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Practice Tip - Opening the Post

13th Apr 2005
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I had dinner last week with a friend whose approach to practice I respect. He has recently changed firms for a wide variety of reasons and we were discussing what makes him feel more comfortable in his new, six partner firm.

The reasons are many and diverse, and all (almost inevitably) unrelated to whether or not he would earn more as a result of the switch. The thing that struck me most was his enthusiasm for opening the post together with the other partners, a practice I shared with my own partners for the 12 years in which I worked with them.

I would stress two things about this process: everyone should take part; and people should open the next piece of post on the pile. It should not be sorted so that each person opens their own mail.

There are several good reasons for believing in this process:
1) Bad news still comes by post - whether it be complaints, letters from the Revenue or anything else. You want no chance that such things will be hidden from view. There's much less chance of that if the post is shared. The result is that such issues are either necessarily shared, because they arise when the post is opened and scanned by whoever is present, or they are shared voluntarily because it is implicitly known that this might arise. I would stress that this is not a negative. It's a positive. Most threats, whether from clients or otherwise are misplaced, but are definitely best dealt with when met objectively and after discussion. This means increased chance of success in dealing with the issue.

2) Good news is also shared - whether it be the cheque recovered, or the letter of thanks. This is heartening for morale.

3) Trends in the practice are more readily noticed, and acted upon without them becoming a big issue because once a day the firm will meet together and share issues.

4) Your PI insurers should be pleased with it and may offer a discount as a result (remember to mention it on the proposal when renewing).

5) Make it part of your practice assurance regime and any reviewer should be very impressed indeed.

Of course it takes time. But I'll bet you that it pays handsomely - certainly my dedication to it over many years always felt justified because it created a sense of unity in the firm. This post was not yours, it belonged to the partnership, and so were its consequences. It created a collegiate atmosphere, a sense of mutual responsibility, and support. And let's be honest, that's rare, which is why my friend was so impressed with it. Indeed, his mood must have been good. He was positively cheerful about picking up the tab.

Richard Murphy
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AccountingWEB contributing editor Richard Murphy is a sole practitioner chartered accountant but was previously senior partner of a firm for 11 years. He has also been chairman, chief executive or finance director of 10 SMEs. In addition to accounting, writing and lecturing Richard develops and markets software tools and guides to help accountants in practice systematise their operations.


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15th Apr 2005 20:07

But what about post from NCIS?
I agree with Richard's sentiments but could this lead to a "tipping off" offence if a partner opens the post only to find out, from an NCIS acknowledgement, that the MLRO has reported his client to NCIS without that partners knowledge (EG Based on a report about that client from a member of staff direct to the MLRO)?

It could cause friction between the MLRO and the partner who opens the post.

Perhaps it is NCIS who needs to get its act together and find a more secure way of acknowledging reports direct to the MLRO!!

Whilst on the subject of NCIS, why do they only acknowledge about half of the reports sent in? Is this just my experience or do other practitioners have the same sort of acknowledgement rate?

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