Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 3, 2013

Jason Tank: How to be a good client


---- — Quality professionals work awfully hard to try and consistently deliver value to their clients.

What isn't often said is how much easier that goal is to achieve when clients do a few simple things in return.

A healthy and successful working relationship is built on a two-way street. Good accountants, investment advisors and attorneys see the deep truth in that statement. They all know that one-way streets tend to end abruptly.

To improve your chances of being a great client and getting a great outcome, I have identified three simple habits to follow that will help to pave the way.

First, as much as clients want their advisors to communicate with them, the best among them actually yearn for an open and honest dialogue. We've seen examples of clients who have expressed disappointment with their tax preparer's lack of proactive advice. The beef might be about an IRA contribution opportunity that was never brought up or an overlooked miscellaneous deduction that wasn't claimed. These types of things happen all the time, every year. And they are often avoidable, if only the client recognized their mutual responsibility to communicate as well.

Accountants love clients who are willing to sit down and go over their tax return before filing it. Likewise, they don't particularly like that client who stuffs their pile of back-up information into an envelope a week before the filing deadline. Being able to engage in an open conversation with a service provider enables you to elevate their service to one as a value-added advisor. The best professionals want to take on this role.

Second, getting solid advice is just a function of the quality of the information that's presented. The wisest thing you can do — both to save cost and to assure a valuable result — is to prepare both your mind and your materials as a client.

When I sit down with prospective clients, the most meaningful outcomes tend to come to those who really know their situation. Being organized in your mind and in your materials enables you to discern good advice from a good sales pitch.

Third, advisors are just human beings trying to deliver quality answers to often complex questions. Nothing is more satisfying than having a client try in earnest to understand the complexities and to acknowledge the unknowns that always exist.

While clients who blissfully accept advice with little contemplation are easy to satisfy in the short-run, the highest quality advisors know that easy clients are not typically wonderful clients.

Every quality professional wants a long-term, well-educated, communicative client who values their advice and acknowledges the complexity of the decisions they face.

So, in this time of tax preparation or seeking some financial advice or beginning a conversation with your attorney about your long-neglected estate planning, remember these three habits of highly-successful clients — communicate, organize and engage.

Jason P. Tank is a Chartered Financial Analyst and co-owner of Front Street Wealth Management, a fee-only wealth advisory firm located in Traverse City. He encourages questions and comments about future columns. Contact him at (231) 947-3775, by email at and at