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Sharing knowledge AccountingWEB Five biggest things that accountants have learnt over the years
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Accountants share the top lessons they have learnt

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It’s always good to look back and see how far you have come and the lessons you’ve learnt. Seasoned accountants on Any Answers have done just that as they share the experience they have gained over the years.

15th Apr 2024
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AccountingWEB member, Londonacc reflected on how their practice has changed and what they have learnt, prompting them to see what other accountants had to say. 

This leads us straight to the biggest lesson that Londonacc has learnt over the years. 

1. Get rid of difficult clients

“In the early days, I would literally take anyone on well below market rates just to win the work. As time has gone on I am much more selective and have got rid of all my nightmare clients, which there were a lot of,” Londonacc wrote. 

This has been a popular lesson among the Any Answers community and is a commonly shared piece of advice when someone has had a bad experience with a client. AccountingWEB members advised that it is important to learn that not every client is a good fit for you and your firm. 

Not being afraid to get rid of difficult clients was also the biggest lesson learnt by regular contributor, Mr Hankey who commented, “Ditching the time-draining/low-paying clients was the best thing I ever did. I noticed a huge difference in the extra time and happiness I had, but hardly noticed the (slightly) reduced income.”

2. Don’t be afraid to change your pricing 

Fees are another frequently discussed topic and one that many accountants are still navigating. 

Member Paul Crowley said that he learnt to change the pricing depending on the difficulty of the client. “I still take on most that come through the door but if they are problematic my fees go up. I just don’t bother with clients that come with what I think is a risk. I keep to what I am both comfortable and confident with,” he wrote. 

This was agreed with by another member, Kosher who looked at it from the point of dealing with clients who pay lower fees. They said, “I still have clients at the low fee level, but as long as they aren’t time consuming or cause me problems I am quite happy.”

In a recent article on whether to charge a fixed fee or an hourly rate, Simon Chaplin, founder of the Accountants Mastermind, shared the main thing that he had learnt regarding pricing, which was knowing your worth. He advised others not to hesitate in raising their prices to reflect their value. 

3. Upfront payments are the way to go

Continuing with pricing, AWEB member, mumpin learnt that upfront or immediate payments are the way to go. 

“If someone offers to pay you there and then, never say that you don’t know how much it is and that you’ll sort it out later. Instead, say, ‘Okay pay me x amount and if there’s any additional amount I will send you another invoice when the whole thing is done and dusted’,” they said. 

Mumpin added, “Failure to adhere to the above will mean you get stung every couple of years and you will have no one to blame but yourself.”

This approach highlights the importance of setting clear expectations upfront to avoid the risk of being underpaid. Simon Chaplin reiterated the importance of upfront costs, emphasising that when a client approaches you with a problem, it holds the greatest value. 

Setting clear payment terms upfront ensures that both parties understand the value exchange and builds a foundation for a mutually beneficial partnership.

4. Have open and transparent conversations 

Navigating the accountant-client relationship involves tackling challenging discussions head-on. By not having open and transparent conversations, clients may harbour negative feelings, creating a poor professional relationship.

AccountingWEB member, Truthsayer said that this was one of the biggest lessons that they had learnt. “If you can see a potential source of conflict with a client, don’t delay having it out with them. If they walk, good riddance, and if they stay, that source of conflict will not be hanging over you,” they commented. 

Some firms employ a client satisfaction officer or use client satisfaction surveys to check in with clients and address any potential conflicts, which is a proactive way to manage client relationships.

5. Don’t take things too personally 

Recognising that feedback and challenges are part of professional growth, and learning to separate your personal feelings from your work is key. 

The final lesson learnt came from member Ivor Windybottom who shared, “Do what you enjoy and are good at. Have fun and try to be a good colleague.”

What is the biggest lesson you have learnt? Let us know in the comments below. 

Replies (5)

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By Justin Bryant
15th Apr 2024 13:22

What about debits on the left, credits on the right?

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Replying to Justin Bryant:
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By Amy Chin
15th Apr 2024 16:37

Or DEADCLIC

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Replying to Amy Chin:
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By Justin Bryant
15th Apr 2024 16:46

That's a new one on me. Must be post 2,000 AD. In fact, BC and AD give you the wrong answer (if you imagine a number line increasing from left to right), so forget I mentioned that.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Amy Chin:
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By FactChecker
15th Apr 2024 23:44

Had to look that one up - not even my century!

On the plus side it took me to https://www.aatcomment.org.uk/learning/study-tips/foundation-certificate... ... where I met PEARLS and ALICE (as well as DEAD CLIC).
On t'other hand I may now need to develop a mnemonic in order to remember all the acronyms and what they stand for.

Oh and the dangers of relying on the internet for learning ... the above page contains the lovely line "Decease in: Credit < Asset" - which I guess is one way to think of what happens when your credit is reduced.

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By johnjenkins
16th Apr 2024 16:22

Very Interesting article but not much content.
I, like many others are always learning and DEAD CLIC certainly had me thinking.
I think the main thing for me over the last 5 years is learning just how inept HMRC really is, common sense has gone out of the window and the future reliance on AI will cause havoc.

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