What is ‘Cheap accounting’ all about?

I wonder how many readers of this blog had heard of Elaine Clark before I awarded her the ‘best overnight budget summary‘ last week?

Elaine qualified as a chartered accountant in 1988 and now and runs one of the fastest growing online accountancy practices in the UK. She established it in 2007 and has a number of associates operating their own practices under the same brand name. Indeed Elaine offers a mentoring service for those who want to establish their own practice and benefit from the leads that come from web searches and her related online engagement.

I must admit that I was initially doubtful about the name of her practice: Cheap Accounting, although I do accept that it’s very attractive for online searches. After all, no one googles to find an expensive accountant do they?!

I was always taught that ‘cheap’ went with ‘nasty’. That we should not encourage clients to choose their accountant solely by reference to price – and that a focus on being cheap encourages them to do so.  And then there is the theory that although most clients want accountancy services provided (1) fast, (2) accurate and (3) cheap – they have to choose  just 2 of the 3 .

Having discussed this with Elaine I must admit to being wrong.  I now understand Elaine’s passion and her business model. Her practice offers ‘cheap’ accounting services in that they keep costs down and run an efficient and focused service. They can do this through a reliance on computer-based book-keeping packages and other technology that allows them to operate in a very cost-effective manner.  As explained on her website: “Quality is in no way compromised. CheapAccounting operates to a set of very high service values”.

Inevitably, perhaps, most of Elaine’s clients have straight forward accountancy and taxation needs. Needs that her experienced network of CheapAccounting.co.uk accountants are well capable of addressing. However from time to time there may be a more complex tax issue which requires more specialist advice.

I am delighted to announce that Elaine has chosen my Tax Advice Network to provide tax support when required. We have agreed a working alliance which is clearly promoted on her website.

For obvious reasons I do  not give permission for just anyone to include our logo on their website. Indeed Elaine is the first person to have that authority – beyond the tax adviser members of the Network of course.

I hope that readers are sufficiently intrigued to want to check out the Cheap Accounting website. It’s very different to most accountants’ websites. It’s also popular and successful at drawing in the sort of business that Elaine is targeting. Oh, and it even tells visitors how easy it is to change their accountant. I think we could all learn something from her approach.  Let me know what you think….

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And the award for best budget night commentary goes to…..

I’ve long been critical of the ‘me too’ type of overnight budget commentaries. Indeed, these days ‘overnight’ is slow and many commentaries appear online within hours.

I have seen dozens of such identikit commentaries since the Chancellor sat down yesterday. Almost all contain pretty standard lists of the headline measures, cut and paste extracts from the budget press releases and sundry similar ‘commentaries’ containing the initial views of the author or a ‘senior tax partner’. There are a few that contain bog standard ‘advice’ and a few firms have provided commentaries on specific measures – although most of these note that we don’t have enough detail yet to know how the proposals will work in practice. Others reference what the writer would like to have seen or how limited the proposals are in specific situations.

If you really think it’s worth sending one out I’m an advocate of using a tailored version produced by one of the key tax publishers. (My previous thread refers: Budget night summaries – worth the effort?)

Of course there will be many more such commentaries that I haven’t seen. There’s a limit as to how many I can pick up through the email lists I am on and through links contained in tweets on twitter. Still, two very different budget commentaries stand out and deserve an award*

If you’ve come across any others that are clearly distinctive do please reference them in the comments section below and provide links if possible. Many thanks. I’m also keen to receive feedback challenging my view that the effort devoted to these overnight commentaries is a waste of time. By all means share your experiences of how and why you feel differently. Any evidence of the value would be great too.

Runner up – and with a special commendation for dividing up the announcements: Informanagement

  • Budget Summary March 2011 – New tax changes announced today
  • Budget Summary March 2011 – Future changes announced today
  • Budget Summary March 2011 – Changes previously announced for 2011-12, now confirmed

And the winner is………

….Elaine Clark of Cheap Accounting for her blog post: Not A Budget Newsletter!

It won’t suit everyone but I love it!

* ‘Award’ in this context simply means to be acknowledged on this blog with an online link! 😉

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Have you ever written to a client and said ‘Thank you’?

Read this on a business networking forum and thought I should share it here:

This morning I received a letter from my accountants telling me that I had been voted by their staff as one of their clients that it has been most enjoyable working with over the past year; and then thanking me for my part in making their company a ‘great place to work’.

Wow. I felt great this morning! How often does that happen?

I feel this was genuinely meant as well. But the cynic in me did think – that’s very clever marketing for customer retention purposes… but if it is, it worked – so I am still happy and will still pay their fees this year!

For all you other accountants and service providers out there – you may want to try this…

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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Partnership tax planning: You get what you pay for…

This is a bit of a rant, which is not my preferred style of blogging. I have just returned from a local group of tax advisers evening training session. It was supposed to be ‘Tax planning with LLPs”. That was the title in the promotional note, on the website and on the cover of the notes. (Actually they weren’t notes, just copy slides).

The title slide though didn’t mention tax. It was ‘Partnership structures’ and the lawyer who largely read her talk verbatim even started by admitting she wasn’t going to talk about tax. And she didn’t. Barely a mention, other than on the odd occasion when she noted that the audience probably knew more about tax than she did.

I felt short changed. As a regular speaker for groups of professional advisers I wouldn’t dare do what this lawyer did. She ignored the subject she had been asked to speak about and chose a subject of her own. Of course she could afford to do this. She is a partner in a large firm and almost certainly wasn’t being paid for giving the talk on a cold winter evening. No wonder she spoke on her preferred subject rather than the one she had been asked to present.

Maybe she thought she knew better than the committee who had booked her to speak as to what would be relevant and topical. How arrogant. How insulting and how unprofessional. There were almost 200 local tax advisers and accountants in the room. Some may well have found elements of her talk interesting. But it wasn’t on the subject they made time to go and learn about.  I’m sure many will feel they should have stayed at home (or the office!)

Maybe it serves me right. I had only booked to attend the session as I have a series of talks on partnership tax to present over the next few months. The first is next week and the slides AND NOTES are  already done. But I thought I’d see if there were any new ideas I should mention. Well I didn’t pick up any tonight that’s for sure!

I get paid to present my talks. If I didn’t keep to the subject I was booked to present I would be concerned that my fee might be withheld. And I would never be so arrogant as to insist on presenting a different subject to the one I was booked to address. I think tonight’s speaker was disrespectful, rude and unprofessional in her approach. But to an extent, you get what you pay for. As noted above I’m sure no fee was due to be paid to her. I charge a decent professional fee and present and operate in a professional manner (if you don’t mind the odd magic trick to liven things up a bit!)

If you were in the audience tonight do let me know if you’d like to attend my forthcoming half day talk on Partnership tax planning, tips, traps and news. Full details here. Anyone can come but I’ll extend a discount to those who also felt short changed tonight.

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