Being Proactive


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I had a call today from a potentail client. He wants to leave his current accountant because they are not proactive. 

When I asked the client how the accountants are not proactive, he said that he does not hear from them often enough. Also, when he emails them, he gets a response towards the end of the same day. 

I do not think his current accountant is doing anything wrong.

It raised the question in my mind, in this conext, what does proactive mean? What actions would be perceived by clients as proactive? Lets not forget, we are talking commerical reality. FD service would be a no no.

We are talking  fees of £100+VAT per month. Within this fee range, what would be considered proactive?

Replies (9)

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By mrme89
15th Mar 2017 21:04

£100+VAT per month for what? Entity, services, etc?!

For a client like this, I'd tell them they can have whatever level of service they require. Once they let me know that level, I'd do a quote - I'd then double the quote and send it to them.

Thanks (2)
By marks
15th Mar 2017 22:05

What is being proactive?

1. Giving the client information that is relevant to them without being asked
2. Giving the client added value

If the potential client doesnt feel that their current accountant are proactive then ask what he would think being proactive would involve (as everyone has a different interpretation of what being "proactive" means)

However for 100+VAT per month there is nothing left in the budget to provide proactive advice over and above accounts, payroll, tax returns, etc if this is a Ltd Co client.

Clients who want a proactive service have to be willing to pay for it.

Responding to emails the same day in my view is very prompt.

Our standard packages include dealing with all email,telephone call and correspondence within 10 working days (though we usually deal with it quicker - emails usually get dealt with within 3 days) though we do have a 5 day or 1 day service if the client wants to pay for that level of attention.

Thanks (2)
By newstarter01
15th Mar 2017 22:16

10 working days to reply to client emails? I think anything over 2 days is extremely tardy

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Replying to newstarter01:
By lionofludesch
16th Mar 2017 08:12

newstarter01 wrote:

10 working days to reply to client emails? I think anything over 2 days is extremely tardy

I assume the 10 days for an email is when he's on holiday.

Thanks (0)
Replying to newstarter01:
By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
16th Mar 2017 12:03

newstarter01 wrote:

10 working days to reply to client emails? I think anything over 2 days is extremely tardy

I'm impressed by solicitors' emails which often issue instant, albeit automated, replies affirming your email has been safely received and will be dealt with. And before you hold your hands up in horror at such auto-generated replies, they carry for me an assurance that my email has not been chewed and consigned to junk mail by the recipients' AV; and remove the onus from me to have to follow up / chase for a reply / wonder whether my email span off into cyberspace.

Replies are often along the lines of "I'm appearing in court today, so thank you for your patience and I will deal with your email upon my return" or "I am out of the office on a ski trip until a week Friday, so my assistant will reply to your email during my absence". Of course, it can often take 10 days and longer to elicit a meaningful reply - perhaps one that provides a satisfactory answer to your original issue and actually solves your problem - but then again solicitors are rather better than us at not being forced into giving hurried advice.

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By stepurhan
16th Mar 2017 09:31

Yet another question where you ask us how to run your business. Can you save some time this time around by at least telling us what advice you've already decided to ignore.

It is up to you to determine what level of service you are willing to provide for what price.

It is also up to you to choose what clients you are willing to take on. If you can't see the problem he has with his existing accountant, the chances are you aren't going to be able to satisfy him either. Why set yourself up for the grief you'll get when you also fail to meet a standard you consider unrealistic?

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Man of Kent
By Kent accountant
16th Mar 2017 12:21

Proactive - pah!

I'm too busy running my 'lifestyle' business...

Thanks (2)
By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
16th Mar 2017 12:33

Proactive is whatever the client wants it to mean.

I had a three-company client join us because his previous accountant hadn't reminded him to get his books in on time for annual accounts prep - complicated slightly by that accountant's strict insistence on receiving the books some months before the filing deadline. All that client wanted was someone proactive enough to issue annual reminders to bring his books in. He does everything else himself: VAT, books, Annual Return, SA Returns so occasionally (if I ever feel proactive enough) I might say something like "Your books are a mess, would you like us to tidy them up for a fee?" or "Would you like us to show you (for a fee) how to perform a year end routine in Sage to stop you posting to the wrong year all the time?"

At the other end of the scale was a client who used to pop into the office to touch base every time he went to the bank or the post office, once telephoned me during a budget speech to ask how the changes might affect him, and would sometimes call me during a test match to discuss the latest score. He left because I would not subscribe to his expectations of proactivity (actually the more accurate reason was because I charged him for every minute of my time, so his monthly bill for "added value" often ran well into four figures. Eventually he went off to join a more "proactive" practice offering free unlimited consultations for £100 month.)

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Glenn Martin
By Glenn Martin
16th Mar 2017 13:28

Both you and your client will have a different idea of what being proactive is.

If you actually chose to meet your clients you would have a better understanding of what it is they want from an accountant.

From that you can spec the job and give a list of what you will do and when, and for how much.

At that point they may ask to revise the spec of the job to meet to his budget etc.

If he just says he wants a proactive accountant but does not go to explain what we needs its difficult. You cannot just call him every week to see if he is ok and needs any extra help. Also many people say they want someone who is very hands on and who will be very active in the business but want to pay for a compliance service.

Champagne service for beer money as we say in Chester le Street.

In broader terms if you are looking after your client via Xero, you are surely correcting errors as you go and feeding back to him on his progress and fairly regular contact, by its nature is more proactive than the old style once a year service.

Also how active do you wish to be in the guys business, for instance if he says he wants his accounts doing quickly for a mortgage , do you say ok we will do them in X weeks, or do you say we can do them and would you like us to get you in front of our friendly IFA who is a specialist in Director mortgages.

Do you look at the Xero in month 9 and say your current year tax is going to be X do you want to consider a pension payment.

From the fee your guy wants to pay it would seem to be very much Bronze level, so it could be he would see being proactive by just doing his vat, payroll and accounts on time without any dramas and keeping him in the loop with any potential things that effect him.

I could be he is used to a set of accounts and a bill once a year and wonders if there is more you could offer him.

Thanks (1)