Many Accountants think they are proactive but they are not. Most are reactive, yet your clients want you to be proactive.

In my personal research (1,077 SMEs interviewed on behalf of 129 firms) they all said they wanted you to be more proactive with them. They wanted more help, they wanted to be contacted more frequently and many where prepared to buy additional value added services from you.

So what’s the difference between reactive and proactive? Here are 20 definitions – I am sure there are more. See how many you can honestly tick all of the time.

Proactive is sending the client service coordinator out to the premises of the client to collect missing information. Reactive is communicating with clients about missing information and waiting for the client to send it in when they are ready.

Proactive is sending your own news no later than 8am the following morning of the country budget. Reactive is waiting for the newspaper or other media outlets to tell your clients about the budget results.

Proactive is advising your clients in writing of the scope and price of the project before you start. Reactive is pricing your services after the service has been completed – and making it a surprise to the client.

Proactive is running regular ‘client advisory boards’ where your clients advise you on what they are looking for and how things can be improved. Reactive is waiting for clients to leave and when you ask them why you find out they are unhappy with the service/value/services.

Proactive is getting paid before you start. Reactive is chasing debtors.

Proactive is working closely with your clients so they are successful. Reactive is waiting for your client to call and say ‘help, the bank has just called and I need to refinance/budget/cashflow etc by Tuesday’.

Proactive is not charging for phone calls / emails / quick meetings and your clients call you more frequently – what an opportunity! Reactive is charging for these small ‘units’ of time – and as such your clients do not call you.

Proactive is scheduling all incoming recurring work a year in advance. Reactive is waiting for clients to drop off their work when they are ready – completely ruining your planning process.

Proactive is managing your workflow on your terms. Reactive is letting your clients manage your workflow on their terms.

Proactive is having a detailed ‘menu of services’ where everyone your firm knows it backwards. Reactive is where your clients do know of all services and nor do your team.

Proactive is constantly promoting all services to all clients by a multitude of marketing methods. Reactive is doing no marketing and hoping that the clients will ask you for things that they think they need – or they may leave because another firm promoted to them.

Proactive is developing your client facing team in relationship building, communication and sales techniques. Reactive is sending them to ‘technical’ based skills training only.

Proactive is firing clients who do not fit your profile or who are difficult to deal with. Reactive is accepting and putting up with all clients who walk through your door.

Proactive is planning for capacity with equipment, people and process. Reactive is getting busy and then wondering how you are going to deliver the work.

Proactive is educating your clients what Accounting software to use and how to use it. Reactive is letting your clients decide.

Proactive is asking and listening. Reactive is telling & talking.

Proactive is visiting & communicating with your clients on a regular basis with a structured communication program. Reactive is waiting for your clients to communicate / visit you

when they are ready.

Proactive is communicating very frequently and building enduring relationships with you clients. Reactive is when you see / speak with them once or twice per year.

Proactive is constantly searching for new ‘value added’ services to take to clients. Reactive is only offering services that the government tells you to offer.

Proactive is developing your own unique brand and identity. Reactive is buying the ‘off the shelf’ website & newsletter service.

Being proactive is all about being on the ‘front foot’ and controlling your business success – on your terms. It’s your business not your clients business.

Which foot are you on most of the time?