Linkedin survey of accountants – results and tips

Well over a hundred accountants responded to a recent short survey in which I invited them to summarise their biggest challenge using Linkedin back in 2014.

Following the survey I arranged a webinar for accountants which I ran with Mark Perl. Almost 100 accountants were online. Feedback both during and afterwards was very positive.

Mark focused on the challenges identified by the survey which told us that key concerns and challenges seem to be:

  • How to compose a professional and effective profile
  • What is best practice and effective when it comes to posting status updates
  • How to give and get worthwhile recommendations

There isn’t room to summarise the presentation here but here are some of the points Mark addressed that I know are not covered by my ebook on the subject:

  • Linkedin has around 15m users in the UK. That’s about 50% of the working population. So clearly they are not all job hunters or recruiters.
  • Basic due diligence these days includes checking out someone’s Linkedin profile. I do this all the time and I assume others check out mine too. What does yours say about you?
  • Your profile should focus on ‘what you do’, more than on ‘what you are’ (eg: an accountant).  It’s also important to include something that highlights what makes you STAND OUT as compared with others like you.
  • Status updates are only seen by those people who visit the home page of the website (when logged in) and those who know they can access a link to your recent activity when they visit your profile page.
  • When posting status updates think like an editor, engage the reader and stimulate their engagement through something that catches the eye. If you succeed in generating comments, make sure you reply.
  • Only people with whom you are connected can see your Recommendations on Linkedin. Everyone else can simply see how many you have.
  • Check out the Recommendations of your local competition. Aim to have more (quantity) and more valuable recommendations than they do.
  • The best Recommendations to give and to get are those that are outcome focused. Keep this in mind when giving them and when asking for them. eg: What value did you get from the presentation, meeting, interaction or service provided by the person that you wish to recommend?

by

Linkedin and Facebook. What's the difference?

A trainee accountant I know had just heard that I’d been speaking about Linkedin at an accountancy firm’s away day. He was amazed that a firm would need this as, in his words, “Linkedin is just like Facebook isn’t it?”

This is a common misconception, fuelled in part by surveys and articles that reference Linkedin simply as just another social networking site. This causes many older people to dismiss Linkedin as they have no interest in social networking. And many younger people then pay it little attention as they are already active on Facebook. “Why bother doing much on a copycat site?”

My view is quite simple. The two sites are very different.

For professionals, like accountants, I suggest viewing Facebook as being principally for fun, friends and family.

Linkedin however is where you can build, manage and utilise your business connections. It’s more of a professional business networking site rather than somewhere to share your social activities and non-business views.

Crucially, as I explained to my young friend, his career moves are more likely to benefit from his Linkedin activity than from his use of facebook. The latter has more potential to have an adverse impact if postings and comments are not carefully considered.

Linkedin can also be used as a powerful career enhancer and I have spoken about this before. More and more recruitment decisions are influenced by Linkedin profiles. Also relevant to your career success will be your activity and the connections you build up on Linkedin.

The other key distinction between facebook and Linkedin is that the latter is a powerful lead generation tool that can be used by accountants – of all ages.  And this tends to be the focus of the talks I present on the subject both in-house and at conferences.  Hence my conclusion that Linkedin is VERY different to Facebook and a far more valuable and important tool for most accountants.

by

Confessions of a tax avoidance scheme promoter

At last week’s annual Taxation Awards event I found myself chatting with someone who used to promote tax avoidance schemes. What he had to say was well worth sharing with readers of my blog.

First though let me offer some background. I want to provide enough details to justify why what Mr X had to say is so important. But I am respecting his preference not to be identified here especially as I made no notes at the time so I do not want to specifically attribute his comments.

I have known Mr X for 15 years or so. When I was in practice I attended many meetings with him and was always struck by his honesty and integrity. Although I was never a fan of tax schemes, when Mr X promoted a tax scheme I knew HE had always researched it thoroughly himself and understood exactly how it worked. He was in favour of making full disclosure on tax returns and was very choosy about the schemes he promoted – even before the DOTAS regime was introduced ten years ago.

Mr X has been a top private client lawyer and tax adviser for years. He belongs to a number of professional bodies; his expertise and independence are highly regarded and he frequently writes cogent and hard hitting articles for the professional press.

Our conversation started by referencing the latest media reports about the icebreaker tax scheme and Gary Barlow and Take That. See: Why weren’t all accountants promoting those tax schemes? This is a post I wrote when the same story first became news almost 2 years ago in 2012:  (It has since become apparent that the scheme dates back to 2004 – rather than only to 2010 as I suggested in that post)

When we talked I learned that Mr X has found that the market for tax schemes has dried up in recent years.

In his experienced and credible view NO professional accountant in their right mind spends time promoting tax schemes to clients any more. There is NO point in accountants spending time trying to get their heads around new schemes, as an independent conclusion will always be that the scheme will not survive attack by HMRC.

Mr X told me that in his view the only people still actively promoting tax schemes to clients are the naive and those whose independent view has been compromised by their need to earn a living. Oh, and the liars who know that their assurances are unreliable.

There will always be greedy people who will want to believe that they can reduce or remove a large tax bill by doing what they think the rich and famous do. And there will always be slick salespeople who can exploit that desire for a profit.

Mr X still advises on tax but confessed that he no longer promotes ANY tax schemes. He does however get involved in helping extricate people from schemes that have been found not to work or where this is now anticipated to be the likely outcome.

Supplemental point

When I was at Accountex last week I noted that two well known membership groups for accountants are encouraging their members to use the services of their preferred tax scheme promoters.  I tend to think there is a combination of naivety and greed involved in such arrangements.

Having said that, maybe this is the right approach for that handful of clients who want to know what their options are. Especially as they will only want to pay a fee if someone is going to help them pay less tax.

I must admit though that I wonder how often well advised clients actually choose to go ahead with tax avoidance schemes these days. I have noted previously that barely one in ten clients proceed once they understand what is really involved.

As Mr X confirmed when we spoke, the outcome of any remaining tax avoidance schemes must be in some doubt. Because of the inevitable prevarication and argument the final outcome will typically only become clear over the next 5-10 years.

Much better, in my view, to simply seek the advice of a suitable experienced tax expert to help ensure that a client’s transactions etc are being arranged in the most tax efficient and non-controversial manner.  Mr X does this. And the Tax Advice Network provides a simple way to secure such input from independent tax experts around the country.

Related post: Why weren’t all accountants promoting those tax schemes?

by

Effective use of new tech in accountancy offices

This was the main topic for discussion at yesterday’s meeting of The Inner Circle for Accountants. I have summarised below some of the key issues members addressed.

We met at The Eight Club in Moorgate, London and Members again benefited from the sharing of knowledge and insights around the table. Inevitably we strayed onto related topics as will be seen from the summary below:

– Likes and dislikes about key practice software
– Software that members had tried but given up on
– Different approaches to CRM using software solutions
– Synchronisation issues and solutions
– Managing multiple client and prospect databases
– Workflow management tools
– Managing online marketing campaigns
– Pricing formulas and fee quoting software

One of our members is among, what he believes to be, less than 300 UK accountancy firms to have invested in a branded ‘app’. His views will evidently impact other members’ response to the heavy marketing push around this topic.

Half of the members present had been at Accountex last week and provided their feedback as to whether a visit is worthwhile and how to gain maximum value when you do go.

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 along with related links to save them time trying to locate them. I will also share a fuller note of the issues discussed and shared at the meeting in due course together with additional relevant ideas. In accordance with our Membership Principles all such notes will comply with the Chatham House rule.

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 and follow the link to watch the intro video and then get in touch so that we can discuss whether joining would be good for you and for your practice

 

by

How to short-cut the Networking process

Networking is not for everyone. Whilst some accountants enjoy attending regular networking events, I regularly hear tales of woe from those who find it a frustrating waste of time.  There are also plenty of accountants who do not like the idea of chatting with strangers very appealing.

You will rarely meet someone at a networking event who is there to find a new accountant. So the process of moving from attending such events to winning new clients can be both time consuming and involved. How can you short-cut the process?

In this blog post I share an idea that could be a far more productive use of your time and less daunting too. It’s quite different to the tips and advice I have shared previously as to how you can get more value from the time you spend networking.

Objectives

The primary reason most accountants attend networking events is typically to win new clients. A secondary objective might be to build relationships with influencers who then refer you on to their clients and contacts. This latter rationale is more likely to be successful in the short-term. Few new clients will choose to appoint a new accountant until they have built a degree of trust – certainly more than comes from a casual chat at a networking event.

The best client introductions

If you’ve been in practice a while you should know how you came to service your best clients. I’ll bet that most didn’t come through adverts, they didn’t come from people searching on the web and they didn’t come from social networking.  Sure, all of these activities might generate some work but your ‘best’ clients?  There will always be exceptions but most accountants typically say that their best clients were introduced or recommended by existing or previous clients.

The second best source tends to be other advisers who know, like and trust the accountant.  Often, but not always, these relationships were built up as a result of random meetings at networking events. But that’s not the only way to instigate them.

An alternative approach 

If you don’t like Networking with strangers you are not alone. Instead why not ask your favourite clients to introduce you to their other advisers?

Which lawyers and financial advisers do they trust? These are then the people whom you can contact and meet for a coffee. You want to get to know them better so that you can recommend other clients to them as and when this seems appropriate. After all if one good client has recommended them, then others may value their advice too.

During your conversations with these advisers you will also get the chance to talk about your practice. And you will also reference the clients you have helped besides the one you have in common with the adviser you are with.

In effect this approach enables you to short-cut the networking process. You don’t have to chat with random strangers at networking events; you aren’t reliant on stumbling across people who might know someone who might need a new accountant; and you don’t have to arrange a series of follow up meetings with strangers who may or may not be valuable additions to  your business circle.

Try it, you might like it.

by

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.

by

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.

 

by

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.

 

by

The worst thing to do when you get a bland Linkedin connection request

If you are on Linkedin you will get connection requests from people you don’t know. And you will also get plenty of bland connection requests from people you’re not sure whether or not you know.

It’s very tempting to treat such connection requests in the same way as other unsolicited messages. But that would be a mistake.

Linkedin prompts users to connect with people they know and with people they would like to know. I think the worst thing you can do when you get a bland Linkedin connection request is to judge anyone badly for sending this.

Many users just don’t yet understand that it’s better to personalise the connection requests. Indeed they may be unaware that it’s possible. After all, facebook doesn’t provide this facility. Nor does twitter. And nor does the Linkedin ‘mobile’ site.

And then there are some people who think that it is the ‘done thing’ to simply agree with Linkedin when the system suggests you connect with people ‘you may know’. They click the ‘connect’ button and in some cases the system sends a standard connection request without even offering you the facility to personalise it.

I probably receive around 50 connection requests a week. Only a minority of these are personalised. They always stand out and always lead to me sending back a personalised response.

Very occasionally I’ll get a connection request from someone who is obviously a spammer and I report these. The other requests I receive fall into one of four categories:

1 – People whom I have met in real life or whom I am due to meet.

2 – Accountants and tax related people who may have read my articles or blog posts or heard me speak – I accept all such requests and send a personal note back.

3 – Apparent strangers who send a personalised connection request – I consider these on their merits.

4 – Apparent strangers who have given me no clue as to why they want to connect with me. Rather than automatically ignore these I send the following message:

Thanks for your invitation to connect. Although I have thousands of connections here I always hesitate before connecting with someone new. I find it helps to know why they want to connect as Linkedin prompts random connections as well as focused ones.

I’m sorry if my memory is at fault. If we have met for real or engaged on line please remind me. And do please let me know what prompted you to want to connect with me here. Is there something specific in my profile perhaps that makes you think that us connecting could be mutually beneficial?

Many thanks

Regards

Mark

Around 3 in 10 of such replies prompt a response which may lead to me agreeing to the connection. Those who don’t reply I then ignore. I leave it a few days though before clicking the ‘ignore’ button as, again, I know some newer users don’t check linkedin every day and don’t see all their messages.

Positive responses to the above message have brought me back in touch with ex-colleagues who I have forgotten or who have new (married) names, have generated speaking enquiries and bookings and have led to valuable introductions to third parties.

I do not agree with those people who check out the sender’s profile and only agree to connect if there is an obvious reason to do so. That’s the same mistake we make if we consider that networking is all about the people in the room. It’s also about the people they know. Unless we ask them we won’t know why someone has asked to connect with us.

So, to reiterate, I think the worst thing you can do when you receive a bland Linkedin connection request is to judge the person who has sent it, ‘ignore’ the request or penalise them, by refusing to connect with them, blocking them or sending back a snotty note.

Do you agree? What do you do when you get bland linkedin connection requests?

 

 

 

by