The Personal Touch

By Terrie Williams, with Joe Cooney

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Warner Books, ISBN:
$13.95 U.S./$18.95 CAN

Reviewed by Robert H. Colson

In a conversation with a retained search firm executive, he told me about a very senior financial position he was trying to fill. He made a point of saying that the person being replaced was excellent technically but did not meet the company’s requirements for “personal skills.” How often have we heard that an accountant or finance person is great technically, but does not interact well, or does not network well, or does not quite measure up on management skills?

Interpersonal skills are an old concern for accounting and finance professionals. Although many have attempted to address them, there remains a lot of room for improvement.

The Personal Touch, by Terrie Williams, with Joe Cooney, is an excellent primer on the basics of building and maintaining business relationships. Williams presents material in a series of anecdotes (some autobiographical) that are easy to read and make their points very clearly. Some anecdotes are interesting, others are provocative. Most involve well-known individuals with whom Williams has worked or consulted. The anecdotal style and the clarity of the presentation make this book ideally suited for someone who wants to take the first steps toward building business relationships. It would also be an entertaining refresher course for more-experienced individuals who might find the inspiration to adjust their lives to spend some time on successful business relationship building.

Williams does not advise us to do anything that most of cannot do already. She offers no new techniques or earth-moving ideas, but she is very adept at explaining how to succeed in basic elements of building productive and successful business relationships. The topics that she presents as fundamental include the following:

  • The chapter “What Goes Around, Comes Around…” is a good reminder that we really do reap what we sow. You’ll appreciate the potential impact of what you say and do much more after reading it.
  • Her advice on connecting with people in “Teri, Terry, Terrie: What’s in a Name?” is fundamental and important. I wish all those people I meet who immediately start looking past my shoulder for someone more important to talk with would read this chapter. Everyone should resolve to follow her advice to devote full attention to each individual.
  • Her short chapter on “The Art of Conversation” will help you avoid being either a bore or a boor.
  • Following the few points in the short chapter on “Communication: The Writes and Wrongs” would make anyone a more effective speaker and writer. I liked her advice on how to communicate private information in a meeting without alienating others.
  • Williams’ chapter on “You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression” zapped me back to a time in high school when I heard the same mantra from my mother. We have all heard it. I thought about all the times my life took a certain course because of a first impression made—sometimes good, rarely bad, but frequently not very memorable.

More than half of the book is devoted to 12 chapters dealing with reputation. Williams covers basic material in this section, including: hard work; why performance counts; and the importance of honesty, persistence, and watching out for others. This material is really about integrity and competence, mixed with useful ideas about how to successfully make these virtues the cornerstones of building business relationships. These are time-honored ideas, and ones that are as much needed today as in any other era.

In addition to young business professionals trying to make habits of the basic building blocks of business relationships and more-experienced people looking for a motivational refresher, The Personal Touch would also be suitable for discussion groups or for college employment preparation seminars. Almost anyone looking for a new position or a promotion would also find something here that would be of use.

The personal narrative style prompts self-examination and consideration of how the reader can adopt or adapt Williams’ advice. Without doubt, this book is intended as advice, aimed especially at young people. For us older readers, however, the engaging personality that filters through the pages reminds us that we, too, could add the personal touch to someone in our sphere of activities. Who knows? It might lead to something big.

Robert H. Colson, PhD, CPA, is editor-in-chief of The CPA Journal.




















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