What do you do when clients are divorcing?

Two husbands withholding information have been jailed in recent divorce cases.  David Thursfield, previously head of Ford, went down for 2 years* and Scot Young for 6 months.   So failure to cooperate in court proceedings can seriously mess up your life.

You may have clients whose marriages breakdown and where one party or the other wants help in tracking down and valuing the assets of the other one. Alternatively you may find yourself trying to assist a client who would prefer not to make full disclosure.

There will also be tricky situations where you have been acting for both parties to a marriage. It’s then crucially important to avoid breaching any confidences and to only do what you are authorised to do under the terms of your letter of engagement.

Friends of mine run a unique facility called Harmony House – where they help warring couples to resolve their issues and keep the marriage going. It’s open 24/7!

The same friends also run a discreet legal practice supporting one party or another in divorce proceedings. What is special about Penny Raby & Co, besides the fact that the two principals are friends of mine, is their unique combination of skills and expertise:

Mike Gordon FCMA is a forensic accountant and trained mediator. He is also an associate member of Resolution – the specialist family solicitors group and will shortly be receiving one of my INABA awards! Mike’s wife, Penny Raby,  is a senior solicitor with over 30 years’ experience. She has a formidable reputation for achieving great divorce deals by firm negotiation. Penny and I ski together each year, as Mike is more of a golf guy.

An accountant like Mike can advise both parties on the disclosure process and clarify the finances which will be looked at by a divorce court.  If you don’t have the experience to do this yourself you’re taking a big risk if you try to wing it with divorcing clients. And you’d be in breach of the ethical code. Experienced advisers however will often enable clients to reach a settlement saving thousands of pounds in legal fees and a great deal of time all round. Top advice will also help keep clients out of jail for non-disclosure.

You may be aware that there is a current drive to find alternative means of settling divorce without court proceedings. Mike and Penny offer expertise in examining the finances which will not be available in most mediation procedures.

Yes I know this blog post reads a tad like an advert for my friends. Why not? You can contact Penny and Mike at Harmony House or on 01386 555114 and 07710 418395.

Postscript: Mike tells me that David Thursfield was sentenced to 2 years he hasn’t gone down yet – they haven’t caught him!

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How do you bill for extras over a fixed fee?

We’ve all done it haven’t we? Estimated a fee (or maybe even quoted a fixed fee) for a specific piece of work and then the scope of the work has changed 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? Swallow the ‘loss’? Promise ourselves to be more on top of things next time? Or do we write a bit off and then approach the client with what we consider to be a reasonable amount to bill them on top of the expected fee.

If we’ve taken the coward’s route we await the dreaded phone call or letter; and 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.  Of course we still don’t know the client’s reaction. They may be fuming and bad-mouthing us all over the place. We promised one fee and then charged a higher one. It’s not good PR.

I’ll admit that, in the dim and distant past, I 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. Much better than simply to just wait for a reaction.

I recently found myself on the other end of such an arrangement. As a result I 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!

How do you deal with such situations in practice?

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A simple way accountants can earn £867 in just 7 minutes

This should be of interest if you have any interest in receiving valuable referrals from bankers.

Steve Pipe and Rob Brown have invited me to work with them on some ground-breaking research into how to get bank managers to give practices like yours more referrals. And between us we would like to ‘pay’ you £867 for 7 minutes of your time taking part.

Steve is, as you probably know, one of the most passionate accountancy gurus I have ever met. He’s the man behind the AVN network. Rob is the author of  ‘How to build your reputation’ and a recognised authority in this area.

Between us we have prepared two surveys. One for accountants and one for bankers. Both have been carefully designed so that the resulting report will reveal exactly and precisely what you need to do to receive more referrals from bankers… of the kind you really want. That report is expected to sell for £295.

But you will receive a pdf copy of the full report for FREE when you spend 7-8 minutes taking part in the online survey that is at the heart of the research.

You will also receive six other books, resources and training programmes we have created specifically to help accountants get better results (worth £572).

Earn your £867 here…

Taking part in the online survey is quick, easy and confidential. And you will find full details here:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/AVN-AC-Research

Start getting closer to bankers here…

You can also, if you want, send an email to every banker in your area to see if they would like to contribute to the research too. The text for a draft email with a link to the bankers’ survey follows:

SUGGESTED TEXT FOR EMAILING BANKERS

Subject: Can I help you meet your targets by giving you more referrals?

Dear [name]

I am taking part in a major research study into how accountants and bankers can build more fruitful referral relationships with each other.

And the research team suggested that I contact you with a two-step action plan:

STEP 1 – I invite you to take part in the research (which consists of an online survey herehttp://www.surveymonkey.com/s/pba-research that is easy, quick and confidential – and gives you £495 worth of professional “thank you gifts” for 8-9 minutes of your time)

STEP 2 – When you receive the full research report (which is one of your thank you gifts) we get together to work out how best to use its findings to build a more mutually rewarding referral relationship.

I hope that sounds as good an idea to you as it does to me?

[Name]

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Everyone wants an accountant they know, like and trust

I’ve lost track of how often I have flagged this fundamental point during networking talks and in my articles and ebooks.

Obviously there are many factors that will determine a prospective client’s decision making process. However, everything else being equal, you will secure more work if you make it easy for people to get to know you, to like you and to trust you.

When was the last time you heard of someone who appointed a new accountant and told their friends that “I’ve got this strange new accountant. I don’t like him or trust him”? Too often? ;-)

Seriously – although there will always be exceptions to the rule, I am convinced that ambitious accountants will secure more work if they make it easy for prospective clients to get to know them, to like them and to trust them. Of course this is made easier if you are not perceived as a stereotypical boring accountant.

The question we all ask then is: How do you get people to know, like and trust you?  Which, simply translated, means: What do WE each need to do to make it easy for the people we meet to get to know us, to like us and to trust us?

Well?

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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Succinct advice to help anyone win new clients

I came across an old Chinese proverb recently:

A man without a smiling face must not open a shop

It reminded me of something my kids said a few years back at the surprise party that my wife arranged for my 50th birthday. My wonderful (teenage) kids gave a speech that included a short description of me as a ‘smiling man’. I’d like to think that my smile is welcoming and infectious. Is yours?

We all need to present a professional image – it needs to be a welcoming image too. Too many frowns and serious looks will not make it easy for new contacts to warm to us. And if they don’t like us, well, this will only serve to reinforce any preconceptions they may have about accountants being boring.  All of us, whether or not we’re in practice, industry or pretty much out of it (like me) owe it to our fellow professionals to overcome that boring old stereotype.

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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Apparently this is one of the Top 30 accounting and finance blogs

Last month I received what appears to be a genuine endorsement of all my work to make this blog useful, relevant, commercial and valuable to ambitious accountants.Best Accounting and Finance Blogs 2012

I was initially a tad cynical but this blog really is the fourth in a list of the Top 30 Accounting and Finance Blogs of 2012.

The note I received last week from Tina Ray, editor of BestAccountingSchools.net, said that:

“Of the hundreds of blogs we reviewed, yours was selected as being among the most helpful and offering the sharpest insight.”

If you scroll down you will note that I am now proudly displaying the award badge on the right hand side of this blog.

For the record, Best Accounting Schools’ mission is:

“To help you in your quest to become an Accountant or advance in your career in Accounting. We do this by providing high quality resources about how to get started in this field, along with information about the best accounting schools and degree programs available.”

It is an American focused resource which is ironic as my focus is UK based accountants.

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