Andy Dufresne at Shawshank State Penitentiary

It isn’t often that you can receive valuable business advice from Hollywood, let alone from an alleged murderer. But Andy Dufresne from “The Shawshank Redemption” can offer plenty of business development tips for any accountant or financial services firm.

If you aren’t familiar with the film, “The Shawshank Redemption” follows Andy Dufresne, a successful banker who is found guilty for murdering his wife and her lover, despite his insistent claims of innocence. As a result, he is sentenced to life in prison at Shawshank State Penitentiary and is forced to adapt to life behind bars.

During his time at Shawshank, Andy uses his banking skills to woo fellow inmates, guards, and even the warden. It is through these skills that Andy becomes instrumental to the warden’s illegal money laundering operation, is able to set himself free, and enjoy all of the spoils from the warden’s illegal activity.

Regardless of legality, Andy’s story is a surprisingly great lesson in business development. Afterall, he was able to create a financial institution in the most unlikely of places with equally unlikely clients. Read on to journey behind the bars of Shawshank and discover Andy’s secrets to business development for accountants.

Add Value to Your Clients

The first thing Andy did in prison was listen. He listened to guards and inmates alike, looking for an opportunity. What that opportunity was, he didn’t know. But once he heard a guard lamenting the taxes on his inheritance, Andy saw his opening. After discovering his chance to help the guard legally shelter his money, Andy offers his skills and services in the hopes of developing a mutually beneficial relationship.

Notice how Andy didn’t move on a guard until he was certain of the value he could offer? This is the same approach you should take with your leads and clients. Until you are certain of the problem you are solving or the client’s’ unique needs, selling your services is a whole lot harder. Because you aren’t positive of the result you can deliver, it’s all the more difficult to convince prospects to hire you. Take a page out of Andy’s book and listen carefully to clients and their unique problems. Once you’re certain you have a solution, then it’s time to make your move.

Specialize Your Skillset

As a banker, there are financial laws, processes, and activities that Andy is and is not an expert in. given his banking background, Andy has a more intimate knowledge than most financial professionals surrounding taxes and the IRS. By sticking to his specialized area of finance, Andy was able to offer more value to Shawshank’s employees and mask the warden’s money laundering operation from the IRS.

Specializing your service offerings allows you to be more targeted in your approach to business development. It also allows you to deliver more value to clients as you have more time to focus on specific service areas. If you don’t stick to what you’re good at, you could be putting your client satisfaction at risk. Once you have a set core offering for your accounting firm, use this specialization to go after specific prospects and truly deliver high quality services.

Word of Mouth is the Ultimate Endorsement

How did Andy go from the new inmate to the accountant for the entire prison? Word of mouth. Once Andy started helping one of the guards with his inheritance, others quickly took notice and heard of his complimentary accountant work. It is this spread of referrals that led Andy into helping the warden. At the peak of his time at Shawshank, Andy worked tirelessly to help with the financial matters of Shawshank’s employees and the employees at other prisons.

Whether he wanted it or not, referrals caused Andy’s finance “business” to spread like wildfire throughout the prison community. With 84% of buyers preferring to start the buying process with a referral, it’s no wonder why they are so powerful. Because referrals act like an endorsement, more and more people came to Andy looking for quality financial help. To generate quality sales referrals at your own accounting firm and create a similar buzz, try implementing a client referral program. This allows word of mouth to spread about your firm, rewarding clients and gaining new business in the process.

Fresh Out of New Growth Strategies?

Switching up your accounting firm’s growth strategy is no easy feat. If you’re looking for more advice on how to grow your business, check out these accounting firm business development ideas from the experts.