Want a Better Practice? Reviewed by Momizat on . Perform a File Autopsy! We live and die in/by our engagements. Bet you never thought of it that way. But really, tell me life isn’t just peachy when you’re work Perform a File Autopsy! We live and die in/by our engagements. Bet you never thought of it that way. But really, tell me life isn’t just peachy when you’re work Rating: 0
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Want a Better Practice?

Perform a File Autopsy!

We live and die in/by our engagements. Bet you never thought of it that way. But really, tell me life isn’t just peachy when you’re working on a fun/interesting/profitable case. And that life doesn’t just suck when you’re not. Wouldn’t it be nice to have more peaches? In this article, Rod Burkert shares his After Action Review process that enables practitioners to (re)focus on cases and clients that are interesting and engaging and discard those that are less “peachy”.

Quincy.  CSI (pick a city).  Bones.  Crossing Jordan.  Body of Proof.  Just a few medical examiner TV shows that I can recall off the top of my head.  The docs are all working toward a common goal—determining how their victims lived and died.

Not to be overly dramatic, but we live and die in/by our engagements.  Bet you never thought of it that way.  But really, tell me life isn’t just peachy when you’re working on a fun/interesting/profitable case.  And that life doesn’t just suck when you’re not.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have more peaches?

So if you’re interested in (a) identifying the work you love to do, (b) learning how to serve your clients better, and (c) seeing your profits grow you may want to spend some time playing medical examiner.

Imagine your old engagement files on the slab, so to speak.  Time to open them up and perform an autopsy.  Here’s one way to go about it.  Pick up a scalpel and…

  1. Grab five of your old engagement files that have been closed for at least a year. Though you can choose files randomly, it might work better if you select some you know you liked and others that you’d rather never think about again.
  2. For each file, complete a File Autopsy using this downloadable toolkit. Be brutally honest as you answer the questions, which include:

About the client:

  • Did the client like me? Did I like the client?
  • Were the client’s expectations met?
  • How would this client describe me to their peers?
  • What value did I deliver? Where was that demonstrated?

About the work:

  • Did I like the work?
  • Was I good at it? How could I have done better?
  • If I liked the work, should I become an expert at it?
  • If I didn’t like the work, how can I do less of it?

About the money:

  • Was this a profitable matter for me to work on?
  • Was my time budget and fee estimate accurate?
  • Did the client feel my fees were fair?
  • If I quoted this engagement again, what would I do differently?

Kitchen sink stuff:

  • With 20/20 hindsight, should I have taken on this engagement?
  • Were there any red flags I should have noticed?
  • Did I worry or lose sleep over this engagement?
  • Did I produce anything that can be re-used or re-purposed in a future engagement?
  1. Every week, rinse and repeat with a few more files. If you used staff, ask for their input as well.
  2. Write down the common themes (good or bad) you start seeing.

Once you’ve performed 20–30 autopsies, you should have a better sense of the work you like doing, the clients you enjoy serving, and alternative ways of pricing your services.  But more importantly, you’ll understand the work you don’t like, the clients you don’t want, and the pricing mistakes you don’t need.

After you’ve completed the file autopsies on your old engagements, stay current going forward by using the same form as an After Action Review on your just-completed engagements.  Not only will this keep you focused on the work you want, you’ll constantly be looking for better ways to serve your client and price your services.

In one way, shape, or form, Rod Burkert has been performing business valuations since the late 1980s.  In July 2000, he started Burkert Valuation Advisors in center city Philadelphia.  He’s reinvented his practice several times since then, most notably in March 2010 to run a mobile consulting firm out of the RV he lives and travels in full-time with his wife and their dogs.  And to help fellow professionals who struggle to find the time to focus on their practice development and practice management efforts, Mr. Burkert writes a bi-weekly newsletter that you can subscribe to at RodBurkert.com.

Mr. Burkert can be contacted at (215) 360-6100 or by e-mail to Rod@RodBurkert.com.

The National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts (NACVA) supports the users of business and intangible asset valuation services and financial forensic services, including damages determinations of all kinds and fraud detection and prevention, by training and certifying financial professionals in these disciplines.

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