Do client’s look like mushrooms?

Ashley Selwood is CFO of the Australian Rugby Union. I asked Ashley, “what can accountants do to improve their service to him as a client?

A great way accountants can improve their service from the word go is to clearly identify the scope of the works up front. They need to spend time to understand our business and the issues we need to resolve.

I think the other thing they can do to improve the service is during the course of the project to time frames that the Partner reports to the principal of the client.  So, if it was me, I would say every Friday at nine o’clock, you’re going to be doing this work for the next six weeks, that’s what your estimate is, I want to meet with you every Friday at 9 AM where I want a status report on where you’re at and what you’re doing.

This activity does two things. Firstly, it engages the partner in a more regular basis in what’s going on so that he/she can see that there are things that need to happen.  Secondly, it gives me confidence that I understand when there’s half a dozen guys sitting around my office as consultants I actually know what they’re doing and where they’re heading to next.

As a client I need and want to know that there is something happening.  Otherwise you sit around and when you finally get the report, read through it and you think, ‘Hang on a minute … that’s not right!  If I’d know you were going there, I’d have told not to go there for these reasons.’

Having full and regular communication from day 1 will only enhance the quality of the project which of course helps all stakeholders.

Similar to other comments and reactions that I’ve shared in past posts … clients don’t expect much they just don’t want to be treated like a mushroom – kept in the dark and told nothing!

Bye for now,


A word from the Australian Rugby Union

Here is an extract of an interview with Ashley Selwood, CFO, Australian Rugby Union.

What is the most important quality or attribute you look for in an accountant?

The times that we’ve engaged an external accountant have been mainly around projects. We’ve tended to engage accountants and others for project-type work, so they’d come in to complete a specific task. There has been some advice from time to time on tax issues, but we’re a not-forprofit, so although we don’t pay tax we still have tax issues. We’ve still got fringe benefits, GST and the like. My comments are around where we’ve engaged accountants on the basis of projects.

Set against this background, one of the attributes I’d look for is the ability for the person (or persons) to sit down and spend the time up front getting to know our business. In my experience many accountants use pre-defined work processes, templates, checklists, software and so on. This is good and helps in a lot of business settings such as audit assignments.

However, I find at times that external accountants already have some preconceived ideas about what the solution is before they spend the time to actually get to know our business. We’re a sport and nine out of ten people who walk in the door are either followers of rugby or at the very least know a bit about rugby. When you’re dealing with sport there’s a lot more heart than head involved and sometimes people will walk in the door as a consultant or an accountant and the first thing they’ll do is spend an hour telling you what’s wrong with the Wallabies! Once you get through that, they always seem to have quite fixed ideas of what the solutions are without actually spending the time to get to know our business. In my view this is a fundamental mistake. It not only applies to accountants but all other external professional consultants irrespective of their discipline.

With sport, people understand it or think they do. What they don’t understand is the business of sport, which is why we are engaging them in the first place. The challenge, in our case, is that the core of our business is run on six Saturday nights during the year. We play six test matches annually against countries from around the world; we drive all our revenue for the year from those six matches.

When you’re sitting down and talking to an accountant and looking at what attributes you want them to have, you want them to set aside their preconceived ideas and get to really know what our business is about before they start, and get into the process of providing the advice or whatever the work they need to do.

Enough said?

See you next post,

James E