The Practitioner: My firm, and HMRC, need to break bad habits

AS THE WINTER WEATHER comes in, the early darkness approaches, and the golf season comes to a close, I find myself spending more time in the office.

It’s often said that a round of golf is a good walk spoilt, but another way to think of it is a good walk spoilt while chatting to clients or contacts. Normal encounters with clients, or meetings don’t last that long – so it can only be a good thing.

That’s what I tell the staff back in the office anyway.

We find ourselves in a constant battle between providing the service we strive for and the service as it is currently. I’m pretty sure that more staff isn’t the solution. It’s simply a matter of mindset, and habit.

I’m a big fan of the Stephen Covey books about creating successful habits, and I am trying to instil certain habits in the work environment to make it a more successful place. A few things we now have on our list of ‘Successful Office Habits’ that I don’t mind sharing with you are as follows:

  • Contact at least one client a day pro-actively
  • Smile when talking on the phone
  • We are most effective in the morning, so book meetings in the afternoon where possible
  • Leave the office at lunchtime

While clients don’t consider us to be bad, I know there are many things we can improve on. Trying to get everyone into the habit of doing these things is my mission for the winter.

Talking of bad habits: HMRC

If ever there is an organisation that had fallen into bad habits it is HMRC. The news last week was about further HMRC office closures in many towns across the country.

The idea of creating new ‘regional super centres’ is good. I’ve written in the past about my vision for HMRC to act more like tax advisers rather than collectors, and with the right staff mix I believe this could actually be achieved.

I only hope they are populated with new energetic staff that aren’t scarred by the bad habits of old. If I was in charge of recruitment I would be going for young blood. Recruit the graduates and make it a job to be proud of.

You certainly don’t need to be a tax expert to work at HMRC. The current crop of staff are testament to that!

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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