Why it pays for clients and their accountants to have regular meetings and reviews.
I was recently contacted by a prospective client who was looking for help in preparing his accounts. He ran a small limited company with a turnover of around £300k, which had a history of losses in the early years. The business had been kept afloat by finance introduced by the proprietor.
Although there were many issues that his current accountant might have chosen to explore with him – including business pricing, development and the repayment of personal loans – it seemed that none of this was actually happening. The professional adviser confined his work to compliance and only ever contacted the client once a year.
Unfortunately, this is all too common a scenario, as many businesses don’t really know the kind of level of service they’re entitled to expect. A little investment of time with your accountant can, however, pay huge dividends.
We try to maintain at least four critical points in the year when it’s essential to make contact with clients. The first three are straightforward and should really be fairly obvious:
- Before the year-end
Two or three months before the year-end, it’s time to discuss the expected results and what will happen to this year’s profits, as well as distribution and pension planning. We start the process by letter, phone or setting up a meeting.
- In advance of a personal tax return
We often end up handling the personal tax affairs of our business clients. This is another opportunity for a chat about planning, ISAs, pensions and so on.
- When the accounts are prepared
There should be a formal discussion when the accounts are being completed and another chance to look at distributions and dividends.
Whilst I appreciate that “time is often money” and that some clients are more receptive than others to regular communication, I would maintain that there is always room for at least one more contact point. This needn’t be at any particular time of the year. It’s a general get-together or phone call in which you simply ask the questions, ‘How are things going?’ and ‘Is there anything else we can do to help?’
If you’re a client of a larger firm, it’s fair to say that your contact at some points in the year may be with senior managers or specific experts in tax or audit. You should still expect that a partner will take enough interest that they’ll call you periodically to check on how the company is progressing and see what your plans are for the future, without an invoice following shortly afterwards.
If that’s not the kind of service you’re currently getting, perhaps it’s time to rethink your arrangements?
Paul Crichton, Managing Partner