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Enquiry from website

How would you deal with this?

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"My dad has a carpet and hard floor business locally. I am currently in a different industry but am thinking of getting involved in the same industry as him. He is a sole trader and we would like some advice as to the best way for me to get involved in his industry. Would this be something you would be able to help with?"

I started off an email saying you could incorporate the business and give the son shares, and I would charge c. £ for that.

I then thought of all the problems that might crop up and how it would be easy to waste my time talking to him as they would never pay a reasonable fee.

So I said unfortunately I'm too busy right now to help. 

How would you have handled this?

 

 

Replies (22)

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RLI
By lionofludesch
23rd Jul 2021 10:28

"Speak to your dad's accountant."

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Replying to lionofludesch:
By Moonbeam
23rd Jul 2021 10:39

Somehow, I doubt his dad has an accountant.

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Replying to Moonbeam:
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By Tax Dragon
23rd Jul 2021 11:43

Maybe he needs one.

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Replying to Tax Dragon:
RLI
By lionofludesch
24th Jul 2021 11:06

Then they could both speak to me.

It's not clear whether the son wants to join his dad's business or whether he wants to start a separate business in the same trade.

On the basis of the OP, I wouldn't have just fobbed him off.

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By zebaa
23rd Jul 2021 10:58

I'd have talked. Ten or 15 minutes on the phone would do to give a more informed view. Are you really too busy ? Good for you if you are, but I thought that you had a few losses and were looking for more business. If the latter perhaps reconsider ?

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Replying to zebaa:
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By David Ex
23rd Jul 2021 11:30

zebaa wrote:

I'd have talked. Ten or 15 minutes on the phone would do to give a more informed view.

I’d agree. Should be easier to establish how real the prospect is in a phone call.

I’d also want to speak to the business owner!!!

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By rmillaree
23rd Jul 2021 11:38

I generally offer the 3 standard options - we always offer free initial meeting - you may choose not to do that though !

feel free to give us a call or let us know when you would like us to call you
feel free to arrange an appointment let us know date and time
or ask any inital question you may have.

Unless you are too busy - having an initial conversation and getting them to explain where they are at and what they want to to do - should put you in a position to work out how likely they are to need paid for services sometime soon. After that its up to you how much time you spend on the hope that it might turn into future cashflow.

Personally i always think quick chat on the phone is by far the best way to quickly cut to the chase of what the client may need/want you to do and when . Whist giving some neutral generic advise so they get something useful from the call.

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By doubletrouble
23rd Jul 2021 11:38

I would arrange an appointment for them to come and have a chat, maybe something comes of it or maybe not but certainly nothing to lose

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Slim
By Slim
23rd Jul 2021 11:48

Had a few of these and normally shoot off some very generic points to consider, you might find that they will want someone to do the partnership/company accounts.. I do get similar calls and the vast majority of the time it doesn't lead to paid work.

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By Moonbeam
23rd Jul 2021 12:55

Thank you for your points of view. I've spent a lot of time on phone-calls to people like this in the past who never proceeded.

But I like to know what others might do in similar circumstances!

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Replying to Moonbeam:
Slim
By Slim
23rd Jul 2021 13:02

Yep know how you feel!

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ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
23rd Jul 2021 13:18

I’d ‘be had a 15 minute phone call to work out what they wanted when. Could be a total waste of time as you suspect, or just 2 x SATRs in which case finish the call with “sorry, that’s not what we do” etc if you don’t want it. Could be that they need p/ship, ltd, VAT & payroll - no way of knowing from that email.

I agree it could well be a waste of time /freeloader - I know I’ve had plenty - but what’s 15 minutes of your time?

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Replying to atleastisoundknowledgable...:
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By Hugo Fair
23rd Jul 2021 14:21

I guess that depends on how many lots of "15 minutes of your time" you get through each week. Reading between the lines, if you're getting a bit desperate for new business then it's easy to find yourself chasing potentially inappropriate business (and then getting fed up ... and so on).
In specific circumstances set out by OP, I'd have responded with offer to have a brief exploratory meeting with prospect AND his dad "so we can work out if there are options that suit you both". You'd need to know if they were both on board for any proposed action before quoting, let alone agreeing to proceed.

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By Winnie Wiggleroom
23rd Jul 2021 16:42

no way to deal with this other than to pick up the phone, you would spend more time swapping emails trying to find out what they want

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By pauld
23rd Jul 2021 17:49

I just wouldn't bother replying - they have probably sent the same email to a number of accountants. Time spent = zero. Time wasted = zero.

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By the_fishmonger
24th Jul 2021 10:58

We're put in a rock vs hard place by these contacts.

Here, we all bemoaned the anonymous postings and advised "talk to an/your accountant first". Here that may very well be what this guy is doing - what we'd have advised.

I believe we ought to take most approaches as serious but with an enormous bucket of scepticism, with a dollop of 'trust no one, not even me' for good measure.

As others have suggested, a 10-15 mins call is usually enough to fathom out those trying to weedle out enough info to get by in the first year. They're usually asking something specific that wouldn't seem right if they're a true newbie to business.

A serious enquiry should call or offer up a number to be called on.

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By NewACA
27th Jul 2021 12:22

Accountants need to have a good filter-channel system for their prospects. Some seem to do it very badly from conversations I've had with other accountants over the years.

From prospect requests I would:

1. Give a few pointers on where to go (eg: Google, to get HMRC webpages) if it was clear they just wanted cheap free advice - that is what the HMRC webpages are for, and other accountant freebie PDFs/blog articles. I also had a low-fee bedroom accountant that seemed happy to take on any of my rejects, so I often pointed them his way, which he was always happy to accept. He did say sometimes how good I was at filtering prospects! This accounted for probably about 75% of prospects.

2. Give them a quick phone call if it wasn't clear from their message whether they would be a good fit or not (like the original poster's query). This would account for 20%, I would then offer a free meeting to about half this lot.

3. Give a phone call to have a quick chat (to establish a quick contact so they don't go elsewhere) and arrange a free meeting: 5% (probably even less). These would be the ideal clients, that I know would net me at least £2k+ minimum GRF, those I can use a charge out rate of £130/hour+

In all, I only offered therefore about 15% of prospects a free meeeting: only those I know would make a good client. The prospect meeting is then to tell them what I can do for them, and how much we'd charge, offer a bit of personalised advice too. It was not a meeting to work out if I liked them or not, that was done before in a 10 min phone call, if that was needed.

Of course, this does rely on having a good marketing system to attract lots of prospects in the first place. If you don't have that, you need to get a good marketing system going otherwise you end up taking all the rubbish that calls you.

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Replying to NewACA:
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By NewACA
27th Jul 2021 12:20

Oh, as part of the phone call, I would often give an off the cuff ball-park quote early on, even if I just explained the fee will run into thousands of pounds (if the work was more bespoke in nature), just to cut to the chase and scare off the time wasters, I'd then gauge their reaction before offering a meeting. If they didn't faulter, I'd then follow that up by saying I'd give them a firm fee quotation at the meeting, so I hadn't committed myself to a low fee.

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By girlofwight
27th Jul 2021 12:04

Recognising the risk of time leakage on issues like this, I offer a fixed price £200+vat "ask an accountant" service.

Anything that comes in via website with open ended questions, I send that direction. It sorts out the wheat from the chaff quite quickly.

About 50% of AAA one offs become repeat business.

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Keep Calm, I'm and Accountant!
By i-accounts
27th Jul 2021 12:14

I had a text from a friend last night who had recieved a disturbing call, she does not use me as her accountant but as it was out of hours and they were worried about the call she contacted me, there was no prospect of a fee or getting their ongoing business but I gave her the advice she needed and put her mind at ease anyway. It was not anything specific to her business, just a scammer trying to imply she was under investigation which worried her. I have a lot of messages from non client friends and I always try to help if I can

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SMH
By ShakingMyHead
27th Jul 2021 12:14

The question: "Would this be something you would be able to help with?"

My response would've been: "Yes, you can book a consultation / business advice call. The calendar and payment link is below."

Job done.

Don't even bother wasting your time with if this, then that etc., because then you're getting into the advice... and he's asked - can you help? You say - yes, I can. Simple.

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By tonyaustin
27th Jul 2021 12:21

You should have asked him to send you a rough business plan and projections to have a look at before having a short chat with him, without charge, to let him know what needs to be done and what your fees would be.

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