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What flavour is your Accountant?

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One of the great joys of working as a ‘CIMA MiP’ (“Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, Member in Pratice”) is that we are generally dealing with ‘small’ and ‘micro’ client firms (micro defined by EU regulations as firms with less than 10 employees/ £2m turnover; small defined as firms with less than 50 employees/ £10m turnover) and that we become involved in an enormous breadth and depth of subjects.

One of the less welcome challenges however is that as far as most small and micro business owners and managers are concerned, one accountant is the same as any other and this includes the myriad unqualified accountants who practice their particular brand of accounting services at rock-bottom rates. Indeed it is rare that I have been asked whether I am a ‘qualified’ accountant, and is rarer still that I am asked what that qualification is (in fact I cannot ever recall being asked that question by a client). The client generally assumes that because one calls oneself an ‘accountant’ then one can ‘do accounts’ and that accountants are all the same.

We’re not.

My particular practice specialises in manufacturing clients and most new clients have come from existing client referrals. Fortunately I do not need to be a great sales person to convert a prospect into a new client when (a). there is a recommendation from an existing client and (b). we appear to ‘speak the same language’. Clients generally put this down to my having owned and run manufacturing firms and to some degree that is true, but is is also because of my CIMA training.

If you’re looking for year end accounts, audit, or tax computation then you will likely be talking to a ‘Certified Accountant’ or ‘Chartered Accountant’, but where they will be reporting back to you on how well (or otherwise) you did overall last year and what your tax liability is, the CIMA ‘Chartered Management Accountant’ will be working with you to establish what activities made money and why, and whether you can do more of it, and of course which did not and how to avoid this in future; indeed the focus is very much ‘future’ as much as ‘past’.

In terms of the client business, it’s not difficult to see that helping the client to understand their business is a valuable element in managing, changing, and improving the business, and this is something which CIMA qualified people have to offer any business, so it’s a great shame that Chartered Management Accountants tend to be employed by big businesses who understand the difference between the different accounting disciplines.

None of this is to say that a Certified Accountant or Chartered Accountant could never do what the Chartered Management Accountant does, but it is not what they have been trained to do and equally as a Chartered Management Accountant in practice for twenty-two years I provide a ‘full service’ including year end accounts and tax returns for my clients, albeit the main focus remains helping them to improve their business.

I would urge Chartered Management Accountants to seriously consider a career in the small and micro business sector which accounts for 99.3% of the 4.7 million businesses in the UK (source: BIS 2013) and 47% of private sector employment (source: FSB 2013) and which is a vital part of the UK economy: whether in practice servicing a number of clients, or a full-time employee of a particular firm, I am sure that you will find the experience very rewarding

I would equally urge owners and managers in that sector to become aware of the differences between the main accounting bodies and the relative strengths of each, and to be sure that whoever they engage with will meet the needs of their particular business.

Paul Driscoll is a Chairman of CIMA MiPs in South West England and South Wales, a director of Central Accounting Limited, Cura Business Consulting Limited, Hudman Limited, and a number of manufacturing companies, and is a board level adviser to a variety of other businesses.

HMRC aims to raise further £5bn in tax revenue

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Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (“HMRC”) are seeking new powers as follows:

1. Advance Payment – basically in any dispute between HMRC and a tax payer HMRC would be able to assess what tax they believe is due and require the tax payer to pay this as a sort of ‘refundable deposit’ until such time as the dispute is resolved through arbitration or court. Perhaps more importantly, if granted, these powers will be applied retrospectively.

Given that at the current time there are unresolved cases going back ten years or more and that once HMRC has the tax payers’ money there will be even less incentive for them to come to a resolution then this is essentially HMRC to act as judge, jury, and executioner. Isn’t this simply a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ treatment of tax payers?

2. Direct Debit – where HMRC believe that the tax payer owes them money then they will be able to simply take money directly from the tax payer’s bank account. As I understand it there will be further powers to obtain previous bank statements and this will no doubt lead to further tax investigations.

The legislation which will encapsulate these powers is currently going through Parliament, and despite opposition from lobby groups and committee members alike, HMRC seem intent upon pushing this legislation through with a view to achieving Royal ascent in mid July 2014.

Of course, should HMRC gain these powers they will hit the easy targets first i.e. those who have ‘played by the rules’ and properly disclosed everything through DOTAS, and those who operate proper business bank accounts, so it will do nothing to address those who have hidden their activities from HMRC and those who operate in the black ‘cash-in-hand’ economy.

Whilst the general public may have little sympathy for people who ‘don’t pay their fair share of tax’ (if there is such as thing – see Did Jimmy Carr just use the wrong vehicle?) we have to remember that tax avoidance is entirely legal as it simply takes the rules and regulations enacted in law and uses these to reduce a tax payer’s liability.

The new powers will do nothing to tackle tax evasion, which is illegal, and so it is no surprise that spokesmen for HMRC, and representatives for HM Government, have sought to blur the lines between legal avoidance and illegal evasion in recent times. We can be equally sure that HMRC will not be tackling the multi-nationals like Google and Starbucks who have made recent headlines with their tax affairs, and so it will (as ever) be small firms that will bear the brunt of any HMRC action.

What we shall no doubt see is an increase in non-DOTAS schemes being made available to tax payers by providers of such schemes, and I fear beyond that we shall see a rise in business insolvencies and loss of jobs, all of which will run contrary to HMRC’s aim to raise further tax revenues.

Paul Driscoll is a Chartered Management Accountant, a director of Central Accounting Limited, Cura Business Consulting Limited, Hudman Limited, and AJ Tensile Fabrications Limited, and is a board level adviser to a variety of other businesses.

Free access to accounts filed at Companies House

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60% of the 3.5 million companies in the UK now file accounts electronically and you can access those accounts free of charge via http://companies.corefiling.com/search

 

Paul Driscoll is a Chartered Management Accountant, a director of Central Accounting Limited, Cura Business Consulting Limited, Hudman Limited, and AJ Tensile Fabrications Limited, and is a board level adviser to a variety of other businesses.

RTI Payroll Year End

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RTI Payroll Year End

Payroll year end under RTI should now be a much more straightforward affair than in pre-RTI times. Our suggested procedure is as follows.

1. Last FPS submission will be the last payment date (not necessarily payroll date) on or before 05-Apr-14: for monthly paid this will normally be payroll for the month of Mar-14, but for weekly paid it may be less clear.

If for example your pay week ends on a Friday and is paid Wednesday the following week then week ending Friday 28-Mar-14 will be paid Wednesday 02-Apr-14, and this will be your last payroll for 2013-14 tax year; the week ending Friday 04-Apr-14 will be paid on Wednesday 09-Apr-14 which is in 2014-15 tax year (CAERP: users should check the Company Settings ‘Tax & Payroll details’ tab).

2. Make sure you ‘tick the box’ (CAERP: “This is the final FPS submission of the tax year.“) to indicate that this is your last FPS submission for the tax year, and answer the additional questions.

3. If you have made no employee payments and do not therefore need to make a FPS submission then you will need to make an EPS submission as soon as possible after 05-Apr-14 (CAERP: users will find this at the bottom of the P32 report), and tick both the “No payments were made” box and the “This is the final EPS or FPS submission of the tax year.”

HMRC provide further guidance at http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/payerti/end-of-year/tasks.htm

4. Run your P60 reports and forward to all the individuals who have been employed in the 2013-14 tax year.

5. Update the tax codes for those individuals where notices for 2014-15 have been received from HMRC.

6. Update ‘L’ tax codes by adding 56 so that for example ‘944L’ becomes ‘1000L’.

7. Remove any ‘Week 1’ or ‘Month 1’ indicators (CAERP: untick ‘Wk 1 Mth 1 Basis ‘ in employee records).

HMRC provide further guidance at http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/payerti/payroll/year-start.htm

New for tax year 2014-15

8. From 06-Apr14 you will no longer be able to recover a proportion of SSP paid to employees and the NIC holiday arrangements will come to an end.

9. There is however a new employer’s national insurance ‘Employment Allowance’ whereby eligible employers can reduce their Employer Class 1 NICs bill by up to £2,000 per year. Employers who qualify should submit an EPS as soon as possible after 05-May-14 and tick the ‘Employment Allowance Indicator’ box.

HMRC provide further guidance at http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/news/nic-emp-allowance.htm

10. Perhaps the biggest change for the new tax year is that HMRC will be taking a much harder line on late submission of FPS/ EPS returns with automatic penalties, so please be sure that you make a submission at least monthly, even if only a ‘nil’ EPS return.

Paul Driscoll is a Chartered Management Accountant, a director of Central Accounting Limited, Cura Business Consulting Limited, Hudman Limited, and AJ Tensile Fabrications Limited, and is a board level adviser to a variety of other businesses.

Mind the GAAP

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There are changes afoot and much is being made of ‘FRS 102’ and ‘new UK GAAP’, so in an effort to understand what all the fuss is about, and how it will impact on a small accounting practice with a client base firmly in the SME sector, I have dragged myself off to seminars and scoured t’Internet, and what follows is a brief summary of my understanding to date of these changes.

If you can put further flesh on these bones or correct misunderstanding then please feel free to comment.

First a little terminology:

  • IFRS Foundation”: an independent, not-for-profit private sector organisation.
  • “IASB”: International Accounting Standards Board is the independent standard-setting body of the IFRS Foundation.
  • “IFRS”: International Financial Reporting Standards which are designed to be global standard so that company accounts are understandable and comparable across international boundaries.
  • “IFRIC”: International Financial Reporting Standards Interpretations are the official interpretations of IFRSs.
  • “IAS”: International Accounting Standards are international financial reporting standards that were created by the predecessor body of the IASB and form part of the body of IFRS requirements.
  • “SIC”: the official interpretations of the IASs.
  • “IFRS for SMEs”: a self-contained standard of 230 pages, designed to meet the needs and capabilities of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and includes simplified language and fewer disclosure requirements (expect to be aligned with FRS 102 in due course).
  • “SMEIG”: SME Implementation Group is an advisory body to the IASB, is providing recommendations to the IASB in connection with IFRS for SMEs.
  • “Small Company”: organisations with up to £6.5m turnover, £3.26m assets, and 50 employees (to be revised to £10m turnover etc. under new EU directive).
  • “Micro Company”: companies with up to £632k turnover, £316k assets, and 10 employees.
  • “UK GAAP”: Generally Accepted Accounting Practice in the UK is the overall body of regulation establishing how company accounts must be prepared in the United Kingdom.
  • “ASB”: UK Accounting Standards Board which is the body responsible for publishing accounting standards and other guidance.
  • “FRS”: Financial Reporting Standard.
  • “SSAP”: Statements of Standard Accounting Practice.
  • “UITF”: Urgent Issues Task Force of the UK Accounting Standards Board (now disbanded).
  • “SORP”: Statement of Recommended Practice for charity accounts and reports.
  • “New UK GAAP”: new reporting standards applicable from 1st January 2015 (latest) comprising
    1. “FRS 100”: Application of Financial Reporting Requirements which sets out the overall reporting framework.
    2. “FRS 101”: Reduced Disclosure Framework which permits disclosure exemptions from the requirements of EU-adopted IFRSs for certain qualifying entities.
    3. “FRS 102”: the Financial Reporting Standard applicable in the UK and ROI which replaces all existing FRSs, SSAPs and UITF Abstracts.
    4. “FRS 103”: the Financial Reporting Standard for insurance companies.
  • “FRSSE”: the Financial Reporting Standard for small company accounts includes reduced reporting requirements (anticipate this may be phased out in due course).

Phew! so which standard do I use?

Listed company consolidated accounts: must use IFRS

Listed company parent/ subsidiary accounts: either IFRS or UK GAAP (FRS 102)

Other companies: either IFRS or UK GAAP (FRS 102)
Small (& micro) companies: either above or IFRS for SMEs or FRSSE

Charities: must use UK GAAP (FRS 102 or FRSSE) and the new Charities SORP

So in particular, what is FRS 102?

  • for medium and large companies is similar to IFRS but reduced disclosure requirements
  • allows ‘amortised cost’ or ‘fair value’ methods of valuation except equities held which which must be at fair value
  • investment properties should be valued at far value via the P&L where possible but depreciated costs allowable if fair value involves undue cost or effort
  • allows goodwill to be amortised rather than applying impairment method
  • no ‘indefinite life’ option for goodwill
  • other intangibles to be recognised separately from goodwill
  • greater regulation of hedge accounting such as forward currency contracts
  • option to use IAS 39 (which outlines the requirements for the recognition and measurement of financial assets, financial liabilities, and some contracts to buy or sell non-financial items)
  • deferred tax to be provided on revaluations
  • government grants can be recognised immediately or accrued and matched with costs
  • holiday pay entitlement must be accrued where holiday not taken
  • disclosure of total lease commitment (i.e. note on operating lease liability)
  • cash flow statement required
  • reduced reporting for small companies which will no longer be required to include a director’s report, analysis of income

New EU Directive

From 1st September 2013 micro companies can report a greatly simplified balance sheet (and P&L) and are not required to provide notes and analysis on most balance sheet items, but must still include details of directors’ loans.

HM Revenue & Customs

All the above deal with reporting for public record; there are no changes on reporting requirements to HMRC at this time, so from a parochial point of view, is this going to make any real difference?

Paul Driscoll is a Chartered Management Accountant, a director of Central Accounting Limited, Cura Business Consulting Limited, Hudman Limited, and AJ Tensile Fabrications Limited, and is a board level adviser to a variety of other businesses.

Head in the cloud …… feet very much on the ground!

cloud-computing

I’m a director of a software development business which develops ‘cloud’ based applications. Of course, when we started in 2005, I was quite unaware of this, but then the marketing men seized on the ‘latest idea’, gave it a label so that they could sell it more easily, and hey-presto, ‘the cloud’ was born.

So if we set aside all the marketing hype, what exactly is ‘cloud computing’?

I’m not an ‘IT Professional’ so forgive me if I reduce this to more simplistic terms but actually it is quite straightforward, and in many ways something of a natural progression in a trend that has gained momentum over the last few decades.

If I can go back further for a moment, I can recall managing the new IT department of a large manufacturing operation in the early 1980’s (the directors didn’t really know where it should sit within the organisation so they gave it to the accountant because it had something to do with ‘information’). In those days, data was input by cards or paper tape, and we had a department of ‘punch card operators’, and an air conditioned room in which sat a ‘mainframe computer’ which was the size of a small car, and had various attendant tape drives for storage of data and programmes.

Users had a screen and keyboard and a wired connection to the mainframe to and from which they could send and retrieve data using application programmes which controlled how that data should be input and processed or presented when retrieved. All the processing was done by the mainframe as it was the only computer in this network of users and machines.

The advantages were clear and immediate: instead of having to walk to the other end of the factory to speak with a colleague who kept a written record of the information we were looking for, a user could now sit at his or her desk and look at the data which that colleague had input only moments earlier.

We then saw the explosion in availability of the personal computer (PC), cheaper and more flexible yes, but a backward step in productivity since written records were replaced by computerised records, but now held on desktop machines. And so we were back to walking the corridors to speak with a colleague who kept a computerised record of the information we were looking for, but this time carrying a floppy disk to write that information on rather than a pad and pencil.

Hence the advent in networking these PCs to a central ‘file server’ which, as the name suggests, is designed to store our files. Again this enabled us to work more collaboratively and more productively, by working on the same files and data, and indeed more securely as protection and regular backups of centralised data is far easier to achieve than for a myriad different personal computers.

The only real difference between this model and the early mainframes is that whereas the mainframe computer did all the work – stored the data, retrieved the data, ran the software applications, and so on – now the work was shared between the server which largely stored and retrieved data only, and the PCs which ran the applications to process that data, so overall processing speeds reduced dramatically whilst achieving a significant cost saving over a mainframe investment – a real ‘win-win’.

The development of ‘data warehouses’ where the centralised data storage was taken away from ‘in-house’ networks, and to more secure remote locations with ‘thin client’ access to data and business applications, was essentially a return to the mainframe model, and with much more powerful modern servers, overall processing speeds reduced still further.

However the real driver for this change was again an economic one – why spend money on lots of expensive PCs and a server, and all the attendant network paraphernalia and maintenance, when one very powerful central server could do it all, and all the users would need would be a screen, a keyboard, a mouse, and a telephone line (hence the thin client)!

I would have to say that this latter development probably by-passed most small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and still remains the reserve of larger firms who can afford the fees charged by vendors of large ‘enterprise’ (organisation wide) applications.

However, cloud computing is really little different to the thin client arrangement in that it enables access to data stored on a remote centralised server, and the applications to process that data. Our own cloud based applications store data on servers in the North of England, with backups in Docklands, and whilst most of the processing takes place on the server, some is done on the user’s PC, so that we can harness as much processing power as we need to ensure fast response times.

At its best, the cloud can provide access to software applications and services previously available only to larger enterprises, to smaller firms, and at a very economic cost, often on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ or rental basis instead of outright purchase – this is often termed ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS).

And so to the inevitable questions: is cloud computing safe, and is it reliable enough to use to run my business?

Most small and medium sized enterprises do not have a dedicated IT team at their disposal, and as a result, backups may not be made reliably, firewalls and anti-virus software may not be the best (or as I have seen, not exist at all), and network access may require nothing more than a password written down on countless sticky notes attached to keyboards and monitors around the office.

The level of security employed in a cloud environment is likely to be significantly higher on average then the security of a typical SME, but it really is for prospective users to verify this for themselves: where is the server physically? What do you know about the firm that runs and maintains the server?

And is the application you plan to run secure? I would not claim that any application or network is one hundred percent secure (there have been too many high profile news stories to the contrary) but for example our accounting/ ERP application includes encryption between user and server so that even if the data transmission is intercepted by a hacker, they will have nothing more than a string of gobbledygook – a whole lot better than someone being able to hack into your in-house network and steal files, or even physically break into your office and steal a laptop with confidential data on it, or indeed losing your in-house data in a fire, all of which have happened to clients in the past.

That said, there are draw-backs, and in particular, reliability: do you have a reliable connection to the Internet, and does the cloud service provider give any guarantee of service availability?

I have sometimes advised prospective customers to look at ‘in-house’ software applications rather than our cloud based ERP application where they have poor or unreliable broadband, though this is becoming less of an issue as the infrastructure improves, indeed we even see our clients taking and processing customer orders directly into their system at trade shows using just a tablet computer.

And our experience with the firm who warehouses our servers has been good to date in that in five years we, and therefore our clients, have experienced only twenty minutes loss of service on a Saturday just before Christmas 2010 due to an attack by hackers on one of the other servers located in the same facility (this was dealt with effectively by the server centre staff without any need for our becoming involved), and this compares favourably to all the hours work lost previously when our in-house network has failed because one-or-other component or machine had stopped working (often following a software ‘upgrade’).

So is cloud computing for you?

A first step might be offsite backup and storage of your valuable data either by way of a simple copy and paste routine using Dropbox or Google Drive, or one of many providers that enable you to schedule regular data backups without any intervention from the system user.

You might also consider having your e-mail accounts hosted by an external provider, perhaps the same one that hosts your web site?

And what about your accounts/ ERP, or other business critical applications?

In June 2013 Larry Ellison of Oracle essentially endorsed cloud for such business applications; the article states “Oracle’s Larry Ellison is the epitome of the old guard. He built an empire on traditional enterprise software, purchased by a central IT department that worked through expensive and lengthy implementations to ultimately foist it on workers. But now he admits times have changed. ‘When you move to the cloud, companies don’t expect a multi hundred million dollar project to make their CRM from Salesforce work with ERP from Oracle.’”

Ultimately only you can decide – for me, as an accountant, this is just a normal investment proposition – what are the pros and cons for my particular organisation and what are the relative costs? Having actioned all the above in our accounting practice several years ago we immediately saved c.£3.5k when it came to replace out onsite server, quite apart from time and money on maintenance, servicing, and updates.

Will your experience be as good as ours to date?

I really can’t say. All I would suggest is that you check out the supplier of cloud services in the same way as you would anyone that is offering you any other service: Who are they? Do they have a good reputation, have they been recommended?

All I can hope is that this article has helped you to better understand what the cloud is about, and to therefore make a more informed decision.

Paul Driscoll is a Chartered Management Accountant, a director of Central Accounting Limited, Cura Business Consulting Limited, Hudman Limited, and AJ Tensile Fabrications Limited, and is a board level adviser to a variety of other businesses.

Twenty-first birthday

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Our practice is twenty-one years old this year and to celebrate …. well, we’re just working as normal. That’s not to say we’re not pleased, because we are, and though we’ve had our ups and downs, overall it’s been a good experience.

Why we, or more to the point, I, went into practice is a story for another day, but I am frequently asked how we got started, and how we secured new clients, so what marketing tips can we pass on to those just starting out or struggling to develop a customer base?

I would not pretend to have any particular marketing expertise, so all I can do is pass on some things that have, and have not, worked for us, and hope that it might help others as they take their first steps into what might be a very alien environment.

1. Advertising in local press and Yellow Pages: yes, we did pick up some early work from both these sources (remember this was early 1990s) but generally this was low value and poor quality work and certainly did not warrant the expenditure, so after a few years we stopped advertising. I guess this route to market is largely redundant in today’s digital era so it would be interesting to hear from other MiPs whether this type of advertising does indeed still generate any new business.

2. Direct mailing: we took advice from a marketing consultant and spent a small fortune, or so it seemed at the time, on brochures, mailing lists, and postage, and dutifully followed up every mailing with a telephone call to ensure that the brochure had been received and enquire whether they would be interested in meeting …. they were not.

3. Recruitment agencies: thinking that I really would need to step back into the world of paid employment after just a few months of ‘independence’, I reluctantly started contacting agencies, and found to my surprise that there was quite a demand for temporary, part-time, and interim, accountants.

At the time I had no idea what the latter term meant, but it paid well and I soon had a number of short-term projects under my belt and suddenly agencies were approaching me rather than the other way around. This gave me the confidence to continue, and one of these short-term assignments turned into a one-or-two-day-per-week marathon over eighteen months which provided a platform from which to build the practice.

4. Networking: I think I need to distinguish here between networking which occurs in the normal course of business where say, I have been discussing a client’s affairs with a bank manager and he or she asks for a card and then contacts me later to see whether I can also help with another of their customers, because this has lead to some good, long lasting client engagements, and the type of staged events which now proliferate and are promoted by various business and trade groups: as a colleague once remarked, “too many predators, too little prey”; I have to agree with the latter sentiment.

5. Referrals: similarly I have picked up new work from existing clients who have a brother, sister, uncle, good friend, customer, supplier, etcetera who has “… a problem you might be able to help them with”. Some have turned out to be headaches we could really have done without, but some have turned into good, long term clients, and indeed almost all new clients now come via this route – I have just learned to be a little more adept at asking the right questions to work out which I should pursue, and which I should avoid.

Yes I still find myself taking on things I probably shouldn’t when I see someone in need of help but I guess that it at least earns some goodwill with the client who has made the referral, or is that just wishful thinking?

6. Training: I have been delivering ‘Finance for non-financial managers’ courses via Chambers of Commerce and the former Business Links since 1997 (and still do via one such Chamber). Over the years it has proven to be a useful marketing tool in that inevitably a proportion of participants will approach me afterwards for more specific advice and some will then invite me to meet and to review their business requirements – it is one reason why a small practice based in South East Wales has clients from Birmingham, to Bristol, to Cardiff, and various points between.

In short I have been paid to market my business! How often does that happen?

A few year ago my colleagues and I put this online for our own clients at http://centralaccounting.co.uk/home/documentation/accounting-basics/ and I have already made an offer to other members of the local area MiP group that if they wished to do likewise with local Chambers, FSB, and similar organisations, then I have no problem with them using this ‘online workshop’ to deliver training provided the appropriate acknowledgements are made – it will be for them to bring it to life in a classroom situation with their own anecdotes and personal experiences.

I’m very happy to make the same offer to MiPs generally: we have had a very good return on the work I undertook to develop the course so it owes us nothing, and we’re not looking for anything in return beyond brand awareness for the award winning cloud/ SaaS ERP software in which we have had some involvement over the past several years, and on which website the workshop sits.

7. Website: we have one at www.centralaccounting.ltd.uk and yes, we do get occasional enquires from prospective clients who have found it via search engine, but it’s much the same as the early advertising and Yellow Pages experience – nothing to get too excited about. We also get quite a number of sole traders in particular who are just looking for some free advice.

That said, it’s proven useful as an electronic brochure that can be ‘left with’ a prospective client, so it is worthwhile in my view, and it can act to both encourage the type of clients we are looking for, and discourage those we are not.

It might also be worth mentioning that the other question that often crops up in conversation with new MiPs is “how do I price for the work?” and over the years we have developed a formula that gives us a good starting point and which we use in discussion with the client in a question and answer session so that (a). we get clarity on what we are being asked to do, and (b). they understand the cost implications for their business.

If you think it might be useful and want to use it it’s at http://www.centralaccounting.ltd.uk/cost.html but remember not to send it to us when you’ve completed the form with the client as that will generate a good deal of confusion.

8. Social media: yes, we are active on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, and have been for a few years, and the received wisdom is that this is the future for marketing. To date I cannot think of a single client that has been generated via this route, so for me the jury is still out. Clearly others may have had a more fruitful experience and there is no guarantee that we are using this tool to best effect so it would be interesting to learn of other MiPs experiences in using this.

I should also note that we have used pay-per-click advertising in another business in which I am involved, and this has delivered new customers, but I think the critical difference here is that that business has a well defined product, rather than a service that needs to tailored around the client’s wants and needs.

For our practice, there is nothing quite like face-to-face engagement with a prospective client to initially listen to what it is they want and need, and then deliver a response to address those needs, and if those prospects are there because of a referral and/ or recommendation from an existing satisfied client, it makes life all the easier.

As I write this I have no idea whether this very personal experience is similar in any way to that of other established MiPs, so it would be very interesting to learn of your experiences, and I’m sure that if you are able to share those experiences it might provide guidance and encouragement to those just starting out, or about to start out, in practice.

Look forward to hearing from you.

 

Paul Driscoll is a Chartered Management Accountant, a director of Central Accounting Limited, Cura Business Consulting Limited, Hudman Limited, and AJ Tensile Fabrications Limited, and is a board level adviser to a variety of other businesses.

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