August: A month for reflection
Philip Fisher outlines a number of steps prudent practitioners can take during the traditionally slow month of August.
Unless your part of the profession is very different from that of this writer, business pretty much takes a complete summer break throughout the month of August.
Clients go away, lose interest in major projects or simply take time out to do other things, leaving their professional advisers with that valuable commodity, time to think.
Here are a number of suggestions for ways in which you might take advantage of the extra space.
1) Follow the Parisian example, turn out the lights, lock the door and take a month off. While this may not sound like a positive step, the psychological benefits for you and your staff will be felt throughout the frantically busy few months until the next break at Christmas. As we've often seen on AccountingWEB (and in the profession generally), stress is a huge issue and anything you can do to counter this is positive.
2) Even if you don’t go the whole hog, the school holidays mean that this is the perfect chance to take time out with family and friends.
3) Quieter times in the office could also enable you to bond with staff. Why not chat, take them out for lunch or organise an awayday? This is the kind of small investment that will pay dividends.
4) Think about strategy. It is very easy to toddle along, firefighting without considering the best way to maximise your practice’s performance in the long-term. This is a heaven-sent opportunity. You could even try doing it on a beach or in a pub garden!
5) As part of the strategising, you might wish to think about future mergers, adopting a niche or firm acquisitions or, at the other end of the scale, selling up.
6) On a different level, you could do worse than step back and think about what you want to do with your own career over the next five, 10 or even 20 years.
7) Business property prices are sinking fast, so this might be the opportunity to consider relocation, either moving to a better location, cutting costs or conceivably both at the same time.
8) With little else going on, August could present a good opportunity to upgrade both software and hardware. Implementing fresh systems is always a nightmare but if, for example, a new billing program is going to go wrong, you can manage the downtime much more easily in August than January/February.
9) It is probably the last thing on anyone’s mind but if all of your staff members are sitting around with little to do, why not get a headstart on tax returns? Whether that means sending out reminders, collecting data or preparing returns, this work will be so much easier when there are few other pressures. At the other end, clients might have time to find those errant pieces of information in their own quiet period.
10) With the final PPI deadline approaching, this might be the moment to earn yourself an unexpected windfall.
11) Prepare for a no-deal Brexit. If the government is only getting serious now, the odds are that no reader will yet have even started thinking about preparations for this increasingly likely outcome. On Monday, the CBI issued a list of 200 steps. While many of these may not be relevant for our profession with only three months to go, surely it is time to take urgent action.