Save content
Have you found this content useful? Use the button above to save it to your profile.

The challenge of growing a practice

30th May 2007
Save content
Have you found this content useful? Use the button above to save it to your profile.

A key theme in last week’s ICAEW Annual Practitioners’ Conference was adding value to your practice. In a key session, 2020 Group’s Gordon Gilchrist addressed the challenge of growing your business and developing a ‘business practice plan’.

The key to a successful business is knowing what your customers/clients want. Delegates came up with a range of suggestions, including: peace of mind, regular contact, response times, value for money, free parking. Gilchrist was able to share the results of the many client care surveys 2020 has undertaken.

The top three demands which have come up most often in surveys are:

1. Timeliness of service Clients don’t know if what you have done is right or wrong, but they know if you’re late! Make sure phone messages are returned. Use the ‘Out of Office Assistant’ in Outlook to manage email. Brief staff when work is delegated so that they know what the client’s expectations are – and if you don’t know what they are, phone the client and agree a timescale so there can be no risk of disappointment. The when you meet the deadline, remind them that you are delivering the accounts/tax return/report/ etc on time in order to emphasis the value to the client.

2. Fees Clients like fixed fees, so learn to manage assignments and negotiate fee increases when clients fail to keep their side of the agreement. Encourage staff to use the 30 per cent rule: when they are 30 per cent into the budgeted time for the job they must go to their supervisor and confirm that they expect to make budget. If problems are identified at that stage you stand a chance of negotiating a higher fee with the client. It’s almost impossible to do this if you wait until the job is finished.

A useful tool is a list of ‘invisibles’ – all those routine tasks that are often not recorded, and therefore not charged for, such as supplying extra copies of accounts, providing references, completing company form 288s, etc. Draw up a list of fixed prices for these, laminate them and give a copy to each member of staff. In future when clients phone for something on the list, staff will be able to advise them of the cost. But more importantly, staff will get the message that the firm needs to be paid for the work they do, and that extra work needs to be quoted for and agreed with the client.

3. Be proactive Use newsletters, seminars, etc, and use your practice management and tax databases to personalise your mailshots. So when you invite clients to, say, an IHT seminar you can invite them by name, refer to the importance of their marital status (whatever it may be) in IHT planning and remind them of the firm’s commitment to help them minimise their tax liabilities. A lot of clients won’t want to attend a seminar, but they’ll be mightily impressed that you invited them!


Replies (0)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

There are currently no replies, be the first to post a reply.