Proactive accountants make for happy clients

I’ve learned three crucial things in my time working with accountants and working as an accountant myself.

Firstly, the most important thing clients want from their accountants is proactivity. Secondly, proactivity is the single biggest factor in increased profitability. Thirdly, and most importantly, the majority of firms don’t give clients anywhere near as much proactive advice as they could or indeed should.

Proactivity is the essence of being a trusted adviser. But what does it mean to be truly proactive? Well, you need to keep the following things in mind.

One is that you must share ideas and recommendations with clients before they ask you to. Otherwise, by definition, you’re being reactive. Those ideas must also be relevant to the client; why would they be interested otherwise? Ideas must also be highly valuable to the client, and genuinely in the client’s best interests.

There should be no charge in the first instance, but this does not mean that you need to give everything away for free. Instead, you should make a preliminary recommendation for free. For example: “I think now might be a good time to incorporate your business. Our initial estimate is that it could save you £5,000 a year, and £125,000 between now and when you retire, so I recommend you take a good look at all the pros and cons.”

As in this example, your preliminary recommendation should usually suggest a possibility for consideration rather than definitive advice on whether or not to actually go ahead. The latter would be premature and unprofessional, and could minimise your earning potential. You earn your fee if your initial recommendation is so good that the client asks you to help them follow it up.

There is another element that separates those who are really good at being proactive from those who are not: being systematic. Rather than leaving proactivity to chance, the real
breakthrough comes when you develop systems for identifying and sharing proactive ideas, suggestions, advice and input so that every single client benefits fully from them.

In my next column, I will take you, step by step, through the process for creating systems that will enable you to become more proactive and, ultimately, more profitable.

Chartered accountant, speaker and author Steve Pipe will speak at the AAT Annual Conference 2018; get your tickets here.

This article appeared in our Jan/Feb 2018 issue of AT magazine.

Steve Pipe is a chartered accountant, speaker and author.

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