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Green man proactive | AccountingWEB | Winning work with a proactive approach
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Winning work with a proactive approach

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The Imprudent Accountant believes those in the profession should be taking positive action and boosting business rather than sitting back and ticking boxes.

10th Jun 2024
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For once, this is an article that should be equally relevant to those working in practice and their clients.

Far too often, accountants seem happy to sit back and take life easy, ticking boxes and accepting modest fees for competent but mediocre work.

This is rarely the best route to wealth or job satisfaction, although one could argue that it can keep stress at manageable levels.

A reactive accountant will typically prepare accounts and corporation tax computations without comment, complete self-assessment tax returns for a fixed fee and never meet or, in some cases, speak to their client.

This is a very basic, cheap service that can still get practitioners into trouble if they do not take enough care to identify errors, risks or even scams.

Bombarding clients

Large firms of accountants work on a very different basis. It can get irritating but they have a policy of bombarding clients with messages about recent developments.

In theory, these disseminate information but not too far below the surface there is almost certainly an ulterior motive to sell additional services. Such offerings to valued clients are then complemented by calls, visits and offers of glitzy entertainment.

This is the key to being proactive. If you can consistently persuade clients that you love them and they need high-value services of which they were not even aware, this ceases to be the icing on the cake and becomes almost the whole cake.

Large firms claim that compliance work is a loss-leader. Following that logic, pursuing the reactive route is a recipe for disaster, since the consequence must by definition be loss-making.

While smaller practices cannot hope to offer the kind of comprehensive service to clients available from major firms, they should be able to present offerings that elevate them above their rivals.

Putting out feelers

It may not quite be time, but now that Rishi Sunak has called a snap election and seems to regard his best-case scenario as a hung parliament, accountants might very reasonably be contacting clients to discuss tax planning under a Labour government. At this stage, there may be very little concrete advice but putting out feelers shows willing.

In the same way, sending out messaging to all clients at least a couple of times a year, and more significant clients every month or two, is another demonstration that you care.

If you have the resources, the best way of generating ideas is to do so internally. More realistically, some might pick up on proposals for tax or other changes in the media or buy in a third-party service offering promotional newsletters.

With enough confidence, the quickest and most effective route to keeping clients happy can be telephoning or visiting them and just listening. For better or worse, people love talking about their businesses and if you listen for long enough (and can stay awake as they enthuse about arcane widgets and gadgets), the likelihood is that they will mention an issue with which you can help for a fee.

In these situations, fee resistance can also be far less of an issue than it would be when trying to increase the rate for accounts preparation or a bog-standard audit.

Not up to the job

Prevarication won’t do you any favours when it comes to staffing either. If you have someone that is not up to the job, it is probably doing both parties a favour to move them on quickly. On the other hand, failing to promote your stars usually ends in tears, as they find better jobs with competitors and you struggle to recruit adequate replacements.

Looked at from the other end of the picture, if you are the client of a firm of accountants and your main contact calls you every month or so, present suggestions for improvements to your business or cost savings. Offers to buy you lunch or entertain you more lavishly now and then could be the difference between sticking around or going out to tender for new advisers. Clients who feel valued might also recommend you to their mates.

There is every chance that reactive accountants will either ignore this article or read it and do nothing. That is fine, but those who take action are far more likely to prosper.

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