Are you an accountant or a magician asks Mark Lee

Brought to you by ICPA

Mark Lee explains the importance of developing closer relationships with your clients

Many clients do not really understand what you do for them. They know what outcome you produce. But what you actually do is a mystery. The client lets you loose on their data – you then do your stuff and the client gets their accounts, their VAT returns, tax returns, and so on.

Few clients really care HOW you do this. They know it’s not magic but it might as well be for some of them. I will be alluding to this during my talk at the ICPA Practice Evolution conference in Manchester. I’ll reference magic and playing cards as, among other things, I’m Treasurer of The Magic Circle. It’s part of who I am.

I suspect many clients like thinking of you as if you were a magician. They are happy for you to keep it all secret and not to spoil the illusion. Indeed, you’re probably happy to maintain the mystery as it makes it easier to justify your fees.

Then again, the closer a relationship you are able to build with your clients the more likely you are to be able to generate higher fees from them. This invariably follows when you know more about their aims, objectives and goals. You are then able to offer help and advice to help them move forwards – rather than only ever looking backwards at what the annual accounts reveal about what happened in the past.

Many accountants tell me that their clients cannot afford to pay higher fees so there is no point in offering them business advice. That makes sense to me – but only in respect of those clients where your advice cannot lead to increased profits, cash or value (as perceived by the client). Of course some of your clients may be struggling. But surely you have some business clients who not on the breadline?

I suggested, in my last article that it would be nice if we could wave a magic wand whenever we wanted to make more profits. I never promise the impossible – or the implausible – to my clients (who tend to be sole practitioner accountants). But I do try to ensure that they develop the skills to build more successful practices – and to ensure clients appreciate their value as accountants, not as magicians.

• Mark Lee invites ICPA members to try his 52-week Successful Practice Pack of emails over the coming year. Full details are at

This article is taken from “Accounting Practice” the ICPA quarterly magazine. Dedicated to supporting and promoting the needs of the general practitioner. You can find us at or email [email protected] or by phone on 0800-074-2896.