Chairman of the Tax Advice Network and BookMarkLee
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Are you conning your clients?

1st Dec 2014
Chairman of the Tax Advice Network and BookMarkLee
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Thinkstock/BrianAJackson

Your instinctive reply to the question posed in the title of this piece is probably “of course not”, says Mark Lee.

Indeed I’m quite sure that you, dear reader, are not conning your clients. Not knowingly at least. Anyone likely to do so is unlikely to be reading AccountingWEB. So why did I pose the question?

My inspiration was the musical comedy ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,’ that I saw recently at the Savoy Theatre in London. The original film version in 1988 starred Michael Caine and Steve Martin. I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone yet to see the show. Suffice it to say that it revolves around two con-arts who compete to out-do each other, conning wealthy guests at a hotel on the French Riviera, who seem only too keen to part with their money.

I was hoping to see Robert Lindsay on stage in the lead, supported by Rufus Hound. Sadly the latter left the cast a few weeks ago and Lindsay was off sick. His part was very well played by his stand-in, Darren Bennett. The female lead was also played by an understudy – again, it wasn’t obvious. So, to be clear, I didn’t feel conned and I loved the show – despite never having seen the film or knowing the storyline.

The cons in the show are in stark contrast to the long-con approach adopted by the team in the TV series Hustle (which starred Adrian Lester and ran from 2004-2012). The Hustle crew only conned ‘bad’ people who ‘deserved it’.  One lesson I recall being stressed throughout all eight series was that ‘You can’t con an honest person’.

What has all this to do with accountants in practice? Bear with me and I’ll explain some related thoughts.

Business advice

Thousands of accountants claim to be ‘accountants and business advisers’. To my mind this obligates them to offer business advice rather than simply to focus on the annual compliance work. Of course there will be those clients who resist the idea of paying more than a basic fee and who therefore exclude themselves from benefitting from business advice. Equally there are, it seems, some accountants who rarely offer business advice – despite the implied promise of their nomenclature.

Specialist areas

This is one of those marketing ploys that seems to be widely misunderstood. For example, none of us can really specialise in ‘SME clients’. The definition of SME covers over 99.9% of all UK businesses. Saying “I specialise in SMEs” carries little more meaning than saying “I specialise in working for any business, big or small, that is not in the FTSE 350”. By definition that’s not a specialisation.

The encouragement to identify our specialist clients comes from marketing advisers. They want us to make it easier for other people to refer new clients to us. This is easier if they can remember us as being distinct from the other accountants out there. One way to do this is to highlight your expertise in dealing with a particular type of client. This then becomes your specialist area. And it works. But we’re concerned that if we reference a specialism we might alienate those of our clients who don’t fit that specialism. And we may be rejecting those prospects who don’t fit the client profile of our specialist area.

As a result you will see many accountants’ websites claim they have specialisms in what seems to be all the areas in which their varied client base operates. Again, that’s not what it means to ‘specialise’. 

Limited experience

What do you when you realise that a client, or even a prospective client, needs advice on an issue about which you have little or no real knowledge and experience? I know plenty of accountants who have the self confidence to, quite rightly, admit when this is the case. They then either encourage the client to seek specialist advice or they obtain this on behalf of the client.

Guessing what to do or failing to give appropriate advice due to inexperience or naivety is a risky game to play. Not only can the client lose out but there is also the prospect of a negligence claim or of disciplinary action when you’re found out.

Excessive fees

I can recall plenty of occasions when readers of AccountingWEB have criticised those who charge high fees for the provision of high value advice – such as when huge tax savings are forecast as a result of incorporating a sole trader business. In principle I see no problem in charging value based fees if the clients willingly agree to this up front. But do they always have full knowledge of what other accountants would charge to do the same work?

We know how hard it is to obtain directly comparable fee quotes for what may, or may not, be the same service to be provided by different accountants. There are some accountants who simply charge an hourly rate regardless of the value of their advice to a client. Others believe that some accountants are charging too much or too little for the work and advice they offer.

We could say that it matters not as long as the client is happy. Is that always true actually?

Keeping the taxman at bay

One of the services that clients implicitly require from their accountant is to ensure that they remain fully compliant so as to reduce the prospect of being investigated by HMRC. I have heard anecdotal stories of accountants who assure new clients that HMRC will not be a problem because of the accountant’s positive reputation. This may have been the case many years ago when local tax offices knew local accountants. I don’t believe it has been that way for some time so why do some accountants suggest that nothing has changed?

Greedy clients

It would be easy to side-track here into a discussion about how greedy clients have only themselves to blame if they ‘invest’ in fancy tax avoidance schemes that eventually unwind.

I think we all know however that there have long been plenty of scheme promoters who seek to exploit that greed by over-promising the likely effect of certain tax schemes. Some accountants who got caught up in such situations naively repeated these promises despite not fully understanding the risks, downsides and likely challenges that would ensue.

Conclusion

Some accountants may unintentionally and naively over-promise the possibility of a positive outcome from clients’ activities or from HMRC’s enquiries. However, I believe that few accountants would knowingly attempt to con their clients. Unless you know better…

Related reading:

Mark Lee is consultant practice editor of AccountingWEB. He has created a seven step framework to help accountants who want to STAND OUT from the pack; he facilitates The Inner Circle group for accountantsmentors accountants, entertains as a conference speaker and is chairman of the Tax Advice Network of independent tax specialists who provide support to smaller practices.

Replies (259)

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Locutus of Borg
By Locutus
01st Dec 2014 14:59

Proactive

You missed the biggest mainstream misdemeanour (I think con is a bit too strong): just about every accountants' website that I have seen describes them as "proactive", regardless of whether they are or not.

It's one of those buzzwords that I hate and should be purged from the accountants' lexicon.

The list, in my opinion, is mostly of misdemeanours, with the exception of dodgy tax schemes, which are genuine cons and should be prosecuted.  But the link at the end made me chuckle ...

Related reading:

Accountant jailed for £365,000 tax fraudAccountant jailed for £10m Ponzi fraudCity accountant conned his friends and co-workers

Blimey, you "big yourself up" in front of a prospect and you get put in the same boat as multi-million pound fraudsters :-)

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By jaywood
01st Dec 2014 17:22

Bigger issue

Is practice advisors conning start up accountants. Most of them do not have the exposure of running a small/start up practice. 

 

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By ShirleyM
01st Dec 2014 18:11

I may be cynical

I always read 'proactive accountant' to mean the accountant will be pro-active in the selling department, but not necessarily in the service department.

That reminds me of the Morecambe (& Wise) scene with Andre 'Preview' .... ie. I'm playing all the right notes ... but not necessarily in the right order.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7GeKLE0x3s

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By lme
01st Dec 2014 18:44

Yes, through lack of care

I have seen plenty of prospective clients who have been allowed to put through whatever they want (seemingly), and their "accountant" has either not known any different or not cared. e.g. charging council tax, TV license for a flat, not really used for work, even a horse physio charging the cost of keeping two horses, with accountant's full knowledge.

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By lme
01st Dec 2014 18:55

And I have seen a network try and con advisers

OK so when I was fairly new into practice I went to a seminar run by a network (I won't say which, but very well known), which was aimed at small practitioners. I am from a Big 4 background and do not lack confidence. I can see that some (perhaps especially, smaller) practitioners might lack confidence and to my mind, this was exploited at the seminar. A tax scheme was described which did not pass my personal "sniff test". The promoter (network) then went on to say "If you don't promote this treatment to your clients, they can and they should sue you, for not saving them the maximum amount of tax". At this point I lost all faith in the network as I felt they were trying to bully practitioners into buying schemes that didn't sound right to me. I am sure that many, many advisers will have proceeded to sell such schemes, as it seemed to be a key advantage of going with the network.

I call it conning because I feel bullying / exploiting is a pretty close thing to conning.

Once the adviser is on board, if the scheme is a con (ie subsequently doesn't stand up), the adviser will have conned their clients, even if inadvertently.

 

 

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By lme
01st Dec 2014 18:58

Finally... IR35

Plenty of accountants offering to do contractors accounts (just search online) while saving lots of tax for those operating through ltd cos, often with little mention of IR35. While this is a grey area,I suspect there are many advisers who don't take any trouble at all to try and get it right and lots of clients who don't know any different and are running big risks, unknowingly.

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By JC
02nd Dec 2014 07:15

Same applies to computers ...

How many in the profession offer computer services in one form or another - from recommending accounts packages because it fits in with their way of doing things (may not be the best) - to all manner of of other ancilliary advice

Because one is an Excel 'jockey' it doesn't really mean expertise across the board - in the same way as the plethora of posts on accounting topics along the lines of '... I have taken on this client in an area I know nothing about ... can someone on Aweb explain how to do the job ...'

Surely taking on something that one knows nothing about, whilst implying kowledge, is tantamount to fraud?

No-one is an expert in everything so recognise ones own limitations

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By johnjenkins
02nd Dec 2014 11:00

Wow Mark

Brilliant (IMO) article. Don't like the headline (was that a Robert special). 

Saw the film and the show. Both captivating, but then having a criminal sort of mind always helps.

More of the same please Mark.

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By Bob Harper
02nd Dec 2014 11:30

Business advice

@Mark - interesting, you seem to be moving towards our position of confronting accountants with the brutal truth.

The crux of the matter is that accounts (including management accounts) have limited, no or even negative value.

Unless accountants can help with non-finance issues their value is minimal and purely administrative. 

As a result, prices will fall as people move online and to low cost homeworkers as everything becomes hyper efficient. 

Accountancy is on the road to irrelevance,

 

Bob Harper

The More Network and Crunchers

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Tim Emmony
By timmne
02nd Dec 2014 11:41

Excellent piece.

I know a number of accountants who are also "business advisors" and ironically, have never set foot outside practice.

Simple things like not knowing what Intrastat is or how to (actually, not just for a lead schedule) do a bank reconciliation.  It's shocking that these people are happy to charge fees for this non-advice.

One accountant I know offers tax planning, which sounds great.  Problem is, she's never heard of the word proactive, so planning something that happened a year ago is pretty worthless.  Clients who sign up to this service are at great risk of putting their eggs in a holey basket.

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By Ian McTernan CTA
02nd Dec 2014 11:48

Admit when you don't know

Should be taught to every accountant and tax practitioner in the land as part of their exams.

If you handle it right, it leads to a positive client experience.

For example, I don't know an awful lot about VAT (I know enough to know I know very little) so I happily refer clients directly to a specialist VAT practice - and it really does specialise in VAT, it is all they deal with.  Every client I have referred for this aspect has thanked me for it- one or two have even praised me for admitting that I didn't know and said that their previous accountants would never have dreamed of passing them on.

Got to disagree with Bob, seeing administration as a pure cost is a very bad way of looking at a business when you need decent administration to run the business.  Accounts can be very valuable, but it really depends on the quality of those accounts.

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By 68fw
02nd Dec 2014 11:54

nailed

Unusually (for me), I tend to agree with Bob Harper's 'general prediction' that small provincial practices (such as mine) will not escape change.

 

The reality on the ground is that small business/sole trader subcontractors are submitting their own accounts/sa returns on a "2 for me and 1 (but usually much less because they just can't help themselves) for you" basis with impunity, unaware of the consequences of getting caught and as far as I can see... it's great odds - HMRC is thankfully under resourced - why pay an accountant. We are indeed an "irrelevancy" to a certain business sector and younger/computer aware generation. Others' experience may differ.

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By Supertorben
02nd Dec 2014 15:01

nailed

I couldn't agree more. Over the last couple of years we have been "losing" clients to the fancy sounding

accountancy "practices" on fee pressure alone. You all know the ones I am referring to:- the ones with

just one name (usually latin ! ) followed by Limited or someone's name followed by "Accountants".

They usually have fantastic websites promoting their ability to walk on water, whilst at the same time

usually not mentioning any recognised accountancy qualification. However, it is not just small business /

sole trader subbies who are doing thiseen. We recently had a start up company where the wife "bookkeeper"

was so keen on cutting costs that she decided to dispense with our services altogether and completed

the company's accounts and did all the attendant filing herself.

Whether our esteemed ICAEW and HMRC are aware of this trend I know not.

 

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By eppingaccountant
02nd Dec 2014 11:57

This seems a very negative article to me, almost as if the author has said to himself "What can I write about today because I am running out of ideas"?  Where is your proof that most accountants are not SME specialists?  SME's do have fairly homogenous accounting and tax requirements, even though no two businesses are the same, so to question an accountancy practice's ability to be an SME specialist without clearly demonstrating why you think they are not, seems pretty futile to me.  Small accounting practices certainly specialise in SME's more than they specialise in dealing with Blue Chip FTSE clients so I think it can be a valid claim on the part of the accountant.

 

 

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Replying to Pension Manager:
Mark Lee 2017
By Mark Lee
02nd Dec 2014 13:05

@eppingaccountant

eppingaccountant wrote:

Where is your proof that most accountants are not SME specialists?  Small accounting practices certainly specialise in SME's more than they specialise in dealing with Blue Chip FTSE clients so I think it can be a valid claim on the part of the accountant.

Sorry, but this is a point I come back to time and again. In my experience many people use the acronym SME when they really mean something more specific. Perhaps micro-businesses, smaller businesses, owner-managed businesses or some other subset of the 99.9% of UK businesses that satisfy the definition of SME. As we all know this is an abbreviation for Smaller and Medium Sized Enitities, It includes those with a turnover of upto £25.9m and upto 250 staff. It is rare in my experience for any accountants to be able to SPECIALISE in dealing with such Medium-Sized Entities as well as those at the smaller end. And, as I said in the article, claiming to specialise in serving a 'niche' that describes 99.9% of all UK businesses is, by definition, not a specialism.

Mark

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By johnjenkins
02nd Dec 2014 12:05

@Bob and68fw

I cannot disagree more. There will always be a place for the small, committed Accountant. Most one man bands do not want to do a weeks work then have to sort out receipts, wages, vat etc. Of course there will always be cycles but the cloud, business or tax specialism is and always will be for the medium and large concerns.

Accountants should have enough all round knowledge to cope with these changes.

However if we let ourselves be irrelevant we will end up just like the banks. No longer with a profession and no credibility.

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By jonsa
02nd Dec 2014 12:20

Nailed or maybe not

So 68fw says our small practices will not escape change - of course we have to change and we do.  That is not what Bob Harper said - "Accountancy is on the road to irrelevance".

Bob, that is rubbish.  Predicting that our clients will all move to "low cost homeworkers" is wrong.  If those homeworkers are low cost, you are also suggesting they are untrained.  If they were well trained they would not be low cost and generally get what you pay for.  That is when you have to follow what John Ruskin said (1819 - 1900).  A shorter version is from Red Adair "if you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."  Do not compare us to the big city firms that do charge a lot.

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By 68fw
02nd Dec 2014 12:55

nailed and screwed

I think your example of the "banks" is compelling.

I just sneer at these "banksters"... the local branch bank manager, who was once a cornerstone of the business community and a Rotarian no less... now totally discredited, exposed as a common thief, self serving scum, employed by rotten to the core institutions... reminding me of Tony Bliar...

Accountants are going to get wet... even tho' some believe they are King Canute...

 

 

 

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By Manek Affilica
02nd Dec 2014 12:38

always be experts and wanna-be type of professionals

There will always be experts and wanna-be type of professionals. The entrepreneurial client almost always is smart enough to choose their accountant on the "horses for courses" basis. Clients invariably vet their accountant according to the complexity of their situation. Expert professionals do set their stall well in the market although some could do better for themselves. And life goes on, whilst we read stories from over-expecting under-estimating complainers on which the sensationalist media thrives.  

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By qad999
02nd Dec 2014 12:52

of course we dont know everything

.. because the human brain is not that large ... but when we dont know the answer .. we usually know where to go to find it

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By Bob Harper
02nd Dec 2014 12:53

Cheap and low cost

There is cheap and there is low cost.I am not talking about cheap unqualified accountants. And, I am suggesting most people will move the relationship online, just as banking is going.

We are speaking with accountants everyday. Even the "proactive" ones don't get it. Using Xero instead of Sage or a spreadsheet is not a change of model, it is just a better way to do the work.

We are moving towards hyper-efficiency...just wait until the concept of "one-ledger" kicks in. Client does the bookkeeping online and the accountant completes/submits accounts using the same system.

You'd rather argue you're right than consider change.

Good luck.

Bob Harper

The More Network and Crunchers

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Locutus of Borg
By Locutus
02nd Dec 2014 12:54

Bob's posts always make me smile

He always manages to find a way of shoe-horning his value-pricing / accountants are doomed angle into just about any post.

Sorry, Bob, you'll find accountants in practice are more adaptable than you think.  Some of us have computers and even use the Internet these days!  ... And I don't have an office and hardly have any little sole trader clients, so I guess I must be on the road to "hyper-efficiency".

It's a gloomy and miserable day where I am, so thanks for the laugh Bob.

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By justsotax
02nd Dec 2014 13:11

very disappointed with this

article - usually Mark is on the spot with the type of advice given, but this article gives a 'those that can do, those that can't teach' feel...harsh but maybe a reflection of the mood I certainly feel from most 'consultants' who proceed to lecture practices on the way they do things from the ivory tower of their consultancy business.  Mark do you advertise yourself as a consultancy business that hasn't worked in the real world of practice for many years'....or presumably the less negative 'we work with lots of practices'?    

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Replying to penelope pitstop:
Mark Lee 2017
By Mark Lee
03rd Dec 2014 11:08

Sorry about that

justsotax wrote:

article - usually Mark is on the spot with the type of advice given, but this article gives a 'those that can do, those that can't teach' feel...

Mark do you advertise yourself as a consultancy business that hasn't worked in the real world of practice for many years'....or presumably the less negative 'we work with lots of practices'?    

Actually I don't offer any consultancy services to accountancy firms. In my experience the vast majority are quite happy with their lot. And justifiably so. I do mentor a handful of accountants and run The Inner Circle for Accountants (who are sole practitioners in or close to London). Everyone who engages me knows my background. I don't hide it.

Earlier today I was speaking with a sole practitioner whose comments supported MY long-held views about the majority of smaller firms. His is as successful as he wants it to be. He wins enough new clients through client recommendations and through his website to more than compensate for the occasional client loss. He has no desire to grow the practice any faster - nor does he need to do so in my view. Like most successful practitioners he will adapt his business model only as and when he has to do so.

I tend only to work with, what is, a minority group of practioners: They want to feel more successful and they value the input, insights and encouragement I can provide.

Mark

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Replying to Wilson Philips:
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By andyjdicker
03rd Dec 2014 08:36

Flamebait?

bookmarklee wrote:

Earlier today I was speaking with a sole practitioner whose comments supported by long-held views about the majority of smaller firms. His is as successful as he wants it to be. He wins enough new clients through client recommendations and through his website to more than compensate for the occasional client loss. He has no desire to grow the practice any faster - nor does he need to do so in my view. Like most successful practitioners he will adapt his business model only as and when he has to do so.

But isn't that the general opinion of the vast majority of people in business (those which work for themselves), not just accountants. Not everyone wants to conquor the world. Most people want to provide for themselves and their family, and to be able to maintain a work/life balance which works for them.

Sure, there is no one out there which couldn't improve and refine how they do things. But this article/opinion just seems to be frankly. flamebait, using terms like 'conning' and throwing around other very personal issues like the level of fees.

There's very little constructive here,and plenty of hints and accusations about how accountants work.  

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Mark Lee 2017
By Mark Lee
03rd Dec 2014 11:18

Accountants are special

andyjdicker wrote:

But isn't that the general opinion of the vast majority of people in business (those which work for themselves), not just accountants. 

Sorry Andy - Accountants are in a special position compared with most other businesses. This is because if you're providing a decent service your clients need your service and advice year after year. And many clients perceive it to be difficult to change accountants so sometimes stay longer than they might otherwise do. As a result accountants, almost uniquely, feel far less need to seek out new clients. The majority of their annual fees this year will also be billable each year. Few non-accountants operate on that basis.

Mark

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Replying to S-S:
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By andyjdicker
03rd Dec 2014 11:59

Not really.

bookmarklee wrote:

andyjdicker wrote:

But isn't that the general opinion of the vast majority of people in business (those which work for themselves), not just accountants. 

Sorry Andy - Accountants are in a special position compared with most other businesses. This is because if you're providing a decent service your clients need your service and advice year after year. And many clients perceive it to be difficult to change accountants so sometimes stay longer than they might otherwise do. As a result accountants, almost uniquely, feel far less need to seek out new clients. The majority of their annual fees this year will also be billable each year. Few non-accountants operate on that basis.

Mark

Well not really. It's the same as any on-going service provider. Banks. insurance, telephone and many many more, all of which have people which stick with them because they can't be bothered to change. We're not special snowflakes in that regard.

Yes, we can all do better and improve, thats the same as any business, but the language of this article was inflammatory, and not particularly constructive. I would think that most users of this site are here because they want to be able to improve their business and how they conduct themselves, not to be beaten over the head with 'Are you a crap accountant??'

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Replying to korkidoerkizoom:
Mark Lee 2017
By Mark Lee
03rd Dec 2014 16:53

Sorry Andy
No offence intended. I was responding to your suggestion that accountants were in the same position as "the vast majority of people in business". We seem to disagree as I do see accountants as being different to the majority.

No matter. I realise I can't please all the readers all of the time. Though I do try.

Mark

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By Bob Harper
02nd Dec 2014 13:13

Pressure

@Loctus - beautiful day here in sunny Cornwall.

The smug smile on complacency. I have no idea how old you are and how long you have left but there is no way a new firm can be successful launching as a traditional firm.

Successful in terms of generating "real" profit and "great" value for clients. 

Real profit is profit after an owners commercial wage adjustment.

Great value being ten times return on fees.

Bob Harper

Crunchers and the More Network

 

 

 

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Replying to penelope pitstop:
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By qad999
03rd Dec 2014 22:09

What are you on Bob ?

Bob Harper wrote:

@Loctus - beautiful day here in sunny Cornwall.

The smug smile on complacency. I have no idea how old you are and how long you have left but there is no way a new firm can be successful launching as a traditional firm.

Successful in terms of generating "real" profit and "great" value for clients. 

Real profit is profit after an owners commercial wage adjustment.

Great value being ten times return on fees.

Bob Harper

Crunchers and the More Network

 

 

10 times return on fees for clients ? how does that work ? or do I have to pay the £3750 + vat and £375 pm before you tell me ?

whatever you are taking , can I  have some ?

 

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By johnjenkins
02nd Dec 2014 13:27

@Bob

Let me take you "through the keyhole". In the strive for Hyper-efficiency you, and others like you will be bypassed. Eventually all transactions will be coded and entered into the HMRC cloud. They will then produce a tax bill and money taken out of the designated bank account. The onus will then be on the tax payer to prove it wrong. Who they gonna call? Network Crunchers?

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Adrian Pearson
By Adrian Pearson
02nd Dec 2014 13:39

Separate, automate, systemise then focus

There is nothing new here - perhaps just a more widespread realisation at last. As I said in January 2010, accountancy must be careful not to die with the compliance work.

The reality is that the typical, independent accountancy practice needs to separate clearly the (at most) 10% of clients who are willing AND PROFITABLE ENOUGH to take up expensive value-added services from the 90% who only want, or are willing to pay for, annual compliance work. Then automate and systemise the hell out of that compliance work.

There is a simple key to making good profits in an accountancy firm - and that's having enough very profitable clients on board. Anything else is just snake-oil being sold.

The way to build a practice with enough very profitable clients on board is to focus on (automated) compliance work being solely the means of recruiting them over time.

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By justsotax
02nd Dec 2014 13:31

Bob...your first error...

'client does the bookkeeping online'...or perhaps more apt 'client does the bookkeeping'...these are still ground breaking for many client's...

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Replying to penelope pitstop:
Red Leader
By Red Leader
02nd Dec 2014 13:37

thanks Bob

At least you make me chuckle on this gloomy day!

Thanks again.

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By johnjenkins
02nd Dec 2014 13:41

@Adrian

Maybe it's the training, or lack of it these days, but the vibes I'm getting is that there is a core of so-called Accountants who actually don't, or can't be bothered to do their job properly and are putting Pounds Shillings and Pence before their Profession.

Making profit by being an Accountant comes naturally (if you do what you are trained to do). If you start looking for ways of making that extra buck then you lose sight of your objective.

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By Bob Harper
02nd Dec 2014 13:54

Change

@John - isn't looking how to help clients (added value) what a good accountant should be doing?

When cash accounting is standard/mandatory why would most businesses use an accountant?

@JustSoTax - yes, Cloud bookkeeping is novel and will be for a few years, then what?

@Adrian - would you agree that up to 40% of accountants will disappear using your thinking?

Bob Harper

Crunchers Accountants and the More network

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By johnjenkins
02nd Dec 2014 14:08

@Bob

You've just contradicted yourself. So now you are making a distinction between an Accountant and a good Accountant. I think you are bypassing the fundamental basis on what an Accountant needs, to become an Accountant and that is the compliance work. That is what gives the Accountant a feel and knowledge of the business. Then when chatting the client will see that the Accountant knows what they are talking about. There are no short cuts.

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Tim Emmony
By timmne
02nd Dec 2014 14:17

For someone who doesn't read these forums very often....

...... there are a couple of people on here making it a particularly uninteresting page.  What could be a healthy discussion has turned into a couple of keyboard warriors scoring points and beating chests.

In order for this forum to appeal to more readers, might it be worth you two swapping email addresses and spending your days discussing these things in private?

The irony of discussing where business is going in changing times yet spending the day trying to get at someone on a forum rather than grow ones business is a little irritating too.

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By johnjenkins
02nd Dec 2014 14:27

@timmne

Stop beating about the bush and tell us exactly who and what you don't like, or are you frightened that your own views might not be really relevant.

Believe it or not we are interested in different points of view. That's why we post, to see what reaction we get.

Why do you think the headline says the word "conning"?

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
02nd Dec 2014 15:21

.

Am I missing the latest installment of the Bob vs the Universe show?

Staring Bob our consultant trying to save the accounting profession if only they would listen to him and his one true gospel.  The World According to Bob. 

Also starring the accounting profession, who faced with the afront of Bob "The Consultant" band together to try and defeat him by pointing out the glaring defects and inconsistencies of the gospel as written last week, and possibly amended slightly this week. 

 Before getting back to arguing over tax legislation in a constant battle of wits and displays of unlikely knowledge. 

Who will triumph today?

 

 

 

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By johnjenkins
02nd Dec 2014 15:28

@Supertorben

Best you employ "superwife" then.

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Replying to Wilson Philips:
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By Supertorben
02nd Dec 2014 16:04

I already do ! She's a fellow FCA working in the next office to mine !

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By johnjenkins
02nd Dec 2014 16:11

@Supertorben

Now you know where all your clients are going.

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By Incharta
02nd Dec 2014 16:27

accountants & business "advisors"

My biggest "gripe" with the profession is all the accountants who claim to be "business advisors" just because they have answered a few questions in their accountancy exams. I have a separate degree in business management and have started, built up, and run businesses into the £millions in turnover… I can claim the title "business advisor" because I have the relevant experience, but claiming the title is pointless because it has been totally debased by the hundreds/thousands of practices who claim it with little or no knowledge of what it actually means

It's a little like claiming to be a top racing driver because you have sat in a Robin Reliant! The problem is clients don't know this until they have paid for "business advice" that they could have probably got easier, cheaper, and more relevant down at the pub.

It's about time the institutes regulated the profession and banned the claims of "& business advisors" unless those claims can be backed up by separate qualifications and provable relevant business management experience.

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By johnjenkins
02nd Dec 2014 16:46

@Incharta

You don't need qualifications to be an Accountant, Business or Tax Adviser. Just knowledge and intelligence to apply that knowledge.

I fully understand where you're coming from, although we're back to the quals vs. unquals. argument.

I can say (by experience) that once you know your client and their business inside out (and that for me is part of my profession) then, by default, you become their business adviser. Tax is a little more complex, because of rules and regulations and your knowledge (lack) of them.

Getting back to Mark's article. Yes there are many out there that manage to "con" business.

"Bullshit" still in some cases baffle "brains".

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By Jekyll and Hyde
02nd Dec 2014 18:01

perhaps we can look at this from abother angle
Stephen Hawkens recent comments in connextion to artifical intelligence for me questions the need for human beings in the future for any work place job.

So it is the case that Bob may be made redundant and replaced by A I.

or perhaps accountants that communicate and take the pressure off of the compliance work for clients are indeed adding value to those clients that see the benefit in not doing such work themselves.

equally I do accept that prices will continue to fall and more and more accountants will either employ lower grade workers or decide to work more part time roles.

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By Albasas
02nd Dec 2014 20:00

Here's The Biggest Con- The Unregulated

Conning clients? What about the former bank manager of a 'commercial accountants' claiming to be 'chartered' of a meaningless made up professional body, who boasted to me of having over "900" clients (ahem, a fair few crooks and white collar criminals in there to boot that I know of nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more, say no more ), who then threatened to report me to my professional body because I refused to give professional clearance for a client leaving here with outstanding fees to pay? Is this not conning the public? Apart from this I had tax papers etc which I know for a fact that this practice would have had no understanding of and would just apply the relief 'copycat' style willy nilly for every sort of business enterprise and spiv they could impress.  

Before you go on about regulated accountants "conning clients", indeed, I suggest you take a look at the unregulated sector and their ill gotten gains. When will HMRC do something?

I think my man you are ill advised to use the word "conning" in this article. In fact I would go as far as to say this is Awebs Mario Balotteli moment.

Rant over.

  

 

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Replying to CardiffAccountant:
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By stepurhan
03rd Dec 2014 08:53

Do you mean handover?

Albasas wrote:
...threatened to report me to my professional body because I refused to give professional clearance for a client leaving here with outstanding fees to pay?
I assume you mean that you refused to supply handover information due to outstanding fees. You actually cannot with-hold professional clearance under any circumstances, so a refusal would be reportable. The professional bodies have some limits on what information you can with-hold as well.
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Replying to AccLondon:
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By qad999
04th Dec 2014 18:21

confusion

thomas34 wrote:

stepurhan wrote:

Albasas wrote:
...threatened to report me to my professional body because I refused to give professional clearance for a client leaving here with outstanding fees to pay?
I assume you mean that you refused to supply handover information due to outstanding fees. You actually cannot with-hold professional clearance under any circumstances, so a refusal would be reportable. The professional bodies have some limits on what information you can with-hold as well.

Yet another reason to leave the club if at all possible.

 

 

there seems to be a bit of confusion, its not really "clearance" as such , just a letter to say you know of no profesional reasons why they should not act .

Everyone experiences client losses - I would reply promptly with the above , and inform them there is an o/s fee and would be happy to supply any further information on settlement . (matters might be more grey with regard to limited company work of course-so  I always get personal guarantees anyway)

No professional body could honestly criticise you for that, its not a reason to leave the club (?)

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By carnmores
02nd Dec 2014 20:14

Mark

remind me what is your day job?

 

Nick

 

just like that .........

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