10 steps to becoming a proactive accountant


I previously explained that being proactive means systematically– and without charge – giving your clients ideas and recommendations that are unrequested, valuable and relevant.

Next up is a step-by-step plan to make being proactive really easy.

Step one

Create a spreadsheet comprised of three columns. In the first column, list high-impact ideas that could apply to two or more of your clients – for example, incorporating their business.

In the second column, devise a simple ‘yes/no’ question that will establish whether the idea is relevant: “Is the client an unincorporated business that could potentially save at least £1,000 a year by incorporating?”

In the third column, list the benefits a client could get by implementing the idea – reduced tax bills and limited liability, say.

Step two

Put the spreadsheet where every team member can access it – on your server, for instance, or in the cloud.

Step three

Make it compulsory that every client’s circumstances are compared to the spreadsheet, and all relevant ideas are identified. Do this at least once a year.

Step four

Tell the client about any relevant ideas and explain their benefits.

Step five

Where possible, as part of explaining the benefits, do a preliminary quantification of the potential benefit for the client. For example: “My preliminary calculations suggest this could save you £78,000 in tax.”

Step six

Make a preliminary recommendation about the course of action that seems best for the client: “I recommend you take a close look at whether incorporating is the right strategy for you.”

Step seven

Do all of the above without being prompted, even if your engagement letter doesn’t require you to, and without charging a fee.

Step eight

Ask if the client wants to go ahead with your recommendation. If they do, ask if they would like any help. If so, explain what your fee would be.

Step nine

Finally, if the client is pleased that you’ve made a recommendation to them, ask for a referral.

Step ten

Repeat steps three to nine with every single client, not just with a favoured few. While it may be sensible to start this process with the clients you believe are most likely to be receptive, or where there is the greatest scope to make a difference, it’s not fair on your other clients to stop there.

Every client deserves this kind of proactive input: many practices have found that their greatest successes have stemmed from the most unexpected places.

Chartered accountant, speaker and author Steve Pipe will speak at the AAT Annual Conference 2018.

This article appeared in our Mar/Apr 2018 issue of AT magazine.

Steve Pipe is a chartered accountant, speaker and author.

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