Trends that will matter in 2010 – for accountants

I’m not one for making predictions generally. However, for reasons I’ll explain later I’ve set out below a few ‘new’ trends that may have an impact on accountants this year. What do you think?

1 – More clients will be texting communications to their accountants. NB: how do you print off any such instructions if you want to retain an audit trail of evidence? (instant messaging using skype will also become more prevalent but you can print these off, as you can emails;

2 – Increased use of VoIP (principally Skype) in place of telephone;

3 – As many have predicted for years there will be a continuing and growing demand for by clients for more than ‘just’ accounts and tax return services from their accountants each year. Again I’ve been blogging about this for some time too.

4 – More and more accountants will start to experiment with twitter and other online ‘social networking’. Most will make the mistake of using it as a broadcast mechanism and will then stop using it when they find that their approach fails to win them new clients. If you’re tempted or simply curious, I’ve written a series of hints and tips for accountants who want to find out more or to experiment with twitter.

I promised to explain what prompted this blog post.  Quite simply I  found I’d posted, two years ago, a piece under the title: Trends that will matter in 2008 – for accountants. The first 3 trends above are exactly what I prematurely suggested in January 2008. The only new one is the reference to twitter.  On past performance maybe that’s at least 2 years premature too!

What do you think 2010 will bring for accountants?


Review of the blog 2009

This blog has been a labour of love for well over 3 years now and contains in excess of 300 posts. Many have either come from my talks or have been incorporated into my talks and seminars. As 2009 draws to a close, you may be interested to see this personal choice of my posts over the last 12 months.  This has been an interesting review for me as it’s revealed a different way of categorising the subjects I have enjoyed writing about.


My output here dropped significantly as I only managed 60 posts in 2009.  I don’t feel bad about that though as I’ve also written well over 100 pieces for the TaxBuzz blog and posted almost 150 items to the Accountant jokes and fun blog.

Commenting on news items

The year started with me questioning whether it was true that “One in four firms expects to lose clients” and that there would be “A flood of mergers in 2009” I also suggested that Clients WANT more support in these trying times.

Other such posts in 2009 have addressed:

Conventional wisdom

Another theme on the blog this year was to challenge conventional wisdom:

Professional negligence

One of the most popular and frequent talks I’ve presented to groups of accountants over the last few years has been on the risks accountants run and how they can reduce these without tying themselves in knots. Among the related items I’ve posted to the  blog this year have been posts titled:

Face to face networking

The importance of effective networking skills is generally recognised but how do we improve our skills in this area? Here’s a selection of my posts offering tips and advice on this subject in 2009:

Social networking

A year ago I wrote a piece explaining why, in my view, Accountants do not NEED to both with twitter. What I was saying was that accountants need not bother with twitter especially if they think of it as a route to securing new clients. Since then twitter’s popularity has increased and I’ve noted more and more accountants are experimenting with it. As a result I then wrote a number of more positive and helpful pieces which are summarised on the twitter page of this site.

Other related posts this year included:

Top tips

I’ll complete this review of blog posts in 2009 with these reminders of key tips for accountants who are keen to be more productive and more successful:

With all best wishes for the New Year.


Do as you would be done by….

One accountant I know advertises his services using what I think is a pretty good message.

He suggests to recipients of his ad that if they do their own tax return it probably costs them far more than they realise. More in terms of the opportunity cost of their time, the hassle, worry and the prospect of making mistakes.

In other words he’s advocating the reasons to use a professional. And he’s right of course.

On the other hand I noticed the same accountant plans to run his own telemarketing campaign. He may have a good reason for doing this but it seems like a big risk to me.   It seems he’s going to use untrained staff to make calls, using a script/approach that hasn’t been checked by anyone who understands what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to telemarketing.

Perhaps he has had a bad experience with previous attempts using so-called professional telemarketers. Perhaps they did not have the requiste experience, perhaps the offering was wrong, perhaps the follow up was inadequate, perhaps the pre-meeting confirmation with prospects was lacking, perhaps the accountant needs to develop better ‘closing’ skills. There could be all manner of things to tweak or test.

I suspect that the outcome of a DIY approach to telemarketing will probably cost the accountant far more than they realise. More in terms of the opportunity cost of their time, the hassle, worry and the prospect of making mistakes.

Imagine if someone who has had a bad experience with an accountant decided that all accountants were rubbish and decided to attempt to save money and to complete their own tax returns in future…..

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Not all Accountants are business advisers

AccountingWeb recently ran a series of articles about accountants as business advisers. My contribution as Consultant Practice Editor approached the subject from an unusual angle.

There is already plenty of material that seeks to persuade accountants that they need to become better business advisers, and how they could do this.

My article was titled: Do accountants want to be business advisors?

I felt vindicated in my stance both by the comments added by readers and also by the number of times the article was ‘viewed’ – it was consistently running at about 3 times the number of people reading the related piece about ‘How to be a business adviser’.

Here’s an extract:


Although many accountants describe themselves as ‘accountants and business advisers’, I have a suspicion that general practice accountants typically fall into one of four camps when it comes to the provision of business advice to clients:

  • It’s a no go area: The accountant’s business experience is limited and perhaps they don’t feel that confident with the idea of providing business advice.
  • Personal experience: The accountant is willing and able to share their own experiences of business over the years, perhaps drawn in part from working with other clients.
  • What others say: The accountant offers advice based on what they have read in books, magazines and websites and possibly what they recall from their studies and from attending seminars and conferences. However, their level of interest in developing this area of skill is much lower than their desire to keep up to date with technical knowledge.
  • A systemised approach: The accountant has bought into a programme that assists them in adopting a structured approach to the provision of business advice and either they actively promote the service to their clients or they shy away from doing so and quit the programme.

If I were still in practice I’d like to think that I would probably move up the scale into the fourth category above. Others are happier lower down the scale, and that’s fine as long as their clients are not expecting anything more. Time and again I hear business owners complaining that their accountants fail to provide business and tax advice; they simply do the books, produce tax returns and tell the client how much tax to pay.

Only a relatively small number of accountants seem to be willing to experiment with the systemised approach, however there is plenty of pressure on the others to do this or to beef up their approach and provide business advice, as well as to learn how they can get paid for doing so.

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Carry on bumping?

Do you recognise the following quote?

“Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it.”

It’s from the opening lines of “Winnie-The-Pooh” (by A.A. Milne).

Can you think of anything that you continue to do the same way you have always done it even though a casual observer might have good cause to question that approach and to suggest there might be a better way?

If you run your own practice you may be quite happy with the rate of growth or the lack of it. You may get a raw thrill from going into your office each day and love both what you do and the way your business operates.

Alternatively,  if you are honest with yourself, you may recognise that you are effectively just bumping down the stairs, bump, bump, bump because that is the only way you know to do things.

One mistake I realised I was making recently, thanks to some very valuable feedback, was that I have made it seem that my mentoring programme is only available to people in larger firms. In fact I am happy to mentor sole-practitioners, those running their own smaller practices and also ambitious professionals who work in business or for institutions of one sort or another.  I need to revise my marketing literature to make this clearer. I can’t blame anyone else for my oversight. It was just me, bumping down the stairs. Mind you, my mentoring services are not cheap and I know that some smaller practitioners will not want to invest sufficiently in themselves to engage me.

What about you? Can you think of anything you do that you’re doing the way you’ve always done it even though it may not be the most effective or comfortable ways of doing things? Do you ever take time out, do you ever MAKE time to work ON your business rather than just keep bumping along working IN your business?

If any of this resonates it’s upto you to do something about it.

I’m always happy to have a conversation with ambitious professionals who sense there may be some value in developing a relationship and engaging me as their mentor. Such conversations are always without prejudice and will not always lead onto anything further. We have to like the idea of working with each other, for starters!

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