Letters – 20 May

Boot camp: the case for …

Who says accountants are not the right people to give business advice? I was irritated to read ‘Good advice: don’t fall flat on your face’ (8 April) which implied that we accountants should not be giving business management advice.

I hope the writer will forgive me but he has obviously never heard of the Boot Camp or, if he has heard of it, he has not understood what it is about.

Boot Camp is not the only way of learning how to give business development advice to clients but it is by far and away the best that I have ever come across. Their message is that not only must accountants be giving business development advice (once they properly understand how to do it) but that they are (just about) the only people who can do this.

The person who gives business management advice does not have to be a rocket scientist. Indeed the rocket scientists of business management are the sort of people clients complain about: the sort who, when they hand the rocket scientist their watch, the rocket scientist is only able to tell the client the time and charge a fat fee for it.

The Boot Camp approach to business development advice not only contrasts totally with the rocket scientist’s but it is also very straightforward.

All it needs is for the accountant to have the confidence, by means of a systematic approach, to get the client to sit down and address the real issues that affect his or her life (whether business or private).

HM Williams, Tavistock, Devon

… the case against I signed up and agreed to pay over £4,000 to attend a Boot Camp. Before doing so, I took the precaution of personally asking Paul Dunn, the principal of Results Accounting Systems, to confirm that a sole practitioner, with no staff (‘Ouch’ team members, as we were taught to call them) would be able to earn fees to justify this cost, sorry ‘investment’. Because of his assurance, and the guarantee of a return of the fees if I was not totally satisfied, I signed up.

We all had a wonderful four days in Eastbourne. I learned how to tell my problem clients to find another accountant, and evangelical presentations showed us the light in a manner of which Billy Graham would have been proud.

But a sole practitioner struggling to meet self-assessment deadlines is unlikely to have the necessary time available to absorb what he has learned at Boot Camp, let alone market this. He would have to specialise in consultancy work to have a chance of success.

Also, the typical sole practitioner, with say one employee, would not normally have clients of sufficient size able to afford the level of fees recommended by Dunn and his colleagues.

Gordon Kennedy, FCA, Folkestone, Kent

A question of sovereignty In his zeal to vanquish the critics of EMU, Malcolm Howard (‘Letters’, 29 April) has refuted an argument that Messrs Haslam and Keymer (‘Letters’, 15 April) never proposed.

Howard says the UK would not lose sovereignty by joining EMU because ‘we have not had economic sovereignty since we came off the gold standard’. Considering his references to ‘gunboats’ elsewhere, Howard must be talking about power here, not sovereignty.

With the general support of electorates, governments around the world have chosen to participate fully in the global trading system rather than cut their countries off.

Many governments, including those of the EU states, have chosen some diminution in their direct control of their national economies.

So I agree with Howard, that the UK government now has less power over what goes on in the UK economy than it did under, say, the Prices and Incomes Policy regime.

But this is irrelevant to the issue of sovereignty, which is about the question, ‘who is competent to take policy decisions about the economy, and under what authority?’ The practical answers under EMU ought to disconcert any believer in democracy.

William Arthurs, ACA, London N8

CIPFA’s tax component Regarding the ‘Taking Stock’ (6 May) quote ‘since when has tax been a component of the CIPFA syllabus?’, when I took my CIPFA (IMTA) exams in the 1960s there were two accountancy papers in the intermediate stage.

They covered commercial accounting as well as municipal accounting; one included tax and the other costing. This gave students a basic idea of how the tax system worked in relation to businesses. It was not, of course, the in-depth paper that one might have at one of the other institutes.

Apart from that little niggle I do enjoy the back page. Keep up the good work and humourous comment.

Sonia Davy, CPFA, Grimoldby, Louth, Lincolnshire

Professional ethics ignored Like Peter Chadwick (‘Letters’, 22 April) I, too, have had bad experiences with the insolvency profession. A few years ago, I was seconded to the insolvency department of a Big Five accountancy firm.

I was horrified by the cynical disregard for professional ethics that I encountered, a malaise was not restricted to a few cowboy managers but reflected the attitude of the lead partner. A few banks have now discontinued the practice of appointing investigating accountants to receiverships.

Those who continue naively assume that insolvency practitioners’ ethics match their own standards; unfortunately, they do not.

Name and address withheld

We don’t have to play US rules As stated recently in your leading opinion letter, ‘The Yanks are Coming’, ‘the US government has shown that it is prepared to be ruthless in ensuring US interests triumph’.

Few would disagree, but the rest of the world need not allow the Americans to roll over our carefully wrought international accounting standards without a fight.

Let’s not forget that many developing countries have already adopted IAS as their preferred GAAP. We can also take some encouragement from the fact that influential chief accountant at the SEC Lynn Turner has a wider experience of international accounting issues than many of his fellows, so is more likely to see the advantages of moving quickly towards universally accepted standards worldwide.

No doubt the Americans are influential, but they don’t always win. Remember World Cup ’94 when they tried to rewrite the game of football? They wanted to divide the game into quarters to create more advertising time.

They proposed changing the pitch size so American football fields could be more easily made over for use in ‘soccer and increasing the size of the goals to guarantee more high-scoring matches’.

They wanted to revise the rules to make the game slower, more measurable, more profit-orientated … more American – but, left with the choice of either playing according to the rules accepted by the rest of the world or not at all, they eventually gave in.

David Hughes, managing director, Executive Connections, London WC1

Related reading