Keen to recruit your first tax partner? 8 key questions

One of the most common questions I’m asked, often by recruiters, is if I know a prospective new tax partner for a smaller or mid-size practice.

Sadly I can rarely help directly – especially if, as is usually the case, the firm would like their new recruit to have a following (ie clients and fees).

In such cases I suggest that there are a number of  key questions the existing partners need to consider and to effectively promote;

  • What do you have to offer a partner with a following?
  • What do you offer to a frustrated senior manager/director who isn’t being made a partner at his present firm?
  • How can you be sure that someone who is prepared to move in the current environment is worth recruiting?
  • How attractive is your offering (across the board) as compared with that offered by the myriad of other firms keen to recruit the same people?

You have probably already considered the economics of bringing in a new partner. And that’s why you hope that they will have a following so that they can pay for themselves. For a while anyway. So, why should they bring their clients to your firm?  Be honest. And if you can’t convince yourselves you will simply waste an enormous amount of time seeking the holy grail.

There are other questions to consider too:

  • How much tax advice work will you and your partners really allow the new partner to deal with? Will you all be able to ‘let go’?
  • How much latent tax advisory work is there really in your existing client base? Is it that you’ve simply not been pro-active (perhaps due to a lack of tax technical knowledge) or would that not matter as your clients are largely risk averse and keen to keep their fees down?
  • Is it a salesperson you need? This make your ‘search’ even tougher. You want a personable tax partner, with good technical skills and an ability to ‘sell’ ideas to clients – to generate good fees. Such people are few and far between.
  • How wide does the new partner’s tax knowledge need to be? SME business tax? Private client tax? Trusts and IHT? SDLT? VAT? Everything? That’s a tall order too. Some firms find that the amount they spend on external tax specialists goes UP after they bring in their first tax partner. The simple reason is that he or she knows what they don’t know. And they tend not to want to take risks. And they know that quality specialist advice rarely comes cheap. The good news is that such additional fees tend to be covered by additional fees so they’re not usually a net cost to the firm.

So what to do?

My standard advice is to stop looking for the holy grail. Instead adapt your recruitment plan and find a very good senior manager who has the ability to become a tax partner but whose path is blocked in their present firm.

Another very underused solution is that of

arranging for an independent tax specialist to come into the office regularly to talk with partners and to review files for planning opportunities etc. This could be arranged on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis after an initial getting to know you session.

Best to think about how that initial session will work – do you want to make it a quasi interview (no charge) or are you going to do that over the phone and then expect constructive advice when he or she is on site?

The cost of this solution will always be far less than the alternative of bringing someone new in on a full time basis. We also tend to underestimate the time and time taken by briefing headhunters, interviewing and sorting out agreements etc.

In time such an independent could end up doing more and more work for you. They can even help with recruitment – especially as regards the tax technical side of interviewing tax staff at all levels.

For the record this was my considered advice long before I established the Tax Advice Network. But, yes, a number of our vetted tax adviser members are happy to provide tax advice clinics for local firms of accountants. One or two have even left us when they went full time in firms with whom they had built up strong relationships.

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4 tips for job hunters

1 – Register on LinkedIn and complete your profile so that you are attractive to prospective recruiters and anyone looking there for someone like you. Here’s a link to a short series of blogs I wrote recently on the value of LinkedIn. Once registered you can then use LinkedIn to connect with past colleagues and business contacts. In due course you can then seek their advice and help to find your next role.

2 – Cut your CV down to 2 pages. Remember the key point is that a CV is not about getting a job. It’s about getting an interview. It needs to describe you as a person, not simply what you’ve achieved at work. And 2 pages is all it needs to be.  In practice you will also want to tailor it to each role you go for.

3 – Think about your friends and other people you know who could introduce you to the sort of new employer you’d like to work with. Then talk to your friends etc and ask their advice about how to secure intros to those people. Have a clear story as to what value you would be to a new employer.  By the way, the more specific you can be as to the type of business you are looking to work with, the more you increase the chance of someone being able to effect a suitable introduction.

4 – Depending on the type of role you are considering going for  you might find networking to be a worthwhile activity.  Important to recognise that networking is best done when you are not desperate, and are in position to ‘give’, help and share more than you seek to ‘take’ or gain until people get to know, like and trust you.   I’ve written quite a bit about networking (on and offline) on my blog.

The above list is adapted from an email I sent to a friend of a friend recently after he sought my advice re his new job hunt. He’s an FD and looking to move into a more entrepreneurial environment. 

 

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4 accountants respond to a prospect's initial enquiry

On one of the business networks I follow a member recently asked for a recommendation to a down-to-earth, friendly, non-judgemental, accountant.  He explained his requirements in a little more detail – but not much although he did state:

“To be ABSOLUTELY clear, I am NOT looking for someone who has intentions of turning me into a major annual revenue stream. I am looking for someone who is good at remedial work and charges a fair fee for the very limited amount of work that is involved.

My affairs are VERY SIMPLE. I need support, encouragement and creativity!”

I have seen many such requests in the past.

Four names came up in recommendations on the forum. Each of the accountants then posted a message in reply. Surprisingly none of them appear to have made direct contact with the prospect. Leaving that to one side, just compare these four different approaches:

Accountant one

I am indeed an accountant with a personality! I look at accountants as being people who should feel like a part of your business, not a faceless person you send your paperwork to once a year. My firm look after owner managed businesses only, so we know what you are going through each year.

I’d be very happy to have a chat to you at your convenience if it would be of interest to you.
My number is ….

Hope you’re all enjoying the snow!

Accountant two

I can cover anything from a small tax return to also help with a creative solution to ensure your best interests are looked after.
Take a look at my profile and let me know if I can support you.

Accountant three

If you are looking for sole trader advice, then it is something I can help you with.

We specialise in self employed sole traders, and are based not too far away in [county] so a meeting half way would be easy.

There is no charge for an initial meeting, and we can discuss your requirements.

Also, we find that many of our clients achieve savings of up to 50% on what they would normally expect to pay for accountancy services.

The company website ……has more details of our services, as well as video interviews.

Accountant four

I’m simple.
Recommendations within [this was a link to recommendations he has received from a variety of people on the forum]

Observations

Four very different approaches.

Given that, in each case, the accountants had been recommended by existing clients, their comments are not what you might call ‘pro-active’.  None of them appear to have made direct contact with the prospect whose contact details are easily accessible on the site.

Only accountant one has provided a phone number.

Maybe they were concerned they’d seem desperate if they contacted the prospect directly. I presume they don’t use direct mail or telemarketing – which seeks to do the same things with complete strangers.

Or maybe they were consciously just going through the motions after having been recommended. In practice perhaps this isn’t the sort of client they want to take on. And there is a key lesson here. Do your clients, business contacts, friends and family know what sort of referrals you would like to receive? Do you know?

What do YOU think of these four responses?

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads of valuable insights, short-cuts, tips and advice for accountants who want to STANDOUT and speed up their success. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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4 accountants respond to a prospect’s initial enquiry

On one of the business networks I follow a member recently asked for a recommendation to a down-to-earth, friendly, non-judgemental, accountant.  He explained his requirements in a little more detail – but not much although he did state:

“To be ABSOLUTELY clear, I am NOT looking for someone who has intentions of turning me into a major annual revenue stream. I am looking for someone who is good at remedial work and charges a fair fee for the very limited amount of work that is involved.

My affairs are VERY SIMPLE. I need support, encouragement and creativity!”

I have seen many such requests in the past.

Four names came up in recommendations on the forum. Each of the accountants then posted a message in reply. Surprisingly none of them appear to have made direct contact with the prospect. Leaving that to one side, just compare these four different approaches:

Accountant one

I am indeed an accountant with a personality! I look at accountants as being people who should feel like a part of your business, not a faceless person you send your paperwork to once a year. My firm look after owner managed businesses only, so we know what you are going through each year.

I’d be very happy to have a chat to you at your convenience if it would be of interest to you.
My number is ….

Hope you’re all enjoying the snow!

Accountant two

I can cover anything from a small tax return to also help with a creative solution to ensure your best interests are looked after.
Take a look at my profile and let me know if I can support you.

Accountant three

If you are looking for sole trader advice, then it is something I can help you with.

We specialise in self employed sole traders, and are based not too far away in [county] so a meeting half way would be easy.

There is no charge for an initial meeting, and we can discuss your requirements.

Also, we find that many of our clients achieve savings of up to 50% on what they would normally expect to pay for accountancy services.

The company website ……has more details of our services, as well as video interviews.

Accountant four

I’m simple.
Recommendations within [this was a link to recommendations he has received from a variety of people on the forum]

Observations

Four very different approaches.

Given that, in each case, the accountants had been recommended by existing clients, their comments are not what you might call ‘pro-active’.  None of them appear to have made direct contact with the prospect whose contact details are easily accessible on the site.

Only accountant one has provided a phone number.

Maybe they were concerned they’d seem desperate if they contacted the prospect directly. I presume they don’t use direct mail or telemarketing – which seeks to do the same things with complete strangers.

Or maybe they were consciously just going through the motions after having been recommended. In practice perhaps this isn’t the sort of client they want to take on. And there is a key lesson here. Do your clients, business contacts, friends and family know what sort of referrals you would like to receive? Do you know?

What do YOU think of these four responses?

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads of valuable insights, short-cuts, tips and advice for accountants who want to STANDOUT and speed up their success. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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Accountants 'just do the accounts and tax returns'

Today I quote selectively from the blog of one of the members of my Tax Advice Network, Jon Stow. I’ve added a few words of commentary of my own.

Most business owners will tell you what they think their accountants do: they prepare the accounts and do the tax return. They probably think of this as pretty much a process. There are two misunderstandings implicit in that sort of thinking; the first is there is a sort of sausage machine at work and that you put in the figures and get a certain result, and the second is that there is no room for manoeuvre.

How would your clients describe the services you provide?  Is it just preparation of accounts and tax? In most cases the answer is ‘yes’ although you may have a few clients where you focus on helping them to build their business. Is this because you have agreed additional fees for doing this or simply because they haven’t screwed your basic fees down and you feel you can afford to spend more time with them?

What business owners should expect from their accountants is not just the “doing”. Business owners should expect from their accountants some thinking in terms of the tax side of things. Most accountants will deliver this. Those that fail to do the thinking may be the larger firms who will use their junior staff to cut their teeth on “smaller” companies and who do not have the experience to think. Sometimes the very small firms are rushed off their feet to do all the accountancy work and are not able to think properly about the tax process beyond doing basic tax calculations.

This latter point being one of the reasons that so many firms sub-contract tax advice to independent tax advisers, like those who are members of the Tax Advice Network.  Members can help on ad-hoc matters or provide tax clinics and visit your office on a regular basis. Better you engage them than you leave your clients to source specialist tax advice that they assume is beyond you as you ‘just do the accounts and tax returns’.

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads of valuable insights, short-cuts, tips and advice for accountants who want to STANDOUT and speed up their success. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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Accountants ‘just do the accounts and tax returns’

Today I quote selectively from the blog of one of the members of my Tax Advice Network, Jon Stow. I’ve added a few words of commentary of my own.

Most business owners will tell you what they think their accountants do: they prepare the accounts and do the tax return. They probably think of this as pretty much a process. There are two misunderstandings implicit in that sort of thinking; the first is there is a sort of sausage machine at work and that you put in the figures and get a certain result, and the second is that there is no room for manoeuvre.

How would your clients describe the services you provide?  Is it just preparation of accounts and tax? In most cases the answer is ‘yes’ although you may have a few clients where you focus on helping them to build their business. Is this because you have agreed additional fees for doing this or simply because they haven’t screwed your basic fees down and you feel you can afford to spend more time with them?

What business owners should expect from their accountants is not just the “doing”. Business owners should expect from their accountants some thinking in terms of the tax side of things. Most accountants will deliver this. Those that fail to do the thinking may be the larger firms who will use their junior staff to cut their teeth on “smaller” companies and who do not have the experience to think. Sometimes the very small firms are rushed off their feet to do all the accountancy work and are not able to think properly about the tax process beyond doing basic tax calculations.

This latter point being one of the reasons that so many firms sub-contract tax advice to independent tax advisers, like those who are members of the Tax Advice Network.  Members can help on ad-hoc matters or provide tax clinics and visit your office on a regular basis. Better you engage them than you leave your clients to source specialist tax advice that they assume is beyond you as you ‘just do the accounts and tax returns’.

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads of valuable insights, short-cuts, tips and advice for accountants who want to STANDOUT and speed up their success. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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