Ten clues your Linkedin profile is boring

Here’s a quick checklist to review in case your Linkedin profile is giving the impression that you are boring. That will certainly the case if your profile matches all ten!

  1. Photo: None or one of you sitting at a desk.  Note the additional prominence given to photos in the ‘new look’ profile layouts.
  2. Headline: Accountant. Nothing more, nothing less.
  3. Skills and expertise: None or simply compliance focused recurring services.
  4. Recommendations: None given and none received.
  5. Groups: Either ‘None’ or you only belong to those with the word ‘accountants’ in the title
  6. Summary (of current role): Description of your accountancy practice.
  7. Previous roles: Absence of any detail of interest
  8. Websites: Not personalised
  9. Interests: ‘None’ or only those related to your role as an accountant
  10. Status updates: Either ‘None’ or self promotional

Remember, Boring Is Optional. But if you don’t make the effort you make it all too easy for people to assume you fit the archetypal stereotype. To be successful you need to stand out from the crowd.

 PS: I have written a 10,000+ word book specifically for accountants who want to use Linkedin – either actively or passively. Click here for full details>>>

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You don't have to be boring to be good at your job

Accountants are all too used to being characterised as ‘boring’. Maybe some fit the sterotype. In other cases the epithet is more down to the perceived boring nature of accounting and auditing.

One reason so many accountants are seen as boring is precisely because we enjoy doing the boring old stuff that clients don’t like to do themselves. It’s partly what people expect from their accountant – “She’s someone who does all the stuff I don’t like. It’s boring. Accountants like it therefore accountants are boring.” But of course we’re not, are we?!

It doesn’t help that so much of what we do is backwards looking. Many people therefore see us as Historians and if they find history boring, as many people do, then, by definition, accountants are boring too.

They are often thinking not about us as people but more about what they think we do all day. We check numbers, details and tax rules. We must be methodical, detail focused, punctilious, cautious and predictable?. We give the impression of understanding a load of complex rules and concepts.

Alternatively we could find ways to disabuse people of the idea that dealing with Boring Stuff makes us boring people. We have to reveal our personalities and core behaviour traits.

How do you do 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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You don’t have to be boring to be good at your job

Accountants are all too used to being characterised as ‘boring’. Maybe some fit the sterotype. In other cases the epithet is more down to the perceived boring nature of accounting and auditing.

One reason so many accountants are seen as boring is precisely because we enjoy doing the boring old stuff that clients don’t like to do themselves. It’s partly what people expect from their accountant – “She’s someone who does all the stuff I don’t like. It’s boring. Accountants like it therefore accountants are boring.” But of course we’re not, are we?!

It doesn’t help that so much of what we do is backwards looking. Many people therefore see us as Historians and if they find history boring, as many people do, then, by definition, accountants are boring too.

They are often thinking not about us as people but more about what they think we do all day. We check numbers, details and tax rules. We must be methodical, detail focused, punctilious, cautious and predictable?. We give the impression of understanding a load of complex rules and concepts.

Alternatively we could find ways to disabuse people of the idea that dealing with Boring Stuff makes us boring people. We have to reveal our personalities and core behaviour traits.

How do you do 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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What are your options if you want to charge more then your fee quote?

We’ve all done it haven’t we. Estimated (or maybe even quoted a fixed) fee for a specific piece of work and then allowed the scope of the work to evolve slightly. And then a bit more. Perhaps we’ve delegated the work and have not kept in touch with how much extra time the ‘tweaks’ have involved.

And then we see the WIP reports and realise that the cost over-runs are more than we anticipated and certainly more than the client might have expected.  So what do we do? Do we:

  1. Bill the full time costs regardless of the quote we gave?
  2. Write-off a bit and then approach the client with what we consider to be a reasonable amount to bill them on top of the expected fee?
  3. Write-off everything over and above the quoted fee? or
  4. Speak to the client to discuss what happened?

Some will say it depends on the circumstances, on the reason the work went over budget, how much of this can be attributed to the change in scope of the work and how well we know the client and can anticipate their reaction.

If we’ve taken the coward’s route we follow options 1 or 2 and then await the dreaded phone call, email, letter or visit. If we hear nothing for a few days we relax. We got away with it!  We can bill the extra and we’ll get paid.

I’ll admit that, in the dim and distant past, I probably pursued that approach.  I later learned that although a letter/email may be a good way to broach the subject it is critical to proactively follow up with a prompt phone call rather than to just wait for a reaction.

More recently I recently found myself on the other end of such an arrangement and am now more convinced than ever before as to how important is that timely follow up call.

If you’ve underestimated a fee and want to increase your prospect of recovering more than the expected amount you MUST take the initiative. Set out your justification and plan your approach to the client. Don’t just send the bill. Don’t even send the bill if you hear nothing back after sending the client a note of the proposed additional fee. Even if it gets paid you cannot assume the client is happy. They may well be looking for a new accountant.

You will only know what your client thinks if you SPEAK to them – and you trust them to tell you the truth!

I welcome your comments and ideas as to how you deal with such situations in practice.

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Why consistency is important on social media

Most accountants who become active on social media do so in the hope of attracting more clients.

If this is your intention or you want to evidence your credibility, I suggest that you adopt a consistent business focus across your websites, blogs, online networking and contributions to business forums. It also helps to show that you’re a real person with more to your life than accountancy and tax – although you should try to avoid a situation where there are conflicting views of who you are and what you do – as this causes confusion.  I know. I confuse people!

Careless status updates and tweets can damage your reputation if they suggest a very different level of activity and focus as distinct from your website.

  • One accountant claiming to have quickly established a busy practice routinely posts status updates that suggest he has very little work and perhaps is not the start-up success he claims to be.
  • Another accountant tries to use Twitter to highlight his expertise as a tax adviser. This might have been a good idea, except that his website highlights his expertise is only in the area of corporate finance. In practice he is simply using an automated tool (badly) to promote his services. He doesn’t engage online and is only tweeting ‘adverts’. This is generally regarded as a pointless tactic – whether on twitter, Linkedin, on business forums or on blogs.

These are just two examples from many I have noted online. Please share any others that you have seen or that you would like to warn readers about.

Like this post? You can now obtain my 10,000 word ebook containing loads more social media insights, short-cuts, tips and advice aimed specifically at accountants. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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5 Blogging myths for accountants

I saw an online promo recently suggesting that all accountants should be blogging. How objective is this idea and does it really make sense?

Given that I’m still an enthusiastic blogger you might expect me to also advocate blogging by accountants. But I don’t and it’s not just because of my experience with the Tax-Buzz blog – although that does confirm my view about the myths surrounding blogging for accountants.

I should stress that I enjoy blogging and have now posted almost 500 items here since 2006. I also have a separate blog on which I have shared hundreds of posts on the subject of The lighter side of accountancy and tax.  I stopped writing my third blog at the end of 2011. The Tax-Buzz blog was where I shared over 400 insights and advice re tax related stories in the media over a 4 year period. I explained why I stopped adding to that blog in a blog post(!) in May 2012.

Anyway, here are my 5 blogging myths – ie: reasons often given to encourage people to blog regularly and why I think that accountants are different. If you disagree, please add your comments below:

1 – Build your credibility – This only works as regards people who see and read your blogs. Most accountants in practice are not seeking to build credibility across the UK, let alone the world. Their target audience is more local than that. Will your target audience (prospective clients, advocates and potential staff) find your blog and read it sufficiently to be influenced? There are certain tools you can use to help here but my own experience suggests that the impact will be minimal in real-life, as distinct from in theory.

2 – Enhance your SEO – This refers to ‘Search Engine Optimisation’. How easy is it for your target audience to find you on the web? Not the people who know your name or the name of your practice but those who don’t know you and are looking for someone just like you. Might I suggest that the best starting point here is to arrange for your website to be Optimised before you start blogging – if this is your objective. I would also suggest that blog articles are typically seen as a great way to access free advice. I am doubtful as to how often anyone will contact an accountant and be willing to pay for advice received after reading their blog online. The web user is far more likely to keep searching for more free advice on the same topic.

3 – It’s fun – I’d agree with that. But then lots of things are fun. How many fun things can you fit into your life? It’s also time consuming.  Is it enough fun to warrant the time and effort? For most accountants I would suggest the answer is ‘no’. It’s nice to think one has been helpful and that lots of people have read what you’ve written. But unless this turns into billable work or trackable referrals at some stage it is simply ‘fun’ and probably less productive than many other fun activities eg: engaging on twitter, business forums and Linkedin (all of which I advocate – to one degree or another).

4 – Emphasise your niche – If you have one. During my talks for accountants I often stress the benefits of focusing on a niche and of highlighting a specialism.  The strength of the argument for doing this sometimes comes as a shock after years of trading as accountants to anyone and everyone. If you have no niche your blog will be just one of many generalist ones. But even if you do have a niche I have the same reservations as set out in the 3 paras above.

5 – Distinguish yourself from the others – I’m a great advocate of the idea that it’s ‘more important to be different than to be better.’  But those features that distinguish you need to be evidently of benefit to your target clients. Being 7 foot tall and always carrying a bright green briefcase will make you memorable but do those differences benefit anyone? In the same way, will anyone feel that they are getting more value for money or a better service simply because you are a regular blogger? I think not.

I was recently a judge in a competition to identify high performing accountancy firms. Some (not many) of the entrants referenced their use of social media as contributing to their success. I was pleased to see this. However, in most cases they went on to explain they were active on twitter, linkedin and blogging. No one seemed able to distinguish the value of different elements of their social media activity. What was unclear was whether any firm that was blogging could identify any of their growth as benefitting from this activity.

The other side of the coin

I’ve been blogging here since 2006. The frequency of my posts varies but it now averages about 2 per week. I get to post my thoughts and ideas here to help readers and I am then able to collate the posts to create articles for the press and for other websites.  I also often adapt my blog posts to create supporting material for my courses and seminars for accountants.

I am aware of a relatively small number of accountants in practice who seem to enjoy blogging. I know of far more who gave it a try and then gave up. They concluded that the benefits didn’t live upto the hype.  I don’t think that’s a reflection on the accountants. I think it’s more to do with the hype.

[This is an updated version of a blogpost I originally wrote in 2008. Beyond my own evidence, through the TaxBuzz blog, that sadly supports my contentions, nothing much seems to have changed in the last 4 years. Well, one thing has; there are now more marketing types encouraging accountants to start blogs and to outsource the writing to the promoters!]

What do you think?  Please add your views as comments to this post especially if you are an accountant who blogs.

I have written a 10,000 word ebook containing marketing insights, short-cuts, tips and advice aimed specifically at accountants. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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Will accountants be able to afford to retire?

The so-called baby-boomer accountants, born in the immediate aftermath of World War Two, are now reaching (normal) retirement age. For many of them the question of whether they can afford to retire is at the forefront of their thoughts.

Some members of the profession have long been making pension contributions or investments intended to ensure they have a good income in retirement; many others however work on the assumption that their accounting practice (or their share of the firm) will produce the bulk of their retirement income.  How realistic is this?

In this context your retirement income will be dependant on your future health and family issues, the future performance of your pensions and investments and the future profitability, success and structure of your accountancy practice.

Some smaller practitioners  may hope to sell their practice but with typical practice sales generating little more than once times recurring turnover will the net proceeds be sufficient? Others may plan to scale down their practice, retain a fraction of their client base and work only part-time  so as to generate a net income closer to what they require in ‘retirement’.

An alternative solution is to merge the practice with one run by someone younger who is looking to grow and expand; and to seek a recurring consultancy from the new merger partner. The challenge here is to ensure that the numbers add up and make the deal sufficiently attractive to the purchaser. What you think is ‘fair’ is just part of the equation of course.

There are also many firms around today where a small number of partners have retained a disproportionate amount of the goodwill and equity. Junior partners may have been happy with the level of profits they have shared despite any apparent inequities in the ownership of the practice. As the full equity partners come to retire the question arises as to whether they have realistic retirement ambitions. Will the other partners be able to afford to ‘buy them out’? Can the firm access the funding required to repay their capital and over what period will this be achieved?  Often a sale to or merger with a third party is again the only realistic outcome. This was one of the drivers behind the sale of many smaller firms to consolidators like Tenon, Numerica and Vantis around ten years ago.

Have you given thought to your retirement? Will you be able to afford to retire?

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What Networking IS and what it is NOT

At its heart, networking involves meeting up with people in the hope that you will build profitable relationships with them. The emphasis is likely to be on building business relationships but social and even romantic ones could develop too I suppose. Many of the same principles apply whether you are networking online or in real life.

My friend, Richard White (author of the Networking Survival Guide) likes to think of networking as ‘net’ working. “We build up a network of useful connections and resources and at the same time we build a net in which land sales-leads in the same way that people use a net for fishing.”

The network that we build starts with those people who already know us and who think positively about us. It is worth remembering that it will invariably be easier to grow an existing network than to start one from scratch.

Those accountants who secure business as a result of their networking activity rarely do so after their initial attempts to network. Valuable business leads and opportunities typically only start to flow after new connections have grown to know, like and trust you. That takes time and invariably more than one or two meetings.

What networking is NOT

Many people, including many accountants, make the mistaken assumption that networking is all about ‘selling’. They couldn’t be more wrong. This is clearly very different from casting your ‘net’ for sales leads.

Many accountants who think networking is a waste of time do so because they started with an unrealistic expectation. Typically this is that their networking would enable them to immediately generate sales leads from the people they meet at networking events. As explained above, this is rarely going to happen in practice so any aspiration along these lines is doomed to disappoint.

I heard recently of a local Chamber of Commerce that was suffering significant member ‘churn’. The reason was that everyone who joined and who attended their networking events was in sales mode. Imagine a room full of salespeople all trying to generate sales leads but none of them there to find suppliers or to buy anything. No wonder members were dissatisfied and leaving – only to be replaced by new members who would repeat the cycle.

PS: I have written a 10,000+ word book specifically for accountants who want to Network more effectively. Click here for full details>>>

If you would like to book me to speak on the subject at your in-house conference or training session, do get in touch. There’s an outline of my talk on ‘How to ensure your networking activity is successful’ here>>>  

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