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Is Robert Craven right when he says clients should sack their accountant?

Is Robert Craven right when he says clients...

Business author Robert Craven says this: “If you are not delighted and ecstatically happy with your accountant, and you don’t think your accountant is helping you to get more customers, get more sales, get more profits, get more cash into your business then you should change accountant. It’s as simple as that.”

You can see the context here 

 My question is this... do you think he is right?


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By mwngiol
10th Feb 2011 13:32

Not just accountants

My advice to any business would be that if they feel unsatisfied with any business partner (whether it's their accountant or anyone else) then they should discuss their concerns with that partner. If they are still not happy then they should absolutely seek an alternative.

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10th Feb 2011 14:04

I suspect that Robert Craven is a bit of a twit

Different people's wants and needs are different when it comes to accountancy services.

Perhaps he could explain how I am supposed to help my farming clients  to get more customers when they sell everything through a consortium. When he has done that perhaps he could tell me how to increase the sales of my head hunter client. As an encore perhaps he could help my four public house clients to go against the trend and "get more cash" in. 


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10th Feb 2011 14:19

No. Why-o-why do we give these self publicists publicity it only

I cannot really be bother to say more.

Now I've fallen into the trap.

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10th Feb 2011 14:33

Self publicising planks


The best thing most businesses can do is kick "business authors" and self styled gurus into touch. The only "sales" this clown is interested in increasing is sales of his own book, and the best way to do that is to write something controversial.

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10th Feb 2011 15:04

Why he is NOT a self publicist

Slight misunderstanding…

 … Robert Craven didn’t say that quote in his book, or even about his book. So he is NOT being a self publicist.

 He says it in a video testimonial he gave to his accountant, which appears on the accountants website here:

 In other words he is singing the praises of his accountant, Rob Walsh, who clearly does all the good things in the quote, since that is obviously what Robert really wants and expects a good accountant to do for him (after all, most accountants do profess to be “Business advisors”, don’t they?)

And I suspect a lot of other good clients feel the same.

Certainly a lot of Rob Walsh’s clients do, and they are prepared to pay good money for it too, since as the article shows, Rob’s average fees are over £5,000 per client and his personal profits are £200-280k a year, as you can see here…

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10th Feb 2011 15:32

The problem is ...

... quality of service comes in shades of grey.  And their charges come in shades of, er, red.

It can be problematic to demonstrate that your extra fees compared with the competition are more than recouped by the client.

But that is really a separate issue.  If you are dissatisfied with your current accountant then you still need to be confident that the one to whom you move is better.  And if there is some wonder-accountant out there who does a perfect job for a reasonable fee, he will soon be so inundated with work that the quality of service will then suffer and you will be back to square one.

With kind regards

Clint Westwood


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10th Feb 2011 15:40

He is right AND wrong

He is right that business owners who are expecting their accountant to help them meet their business and personal objectives should look for an alternative, if their needs are not being met.

He is wrong to suggest that all business owners have the same expectation of their accountant. Many just want a compliance service, delivered in a friendly and competent way.

As ever, sweeping generalisations do nobody any good.

Adrian @topaccountants

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10th Feb 2011 15:46

Meaningless testimonials

I could trot out a few clients who think we are wonderful, so could every accountant on here.  No doubt we all have clients who are disatisfied too because no matter what you do some people are never satisfied.

Tell a client you just got him a £5k refund and you're wonderful. Tel him his tax bill went up by £5k this year and you're useless.  That I'm afraid is a fact of life.


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10th Feb 2011 15:47

Terrible premonition ....

that this thread will unleash the accounting gospel bringers. I've met 4 clients today and I would be doing pretty well to get £5k in fees between them ...  still they clearly have a rubbish accountant!

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By ourtone
10th Feb 2011 16:03


I have always taken the view that clients don't always appreciate us, and that we are used out of necessity as opposed to by invitation.  We all, I hope, provide our clients with a good, sound and reliable compliance service and whilst our rates/fees will vary depending on our geography and client base broadly speaking we'll all be comparable.

Unless you're a big firm who charge extra for the name and the partners BMW :-)

I firmly believe that you get more fees from clients by building stronger relationships, offering additional services (without becoming a hard-hitting salesman) and by regular communication.

Our practice is growing not by growing our compliance work but by growing our additional services - the compliance work then follows - but luckily for me I have others who do that.

Competition is good and healthy as it keeps us on our toes...


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10th Feb 2011 16:22


A bit like Chris, I have no desire really to expand on that, thinking as I do that it's just wasting the data centre storage that this site is running out of. 

The longer answer however is that I don't live my life to make me or anybody else "ecstatically happy".  A mutually beneficial, sound relationship is as close to ecstasy as I can bear.

Jeez - what planet are these people on, the sooner the Chinese century takes over from the worn out US one the better. 

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10th Feb 2011 16:37

"it's just wasting the data centre storage that this site is run

I blame:   1. CD    2. FirstTab   I think they should pitch in for a few more Giga bytes!!

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10th Feb 2011 18:18


I blame:   1. CD    2. FirstTab   I think they should pitch in for a few more Giga bytes!!


Posted by Steve Holloway on Thu, 10/02/2011 - 16:37


Oddly at the weekend when clearing out a draw in the office I found an old 10Gb hard drive with Amstrad stamped all over it (I rather suspecvt it once lived in an Amstrad 1640 about 20-30 years ago).

With a soldering iron and a bit of wire I'm sure I could link it into AWebs system. :)

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16th Feb 2011 11:43


MMM Cd I suspect if that HD came from a 1640 it was 10MB not 10GB - which these days is half a dozen of your excellent posts


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16th Feb 2011 14:28

Adrian has said it already

I think Adrian Pearson has summed up what I would have said.

I would just add that as far as the "expensive accountants are a ripoff" jobes go, it's not compulsory to have an accountant (as I tell some of my clients). I think we can assume that clients are happy to pay the level of fee they are paying, otherwise they would walk anyway.

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By cfield
16th Feb 2011 18:15

A necessary evil

I think most clients see accountants as a necessary evil to keep the taxman and the other bureaucrats off their backs. Most people just want 4 things from their accountant:

1) keep their tax bills as low as possible

2) meet all compliance deadlines so no hassle from the authorities

3) not to waste their time with boring admin stuff; and

4) as low a fee as they can get away with!

If I started asking my clients what their goals were in life and how could I help, they would say "Just get the accounts done on time - that's what I pay you for!"

True, most clients have a need for business advice and other added value services at some time, but it tends to be the exception rather than the rule. The trick is to be proactive and anticipate their needs, without badgering them  into extra services they don't really need. They'll see right through that, just like a spam e-mail, and if you're not careful yours will end up in the spam filter too.

Obviously this lot in Corsham are doing well for themselves, assuming those figures are accurate, but why should they pass on the secret of their success to others for nothing? I suspect it is no more than a get rich quick scheme based on the same old marketing-speak we've heard so many times before.



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16th Feb 2011 20:03

As much as possible for as little as possible

It's all very well Robert Craven saying that but 99% of clients want as much as possible for as little as possible.  I could upsell all day long but if clients aren't prepared to pay for it I'm wasting my time.

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16th Feb 2011 22:28

You can't upsell if you don't sell anything, can you?

Basingstoke Acc: ... then you wouldn't be "upselling", you would be marketing unsuccessfully! I agree with the sentiment though, you need to know your clients and what they want. No point trying to sell a Rolls Royce to a Fiesta driver.

But I think Steve Pipe's theme here is that there are some dissatisfied Rolls Royce buyers out there if we're prepared to up our game and target our services appropriately. I don't know where they hang out, but I'd love to meet some!

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17th Feb 2011 09:15

Of course he is right.

 Ok, I know Robert personally and have talked to him about such matters, but let's just examine the sentence that Steve posted above:

 “If you are not delighted and ecstatically happy with your accountant, and you don’t think your accountant is helping you to get more customers, get more sales, get more profits, get more cash into your business then you should change accountant. It’s as simple as that.”

One qualification I would add is that it's only true for clients in business who do not have all the necessary resources in house.

What Robert is saying is that the best accountants (for businesses) CAN do all those extra things over and above preparing  annual accounts and filing tax returns. If you're in business and you could benefit from that additional input then it makes sense to get it from someone who knows your business and has the skills and experience to provide it. Your accountant. 

I suspect we would all agre that the vast majority of clients would never describe themselves as "delighted and ecstatically happy" with their accountant. We tend to assume that such clients would never react that positively. But I wonder if that's as much a reflection on our attitudes and our focus on day to day recurring compliance services. 



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17th Feb 2011 09:58

Doing a little bit extra

My clients include mainly fiesta drivers but I do little things like carrying their business cards with me so that I can refer business to them as a plumber, consultant or whatever. It's no extra effort for me and I'm as happy to pass on one of their business cards as my own. If their business improves even a little they may upgrade to a mondeo.

I also keep an eye out for marketing and business ideas for them (while looking out for stuff for myself) and either contact them or stick a postit on their file for the next meeting.

Is this good marketing or adding value? It's free and easy for me.

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By plummy1
01st Mar 2011 23:17

I'm singing the same old tune.

Accountants have the opportunity to recommend services for clients from third party organisations that will save them tax.  I'm talking here about the owners of commercial property who, if there accountant recommended, could investigate whether a capital allowances claim would produce a tax rebate for them.

Time and time again we talk to potential  clients aout what can be achieved but when they go to their accountant they either say they have claimed all that can be claimed or they just rubbish the idea.

We have just been offered some work by an accountant who took on a client two weeks ago because the client was disatisfied with his previous accountants services.  By contacting us the accountant is going to save his client between £12k and £18k in tax. For this the accountant and his client have had to provide very minimal information.

I know it is a cliche I think some accountants need to think outside of the box and look at what other services they could be offering. There is incremental income to be made if the accountant wishes but the impotant thing is the client is getting a complete service and the accountant is maximising their tax savings.

Apologies probably taring to many people with the same brush but there does sem to bean element of complacency amongst some in the profession who also claim they cannot do anything to shape their own future.

Angry of Portsmouth.


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20th Apr 2011 13:59

Sack your accountant? Certainly if they're not doing what you're

Hi Steve,

Robert in his usual contentious, thought provoking way has got people thinking about the question - whether we feel he's right or wrong. And those who read the full text of what he said, and/or watch the video in which he said it will realise he's not being anti-accountant but asking business owners to consider whether they're getting what they need from their accountant.

As you and I know, there are some bad accountants out there, but there are also a lot of good accountants who are able to provide the 'number-crunching' services but not business development services; after all for many the only business they've ever 'developed' is their own small accounting practice. Beyond this there are a growing number of 'commercial' accountants trained and experienced (albeit to a widely varying degree) in business development; some will handle the basics (accounts, tax, payroll, etc) as well as business development - others do just the BD... It always has to come back to the client's requirements and expectations. Some will want just the basics; some will want added bells and whistles. If you want the latter, and are willing to pay for it, then yes consider sacking your accountant...

Thanks to Robert for the wake up call, and to you Steve for carrying the discussion forward...

Best regards,


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20th Apr 2011 14:46

And Thanks to Keith

From Robert and particularly Steve

for keeping AVN on the front page of AWeb.



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15th Aug 2013 14:27

Thank you

Thanks for all the discussion and debate

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