Accountants – don’t judge a book by it’s cover!

Cliche’s are cliches because they are often true. This is certainly the case with the old saying “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover”

Many years ago I knew about a local businessman who over the course of 30+ years had built up a very successful waste management business specialising in sewerage and grease traps. To protect the innocent we will give this chap a code name – lets call him Norm.

Norm, with complete respect, looked every bit the quintessential garbage man. He was in his late fifties, had a pot belly, wore a blue singlet, shorts and work boots. Given the type of work Norm did every day he looked dirty and had a certain aroma around him. Norm didn’t care – he was a successful guy building a business that had made him wealthy. He just didn’t look or smell successful!

One day, Norm, driving through the Sydney CBD in the old beat up Dodge truck he usually drove, stopped outside a Rolls Royce dealership. Somehow he managed to get a parking right in front of the show room so the sales and support staff inside saw exactly what Norm was driving and as he walked through the big glass doors, what he looked like.

Norm walked up to one of the cars on the floor, opened the door and stuck his head in to have a look. He then closed the door, took a couple of  paces towards the front of the car and kicked the drivers-side tyre and called out to the small group of sales people gathered on the other side of the showroom and said, “Hey … how much do you want for this piece of sh**t?!”

One of the senior managers quickly walked over and said to Norm, “Sir, I think you are in the wrong place. Why don’t you leave?” I wasn’t there of course but I can just imagine the snooty tone of the request.

“No mate, mate … you’ve got it wrong. I want to buy one of these cars. How much are they and do you have them in stock or do I have to wait?”

“Sir, you are in the wrong place. Please leave.” came the reply.

Norm tried a couple of more times to set the manager straight, but was told in no uncertain terms that the police would be called immediately if he didn’t leave.

With a few well placed expletives, Norm left … very angry and embarrassed.

Fast forward 4 weeks …

Norm, still wearing his usual work gear (although it was nice and clean) drove past the Rolls Royce dealership, parked his new car, close to the same spot he had parked a month earlier, walked up to the showroom and called out seeing the guy who had asked him to leave.

“Mate … you should have listened to me and not make f***ing stupid assumptions. You could have got a nice commission cheque from your boss. Mate … you are a big d**kh**d!”

The manager, speechless, watched Norm leave the showroom, go back to his car, jump in and drive off. Norm had changed his old Dodge ute for a brand new top-of-the-range Bentley that he bought and had freighted from a dealer in Melbourne.

The bottom line of this story is to never assume the quality of a prospective client until you ask some questions and get to know them!

See you next post,

James E.

Are accountants boring?

When the word accountant is uttered at a dinner party it is usually followed by glassy eyes and the sincere attempt to repress a yawn by everyone in attendance. To many accountant = boring. Here is an article from our friends @ Monty Python as to why accounting and accountancy is not boring:

First let me say how very pleased I was to be asked on the 4th inst. to write an article on why accountancy is not boring. I feel very very strongly that there are many people who may think that accountancy is boring, but they would be wrong, for it is not at all boring, as I hope to show you in this article, which is, as I intimated earlier, a pleasure to write.I think I can do little worse than begin this article by describing why accountancy is not boring as far as I am concerned, and then, perhaps, go on to a more general discussion of why accountancy as a whole is not boring. As soon as I awake in the morning it is not boring. I get up at 7.16, and my wife Irene, an ex-schoolteacher, gets up shortly afterwards at 7.22. Breakfast is far from boring and soon I am ready to leave the house. Irene, a keen Rotarian, hands me my briefcase and rolled umbrella at 7.53, and I leave the house seconds later. It is a short walk to Sutton station, but by no means a boring one. There is so much to see, including Mr Edgeworth, who also works at Robinson Partners. Mr Edgeworth is an extremely interesting man, and was in Uxbridge during the war. Then there is a train journey of 2 2 minutes to London Bridge, one of British Rail’s main London terminal, where we accountants mingle for a moment with stockbrokers and other accountants from all walks of life.I think that many of the people to whom accountancy appears boring think that all accountants are the same. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some accountants are chartered, but very many others are certified. I am a certified accountant, as indeed is Mr Edgeworth, whom I told you about earlier. However, in the next office to mine is a Mr Manners, who is a chartered accountant, and, incidentally, a keen Rotarian. However, Mr Edgeworth and I get on extremely well with Mr Manners, despite the slight prestige superiority of his position. Mr Edgeworth, in fact, gets on with Mr Manners extremely well, and if there are two spaces at lunch it is more than likely he will sit with Mr Manners. So far, as you can see, accoun- tancy is not boring. During the morning there are a hundred and one things to do. A secretary may pop in with details of an urgent audit. This happened in 1967 and again last year. On the other hand, the phone may ring, or there may be details of a new superannuation scheme to mull over. The time flies by in this not at all boring way, and it is soon, when there is only 1 hour to go before Mrs Jackson brings round the tea urn. Mrs Jackson is just one of the many people involved in accountancy who give the lie to those who say it is a boring profession. Even a solicitor or a surveyor would find Mrs Jackson a most interesting person. At 10.00am, having drunk an interesting cup of tea, I put my cup on the tray and then…( 18 pages deleted here – Ed .) .. and once the light is turned out by Irene, a very keen Rotarian, I am left to think about how extremely un-boring my day has been, being an accountant. Finally may I say how extremely grateful I am to your book for so generously allowing me so much space. (Sorry, Putey ! – Ed.)

Need we say more?

See you next post,

James E

Accountants = idea generators?

Sorry everyone – didn’t blog last week! So here we go …

A while ago I was having lunch with a client of mine who had recently joined a 2nd-tier accounting firm having left one of the Big 4 for greener pastures. During the lunch my client told me about an exercise his old firm would perform on behalf of clients. It blew my socks off!

From time to time this Big 4 firm would hold a sandwich lunch for all their staff & partners in each of their offices around the country in a given week. The Brisbane office would hold their lunch on Monday, Melbourne on Tuesday, Sydney on Wednesday and so on.

The purpose of the lunch was to get as many people together – partners, directors, managers, graduates, support staff and others sitting around a table to talk and think about a particular problem or two and how they would solve it. Each table had a facilitator to help guide the conversation. The problems were real world issues that clients of the firm were facing. The purpose of the lunches is give the clients ideas they can use to solve their current business challenges.

The Big 4 firm would make an offer to their clients or even a prospect they are trying to win along the lines of, “How would you like a thousand of our staff who are amongst the best and the brightest in the market work on your problem(s)? By the way … there is no charge. It is our way of adding value to you and showing that we are here to help.”

What business or organisation would say no to such a fantastic offer? Having a thousand men and women of varying experience working on ways to solve the problems you have in your operations, marketing, recruitment and strategy is an incredibly powerful and compelling offer. The cost to the Big 4 firm  to facilitate the “ideas week” of staff lunches? Well it was simply the price of providing sandwiches and orange juice to their staff which of course would be a few thousand dollars. But think of the tremendous impact such an exercise can have on the clients and prospective clients of the firm.

Now … I know what you’re thinking. That is fine for a Big 4 firm – they have truckloads of resources and big budgets to do such things. However, since the lunch I’ve been thinking about ways in which smaller accounting firms can provide similar value for their clients irrespective of their size.

This will no doubt form the content of a future post or two 🙂

All my best,

James E

Are you getting the small things right?

Just for a moment forget about the big strategies, the fancy marketing campaign and the impressive training & development programs you have planned for 2015.  How are you doing at the small things?

Here is a checklist you might like to use so you don’t forget the small things. That aren’t in any specific order of importance. See how you go.

  1. Return all phone calls promptly. Try the same business day. If not the very next morning.
  2. Reply to all emails (depending upon the urgency) within 24 hours. If its really important reply as soon as you can – say 2 to 3 hours.
  3. Phone your client for no specific reason and arrange to have a coffee with no agenda and don’t charge for the time. This shows you are interested in the client and want to invest in the relationship.
  4. Do you know your clients hobbies and interests? If not find out and make a note.
  5. With the above in mind, from time to time send you client a small gift (something to do with their interest/hobby) for no reason. It just shows that you’re thinking of them. Sounds corny but it works if done in a genuine way.
  6. Ask your client the question, “What is the smallest change that I could make that would have the biggest impact on your business?” You might just be surprised at what they say. By the way … before you ask the question tell them that they are not allowed to say lower fees!
  7. Here is a big one. If you say you’re going to do something by a certain day/time then do it. If you can’t than make sure you tell the client ahead of the time the reason why.
  8. If you don’t know the answer to something then tell the client that you don’t know but you know how to find out. Clients want honesty not half-baked responses.

Well there you go – hope the above helps.

See you next post,

James E