Top blog posts from 2013

Tomorrow I will post a full review of the visitor activity on this website and blog. It may be of interest if you are into blogging.

For now here are the top 10 blog posts from 2013 – ranked by the number of times they were read (according to my wordpress stats). Feel free to take a look if you missed any of them first time round:

  1. 9 accountants’ business card mistakes – 2,246
  2. Succinct advice to help anyone win new clients – 2,188
  3. 25 reasons people change their accountants – 1,972
  4. How to build your personal brand – 1,824
  5. How do you know when a blog is worthwhile? – 1,802
  6. Lessons for accountants from dating sites – 1,691
  7. Stop talking about your USP – it’s the same as other accountants – 1,600
  8. What skills set does it take to be successful as an accountant or tax adviser? – 1,568
  9. Accountants caught lying on their websites – 1,560
  10. 6 reasons people without accountants think accountants are boring – 1,540

I have also noted below those posts from 2013 that attracted the most comments:

  1. What skills set does it take to be successful as an accountant or tax adviser? (27)
  2. How do you reply when asked: What do you do? (8)
  3. 6 reasons people without accountants think accountants are boring (6)
  4. Accountants caught lying on their websites (5)
  5. No one cares HOW you do what you do (5)

Most of my blog posts attract none, one or two comments. I’d love there to be more. You are always welcome to comment even if you simply confirm that you agree with what I have written but especially if you disagree or have a question – which I will generally attempt to answer.

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What does it look like through the eyes of your new client?

We all do things that we hope will help us to win more clients. Sometimes though what seems common sense to us may prove to be counter-productive – as the following story shows.

I was talking to an old friend, Helen. I learned that she had chosen a new accountant some months back and that he had given her plenty of his time for free so far. However she did not recall him making any reference to fees or the basis on which he will be charging her. She also hasn’t received any form of engagement letter.

Having had various very positive and helpful chats with the accountant, Helen has started to wonder whether he is suddenly going to sting her with a big bill for fees. He hasn’t started work on her accounts and tax return yet and she is thinking she will switch to someone who is more upfront about their charges.

Helen told me that she had found the accountant on the web and had checked out his website. The accountant had spent 90 mins with her as part of his initial 30(!) mins free consultation – and had indicated that he wouldn’t be charging for the additional time – he liked her and was interested in her business. He will tell her what the fees will be once he has seen her books and papers etc.

Is this accountant’s approach a good one to model?  Lots of helpful advice up front.  No charge for a long and valuable initial meeting.  Making himself available for free to try to further convince the new client that he is ‘the one’.  Sounds fine in theory.

Now look at it through the eyes of the new client – even before she spoke to me, I might add.

  • What sort of a business brain does this guy have if he gives away 90 minutes of his time when he says beforehand the meeting will only be 30 minutes?  Doesn’t his watch work?  How confident can I be that he’s going to be able to tell the time properly when he records how much time he’s spent doing my books (or whatever)?
  • What’s he hiding?  Why hasn’t he told me how much his fees will be? If they were low and reasonable he’d have told me up front.

And so on.

One of the traps that accountants often fall into is the one that prevents us from looking at things through the eyes of a client.

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Where will accountants operate from in the future?

I was interviewed recently for a magazine piece about longer-term trends and changes in the accountancy profession. In this blog post I share my thoughts on one of the topics we discussed.

Where will accountants operate from in the future?

The options at the moment tend to be high street office, above a shop, off high street office, home or serviced office.

With increased rent and rates, reduced need to storage space, more cloud working and more remote working the options increase and could include:

1 – A hub of accountants or professionals (maybe a precursor to becoming a multi disciplinary practice) or maybe simply to share overheads – as in Barristers Chambers

2 – Increased use of facilities such as NearDesk – which is a variation on and less expensive than serviced office facilities. You will want access to 2 or 3 screens to be efficient so simply working from a laptop in a coffee shop is probably not a long term solution.

3 – Virtual offices – maybe where you work from home but have a back drop that hangs from the ceiling to shield your personal space from view when you use skype, Google hangout or other forms of video conferencing. Or maybe the technology will evolve so that it can create a virtual backdrop of a virtual office!

The more time we spend working, the more we want and deserve to have a pleasant working environment. Gone are the days when accountants have to operate from a pokey office that makes you miserable just thinking about it.

Where do you think you might operate your practice from in a few years time?

 

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Do you take your own advice?

I don’t recall ever seeing a cobbler’s children running around without shoes. But I understand the old adage. Their father was typically too busy fixing his customer’s shoes such that his children had to go barefoot.

Perhaps it is for similar reasons that many accountants leave their own annual accounts and tax returns to the last minute. I applaud those who get such things out of the way earlier in the year, but I believe they are in a minority.

I wonder if there is any correlation between those accountants who leave their own tax affairs to the last minute and those who are still doing loads of clients’ tax returns in January? I wonder if those accountants who sort out their own affairs early are also better placed to encourage clients to do so too?

I know I’m not in practice any more but I despair at how many otherwise professional, competent and experienced accountants still suffer each January. They blame their clients who apparently ignore their accountant’s advice and encouragement to provide all necessary information earlier in the year. Maybe there some clients who will always be like this – regardless of the penalties their accountants impose and unmoved by the incentives to be better organised. But why do so many accountants still have so many problematic clients?

I’m curious. Do you take your own advice? Are your own tax filings sorted yet for the last tax year? And, if so, do you still have loads of clients who tax affairs need sorting? Or not?

 

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How to network without networking

During the course of my career I have attended hundreds of events where professionals and business people could network. More recently, since I went freelance in 2006, I have also attended many more generic and local business networking events. These are very different and are more likely to attract some inexperienced networkers whose prime objective is to promote and sell their service or product. Yuck!

I have also attended many other less obvious networking events such as:
– Receptions to launch a new product or service;
– Parties to celebrate a business anniversary, someone’s promotion or the fact that they have recently joined the organisation;
– Summer, Christmas or other seasonal excuses for a party.

In most cases the guest lists include dozens and sometimes hundreds of business associates, clients, prospective clients, other professionals and potential referrers.

All too often the organisers are not clear as to what they want to achieve by hosting the event.  The most common ‘reason’ seems to be either to ‘thank’ clients for their custom, to showcase new staff and services or merely to hope that by hosting such an event, more work and clients will, at some later stage, consequently be referred to the host organisation.

The professionals attending such events also often seem unclear as to their own objectives. Invariably there will be dozens of accountants, lawyers, bankers and others professionals present – all milling around chatting to people they already knew. There is also often a large sub-set of attendees who are evidently uncomfortable with the idea of talking to strangers. And I can always spot those who evidently promised to put in an appearance but leave early to go home or somewhere else they will feel more comfortable.

Many people who struggle with networking misunderstand what it’s really about. As a result they are uncomfortable talking to anyone new at networking events. This is such a shame and can lead to resentment, wasted time and wasted opportunities. At it’s simplest, networking simply means finding and getting to know other business people whom you could help and who could help you. This generally only happens after you have developed some rapport; hence the idea of getting to know, like and trust each other.

Over the years I have researched, collated and shared much information on the subject of networking. By all accounts it is something I do successfully. Even when I was in practice I regularly taught and mentored colleagues to help them and the firm to gain more benefit from their networking activities. Since 2006 this has also been a regular topic in my talks, blogs, articles and masterclasses.

Many authors and speakers on ‘Networking’ seem to focus on what to do at events that are publicised as being specifically arranged to permit small businesses to network with each other. My approach is more focused on helping acountants to network effectively in a business context.

If you would like to discuss how I could supercharge the networking abilities of your team, do get in touch.

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