It’s better to be passionate and authentic than boring

The old cliche ‘people buy from people they know, like and trust‘ is especially pertinent when you are an accountant keen to generate additional clients.

To a large extent it matters not whether you are part of a bigger company/firm or you run your own practice – although the effect is even more pronounced in the smallest of firms.

Regardless of almost anything else, any prospective clients need to first buy into you as a person. Whether they trust, respect and like you will affect their buying decision. The same is true of the advocates you hope to secure when you are networking.

So what can you do to influence that? There are two key attributes you will want to demonstrate:

Be Passionate – Passion is contagious as long as you don’t let it evolve into obsession. Can you express your passion for how you help clients?  If you’re not passionate about this it will take you longer to build sufficient rapport to generate leads and clients. If your passion doesn’t show then you may come across as bored, indifferent and uncommitted. Who would want an accountant like that?

Be Authentic – This is not just about being honest; it is more than that. It is about being you, warts and all. It’s about being comfortable implying: This is me; What you see is what you get and what you get is me.

Even if you are not a sole-trader and there are others in your practice, your personality is what will drive and define the extent to which you are able to generate leads and work.

Like ‘Passion’, Authenticity is attractive. Authenticity is what will attract your ideal clients to you. Authenticity is what will determine who your clients are and who they are not.

As I have indicated many times on this blog, it takes much longer to build a practice if you come across as being open to doing everything for everyone.

Be clear about who you are what your purpose in practice is and what values you live by. Be clear about who you want to and will work with and who you won’t. If you want to be clear outwardly, you need to be clear inwardly first.

There are many posts on this blog about effective networking skills. One of these is to listen more than you speak. So ensure that when you reveal your passion you do so in a measured way. That means ensuring that the other other person remains part of the conversation.

What’s your passion in practice?



Stop giving away your valuable time to strangers

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. Ten times! That’s a lot of wasted time that could have been devoted to billable activities.

If you’re really honest how do you allocate your precious time when you engage in ‘practice development’ activities? Do you make time for meeting new people 1-2-1 and for introductory meetings with prospective clients? If you’re like most ambitious accountants these will both be common activities for you. And yet the people you meet doing these things are strangers (‘suspects’) who may never become clients.

Have you ever compared how much time you spend with strangers with how much time 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 your existing clients?

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.

Perhaps you know (really KNOW) that spending time with your existing clients will not generate additional work opportunities or new referrals. If that’s the case you are right not to spend any more time with them than is absolutely necessary.  And you should continue giving away your valuable time to strangers ie: suspects and prospects.

Many accountants though have not considered spending more time with clients free of any prospect of billing for such meetings.

Today’s tip therefore is to look for ways to help your existing clients more and ensure that you regularly make time to do this. The more you help your clients the more pleased they will be. The more they will talk positively about you and the more new work will come your way from your clients and from the people that they know. And overall this will be less time consuming than spending time with strangers.


How accounting has been changed by technology

I was intrigued by this infographic and thought it was worth sharing. I recognise the picture of the modern accountant as I started in the profession just before accounting computer programmes were introduced to enhance our lives.

The infographic starts with Pacioli in 1494 and comes right uptodate via the introduction of visicalc in 1978 and then quickbooks in 1998.

Visicalc led onto supercalc and then to Lotus 1-2-3 which was the last spreadsheet software on which I received any training. It was later that I learned to excel 😉

Do you agree with the conclusion that today’s accountant has become a business consultant rather than just a mathematical tool?
How Accounting Has Been Changed By Technology Over Time



Watch out General Practitioner Accountants!

This salutary item is drawn from my talk and ebook on risk management and how to avoid professional negligence claims. The 2013 professional negligence case of Mehjoo and Harben Barker effectively endorsed the advice I had already been giving for years –  even though many other commentators believed otherwise.

Assume for a moment that a client is dissatisfied with your work. Maybe you’ve made a simple mistake. Maybe it was more complex. Maybe you’ve been negligent (allegedly).

If the client brings a formal claim against you what is the standard of care against which your work and advice will be judged?

Does it make any difference whether you hold yourself out to be a specialist or a generalist? It seems not.

If a general practitioner undertakes a task for which specialists are often engaged, the question to be asked is: Why wasn’t a specialist engaged on this occasion?

The chances are that the generalist will be judged as to the standards expected of a specialist because of the explicit obligation on all of us to only do work ourselves that we have sufficient experience and knowledge to undertake. To take one example – The guide to professional conduct for those advising on tax explicitly tells us that we should seek assistance if a client needs help or advice as regards an issue that we are not competent to deal with ourselves.

The lesson is clear: If a client needs help and you’re not confident that you have the necessary knowledge and experience to give definitive advice, don’t wing it. Find someone else in your firm or elsewhere who does have the necessary experience and knowledge to confidently give definitive advice.

When I was in practice I kept in mind the old maxim: Would I be happy to encourage my parents to act on my advice? If I wasn’t sure I got someone else’s input. I believe all ambitious accountants should do the same thing.

Readers of this blog are welcome to seek specialist tax advice and support from members of the UK’s largest network of independent tax advisers: The Tax Advice Network 


Accountants caught lying on their websites

I was shocked to read about “Accountants Caught Lying To Clients In Desperate Quest For Authority” on the website of marketing expert Ian Brodie.

He suggests that more than a dozen accountants seem to be falsely claiming to be co-authors of a book titled:  “Why Businesses Stop Growing And What You Can Do About It”.

You can get a partial list of them here via google: the book with the most co-authors in the world >>

Each of the accountants’ websites claim that the book has been co-written by the accountant and a third party (the same one in each case: “one of the world’s leading marketing and business growth experts”). It seems much more likely that the third party is the real author and is allowing multiple accountants to reproduce the book as if they had co-written it with him. Or maybe they did each write their own section and the costs of production have been kept down by retaining the same title and cover for all of the variations.

I seem to recall other copyright free books which accountants can rebrand and promote with their firm’s name on the cover and which could be helpful for clients.

It has also long been possible to outsource the production of client newsletters which can then be personalised with an accountancy firm’s branding. Many firms also promote booklets that contain generic advice for clients and which include the firm’s branding even though the written content was provided by a third party publisher. And a whole industry now exists providing generic advice and tips for inclusion on accountants’ websites too.

The only real difference here I think is that the accountants’ websites are actively promoting them as the co-authors and claiming that their co-authorship evidences that they are experts in the field. Some of the accountants appear in a very professional promotional video on what I expect is an effective ‘squeeze page’ to drive traffic. I am sure the whole package requires a decent investment upfront. In each of the videos they seem to address variations on the same script as each other and invariably claim to be co-authors of the “Why Businesses Stop Growing” book.

As Ian says:

It’s not just something that’s slipped into their marketing by accident. They are deliberately fooling their clients and potential clients and claiming expertise they may not have and an achievement they didn’t do.

Ironically, many of them have a bio which reads “…so-and-so is the co-author of “Why Businesses Stop Growing And What You Can Do About It…” and a trusted authority on helping start up and small business owners achieve success”.

Do you agree with Ian that such behaviour brings into question whether the accountants can really be ‘trusted’? Or do you think it’s simply an acceptable marketing tactic? Is it ethical to blatantly lie to prospective clients re your achievements and expertise?

Much as I admire the professionalism and the likely impact of the campaigns I am not comfortable with the co-authorship claims unless they are justifiable. What do you think?

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>>>


Please ignore this self congratulatory post

Three months ago I mentioned, in passing, that this website/blog “had significantly more visitors (>19,000) and more page views (>30,000) in April than ever before.”

I am delighted to note that those April figures were no blip. July 2013 saw the highest number of unique visitors to this website and blog: 20,754 And the number of items viewed totalled 31,790.

Over the last 3 months the average monthly figures have been: 19,710 visitors and 30,560 views.

July 15 was the most visited day ever – 1037. A normal day is round 500-600 with a spike on most Tuesdays of just over 1,000 after I send out my weekly newsletter.

The latest figures confirm the upwards trend of visitor numbers and ‘views’ during 2013.  I don’t have any records from when I started the blog in 2006. But I can tell that both figures are now more than 3 times those of just two years ago in 2011 when average monthly visitors were typically around 6,000 and average monthly views were around 9,000.

I continue to post one or two new items here each week.

The increased level of attention given to this website and blog are not (yet) matched by increased earnings from speaking engagements or from writing commissions. However it still feels good in that more and more people seem to be interested in what I have to say. And that’s a reason for me to celebrate. Move along now please. Nothing to see here.

Related post:

May 2013: How do you know when a blog is worthwhile?