Replacing The Rainmaker | Ian Tonks

About Ian Tonks

Ian Tonks is a business development consultant and author of the book “Replacing the Rainmaker.” He provides coaching and consulting services to accounting firms, helping them implement practices to ensure their long-term business development success.

 

Interview Transcript:

Alan
Welcome back. I’m here today with Ian Tonks. He’s author of the book replacing the Rainmaker II and welcome to today’s show.

Ian
Thank you, thank you for having me.

Alan
And, you know, for the listeners here before we get into the book, can you give us a background of you know, your your journey in life up to date and actually what really inspired you to start into writing the book.

Ian
So born and raised in the UK, as may still be clear with my accent all these years later, moved to the States in 1987. After graduating with an undergraduate degree in Exercise Science, spent two years in the Caribbean as a tour guide for the National Park Service, and had an opportunity to work for the organization that later became Major League Soccer, was then referred to as North American Soccer in 1989. came on board before Major League Soccer was formed, and then worked for the organization that ran all of the youth development activities for Major League Soccer. The NFL and Jack Nicklaus has gone to bear international from 1989 through to 2006 2006, got married, decided I wanted to stay married, couldn’t travel 190,000 miles a year, and so took a job at Dominican University of California four miles down the street, and commuted back and forth to Dominican for three years. In 2009, I left the university and decided I want to work myself. And I started the process of auditioning for my own time started five DBAs under the heading of en Tonks companies LLC. One survived it was called Rev co solutions and six seven years later that ultimately evolved into replacing the Rainmaker, which is the title of the Book.

Alan
It’s interesting is you look back and the journey through life, I mean, at that soccer, helping the launch to the NFL here in, in North America, but 190,000 miles a year, is that.

Ian
Wow, 13 offices in the US. We were based in New York, I was based in California, all of our staff were recruited in the United Kingdom. So you put that together, and you can see how easy it is to run that many miles. Lots of frequent flyer points didn’t state didn’t pay for hotels, but the downside was an emotional toll on on family relationships and being able to commit to simple things like being able to play on a team or envisioning having a family and being at a PTA meeting. That was a life I could not have.

Alan
I can appreciate that. So so the book, you know, you started Repko work for a few years getting it was not just one but how many do you set for different business?

Ian
DBAs and it was a personal trainer to women in remission of breast cancer that was fit pink. I started a product development company developing sports, educational materials for recreational coaches called Easy coach. But rev co survived. It was essentially revenue generation business development, and cost reduction for professional service firms accounting law engineering, that type and that that was enough to pay the bills. But a fortuitous meeting some years later with a former CEO of Camelback changed my life. And that’s ultimately how replacing the Rainmaker was born.

Alan
Until let’s jump into replacing the Rainmaker, first of all the title, how did you come up with that?

Ian
So you’ve know a lot about accounting, the accounting industry, there are a number of baby boomers that are retiring and leaving behind them firms that are ill equipped to survive and grow from business development perspective, they have essentially carried business development in their firms. And I was hired by a San Francisco firm to do a practice combination campaign called calling 180 Plus, San Francisco based firms that they believed were prospects for acquisition. And I probably contacted five plus people who were at plus in age, who said call me back in five years. So it was clear that there was this commitment to stay in the business but the reason was no support structure behind them to allow that firm to thrive once they left. And so the story about replacing the Rainmaker is how ultimately, do you make business development firm wide priority in a firm?

Alan
You know, I’ll have to say there. So you picked in an industry that is not easy to change the CPAs attorneys are typically late adopters and professional service. But But how things been going so far, so far.

Ian
So good, so the journey was two years in the making. So while I was still working with an eclectic mix of clients, from aviation to human resources, from law through two Party Rentals, I was developing this content behind the scenes. It took six months to write the book, and then another six months to do develop the content 41 workshops which support 96 topics in the book, and then another year to actually get it to a form that could be digested by the public, which is perhaps the greatest challenge. And so the book was really the genesis of the idea. And it came from a meeting with the former CEO of Camelback, who suggested that while my generalist approach may pay the bills that while the world needs people that are well rounded, it rewards people that are well pointed. So he said, Pick one thing and do it well. So I picked accounting and business development.

Alan
Excellent. I’m visiting here today with the taxis after the wreck replaced in the Rainmaker. Ian, I need to take a quick break, and we’ll be right back after these messages.

Alan
Welcome back and missing here today with Ian Tonks, the author of the wreck replacing the Rainmaker. And in your first segment, we had your background, what led you up to doing the book, and then it’s primarily helping focused on the professional service firms. But in here we talk the book talks about that we shouldn’t be a wallflower. Can you tell me what exactly that means?

Ian
I think that’s a subtitle in the messaging chapter if I’m not mistaken. And so the essential premise is that accounting firms professional service firms across the board tend to blur into one another, they have very conservative messaging, look at the pictures on their websites to picture the Golden Gate Bridge or the city hall steps, conservative colors like dark purple and dark blue. They’re not really seeing anything unique. So there’s clarity around who they are and what they do. But what makes them different, I think is a different challenge. And so not being not being a wallflower speaks to the importance of actually getting your arms around your claims being clear about what makes you uniquely different, and how you are best positioned to win certain subset of clientele.

Alan
I love that. Now, I want to move on, though. Another part of the messaging for the book talks about how how important it is as you move through letting people know what exactly you do and how you differentiate that. How does a firm you know, differentiate if CPA firm or professional service firm? How do they best approach helping the public who are looking at the potential clients coming in differentiate, you know why they’re different than the next CPA down the road.

Ian
So there’s two parts of this is message and messenger from a message perspective. In the book, we talk about getting clarity around what clients want the sort of generic claims like responsiveness and affordability, and ease of access and utilization of technology. The second part is competitive analysis, understanding what your competitors do best, and ultimately finding those areas of disadvantage that you can position as your competitive advantage, which becomes the third part, claim speaks to the combination of what clients want, and your competitive advantage. So if you read a website or read a brochure, you shouldn’t be able to pass out the claims clearly enough to know this is your firm’s unique point of difference. The fifth part is the messenger piece, and that’s training accountants or professional service folks, to be able to lead a needs analysis with a client and understand how their needs connect to the things that your firm does best. And the process we use to do that is called ISBN issues solution benefit narrative. We create three questions entry, elaborative, and evaluative questions to really get to the root of the client’s need and how it connects to the things that your firm does best. Think of it like Guided Discovery. And then the last part we talk about is elevator pitch. How often are you asked in 15 seconds or less to tell someone who you are, what you do and what makes you different. So getting your arms around that message, I think is important. And those six things combined, make up the messaging chapter in the book.

Alan
I have to say you’re very you have a very unique gift in the way that you’re able to clearly articulate processes and put those into place it. You said earlier that you broke your book into 96 subsets. Now are you teaching seminars or workshops on you know how to how to replace rainmakers and in firms or?

Ian
So this is all relatively new, a About a month ago, I went to the AME conference in New Orleans, which is the associations for marketing professionals in accounting, and spoke at DFK internationals conference. I’ve just started the process of marketing the book, so time will tell, but the supporting resource to the book is an online on demand workshop series. So the hope is that I don’t physically have to be somewhere to deliver the content as I used to be. And so of the 96 topics. 41 of them are in one hour self study modules. Each of those has two activities, a continuing education assignment and a quiz. So it’s intended to be a self study resource that accounting firms can use from day one when they’re relatively new to be accountant walks in the door straight from college, we start the process of training them to be business development, capable on their first day, not when it’s too late when they’re knocking the partner door all these years later.

Alan
he and I need to take a quick break. We’re visiting here with the intox. He’s the author of the book replacing the Rainmaker. Stay tuned, we’ll be right back after these messages.

Alan
Welcome back and bit in the air with tea on tongs. He’s author of the book replacing the Rainmaker. And in the first few segments, we talked about your background, how you had to give up a great career and the helping the create the National Football League for soccer in North America, and then moving over into you and working Dominican University and then launching for business by businesses live at once. Oh my gosh, wow.

Ian
So so very unsuccessful. I might add.

Alan
Well, but you know, life is interesting, because that’s part of the experience, we learn what works, what doesn’t work. And and then you hit in the midst of that, you know, and natural strength with with Repco. And culminating in the book that you put together replacing the Rainmaker. And so I I salute you that young, a lot of people are afraid to even try and move out there. But you seem, this seems to be really you your element in in giving back and working with organizations and individuals of how do I get my brand awareness out? And I want to spend a few minutes talking about what are some of the most important things individuals or firms can do as they strive to become more competitive?

Ian
Well, I think there’s two things again, if I go back to a message, getting clarity around who you are, what you do, what makes you different, the foundation of business development lies there. From message then transferring those that understanding into the messenger. So training, training folks from day one, how to do a needs assessment, how to research your prospect, ultimately, how to build relationships, how to build like TRUST and CREDIBILITY quickly, from the needs assessment, how to connect the needs of your clients to the things that you do best as a firm. And then ultimately, you talked about process. How do you assuage the fear, uncertainty and doubt that comes with any major or significant commitment, and building relationships so that while you may enter through the door of tax audit, or some other form of financial service, that you build on that relationship, and ultimately leverage the commitment to become that individuals trusted advisor?

Alan
You know, I would say that developing relationships is not always easy. Often their approach was similar with a skepticism like, you know, what’s the agenda here, when you’re working with individual companies are even do outline this in your book? How do you put the person at ease? When the professional advisor is trying to strike up a good relationship and have that trust?

Ian
There’s probably a more complex answer, but the simple answer is to remove your own agenda. And walk in with a clean slate and ask questions to better understand the root of the individual’s needs, wants and fears and once you have that sense of understanding, and it, it transcends just the individual extends to their family, their business, ultimately, who they aspire to be where they want to live. You can be a significant contributor to that story. So I think the number one thing is teaching people to listen. Ask smart, intelligent, thoughtful questions, and then ultimately have clarity around what you do best and connect your client As needs to those capabilities.

Alan
Excellent, excellent advice there. I want to move back into the most important quality that you feel a person can possess when they’re practicing leadership skills.

Ian
Well, I’d say that most people would say vision is the stock answer. But in my experience, having run a company, and being around other companies that are successful, I think it’s, it’s a little left and right brain, I think you need to have vision, the quote, without vision, the dream, never wakes is probably a truism. But the reality is, you also have to be able to build the bridge to get there. So I think great leaders have a capacity to both picture the future, but also establish the roadmap to enable the team to ultimately build a bridge to get to the intended destination.

Alan
Now, this is a kind of a tough question, but I understand sphere. When you’re looking into the future, say the next five or 10 years, and I’m gonna lay the parameter in in the US, you have this baby boomer workforce for every three people retiring, you got one entering the workforce? How do you see that impacting the way things are done today? And if you were to cast a vision and individual comes to you, says he and tell me what should I be doing here? How would you? How would you help to give them that vision and sense of direction?

Ian
Well, I think there’s certainly a changing marketplace. So fast forward five to 10 years globalization, technological innovation, you know, the transition in generational shift, those are market shifts. I think, in the industry of professional services, though, we’ll see increased commoditization, we’ll see a race to the bottom from a pricing perspective, which drives one very significant thing specifically in the world of accounting, which is the day of the small local, the lot, the small, local will become a large local, the large local, become a small, regional, small, regional, becomes large, regional, regional, becomes national. So I think you’ll see a lot of practice combination in the industry, so there are less purveyors of service. But those purveyors will be more broad, and specific, if that makes sense. So there’ll be both a mile wide and a mile deep. That’s what I foresee for the industry. But in terms of the skill set to navigate that challenge, I think, if I were to counsel a professional service firm, today, the commitment is very much that when you knock on the partner door, you’ve established three skill sets, technical competence, your ability to lead or manage others, and your ability to develop business. That conversation should start on day one. When a prospective accountant walks in the door, it’s too late when they get to senior manager to ask the question, can you grow a book? So asked that question from day one, given the skill set the knowledge and the tools they need to be successful? And I think all boats will rise with the tide.

Alan
You know, it’s a very, very well put now as you as you look at replacing the Rainmaker, you’re gonna see some people have a real natural strength in one area and and you know, there’s there’s a diverse crowd, but when you when you look at, you know, what confirms best be doing today, when you outline the vision of commoditization, and, you know, the constant changing industry, how can they best prepare?

Ian
Well, I think the simple answer is to be both broad and narrow, focused. To be narrow focus, they need to pick industries or services or areas of specialty, that they can dedicate more of their resources to. But to be broad at the same time, they need to add service sets, other financial service tools to make the accounting firm, the professional service firm, the One Stop destination for that client.

Alan
Ian, it’s been a pleasure having you today. We had this on the show. Quickly, how does a person reach you?

Ian
Or you can reach me online at replacing the rainmaker.com via email at E and O replacing the rainmaker.com or via phone at 415-801-2664?

Alan
Thanks, Tim. We’ll be right back after these messages.

 

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This transcript was generated by software and may not accurately reflect exactly what was said.

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Ian Tonks on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
Ian Tonks

Ian Tonks is a business development consultant and author of the book “Replacing the Rainmaker.” He provides coaching and consulting services to accounting firms, helping them implement practices to ensure their long-term business development success.

Alan Olsen on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
Alan Olsen

Alan is managing partner at Greenstein, Rogoff, Olsen & Co., LLP, (GROCO) and is a respected leader in his field. He is also the radio show host to American Dreams. Alan’s CPA firm resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and serves some of the most influential Venture Capitalist in the world. GROCO’s affluent CPA core competency is advising High Net Worth individual clients in tax and financial strategies. Alan is a current member of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (S.I.E.P.R.) SIEPR’s goal is to improve long-term economic policy. Alan has more than 25 years of experience in public accounting and develops innovative financial strategies for business enterprises. Alan also serves on President Kim Clark’s BYU-Idaho Advancement council. (President Clark lead the Harvard Business School programs for 30 years prior to joining BYU-idaho. As a specialist in income tax, Alan frequently lectures and writes articles about tax issues for professional organizations and community groups. He also teaches accounting as a member of the adjunct faculty at Ohlone College.

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