Scope creep can crush your team, minimize your profit, and create discord between you and your clients, if you let it.
What is scope creep?
According to author, Mark Wickersham FCA, scope creep can come in the form of 1) unexpected problems, 2) unfulfilled promises, 3) project extensions, and 4) separate projects. While the responsibility for each of these situations may oscillate between your team and your client; the added stress, labor, and frustration will always come at the expense of your firm, if left unaddressed. Scope creep can be very costly for your firm, if you allow it to be.
Combating scope creep
Get specific. Create precise definitions for each service you offer. Avoid broad strokes like “bookkeeping.” Then, include these definitions in your Engagement Letter for each client.
Define your boundaries. This goes hand-in-hand with getting specific; to fully understand something, you must also understand what it is not. Right alongside your explicit definitions of what your services do entail, also include what they do not. While this may seem challenging, as you don’t want to be misconstrued as saying “no” to a client at the outset, it will benefit both parties in the long run by preventing confusion.
Confirm client understanding. Be sure to give clients the chance to ask any follow-up questions that they may have after reading through their Engagement Letter. This could be in the form of a quick, 15 minute meeting.
Stick to your guns. If and when clients ask for services beyond those explicitly outlined in their Engagement Letter, politely refer them back to the document. If your team has the bandwidth, you can let clients know that you’re happy to offer them this services, but it will be a charge separate from the existing rate. Sticking to your guns is necessary to protect your team, your bottom line, and your firm’s reputation.