the competition to take the entire relationship by providing real advisory and valuable insights from their depth of knowledge and experience?
  • Do we encourage commodification of our services by not making them distinctive with SME knowledge and experience?
  • Do we increase turnover and stress by having our team members working across too many industries or services?
  • Do we remain historians and reporters rather than advisers because we do not have the depth of knowledge to be aware, predict and adapt to the client’s hard trends?
  • Does our overall client experience suffer or become very mundane due to our generalist approach versus a specialist focus?

These types of reflections are hard because they cause us to question our assumptions for strategy, business model and client service. Legacy success might suggest that if we have a wider net, we will catch more opportunities. The point of today’s blog is that we have arrived at a point in public accounting that simply drinking a cup of coffee every day does not make us connoisseurs. Our clients are looking for connoisseurs to help select the right coffee! Coffee for thought, try a sip!