Apocalypse Soon for practices









FIRMS HAVE GOT a lot to think about. That’s my overriding impression having attended the UK200 Group’s annual conference.

You could respond quite fairly : ‘So when don’t they have things on their plate?’

The difference this time is that there appears to be what I can only describe as a ‘perfect storm’ of circumstances that will turn the profession upside down.

Where do we start?

Let’s get the economy out of the way. The banking and sovereign debt crises have left little leeway in terms of access to funding, or in policy-making, to help businesses – your clients – invest and grow.

Then we have European and local pressure to ease accounts filing burdens in tandem with an audit threshold that is only ever going to go way way – up. Because of this, more practices will consider whether holding an audit certificate is worth the bother. They’ll also need to seriously rethink how to retain current clients and what hook to use to win new ones.

And without statutory audit, will it be harder to recruit the next generation of accountants in smaller practices? This isn’t a new concern – but it’s one that’s coming to a head at the moment as succession planning proves to be so painful for so many practices.

HM Revenue & Customs is under incredible pressure to keep making cuts while increasing the percentage of successful tax take. Fewer seasoned inspectors at Tax Towers means a lot more work for advisors to prove they’ve got clients’ affairs in the right order. Moving to real time PAYE as part of cleaning up the tax credits system, plus impending new company pension rules, could see another tranche of admin passed onto accountants.

And last but not least, the firms that hedged against the downturn by expanding their insolvency divisions have found life too quiet – with suggestions that a plague of ‘zombie’ businesses tread the UK ‘s corporate landscape.

Pretty gloomy stuff, eh?

But as hyperactive business coach, and UK200 Group session speaker, Chris Hughes would no doubt say to me: It’s not a bad thing to outline the problems, but what are the solutions?

There are angles of attack on all the issues I’ve presented. For example, PAYE and pensions changes could provide more lucrative work for you from existing or new clients.

Social media has opened up new channels to market. The conference provided lots of good examples from accountants and even *shudder* solicitors of new technology tips and tools to advance their practice.

Some firms, because of a combination of the issues already described, or other problems, will disappear. Conversely, others are looking to adapt to the new environment and emerge fitter and stronger.

My discussions at the conference with the bosses of Price Bailey and Harwood Hutton, among others, showed that there is an acknowledgement of such hurdles, and a determination to clear them. Some might argue they’ve already made some successful ‘jumps’ already.

Is the Okey Cokey the new mantra for practice management? ‘Look inwards…look outwards…and shake it all about.’ Maybe not, I don’t see it catching on with the management consultants somehow.

What can’t be argued is that it is a fascinating, exciting, and for some a worrying, time to serve in the profession.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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