Ep. 160: Katie Thomas - Finding, Connecting, and Developing Relationships with Key Stakeholders

December 23, 2021 | 17 Minutes

Katie Thomas, CPA, Owner of Leaders Online, helps executives become thought leaders online so they can increase their influence, impact, and income. In this episode, she joins Count Me In to talk about how finance and accounting professionals can find, connect, and develop relationships with key stakeholders, inside and outside of the organization, to increase their influence and add value to their companies. Katie discusses the value of online presence, scaling their approach to stand out more, and the way individuals can identify key stakeholders. Download and listen now!

Adam: (00:04)
Welcome back to Count Me In, IMA's podcast about all things affecting the accounting and finance world. This is your host Adam Larson, and I'm here to preview episode 160 of our series. Katie Thomas, owner of Leaders Online, rejoins Count Me In today to talk about finding, connecting, and developing relationships with key stakeholders. Katie does a lot of marketing and social media for executives and helps them increase their presence in the industry. In her conversation with Mitch, she talks about the power of technology and social media as it pertains to increasing influence and nurturing lasting relationships. Keep listening as we head over to the main part of the episode now.

Mitch: (00:51)
So Katie, the first time we spoke, you talked about how technology really changed the landscape of the accounting industry. We talked about analytics, growing your business, becoming more profitable, things along those lines. But I understand a lot has changed since we spoke and that was, you know, February of 2020. So what I wanna kind of get into and, and start off is if you can kind of explain, you know, what you've seen over the last year and a half, and what else has changed across the accounting industry?

Katie: (01:20)
Yeah, so man, since February of 2020, I feel like technology has had to be embraced more than ever. I mean, there were a lot of firms using technology, but then there were a lot not, and I think it was this thing where the firms who weren't fully embracing technology, they knew about it, but it was kind of scary be because what you've done before, and if it was working, it's like why fix what's not broken, but then the pandemic hit and there was something that was broken. You could no longer have face-to-face meetings. You could no longer operate as you did before. And so it really forced the accounting firms and their clients into digital relationships, even if they were traditionally local relationships, like come in, meet face-to-face, it was, Hey, we've gotta find different ways to communicate with our clients. A lot of people jumped on Zoom and then managing the staff and the firm members that also had to change. So if you didn't previously use project management tool or document sharing, all of that had to be quickly learned and leveraged and utilized. So I think that the outcome of all of this is really cool because firms had to become confident in using this and they realize that they don't necessarily need as big of an office or they don't need to meet in person as much. And they can still maintain those relationships, whether it's with clients or with staff. I know a lot of firms I work with. They're like, okay, we miss getting together in person and we're still gonna do that. But you know, maybe it's, you don't have to be in the office eight to five every single day. There's some flexibility.

Mitch: (03:02)
Yeah. I think that's a great point. And you know, our focus for today's conversation really is on these relationships, right? Whether it's clients or key stakeholders inside or outside of the business, we'll get into, you know, how we connect with them and such, but to kind of connect the dots where we were and where we are. Can you first talk a little bit about maybe some of the things that technology can influence when it comes to stakeholder relationships and where we're going with our conversation today?

Katie: (03:29)
Yeah. So people really connect in two ways. There's gonna be emotional connections. So like that's just gonna be like conversations and how you feel out someone. maybe you have similar views, goals, thoughts, and people really connect this way through talking and through stories. So there is some technology that can help with this, even like Zoom or Loom or apps that just connect us. But really I see technology on the other side of how we connect the logical way that we connect and with technology, you can really see into the data and create a story through this to then help you connect and talk about why you're doing certain things, the outcome of why of what's happening. The data really gives us the facts and the technology and able to us to access the data to then create stories around this data. So technology is a key piece in communicating, but I really see it supporting a lot of that logical side of how humans can connect.

Mitch: (04:28)
That's really well said. And we did briefly talk about analytics last time and you know, the data and everything you just mentioned. It's, it's a great point. So to take it a step further, you mentioned Zoom and some other, you know, apps, as far as technology goes, whether they're specific tools or more broadly social media, just in general, what kind of resources can our listeners use to better find, connect and develop relationships with key stakeholders? You know, what can they go out and access in order to improve these relationships for the long term?

Katie: (05:01)
Yeah, so I definitely think Zoom's a really popular one. Another one I mentioned was Loom. So that's like a screen recording tool, which is super helpful if you're trying to explain something and you're not, maybe you're gonna deliver this through an email. You can walk someone through like financials or maybe a process or a report. And you can actually show yourself talking about it as well as share your screen. I think this one's great client portals are great tools. So client portals can be used to share documents, securely, communicate through them. I think that's a great one. and then social media platforms are also awesome because you can create content for a wide variety of people. You can have conversations in the direct message. You know, there's a lot of platforms out there. Maybe it's even like your project management tool where you're communicating, but really it's just identifying maybe where there's a gap in communication. And since there is a tool for about everything, if you Google that, you'll probably find someone that's found a solution or created a solution that you can utilize.

Mitch: (06:02)
Yeah. Google is a, it's a great tool in itself and very, you know, very helpful on a daily basis. But as I said earlier, you know, there's obviously a lot more to our conversation than technology. There's a lot more to the profession than just technology. So I do wanna take this a step further and really make sure we cover, you know, our listener side of things, the management accounting side, a little bit more of the accounting finance profession. As far as connecting with individuals, I know something that you really focus on with the marketing side of your business is enabling individuals to increase their influence. So I'd like to hear your thought on, you know, whether it's tools or strategies, what can individuals do to increase their influence and really make a greater impact on the business.

Katie: (06:47)
So I think one of the number one things that individuals can do to create a greater influence on the organization and individuals as a whole it's to really align their why with the company's why and why this is so important is if you can come to work every single day and you can see like your why, which if you haven't read Simon Sinek's book all about find your why I highly recommend it to everyone, but based it's your personal why is different from someone else's. And if you can figure out what yours is and how it can fit into an organization, then you can come to work every single day with a purpose and a driving force. And whenever you do that, then you can take that and you can be passionate about what you do and you can help others do the same, because if you can help others through you being passionate about it, find meaning in their work, because otherwise it's just a job, right? If you can help others do that, then they're gonna be committed to the ultimate goal of the organization. They're gonna be excited about what they do. They're gonna feel positive and enthusiastic, even when times get tough because they they're connected to something greater. I think that's so important. So as leaders, whether you're the owner of a company or you just started a company, you can still be a leader and you can still create influence, but it starts with leading by example and being passionate and connected to what you do and why you do it.

Mitch: (08:20)
Yeah. I think if there's something that the last 18 plus months have taught, a lot of people it's, you know, really gotta take care of yourself first and foremost and, and understanding your why you're passionate in making sure that everything you're doing is, you know, keeping you physically mentally healthy along the way. Otherwise the job just takes away from that. I think that's a big part of it. So, I certainly know where you're coming from here. And, you know, I know I mentioned the marketing, the social media side of things, and you help executives really increase their presence within the industry. I'm just wondering if you have any strategies, you know, anything that our listeners can take away from this conversation where even if they're just contributors to a team or something like that, they can really stand out. You know, what is it about understanding your passion and your why that enables anybody to stand out in the organization and make a difference?

Katie: (09:11)
Yeah. So this is a process that anyone can apply. And if someone is listening to this and wants to know more about it, I have a whole guide that they can download. That'll go into more depth, but it's called the 4C process. And if you go to leaders/online.com/4C, anyone can get that guide. but basically it's built around, you guessed it, the 4 C's. And, we can talk a little bit about those now, but basically you need to choose a platform to be on. And when you're trying to choose a platform to be on, when it comes to social media, think about where do your stakeholders hang out, or maybe this is where do your ideal staff hang out, whatever your goal is, think about where those people are hanging out and then about what platform plays to your strengths. So, for example, if you're someone who you don't like creating videos, then maybe don't use YouTube. Even if your stakeholders are on there or your ideal clients, or your ideal staff, like pick a platform where you can create content that you feel comfortable. So you've gotta choose a platform and just pick one. And then, you've gotta figure out how to connect with the people that you really want to connect with. So LinkedIn's really popular for professionals and people in our industry because it's a professional platform. And so with LinkedIn, you can go find people by searching by their name, their title, their location, their experience, and you know how you find these people and you connect with them. It's gonna be a little different for each platform. So Facebook, it might be, you find them in groups, Instagram, you may find them by hashtags, but you've gotta find them. You've gotta connect with them. and then the third thing you've got to do, so you've chosen your platform. You've connected with them. Then you've gotta talk to them because if you went to a brand new cocktail party, and this is a new group, and you didn't say anything, you just stood in the corner, what would happen? Probably nothing. So you've actually go out to go out and talk to these people, whether you know them, or you've never met them, start a conversation with them, ask them what they're seeing in the industry. Ask. them what they're working on. What they're excited about. Just ask them a question is whenever you ask a question, you open up the doors for a conversation and the fourth step in this is gonna be to create. So we picked our platform. We chose our platform. We connected with our ideal people that we're looking to build relationships with. We conversed with them, and they'll finally, we're gonna create and create is something that a lot of people, people can get hung up on. And it's something that should come last. So if you aren't actively going out and building your community and having conversations with these people, if you create content, then not as many people are gonna see it. So content's like the gas to your fire. It comes last. And when you create a lot of people, be like, I'm not creative, everyone's creative because everyone has a story they can share. Everyone gets emails with questions on a regular basis. Everyone's doing work. You can talk about what you're doing, what's going on in your company. What's going on in the industry, maybe how you got into the position you're at today. Maybe some of the challenges you're facing, there's so much content that can be created. And that's something that is so fun to work with professionals on to help them share their story, share. What's exciting them, what they're changing, maybe in the industry. This is where we love to help out. But, it definitely only comes last in a lot of people. They can try to do it first and then they don't see the results they're looking for.

Mitch: (12:40)
So I'm actually gonna rewind for a second, because as you're explaining all of this, you know, your passion for what you're doing it's very noticeable. And I can tell that, you know, you enjoy what you do. So I kind of wanna go back to the, the beginning of our conversation here and kind of ask you, you know, what's your, why, I know that you're, like I said, so passionate about this. So I'm just curious, you know, why is that? What have you been able to figure out when it comes to helping others increase their influence and increase their, their presence? What do you enjoy most about doing this?

Katie: (13:12)
My why is to help people be more confident in what they can do so that they can create a bigger impact. And that just excites me because I think as a profession, we do so much great work and we create a lot of changes, whether it's like helping a business succeed, that's external to us. Maybe it's our internal company, maybe it's teaching staff, like we do a lot. And a lot of us aren't confident in what we do. We aren't confident to talk about it or to share our knowledge. we like to just kind of do the work and we do it well, and we don't talk about it. So we aren't creating as big of impact as we could. We aren't having the influence that we could. and a lot of us aren't making the money that we deserve. And so my why is helping people become confident about it. And it's so cool to see that transformation that someone can have when we work with them.

Mitch: (14:10)
That that's awesome and I'm sure many of your clients greatly appreciate that. Like I said, it definitely comes across, even in this conversation here, but to wrap things up, you know, like I said, we spoke a year and a half ago, and you could argue that a lot has changed, but you could also say that nothing has really changed because as we said in the beginning, technology continues to evolve. Analytics is so important. Relationship buildings, you know, upscaling, rescaling everything across the profession. When we started, you know, before we started recording here, you mentioned your business has changed a little bit since we last spoke as well. So things continue to evolve is my point. And I'm just curious to get your thoughts. We wrapped up the conversation the same way the last time. How do you envision the accounting profession moving along into the future? You know, what else do you see coming up? Whether it's because of the result of the pandemic or just technology impacting the profession, how do you see things progressing for all of our listeners coming up?

Katie: (15:11)
There's a lot of ways that this question could be answered. It's definitely the accountants are moving into more advisory roles. As technology becomes more advanced and can do some of those lower level tasks. I think it's a lot more smaller firms are now coming into play because technology makes it easy to start up your own firm. And then it's this whole idea of digital relationships. someone doesn't need to be located in your same city or your same state to work with you, whether that's a client or a staff member, whether or not these tools and resources were available to people pre pandemic that doesn't really change anything other than the fact that now more and more people are seeing the opportunity and maybe even had the time to say, okay, during the pandemic, they got to reimagine what's possible for their self and their business or their current role. So they are changing. And I think that it's ultimately more opportunity for everyone.

Closing: (16:19)
This has been Count Me In, IMA's podcast providing you with the latest perspectives of thought leaders from the accounting and finance profession. If you like what you heard and you'd like to be counted in for more relevant accounting and finance education, visit website at www.imanet.org.