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The Devil is in the Details, so Pay Attention!

(note: this post originally ran on

Just last weekend, I was reminded about the importance of details.

I went to see a new documentary about the career of Bill Cunningham. If you don’t know who he is, don’t fret; I didn’t either until I did a little research to find out more about him. Cunningham is a fashion photographer who has a had a very long career capturing images of fashion in New York and Paris. He currently works for The New York Times and is featured almost weekly on Sunday with his photo spread, “On the Street.”

While I was watching the movie, Bill inspired me to tell you about his level of “detail” and how that can apply to the accounting profession. You see, Bill is not a typical fashion photographer. He does not shoot fashion like most other photographers at runway shows or even in the studio. He captures true details in every one of his shots by just walking (and bike riding) on the streets of New York. It seems most anyone who “knows” fashion in the Big Apple knows Bill, and is not surprised at all when he snaps a photo without asking permission.

What I took away from his technique is this: Accounting firms should pay much more attention to detail than they do if they are going to convert prospects into clients, retain clients, receive referrals and improve their level of service. I don’t think this is a difficult thing to ask CPAs and accountants to do; after all, they’ve been trained to look at the details in their work, so why can’t they bring this same level of analysis to practice development?

Here’s a simple example that I know has been written about before. If you work on a tax return and notice a up or down spike in some kind of reporting, this could indicate that you should have a conversation with the client about this movement. Not only can you secure your role as a trusted advisor; the client will appreciate, again, your level of detail and your concern. You will be more likely to be thought of when the client is asked by a friend or colleague for a referral to an accountant.

Try thinking “detail” on everything you do – it really works.

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