I have lost track of how many sole practitioners and two-partner accountancy practices pretend to be bigger than they really are.
Some overtly claim that their firm is bigger than it really is by adding words like “and associates” to the name of the firm. Even though, in reality, it is only them and maybe a couple of junior staff and some admin support.
Even more common are the websites of sole practitioners that talk about how ‘WE are this, WE do that and WE have many years of experience’.
And then there are those sole practitioners whose business cards, online profiles and websites describe them as MD or CEO of their practice.
This approach of pretending to be bigger than you are is a common mistake, in my view, for two reasons which I will explain in a moment.
Whenever I ask accountants WHY they are trying to come across as bigger than they really are, they normally give me one of three reasons.
1 – Some do it because they think it makes the firm seem more professional, more established and more serious than if they operated under their own name or admitted that they are the only real fee earner.
I follow this logic but I’m not sure everyone thinks it through.
2 – The second reason, that I only hear occasionally, is that they are intending to recruit and build a team within a few months. If the plan (beyond hopes and dreams) will take longer than that, maybe it should include updating the website once the team is in place ;-)
3 – The third and most common reason they may want their firm to appear larger is because they want to attract larger clients. Those that might be put off if they knew how small the firm is. Whilst I understand the aspiration I am not sure how well it works in practice. One thing I am sure about is that such clients will be disappointed when they find out they have been deceived.
Indeed this leads us to the first of the two reasons why I think it is a mistake to pretend to be bigger than you are. Sooner or later it will become apparent that such claims were misleading. And that’s hardly a positive way to start a professional relationship. Clients don’t like to think they have been conned.
The second reason I think it’s a mistake to pretend to be bigger than you are is when this means you hide who runs the practice. In such cases your website excludes any direct reference to the practice owner(s).
If that’s what you do you are missing a trick.
Most people want to know WHO they are going to work with. They are more inclined to contact a named person, especially if accompanied by a photo and some profile information introducing them. This is a key reason why the Tax Advice Network website only identifies individual tax advisers and tax accountants. It is not somewhere to promote a firm as such. Anyone who completes their profile on the website with more reference to their firm than to them as a person secures fewer enquiries than those who take my advice. People buy (from) people.
Accountants who update their website to address these points often tell me that they have subsequently received more and better enquiries than they did previously.
Honesty is the best policy!
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