Accountants resist newish service proposition – with good reason

Recently I was asked to help promote a new service for accountants. It has been around for a year or so but hasn’t really taken off in that time. I wrote back and explained my reservations – which are much as they were when I first heard of the launch last year. It may be a good idea but I doubt it’s value to accountants. Basically the service seems to be all froth with little substance of value.

If I don’t believe in something I cannot write or speak about it in glowing terms – which is what was being requested. I want to retain my independence and integrity so felt unable to help with the promotion.

On this occasion, despite the glossy and professional marketing materials I think the concept is flawed as I cannot see how it will really benefit those accountants who buy into it.

In an effort to be helpful I explained my thinking (in brief). I also expressed a willingness to reconsider if the promoters could produce suitable testimonials from accountants. I said these would need to date from 3-12 months after any accountants had started to use the service. The current testimonials they had showed me seem only to reflect the accountants’ first impressions before they had really used the service.

The other possibility I am willing to consider is to take a healthy fee to compensate me for spending some time taking a really good look at what is being promoted, to speak to accountant advocates and possibly to road-test the service. Time is money so such a commitment requires suitable compensation – with no guarantee that I would reach a positive conclusion. So I guess such terms would not appeal to any promoters. I’m not even sure they appeal to me!

As I frequently tell the advocates of new services and facilities for accountants “Your preconceptions are inaccurate, your assumptions are way off the mark and your message is not attractive to accountants”.

This new service is being promoted by people who claim to have worked with accountants for years. Maybe it’s ahead of its time. Maybe it will take off. Or maybe it’s a white elephant. I suspect the latter and also that the investment made by the promoters means they cannot give up on it. In the meantime I think accountants are right to resist the heavy marketing hype. Anyone feel they know what I’m talking about here?

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The Tax Advice Network's 6 year anniversary

Please indulge me for a moment. Six years ago today I launched the Tax Advice Network as the UK’s first virtual tax practice. A unique facility allowing accountants to access their choice of vetted independent specialist tax advisers, whenever a client’s problems required such expertise.

My first business plan showed that the Network’s various income sources would make it very profitable, even based on very modest projections. Not modest enough it turned out!

For a host of reasons the Network did not initially generate the level of interest or income that I had projected. Over the years though it has continued to grow and we now offer access to around 40 vetted independent tax experts around the UK.

Our website is a simple portal enabling you to find someone suitable to resolve almost any tax problem you can imagine. There is no middle man – you can either ring them or email them direct and engage directly with them.

Separate to the website facility many thousands of accountants have registered to receive the Network’s weekly tax tips – these come out every Thursday. Written especially for accountants in general practice and for their staff, there are always at least 3 timely, topical and commercial tips and advice with links to the source documents should you want to read further. Register here if you’ve not done so previously>>>

As we approached today’s 6th anniversary I had cause to look back to when the Network launched and to look forward to the exciting plans we have for the future. It seems we were ahead of our time when we launched. Now however I am confident that, together with my team, we know what needs doing to build on our first 6 years.

Our intention is to provide more support, help and advice to general practitioners, to provide easy trusted access to independent cost-effective tax advice and to build up the value of our brand. I am also, as ever, open to your suggestions and ideas.

So do please get in touch with your thoughts – or even if you only want to wish us a happy anniversary.


15 top tips to avoid procrastinating

If you know you put things off that should be done sooner, the following list may contain some useful tips for you. I have extracted it from a longer list I included in an article for accountingweb last year.

  1. Divide up your day eg: 1 hour for phone calls; 1 hour clearing emails; 1 hour marketing; 4 hours’ client work.
  2. Arrange to be away from the office for a fortnight.  When I do this I always seem to get around to completing many of the little jobs that I have been putting off. If you don’t do them before your break then they probably don’t need doing at all. Plus the break will help your productivity on your return.
  3. Before leaving the office each evening, make a list of the top 3 things you want to do the next morning. Then when you return make sure you do those 3 top priorities BEFORE you start getting distracted by emails etc.
  4. List all of the jobs you have been putting off so you can gain some satisfaction from ticking them off. You will also find this helps motivate you to complete the list by ticking everything off.
  5. Set reserved work times (eg 10am-noon and 2-4pm) during which you only do the jobs you have been putting off. Do not even answer the phone during these times. Do not do any admin during these times. Do not accept any interruptions during these times.
  6. Promise yourself a reward if, and only if, you complete a job that you have been putting off. It could be chocolate, a trip to the gym, a good look round Facebook or anything that you enjoy.
  7. Delegate work you don’t enjoy doing. If you normally work alone consider outsourcing stuff or engaging a “virtual assistant” to take on those tasks you keep putting off.
  8. Get plenty of sleep. Sometimes procrastination is a function of being over-tired and over-wired. Drink plenty of water and cut down on tea and coffee.
  9. Adopt the “one touch” system for all non-client compliance work. When work, letters or emails arrive either DEAL with them, DELEGATE them to someone else or DUMP them in the bin or computer trash folder.
  10. BANJO – Bang A Nasty Job Off. Do ONE horrible job at the start of each day. Get it out of the way so that you can enjoy the rest of the day.
  11. Imagine the pile of work you are putting off is like an elephant you know you have to eat. How can you possibly get through it all? The answer is “one bite at a time”. Forget how much there is, just start, somewhere. Keep taking little bites. In time you will get through the whole lot.
  12. Think about the “what” and the “why”. What needs doing, and why are you putting it off? Is it too risky? Outside the scope of your fee quote?  Something you’re not good at? That requires too much research? The fee is too low? You fear you won’t get paid? When you accept the answers you may see obvious solutions.
  13. Give a trusted friend £50 and tell them that if you don’t complete the task you have undertaken they can give it away to a political party or a cause that you hate.
  14. Never put off until tomorrow something you could do today. Because if you do it today and enjoy it, you can do it again tomorrow!
  15. Don’t think about procrastinating until tomorrow! 😉

By all means add other tips or resources that work for you, by way of comments below.


What do accountants do on twitter?

Over the last few years I have attempted to track all UK based accountants who have started to use twitter. I used to follow all of them but now I simply add them to one of my lists of UK accountants on twitter. These now number over 1200 in total and continue to grow. *See links below

Sadly though, in the vast majority of cases it seems accountants tend to give up after less than 3 months on twitter – or they simply continue to tweet an automated series of self-promotional messages. The minority who get value and benefit from remaining active are typically relatively new into business as an accountant and picking up new small business clients who are themselves new into business. Of course there are a few exceptions to the rule. There always are.

Those accountants who remain active on twitter after 3 months are generally getting some value from the information, ideas and insights they pick up through their twitter feeds. They may even occasionally get some valuable business leads. But it takes more time than most busy accountants are prepared to devote to the experiment.

Most struggle to get more than a few hundred followers and have no idea whether these are random people or prospective clients. The number in isolation is almost irrelevant.

When I speak on the subject I demystify twitter and other social media. I explain what’s really involved. I highlight what you can do and how you can benefit. I also explain what twitter is not. It’s not a fast route to new client generation. That’s the pot of gold that most accountants seek. That’s why I say they don’t NEED to use twitter. It won’t provide what they are looking for. But it can be a great resource to access key information and connections.

I have explained previously that those accountants who tweet via a personal account tend to get more engagement and interest than those who tweet in the firm’s name. Marketing types who run their firm’s twitter account and chase followers by following random people in the hope of follow backs are wasting their time and kidding themselves.

If you want to see what other accountants are doing on twitter follow these two lists and you will see evidence of much of what I write and speak about on the subject:

  • Accountancy firms – UK – UK accounting, tax and bookkeeping firms that tweet in the firm’s name vs a real person’s name
  • Accountants and tax bods – Tweeting UK accountants and tax advisers. (Tweeting firms are listed separately)

And if you think you should appear on one of the lists please get in touch. I’d be happy to add you.

Related posts:

A wider selection of my blog posts on the subject are available from the twitter advice page on my website>>>. This includes advice on how to get started, how to understand what the fuss is really about and how to avoid getting caught by the hype (for and against).



Are fees all that matters?

There used to be a commonly held perception that the drive and focus of a firm of accountants is solely reliant upon the fees the partners generate. As long as everybody focused on fees, all will be well. Of course there is much more to building a successful firm than this.

This old perception is still commonly endorsed however by the traditional way that firms operate. It is a truism that a firm will get the behaviour that it is seen to record, to report and to reward.

This common focus on fees therefore follows because most attention is commonly directed to:

  • Recording chargeable time and fees billed;
  • Reporting new client wins and forecast fees that will flow therefrom; and
  • Rewarding the highest billers and best fee winners.

Of course increased fees are essential to the future of any professional services firm.But the future of a firm, of its reputation, of it’s attractiveness to the next generation of partners and of its credibility with its stakeholders, depends on much more than the fees generated each year.

What else gets recorded, reported and rewarded in your practice?