UFOs and the Modern Accountant: A Strategic Approach

Sep 12, 2023 | Business development

How much time do you spend checking out UFOs? No. Not Unidentified Flying Objects, but Unplanned Fanciful Opportunities? Those tempting ideas that may solve your problems but which have appeared out of the blue. They could be really valuable, or they could just be a timesuck.
These are different from those ‘squirrel’ distractions that simply divert us from what we know we should be doing.  Some UFOs could be very profitable and worth investigating. But not always.
Recent Unplanned Fanciful Opportunities (UFOs) that accountants have described to me include:
– A marketing proposal that goes further than expected but which, on inspection, is not going to be good investment as it requires payment for a service before any discussion as to whether the service will be of value to the accountant in question.
– A prospective new recruit – who approached the accountant on spec (no vacancy advertised) and nearly resulted in a lot of time being spent on a full strategic review to accommodate the recruit’s ambition.
– A possible merger partner – not that one was being considered; again, on discussion the accountant decided NOT to change tack to purse the distracting ‘opportunity’.
Some UFOs however are absolutely worth pursuing, though again, my clients seem to have appreciated my input before spending too long considering them. Here are 4 recent examples:
– A new local business networking group – could be worth at least one visit as long as the accountant is clear as to how they will introduce themself in a distinct, positive and memorable way in 2023. We discussed how they could do this after years of NOT attending networking events.
– A friend encouraging the accountant to be more active on social media – only makes sense if the accountant wants more clients of the type they hope to impact on each of the platforms concerned.  We agreed they will instead pursue a more focused strategic approach to engaging on the online business networking platform, LinkedIn.
– A big new client – that would be profitable but would also necessitate internal changes – higher fee quoted (and interim payment terms)  to ensure that the impact of the changes will be covered if the client comes on board
– New software that would be very helpful – if it does all that it promises. We considered the questions to be raised and issues to be addressed by a demo on the accountant’s terms rather than just on the supplier’s terms.
Sometimes accountants mention these UFOs during one of our regular mentoring calls.
But also, at least once a week one of my mentoring clients (not always the same one) gets in touch for an extra call to discuss a UFO. – It’s all part of the service for my regular clients who have chosen a Mark 2 or Mark 3 mentoring package

I love these UFO conversations. They typically happen because someone has approached the accountant, said something or presented a potential opportunity that is quite tempting.

Typically we are talking here about experienced accountants, who are busy running their own practices. For years they have faced such conundrums alone, and that was fine.

We all like to trust our gut – but sometimes it can help to talk things through with someone else who can help us to unpack our thinking.
I get a real buzz from knowing that my clients value my input and thank me as they reach their own conclusions faster and with more confidence than they might have done had they continued working entirely alone. This wasn’t an explicit part of my mentoring offering until I realised how often I get asked to do it.
How much time do you devote to checking out UFOs?

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