The headline isn’t meant to introduce an ode to the best selling book by Mike Michaelowicz but it’s a point of reference and focus for those new sole practitioners who are starting out on a tight budget.
Profits and cash in the short term are paramount to your long-term success.
If you read several of the articles that have appeared on AccountingWEB it’s very easy to get sucked into thinking you need to prioritise the ‘customer experience’ and appoint a ‘client champion’.
Well, my view is you don’t.
Yes, you should provide a good service, charge reasonable fees, be straightforward and honest when you speak to clients and they will refer work to you and stay with you for years to come.
Just make sure you focus on getting your fee and service levels right first. This will affect how quickly and easily you can start to achieve the level of income you need and will avoid you becoming a busy fool.
From my experience and from speaking to other sole practitioners, I know that there are plenty who have the same experience.
When you first start out, just you, no other staff apart from possibly some part-time admin or bookkeeping support, the biggest limitation on your fee income and therefore your profit levels is your time.
Initially, you are time rich but don’t get sucked into using all that free time to provide ‘free’ advice to clients.
By all means call or email a client to make sure they’ve paid a tax bill on time or to request information, just make sure there is a purpose to that call or email.
Don’t ‘just call in’ to see how clients are doing and help them with queries. Fine to do it if you are passing every now and then, but if you make a habit of it clients will start to expect it.
There will come a point when you start to get busy and you can’t answer those detailed email queries as quickly and you can’t just ‘pop in’ to deal with a bookkeeping query. Clients will then start to get disgruntled.
Also remember clients are busy running their businesses, the last thing they want is a ‘client champion’ phoning them to see how they are. This touchy-feely stuff isn’t needed or wanted.
Do a good job for your clients, charge reasonable fees and they will be happy. Phone them up for no particular reason when they’re busy and you’ll irritate them.
By providing the agreed services properly you’ll have plenty of opportunity to make contact.
Emailing payroll information each month, requesting quarterly bookkeeping information for the vat returns, sending accounts and tax returns for approval. All of these necessary communication points provide plenty of opportunities to have a "and how is business..." conversation.
By all means be proactive when matters need to be discussed. Clients really appreciate that, but don’t call for calling sake.
And remember – ‘time is money’.
About Mark Telford
I am an Award Winning Chartered Accountant and work with ambitious business owners to help them achieve their goals.
I do this not by submitting accounts and tax returns on time - that's the bare minimum, but by helping them achieve more. This can be business growth, business sale, succession or retirement planning, business improvement and most importantly personal goals.
All businesses should have a plan and its important to measure performance and make sure you are on track to achieve your goals. I will work with you to achieve this.
I founded Telfords Chartered Accountants as I could see that many small businesses were not getting the business support and advice they needed from their accountant. Regular financial and commercial support throughout the year is essential to help a business achieve the results the owners want.
By using cloud software from the very start we have been able to provide a year round service which helps businesses be the best they can.
We have been using Xero since 2010 and encourage all clients to use it as we believe it is the best accounting software to help them run their businesses.
I have now started working with other accountants to help them run a more profitable, efficient and enjoyable practice, providing a higher level of service to their clients - not just accounts and tax returns.