084: Most Scopes Of Work Suck (Here's How To Fix Yours)

May 24, 2024

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084: Most Scopes Of Work Suck (Here's How To Fix Yours)

May 24, 2024

If you want to build and scale a Fractional CFO firm, you'll have to master two skills: setting expectations and managing expectations. 

No document is more critical than your firm's scope of work. I look at the scope of work as guardrails or boundaries for the work my firm will (and won't) provide for the client. But the scope of work should also define what you expect FROM the client.

It lays out what each party should expect from one another so that you can deliver the end product successfully. 

Simple enough, right? 

But how many times have you encountered these scenarios: 

- "Ugh. My client is complaining because we're not..."
- "Ugh. This one client keeps asking us to do..."
- "Ugh. They were in their car for our call."
- "Ugh. Their books STILL aren't closed!"
- "Ugh. They text me at all hours!" 

Those aren't just your frustrations. They're the same frustrations most firm owners have. Heck, they're the same frustrations I've had and still have from time to time! 

When these frustrations hit me or those I coach, I always start by looking at the scope of work. Eight times out of 10, there's a problem with the scope, which means expectations weren't set properly.

In today's edition, I'm going to show you some common reasons why scopes of work tend to suck and what you can do to fix yours. 

Please note that I am not an attorney, and this should not be considered legal advice. These are just observations I've made about scopes of work and some of the best practices I've implemented. You should consult an attorney before changing your firm's contracts or other legal documentation. 

Let's dive in

Most scopes of work do not define communications protocols, which can be a significant source of frustration for you and your clients. 

Getting client communications right can easily be a competitive advantage for your firm (because most don't get it right).

Get it wrong, and you'll lose what could have been a great client.

So, how do you set yourself up for success when it comes to communications in the scope of work? 

Address these points: 

• Who should the client reach out to for issues

Should they reach out to you or perhaps your assistant?
If you'll be assigning them a CFO on your team, should all questions be addressed to them?  

• What your firm's response time is

My firm responds to all emails and messages by the end of the next business day. We don't respond outside regular hours. 

• What modality is acceptable 

How do you want your clients to communicate with you and your team? 
Slack, Teams, Voxxer, WhatsApp, text, email, AOL or Yahoo IM? 

There isn't a wrong answer here. Just let the client know what's ok with you. 

We let our clients know we prefer Slack, but they can also email us with questions. Voxxer, Teams, and AOL are hard nos for me.

Honestly, we still struggle a bit with texting. We need to tighten up and push some clients back to Slack or email. It's hard to say no, but if someone on my team takes a vacay and clients are texting them, problems arise. 

Most people know that a scope of work should include the work you do, but I've also found tremendous value in including the work you will not do.

One could argue that listing specific deliverables in the scope should make it clear to any reasonable client that anything else is out of scope. While there is truth to that, proactively stating certain things we won't do eliminates potential confusion and frustration. 

For example, my firm will not do bookkeeping. It's not in our scope, and we will not do it if you ask nicely while throwing a bunch of money at us. We will not do your taxes, and we will not do attestation work. 

Years ago, especially when my firm worked with smaller clients, we would get REPEATED requests to do that kind of work AFTER we kicked off an engagement. The clients seemed frustrated when we said no and I felt like I was letting them down. Ugh.

I found that simply including the fact that we don't do those things right in the scope of work almost completely eliminated the clients' requests for that work. Plus, I felt more comfortable saying no when it did come up because I knew I had been as clear as humanly possible about it from the get-go.

My most recent ah-ha moment about the scope of work came during one of my recent Elite mastermind meetings. One of the other firm owners in the group commented that a great scope of work includes what you expect (require) from the client

At a basic level, this might include requirements such as when you need the books closed out so that you can start your financial analysis. 

However, this firm owner suggested that a great scope can include deeper client agreements. You might mention that the client must be on time and prepared for calls (sometimes common sense isn't common practice). You might have them agree to take the calls at an appropriate location (ie- not on their cell phone from their car) with minimal distractions or disturbances.

In other words, this CFO pointed out that you could include literally anything you need from the client for you (and, in turn, them) to succeed. 

I think this is a great way to set and manage expectations, particularly if you have clients who are prone to taking calls on the road or with their kids jumping around or from the golf course. (Yes, I had a client try to Zoom with me for their monthly CFO call from their golf cart at one point.)

A great Fractional CFO starts by laying out expectations on the sales call. But the scope of work should be the second—and most clearly defined—place for laying out expectations. 

Don't treat your scope of work as a check-in-the-box exercise. Put some thought into it. Review it with your team from time to time to see if any modifications are needed. Don't be scared to reference it if clients push too hard. Stick to it. 

Your Coach,

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

  1. 1:1 Coaching with Michael King -Get hands-on support and fast track your firm’s growth by working directly with me. 

  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 Fractional CFO firm (including live Q&A). Plus you'll get access to our private community of nearly 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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