The Practitioner: When word of mouth turns sour

The Practitioner

Word of mouth referrals, I’m sure we would all agree, are the best way to get my business and grow turnover.

It’s rare I would complain about receiving a word-of mouth-referral form an existing client, especially ten years after receiving it.

Today is a rare day then, I guess.

This is how the conversation went ten years ago, with a good client of mine; “…so he’s been away for a while but he’s back now and I recommended you to help him get his new business venture started….”

“That’s brilliant, thanks so much.”

Two weeks later at the premises of the potential new client…

“So, thanks for coming. Did John tell you I’ve just gotten out of prison after five years away?”

Me: “Er…..he did mention you’d been away, yes…”

I should have walked out of the door after our meeting and never made contact again with the referred lead.

However, taking it in good faith that the new client was a friend of my existing client we engaged him. Now, doing due diligence pre-engagement did seem like a fruitless exercise to be honest, considering the new client had served time for drug dealing in a big way.

However, engage him we did and for three hard years we battled to get him organised, struggled to get the correct information when it came to hours for payroll or records to complete returns.

About seven years ago, I gave him the heave-ho from the practice and told him we could no longer service him or his business.

Then, last year, out of blue we had a call from the serious fraud office who wanted to come in and discuss our ex-client. They were pursuing him for over £3m of unpaid taxes.

A couple of written statements later and after handing over all files and correspondence we thought we had seen the back of the matter, until last week I received an email from the prosecuting team at HMRC stating they want me to appear at Crown Court next week at 9am as a witness in the case against him.


The Practitioner’s uncensored thoughts come from within their own practice – having left a regional firm in the heart of England

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