Posts Tagged ‘Location’
As any business should, we are constantly reviewing what is important to our current and future customers (yes, we are a business and yes, we have customers; we sell services and products; and yes they are also our clients as we have a professional responsibility to do what is best for them and to represent them to the professional standards that we have been trained to meet). Customers and clients are not mutually exclusive, you ensure the best possible service to your customers and you will do the same for your clients. Many accountants shy away from this, constantly referring to their clients, trying to disguise the simple fact that we are also in a business, our clients are also our customers.
From our research and understanding we have simplified the key issues facing our customers, when they look to choose an accountant and adviser down to three, location, cost and service.
Location, location, location
Some businesses only sell to their local market. Most businesses look to sell to their local market and beyond. Many businesses look to sell throughout this country and beyond, and in respect of Virgin Galactic well, it starts to go further than that.
Whilst most businesses look for customers across a wider geographical spread and are happy to travel themselves, they will look to choose an accountant within a mile or so of their offices. Why, when the accountant and their staff can travel and we live in a world where communication is almost instant. I remember a time, not so long ago, when documents and plans being drafted were sent by post and returned with manual mark-up changes. This is now instant, technology has moved on. We are moving to the provision of monthly online accounting for clients as well as keeping up with the online filing with HMRC and Companies House.
A business does not have to walk around to their accountants office to discuss a problem, depending on an accountant’s approach to email, you are likely to get better value from your accountant by emailing your query and getting a written response, rather than exchanging niceties face to face or over the phone which, unless you have a fixed fee arrangement, you would be paying for under the traditional/old fashioned hourly charging basis of many practices.
An accountant who is available via email can give a more considered answer to your question and provide links to useful resources. There are also very few queries which need an instant response.
You may also consider whether your accountant needs to be local at all. Do you really need to have a regular face to face meeting? Do you value having a local accountant over the distant, competent/specialist, cost effective accountant? Perhaps there is a middle ground, literally as we generally help clients within the Midlands region of the larger West Midlands/Birmingham area, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire. All of this is achieved within an hour’s drive from one of our offices.
In over 20 years in practice, I find that a client/customer face to face meeting is becoming less and less necessary, although we very much have appropriate meetings with clients directly as part of our key planning process to ensure that we are still providing our client with the most appropriate advice and service. Correspondence is generally via email and telephone. Queries/advice are usually emailed and read/answered at each other’s convenience which is more efficient than leaving messages for each other to call back and also the questions/answers are more focussed. Meetings are still held to discuss key issues and for periodic updates, but these should be focussed to achieve an appropriate outcome for both parties.
Some accountants will “sell” location, but just because they have an office on your doorstep does not mean that they will provide you with the most appropriate service and advice and at the most appropriate cost to you.
Some accountants and auditors actually seek to perpetuate the myth that location is vital by seeking to send their staff to a client’s premises to spend longer than is actually necessary. For those out of the audit profession, most audits can be split into equal thirds of time; a third planning, whereby information is gathered and key issues are identified; a third fieldwork, whereby the audit testing is carried out; and a third completion, when reports of key issues and treatment and checklists are completed. Only the fieldwork requires staff to actually be at a client’s premises, and then not for all of that time either. Some accountants actually encourage their staff to spend longer at the client’s (customers’) premises than is necessary to make it look as if significant time is being spent, when mostly the client’s staff could do without the auditors being there for longer than is necessary. We are honest enough to explain that to our client’s the process and will only spend the appropriate time at the client’s premises. If the managing director wants us to be there longer as they see the visibility of the auditors as important then we will, but this will done as part of an honest discussion around what is actually required.
Cost, Cost, Cost
Interesting one, and a key issue that many accountants really do shy away from, when many other businesses have to transparent and open.
The key issue is that many accountants continue to use an outdated (Victorian) business model for their own business. They charge by the hour (usually by 6 minute units) and continue to do so for whatever they do, and some firms 6 minute rates can be quite high (let alone an hour).
There is a different model and certainly one that we adhere to. General compliance work (i.e. the stuff that has to be done for legal/tax reasons, the accounts, audit and tax returns) is a commodity product and can be set at a fixed price and this price does not need to use high charge out rates with partners charging even higher rates for their minimal input. The majority of this work is process driven and costs can be kept low. Many SME businesses pay far too much for this work.
A separate area of service is where you can actually make a different to a business; save them tax; reduce their costs; increase their profits; grow their business or find them finance. Again, is an hourly rate appropriate? We do not think so and will always look for the fee/cost to the customer to reflect the VALUE of the work done and SAVINGS or IMPROVEMENTS that we have achieved. Surely this is WIN/WIN in the game theory rules of business. A dark art, I do not think so, but honest and open business.
Service, Service, Service
“You pays your money and you takes your choice,” well, sometimes. Service covers a multitude of areas, including, but not exclusively being polite and acting quickly for your customers. Most clients/customers use the term Pro-active, when asked what it is they are looking for from a client. To be pro-active, you have to offer a wide range of services to a client and understand where the client is going, where they are now and what are their aspirations and goals. You also have to care; none of this is about completing accounts that are six months or more out of date.
We believe that to provide great service for all SME businesses there are number of key factors:
- A partner lead service from an experienced, approachable and positive business professional
(many accountants can either sit in ivory towers or just do not have the drive or experience)
- The ability to grow and drive a business with the skills of a commercial Finance Director,
(most accountants have never worked within a business or part of a business at all, yet claim to be business advisers and specialists)
- The provision of strategic marketing and sales opportunities to grow a business organically
(most accountants do not understand marketing and shy away from this crucial support)
- The control and reporting skills for a business with the skills of experienced auditors
(most small and mid-tier accountants, have never been part of large complex auditing or accounts assignments, and larger firms can cost…..a lot!)
- Obtain finance to ensure your business continues to grow
(corporate finance is still a crucial part of a business success and requires experienced and “well-connected” professionals to deliver appropriate funding)
- Provision of innovative tax saving structures with the support of imaginative tax specialists
(large firms sell their own “products” under the heading of advice, small firms tend to hide under a rock, but tax planning is still very crucial and strategies and planning opportunities change as often as tax laws do….. tax laws change as the tax planning proves to be effective and legal. Some people claim that these are loopholes, when actually it is the law)
- Control and reduce your costs with utility, insurance and other key supplies associates
(in today’s climate cost control is vital, and this includes your audit, accounts and tax compliance costs as well, but find an accountant who can source other cost reduction reviews, as part of my first FD position, we reviewed, re-modelled and re-tendered out all main costs, having fully understood what usage we faced .… and this included the audit)
- Innovative structures to protect and grow your wealth
(never have an IFA/wealth management specialist provide support without being part of an accountant team, they need to work together)
- To maximise your wealth and value of your business when the right times comes for you to sell or retire or pass on your business to your family
(experience, experience, experience and the skills of an FD to really groom your business for sale)
- Pass the barbecue test. I spent some time with a UK wide group of FDs and after all the experience and qualifications part of the recruitment process, the final part of the recruitment procedure was whether you were a person who you actually wanted to spend time with, have a drink with at a bar or barbecue, someone interesting and with personality.
(ACCOUNTANTS/AUDITORS …… enough said!)
- All of this should be provided with a smile on their face and with real positive attitude and energy. Their aim is to improve your business and personal situation and their attitude and drive to do this should shine through.
Get yourself the right accountant today and you will not be repeating this process for years at a time, but also do not be afraid to get a check-up and re-tender a service proposal to find out what else is out there. Accountancy firms change; some get better; some get lazy; some get more expensive and some never had it in the first place. Better yet, you will save yourself tons of time and money in the long run, and you will have a new trusted partner to bounce ideas off of down the road.
A Final Joke
A newly qualified chartered accountant applies for a job advertised in the Times. He is interviewed by the owner of a small business who has built it up from scratch.
“I need a qualified accountant,” says the man, “but mainly I’m looking for someone to do my worrying for me.” “How do you mean?” says the accountant. “I have lots of things to worry about, but I want someone else to worry about money matters.”
“OK,” says the accountant. “How much are you offering?” “You can start on sixty thousand,” says the owner. “Sixty thousand pounds?” exclaims the accountant, “How can a business like this afford
to pay so much?”
“That,” says the man “is your first worry.”
Steven Mugglestone BA FCA,
West Midlands Area Director and Finance Director Services
McGregors Corporate, Entrepreneurial Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers
…….Really good for your business
McGregors Corporate are a Member of Probiz Tax, providing Innovative Tax Solutions to Owner Managed Businesses.
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