Key business quotes for accountants

Not everyone likes seeing trite quotes that purport to inspire us to motivate us. Actually I do like them – in moderation. I’m not a fan of a quote a day, though I do have two calendars that offer me this option. If only I remembered to move them on every day….

For now here are a few that seem especially relevant to accountants. Hope you like them.

You don’t get paid for the hour. You get paid for the value you bring to the hour
– Jim Rohn

The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlights reel
– Steven Furtick

It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time.
– Sir Winston Churchill

You’ll never regret what you couldn’t afford
– Unknown

I’m where I am because I’m willing to do things others are not willing to do to get what they say they want
– Jim Ziegler

Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.
– Lawrence J. Peter

Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.
– Unknown

Prescription BEFORE diagnosis is Malpractice
– Tony Allessandra

It is not always the strongest who survive, nor the most intelligent, but those who adapt and change the most.
– Charles Darwin

Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude
– Zig Ziglar

Whether you think that you can or that you can’t, you are usually right.
– Henry Ford

Feel free to add any others, by way of comments, that inspire or motivate you in practice.


Are your social media activities focused on Volume or Value?

Has anyone told you that social media is all about collecting as many connections, friends and followers as possible? That ‘bigger is best’? It’s an issue that seems to divide the social media advocates. I can tell you now that I believe in Value over Volume.

Most online networks make announcements when they reach milestone numbers like a million or ten million. And they encourage users to build large networks. But are bigger networks better for the people in them? Is a Twitter following of ten thousand people better than a thousand?

As with all these things, it depends on what you want.  Your clients who are promoting products to sell around the world can usefully connect with anyone and everyone. They only need a small percentage of these connections to make good money. For them, big (volume) networks make sense.

However, if you’re an accountant you need to build trusted relationships – which takes time. You need to be more focused on building select relevant networks online rather than trying to connect with thousands of random people all over the world.  At best they will do nothing for your practice. At worst they will become a distraction either because you waste time on them or because they try to engage you in communication about THEIR services and products.

In my own case I have nevertheless built up thousands of followers on twitter and thousands of connections on Linkedin. But I am NOT an accountant in practice. Plus I routinely reject connection requests from strangers on Linkedin – unless they are clearly within my target market.

I do not follow thousands of people on twitter nor do I try to trick people into following me back. Thus, the fact that (at the time of writing) I have a healthy ratio of 8 times as many people following me as I follow, suggests I must be posting items of interest. I see no point in following thousands of people in the hope that they will follow me back and boost my follower numbers. The apparent ‘volume’ would be of no real value to me – or to them.

Social Media is no different from the real world. Although some of the people you know will never become clients they may recommend their friends and family to you at some stage in the future. But they can only do that if they know enough about you. If you provide a very rare or unusual service then perhaps it’s enough that they know your name. But for most accountants this will not be sufficient.

So, on social media, as in real life, you need to create and foster VALUABLE connections. Despite what some marketing and social media people may suggest, I can assure you that chasing high volumes of connections and followers will be an unrewarding distraction.

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Lessons for accountants from…..comedians

Have you ever seen any of those TV panel games involving teams of comedians?

There are typically two teams with 3 comedians on each side and a host who may also be a comedian. I’m thinking of programmes such as ‘Would I lie to you?’, ‘Mock the Week’, ‘8 out of 10 Cats’ and so on. Even the long running ‘Have I got News for You’ typically has 2 or 3 comedians on each show. ‘So what?’ you say. ‘What can accountants learn from this?’

Well, it occurs to me that these comedians all seem to be happy appearing on screen together. They frequently laugh at each others’ jokes and seem quite comfortable with their competitors being seen along side them.  They know that if anyone is looking to book a comedian for a gig or to host a private event that it is their personal qualities that will count most.

I’m simplifying things of course to make a point. And that is that there is NO NEED to fear being in the same room as other accountants at networking events. I know some accountants who are only prepared to attend groups that limit attendance to one person per profession (as does BNI for example).  This is unduly limiting in my view.

First of all you are unlikely to be able to have meaningful conversations with everyone in the room. Secondly there is no point in racing around the room giving out your business card to all and sundry. As I have pointed out many times here: No one refers work to a business card.

But, most of all, you not competing with the other accountants for work. You are competing with them to build relationships with the other people in the room. Again, as I have pointed out many times, you are never just networking to secure business from the people in the room. You are also looking to be remembered, recommended and referred AFTERWARDS.

Most of the people you meet will take it as read, if you say you are an accountant, that this means that you can do all  the basics they assume every accountant can do.  You are not competing to be thought of just another accountant.  Just as comedians are not competing to make us laugh. They can all do that – otherwise they wouldn’t be on TV.

What matters most is how easy it is for other people to get to know and like you. I’d suggest that making them laugh can help here but there is no need for accountants to start acting like comedians!

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Why am I among the top ranked accountant bloggers on twitter?

The ICAEW’s magazine, Economia, has produced a new list of:

the top 50 most influential sources of finance news and information in social media, voted for by economia readers and ordered by Leaderboarded and Klout.

The Top 20 is dominated by journalists and economists with a smattering of well known business names too. The top ranked accountant is Richard Murphy whose strident views do not exactly sit well with many in the profession. Then there’s me. I’m ranked around 20th, which is astonishing. (The precise rank moves around a bit as my klout score varies).

Obviously I’m grateful to all those who voted for me. Many thanks indeed. I would have been disappointed if I hadn’t been on the list. But equally it feels a tad odd as I didn’t think I really tweeted much about finance news and information. Seems I do.

I certainly blog and write a lot for accountants each week, and I tweet between 15 and 25 times on a typical day.  Accountants are indeed the main focus of most of these tweets. I endeavour to share useful information. And, I realise, much of this is finance and tax related.  I also frequently find myself ReTweeting other finance and accountancy related tweeters and the material to which they refer/link. So, on reflection I shouldn’t be surprised and it seems I do deserve my ranking.

I am also widely connected with well over 5,000 followers (at the time of writing) although this figure in isolation can be misleading. It’s higher than most accountants but obviously lower than most celebrities, journalists and politicians.

Whenever you are looking at the number of followers someone has on twitter I suggest you always look at the number of people they  are following too as this provides some context.

One reason why klout, the ranking system referenced by economia, is valuable in the context of twitter influence is that follower numbers alone do not tell the full story.

It is relatively easy to generate a high number of followers simply by following loads of people and hoping they will reciprocate and follow you back. That boosts your numbers but few of them are really interested in what you tweet so you probably don’t really have much ‘influence’.  Almost 9 times as many people follow me on twitter as I follow and hundreds of them have included me on their twitter lists which suggests that my follower numbers are genuine. I run two lists of UK accountants on twitter and keep tabs on what they are posting by monitoring their posts via these lists.

Until recently my twitter bio has always included reference to accountants. It still notes that I am an FCA but I tweaked the bio at the start of the year. I tend to revisit it every few months depending on my precise focus.

Anyway, my congratulations to Economia for refining the way they created the list this year.  I have been critical in the past – not simply because I was excluded one year – but because of the apparent randomness of who was included. No system is perfect but klout scores are becoming the defacto determinant of twitter influence. This seems to be the case even though klout factors in activity on other forms of social media too.

Asking readers and twitter followers to nominate favourite tweeters helps give the economia listing credibility – even if anyone finds it odd to see me included as the top ranked blogger for accountants by virtue of my twitter activity and ‘influence’.


What do your clients really want?

It’s all to easy to assume that all clients want the same things. But unless you ask, you won’t know for sure.

It’s probably true that most clients want their accountants to help them pay less tax and to keep them straight with the authorities. Probably true. For most. But these may not be the key priorities that explain why all of your clients have you as their accountant.

An accountant told me recently that he thought all of his business clients wanted him to help them to earn more money and to pay less tax.  He may be right. But equally, unless he asks them he won’t know who values his business advice and who thinks he is simply interfering.

Another accountant charges very low fees and believes that this is more important to his clients than advice on anything beyond the basics. He may be right. Equally he may have clients who would happily pay more for more advice.

It’s all very well to promote your services by reference to assumptions as to what matters to most prospects for your services. But at an early point you need to check what matters to them most.

Unless you ask them, you won’t know will you?


Website and blog stats review 2013

This time last year I reviewed my website and blog stats for 2012. That provides some comparison for this review of the 2013 stats. In summary, visitor numbers and blog posts read are all significantly up on previous years. I am delighted that an increasing number of accountants seem to find what I write to be of interest and value.

Blog posts each year

2013 – 68 (thus maintaining my target of at least one per week)

2012 – 70

2011 – 56;   2010 – 59;  2009 – 59;   2008 – 109;  2007 – 93;   2006 – 52

Visitor numbers

According to my WordPress stats the site has averaged over 20,000 visitors a month this year. From August to December the average has risen to more than 25,000 visitors per month. This is over 1,000 each working day and more than double the average monthly visitor numbers in 2012.

The site attracted more visitors in the last year (244,000+) than in the two previous years (204,000 in 2011 and 2012) together.

The monthly average for 2012 was over 11,000 visitors and average page reads were almost 17,000 a month. In 2013 average page reads were double this, at over 34,000 views per month.

The day the site had most visitors was 17 September 2013 (1,272 visitors). This was the day after I posted an item: 

But as this has only had 647 reads (even as I type), it is more likely to have been the previous item I posted that caused the visitor spike after I flagged this post in my weekly newsletter:

Popular Blog Posts

Most of the 2013 blog posts were initially only seen by a few hundred people. This rises over time and most have now been read 700-1,200 times. Some have been read by as many as three or four thousand.

The top ten blog posts and pages of the site according to wordpress, in terms of the number of times they have been viewed/read are as follows. Figures in brackets are those recorded a year ago:

  1. (1) Welcome 44,110 (19,481) This is the main landing page for my website.
  2. (-) What’s your approach to the provision of business advice? 22,441  For the first time the top blog post is one aimed at my target audience. But it dates back to 2012 so must have been showing up in search results.
  3. (3) Examples of good facebook pages for accountants 14,463 (7,059)  The most popular of the posts I wrote in 2012 is often found through searches for information on this topic.
  4. (2) Three elements of communication – and the so called “7%-38%-55% Rule” 11,773 (7,374)  I got lucky with this title in 2008. It transpires this is a popular search term. NB: Few of the visitors who read it have any interest in anything else I write or do.
  5. (-) Five modern marketing tips for accountants  9,231 This popular searched for topic has generated loads of interest in what is now a 5 year old blog post from January 2009.
  6. (8) How do you set charge out rates? 9,076 (3,138) This is a popular searched for topic. The post in question is now over 5 years old.
  7. (10) Why accountants don’t NEED to bother with twitter 8,439 (3,072)  Promoted by me and by others who challenge the logic of this 5 year old post. It’s as true today as it was in 2008.
  8. (9) The Easter Bunny shows us how NOT to network 6,191 (4,260)  Surprisingly popular – possibly due to the odd title appealing when people search for ‘How not to network’. Again though, many visitors are not my target audience. Still, the post does include links to other key pages of the website.
  9. (-) Will you get paid more for iXBRL accounts? 6,039 I am mystified as to why this post from August 2010 has been so, relatively, popular this year
  10. (4) Twitter 5,346 (4,926) This page contains links to my various posts on related topics.


The oddest stat is the one showing where the 450,926 (206,000) readers of my blog (since records began in December 2010) are based:

  • United States – 173,000 (80,492) It is possible that this includes everyone arriving via web services hosted in the US.
  • United Kingdom – 65,631 (31,971)
  • China – 64,777 (15,028)
  • Unknown – 38,986 (35,178) It would be nice to think these are all in the UK but even then I would still have more apparent visitors from the US than from my target UK audience. Interestingly the figure has only increased very slightly on last year.
  • France – 15,912 (not shown last year)
  • Germany – Not shown this year (4,438)

The remainder come from dozens of other countries around the globe. Between them all my visitors have apparently read 728, 284 (321,821) items/pages of the site over the last three years. Again that suggests more has been read in the last year than in the two previous years together.

What does 2014 hold for the blog? There are some changes coming that I hope will increase the level of interaction and business that the site and blog generate. After all the number of visitors and of pages read is simply of academic interest. Whilst it’s nice for my pieces to be popular I intend to make the site more commercially successful going forwards too!