10 time saving tips for busy accountants

Hard to believe that the last time I shared any time saving tips on this blog was back in 2009.  I’ve taken the 3 tips I shared back then and added several more below, picking up on what accountants have told me, together with my own research and experiences:

  1. To stop wasting time deciding what to do next, try creating a prioritised ‘todo’ list. A = must do; B= should do; C= can wait (for now). You’ll also get a degree of satisfaction from crossing things off the list. You might prefer to find a suitable ‘to do’ app that allows you to do much the same thing on your smartphone.
  2. An extension of this concept and another ageless tip is to list, every evening, the top 3 things you must do the next day.
  3. To avoid spending longer doing things in a panic consider booking time out in your diary to do client work, preparatory work re meetings or other stuff, just as you would if meeting a client, prospect or contact. Sometimes this ‘meeting with self’ needs to be rescheduled to suit client commitments but at least it doesn’t get forgotten.
  4. You can also book time in your diary for regular activities such as bookkeeping, invoicing, personal development, replying to emails etc. If client work has to be done in a slot reserved for key activities, move them to another date – in the same week.
  5. Create a ‘Not todo list’. This would contain those things you want to avoid sidetracking you. These days there are more distractions to tempt us than ever before. Many accountants spend too much unscheduled time on twitter, facebook, linkedin, online forums or apps on their phones. I find it helps to set myself a time limit and an objective when I visit those sites.
  6. Personalise your email, text, twitter and facebook notification settings so that you are not constantly distracted by these. If something is that urgent you’ll get a call. You can set MS Outlook, for example, to only download new emails every hour, rather than immediately.
  7. If you are looking to grow your practice set up a simple strategic plan with month by month activities to ensure you make time to work ON building your practice beyond simply doing all the client work that needs doing. Then monitor and work that plan. (And reserve time in your diary to do this each month – see point 4 above!)
  8. Think about all those IT related tasks that take time and which may well be addressed by in-built facilities you have yet to master. Few of us know how to get maximum value and benefit from the most common and relevant features of our office and accounting software. Perhaps we struggle with spreadsheets, formatting, printing, document and presentation templates, design related tasks and so on? Make a note of those challenges that take time or which you find frustrating. Search online for ‘How to ….’ do whatever it is and take five minutes to find out and save loads of time going forwards.
  9. Consider delegating or outsouring work that can be done by less experienced people; you can probably earn more than it costs or relax in the time this frees up.
  10. I am regularly thanked for making this final time saving recommendation to accountants. Download shortkeys (for PCs) or typinator (for macs) to save you having to retype the same paras of text time after time. Both facilities provide a quasi permanent clipboard that you can access from any application with just a couple of key presses.

What timesaving tips work for you? I’d love to see some more examples here.

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Seven tips to develop your career in accountancy

This post is quite distinct from most of the others on this blog. Instead of focusing on accountants in practice, what follows is intended to help those accountants looking to develop their career. I am often asked for my advice in this connection so have gathered here some of my top tips and links.

1 – It is quite natural to find the options ahead quite daunting. Your next choice need not define who you are or what you will do for the rest of your career. Those days are long gone, even for qualified accountants. Consider your answer to these questions:

  • What type of work have you most enjoyed to date?
  • In what sort of environment have you enjoyed working?
  • What are your strengths? and
  • What talents, skills and experience do you have to offer an employer?

2 – Search online for specialist recruitment consultancies that offer help and advice to accountants like you. Do not rely on email or on submitting your CV online before you have actually spoken to someone with relevant expertise. Talk to 2 or 3 recruitment consultants to find one you can trust and who isn’t simply after a commission for placing you in a job quickly. You don’t have to pay for this advice. The consultancies get paid a commission by your new employer. Good consultants will give you independent advice as they know that you will return to them as and when you want to change jobs in the future – and you will recommend them to friends and colleagues.

3 – Register on LinkedIn and complete your profile there so that it is attractive to prospective recruiters and anyone looking there for someone like you.  Once registered you can then use LinkedIn to connect with past colleagues and business contacts. In due course you can then seek their advice and help to find your next role. These previous posts contain more tips on this topic:

4 – Cut your CV down to 2 pages. Remember the key point is that a CV is not about getting a job. It’s about getting an interview. It needs to describe you as a person, not simply what you’ve achieved at work. And 2 pages is all it needs to be.  In practice you will also want to tailor it to each role you go for.

5 – Think about your friends and other people you know who could introduce you to the sort of new employer you’d like to work with. Then talk to your friends etc and ask their advice about how to secure intros to those people. Have a clear story as to what value you would be to a new employer.  By the way, the more specific you can be as to the type of business you are looking to work with, the more you increase the chance of someone being able to effect a suitable introduction.

6 – If, as is likely, you are on facebook, make sure that your profile and activity there work FOR you rather than AGAINST you. Here are nine career related tips re accountants’ use of facebook

7 – Keep in mind that whatever you want from your next job is upto you. But you need to recognise that the only people ever likely to recruit you will be focused on what they want and on what you can do for them. Your online profiles and your CV need to make this clear and you need to be ready to explain this during job interviews too.

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The Inner Circle – first meeting report

The inaugural meeting of The Inner Circle for Accountants was evidently a success last week.  I have summarised below some of the key takeaways.

We met at Soho House in London and Members clearly valued the mix of shared peer-led insights together with, as one said, “the independent common sense you always get from Mark Lee”.

It was a diverse non-competing group of sole practitioner accountants from different areas around London (eg: Rickmansworth and Wandsworth).

After members had introduced themselves we focused on two key areas:

  • Making efficient use of social media; and
  • Attracting and obtaining the right type of quality clients

In each case the discussion was focused on specific practical, relevant and commercial solutions. Those around the table talked about what they have found works and what doesn’t work for them. And, when appropriate, I shared my observations and experience too.

At the end of the meeting I invited members to share what were for them the key learning points and takeaways. I have since shared these with all members of The Inner Circle.  I will also share a fuller note of the issues discussed and shared at the meeting in due course together with additional relevant ideas and a recording of the discussions. In accordance with our Membership Principles all such notes will comply with the Chatham House rule.

A couple of the key takeaways shared at the end of the meeting, together with my supplementary thoughts, are included below for the benefit of readers of this blog:

Sample key learning points

  • Often it’s the little things that can make a difference (eg: shortkeys.com to save having to keep typing the same sentences or paras of text over and over again). NB: Amongst other things I use this when replying to requests that I receive on Linkedin – both when I’m agreeing to connect and also when I ask for for more info before I will agree to connect with a stranger.
  • We agreed that the best new clients are introduced or recommended by existing or previous clients – and sometimes by other advisers who know, like and trust you. Rather than networking to find strangers with whom you could try to build relationships, start with the advisers to your existing clients. Ask your clients to introduce (and to recommend) you.

The Inner Circle is a facilitated group of like-minded accountants in practice who share similar challenges – and are willing to help each other by sharing practical solutions. Check it out here and follow the link to get in touch>>> We can then discuss whether joining would be good for you and for your practice.

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9 things to avoid doing on social media

Too many people play at social networking and don’t really ‘get it’. Then they assert that ‘social networking’ doesn’t work – although the fault is not so much with the medium as with the way they used it.

There are many posts on this blog that can help social media novices – and also more experienced users. This time though I have summarised nine things you would be well advised to avoid doing on social media – if you want to have a chance of using it successfully for business purposes.

  1. Don’t make it all about you. Self promoting is a turn-off and will rarely attract new people to get to know you. And if they don’t know you they won’t refer work or other people to you.
  2. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to post things. If you post too fast and without thinking you may say something online you regret. Some people see Google as a history book. Everything we have ever said or will ever post on line will be there and capable of being found for ever.
  3. Don’t keep telling us about what you’re eating. This was a mistake some users made in the past. Don’t perpetuate it
  4. Keep your messages varied. Don’t keep repeating or reposting the same messages.
  5. Keep your messages focused and specific so that you STANDOUT (in a positive way).
  6. No spam. ‘Need I say more?
  7. Don’t try to use more than the odd hashtag until you are sure you really understand how these work. Rank amateurs really standout – and for the wrong reasons!
  8. Keep your posts honest, decent and truthful.
  9. In summary – don’t be stupid. Apply common sense to all you say and all you do online.

Like this post? You can now obtain my 10,000 word ebook containing loads more insights, short-cuts, tips and advice about social media especially for accountants. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>> 

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How to win at the Networking card games

Popular business card games include the perennial classics: ‘How many can I give out in one night?’ And ‘How many can I collect?’

But what do you really win if you play these games? I’d suggest you are not so much a winner, more of a loser.

Sorry to be harsh but if that’s how you play you are missing the point of Networking and so you are wasting your time. Just as if you wanted to play poker but spend your time visiting Bridge clubs.

Actually, playing cards can provide a number of useful metaphors that can help us to remember what to do if we want our Networking activity to be fun and worthwhile.

Are you a king of conversation perhaps or a queen of hearts? Do you come across as a jack of all trades or as an Ace accountant? Perhaps a more specific example would be better:

Years ago we all wore suits (at least the blokes did). These days suits may be much less common, in some offices at least. But the 4 suits in a deck of cards can be a useful prompt for structuring your conversations when networking:

Spades – firstly you dig around (with your metaphorical spade) asking general questions to find out more – without turning it into an inquisition;

Hearts –  you’re looking to build rapport which is easiest if you can find something where you share an emotional (heart-felt) connection – do you have any similar likes and dislikes?

Clubs – now, rather than talking about yourself focus on talking about one or more clients who are, in some way, part of the same ‘club’ as the person you are with, or people they know. You can only do this if you’ve dug around well with your spade, asking questions that will enable you to find out enough about the other person 😉

Finally – Diamonds, the really valuable stuff. This is the follow up to your conversation. What can you promise to do by way of a follow up after this conversation? What would the other person value? It doesn’t need to be a diamond necklace!

Anyone can adopt this ‘Four Suits’ approach to having more powerful business conversations. If you do this you will standout and enhance your chances of bring remembered, referred and recommended for the type of work you enjoy, for the type of clients you like and for the level of fees you deserve.

And this is as good an objective as any when you are networking. It makes more sense than to expect to pick up work whenever you are networking. That’s a mugs’ game – just as is playing the ‘find the lady’ scam in a street market.

Contrary to the common misconception, effective networking is not all about selling. It’s about starting to build profitable relationships. And it’s about helping the people you meet and so encouraging them to get to know, like and trust you.

No one will play cards for money with someone they don’t trust. It’s reasonable to work on the same assumption that no one will engage or recommend an accountant they don’t trust either. That’s why following up after networking is so valuable. It’s a key way to show that you can be trusted.

And that brings us back full circle. There is no point in collecting business cards at networking events unless you are also going to follow up with the people you met – and I don’t mean just add them to your mailing list and start sending them your promotional material. Equally there is no point in scattering your business cards like confetti or sticking them into the hand of everyone you meet. No one refers work to a business card.

Like this post? You can now obtain my 10,000 word ebook containing loads more networking insights, short-cuts, tips and advice aimed specifically at accountants. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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My Linkedin 'Pom-Pon' stick

I’m a big fan of Linkedin as it can be a very effective online business networking tool. I always wince when I hear it being spoken of as a social networking site in the same breath as facebook, twitter and pinterest. It’s quite distinct and, in my experience, is generally used in a very different way from the more ‘social’ sites.

My enthusiasm for Linkedin together with my long time love of magic has led me to coin a new acronym for my connections on Linkedin. People On My Perpetually Online Network (‘Pom-Pon’). Henceforth the magic PomPom stick I’m holding in this old photo will be known as my Linkedin Pom-Pon stick. And with it I can evidence the power of Linkedin.

If you are attending Accountex this year you may see me with my Linkedin Pom-Pon stick. My main keynote talk is focused on: How accountants can STANDOUT and avoid being ‘just another accountant’. I’ll have the Pom-Pon stick with me. Hope to see you there. You could apply for your free tickets right now. You can come on Thursday 15th or Friday 16th of May.

 

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My Linkedin ‘Pom-Pon’ stick

I’m a big fan of Linkedin as it can be a very effective online business networking tool. I always wince when I hear it being spoken of as a social networking site in the same breath as facebook, twitter and pinterest. It’s quite distinct and, in my experience, is generally used in a very different way from the more ‘social’ sites.

My enthusiasm for Linkedin together with my long time love of magic has led me to coin a new acronym for my connections on Linkedin. People On My Perpetually Online Network (‘Pom-Pon’). Henceforth the magic PomPom stick I’m holding in this old photo will be known as my Linkedin Pom-Pon stick. And with it I can evidence the power of Linkedin.

If you are attending Accountex this year you may see me with my Linkedin Pom-Pon stick. My main keynote talk is focused on: How accountants can STANDOUT and avoid being ‘just another accountant’. I’ll have the Pom-Pon stick with me. Hope to see you there. You could apply for your free tickets right now. You can come on Thursday 15th or Friday 16th of May.

 

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