I’ve always believed that it’s far better to find something you’re really good at – and excel at that – than to be a Jack of all trades, but not really do anything well. There’s a slippery slope when you stretch yourself too thin, and wind up dropping balls and inevitably letting clients down. As someone who struggles to say “no” when asked to take on more, I’m constantly fighting this battle myself…which is perhaps why I feel so strongly about it.
Any traveler can relate to the experience of rushing from airplane to meeting and being forced to grab “airport fare” or some other quick (under most circumstances completely unacceptable) meal on the go. Over the past several years I’ve become a HUGE fan of the colorful concoctions filled with fruits & veggies made in a jiffy at Jamba Juice. Best of all, there seem to be new airport locations popping up left & right, so even a 45 minute layover can yield a healthy meal and spare my seat neighbor on my connecting flight from any unappreciated greasy McBagged aroma. I’ve come to count on the fact that Jamba always does one thing well: make fast healthy smoothies.
In typical fashion, after a near flight disaster (2.5 hour delay that would have made me miss my appointment), I wound up taking an early flight to SFO this week. After skipping lunch due to the rush, I made a bee line for a juice. When I walked in, to my horror, I was greeted by the smell of burning cheese. As I looked around to find out what the smell could be, I couldn’t help but examine the “new improved” menu: Frozen Yogurt, Breakfast Wraps, Pastries, and Pizza (of course, it was California, so they were called “flat breads”, but let’s be real – it’s pizza).
I laughed it off at first and jokingly contemplated ordering some type of PB & J wrap, but followed my instincts and ordered my usual healthy snack. Stepping aside to wait for it to be made, I was approached by a Smoothista informing me that they didn’t have all of the ingredients to make my drink. He asked me “What do you want us to do?”. I’m not sure what my reaction really was, but I’m sure I gave him quite a look back – he quickly suggested bananas as a substitute and I agreed “sure, that’s fine”.
As I watched him for at least 5 more minutes struggle to make this drink, I shook my head thinking “this is a smoothie shop, why is it so hard to get a smoothie?” After an unusually long wait, he presented my smoothie to me with an apology for the wait claiming it was “one of the hardest ones to make”. I smiled, successfully containing my laugh and quickly left. Perhaps he was new, but it was the first time I’ve ever seen anyone struggle to make a basic smoothie at a smoothie shop.
Just imagine this situation in the accounting world – can you imagine telling a client “we can’t complete this tax return by April 15th, what would you like us to do?” – of course not! They are paying you to perform a service for them, and counting on you to find a solution if there are any issues. At the same time, as a client, I’d never expect my CPA to be able to give me advice on purchasing a car, or diagnosing a medical condition, because I count on him to be my accountant…and want him to focus on being the best accountant he can be.
As so many firms look for ways to differentiate from the competition – one critical thing to remember: don’t ever lower your standards of excellence in order to add more to your menu…after all, smoothies and pizza really don’t mix.