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Practice Tips - you don't have to take all comers

15th Jul 2005
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There are those who have said they did not understand my  Practice Tip  last week.

Some were confused as to why I did not want to work for people who wanted to profit maximise or tax minimise even though I thought I’d explained that. But the most interesting feedback was from those who appeared to think I had no choice in the matter.

This really baffled me. The suggestions made to me seemed to coalesce around the ideas that as an accountant I should:
1.    be grateful to anyone who might beat a path to my door and offer me their custom;
2.    take them on, whatever they wanted;
3.    have no opinion in this matter.

This simply staggers me. And yet it is a view that I have had presented to me over so many years I guess it is prevalent amongst practitioners. Now, I do know of a group of professionals who have to see whoever beats a path to their door – and they are GPs in the NHS. But even they can refuse to see people from outside their geographic patch or who are violent, so the rule breaks down, even for them.

Why then do accountancy general practitioners think they have this charitable duty to see all comers? It baffles me. Actually it does more than that. It suggests that practitioners who do this have no idea:
1.    why they are in business;
2.    what they want out of the business;
3.    how to maximise the value of their business.

As anyone who has tried to raise money from a venture capitalist will know, the things anyone who is seriously appraising a business wants to know are:
1.    what’s your market?
2.    what makes you special in that market?
3.    how do you know that, and how does the customer know that?
4.    how do you turn that speciality to commercial advantage?

If you take all comers it’s clear that you have never even thought about the first of these questions because that’s not a marketing strategy - it’s more like a cry for help. In which case I’ll be offering more musings in the New Year on what a business plan for a practitioner who wants to answer these questions might look like. <P>And if you want something to do over the festive period, why not ponder those questions?

Richard Murphy
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. A collection of previous articles by Richard on practice management themes is available in Practice Management Zone



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