No doubt some accountants found January 2021 was worse then previous years, some will consider it about the same and some will have found it less pressured than previously.

The one thing that most accountants will agree on is that, regardless of the impact of the pandemic, some clients are beyond help.

Previously we might have thought this was all about those clients who are a pain to deal with, slow to respond, overly fee conscious and/or rude and unpleasant.

Now though you may have a new category of clients. The RASH ones. That’s those who repeatedly Reject, Avoid and Shun Help.

During 2020 you probably offered commercial business help and advice to your clients. You showed that you can do more than simply complete and file accounts and tax returns. And you may even have secured additional fees for some of your more tailored and personal advice for specific clients.

Your advice, whether free or paid for, may well have come as a very pleasant surprise to some clients. Now, in 2021, you probably want to build on that experience.

In so doing you will want to distinguish those clients most likely to value your advice going forwards. By which I mean those who will be prepared to pay for your regular interest, support and advice over and above the recurring compliance work you have traditionally done each year.

You may not have many clients who will want and are able to afford to transition to a higher level of service.

If you were to categorise your clients you might find that the majority fit a common profile. The question is how many could Be ready for more?

I have long encouraged accountants to think of 4 categories for their clients:

A – these are your best (A grade) clients – whatever that means to you. Maybe the pay the highest fees, are a pleasure to deal with, value your advice and want more than basic compliance services.

B – These clients have the potential and may BE ready to move up to A grade. It’s where I recommend you focus your attention.

C – These Compliance only clients are the ones who are no trouble but who also have limited capacity to grow and to be willing to pay for your advice.

D – These Draining clients are the ones you would love to Dump or Drop. Every accountant has some of these. Often far too many in fact!

When you focus on the B clients you will still find that not all are willing or able to become A grade clients of yours:

  • Some will be ‘Forever doubtful’ as to the value of your advice;
  • Some will be ‘interested in theory but unsure’ if they can afford your advice; and
  • Some will jump at the idea if you can satisfy them that your advice will pay off. These clients are ‘Ready AND COMMITTED’ to growing their business right now.

Below I have provided a little more detail on each of these 3 groups. You might also want to consider in which group you sit as regards your attitude to the development of your own practice.

Forever Doubtful Business Owners

You will recognise a number of your clients who fit this description. They may or may not have a solid business model, but they are always explaining why it isn’t as successful as it could be and that, of course, is through no fault of their own.

It is either the economy (whether a recession or buoyant economy, it is just the wrong one for their business), their competition, the market generally or their partner that explains why they are not successful.

It might be their website designer, their telephone answering service, their coffee machine or the weather. It is never anything to do with them, their attitudes or their approach. Yet, as you read this, you will know that it has EVERYTHING to do with them.

These people are forever doubtful. They are RASH (as they Reject Avoid and Shun Help). I have learned that it is rarely worthwhile trying to change their minds.

Interested but unsure

This type of client or accountant does want their business or practice to evolve, but they are simply not ready yet to do anything about this ambition.

They aren’t in enough pain or haven’t established enough need to change.

Perhaps they are comfortable, getting by without flying high, but not really achieving their potential.

They may be looking for information about growing their business, but not doing anything with it. They might attend lots of courses and buy lots of books, but they don’t do anything the following day that is any different from what they did yesterday and the day before that and the day before that.

They are just not ready to commit to moving forwards.

There could be any number of reasons for this and I come across many people who match this profile. They say the right things, they go through the motions, but there is no real desire or ambition – beyond a vague hope or dream. They want things to be better, they just don’t really want to do anything very different and they definitely do not want to pay anyone to help them move forwards out of their rut.

If you encounter clients like this, do mention the famous quote from tennis legend Andre Agassi: “If you are not moving forwards, you are going backwards.”

Be careful if you are in this position.

Ready and committed to move forwards

This final category is my favourite type of accountant – and it’s probably your favourite type of client too. They are serious about growing their business and are fully committed to doing so.

They know that not everything they try will work perfectly first time but they will keep on going until they make it work absolutely as well as they can do.

Obstacles will not stand in their way. They have a clear goal of where they want to be and will do whatever it takes to get there.

I like ambitious accountants like this. They know that whilst they could try and work out how to get there the slow way and on their own, it is much easier to get someone who can tell them exactly what they need to do to grow their business. And who can help keep them focused so as to avoid being distracted by the latest shiny objects!

These people don’t want a wishy-washy coach that is going to throw the ‘Why?’ question at them seven times in a row in the hope that they work out their own answers; they want someone who has done this time and time again to tell them what they need to do.

Which category are you in at the moment?

Back to the opening question

What do you with RASH clients who don’t want to pay for your advice? Don’t invest any more time on them. Focus first on those who are Ready and then on those who are Interested but unsure.

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