The Practitioner: Money talks

NEW BUSINESS has been coming in aplenty over the past few months; the main source being client referrals.

I would never complain about new work, but one drawback of clients knowing other clients is that they talk.

I have recently found out that an employee of one of our biggest clients has been moaning to another client about the fee they are being charged, and also moaning about a few mistakes that have crept in recently to their monthly accounts that we prepare. I don’t mind the firm being bad-mouthed for making small mistakes – everyone makes mistakes, that’s accepted – it’s how we react to those mistakes that counts.

What I’m not happy with is that one client would talk to another about those mistakes. I am fortunate, I suppose, because the second client told me what the first client employee had said to them. They wanted me to be forewarned in case it came back to me.

In this era of clients being cost conscious it only takes one Chinese Whisper to bring the whole practice crashing down by several clients either choosing to leave, or demanding a fee decrease. Small talk could cost jobs!

On hearing of this issue I had to take a few seconds, a few deep breaths, and then walk away from my MacBook. The temptation to email this person was immense but I knew that I had to choose my words very carefully so as not to make things worse.

As it happens I had taken the decision to dismiss an employee a few days earlier, partly for making the errors in question, but mostly for not apologising for making them. Not apologising, to me, shows a bad attitude and a lack of passion for the cause.

After having deep breathes on someone’s cigarette, (not mine, I don’t even smoke), and lots of thought, I composed an email to the client and their employee.

I worded it to sound like I had no knowledge of the recent bad-mouthing that had taken place, but I wanted to ‘apologise again for recent errors made and inform them that xxxx had recently been dismissed from the company’.

I pressed the send button with my head held high and the pride of the firm intact.
As I say, we can all make mistakes, it’s how we react to them that matters…

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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