A 5 Step Guide – On How to Protect Your Business When a Key ‘Fee Earner’ Leaves

A 5 Step Guide – On How to Protect Your Business When a Key ‘Fee Earner’ Leaves

Do you worry about a fee earner leaving and taking clients with them? Or do you prefer to take the “ignorance is bliss” stance by thinking this won’t ever happen to you? If the latter, I’m sorry to say that I’m about to burst your bubble. 
No matter how well your business is run or how close you are to your team, there will come a point where, like every other accountancy firm owner, you will have to deal with a key fee earner leaving. That’s just the reality. 
While that is a pretty doom and gloom sentiment, it doesn’t have to be. Well, not if you put in place now, these 5 steps to minimise the risks and damage when that key fee earner does just that… 

Afraid of losing clients when a colleague moves on and leaves? This can be avoided with preparation, eventually your colleagues leave, that's part of life, we all have different career goals and ambitions, so be prepared as to not have clients leave along with them.

Step 1: Plan for this to Happen

It isn’t pessimistic to plan for this, it’s realistic. You can still hope for the best, but plan for the worst, to get the best of both worlds. 
Just think, the more you can put in place now, the easier it will be to handle if the worst does happen to your firm. 

Step 2: Review and Update your Employment Contracts and Employee Handbooks

Most employee contracts were written pre-covid19, assuming employees are working from the office 5 days a week, so review them to make sure they are relevant to the current reality. Contracts should include: 
  • Strict but fair restrictive covenants on what your former employee can or cannot do for 6 months after they leave. 
  • Your employee’s responsibilities on leaving (e.g. deleting any company data etc). 
  • The expectations you have for employees who are working from home. 
  • How your employee will handle their social media accounts and also the company data. 

Step 3: Check that you can Immediately Block Access to your Business’ I.T. systems

Employers have the right to block employee’s access to their firm’s systems pending the outcome of an investigation. Therefore, you must know that you can do this so that you’re prepared for a situation where you need to exercise this right. 
When it comes to managing the handover of client relationships, you also need to be able to access their company email account. As well as efficiency, this allows you to check for any wrongdoing or outstanding tasks. 

Step 4: Implement ‘Light Touch Monitoring’ of your Employees

Most of the time, the damage caused by a key fee earner leaving is often caused in the weeks and months BEFORE the employee actually resigns. To prevent this from happening in the future, check your process and implement a ‘light touch monitoring’ regime to check in regularly. Examples include: 
  • Setting quarterly KPI targets for each employee and checking in with them every month. 
  • Having weekly 1:2:1’s (can be as quick as 10 mins). 
  • Reading ‘performance reports’ to check on engagement and productivity. 
  • Occasionally attending a meeting with your employee and their client. 
  • Enforcing that every employee keeps their electronic calendar up-to-date and visible to the team. 
  • Root causing with the employee why they made a mistake or something didn’t happen as planned.

Step 5: Don’t Ignore your Gut (especially when there is non-compliance or mistakes)

Mistakes happen, but if they are little and often, this could be a sign that your employee is disengaging. If this is happening or your employee is cherry-picking the parts of their role that they want to do (and are ignoring the rest), don’t hesitate to bring this up with them. If you don’t, it could seriously damage your business. 

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Callum Williams

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