20 tips re Linkedin for accountancy firms – vs individual accountants

I once wrote a Handbook on using Linkedin for a larger company that has many such handbooks recording their processes and systems.

It was a fascinating experience. In researching available Linkedin advice and tips I found very little that was aimed at or relevant to business owners. The same is true for accountancy firms that need to advise and guide their staff on how to use Linkedin – from a ‘corporate’ perspective. And any such generic advice that does exist still needs to be tailored to the practice concerned.

There is plenty of guidance out there for one-man bands, for consultants and for job hunters. A lot of this focuses on how to optimise your Linkedin profile so that you will be found, be attractive and be contacted.  Much of this advice is good in itself but it’s incomplete.

If you are responsible for a firm you need to consider a range of other issues including:

  1. How the firm should be described on Linkedin and on each employee/partner’s profiles?
  2. How the firm should be described on it’s own Company page on Linkedin – and who should be able to edit this?
  3. Whether to encourage a degree of consistency as regards references to the firm and to specific departments on everyone’s profiles?
  4. What guidance to provide re links from personal profiles to the firm’s website, specific pages and blogs thereon and the use of business or personal email addresses on Linkedin profiles?
  5. Whether to provide more extensive guidance as to the creation of professional profiles on Linkedin? (Do less than professional profiles reflect badly on the firm?)
  6. Whether to provide any guidance or training on professional uses and abuses of Linkedin?
  7. Whether to encourage use of Linkedin for lead generation purposes and what training to provide to facilitate this?
  8. Whether to encourage use of Linkedin to help raise awareness of the name of your practice and how best to co-ordinate this?
  9. What guidance to provide re staff who may want to connect with current, past and prospective clients and referers?
  10. How much ‘best practice’ guidance to share to help users to gain maximum benefit for the firm from their use of Linkedin?
  11. Whether to provide guidance or set policies re the provision of ‘recommendations’ for current staff, ex-staff, clients, collaborators and suppliers?
  12. Whether to provide guidance or set policies re the extent to which profiles can appear to be full online CVs?
  13. Whether to co-ordinate the involvement of users in different Linkedin groups and to collate and share lessons learned?
  14. Whether to set up one or more groups for clients of the firm, what settings and templates to choose and who should manage these?
  15. How can clients be best engaged and encouraged to see the benefits of involvement in groups established for their benefit?
  16. Whether to establish groups focused around key service areas, what settings and templates to choose for such groups and who to invite to join these?
  17. Whether to encourage current and past staff and partners to join an alumni group – and who will ‘manage’ this?
  18. Whether to encourage the use of status updates for specific purposes or to allow these to be completely personal and random?
  19. Whether to encourage or discourage the seeking of and publication of recommendations from clients and ex-clients?
  20. Whether to provide guidance as to the time that can or should be spent on Linkedin each working day/week?

I hope that gets you thinking. The list is by no means complete. What else do you think might figure in your firm’s Linkedin handbook?

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8 tips if you are considering an accountancy franchise

This isn’t intended to be complete treatise on the subject. I have simply jotted down a few thoughts in preparation for a magazine interview. If my contributions appear online I will provide a link in due course. The journalist seems to be undertaking extensive research so it should be a good piece – but probably won’t be published before the summer.

By way of background: There seem to be more accountancy franchise options and opportunities around today than ever before. Some rely on online marketing of a brand name, some provide exclusive areas and some are better known than others. You don’t need to be a start-up practice to join a franchise as many of them will allow you to migrate an existing practice into the franchise.

Here are 8 tips if you are considering an accountancy franchise.

1 – What is your objective? Many accountants will find it easier to focus on building a successful practice as a franchisee than to do so alone. Different skills are required to build a business then to be a good accountant. Can you do both? Do you want to do both? A good franchisor will probably enable you to build a successful practice faster than if you were to try to do so alone.

2 – Be realistic: Taking a franchise will rarely absolve you of the need to generate clients and, especially, to close the sale with prospective clients. If you need training in how to do this, where will you get it? Or would you be better off with a franchise that generates clients through focused and proven online marketing and conversion? Is marketing support available and do existing franchisees share what works and what doesn’t, perhaps through an online forum, at regular conferences, meetings or elsewhere?  You will especially want to check whether the franchisor has a record of meeting it’s promises re lead generation?

3 – Funding: Some franchises have arrangements with banks to fund the upfront fees – and this may enable you to build your practice more effectively than if you go it alone. Do be careful though to assess the validity of the new business projections and how often these have been fulfilled by other franchisees. And research how financially stable is the franchisor business itself.

4 – Compare and contrast: The various accountancy franchises may have some similarities but they are all different. Different in terms of how they promote the business name, the freedom they give franchisees, the level of fees payable, the length of the franchisee agreement, the level of handholding and support, ownership of clients and so on. Identify the issues that seem important to you and balance up the differences before deciding on your preferred approach. Do you need a big National support operation or would you be comfortable with something more personal?

5 – Legal advice: You may be tempted to sign up without taking independent legal advice. Don’t, unless you are the sort of person who would buy a house without having it professionally surveyed.  How balanced is the contract? How watertight is it? How easy is it to get out if the franchisor doesn’t deliver; not just within the first few months but a couple of years down the line?

6- The founder(s): How involved and committed are they? Are they your sort of people and can they deliver on their promises? Is what they offer more than just a catchy franchise name?

7 – Testimonials: Talk to YOUR choice of a selection of existing franchisees. Find out what has gone well for them, what hasn’t been as good as they had hoped and whether they would have joined up originally knowing then what they know now. You will especially want to know how many franchisees have opened up and how many have closed or left the franchise? And over what period?

8 – Goals: Will joining an established franchise enable you to achieve your goals re building an accountancy practice? Do you want to build something independent and to be your own boss? Will the franchise allow you to do this, help you to do this or restrict your ability to do this?

What other tips do you think would be helpful? 

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Am I really 38th out of 100 top finance related tweeters?

The ICAEW’s new membership magazine, Economia, has introduced a novel idea. They have teamed up with PeerIndex to identify and list the “The top most influential Finance accounts on Twitter“. And I’m currently ranked at number 38 which is flattering.

Sadly though I doubt the veracity of the list and thus can take no real delight in being included – tempting though it is. After all, I’m ranked above the Harvard Business Review, the IFS, HMRC, all of the Big 4, the CBI and many other worthy finance/accountancy bodies and individuals.

I’ve attempted to embed the list below. See how many names you recognise and might think of as ‘finance’ related. Does anything strike you as odd?

Quite simply I do not understand how the accounts were selected for inclusion. The ranking may or may not be based on an appropriate algorithm but that’s a separate matter.

Many (possibly most) of the personalities on here do not routinely tweet on finance related issues and are better known for other reasons – which therefore affects the level of interest paid to their tweets (whether on finance or other issues). To suggest that they are among the most influential finance tweeters is odd to say the least.

I have not attempted to dissect the complete list but thought I’d check out an accountancy firm that appears near the foot of the list. They have only ever tweeted 39 times and just twice a month for the last few months. Given that I curate two twitter lists that, between them, attempt to follow all UK accountants on twitter I can categorically state that this firm is not anywhere close to being one of the 100 most influential accountancy firms on twitter.

I fear that others on the list may be there for equally spurious reasons thus rendering it a novelty but nothing more I’m afraid. Shame really.

Do let me know what you think by commenting below.


Why Cameron was right about accountants

I returned from a few days away to see a storm brewing about something disparaging that David Cameron has said about accountants.

The offending headline in the Daily Telegraph on 7 May was: “We’re not just a bunch of accountants”. This was an extract from an article attributed to David Cameron in the paper. He said much the same thing recently during an interview with the BBC’s Nick Robinson.

Michael Izza, CEO of the ICAEW, writing on his blog, describes the PM’s comments as:  “uninformed and ill judged”. On this occasion, I think Michael’s comments could be self-referential.

If, instead of focusing on the headline, we consider the full quote we can see that the PM did not take a gratuitous swipe at the accountancy profession.  He said:

“People want to know that we’re not just a bunch of accountants trying to turn round the British Economy as if it were a failing economy, but that we are resolutely on their side as we do this work.”

It’s clear to me that the PM simply used the word ‘accountants’ as a short-hand for for a specific sub-set of our profession. That is the Corporate Recovery and Insolvency Practitioners. And I think he’s right to want to emphasise that the Government is not focused only on that type of specialist accountancy related activity.

The PM and Chancellor have made other negative comments recently in the context of clever accountants cooking up tax schemes. But on this occasion I suggest that those accountants who felt insulted by what they read or heard this week can calm down.

Perhaps any accountants who took offence should  think whether they could do more to avoid anyone jumping to the conclusion that references to accountants are intended to be negative slurs. The more we all do to show that accountants do not fit the old stereotypes the better.

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