Show me the money … NOT

I was in a meeting just the other day with a couple of senior partners with a big accounting firm (think top 10).

We were discussing with a marketing consultant I introduced to the firm what do people operating their own businesses really need and want from their advisers – in this case accountants.

The conversation went the usual way regarding client compliance needs, opportunity to value add, be proactive and the like. I’ve been in lots of discussions like this over the years and I’m sure you have too. Too often these conversations revert to motherhood statements, platitudes and the bleeding obvious.

However, towards the end of the meeting, something interesting happened. One of the senior partners, leaned forward and said the following (paraphrased):

We have to be upfront and completely honest with people that we meet who may or may not become a client. If we can help them improve their business and grow then we need to show them how we can do that. If we can’t help them then we need to tell them and step away.

I really like that statement. So often accounting professionals have so much pressure on them to meet their budgets, keep their write offs to a minimum and use everything in their power to make sure productivity is kept at a high level. Rightly or wrongly their is a (over)focus on fees.

The sad fact is that if you, as an accounting professional, are preoccupied with fees and the paraphernalia that comes with that, then clients will feel, see and smell it. No amount of soothing words, gifts, seminars/workshops, and invitations to the corporate box at the Rugby or Cricket will or can change a clients view that you and your firm is only interested in the money.

Wouldn’t clients prefer and want advisers (be they accountants, lawyers, management consultants etc…) to focus on them and their business, personal wealth and wellbeing and view their fees as a byproduct of a committed and strong relationship?

This is the sole reason I have stayed with my own accountant for more than 10 years now. He takes care of me and he knows the fees will take care of themselves.

What do you think.

All my best,

James E.

Relationship or fee?

A few weeks ago I was thrust into an interesting situation.

A long-term commercial client of mine had asked me if I could recommend a specialist tax consultant for some advice that he needed regarding a pending transaction.

To cut a long story short, I recommended a senior tax specialist to my client and the two of them started to meet to plan & discuss  the project at hand. The first meeting went well and then things fell apart.

Without going into the gory details, the advice delivered didn’t help my client and the final bill that came was about double what the client thought the service was worth.

A tax friend on one side and a long term client on the other. I was the chap who brought them together and neither was happy. Not a good situation to say the least!

I suggested to both parties that we meet and hash things out.

We got together and each party presented their views in a full and frank way. After about 30 minutes, my tax consultant friend made a really interesting statement that changed the whole tone and atmosphere of the meeting.

With names changed and a little license on my part, … this is what the tax chap said:

Wayne … I’m sorry you’re not happy. I think we have had a communication breakdown and that has created an outcome which is not what you want or what I want. I’m not worried about my fee. The most important thing here is my relationship with you. I’d like to think that you & I will be able to work together in the future. I’m happy to wipe my fee and start again.

There was a pause and my client (I could see) was impressed with the tax chaps attitude and willingness to admit fault and start over. My client said that he was happy to pay 50% of the fee owing and would be open to work with the tax chap again.

I hope this has reinforced to you which of “fee and relationship” is the more important!

Thanks for reading and bye for now.

James E