As a partner at Avail CPA, Obed Maurice CA, CPA is basically a financial hype man for his clients, and that’s why we were excited to host him on Episode 3 of chats with chata. It’s certainly no small feat that he founded Maxim Management, one of Canada’s first completely virtual accounting firms, and successfully merged his business with Avail CPA. This success is followed by his most recent venture: his software company, CliQue Advisor. On top of it all, or rather, the foundation of it all, is Obed’s dedication to his clients’ success behind the desk, in the backyard with the kids, and even on the beach under a Californian sunset.
When it comes to his clients, Obed is always considering connection and communication. “I’m a passionate guy,” Obed says, “So I think ‘How is our relationship going? [Does my client] trust me? Am I part of their team?’ If you think about a sports team, or some of your friends, you know that you can fight or disagree, but you have a high level of trust [in each other]. Clients are excited to have me on their team.”
It’s up to us to push the boundaries of what we’re trying to accomplish.
In his practice, and for his team at Avail, Obed’s commitment to “serving the absolute hell” out of his clients isn’t just a personal preference, it’s strategy. “The traditional services just didn’t work for me,” he says. “Clients were coming and going, they were dropping their stuff off six months late. I wondered ‘Why are we telling people what they should’ve done six months ago?’”
Obed remembers, “Those early years of cloud accounting, I would offer financial deliverables (like monthly statements and reports) for all my clients. [When] we put them on the cloud and we started to monitor how often people would access them, we were really surprised when the answer was almost never.”
“I think that was a huge pivot point in my cloud accounting career: that I had misjudged the value [of our offering]. In most cases, what we provided was not the deliverable that [the client wanted] but it wasn’t until we got the evidence and took a moment to reflect that we could start to change things a little.”
While Obed’s team was working extremely hard to put together impeccable, complex deliverables, clients were not experiencing the value of all that labour. “When I go back to those days, I think people should know that where we are today came from a place of a pretty high level of dissatisfaction [for both financial professionals and clients].”
We want to make sure we understand the problem that we’re solving, and that we’re solving the right problem for the right person.
To make a change in his practice, Obed changed his philosophy: “It’s important to think about what kind of lives we’re creating for ourselves, in our practices and for our clients. It’s up to us to push the boundaries of what we’re trying to accomplish,” he says. “With a little bit of reflection, we can examine what we want out of our lives and out of our profession. We should actually be really excited about it; the world is our oyster!”
An integral initiative that Obed and his team implemented to build positive and profitable relationships with clients is what he calls the “discovery” process. This discovery process ultimately leads to excellent service which results in high client satisfaction. Clients stick around longer and depend on the firm as a cornerstone for their success. Discovery is part of the client onboarding process and it also ensures that the firm is acquiring best-fit clients. “We want to make sure we understand the problem that we’re solving, and that we’re solving the right problem for the right person,” says Obed.
You really need to understand why someone is sitting in front of you.
“One of the first questions we ask in our discovery process is ‘Why did you guys start your business?’ There’s always some underlying goal. You really need to understand why someone is sitting in front of you,” says Obed. In his experience, he’s noticed that entrepreneurs tend to desire flexibility and value physical and financial health. He jokes that no one enters his office wanting to “work 70 hours a week, have no life, and barely make any money.” But sometimes, there are specific dreams that clients want to fulfill, and learning what those are is also a critical part of the discovery process.
Obed and his team leveraged their discovery process to completely transform one of their client’s lives for the better. “We had a client who hadn’t taken a vacation longer than a week in 30 years. One of her dreams was to go out East for the fall, so we set her up on the cloud and she [and her husband] went out there for a month,” he recalls. “She was able to do payroll and all the stuff to stay connected to her business. She had a great time! And now they’re selling the business because they realize how cool the world is.”
“That’s a monster deliverable,” he admits. “In 30 years, no one had ever spent the time to create that outcome for her. But we never [would have known] what [her dream was] until we had those conversations.”
Getting a new piece of technology into a client’s hands really comes from that ongoing process of discovery.
This kind of personalized service that’s based on acknowledging each clients’ specific goals and lifestyle preferences is part of all onboarding at the firm, even when rolling out new tech and apps to clients. Before offering anything new to his clients, Obed asks, “How is this going to make your life better?”
He says, “Getting a new piece of technology into a client’s hands really comes from that ongoing process of discovery. [Having] like, a mid-year reflection point: how are things going, what’s working, what’s not working?” During that conversation, Obed suggests saying: “We’re really excited about [this new app] and frame it as ‘beta’ testing. Keep it super low pressure, get it into your client’s hands and let them monkey around a little. Measure what works and what doesn’t.”
It’s this consistent communication and meaningful connection that keeps clients coming back to Obed’s services and Avail CPA. And, though he knows that the task of engaging with clients in a deeper and more emotionally intensive way can be challenging, Obed is sure that “If I can do it, anyone can do it.”
Obed’s final words of wisdom:
“Being the leader of the firm, [I need to be] okay with screwing up. I don’t have to be perfect. I’m willing to take a risk. Oftentimes, how we respond to people when they’ve had a failure is one of the biggest ways we can develop a relationship. If someone screws up, how do you accept them? We take an approach that, ‘We expect you guys to take risks, it’s actually one of your KPIs: how much failure are you experiencing? Because if you’re not [failing], you’re not challenging yourself.”
chats with chata is an ongoing “unwebinar” series featuring financial professionals and business owners who are disrupting the status quo in the accounting or entrepreneurial landscape and adapting to a new era of data-centered growth strategy.