Accountants told to educate clients

US and UK marketing experts this week told accountancy firms in Scotland that one of the greatest keys to success was in standardising internal work processes and explaining them to clients.

The message was further highlighted when delegates from the same firm were asked if either knew how the other carried out a tax return, for example. Neither knew how the other did it.

Sam Allred, CPA at Anderson ZurMuehlen and founder of Upstream Academy, a management training school, said: ‘You cannot consistently develop excellence in your firm without standardising processes. Knowing the right things to do and wanting to do those right things still leaves us one attribute short of excellence.’

Standardisation is one of the five keys to developing excellence in a firm, according to Allred.

By harmonising every process from training and research to launching new services and meeting referral sources, an employee’s time is more easily measured, he added.

‘The key to moving a firm upstream is to capture a portion of the non-billable time of each employee to invest in the firm’s future,’ Allred said.

The other four keys to excellence are elevating a firm’s vision, regularly measuring progress, thinking and acting strategically and adopting a process of continual improvement.

Ian Fletcher of 20/20 Consulting reaffirmed the message. He said clients would be more willing to pay for work done if they understood the process. He compared his theory to a car mechanic. ‘I took my car into the mechanic the other day and he told me exactly what he was going to do to fix it and I walked away understanding the amount of time and effort that he was going to put in,’ said Fletcher.

‘Educate clients as to what you’re going to do and agree fees beforehand,’ he concluded.

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