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Dear Nick: ‘Is anyone else feeling the strain?’

Mental health coach Nick Elston offers support to an accountant who is feeling the tax return strain and is “seriously fed up with dealing with imbeciles”.

14th Jan 2020
Speaker and coach #TalkingAnxiety
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Businessman feeling the strain

The dilemma: I ended up with a client on an indoor market a few years ago, and then I was recommended to other stallholders. So I now have a few on this market.

I’ve been chasing one client on there for records but have had no response. I've seen them at various points throughout the year and every single time they ask "When does our stuff need to be in again?"

Anyway, despite requests right up to November, they texted me last week to say "books are ready for collection". I ignored it, thinking I'll collect when I'm in that area. Now, they are complaining to all the other stallholders that "our stuff is here but he hasn't been in to collect it and they are due soon".

This particular client stands about all day gossiping, as they have nothing else to do. So I'm getting messages from other clients on the market telling me that I've upset one, and asking "is everything ok"!

I can't sack them as I will potentially lose the other eight. Otherwise, I would happily tell them I'll see them in Feb. I’m seriously fed up with dealing with imbeciles. Anyone else feeling the strain?

The response

Nick replies: The example you highlighted says everything about them and nothing about you, or your business or professionalism.

As someone who can be triggered by money when it comes to anxiety, I actually understand why people put it off – or bury their heads. I’m not saying it’s right, but I get it. 

  • Money is scary
  • Tax is scary
  • Accountants are scary

In fact, anything is scary when you don’t know anything about that area of life or business other than the scare stories you read, overhear in the market or you just see it as a huge pain which takes money out of their pockets. So I do get why they would delay getting stuff done. But as I said it doesn’t make it right. It’s not professional and it’s not fair on you.

To then spread gossip that you hadn’t actioned something in a relatively small time compared to how long you had been made to wait, I can understand why you are “seriously fed up dealing with imbeciles”.

I imagine your massive sense of overwhelm at this time only compounds the frustration and anger you feel. And no, they won’t be thinking of you, they will be thinking of themselves. They expect their priority to be your priority because that’s all that matters to them.

Now, more than ever, I see that mentality creeping into everything. And yes, it makes me despair. We live in an increasingly entitled and impatient culture and this does ramp up things like anxiety, stress and poor mental health.

I think I would suggest two things here:

Ensure you are recovering well.  Yes, you have a lot to do but make sure you are diarising the things you love to do. What helps you relax, disconnect and recharge?  If you need help on that, just shout.

You say that you can’t sack them otherwise you may lose the others. I’d like you to really think about that. Is that true? Or just fear-based? I say that because in my experience the clients that caused me the most problems were the least profitable and most difficult.  Plus, if your relationship is strong with the others and you are up to speed with their stuff, they have no reason to doubt you and therefore no reason to leave you. 

I often work with clients on an exercise called ‘cold processes’ where we take the emotion out of situations to see them for exactly what they are in terms of fact.  What price or cost is your sanity?

Plus there is an argument to say that if you are working for people that you don’t want to work for, you may as well get a job. It’ll be a lot easier. That sounds flippant but it’s your business and your choice on who you work with. If someone doesn’t fit you culturally, for any reason, I would look to replace them with shiny, new, house-trained clients as soon as possible. 

This is an abridged version of the dilemma taken from the Any Answers thread: People!!! Seriously losing the will

Replies (7)

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By johnjenkins
14th Jan 2020 09:53

If you are a number cruncher there is no problem as you don't get involved, it's just figures. However an Accountant does get involved and does care about their clients. That's the only way an Accountant can advise. So there will be times when "hair pulling out" comes around. You can, of course eliminate this by setting out your stall so that is doesn't happen. The easiest way is to have a "cut off" date.
Personally I love the unpredictability of the seasons but I always "chill out" in February and August. there's certainly something to be said about every day being different.

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By Mr J Andrews
14th Jan 2020 14:12

I thought it's about time someone else started plugging their services on Accounting Web. Happy New Year.
As I see it the imbecile is the one who doesn't cover his backside. set the deadline ; failure to comply will be penalised . Not just HMRC but my wrath also. Fortunately my clients know me too well to ignore what I demand to ensure the best service .

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By AnnAccountant
14th Jan 2020 15:02

I hope these scenarios are as made up as they sound.

An accountant who can't resolve a simple issue like this and without "anxiety" should set up a dog walking business.

Any stallholder who finds their money or accountant "scary" should.....actually....I don't know the cure - but then I have never come across such a person.

"Anxiety". "Scary". I'm sure people must be exaggerating when I see these terms bandied around. Just get on with the jobs you have to do and don't snowflake around with them. Then you have time for the fun ones. Simple really.

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Replying to AnnAccountant:
By Vaughan Blake1
16th Jan 2020 12:35

In my experience market stallholders are generally very savvy about money or they soon sink without trace. So this story doesn't ring true.

With regards to the other stallholders asking if everything is 'OK', I have would have a robust answer ready, especially if their own returns had been completed months previously. Again this doesn't ring true.

Thanks (1)
By buhirrafiq
16th Jan 2020 13:12

Hi I have been practicing nearly 10 years now.
I would advise completing the accounts this year in as friendly a manner as possible. Than letting the client go the soon as the years completed and tax return is done.
More often than not the bad client will get replaced by a much better new client who is paying much better fees.
And you will find that your relationship with your other 8 clients will ensure that they do not leave you.
In matters like this I tend to be as diplomatic as possible and then in the 1st available opportunity let the bad client be disengadged.
I came across a very useful Guide previously by an accounting mentor by the name with Mark lee. The advice was to set increments on the clients prices if they provide the records late. So records early a small fee reduction. Records up to November normal fee. Records in November, December or January the fee keeps going up. If you add the ties is clearly in March April and may you should get your records on time.

Thanks (1)
By buhirrafiq
16th Jan 2020 13:35

Just to add to that I would like to refer you to a fantastic accountancy mentor that I have been using for the last year.
He is an absolute gem. Nice guy. Very supportive and approachable.
I recommend you look into his accountancy mentor programme that they provide
He is a regular writer for Accountancy Age as well.
Take care

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Replying to buhirrafiq:
By johnjenkins
16th Jan 2020 13:42

Is your name Mark or Bob by any chance?????????

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