077: Avoid These 5 Onboarding Goof Ups

Mar 29, 2024

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077: Avoid These 5 Onboarding Goof Ups

Mar 29, 2024

The new client onboarding period is the most crucial part of the Fractional CFO client journey.

Get it right and you're set up to have a happy, profitable client for years to come.

Get it wrong and you can end up with a disappointed client who churns fast or a burnt-out team.

Over the years, I've screwed up more times than I'd care to admit when it comes to onboarding new clients. 

Yup, it's embarrassing. 

But the journey of life and entrepreneurship is all about making mistakes and learning from them.

The good news is that you get to learn from my screw-ups! 

Today, I'm sharing 5 of the biggest onboarding mistakes I've made over the years. 

I hope that you will implement some of these into your onboarding process and keep your brand-new clients happy and profitable.

Let's dive in.

Onboarding Goof Up 1: Failure to Set Boundaries

If you're anything like me, you've had your share of clients that push boundaries.

You know the ones I'm talking about. 

❌ They text you.
❌ They call you after hours.
❌ They expect a 30-minute response to emails.
❌ They ask you to do things clearly outside of your scope.

Let me take this moment to validate your frustrations:

The struggle is real, and so are your frustrations.

But here's the thing: it's your fault, and boundary problems typically arise during the onboarding phase.

I've learned time and time again that it's critically important to explicitly set and maintain boundaries during the onboarding process. 

At the very top of onboarding, reiterate to your new client: 

➡️ How they can communicate with you
➡️ When they can communicate with you
➡️ What's out of bounds when it comes to communications
➡️ What the scope of work includes
➡️ What their scope of work does NOT include
➡️ How you'll handle requests that fall outside of your scope

Along with this, it's incumbent upon YOU to immediately push back when the client challenges these boundaries. 

This isn't the time to dance around the issue, either! You've got to be respectful yet direct in these circumstances. When you avoid the conversation and let things slide, you've established a new expectation from your client.

If they continue to push or violate boundaries, you need to consider whether they're the right fit for your firm. 

The ball is in your court. You have no one else to blame.

Onboarding Goof Up 2: Failure to Set Expectations

As you know, there's a lot that goes into onboarding.

You require certain things from your new client.

Your new client requires certain things from you.

There's a workflow that has to be orchestrated and managed or the onboarding process takes weeks or months longer than it should. This results in pissed-off clients.

To avoid this, you've got to set expectations proactively.

You must tell the client:

✅ What you need.
✅ When you need it by.
✅ Why you need to have it.
✅ When and what they can expect from you. 

Don't assume that the client knows or remembers these things.

I like to explain all of this verbally and via email so that it's crystal clear to everyone. 

When expectations aren't clear, people end up getting frustrated and disappointed. 

PS: You can't over-communicate here, so don't worry about that.

Onboarding Goof Up 3: Too Long to the Ah-Ha Moment

Have you ever hired someone to do work for you, and at some point, you have this lightbulb moment where you say, "OMGosh! THIS IS WHY I HIRED HER!" 

It's that point where they deliver that first bit of amazing value for you, and you're suddenly VERY confident that you hired the right person.

I call this the Ah-Ha Moment.

You need to intentionally and proactively work to deliver the Ah-Ha Moment for your new clients as soon as possible.

I've gone wrong in the past by allowing the onboarding process to take entirely too long. It's easy to get delayed by QBO access, CPAs not getting you documents, struggling to get data for projections, or allowing scheduling conflicts to drag things out. 

Ultimately, this results in the client not seeing value fast enough, which results in them questioning if you're worth the money. 

Yes, it's frustrating. 

It can also be easy to adopt a victim mindset here (It's not my fault!!! The client took too long!)

You've got to take ownership of the situation and drive things forward. 

Communicate with the client and let them know you're stuck and find things you CAN move forward on despite the holdups. 

Here's an example: 

Struggling to get QBO access? 

You can still put together a cash flow forecast with bank statements.

Most clients have never seen a cash flow forecast before. If you can quickly prepare one and show them how they can start using it to make smarter decisions, you've just delivered value! 

Be a bull in a china shop. Find ways to get to the Ah-Ha Moment as quickly as possible and at all costs.

Onboarding Goof Up 4: The Onboarding Checklist is Too Complex


It took me 6+ years to realize that I was asking for too much from new clients with our onboarding checklist. 

We had a list of 25+ items that we sent to each of our new clients. It included everything from QBO access to bank statements to tax returns to FEIN documents to loan term sheets. 

Our new clients would look at the list, get overwhelmed, and do nothing with it. We'd get into this cycle of us begging for things and the clients promising they'd get them to us "soon." 

Inevitably, the onboarding process would drag on and on and on... 

Here's what I finally realized:

Yes, all of those things are IMPORTANT to have. 

No, not all of those things are URGENT.

We've worked hard to narrow that list down to a small handful of important AND urgent items. Now our clients are getting those items to us within hours instead of weeks. 

Audit your onboarding checklist and question the urgency of EVERYTHING that's on it. Eliminate things that aren't absolutely necessary to get started with the client. Handle the rest over the coming months.

Onboarding Goof Up 5: Failure To Understand Their Goals

Clients are selfish.

At the end of the day, everything they're trying to do in their business is in service of their goals and desires. 

That means that your strategies, tactics, and recommendations have to be in alignment with those goals and desires.

The tricky part is figuring out what those goals actually are. 

72% of our new clients struggle to clearly articulate what their goals are. 

Some flat-out say that they don't even have any goals!

While it's true that they may not know how to verbalize their goals, they all have something inside of them that keeps them in the game day after day. 

Your job is to sus that out of them.

Because if you start putting together a financial strategy and it doesn't address their goals, dreams, fears, or aspirations, they will start to feel like you don't get them. And once they enter the "she doesn't get me" phase, your engagement isn't long for life.


And lawd is that frustrating, especially when they can't even tell you what those goals are! 

You must keep asking questions and pulling strings to figure out what's driving them - and you need to learn how to do that well during onboarding. 

No one said being a Fractional CFO would be easy. 


Onboarding matters.

A lot.

Take these 5 lessons that I've learned and look for ways to apply some of them to your onboarding process. 

Look for ways to simplify onboarding and get to that ah-ha moment as quickly as possible. 

Your clients and your P&L will thank you.

Your Coach,

Whenever you are ready, here are 3 ways I can help you:

  1. Join us at The CFO Accelerator Live in Dallas, TX from May 15-17. 2024 and learn how to get more clients, increase your pricing, and close more sales! Get your ticket here.
  2. The Inner Circle - every month my team and I go live and share the most impactful lessons we've learned in our journey to start, scale, and optimize our own CFO firm (including live Q&A). Plus you'll get access to our private community of over 200 Fractional CFOs.
  3. If you'd like more amazing (and free!) content about starting, scaling, or optimizing your Fractional CFO firm check out The CFO Report.

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