You’re Not Burger King

Take a walk with me down memory lane, and tell me if you can recognize which advertiser infused the airwaves with this catchy jingle:

“Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce

Special orders don’t upset us

All we ask is that you let us serve it your way”

The answer, of course, is Burger King. For years, they relied on their slogan, “Have it Your Way,” to stand apart from industry leader McDonalds. And there’s no doubt they were different. (When I was a kid, I hated the pickles, onions, and mustard McDonalds slapped on their burgers, and I grumbled at having to wait for them to make my burger plain. Now I’m a grownup and I don’t have time to waste on special orders, so on the rare occasions when I eat there, I get a regular burger, take off the top bun, and use a french fry to scrape off the offending vegetables.)

You would think that with a slogan as appealing as “Have it Your Way,” Burger King would rocket to the top of the market, right? Well, they never made it. In fact, now that they’ve replaced “Have it Your Way” with that creepy Burger King character skulking around through the night, they’ve fallen behind perennial #3 Wendys.

What about you? Are you losing focus trying to let your clients “have it their way,” even when it conflicts with your core business and core value? The liberating reality is, you’re not Burger King. You can succeed even when you don’t let clients have it their way. In fact, you and even your clients will probably be happier if you don’t.

Here are three stories for you to ponder:

(1) Yesterday, I had lunch with an EA from Pittsburgh whose firm prepares 1000 returns a year (all of which he personally reviews) and who’s struggling to succeed adding financial services. Over the course of the lunch, I discovered that he was contemplating offering health insurance to his clients (to help implement changes due to Obamacare), and even managed much of their P&C insurance needs!

Here was a guy in dreadful need of focus. There’s no way he can do a competent job of managing all those needs! (To his credit, he realized this truth.) My advice, for what it was worth, was to partner with outside professionals in each area other than tax, and be happy with a share of a greater revenue pool that those qualified professionals would generate.

(2) At that same lunch, an estate planning attorney griped that he wants to focus on estate planning and financial services. But his partner occasionally “dared” him to accept litigation assignments, which he invariably accepted and then regretted.

This one was easy. I asked him if he was 12 years old. When he said “no,” I told him to grow the hell up and say “no” when his stupid partner “dared” him to do something dumb — especially something that dragged their firm’s focus away from their core business plan.

(3) Finally, last month at the Tampa RoundTable, one of our All-Stars members told me he struggled (and sometimes stalled) with new clients, unsure if he should put them on monthly maintenance agreements (which he prefers) or let them pay for services a la carte (which they sometimes request). I told him he would find life a lot easier if he just said, “I bill all new clients on a monthly basis, and if you want the benefit of my proactive planning, this is how it works.” I realize it takes courage and confidence to say something like that. But when you see how willing clients are to follow your lead, you’ll kick yourself for ever letting a client dictate to you how to run your business!

If you’re looking to grow your business, you simply can’t just let clients “have it their way.” I’m not saying to shortchange them or disrespect them. But you’re going to have to create your own systems for fulfilling work, and sometimes those systems will have to take precedence over your clients’ wishes. You’re also going to have to pick and choose which pies you want to stick your finger into, which pies you want to just supervise, and which pies you want to outsource completely. Then, let your clients know what value they get from letting you do it your way — and deliver that value to delight them!

Frank Sinatra used to sing “I did it MYYYYYYYYYY WAAAAAAAAAAAAAY.” Great. if your client is Frank Sinatra, he gets it his way. But if your client is anyone else, do it your way. And don’t regret it!