Please stop reinforcing the boring accountant stereotype

Recently I was sent a link to an online collection of 101 jokes about accountants. I got a little excited. Surely it would contain plenty of new jokes I could share more widely through my other blog: The lighter side of accountancy and tax.  In fact I was very disappointed. The collection was dreadful.

Over the last few years I have selected hundreds of fun items about accountants or related to our world and interests (eg: tax). They vary from jokes, to riddles, to videos, to songs, to poems to anecdotes and much more. The ‘Boring Is Optional‘ blog now contains well over 600 items.

What you won’t find on the blog though are any of the old ‘jokes’ that perpetuate the stereotype about accountants being boring. The link I was sent led to a collection that was full of such jokes. I read them all; I reckon the vast majority were the old lame jokes I have seen many times before – often on accountants’ websites (which seem to use the same template). These lists are clearly a lazy attempt to show that accountants do not take themselves too seriously.

I think the  theory behind this listing of ‘accountants are boring’ jokes is flawed. By sharing the jokes more widely you perpetuate the myth and remind people that accountants are typically seen as boring people. Why would any decent accountant want to do that?

As my blog proves there are hundreds of ways to show that accountants have a sense of humour without reinforcing that sad old stereotype. (If you find any more, please send them to me or supply a link. I’ll credit you when I add them to the blog)

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads of valuable insights, short-cuts, tips and advice for accountants who want to STANDOUT and speed up their success. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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Nine career related tips re accountants' use of facebook

One of the talks I presented at Accountex in November 2012 was titled: Harnessing the power of social media for career success. Much of this talk was an adaptation of my more general articles, blogs and talks on social media. However, there were a number of completely new elements including some key tips re facebook – which I have summarised below.

Why, you might ask, did I reference facebook during the talk. Surely I would have focused on Linkedin – the online Business networking site. I did. But, the ubiquity of facebook means it is also worth thinking about what you can do here to aid your professional career.  I would stress that I start from the perspective that facebook really is more for ‘social’ use than for building business connections.  I am NOT a fan of the idea that anyone tries to become facebook friends with partners in firms of accountants or with the owners of businesses – unless you can see that they are clearly encouraging this through the way that THEY use facebook.  That won’t be very often.

For what it is worth I have over 2,400 connections on Linkedin and around 4,300 followers on twitter but fewer than 300 friends on facebook.  For me, it really is not a business focused medium. But I’m not looking to build my career so my experience and approach is not really relevant.  Which is why I DID cover facebook in my recent talk. Here are the nine tips:

  1. Make your facebook profile work for you – although not as formal as Linkedin, friends can still see the details you share about your current and previous roles and projects. Ensure that these paint a positive picture and evidence your specific expertise and any distinctive value that you offer.
  2. Be aware of who your ‘friends’ are – do you really know them ALL? Some may be old work colleagues or people with  whom you have lost touch. Any of them may be in a position to put you forward or to scupper your chances of getting your next dream role.
  3. Customise who can see your status updates – Whenever you post a status update you can decide which groups of friends can or cannot see it. You can also ensure that specific people should not see specific posts. You should always be aware that, unless you use this facility, your updates may be widely seen. Some of your updates may be best hidden from all but your closest friends!
  4. Take care over the job and career related updates that you post – Be especially careful if you are prone to complain about elements of your current role or employer. If you MUST post such updates you should really limit who can see them! More positively you may find that more distant friends may pick up on your availability, if you are between roles – as long as you are positive and upbeat.
  5. Resist the temptation to share too much too widely – This follows on from the above two points.  If you are employed you shouldn’t be posting updates to facebook more than two or three time during the working day. If you post updates too often it gives the impression that you are not focused on your work and that’s not a good impression to give if you want to progress your career.
  6. Check your privacy settings – Again this follows on from the above points.
  7. Check what your business ‘friends’ can see – As part of the ‘activity log’ facility you can check the impact of your privacy settings using the ‘View as…’ facility.
  8. Check the settings for every authorised app – You will probably want to limit the ability for apps to automatically post activity updates to your facebook timeline. Again , this is especially important if you find the time to ‘play’ during the working day. There may also be some apps and games that you would prefer your involvement to be kept confidential as reagards your ‘business’ ass0ciates.
  9. Send personalised messages to friends who may know people – You never know who might be able to make a valuable introduction to a potential employer, or  who might hear about the perfect job opening.  More an more employers are providing incentives to staff to provide leads to potential recruits. This can be much more cost effective than using recruitment consultants.

Many younger accountants will find nothing new in this list as they apply similar principles as regards the extent to which their parents can see what they are doing on facebook after they become ‘friends’. Equally some parents, who have been accepted as their children’s ‘friends’ on facebook, may wish to limit the extent to which their children can see what they (the parents) have been upto!

Like this post? You can now obtain my 10,000 word ebook containing loads more social media 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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The depressing view of final-year students

There was a depressing piece of news in the November 2012 issue of Economia (The ICAEW’s replacement magazine for ‘Accountancy’). President Mark Spofforth reports on research undertaken by Oxford Brookes University that contains some salutary lessons for anyone promoting the accountancy profession as a career choice:

“Accountancy is boring, offers little intellectual stimulus and makes virtually no contribution to society.”

“Accountants are not seen as ethical or associated with sustainability issues and are dismissed as bean-counting nerds”

“Even maths students think their skills could be better used elsewhere”

This is a summary of the outcome of a recent survey that invited final-year students at eight top-class UK universities, including  Oxford, Imperial and Durham, to explain how they made their career decisions.  The ICAEW commissioned the research to find out what influences graduates to opt for an accountancy career. In a separate reference to the results last month, Mark Spofforth noted that it’s time to dispel the myths:

“…we have failed to dispel the traditional myths about us – boring male beancounter nerds with accountancy degrees. Worse, they think life as a lawyer would be more exciting.”

Not all the students’ perceptions about accountancy were negative, although the positives tended to be incidental to the job rather than intrinsic to it, such as having a professional qualification and job security.

As Mark Spofforth notes this month:

“The research suggests areas we could tap into to improve our image. Students’ perceptions are shaped most strongly by work experience and internships. So views about auditing being a dull, desk bound job disappear when they go out on client visits and see that social interaction is a crucial part of audit work”

When I say that ‘Boring is Optional’ some people suggest I am wrong to focus on this issue. They say that by doing so I am perpetuating a negative image of accountants. If I thought that were true I would stop. But this latest research confirms that the stereotyping needs no help from me. This is also evident simply from my tracking of references to “boring accountant” on twitter. There are new posts every day, many from young people, hundreds of whom seem convinced that all accountants are boring.

We really need to change this perception. I have my own ideas. But what do YOU suggest?

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads of valuable insights, short-cuts, tips and advice for accountants who want to STANDOUT and speed up their success. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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When I’m wrong, I admit it

This post is a post-script to a couple of posts I originally wrote for the TaxBuzz blog. As I no longer update that blog I have to comment here. And, yes, I HAVE to comment. Two people with whom I worked some years ago have been found guilty and imprisoned for their part in a fraudulent tax scheme. And I think there are lessons here for ambitious accountants in practice.

Three years ago, in October 2009, I set out my views on reports that: Vantis tax advisers to face charges of “cheating” re tax scheme. I admit that I doubted that Messrs Perrin and Faichney had done anything different to dozens of other promoters of tax schemes. I felt sure that HMRC were taking the case to act as a deterrent. I doubted that the accused had done anything beyond promote an aggressive scheme supported by “Counsel’s Opinion”.  As is well known, I am no fan of such schemes but equally, having worked with Perrin and Faichney, I found it hard to believe that they would do anything fraudulent.

I wrote two follow up pieces along similar lines: Wives of promoters of Vantis tax scheme also facing charges and Tax and financial advisers in court again re ‘failed’ tax scheme.

Well, in the light of the latest reports, I have to accept that, unless there has been a miscarriage of justice, “Faichney, who was managing director of Vantis Tax, worked with his deputy David Perrin to share £4.5m in profit from a fraudulent tax scheme“.

So, I was wrong and I admit it. I am shocked that two ex-colleagues bent and broke the rules to the extent now found proven in Court. When I worked with them I trusted them. Neither was a qualified accountant. I played bridge with David Perrin who was very bright and very commercial when it came to quoting fees for tax planning work. I worked more closely with Roy (Robert) Faichney who promoted me shortly after I joined WJB Chiltern in 2001. Both were involved in my recruitment to the firm.  (I should add that I have neither seen nor spoken with either of them for many years).

During my 4 years at the firm I attended many seminars at which Perrin and Faichney lectured to accountants about tax planning ‘opportunities’. Many of the more detailed technical arguments were beyond me but I was satisfied that their claims were supported by Tax Counsel and arguable interpretations of the law. Or so I thought at the time. And they clearly won over many accountants in practice too.

Now I am wondering. How robust were their technical arguments, really? Did they win me over with their charm and confidence? Did their plans, even then, go beyond the parameters of legal but aggressive tax planning? How many of the tax schemes that they put in place for clients really worked? By which I mean, how many such schemes, have been accepted as effective by HMRC after having been challenged? I wonder how many are still being negotiated? And I wonder how many accountants in practice were suckered into promoting the fraudulent tax scheme to their clients. Reports suggest that it was promoted via a network of contacts to over 600 clients including “an Oscar winning film executive, a celebrity psychiatrist, senior City bankers, top barristers and company directors.” I wonder how many other schemes devised and promoted by Perrin and Faichney have or will also be successfully challenged?

Faichney and Perrin were first interviewed by HMRC in 2006 in relation to the tax scheme in question which had been promoted some years earlier.  It has taken six years for HMRC to get a successful prosecution. Similar (and longer) time lags are commonplace when it comes to disputed tax schemes.

So what are the lessons for ambitious accountants? I would suggest just three:

  1. The fact that someone, whether a colleague or a client, seems to be honest when you first form a judgment as to their character, does not mean they will always resist temptation. Whilst we cannot go through life being suspicious of everyone, we should keep an open mind. We should not allow our faith in someone we trust to blind us to the possibility that they have overstepped the mark.
  2. Following on from the above, if a tax planning opportunity seems too good to be true, it probably is. Ask yourself whether fraud could be alleged – over and above any refusal by HMRC to accept the tax consequences of the scheme? If ANY element of the scheme involves a nudge-nudge, wink, wink, undisclosed agreements or arrangements, or any deliberately misleading statements, beware.
  3. And remember what happened to Perrin and Faichney. The fact that the promoters of any tax scheme seem credible and have a strong background of ‘success’ is no guarantee that all will be well in the future. Perrin and Faichney had loads of experience and their credibility was boosted by them working for one of the (then) top accountancy firms, Vantis Tax. Any promoters who approach you could seem just as credible but may themselves have got greedy. How would you know?

 

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When I'm wrong, I admit it

This post is a post-script to a couple of posts I originally wrote for the TaxBuzz blog. As I no longer update that blog I have to comment here. And, yes, I HAVE to comment. Two people with whom I worked some years ago have been found guilty and imprisoned for their part in a fraudulent tax scheme. And I think there are lessons here for ambitious accountants in practice.

Three years ago, in October 2009, I set out my views on reports that: Vantis tax advisers to face charges of “cheating” re tax scheme. I admit that I doubted that Messrs Perrin and Faichney had done anything different to dozens of other promoters of tax schemes. I felt sure that HMRC were taking the case to act as a deterrent. I doubted that the accused had done anything beyond promote an aggressive scheme supported by “Counsel’s Opinion”.  As is well known, I am no fan of such schemes but equally, having worked with Perrin and Faichney, I found it hard to believe that they would do anything fraudulent.

I wrote two follow up pieces along similar lines: Wives of promoters of Vantis tax scheme also facing charges and Tax and financial advisers in court again re ‘failed’ tax scheme.

Well, in the light of the latest reports, I have to accept that, unless there has been a miscarriage of justice, “Faichney, who was managing director of Vantis Tax, worked with his deputy David Perrin to share £4.5m in profit from a fraudulent tax scheme“.

So, I was wrong and I admit it. I am shocked that two ex-colleagues bent and broke the rules to the extent now found proven in Court. When I worked with them I trusted them. Neither was a qualified accountant. I played bridge with David Perrin who was very bright and very commercial when it came to quoting fees for tax planning work. I worked more closely with Roy (Robert) Faichney who promoted me shortly after I joined WJB Chiltern in 2001. Both were involved in my recruitment to the firm.  (I should add that I have neither seen nor spoken with either of them for many years).

During my 4 years at the firm I attended many seminars at which Perrin and Faichney lectured to accountants about tax planning ‘opportunities’. Many of the more detailed technical arguments were beyond me but I was satisfied that their claims were supported by Tax Counsel and arguable interpretations of the law. Or so I thought at the time. And they clearly won over many accountants in practice too.

Now I am wondering. How robust were their technical arguments, really? Did they win me over with their charm and confidence? Did their plans, even then, go beyond the parameters of legal but aggressive tax planning? How many of the tax schemes that they put in place for clients really worked? By which I mean, how many such schemes, have been accepted as effective by HMRC after having been challenged? I wonder how many are still being negotiated? And I wonder how many accountants in practice were suckered into promoting the fraudulent tax scheme to their clients. Reports suggest that it was promoted via a network of contacts to over 600 clients including “an Oscar winning film executive, a celebrity psychiatrist, senior City bankers, top barristers and company directors.” I wonder how many other schemes devised and promoted by Perrin and Faichney have or will also be successfully challenged?

Faichney and Perrin were first interviewed by HMRC in 2006 in relation to the tax scheme in question which had been promoted some years earlier.  It has taken six years for HMRC to get a successful prosecution. Similar (and longer) time lags are commonplace when it comes to disputed tax schemes.

So what are the lessons for ambitious accountants? I would suggest just three:

  1. The fact that someone, whether a colleague or a client, seems to be honest when you first form a judgment as to their character, does not mean they will always resist temptation. Whilst we cannot go through life being suspicious of everyone, we should keep an open mind. We should not allow our faith in someone we trust to blind us to the possibility that they have overstepped the mark.
  2. Following on from the above, if a tax planning opportunity seems too good to be true, it probably is. Ask yourself whether fraud could be alleged – over and above any refusal by HMRC to accept the tax consequences of the scheme? If ANY element of the scheme involves a nudge-nudge, wink, wink, undisclosed agreements or arrangements, or any deliberately misleading statements, beware.
  3. And remember what happened to Perrin and Faichney. The fact that the promoters of any tax scheme seem credible and have a strong background of ‘success’ is no guarantee that all will be well in the future. Perrin and Faichney had loads of experience and their credibility was boosted by them working for one of the (then) top accountancy firms, Vantis Tax. Any promoters who approach you could seem just as credible but may themselves have got greedy. How would you know?

 

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You don't have to be boring to be good at your job

Accountants are all too used to being characterised as ‘boring’. Maybe some fit the sterotype. In other cases the epithet is more down to the perceived boring nature of accounting and auditing.

One reason so many accountants are seen as boring is precisely because we enjoy doing the boring old stuff that clients don’t like to do themselves. It’s partly what people expect from their accountant – “She’s someone who does all the stuff I don’t like. It’s boring. Accountants like it therefore accountants are boring.” But of course we’re not, are we?!

It doesn’t help that so much of what we do is backwards looking. Many people therefore see us as Historians and if they find history boring, as many people do, then, by definition, accountants are boring too.

They are often thinking not about us as people but more about what they think we do all day. We check numbers, details and tax rules. We must be methodical, detail focused, punctilious, cautious and predictable?. We give the impression of understanding a load of complex rules and concepts.

Alternatively we could find ways to disabuse people of the idea that dealing with Boring Stuff makes us boring people. We have to reveal our personalities and core behaviour traits.

How do you do this?

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads of valuable insights, short-cuts, tips and advice for accountants who want to STANDOUT and speed up their success. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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Linkedin is quite distinct from other 'social media'

I have made this point explicitly three times in the last 24hrs in response to different stimuli. It’s something I have also stressed in my talks, articles and blogs in recent years.

In my view you should be wary of anyone who simply references ‘social media’ in the context of accountants (or indeed other senior professionals). If they do not distinguish LinkedIn as distinct from other social media then they are probably insufficiently familiar with LinkedIn and/or accountants to be offering you advice. And the basis for their opinions may be suspect too. There are, sadly, a number of marketing and so-called social media ‘experts’ attempting to persuade naive accountants that they need a ‘social media strategy’. In fact the only people who will see any material reward for this ‘social media strategy’ will be the external consultants.

I accept that some generic definitions of Social Media would include LinkedIn. But it’s very different to twitter and Facebook as I showed in an earlier blog post: Comparing LinkedIn, facebook, twitter and ecademy. Yet facebook and twitter are the platforms most accountants and business people associate with the phrase ‘social media’. There are also other popular (and unpopular) social media platforms. But Linkedin is the only really business focused form of social media.

Do accountants use LinkedIn? Can they benefit from being actively engaged on LinkedIn? Or simply from being registered therein? Yes. Yes. Yes. Should accountants have a strategy to gain maximum benefit from Linkedin? Yes.

Does this mean there is a need for accountants to  adopt a wider ‘social media strategy’? No. Is the common disdain for Facebook or the concerns about twitter relevant to accountants’ use of LinkedIn? No. Could accountants benefit from other forms of social media? Yes. But each medium requires a very different approach and attitude. And none are as business focused as LinkedIn. So there is no need to rush this.

Tell me. Do you agree that it’s better to consider Linkedin distinct from other ‘social media’ or do you think accountants can benefit from a single social media strategy? Please share your views below.

PS: I have written a 10,000+ word book specifically for accountants who want to use Linkedin – either actively or passively. Click here for full details>>>

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I now have thousands of followers on twitter. So what?

I’ve been on twitter since 2007 years and have watched my twitter follower numbers gradually increase over this time.

I think it’s fair to assume that my 5,300+ [edited Dec 2013] followers each fall into one or more of the following categories:

  1. Interested in me/my tweets – and forming part of my target audience of accountants and those who engage with accountants;
  2. Interested in me/my tweets – with connections to and the possibility of advocating me to my target audiences;
  3. Interested in me/my tweets – primarily to be inspired to replicate what I do, but for different audiences (Some might take this to extremes and just blatantly copy what I do);
  4. Interested in me/my tweets to some extent but principally because they know me in ‘real-life’;
  5. Hoping that I will follow them back – and build a relationship that will benefit them;
  6. Hoping that I will follow them back – either just to build up their own follower numbers or so that they can spam me.

I don’t know how many fall into each category. But the primary reason I don’t go chasing random followers is that this involves following random people – and their tweets would then clog up my twitter stream. I know I can filter them out (on tweetdeck or hootsuite) but they are probably doing the same thing. So we would both build up our follower numbers without anyone new seeing our tweets. So what’s the point?

Every now and then I check the new followers that show up on my twitter profile. The majority look  as if they fall into either categories 5 or 6 above. Some may really be in categories 2 or 3 but I suspect this is just wishful thinking.

If you’re following me on twitter and see this blog post do please let me know in which of the above categories you fall. If you don’t fit any of  them please let me know that too.

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How successful are the big firms' experiments with social media?

A new report (at the time of writing) suggests that most of the biggest firms are wasting their time and are not creating enough of a buzz through their social media activities.

The report from Flagship Consulting (a PR consultancy) “used a number of tools” to “measure brand activity” across twitter, facebook and firms’ websites and blogs.  The tools that Flagship reference are Hubspot’s marketing grader, Klout and PeerIndex.

questioned the methodology of PeerIndex recently after it recently ranked me in the top 40 finance tweeters in the UK. (At the time of writing it currently has me as 30th). I have similar concerns about Klout. In both cases I am doubtful that the measures they focus on are the most important for accountants using social media. In effect if one seeks to rise up their rankings one is led to follow behaviours that may not be best suited to accountancy firms.

Back to Flagship’s report which notes on p2 that, in response to a survey undertaken by CCH and YouGov, “just 9% of the 99 firms” [so that’s 9 of them] said “social media was the top method for bringing in new clients”. This is no surprise for sizeable firms but it helps explain their relative lack of commitment to social media – as revealed throughout the report. This stat is hardly likely to change. The bigger the firm the less likely that social media activity will be a key contributor to the winning of new clients.

E&Y come out top of Flagship’s analysis. Their twitter account, at the time of writing has >26,554 followers (despite following just 55 tweeters); taxassist, 2nd in the report has just 1,829 followers. The report stresses the importance of also considering engagement on websites/blogs and on facebook – but the difference is clearly massive. Regular readers will know that follower numbers on twitter are not the ‘be all and end all’. But any stats related to firms with less than a few thousand followers are relatively meaningless. For large firms the number of people who could potentially see their ‘stuff’ and with whom they can engage is surely key. If it’s low then the generic metrics, which may not mean much anyway, that rank social media players, are even less meaningful.

The report criticises firms that do not have active facebook pages and stresses the importance of also considering engagement on websites/blogs and on facebook. There is a good summary of the position on p20 of the report which reaches predictable conclusions – with which I do not wholly agree.

I did not see anywhere any reference to setting a clear strategy for building the firm’s brand on social media platforms.  When I discuss this issue with accountants I stress that an overarching ‘social media’ policy is less important than the need to consider each of the social media platforms that are relevant or likely to be relevant to your firm.

I have written before about the challenges for large firms experimenting with social media.

The biggest firms, like E&Y, can adopt a similar approach to other well-known big brands. This may well include engaging someone (internally or externally) to build a brand presence across the major platforms. But engagement is often key and that is the biggest challenge when the culture is not embedded in the firm.

At the other extreme, smaller firms are increasingly looking to engage with individuals who are themselves active on social media and who may be target clients. But for the vast majority it’s still all a bit of game. I believe there are ways to secure better results but they take time, money and a realistic strategy. Few firms have yet thought this through. They are caught in the hype promoted by marketing, PR and social media ‘experts’ who will be the only winners for some time.

Like this post? You can now obtain my 10,000 word ebook containing loads more Social Media related 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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Where can Accountants network?

It seems that many accountants have experienced one form of local networking group and either decided that they like it or that it’s not for them. That’s fair although it would be a mistake to assume that all such groups operate in the same way. And it would also be a mistake to assume that there are no other options.

Perhaps the most popular formal business networking breakfasts are those run through local branches of National organisations such as BNI, BOB, BforB or 4Networking.  Others are run on a more ad-hoc (pay as you go) basis by local business associations, law firms or financial advisers. There are also lunchtime business networking groups such as the ladies only Athena Network and my favourite – NRG-Networks.

A quick web search for ‘business networking’ in your local area will invariably present you with plenty of choice over and above the National groups mentioned above.

Then there are ad-hoc events arranged by local law firms, financial advisers, banks or other businesses. Although not promoted as networking events, that is indeed what these occasions are even though you can invariably attend them free of charge. They tend to provide unstructured networking opportunities over breakfast, lunch or evening drinks, before or after a short talk or seminar run by the hosts. The events are typically focused on the firm’s clients. However they are also intended to enable the firm to promote its services and expertise to prospective clients and to influencers.

A local accountant will be considered to be an influencer as you may have clients who will one day need the host’s services. So these organisations want you to be there so that they can network with you!

How do you find out when they have events that you could attend? Easy! Go to their websites and join their mailing lists. These are most often used as the basis for invitations to their events. But you will also probably receive their email newsletters!

What experience have you had at business networks and networking events mentioned above – or indeed anywhere else?

PS: I have written a 10,000+ word book specifically for accountants who want to Network more effectively. Click here for full details>>>

If you would like to book me to speak on the subject at your in-house conference or training session, do get in touch. There’s an outline of my talk on ‘How to ensure your networking activity is successful’ here>>>  

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Am I really 38th out of 100 top finance related tweeters?

The ICAEW’s new membership magazine, Economia, has introduced a novel idea. They have teamed up with PeerIndex to identify and list the “The top most influential Finance accounts on Twitter“. And I’m currently ranked at number 38 which is flattering.

Sadly though I doubt the veracity of the list and thus can take no real delight in being included – tempting though it is. After all, I’m ranked above the Harvard Business Review, the IFS, HMRC, all of the Big 4, the CBI and many other worthy finance/accountancy bodies and individuals.

I’ve attempted to embed the list below. See how many names you recognise and might think of as ‘finance’ related. Does anything strike you as odd?

Quite simply I do not understand how the accounts were selected for inclusion. The ranking may or may not be based on an appropriate algorithm but that’s a separate matter.

Many (possibly most) of the personalities on here do not routinely tweet on finance related issues and are better known for other reasons – which therefore affects the level of interest paid to their tweets (whether on finance or other issues). To suggest that they are among the most influential finance tweeters is odd to say the least.

I have not attempted to dissect the complete list but thought I’d check out an accountancy firm that appears near the foot of the list. They have only ever tweeted 39 times and just twice a month for the last few months. Given that I curate two twitter lists that, between them, attempt to follow all UK accountants on twitter I can categorically state that this firm is not anywhere close to being one of the 100 most influential accountancy firms on twitter.

I fear that others on the list may be there for equally spurious reasons thus rendering it a novelty but nothing more I’m afraid. Shame really.

Do let me know what you think by commenting below.

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How much time does it take to be active on social media?

I was asked recently how I allocate my time across all of the social media with which I am involved. I guess this might be of interest to others so thought I’d blog my response. I then found that I drafted a blog post along these lines around 18m ago. It’s interesting (to me at least) to note the differences in my replies today as distinct from back then.

I should stress that I have no daily or weekly targets and the actual time spent depends on what’s happening, my work priorities and the meetings I have in my diary.

Social Networks

Facebook

Now – rarely more than a few snatched minutes every few days (normally using my iphone). My blog posts are automatically added to my facebook wall.

18m ago – I’m not a big facebook user but know I need to check for new friend requests each day. I scan my home page and comment/like anything that grabs my attention. Until and unless I perceive that facebook is a good way to keep in touch with accountants etc I doubt I’ll spend any longer here.

Google+

I spend no time here at all. Had a good look when it was launched and created a profile there. I get the odd notification that someone has added me to their circles. If and when it becomes a key communication tool for my target business audience I will have another look. I doubt that will happen anytime soon. In the meantime I spend enough time online elsewhere on social and business media.

18m ago – n/a (Google+ didn’t exist!)

Pinterest

Again, I spend no time here. Unlikely to change – see comments re Google+ above.

YouTube channel

BookMarkLee – takes no time in a typical week (No change)

Micro-blogging

Twitter

Now – I think I am more focused than I was 18m ago but otherwise little has changed beyond an increase in the number of people who follow me to 3,800. Total time: 15 mins a day plus snatched moments while out and about.

18m ago – I have written an entire piece about how I use twitter.

Business social networks

Ecademy

Now – The time I can afford to spend here has reduced as my time on other online media has increased. I still blog occasionally and add comments to blogs (normally only those posted by people I know). And I attempt to reply and assist fellow members of a few key clubs. Total time: Upto an hour a week

18m ago – I use a bookmark on my browser (both on my macbook and my iphone) to keep up with things in my favourite clubs/groups  typically while I’m out and about. I receive email prompts re messages, key notifications and search results. I sometimes drop in to offer help, support and assistance where I can – this is less frequent than it was a few years ago. Sometimes I post requests for help, support or information myself.

LinkedIn

Now – I spend more time here than on any other such platform. I use it for lead generation across almost all areas of my business activities. It’s also easy to use to get back in touch with people in a business context. I check out the activity on my home page, new discussions in key groups, requests to join my groups and all new connection requests and messages every day. My time here has increased over the last couple of years as I’ve sought to practice what I preach. It’s the most valuable of all the online networks for me from a business perspective. I now have over 2,100 first level connections but never agree to connect with strangers unless they offer a good reason for so doing. Total time: Around 2 hours a week.

18m ago – I realise I have not been spending as much time on here as I should. After all this is the only serious online business network that crosses over into big business. Memo to self: practice what you preach!

4Networking

Now – I have started popping back into the business forum in advance of attending a new group meeting in the City.  Not sure whether I will have the time to continue being active here as well as on Ecademy where I know more people. (Note: Face to face networking can drive online networking which may not succeed in isolation).

18m ago – Have replied and contributed to various discussions. Seems very similar to Ecademy in some respects but I know fewer people here. I sense I may get bored of contributing into the ether.

Accountancy and tax websites

AccountingWeb

Now – I am now engaged to write weekly articles and I always seek to engage with those who comment on these. I also check out and comment on other articles and contribute to ‘Any Answers’ every couple of days. Total time (excl paid-for writing): Upto an hour a week

18m ago – As Consultant Practice editor I check out the site every 2 or 3 days and add comments and replies to queries. I also write a couple of articles each month. Ignoring the articles I probably spend an hour or so a week on the site.

AccountancyAge.com

Now – I am a far less frequent visitor these days than I was previously. I occasionally read the stories that come through by way of email notifications or tweets and sometimes go to the website to add a comment or two. Total time: Maybe 20 mins a week in total.

18m ago – I scan many of the stories and add comments to 2 or 3 of them each week

ION sites (IT counts and Tax Faculty)

Now – As before.

18m ago – I tend to only visit by ref to email prompts and if something specifically interests me. Maybe 20 mins in total across a typical week.

Blogging

WordPress – blog for ambitious accountants

Now – My personal blog for ambitious accountants – you’re reading it now.  Total time: Probably an hour or two per week to post a couple of items and to review and reply to comments.

18m ago – This may be an indulgence as I seem to post so many articles here. Probably averages upto 3 or 4 hours a week.

Blogger – accountant jokes and fun blog

Now –  As before.

18m ago – My fun blog. I cut and paste ad-hoc items here. Probably takes around 30 mins a week.

Blogger – TaxBuzz blog

Now – I have not blogged here since December 2011. I realised it was an indulgence and was taking too much time for no obvious reward. The traffic it drove to the Tax Advice Network website was not converting into business so I have suspended my blogging activity here.

18m ago – I post tax commentary and debunk tax stories in the media 2 or 3 times a week. The idea is to drive traffic to the Tax Advice Network website and to be identified as a key tax commentator.

Other blogs

Now – I collate RSS feeds from dozens of blogs through to Google Reader which I only access on my iphone. This enables me to keep up with blogs I find of interest, mostly while I’m out and about. Total time: Reading during train journeys: Maybe 2 hours a week.

18m ago – I dip in and out of blog posts when I follow links from twitter or when prompted by emails.

Conclusion

It all adds up and of course my online activities are quite well honed now. I’ve been experimenting with many of the above for over 3 years.

How about you?

Related ebook: Specifically for accountants who want to better understand Social Media. Click here for full details>>>

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Twitter lists of UK accountants and tax bods – who’s on and who’s not?

Some years ago I started a list of UK accountants and tax bods who had set up twitter accounts. The idea was to provide a useful resource for anyone who wanted to see how UK accountants use twitter. That list now has almost 200 followers.

As and when I became aware of new people on twitter I added them. All was well until I had 500 accountants on the list.  I then had to set up a second list due to the twitter imposed limit of 500 people on a twitter list.

After my recent posts re twitter names I decided I should split these two lists more logically. I have now moved all the tweeting firms of accountants onto a new list: Accountancy firms – UK.

I’m trying to be consistent so the new list includes:

  • Firms where the twitter handle is a firm’s name and there is no ref to who is tweeting in the firm’s name
  • Firms where the tweeter’s name appears in the profile but there is no photo of them

There are other variations too, but you get the idea. The new list currently has almost 400 firms on it even though I have not attempted to include ALL of the twitter feeds published by the Big 4 firms in the UK.

The other accountancy related twitter lists to which I add tweeters are:

  • Accounting and tax bodies – UK only
  • Accountants and tax bods – This is the merged list of all tweeting UK accountants and tax advisers. (The list has approaching 500 on it. As and when we reach the maximum again I will probably remove those accounts without profile photos and/or those who no longer tweet).

If you want to see how other accountants use twitter you can follow any or all of the lists via your twitter feed. Following a list does not mean the tweets of list members will show up on your “home” page.  To see the tweets whenever you choose you can simply set up a column to do this in Hootsuite, tweetdeck or in your smartphone twitter app.

You can follow any of these lists, without following the individual members. Alternatively you can just choose to follow individual accounts that are included on the lists.

Caveats

  • Checking out how other accountants are using twitter will not, of itself, show you how much value anyone is getting from twitter. It can also be a mistake to confuse large numbers of followers or frequent activity for ‘success’ on twitter.
  • A fair proportion of the firms and individual accountants on my lists no longer tweet. This is typically because they went about it the wrong way and had unrealistic expectations about how twitter works. Sadly these expectations were often encouraged by marketing, social media or tweeting ‘experts. All too often they do not REALLY understand the accountancy profession and share generic advice that simply reinforces the hype around twitter.  My own approach is somewhat different and very much ‘without the hype‘.

By the way if you think you, or anyone else, should be added to any of my twitter lists do follow me on twitter and/or drop me a tweet 😉

 

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How do you explain twitter to novices?

A couple of non-tech savvy friends recently confirmed my view about the media stories that reference twitter. “Why would anyone get involved with that stuff?” they asked. They were visibly shocked to learn that I was ‘into’ twitter and that I help accountants to understand this ‘new’ facility. I offered to explain.

I knew there was no point in starting with the standard description of twitter as a micro-blogging service. That’s jargon. Talking about it being a social media platform and the 140 character limit would be equally pointless.  I also wanted to avoid any of the fallacies that mislead new twitter users. You don’t tweet all of your followers (unless you only have a few of them); you can’t easily use twitter to broadcast promotional business messages (as no one will be listening, watching or reading them).

So the first thing I had to do was to help my friends to understand what twitter is all about. But their question was why does anyone use it? And why would they want to do so?

I did what I always do when I introduce twitter. I talk about it as an information resource. A place to pick up on news items and new developments in ‘real-time’. (I explained this in more detail in my blog post: Is twitter for me? Ten NON-business reasons to be on twitter)

My friends seemed less cynical after I gave some examples but were still shocked by the media focus on celebrity and politician tweets.

I’ve just checked and note that my explanation of twitter accords with the ‘about’ twitter website which starts by saying:

Twitter is a real-time information network that connects you to the latest stories, ideas, opinions and news about what you find interesting. Simply find the accounts you find most compelling and follow the conversations.

At the heart of Twitter are small bursts of information called Tweets. Each Tweet is 140 characters long, but don’t let the small size fool you—you can discover a lot in a little space. You can see photos, videos and conversations directly in Tweets to get the whole story at a glance, and all in one place.

As when I explain twitter to accountants this implies that it’s best to start using twitter as a resource – not as somewhere to tweet, chat, blog, micro-blog or post promotional messages.  As I have said many times on this blog before: You WILL be disappointed with the outcome if you start out on twitter hoping to generate work, leads or followers on the back of your tweets.

Do you agree? How do YOU explain twitter to novices?

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Is a 'me too' Budget summary worth sending to anyone?

Last year I awarded a (notional) prize for what I considered to be the  best Budget night ‘commentary’ that I saw the following day.  The winner, and runner-up to a lesser extent, stood out among the dozens of ‘me too’ pieces that were, frankly, not worth anyone’s time and effort.

Many years ago the Chancellor’s March Budget heralded tax changes that would take effect from the following 6 April. In those days there was a real client service need to summarise the Chancellor’s announcements, what they would mean in practice and what action clients might need to take as a result.

That was then. This is now. Few tax changes take immediate effect any more, other than the closure of fancy tax loopholes. And when that happens more detailed analysis is required than will ever appear in a Budget commentary. Also long gone are the days when the Budget Night press releases contained sufficient detail to enable accountants to say something constructive. Now we have to wait for subsequent announcements that appear long after the Budget newsletter was published. And most of the next tax year’s rates and allowances were announced a few months back – as has become the way for some time now.

But still many firms produce their own summaries or buy in a commercially produced ‘overnight’ Budget commentary to send out to their clients. I’ve heard the arguments for this. “Clients expect to get one from us.” “They get one from every other accountant in the town.” “They like them” (really?). To my mind there are plenty of better ways for accountants to distinguish themselves from the competition and to provide real client service. These standard Budget emails, newsletters and booklets are of very little value and rarely contain anything more than appears in the daily paper or in generic news (or even tax news) email updates. And they have little in the way of ongoing value.

So why the awards last year? Quite simply because the winner’s approach was distinctive and better than all of the standard stuff that I received from dozens of accountants around the UK.  Elaine Clark of CheapAccounting.co.uk published ‘Not a Budget newsletter‘. It was client focused and recognised the fact that there was next to nothing of immediate impact in the Budget itself.

This year Elaine has already published her summary of the key tax data that the media will only think to announce after the Budget – despite the fact that the information was announced long ago.

I announced a runner-up award last year for informanagement as they had at least divided up the announcements:

  • Budget Summary March 2011 – New tax changes announced today
  • Budget Summary March 2011 – Future changes announced today
  • Budget Summary March 2011 – Changes previously announced for 2011-12, now confirmed

So here is a challenge for readers of my musings and blogs. If you can avoid a ‘me too’ attempt and you adopt a different, client centred approach this year, please let me know. If I agree I will give you the 2012 award (which simply means you get a mention on my blog and a link through to your website).

Of course if you want to argue the case for ‘me too’ summaries I’d also love to hear form you via the comments facility below.

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500 entrepreneurs clearly need new accountants

I had to read the letter in today’s Telegraph twice after I first saw the headline that referenced it:

50p tax rate is damaging economy and delaying recovery from recession, warn 500 business leaders

The key point I wanted to flag was the implications drawn from the following extract from the letter:

“The tax which is in effect a 58p tax after national insurance is taken into account, puts wealth creators like us in a very awkward position.”

The comment article notes that  the business owners have also provided examples of the damage being done to the economy by the levy.

They say that by taxing their personal income so highly they have less incentive to invest their own cash in their firms or try to make them more successful.

I have never met an entrepreneur who would deny him/herself the opportunity to build up their business to make it more successful. It makes no sense. More successful businesses generate bigger profits when sold. And the owners then pay Capital Gains Tax (at between 10% and 28%) on the profits they make. Not 50% income tax. Or “58p” either.

Most entrepreneurs can decide for themselves whether to draw surplus profits out of their business (typically as dividends). If they do this then these monies are indeed subject to top rates of income tax. BUT the corollary is true too. Higher rates of income tax make it more cost effective to leave money in the company to help it grow. This is the complete opposite of what the entrepreneurs are reported to have said they think the position to be.

The comment also suggests that these entrepreneurs think that they can only invest more money in their business by drawing cash out first, paying 50% tax on it and then reinvesting it. This is clearly a nonsense. Retained profits are not subject to income tax and the business itself pays corporation tax on its profits.

All in all, I conclude that these entrepreneurs clearly need better accountants to help them understand how our tax system works and that making their business more successful faster means paying LESS income tax at 50% – rather than more. In other words, their letter is not well argued.

So my advice today is to check out the list of entrepreneurs who have signed the letter and approach those in your area. It’s likely that they could benefit from your intervention. But I guess they won’t appreciate being told that their argument is misguided – even if we can agree that the 50% top rate is not ideal.

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Networking – what's not to like?

Yesterday’s short intro seminar on ‘Networking for accountants who don’t like networking’ seemed to be well received.

Much of the content was drawn from my previous talks on the subject of Networking – and from the related posts on this blog. I did however update the slides and add one under the title: ‘What’s not to like?’ My list seemed to resonate with the audience:

  • Pushy sales types
  • Being ignored
  • The boring ones
  • The noisy ones
  • The smelly ones
  • Getting stuck
  • No sales leads
  • And more…..

What else would you add?

PS: I have written a 10,000+ word book specifically for accountants who want to Network more effectively. Click here for full details>>>

If you would like to book me to speak on the subject at your in-house conference or training session, do get in touch. There’s an outline of my talk on ‘How to ensure your networking activity is successful’ here>>>  

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6 Client fundamentals

The following six ‘client fundamentals’ are highlighted in Robert Craven’s book: Grow your service firm. I’ve added my interpretation of each of them in square brackets.

1 – Don’t waste my time [Don’t keep me waiting at the start of scheduled meetings. Also when explaining issues, in writing or face to face. Doctors manage well in this regard despite dealing with life and death issues and the risk of being sued for malpractice]

2 – Understand who I am – the client who pays your fees and thus your wages [Don’t take clients for granted, respond promptly when they communicate, keep them informed of progress (and delays) and treat them with due respect]

3 – Make it easy for me to buy and to get service [Among my pet peeves are accountants’ websites with no contact name on them. People buy from people. Who should they ask for when they approach your firm – by phone or email? Ensure you have a straightforward client ‘take-on’ process with no delays. This includes clarity over your fees and terms of business. Can you produce these easily and address all new client issues promptly?]

4 – Make sure your service delights me or at least “does what it says on the tin” [Are you ‘Accountants and business advisers’? If so you should be advising on business issues as a matter of course and without being asked. Unless you are super-human you cannot expect to be able to advise on every single matter that a client may raise. But you should know where you will go if a client asks for (or you perceive they need) advice on tax or other issues that are a little out of the ordinary.

5 – Customise your product service to my specific needs [Tailor your standard letters to suit specific clients. Use appropriate terminology and adapt your style and language as required]

6 – Don’t treat me like a moron [Clients are not trained to understand accounts and tax returns. They may well have built up a fair understanding of the numbers around their business or their tax affairs. Never assume to the contrary.]

The book is aimed at a wide variety of service providers – including accountants. Do you agree that these 6 client fundamentals should be taken on board by ambitious accountants? Are there others you would add to the list?

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads of valuable insights, short-cuts, tips and advice for accountants who want to STANDOUT and speed up their success. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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What's your approach to the provision of business advice?

When it comes to the provision of business advice, I’ve previously suggested that accountants serving business clients, fall into one of four categories:

1 – 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.

2 – 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. Those accountants who have worked in (non-accountancy) businesses will also have a different type of experience to draw on.

3 – 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.

4 – 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.

Some commentators have provided near constant pressure over many years to encourage accountants to adopt the systemised approach. Nevertheless I understand that less than 10% of accountants in the UK have bought into the idea.  The vast majority are evidently not convinced. Why is that I wonder?

Most accountants seem to prefer one or more of the first three approaches described above. Perhaps their clients do not seem to be demanding a more formalised approach (or maybe the accountant perceives that their clients are not willing to pay for it).

What do you think?

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads of valuable insights, short-cuts, tips and advice for accountants who want to STANDOUT and speed up their success. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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How to 'accidentally' gain sales from networking

Few ambitious accountants have ever chosen a career in sales. And yet, almost all accountants need to be able to generate income. Inevitably that income will come from clients and you will have some, possibly a large, responsibility for helping to generate those ‘sales’.

My friend, Richard White, describes those of us who are in this position as “Accidental sales people”. We didn’t choose to work in sales but it is still an integral part of what we do. Richard’s view is that we will be more successful if we adopt a ‘soft-selling’ style rather than attempt to emulate the salespeople whom we hate. You know – those pushy people who try to persuade people to buy things they don’t want.

We need to ensure that our sales techniques are appropriate and that our prospective clients do not feel we are pressurising them to engage us for services they do not want. For this reason traditional sales training techniques are unlikely to be very effective when trying to help ambitious accountants enhance the results of their networking and client development activities.

I have long admired Richard’s ‘soft-selling’ techniques as they are very similar to solution based selling and consultative selling. These are the approaches that I learned some years ago and still favour. The essence of all these concepts is to work with rather than against human nature. Rather than attempt to push your services, soft-selling demands that you first understand the primary motivations of your clients and prospective clients. Then, and only then, you should be able to make your services seem so compelling that they attract your clients to want to engage you.

The skills you need to develop are less a hard nosed approach to selling and more an understanding of human nature and a degree of patience. 

Last year Richard wrote the ‘Networking Survival Guide – the essential hands-on manual for winning more business and gaining new sales leads’. In it he demolishes the myth of the ‘elevator pitch’ and explains what you can do to stand out and be remembered as distinct from every other accountant. He stresses the power of stories and highlights the benefits of thinking this all through. Spend some time getting this right and you will start to ‘accidentally’ gain referrals and sales from your networking activities. It won’t happen overnight though. But it will happen a lot faster than if you network aimlessly. Richard encourages a clarity of thought that could benefit many accountants whose networking is proving to be less effective than they would like.

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10 New Year Resolutions for Ambitious Accountants

As 2012 dawns here are 10 New Year resolutions that I would encourage ambitious accountants to make. This list has already appeared on AccountingWeb where I included links to articles on that site that explain each of the ideas in more detail. In the list below I have replaced those links with references to related posts on this blog:

1. Reducing the January rush

I will take responsibility for allowing so many of my clients to delay sending me all the information I need until January. I have had enough and will start planning now to stop this continuing year-after-year. (See ‘The January tax return rush is your own fault).

2. Billing

I will release cash by reducing my lock-up to 60 days through more prompt billing and applying my standard credit terms whenever clients fail to pay on time. (See ‘10 key actions you need to take when starting an accountancy firm’)

3. Services

I will be more open-minded and introduce one new service for my clients this year – over and above the recurring compliance services I have always provided. This will enable me to help my clients with their businesses and, at the same time, to become more profitable myself. (See ‘Not all Accountants are business advisers’)

4. LinkedIn profile

I will add a photo and an up-to-date summary of my current experience and abilities to my LinkedIn profile. This could make all the difference whenever someone is checking me out online: e.g. a prospective client, a prospective referrer or advocate, an ex-colleague or ex-client. (See ‘LinkedIn for accountants (part three)’).

5. Twitter

I will look into whether tweeting might be useful or fun. If I decide to give it a go I will check out how to make Twitter work for me. I will avoid posting puerile and self-promotional messages as these will not help me or my practice.  (See ‘Is twitter for me?)

6. Alliances

I will establish a business alliance that will help my practice and my clients. Possible alliances could relate to any area of specialist expertise that some of my clients might need or I could form an alliance with a complementary service provider. We would learn how we can help each other’s clients and then agree to refer clients to each other. (See ‘Do you ensure your clients get the best advice or just your advice?’)

7. Plan

I will create a one-page marketing and business plan setting out what I want to achieve in the practice over the next year and what I will do to make this happen. (See ‘10 key actions you need to take when starting an accountancy firm’)

8. Talk with clients

I will make appointments to speak with all of my best clients within the next three months, just to see how things are going for them. Many of these calls and meetings will lead to those clients asking me to provide additional advice and services – that I can bill them for.  (See ‘What do you say when you ‘Keep in touch’?’)

9. Dump the duff clients

I will stop complaining about my three worst clients and will encourage them to find new accountants within the next few months. I will replace them with three new clients as I deserve to work only with people who appreciate what I do for them.  (See ‘Ditch the duff clients’)

10. Mentoring group

I will join a local mentoring group for ambitious accountants where I can learn from my peers and enhance my business and personal (non-technical skills). The group will help motivate me to keep all of my New Year resolutions. I also know I don’t have a monopoly on good ideas and I want to make 2012 the year that I learn to become more effective. (See ‘ What does CPD really mean?’)

What resolutions are you making as regards your practice this year?

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5+ reasons I don't recommend Google+

I often speak on Social Media to business people (generally accountants and suppliers to accountants). But I don’t talk about Google+ 

[I wrote this post in October 2011. Looking back on it in December 2013 I noted that nothing has happened to change my view – yet!]

Here’s why:

1 – It is too new: I do not think that my audiences need to be at the forefront of the newest social media fads. IF Google+ becomes an established alternative to LinkedIn for professional business audiences THEN I will discuss it in detail during my talks. Until and unless THEIR target audiences  (clients, prospects and referrers) are engaged on Google+ there is no need for them or me to spend time on this new platform.

2 – Walk don’t run: To date very few in my audiences are already engaged to any material extent with social media. Some have registered profiles on Linkedin or twitter but they don’t yet USE them effectively. Anyone who is going to dip their toes into social media is best off starting to experiment with these established tools. Some may try facebook business pages or ecademy. The choice should be determined, as I’ve already noted, by considering where your target audience is and engaging with them there.

3 – Horses for courses: To date, the only people I have encountered who are USING Google+ are IT geeks and those who are promoting social media and/or marketing – in a generic way. These people are not my audience and no one in my audience wants to do more than to use social media for marketing their own business. I know this isn’t the right motivation but I accept it is the reason for their interest. I always explain that Social Media is NOT a new broadcast medium. In any event, the more established social media sites are where my audience should start experimenting, not the newest latest fad.

4 – Damn statistics – I don’t care that over 40 million people registered for Google+. This is very different from the number of people who REALLY use Google+.  In fact the stats tell us that only a small proportion of that 40m are using Google+ to any real extent. I guess many are like me. I registered and had a look when it was launched in July 2011. I went back once or twice and then stopped bothering. Much as I did with Google Buzz when that launched. By the way I understand that Buzz has recently been killed off.

5 – It’s not for me – The bottom line is that I think it’s unlikely I’ll be using Google+ for business anytime soon. The only people I know using Google+ are people I am already connected with on other social media platforms. Why do I (or they) need to be connecting and interacting on a new platform as well?  Is there a good enough reason to migrate across to a new platform, to learn new techniques and build new habits? I think not. Indeed, even if there were some fantastic new amazing features only available with Google+ I would still not want to be a pioneer.  They seem to be lonely.

Listening to a Social Media Podcast recently I found myself agreeing with the expert contributors: It’s unlcear what Google+ is FOR. By comparison, and I appreciate this is simplistic: Facebook is for friends and fun; Twitter is for fast news and insights; and Linkedin is for business and CVs. Until there is a similar simple way to express what Google+ is for and thus a compelling reason to use Google+ I won’t be advocating it to my audiences and I’m comfortable that they won’t be missing out.

What do you think?

Like this post? You can now obtain my 10,000 word ebook containing loads more Social Media related 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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Nailing the lie re boring accountants

After attending a formal dinner at the ICAEW last night, I posted a tweet:

Enjoyed a fab dinner at ICAEW with other current and former Council members. Many accountants with interesting hobbies and backgrounds.

And one of my followers on twitter posted the perhaps inevitable response:

Interesting accountants? Are you sure?! 😉

The simple fact is ‘yes’. Absolutely. During the evening I spoke with a number of middle-aged accountants who are evidently not boring. Including:

  • One who originally trained as a fighter pilot in the air force in the 1970s;
  • One who took up flying twenty years ago and has recently sold 3 light aircraft he has been flying over the years;
  • One who runs 2 marathons a year;
  • One who is a solicitor, New York attorney, licensed insolvency practitioner, arbitrator and a professor in business law.
  • Then there’s me – a member of the magic circle who spent 25 years as a childrens party entertainer and later a roving close-up magician at dinners and celebrations.

It occurs to me that it is time to nail the lie that accountants are boring. Please add your stories and recollections of accountants with interesting hobbies and backgrounds as comments on this thread. And pass the word.

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads of valuable insights, short-cuts, tips and advice for accountants who want to STANDOUT and speed up their success. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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A practicing accountant confesses that twitter doesn't work (for him)

An unnamed accountant has written the following confession for AccountancyAge. It accords with my perception of the position many firms of accountants are in or will find themselves in:

Having spent a great deal of time and effort on new social media methods of marketing it was a happy day when we recently acquired a client originating from Twitter.

We have had lots of initial enquiries, loads of conversations, even a few meetings but to finally sign up an actual client was a real joy.

A couple of us within the firm have been so desperate to prove that the new social media marketing methods actually work when it comes to acquiring business, that we have probably spent a disproportionate amount of time on it just to prove the point.

In the cold light of day it probably hasn’t been worth it so far and I’m sure at the next partners’ meeting the issue will probably be raised.

A huge amount of time has been spent learning and putting into practice the new methods – and on a cost-per-hour basis the return at the moment just isn’t there.

I am still convinced that Twitter and Facebook are great ways to market the practice but I will probably have to admit that now is the time to delegate the task of tweeting and posting to staff who have lower charge out rates, or maybe even administrative staff.

Regular readers will know that I am not surprised. I have often questioned whether the time that some professional advisers devote to twitter and other forms of social media is worthwhile. Often it seems unfocused, overly promotional or unsupported.

Twitter and other forms of social media can be worthwhile activities but only when the adviser (or those at the top of the firm) understand enough about what it involves, what it requires and what it implies. What will not be worthwhile is the approach that the unnamed practitioner suggests his firm will now adopt – delegating tweeting to a junior member of staff.   This MAY be all the biggest firms need to do. But for most it wil simply mean that a more junior person is the one wasting their time instead of a partner.  Far better to review the firm’s strategy and to ensure that its social media activity is more focused going forwards.

What do you think?

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“SMEs need your help” – But what is an SME?

What do the initials SME mean to you? Do they refer to small local businesses? The official Government definition, drawn from the EU definition and used for determining which businesses need an audit for example, is clear. Small and Medium-sized Enterprises account for over 99.9% of all UK businesses*

Any initiative that purports to focus on SMEs is not focused at all – unless everyone involved understands the initials to mean something more specific and all agree on what this is.

So I am a touch disappointed to read that the new ICAEW Business Advice Service is branded as being for SMEs.  That apart it’s a great move by the ICAEW to help fill the ‘advice gap’ left by the government’s decision to close Business Link.

It highlights the services available from Chartered Accountant members of the ICAEW, and demonstrates their commitment to economic growth by offering one initial consultation at no charge to SMEs and start-ups on the full range of business issues. It is intended to clearly differentiate ICAEW members from unqualified accountants, to highlight the services offered to SMEs by member firms and help introduce new business to members. Full details here: businessadviceservice.com

If I were still in practice I’d register to be included. It’s a branding exercise more than anything else as most member firms have long been willing to hold the initial no-obligation meeting with prospective clients – of whatever size.  There doesn’t seem to be any obligation on members to do anything different from the past.  So it’s a simple win:win for everyone.  Especially as ICAEW is launching a new advertising campaign promoting ICAEW Chartered Accountants and promotion of the Business Advice Service will run alongside this. This will include national and local media to ensure coverage across the UK.

What do you think?

*SME statistics from the Dept for Business Innovation and Skills

 

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