The upside of being a Boring Accountant

Someone who is perceived as Boring is often also perceived as possessing a host of very POSITIVE qualities. It sort of goes with the territory.

So, ‘boring’ accountants tend also to be:

  • methodical
  • disciplined
  • knowledgeable
  • professional
  • scrupulous
  • honest
  • ethical
  • trustworthy
  • detail focused
  • serious
  • cautious
  • predictable
  • reliable

and they like lists! 😉

These are all positive qualities that most people would want their accountant to possess. So please don’t assume that my ‘Boring Is Optional’ campaign is predicated on the idea that Boring is Bad. It’s not. I simply think it is better to project all those good qualities and not also to be perceived as Boring.

There’s no doubt that being Boring is invariably considered to be a negative attribute. And this is generally due to other qualities principally related to how we communicate, how we look and how we sound.  I’ll return to this idea in later posts.

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>>>

by

How's business? – Avoid falling in the trap when you reply

If you’re either a busy accountant and/or a regular at networking events, you probably get asked this question all of the time. You may also be asked by friends and family, ex-colleagues and prospective clients as well as by your bank manager, suppliers and potential advocates.

How carefully have you thought about the way that you answer this question? Did you realise that, completely unwittingly, the person who asks the question is setting you a BIG TRAP?

You probably want to avoid jumping in with both feet.

What’s the trap?
Quite simply it’s either implying that you’ve no time for more work or that you’re no good in any event.

It’s easiest to see the trap when someone else jumps in.

Imagine you’ve just met me for the first time in a few years. You’re aware that I have this new focus for my talks: ‘STAND out and be more successful‘ and that I am keen to present my keynote and after-dinner talks at conferences and events for accountants in the UK.  You may even have received my newsletter for ambitious professionals or visited this blog. After the initial introductions you look me in the eye and you ask me, “So Mark, How’s business?”

How would you react if I gave you one of the following answers?

– It’s great thanks. I’m really busy; or
– Really good thanks – I’ve got loads on; or
– Fabulous thanks for asking. I’m flat out.

If you’re like most people you’d be pleased or relieved by my response. But what would your reaction be as regards referring conference organisers and anyone else who might want a speaker for their event to me? What if a day or two later you met the managing partner of 20 partner firm of accountants who was frustrated by the lack of relevance or credibility most speakers have to his firm?  Or you meet one of the team who are organising a conference intended to attract accountants? Would you think of suggesting that either of them contacted me? [I certainly hope that you’d do exactly that as I’d love to help them and to speak at their events.]

Or would you think something like – There’s no point in recommending Mark – he’s already got plenty of work? Even though you probably know that I would love you to recommend me in such situations you might be hesitant. Please don’t be as there’s plenty of room in my pipeline and I thrive on referrals.

Can you see the trap now?
If you tell people you’re busy you can discourage them from referring or passing work to you. It matters not that it’s your automatic response; that you weren’t thinking when you said it. The word ‘busy’ or any inference that you have plenty of work is often enough to put off people passing more work your way. They may well think to themselves: “Shame. I was going to refer some work to you, but now I’m not sure that you’d give them enough time and attention.”

Clearly there’s a need for balance here. The other way of falling into the trap is if your answer is something along the lines:

– Not so good at the moment; or
– Still plenty of space for new clients; or
– Thanks for asking – I could do with some more referrals please.

Again, if you’re like most people you might well wonder ‘why’ business is not that good and wonder how much of a risk you might be taking if you refer work to someone in such a situation. You might think: “How can he/she be any good if they don’t have much on at the moment?

So…?
Years ago an entrepreneurial marketing guru, Chris Frederickson, suggested that a good answer to the question “How’s business?” was: “Business is great and we’re looking for more!”

I tried that for a while but it seemed a bit too ‘American’ for me. For some years when I was in practice my reply was more along the lines “Everything seems to be going really well at the moment; I’ve plenty of work, largely from referrals, and still scope for more.”

But I’ll bet you’ve got some even better ideas. So tell me: How’s business?

Like this? 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>>>  

by

How’s business? – Avoid falling in the trap when you reply

If you’re either a busy accountant and/or a regular at networking events, you probably get asked this question all of the time. You may also be asked by friends and family, ex-colleagues and prospective clients as well as by your bank manager, suppliers and potential advocates.

How carefully have you thought about the way that you answer this question? Did you realise that, completely unwittingly, the person who asks the question is setting you a BIG TRAP?

You probably want to avoid jumping in with both feet.

What’s the trap?
Quite simply it’s either implying that you’ve no time for more work or that you’re no good in any event.

It’s easiest to see the trap when someone else jumps in.

Imagine you’ve just met me for the first time in a few years. You’re aware that I have this new focus for my talks: ‘STAND out and be more successful‘ and that I am keen to present my keynote and after-dinner talks at conferences and events for accountants in the UK.  You may even have received my newsletter for ambitious professionals or visited this blog. After the initial introductions you look me in the eye and you ask me, “So Mark, How’s business?”

How would you react if I gave you one of the following answers?

– It’s great thanks. I’m really busy; or
– Really good thanks – I’ve got loads on; or
– Fabulous thanks for asking. I’m flat out.

If you’re like most people you’d be pleased or relieved by my response. But what would your reaction be as regards referring conference organisers and anyone else who might want a speaker for their event to me? What if a day or two later you met the managing partner of 20 partner firm of accountants who was frustrated by the lack of relevance or credibility most speakers have to his firm?  Or you meet one of the team who are organising a conference intended to attract accountants? Would you think of suggesting that either of them contacted me? [I certainly hope that you’d do exactly that as I’d love to help them and to speak at their events.]

Or would you think something like – There’s no point in recommending Mark – he’s already got plenty of work? Even though you probably know that I would love you to recommend me in such situations you might be hesitant. Please don’t be as there’s plenty of room in my pipeline and I thrive on referrals.

Can you see the trap now?
If you tell people you’re busy you can discourage them from referring or passing work to you. It matters not that it’s your automatic response; that you weren’t thinking when you said it. The word ‘busy’ or any inference that you have plenty of work is often enough to put off people passing more work your way. They may well think to themselves: “Shame. I was going to refer some work to you, but now I’m not sure that you’d give them enough time and attention.”

Clearly there’s a need for balance here. The other way of falling into the trap is if your answer is something along the lines:

– Not so good at the moment; or
– Still plenty of space for new clients; or
– Thanks for asking – I could do with some more referrals please.

Again, if you’re like most people you might well wonder ‘why’ business is not that good and wonder how much of a risk you might be taking if you refer work to someone in such a situation. You might think: “How can he/she be any good if they don’t have much on at the moment?

So…?
Years ago an entrepreneurial marketing guru, Chris Frederickson, suggested that a good answer to the question “How’s business?” was: “Business is great and we’re looking for more!”

I tried that for a while but it seemed a bit too ‘American’ for me. For some years when I was in practice my reply was more along the lines “Everything seems to be going really well at the moment; I’ve plenty of work, largely from referrals, and still scope for more.”

But I’ll bet you’ve got some even better ideas. So tell me: How’s business?

Like this? 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>>>  

by

The classic mistake made by accountants seeking new business

There’s a commonly quoted statistic that it’s ten times more costly (in terms of time and cash) to generate new work from new clients than it is to generate additional work from existing clients.

But if you’re really honest how do you allocate your precious time? Do you make time for meeting new people and for introductory meetings with prospective clients? If you’re like most ambitious accountants these will be two common activities for you.

But how much time do you devote to your existing clients – over and above the work you do for them each year? How much time do you spend looking for new ways to help them?

Notice how I asked that last question. How much time do you spend looking for new ways to help them?

I specifically didn’t suggest you should spend time looking for new ways to bill them more fees. Clients know the difference between an accountant who’s evidently looking for ways to genuinely help and one whose main interest seems to be to increase their fees.

So as we start a new year why not resolve to look for ways to help your existing clients more and ensure that you make time to do this each week. The more you help your clients the more pleased they will be. The more they will recognise that you are not just a typical boring accountant. The more they will talk about you and the more new work will come your way from your clients and from the people that they know.

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>>>

by

No one cares HOW you do what you do

Can you imagine what would happen if you explained to a prospective client or advocate HOW you do what you do?

  • We complete client’s tax returns using the latest software programme from ABC company;
  • We use the tax research books published by [name of publishing house];
  • Our staff have all been trained by [name of training company];

You wouldn’t do it would you? It’s not relevant information is it? Indeed it sounds somewhat self-centred and boring.

The analogy I offer here dates back to the first time I put my back out. What I wanted was a recommendation to someone who could fix my acute back pain. Frankly I didn’t care whether the practitioners, to whom I was recommended, were physiotherapists, chiropractors, osteopaths or anything else.  HOW they were going to sort my back was of far less interest to me than the RESULTS or OUTCOME I wanted them to achieve for me.

Too many accountants and tax advisers focus on HOW they or their firm operate and how they provide their services too early in the conversation.

You will reduce the prospect of appearing boring and you will find it much easier to create rapport if your initial focus is on your clients, their problem and needs and what you can do for them.

There is an apocryphal story about a group of newly recruited executives at Black & Decker in the days when they only sold one basic product. They were asked what it was that their customers wanted from them.

The standard answer was ‘drills’.

“No” they were told. “Our customers want HOLES.”

In a similar vein the great Harvard marketing professor Theodore Levitt used to tell his students, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”

How do you feel about this concept and the idea of focusing on the hole in the wall that your prospective clients want?  Typically they have problems they want solved or sorted. They will rarely care much about your firm’s internal processes and systems.

The bottom line is that good answers to the question ‘What do you do?’ do not include any reference to HOW you do it.

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

by

Mourning the death of Tax Facts

There needs to be a special reason to give over this blog to someone else’s words. This is one such occasion. It’s important for accountants to be able to debate the tax news stories of the moment with confidence and conviction – based on the facts. This has become increasingly difficult in recent months, as John Andrews explained in a recent speech.

John is a former CIOT President and founder of the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group. The comments below are taken from his acceptance speech after he became only the third ever recipient of the CIOT Council Award this week. This is a prestigious and very well deserved commendation for John’s tireless work since his ‘retirement’. He remains one of the most highly regarded and respected independently minded members of the tax profession, so his words deserve wide attention.

Towards the end of John’s speech he referenced a recent debate on tax avoidance in Parliament (the Bold emphasis is mine):

This was generally a more mature debate and a realisation that we have an international problem that cannot be solved on our own. However, some parts were filled with heat and very little light. Other parts contained a distinct lack of facts, accompanied by impossible dreams, misunderstandings and many unsupported assertions.

This reminded me of a report in the US press last year [credit here to Rex Huppke of the Chicago Tribune] which made Facts into a mythical person and then criticised US politicians for killing Facts. The event that caused the demise was when a Florida Republican announced, without any evidence, that at least 81 of his fellow members of the U.S. House of Representatives were communists.

This made me think that some tax debates may have pushed our equivalent of the mythical person, Facts, to an early grave here in the UK.

Facts had a long life and I believe was born in ancient Greece, the child of Aristotle who saw that evidence was essential for his nurture. As Facts grew up people like Edmund Burke observed “Facts are to the mind what food is to the body.”

Facts helped to discover gravity, break the Enigma Code, discover DNA and, perhaps, introduce self-assessment.

In 2012 however, people seemingly unable to understand how tax systems work, began to doubt and ignore Facts. Opinion became the new truth and reprinting of such opinion in the press confirmed this new truth as correct. No feedback from Facts was thought necessary.

Facts had suffered serious injuries at the time of the 10% tax rate debacle in 2008 and through the misplaced assertions in 2010 about millions of errors being produced by the new PAYE system.

His health was improving, when early last year he was laid low by the absence of any sensible discussion about the granny and pasty taxes.

But nothing was to prepare him for the cruel assault which led to his demise in the final month of twenty-twelve. Assertions in the press that you can judge the right amount of tax a multinational should pay by looking at its turnover; followed by the revelation that for certain there was a £69.9 billion tax gap caused by avoidance, caused Facts to have a major stroke.

He was still in intensive care in hospital when the final straw came. His cousin TaxLaw was the one to break the news. TaxLaw had been admitted to the hospital’s isolation unit and had been ignored by all and sundry, including, at times, the Public Accounts Committee. The oxygen was rushed to Facts when he was told that a coffee bean company was now to be the arbiter of the amount of tax that people should pay; but it was too late.

That news coupled with the whisper that a burger chain would set the CPI in future had done its worst.

You will have seen from his obituary that Facts was aged 2,372 and was buried, at his request, in the birthplace of Parliament – the Isle of Man. He is survived by two brothers, Rumour and Dogma and a sister Shout Loudly.

Donations in his memory may be made to HMRC in a brown envelope marked “corporation tax”.

It is to John’s credit that he didn’t name any individual carriers of the virus that killed Facts. He was making serious points, about which he cares greatly, under the guise of an amusing valedictory speech.  Sadly much of the media is unaware or does not care enough that they are helping the spread of a virus.

John Andrews’ acceptance speech can be read in full here.

by

The 500th blog post here

Just felt I should recognise this as no one else will do so.

The top ten blog posts since I started this blog in April 2006 have been:

  1. Three elements of communication – and the so called “7%-38%-55% Rule” 7388
  2. Examples of good facebook pages for accountants 7075
  3. Twitter 4929
  4. The Easter Bunny shows us how NOT to network 4269
  5. How do you set charge out rates? 3176
  6. Twitter is not for accountants 3099
  7. Networking strategy – plan your follow up beforehand 2547
  8. Will you get paid more for iXBRL accounts? 2036
  9. Why weren’t all accountants promoting those tax schemes? 1982
  10. What’s your approach to the provision of ‘business advice’? 1921

The numbers are the viewer numbers during 2011 and 2012 as WordPress analytics only started counting on 30 December 2010.

My apologies that this is so similar to a recent post re my website analytics for 2012.

by

9 accountants’ business card mistakes

Over the holiday period I went through many hundreds of business cards I have collected over the last few years.  That led me to post a reminder that: ‘No one refers work to a business card‘. This was a follow up to an earlier post with the same title.

Having reviewed all of these cards, from website developers, solicitors, bankers, PR people, bookkeepers, accountants, tax advisers, trademark agents, answering services and many, many other business people, I thought I would distil some advice for ambitious accountants.

Before getting onto the common mistakes let’s just remind ourselves as to the reason for a business card. I suggest that it is to provide the person to whom it is given sufficient details for them to get in touch with you – and to know why they might want to do this.

The following are among the most common mistakes I saw on all of the accountants’ business cards I looked back at last week. Some are boring, others are naive or just plain daft:

1 – info [at] accountancyfirm [dot] co [dot] uk

Email addresses that start with ‘info@’ suggest you’re new to email and will prevent you receiving some of the emails you want, for example if you sign up for newsletters etc.  Use your own name. After all, it’s your business card.

2 – accountant.name@ntlworld.com or @yahoo.com or @gmail.com etc

Email addresses that use a generic email service are unprofessional and suggest that you are either new in practice, are not serious about your practice or are very much behind the times. None are great signals. You can get you own email address very cheaply even if you do not have or need a website.

3 – Crossed out email address on card and new handwritten one added

Talk about unprofessional. Think of the impact this has. New contact details means new business cards. There’s little point in finishing off an old batch of cards if the people to whom they are given put them straight in the bin.

4 – Multiple office phone numbers

You should only need one office number unless you operate from multiple offices. Even then you could make it easier for callers by utilising a central phone answering service, installing a switchboard or adding an auto-redirect (when engaged or unanswered) to your mobile number.

5 – Two email addresses on one business card

Why would anyone do that? It’s not like having separate local and city office physical addresses. Make it easy for people to contact you; don’t force them to wonder and to choose.

6 – Flimsy and cheap looking card

Your business card is a memory aid for when you’re not there. Do you want to be remembered as a cheap amateur?

7 – Mixed up personal and business contact information

So many business cards have evolved with little thought apparently given to where newer info should be added. It’s so much easier if the business name, address and switchboard number are evidently separate to your personal name, title, mobile, direct dial and email address.

8 – Tiny font

Either the information on the card is worth including or it isn’t. If it’s too small to read then it might as well not be there. Too many business cards seem to have shrunk the font size to fit on more information such as email addresses, linkedin profile links and a promo message. But if we can’t read it easily you’re wasting your time.

9 – Forgetting to include ‘Accountants’ after the business name

So many of the business cards I threw out recently had business names on them but no indication of the nature of the business service they offer. Of course if you’re ‘tax specialists’ you might put that instead of ‘accountants’.  Remember too that even if you’re a member of the ICAEW and use the authorised logo, not everyone will recognise this so it’s not sufficient.  And whilst a marketing ‘guru’ may have suggested you call yourselves something like ‘business growth specialists’ you still need to use the word ‘accountants’ (or whatever) to make it easy for the person who looks at your card some time after you gave it to them.

Related posts

Feel free to add comments below and share other tips and mistakes you’ve seen if they could be helpful for fellow accountants.

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

by