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Potential client - I do not have the skills

Potential client - I do not have the skills

I am sure I am not the only one who receives enquires from clients that is beyond my skill level. My question aside from saying no to a client, is there any other way others deal with this area?

Please see below the service the client is looking that does not fit with my skill level.  He/she may have emailed other accountants. I just interested to know how others would deal with this - not asking about technical help here.  Thanks

"Dear sir,

My name is xxxx

I am interested in establishing a company LTD, based in England. The company will sell Greek homemade, organic and deli food products. (Eg olive oil and olives, honey, pasta, sauces, preserves, marmalades, feta cheese, raisins, dried fruits, nuts, lentils, sweets , ethnic drinks like wine, ouzo ,raki etc).
The import of these products will be exclusively from Greece, while retail sales will be to England and other European Union countries.
I would like the company to have the ability to sell retail and wholesale.

Also, the company will buy wholesale from England several products (children’s products, electrical appliances, beauty products, etc.), which will sell to European Union countries.

What information do you need from me to start my company completely legally and without risk ?
What information do you need from me for foull accounting service?
Based on the estimate the company will issue invoice by 30-150 per month on average the first year of operation.

The company will have only one shareholder, probably myself.

Is the company obligated to subscribe to the VAT system since it will import products from Greece?"

To open a corporate or personal account at a bank in England, is my presence required ?
Yours truly

Replies

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03rd May 2012 15:22

I would look to get close to a larger accountancy firm...

one who doesn't want the smaller sole traders/start ups....so you can refer him on and he can refer those smaller clients to you....everyone wins.

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By BKD
03rd May 2012 15:24

Simple

If you don't have the skill set to deal with a client of that nature, send them to someone that does. Where a client is looking for advice on a specific issue that is beyond your capabilities it would be usual to refer them to an expert in the field, to deal with that issue alone, eg it may be a particularly complex VAT issue. But you sound as though you think you would just be out of your depth with this potential client, in which case just send them to an accountant that has the required expertise.

Having said that, I cannot see anything too onerous in what this person is asking for. Turning away clients that you don't think you can handle will not help your practice to grow. I'd be inclined to take them on and if it doesen't work out, it doesn't work out.

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03rd May 2012 15:30

Another foriegn enquiry

The way the email is written, particulary the enquiry regarding a bank account, suggests that this person is from abroad (Greece I take it).

I would not consider acting in this case anyway but you may like to consider if your SEO is doing you any favours by leading these people to you.

 

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03rd May 2012 15:31

What's the problem?

Why do you say it's beyond your skill level? It seems pretty straight forward to me.

I don't take on trusts because I have very little experience of dealing with them. I just say I don't offer that service.

I would be wary about bothering with people from abroad. Most of them are just dreamers and nothing will happen.

"To open a corporate or personal account at a bank in England, is my presence required ?"I have dealt with people from abroad but they were willing to travel to London to open bank accounts and for other meetings.

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By occca
03rd May 2012 15:47

Agree with others

Nothing there seems too onerous and I would take them on, but would want monthly payments from them as they are overseas

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By thomas
03rd May 2012 15:55

http://www.pkf.co.uk/pkf/services/corporate_recovery_&_insolvency/accountant_&_adviser_services

 

Check this link out. I've not used it but its been recommended to me. 

 

I'd sub contract out the bits of the work that were beyond my skill set, get advice on say the VAT stuff in writing from a specialised VAT guru or if too complicated I'd walk away.

 

 

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03rd May 2012 16:10

.

Its only easy if you know how.

If its not your thing then dont do it. Just say "NO"!

We get loads of wierd and wonderful requests in we dont want, I just send a 2 liner out to them.

 

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By BKD
03rd May 2012 16:22

Response

We get loads of wierd and wonderful requests in we dont want, I just send a 2 liner out to them

I hope that you do in fact mean 2 lines, and not 2 words   |;¬)

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By Hansa
03rd May 2012 16:31

surprising responses to a simple question

 

petersaxton wrote:
 I don't take on trusts because I have very little experience of dealing with them. I just say I don't offer that service. I would be wary about bothering with people from abroad. Most of them are just dreamers and nothing will happen. 
 Trusts?  What Trusts?  Dreamers? As about 99.15% of the worlds population DON'T live in the UK, that a bit sweeping isn't it?  I agree it might take a bit longer as everything has to be explained, but just make sure consultancy is on time (and get a structuring fee up front).---- 
Roland195 wrote:
 ... but you may like to consider if your SEO is doing you any favours by leading these people to you. 
  Sorry, what's an SEO?----  To me, the job seems pretty straightforward if potentially time consuming.  The trick is when taking on something new is to be one step ahead of the client.  In a case like this I would give him an hour's free advice and then put him on time for "consultancy/structuring advice" with your normal tariff for accountancy services.  If the OP is correct (and I think he is), other accountants will have been contacted so (a) you should get your reply out in 24 hours (b) expect a conversion rate of maybe 15- 20% (hence limiting "free" advice to an hour. --------------EDIT - sorry about the formatting - all paragraph breaks were stripped out (again)    
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By BKD
03rd May 2012 16:38

SEO

Sorry, what's an SEO?

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=seo

 

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By Hansa
Michael Davies
03rd May 2012 17:49

SEO's "leading" clients to the OP's door (or email inbox)

BKD wrote:

Sorry, what's an SEO?

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=seo

 

Ah, that kind of SEO - it was in fact the only acronym of those letters I could think of, but I couldn't see the connection.  Visions of Google Adwords beating a path to the OP's door with foreign clients in tow... hmm somehow I think not. 

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03rd May 2012 16:54

"Trusts?  What Trusts? "

"Trusts?  What Trusts? "

The OP said: <<<I am sure I am not the only one who receives enquires from clients that is beyond my skill level. My question aside from saying no to a client, is there any other way others deal with this area?>>>.

I was giving an example of a skill set I don't possess,

It's quite easy to understand if you want to.

"As about 99.15% of the worlds population DON'T live in the UK, that a bit sweeping isn't it?"

We are not talking about the world's population that doesn't live in the UK. We are talking about the world's population outside the UK that wants to start a business in the UK. What percentage do you think that is?

 

 

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By BKD
Comptable
03rd May 2012 16:56

World population

petersaxton wrote:

We are talking about the world's population outside the UK that wants to start a business in the UK. What percentage do you think that is?

 

Where I live, I'd say about 99.15%   |;¬)

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By Hansa
Comptable
03rd May 2012 17:14

An answer to Mr Saxton's answer

petersaxton wrote:

"Trusts?  What Trusts? "

The OP said: <<<I am sure I am not the only one who receives enquires from clients that is beyond my skill level. My question aside from saying no to a client, is there any other way others deal with this area?>>>.

I was giving an example of a skill set I don't possess,

It's quite easy to understand if you want to.

"As about 99.15% of the worlds population DON'T live in the UK, that a bit sweeping isn't it?"

We are not talking about the world's population that doesn't live in the UK. We are talking about the world's population outside the UK that wants to start a business in the UK. What percentage do you think that is?

Thank you 

1. re trusts an "e.g." would have made it clearer still :-) 

2. re % of UK v World population.  Not my point really, but actually higher than you may think (Germans & Austrians caught by their chamber of commerce rules (eg a painter & decorator must be (7yrs) time served, but operate through a UK co, no problem - there are dozens of German language websites charging from €250 to €1,000 for a "UK Ltd").   Lots of French also (to take advantage of very much lower tax & social security - expect more when M. Hollande is elected :-)

My actual point was, so what if the potential client is foreign, most of the world is.  (and most of the UK too if BKD is to be believed) 

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By BKD
Comptable
03rd May 2012 17:58

UK population

Hansa wrote:

My actual point was, so what if the potential client is foreign, most of the world is.  (and most of the UK too if BKD is to be believed) 

Nope - just parts of it  |;¬)

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Comptable
03rd May 2012 18:37

Type of email

Hansa wrote:

My actual point was, so what if the potential client is foreign, most of the world is.  (and most of the UK too if BKD is to be believed) 

I am not commenting on foreigners per se. I am saying that most people who send these speculative emails are not serious people. The same would apply to UK residents and nationals who sent many emails to Greek accountants.

If I was wanting to do business in Greece I would look at websites and produce a short list and then contact the firm and ask if they would be interested in acting for me rather than asking them several questions on first contact. I would also expect to visit them if email and phone calls went well.

If you needed a lawyer would you ask questions other than "these are the facts - is it worthwhile me pursuing it and do you have the experience to act? (I wouldn't then ask them to prove it!)

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03rd May 2012 16:59

Outside UK?

You live outside the UK?

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By BKD
gordo
03rd May 2012 17:04

.

petersaxton wrote:

You live outside the UK?

Nope

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03rd May 2012 17:40

An e-mail starting with 'Dear Sir'

Already this suggests to me that you are the recipient of a communication that might have been sent to dozens (thousands?) of accountants. If you were to be interested I would guess that the chances of you securing this client are slim to none.

In your shoes I would not respond to it and, unless it was personalised and gave a hint that the sender was genuinely interested in doing business with my firm, I wouldn't forward it to another. except maybe the competitor down the road for nuisance purposes.

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03rd May 2012 17:59

A recent email

I recently got an email from a guy who lived a couple of miles from me. He asked for, among other things, the following:

"What are your professional qualifications?  How do I check these please?

How long have you been in business?

May I please see some of evidence for that?

May I please see a portfolio of your work for Clients - perhaps a prepared case study, with blacked-out confidential details?"

I don't mind the questions about professional qualifications and how long I have been in business but I don't think he should be asking me to prove it. If he's not willing to meet me and establish trust it is better that we don't do business.

What is this about a portfolio? I'm not going to the hassle of doing that given the limited services he would require.

This email was also addressed to "Dear Sir"

I emailed him back asking if he was willing to meet face to face but I didn't hear any more from him. He was only a management consultant anyway. Given his gaucheness I don't think he would have been the kind of client I would have enjoyed working with.

NB For the benefit of Hansa: I didn't think that the OPs email was from somebody local to him.

 

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By Hansa
Pingsquitch
03rd May 2012 19:19

Foreigners

petersaxton wrote:

NB For the benefit of Hansa: I didn't think that the OPs email was from somebody local to him.

I don't think I  suggested or implied the OP's enquiry was from somebody local! 

Without wishing to go round in circles, my posts were more to do with the "ooh he's a foreigner" reaction of a number of posters.  All of my client base is foreign (in terms of where I operate from) and if I took the view of many here, I would have no clients.  Yes, "off the web-site" enquiries are often clearly cut'n'paste and a 15% conversion rate is the best I hope for.  I take the view that if I spend 7 x 1hr to get one client, how long before I recover this and is it cheaper than (say) newspaper advertising (yes it is - much cheaper).

Moving onto the "Dear Sir", my reaction is "Oh dear"! ... I frequently have to make contact with unknown parties and do address emails in this way as I would a letter (and tail it with Yours faithfully) .  I usually have no idea who will open the email and so cannot write "Dear Mr. Smith".  I recently was requested to create a structure involving a Danish company and, not having any contacts in Denmark wrote a similar email to 6 firms in Copenhagen, received 4 replies and went further with just one.  How else could it have been done?  I agree that writing from a domain (rather than a Hotmail account) made it more likely the the enquiry was serious but nevertheless initial contacts are usually somewhat formal.  

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By Locutus
03rd May 2012 19:11

I received similar e-mail in April 2012
"Hello,

We found your company on yell.com.

We are about to register a Limited company in UK and we will need an accountant.
We won't have any activity on the territory of UK, but the company
will be dealing primarly with FMCG wholesale, mainly buying goods from
Central Europe and reselling to Eastern Europe.
We will be using Registered Office and Secretary Service provided by UK company.
For the purpose of our business we will also need to make a VAT
registration of our company.
We don't think we will have a big volume of transactions. Probably
between 50 and 100 per year (total = buying + selling). Hope after the
first year the volume to raise.

If you could do our accounting, please give us a quote.
We have found a company what could do the company registration and
provide registered address, but if you could do it too, let us know."

@ firstab You can have this "prospect" if you want.  I never bothered replying.

@ petersaxton Funny, I remember getting a very similar e-mail to yours a while back from a guy based overseas.  Cheeky sod even wanted me to send him a copy of my practising certificate.  Another one I didn't bother replying to.

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03rd May 2012 19:40

Who hates foreigners?

"I don't think I  suggested or implied the OP's enquiry was from somebody local! "

No you didn't but you didn't seem to understand that when I mentioned what I did if I got a request to deal with a trust you were confused despite the OP wanting to know what people do when they get a request for something outside their skill set."

As I have explained, my reaction had nothing to do with a hatred of foreigners, it was more to do with people saying they want to start a business in another country. The fact they ask question at the first contact and don't seem to have done any research leads me to assume that nothing will come of the vast majority of these requests.

" All of my client base is foreign (in terms of where I operate from) and if I took the view of many here, I would have no clients."

I don't see the logic in what you say. Although some don't want to deal with people in another country the main issue is whether the people are being serious about setting up a business when they make so little effort to research the situation properly.

As I have said, if somebody asks several questions in an initial email I have my doubts. If they set out their position and ask if there is any interest and who would be the best person to contact I would have more trust in the email.

I agree with you about hotmail. If they were serious about the business they would have set up the domain name at this stage.

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By Hansa
Tornado
03rd May 2012 21:32

OK, We'll agree to disagree I think..

petersaxton wrote:

...  but you didn't seem to understand that when I mentioned what I did if I got a request to deal with a trust you were confused despite the OP wanting to know what people do when they get a request for something outside their skill set."

Had you added "e.g." or "for example" it would have been perfectly clear, you didn't and it wasn't.

Incidentally you use both  'hate' and 'hatred' in direct relation to "foreigners" in your post ... nobody else has so where did that come from I wonder?

Getting back to the OP's post.

The "potential instruction" may or may not be real, likely, or even what the OP want's to take on, but if you re-read it most of the (few) questions are quite reasonable (other than the one about VAT perhaps).  You are an accountant and of course research properly (as might a lawyer), the OP's enquirer on the face of it is probably a hard pressed businessman in Greece who's had a "brilliant idea" and is doing something about it (and in a language other than his own) .  You don't want to see some of questions I am asked! 

Whilst not aimed at Mr Saxton, I did find the level of xenophobia in this thread somewhat worrying.

Time to exit this thread methinks

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tom123
04th May 2012 11:32

Are you talking to me?

Hansa wrote:
I did find the level of xenophobia in this thread somewhat worrying.

My point regarding SEO (if I got the technical term right - it's all greek tro me) was in relation to a similiar question where First Tab seemed to have similiar enquiries from potential foriegn clients.

I would expect that your average accountancy practice in the UK would have little interest in acting for foriegn individuals or controlled companies with no connection with the UK.

Nothing at all to do with racism/xenophobia, just simple pragmatism.

 

 

 

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03rd May 2012 21:44

Unwarranted accusations

"Incidentally you use both  'hate' and 'hatred' in direct relation to "foreigners" in your post ... nobody else has so where did that come from I wonder?"

You made it pretty obvious what irrationality you were displaying and you confirmed it later: " I did find the level of xenophobia in this thread somewhat worrying."

"unreasonable fear or hatred of the unfamiliar, especially people of other races (Webster's)"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenophobia

Who is a racist? The people who comment on people living in one country (of whatever race) and alluding to wanting to set up a business in another country or people who accuse others in a different country of xenophobia without any evidence to support it?

 

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04th May 2012 11:03

Emails from overseas

For the record, I recently received an email almost identical to that posted by First Tab. The bits about forming the company and opening a bank account sound identical although the proposed business was completely different.

That suggests some sort of scam to me!

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04th May 2012 15:54

Mod Note

While there's a lot of useful discussion in this thread for both the OP and readers in general, please try to keep personal and/or off-topic arguments out of any points you wish to raise. Nothing has been moderated in this instance but do try to address the OP's original question when replying.

Thanks.

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09th May 2012 20:48

It depends

Going back to OP - if a prospect is after expertise that you don't have, the best thing to do is to admit this and, if you can, suggest how they might find someone better suited to provide the services or advice they require.

And, yes, I agree with other replies, it does look like a cut and paste job sent to a number o accountants. Again I wouldn't ignore it but I wouldn't spend much time on a reply either.

I hope I will be forgiven for expanding on this reply to suggest an alternative approach when a client asks you for tax advice that is outside of your comfort zone. It happens to most accountants (just as it happens to most GP doctors). In such cases you need to have the facility to speak with someone you can trust who has the necessary expertise. Back in 2007 I set up the Tax Advice Network especially to provide tax support to accountants on those odd occasions.  Anyone can get in touch anytime and choose a vetted tax consultant with specific expertise - without any fear that the client will be lost.

Thousands of accountants have gone a step further and registered for our weekly practical tax tips aimed directly at accountants in general practice.

Mark

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