How to manage referrals and increase fees.

Every practice is looking for new business- the right kind of new client that fits their ideal client profile. Given the increasingly competitive marketplace all practitioners know it takes time to convert a new client and build a relationship that will retain them as clients for years to come.

Many practitioners have tried various business development and marketing tools with varying degrees of success. Listening to the more successful practices I deal with, it is widely acknowledged that the best new business comes from referrals.

Referrals are just those networking contacts you keep in touch with every so often. Every practice should have a referral system that they use consistently in order to generate the best results.

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Topical staffing issues and how to deal with them.

Every practitioners has experienced the frustration of losing staff members to competitor firms and not being able to recruit new team members of suitable quality. There are two main issues to deal with here; firstly how to retain the team members you want to keep and develop within the firm and secondly, how to attract high quality new recruits to keep pace with the firms growth.

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How to agree fees and avoid disputes

Fees and how to charge for work done and recover your time is an ongoing issue for practitioners. Whilst fixed price agreements become the norm it is a challenge to identify what is included within that fee and what is outside the scope of the fixed fee. Then there is the issue of how to discuss and agree extra work with the client and bill it separately.

How often have you spent time and energy researching and delivering advice to a client only to find they don’t appreciate what was involved and are unhappy to pay for it? This leave bad feeling between both parties and is a situation that can easily be avoided.

The golden rule is to never do any work on a client’s affairs without agreeing the fee with them first.

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Perfect time to Spring Clean your service offering to clients.

March is the perfect time of year to review what you are doing for clients, secure if not increase our fees and ensure you are offering levels of client service that make them want to stay with your firm.

Many clients have a March year end or are looking at the end of a tax year whilst thinking about planning for the financial year ahead. This is why more so than ever, clients will want to hear from you. It is also a time of year when your firm is likely to be less busy after the January rush and lull of February.

Many practitioners understandably don’t feel confident is contacting clients out of the blue and do not want to appear ‘pushy’ or trying to ‘sell’ services.

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Safeguarding the future of your practice.

In February thoughts are now turning to how every practice can achieve its goals this year and maintain their position in an increasingly competitive marketplace. By definition this means you are looking to safeguard your business whilst securing, if not increasing, profit margins.

There are some simple steps you can take to ensure your practice continues to operate successfully into the future.

3 key things will safeguard the future of your business- client base, staff and cash flow.

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Seize the moment on 1st February-hunting season for new business.

As you read this the 31st January finish line will be within sight or you may even have passed it early. You will recall reading many articles at this time of year about the need to now plan ahead and think of systems and a different way of doing things so you don’t have the same stresses again next year. In this regard you know what you need to do and how to do it.

What I am going to outline here is the approach you should be adopting to seize the unique opportunities that present themselves with clients- existing and new- in the month of February.

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Practical tips on how to improve gross margin

Finola McManus outlines the ‘magic 13’ steps that will guarantee a rapid increase in gross margin and profitability.

1. Many practitioners measure gross margin in total. Drill down by client and identify which clients you make a strong margin on and which are loss leaders. A successful and progressive firm aims to achieve 70% plus overall gross margin, however many firms achieve 80% plus.

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Time to get ready for a New Year and New Start in 2016.

During perhaps the busiest time of your year and the shortest working month you may think you simply don’t have the time to think or plan ahead for 2016. The most successful and fulfilled practitioners use times of stress to make time to review their goals and business plan. It keeps them focused and motivated and confident in their ability to grow and develop their businesses.

In my last feature we looked at how you can review what you have achieved this year. You will therefore have identified the areas you need to address in the year ahead. I have recently surveyed partners in practice and identified some common issues which every practice seems to be facing and need to be worked on as priority in 2016.

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Time to review your achievements in 2015.

We are rolling towards the end of yet another year with little time to think of what have we done and where did the time go!
Before we start planning for 2016 its time to stop and think about what we set out to do this year and measure our progress.

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Preserving your sanity in tax return season - Time Management techniques (Part Two)

In Part One we look at the pitfalls of not managing your time in tax return season and the impact on client service levels.

Here is a simple checklist of things for you to do in order to change things;

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Preserving your sanity in tax return season - Time Management techniques (Part One)

The summer break is a distant memory and we are now very much bunkered down for the onset of winter and with that comes the dreaded 31 January deadline looming yet again.

Once again we have failed to put systems in place to avoid the perennial crisis- justifiably so due to pressures of client demands, volume of work and staffing or recruitment issues. This is the life of a practitioner.

Now is the time to make the most of the time available and put some simple strategies in place to ensure client service levels are maintained and staff aren’t wanting to move to another firm come the 1st February 2016.

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How to reward and motivate your team

Many practices are coming towards the end of their financial year and the time for career development reviews which usually include pay review discussions. The current trend is a move away from traditional annual % pay rises in line with inflation and towards a system whereby individuals can be in control of setting their own pay rewards and increased earnings.

Accountancy practices are keen to develop and retain a team of people that are self-motivated and eager to be rewarded by results. Bonus schemes have changed dramatically in recent years. There used to be a variety of methods used to calculate and pay out bonuses. These included;

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Holiday reading-What client service really means- a year in the life cycle of a client.

The summer break is nearly upon us and many practitioners use this as an opportunity to reflect on what they need to change – especially in terms of keeping clients happy.

Happy clients’ means they will stay with you and not be tempted to leave for your competitors. A retained client is far more valuable to your business in terms on ongoing income streams than having to replace them with new client fee income.

Happy clients also tend to pay bills on time and recommend to you to others. Similarly, they are far more likely to ask you for other advice and services which makes working life more interesting and again increases fees.

Every practitioner believes they offer fantastic client service but when asked what this really means on a day to day basis they often get stuck after replying ‘meeting deadlines.’ Meeting compliance deadlines is a given for any accountant- it is simply a fundamental part of the job.

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