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The value of business relationship-building

by STEPHEN THORNE

When it comes to client engagement and development, you just can't beat face time. Not the app - the real thing, face-to-face.

Take the accountants, managers and executives at Ottawa-based Welch LLP, for example. They had been electronically introduced to the owner of an area company that crafts scientific instruments, but their phone calls and email follow-ups weren't moving the prospective account along as they had hoped.

Then one night some Welch executives were attending an Ottawa Senators game when they were invited into a neighbouring suite. There, by chance, they happened to meet the owner of the scientific instrument company and his son.

"We ended up striking up a conversation," recalls Josh Raganold, Welch's business development manager. "We started getting to know them and getting to know them on that deeper, more personal, trusting level.

"It was just a matter of time before they brought over not only their accounting work, but they actually engaged our advisory practice, as well."

With 220 staff currently in Ottawa and 12 locations distributed all the way to Toronto, Welch LLP has developed a range of tax, accounting, wealth management and business and financial advisory services over 102 years.

Since the Senators returned to Ottawa in 1990, the firm has made NHL hockey part of its staff rewards and client engagement and development practices. It currently splits games with another firm, half in four Club Bell seats and half in 100-level seats.

 

Being active in the broader business community is fundamental to Welch's success.

That means "getting out in front of" clients, prospects and companies they haven't even heard of yet, and helping them develop their business by introducing them to Welch service partners and Welch specialized staff.

Hockey, says Raganold, is an ideal backdrop to getting to know your clients better, especially when it's the best and most prestigious product of its kind in the world, enhanced in Ottawa by the fact that two Original Six rivals are close by.

"I think mostly everybody grew up watching hockey to one degree or another, whether you grew up in Ottawa or anywhere in Canada, really," he says. "It's somewhere where you can let your barriers down and have a casual conversation, get to know people on a more personal level and really build that trust that will eventually lead to positive business."

Pre- and post-game, gaps between play and intermissions all provide ample opportunity for different levels of conversation that allow Welch staff to better know their clients. And Welch staff don't even have to be there for Sens hockey to reap them benefits.

"There was a windshield replacement company that we were starting to get to know," explains Raganold. "We gave the owner a pair of tickets to Club Bell.

"He said his previous accounting firm never did anything for him but his tax returns. He said the experience was 'amazing.' He ended up coming over and bringing his business to the firm and he's been a fantastic client ever since."

 

Canadian Tire Centre has a broad range of new and upgraded products and services, including pubs, restaurants, meeting rooms, premium seating and suites - even the ice itself - and the Senators offer any number of packages tailored to companies' specific needs.

Club Bell is the newest premier club in Canadian Tire Centre. Located on the northwest side of the building, it provides all Victory Suites, Loges and Luxe Seat holders with one-way valet parking, a dedicated entrance, luxury seats, premium food and drink, and first-class service.

A large generator company for which Welch had done some work was looking to sell. Welch was not the firm's main provider of accounting services, but the firm used time with them in Club Bell "to get to know them a little better, introduce them to our advisory team, and really build up that trust."

Welch landed the contract shortly after, and successively sold the company.

Sens games provide an ideal venue to network, too.

"Even if you're not inviting someone specifically to the game, it's a great opportunity to cross paths with other people in the business community, other potential clients, or service providers who can really impact your business," says Raganold. "And the more you're visible to them, the more they'll think of you when things do come up."

"On any given night, Club Bell is filled with a lot of the Ottawa business community, a lot of decision-makers whom you can get to know in a stripped-down level, outside of their business. You get to learn things about them that you wouldn't in regular conversation… and all of those things can lead to a better relationship."

Senators games are integral to Welch's business practices.

Says Raganold: "I can't imagine not having season tickets to the games."

To learn more about increasing your brand perception and attracting new clients through a partnership with the Senators, visit their website for more information.

This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia's commercial content division, on behalf of the Ottawa Senators

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