Client year end planning and business reviews- the essentials.

The more successful and truly proactive firms start planning 3 months ahead of a client’s year end. Like fixed fees this is now fast becoming standard best practice. For those of you with client March year ends looming it is still not too late to change the way you do things and increase both client service and your own efficiency and gross margin as a result.
All grade A and B clients should have a meeting with you 3 months pre year end. You are likely to be having regular contact with these client anyway. Agree an agenda, send it to the client in advance and ensure you cover the following points at that meeting;

  • Projected results and tax position
  • Pre year-end tax planning action to take where relevant
  • Agree fee for the year end work and support in the year ahead you will give the client
  • Agree payment terms for the work you are about to do for the year end and the year ahead.
  • Agree fee settlement plans where you still have WIP to bill out or debtor balance to recover.
  • When is the job to be scheduled in your work planner- fix a date.
  • Be clear on what you have agreed as a fee- completeness of records etc and how you will agree additional fees if more work is required on those records.
  • Agree a 30 day completion target from the point of starting the job ( with the caveat all information required is received before you start work)
  • Discuss with the client what their personal and business goals are for the year ahead and what support they need to achieve them.
  • Offer a personal financial Healthcheck ( agree a fee and book as a separate project)
  • Ask the client for feedback on your service last year and what you can do to improve.

The above list is clinical but it works well. It allows you to create a system so all staff work in the same way and all clients receive the same service levels. Clients appreciate the transparency and love to know as far in advance as possible what tax bills and accountancy fees are so they can plan their own cash flow. Clients value knowing when the accounts will be ready for signing and welcome the opportunity to talk about personal and business goals and their own financial position going forward.

After the pre- year end planning meeting, send follow up notes and action points within 24 hours. Share information with managers/staff involved in servicing that client.

Your manager/staff can then move onto planning the job and booking relevant dates for review and client meeting in the diary.

The final year end accounts meeting with the client will then be focused on the projected result and tax position (from the pre year end meeting) versus actual. More meeting time will then be spent on what really matters to the client- future plans and what is happening within their business now. This is where they need your help and guidance and what makes you the trusted advisor. The client wants to look ahead as opposed to spend time looking at historical results.

For grade C and D clients you can use a streamlined version of this process and communicate by e-mail or post where you decide there is no merit in meeting the client pre year end. Agreeing the fee and dealing with debtors and unbilled work in progress remains a priority however for all clients.

By planning as far ahead as possible and being centred on the clients’ needs you have also improved your own production process. You will be able to set more accurate budgets, reduce write offs of unbilled time, avoid fee disputes, prevent ‘fire-fighting’ scenarios and constantly working up against tight filing deadlines together with improving staff morale.

Your time can now be used optimally in meeting with clients, working on your own practice management and achieving your business goals for 2017.


March 2017 Copyright - Finola McManus, Practice Perfect

Helping accountancy firms to make their clients successful


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