These days Mark Lee focuses his business actiities on two key activities:
1 - He loves being engaged to speak on stage to audiences of accountants in all size of firms. His latest keynopte talk is: The rise of Robo-Accountants - and how to beat them. He is an accountancy focused speaker, futurist and influencer with a positive reputation for entertaining, engaging and enthusing his audiences.
2 - He loves supporting savvy sole practitioners who want more out of their practice. More clients, more money, more time, more satisfaction - or everything!
An accountant by profession, Mark moved away from the provision of professional advice in 2006. He is now a professional speaker, mentor, author and debunker.
Mark is passionate about helping accountants generally so is a keen blogger and commentator in the accounting and tax press. He has been consultant practice editor of AccountingWEB and has written hudnreds of articles here that have been viewed over a million times.
Check out how he could help you here: www.BookMarkLee.co.uk/savvy
Mark no longer gives tax advice despite being a past Chairman of the Chartered Accountants’ Tax Faculty. He is however Chairman of the Tax Advice Network - the UK's highest ranked lead generation website for tax advisers and accountants. The network also publishes a weekly practical tax update for accountants in general practice and full tax support, on demand too. You can also use it as a lead generation resource for local people seeking tax advice from an accountant.
Ten years ago how many of us thought our lives would revolve around smartphones?
Sure, not every small business has (yet) embraced all the available apps that will make their lives simpler, but the 'direction of travel' is clear.
Some people take longer to adapt than others. And longstanding clients of accountants who are not embracing the transition to a brave new world, MAY be more patient than newer business start-ups.
Of course the first generation AI assistants and all the cloud accounting facilities are not perfect (yet). But I'd bet they will get there within the next couple of years.
In my talks about the future for accountants I recommend planning for 3 future timeframes:
1 - The shortest one - 12-18m (this has long been the focus for many accountants' plans and focus);
2 - 18m-3yrs - With an open mind we can get a sense of what's coming down the line;
3 - 3-5yrs+ - Flexibility is key here as we can only sketch out what could be happening even over this relatively short period. Beyond this it would be foolish to make definitive predictions.
Some of the accountants I work with want to grow, some don’t. That’s fine by me.
I know how frustrated they get by the near constant pressure from others to grow. And it’s rare that anyone who considers accountants to be the same as other ‘companies’ really understands them sufficiently well. There are key differences that have a major impact on motivation, turnover and profits.
Great examples Richard. I'll be adding the funny ones to my Lighter Side of Accountancy blog.
If you want something more British and genteel, here are some of the accounting songs composed and sung by ICAEW Council member, Nigel Hughes. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9oVBwBJyeIenWuPvlh5W_w
Pokes head up above the parapet...
I tend to agree with a lot of what you say there Mark. When I first set up The Inner Circle for sole practitioner Accountants, I played down my role as facilitator.
I knew that the bulk of the value and benefit from joining the group would be the combined and shared wisdom from other sole practitioners sitting around the table at our monthly meetings in London.
What became apparent was that this was insufficiently attractive. Members wanted to feel they were also getting my insights, tips and tricks - gleaned from my many years in (albeit larger) practice and my hundreds of conversations with smaller practitioners over the years.
I still share that knowledge which tends to be more focused on the marketing, promotion, strategic side of things. I am always reticent to tell accountants how to run their practices - for exactly the reasons you set out.
Unlike some of the 'gurus' to whom you refer I don't have set or standard approaches that I encourage every accountant I mentor to follow.
It's 'horses for courses', in my view. I rarely hear from anyone who feels their investment in an accountancy specific business mentor or coach was a waste of money.
But I do hear from many accountants who have struggled along for years without seeking out or receiving any support or input. Practice doesn't make perfect. We all ned to learn from experience and then do things differently if we want different results.
"Is this consolidation mark two?"
Time will tell Richard.
I well remember debunking the hype around consolidators last time round - and the failure of more to emerge suggests I was right. It happens sometimes ;-)
The model and approach here seems quite different but I still struggle to understand how the finances work in favour of the partners in a firm like WK.
Here's what I said 9 years ago when Jobtel claimed to be planning to launch a new consolidator
I updated the article - well, I added comments over the next few years.
Great article Mark and it matches my advice to start up firms of accountants and sole practitioners.
I didn't think I was going to agree when I read the title in isolation but you argue your case well.
Accountants have traditionally offered advice to clients by reference to increasingly large data sets:
1 - A clients' own experiences to date
2 - The accountant's previous experience with other comparable clients
3 - The office's experience with other comparable clients
4 - The (multi-office) firm's experience
5 - A group of firms' combined experience
6 - A professional body's records of comparable businesses
7 - Commercially available data re comparable businesses
The amount of data available in that last category and the available analysis of it is getting bigger and bigger. This is just one example of the 'Big Data' that will be available for accountants to review and use as a basis for advising clients in the near future.
Well done Mark on what you achieved in your first 18m.
The question is whether your experience is specific to you or is more generally applicable.
I note that you set up your practice after many years of acting as an FD. This will, I am sure, have had a very positive impact on your ability to impress prospective new clients.
You may not have consciously focused on a niche type of client but I’m sure your style, background and approach will have appealed to a particular type of business owner.
Perhaps we have different views as to the meaning of the ‘niche’ concept.
I have worked with many, many sole practitioner accountants over the years.
Those who have struggled to reach £150k turnover (before working with me) followed the approach you advocate.
They spent hours running to numerous networking events - without building any relationships and without doing or saying anything that ensured they were remembered, referred and recommended. Your background and confidence will have helped you here.
They invested good money in a ‘me too’ website that suggested they were just another boring accountant. Your commercial experience will have enabled you to stand out.
They are tired and frustrated from the stress and strain of competing for work on price. And they have so many low fee clients that they don’t have the time or energy to seek out the sort of work and clients they really wanted.
I encourage accountants who struggle to generate the fees they want, to look for ways to stand out from the crowd. My 7 point framework addresses this in more detail.
I’m sure that your background and experiences enabled you to stand out. And that’s why you were so successful so quickly. (Compared to many others).
I’m curious as to the average fee of the clients that generated that first £150k turnover. I’d expect it to be much higher than the fees typically charged by startups who take on anyone and everyone as a new client.
There is no doubt in my mind. The more focused an accountant can be (even when starting up) as regards their ideal clients the more chance there is that other people will recognise when they can recommend and refer you to people who need your services. But I agree, it’s not the only route to success.
I prefer to assume that the Professional Bodies are trying to do the right thing by their members. Certainly the advice and guidance provided by ICAEW to date shows they are not sitting around doing nothing.
I understand that we've been waiting on the ICO to answer various Qs which will then enable suggested updates to engagement letters to be published. No point in issuing draft guidance that needs to be revised shortly afterwards.
It's not ICAEW's fault if ICO is slow in providing answers as to how GDPR will be applied in practice.
As you probably know GDPR requires much more than simply updating engagement letters.
I prepared a simple guide as to the documents you probably need to prepare to evidence your attempts to comply. You can get it here (and also then the practical guide I wrote which gave rise to the list) http://www.bookmarklee.co.uk/gdpr This is probably as close as you'll get to a good guide for sole practitioners.