It was awesome to be the keynote speaker at the first ever Xero partners conference in Melbourne. 170 Accountants from all over Australia got to see first hand what is happening with cloud accounting.

At Nixon Advantage and through our Proactive Accountants Network we are 100% aligned with what Xero are doing. In fact, we are creating our own cloud product which will enable our certified member firms to offer a KPI monitoring service to their clients. The software solution will offer real time benchmarking and valuable data that is “alerted” back to the accounting firm. We are already providing advisory content that our members use with their clients and with this new product (which is ‘skinned’ as your product) it will enable you to connect much better with your clients and offer them something they cannot get anywhere elsewhere.

Watch this space.

In the meantime enjoy the Presentation from yesterdays keynote.

Yesterday I presented the last of my “GROWTH” seminars for Accountants in Christchurch, New Zealand. You may know that Christchurch has been hit with 3 devastating earthquakes in September 2010, February 2011 and June 2011. In total 181 people died in these horrific ‘acts of nature’. The city has had around 7,000 smaller earthquakes since the earth starting shaking last September.

Since we started this seminar tour in March my touring crew and myself were always looking forward to the last event yesterday. Not because it was the last event but because we did it for free. We wanted to help the people of Christchurch a little and give something back. We have had over 1,500 Accountants attend the tour and yesterday we had 104 Accountants from 35 firms attend and it was a raucous and exciting day. Everyone enjoyed themselves and many new ideas where learned – hopefully they will be implemented.

On Tuesday evening my friend Phil took us for a drive around the city where the earthquake did the most damage – it’s called the ‘Red Zone’. I had only seen images on TV and I did not know what to expect. It was surreal and very disturbing. Driving around we saw building after building destroyed or falling down. We saw beautiful churches destroyed. We saw schools, shops, hotels, offices – all destroyed.

Phil told us stories of how the people of the city are coping. In one example he said there have been 6 schools destroyed so the kids are ‘sharing’ schools. At one private school the boys go to school from 7am to 12noon and then the girls go to the same school from 1pm – 6pm.

I have travelled to Christchurch around 2 dozen times over the years and stayed at many of the hotels in the city centre. I have presented seminars to hundreds of people in those same hotels. They’re all gone or deemed to be demolished. Even today in the local newspaper a further 1000 properties have been deemed to be ‘inhabitable’ and will be destroyed. Thousands upon thousands of houses and buildings to be demolished.

I elected not to take photographs as I wanted to show the city and the people in it some respect. But to give you an idea what it was like just watch the movie “I am legend” with Will Smith. It was just like that. Very very disturbing. An entire city centre with no lights, no people, no cars, no movement of any kind.

The images will last in my memory for a long long time. I said to Phil “I have had enough. Please take me back to my hotel, I can’t take any more of this”.

It was interesting meeting the people at my seminar yesterday. I did not know what to expect. Were they going to be up, down, angry, motivated? We had a huge snow fall the day before so being a free seminar 27 people didn’t show due to treacherous icy conditions on the roads. That was OK – the 104 that were there were the ones that mattered.

What I found was that they were very resilient, tough and keen to get on with business. Many told me stories of how their offices where in the city centre where the quake hit and now they are now relocated into sheds, homes, temporary offices, shared offices, warehouses and any space they could find. One of the conversations I had with a partner of a firm went like this:

“We just kicked things into gear. One partner was in charge of IT, one office space, one files and the other making sure the clients are OK”

And that was the mood of the day – they just got on with it.

The people of Christchurch have been slapped in the face in a major way. They have been beaten up, knocked down, knocked down again and they just get back up and get on with it. They are not complaining about their lot in life. They are not complaining about their personal housing damage or moaning about people or clients. They are just getting on with it. Too many people complain about their lot in life. When life slaps you in the face, spare a thought to the people of Christchurch who have lost their houses, their businesses, their entertainment, their schooling and for many their friends and family.

I for one have been very inspired with this level of resilience. Thank you Christchurch for allowing me to do what we did yesterday.

I have deliberated about releasing this 10.55 min video to the general market. It is all about exactly how to eliminate ‘write offs’ once and for all.

What the heck, it will be better for all accountants not to have write offs. They are bad, negative, sole destroying disruptive and completely unnecessary.

For some firms this video is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of advice. All free! Go ahead and enjoy how to get rid of the most negative of accounting ‘business practices’ – write offs.

You should only have write ons – not write offs.

We promote the use of whiteboards for workflow management. Nearly every firm has an electronic workflow system and that’s great – you need that to calculate how many hours to go (NOT dollars to go) on a job. The problem with only having an electronic system is that people can hide behind screens.

You need a visual management system as well.

A little while ago I was leading a group of Accountants in a coachingclub meeting. One of the delegates (Brent Dickins from Palmerston North, NZ) said “We turn work around in 10 days”. Of course, we were all interested in how Brent did that on a consistent basis. He told us he uses whiteboards to track turnaround time. So with Brent’s blessing we created a template of the whiteboard and it was then widely used with great results.

Since many firms have been using the system it has been updated and fine-tuned. It is now part of a daily stand up workflow meeting process. With no more than 3 ‘open jobs’ per accountant the client service coordinator updates the whiteboard every day before the daily meeting.

Every day…

1) Another day is added for the time the job is in the shop
2) The % completion number is added – from the electronic monitoring system
3) The hours to go (based on maximum time allocated) is updated

The objective of the ‘hours to go’ is to have a credit balance on each job at the end. Make a file note for next time and then reduce the hours every time – only do this of course if you price the job up front.

The photo’s below show the team at Hansens in Melbourne running their daily 10 minute workflow meetings.

The last photo is of Pat Hoey from Bacchus Marsh is taking it a bit far. He has put white boards in his Bedroom! I hear his wife if not so pleased about this strategy. I wonder why!!!!

10 day white board

Hansens whiteboard 1

Hansens whiteboard 2

Pat Hoey whiteboard in the bedroom

We launched the Proactive Accountants Network on May 18. Already we have 75 firms in the network and $135M in group revenue. That makes us about no. 9 largest group in Australasia. We also have a further 155 firms in the training and qualification program – they should be accepted for membership over the next 6-18 months.

The network is all about marketing, sales & services. We are providing marketing assistance, sales training and specifically products that Proactive Accountants can take to their clients. All of our products are business advisory tools to help businesses grow and develop their businesses.

If you are and Accountant wanting to be recognised as proactive (and really differentiate your firm) then register your interest.

If you are a business owner who is looking for a Proactive Accountant then find one here.

Check out below what a number of members had to say about the network.

I recorded this quick (<12 minutes) 15 step video on building a better accounting business. As you go through each step rate yourself out of 10 using the following scale: 0 - 2 = Poor 3 - 4 = Reasonable 5 - 6 = Good 7 - 8 = Very good 9 - 10 = Outstanding Enjoy...

We’re in the middle of school holidays here in QLD so we have shipped the kids off to my brothers where they are going skiing for a few days down south.

With the kids off our hands Nat & I decided to head to glorious Noosa. The weather is perfect – about 20 degrees Celsius – with not a cloud in the sky. We picked a luxury hotel right on the beach and our suite has 3 bedrooms, 2 balconies and a spa on the roof top balcony.

Our days are filled with a sleep in, a long breakfast, spot of shopping down fabulous Hastings Street, lite lunch, reading on the beach then dinner at a fabulous restaurant. Last night we dined with friends at a ‘top 20’ restaurant in Australia called ‘Wasabi’ and tonight with my business partner and his wife at Sails – right on the beach.

The shops are quiet and for the first time in years there are ‘for lease’ signs on the windows on Hastings Street. One shop keep told me that the region has been hit hard this year because of 3 factors.

1) Japanese Tsunami

2) New Zealand earthquakes

3) Brisbane floods

The weather is perfect this time of year – come visit Noosa. The region needs an economic boost – we’re doing our bit at least!

Hotel

Prawns on the beach

Relaxing at the beach

Roof top spa

Slurpee, drinks or coffee anyone

View from our suite

Every year I organise a “Dads & Lads” camping trip. This year is the 9th year in a row. We go to the same spot on Moreton Island (the Northern end called Yellow Patch) every year and our record is 11 dads and 17 boys! This year we had 7 dads and 11 lads.

It is an epic event over 5 days that takes months in the planning. We take everything we need as there are limited supplies on the island. The island is 35 km’s off the coast of Brisbane and it takes 1.5 hrs to get their by car ferry. All roads are sand tracks (4WD vehicles only) and it is the 2nd largest sand island in the world and it has the highest sand dune (on an island) in the world. We do a day trip that includes climbing the very large sand hill.

Our days are filled with critical decisions like “is it too early for a beer?” and “when are we going fishing?”

For the first time this year I backed it up with the inaugural ‘Dads & Daughters’ trip with a very modest 3 dads and 3 daughters.

Although we go to a very remote location and we are practicing ‘real camping’ some would say that it is more like ‘glamping’ – glamorous camping! We have the usual things like no running water, tents, sleeping bags, wood fire etc however we back it up with some of the finer things in life..

  • Generator – so we have power for lights
  • Proper fridge – gotta keep the beer cold
  • 4pm wine and cheese tasting
  • The best food – some comment that they eat better on camp then at home
  • BBQ – can’t cook a good steak on anything substandard
  • Wine rack – always a hit that sits proudly in the middle of the table
  • Quality wine to go in the rack – this year one of the dads had a $500 bottle of Grange on offer! He can come again
  • Small run about boat (‘tinny’) – good for fishing, tubing and general skylarking
  • A gadget of the year contest – which for the first time I won with a $20 rubbish bin – there are strict rules around this.

And the best 4WD vehicle set ups you have ever seen.

Each year something ‘eventful’ happens. It was my turn this year. Among minor cuts and abrasions I was tossed out of the ‘tinny’ by a rogue wave (mind you I was not holding onto the steering bar at the time) and it went round in circles on full lock for 15 mins before it conked out. And on top of that I was driving my epic ute (4WD truck) through a small creek and it bogged in soft  quick sand. The water came 8″ into the cabin and it killed the winch and the electrics – it is currently at the smash repairers to see how much damage it got. Luck for us we were saved by 2 fisherman who towed us out of the rising tide.

The 2 incidents are the videos – the other pictures show the beauty of the location.

The beast

Where we camp

Grange camping

All dads & lads

Most firms plan their year by capacity.

They work out like this……We have X number of people this year, we expect X % of productivity (chargeable hours per person), the charge rates will be X each and the write offs will be X%. Less of course labour and overheads and hey presto – a budget.

It’s a really dumb way to plan. It is entirely internally focused (where is the client?) and typically charge rates are determined by salary levels, the method does not reward efficiency, there are write offs involved and as a result the firm does not improve it’s profit % as it grows in size.  Most times the profit % goes backwards over the years. This method will keep you in the poor house.

A better way is to focus on the clients.

No. of clients X Average project value X no. of projects per client per year = revenue.

If you focus on clients, marketing, sales & services then the revenue will look after itself. If you focus on value based fees, pricing up front and being super efficient then the margins will look after themselves.

Most firms know what their productivity, average hourly rate and write offs are. Yes it is important to know what these numbers are – but whatever you do – do not manage your business by these numbers.

Most firms do not know how many (exactly) clients they have. Fewer will know the average project value (hint: divide revenue by number of invoices) and fewer still will know how many projects (on average) each client buys from you each year.

Work out the new numbers and you will be astounded as to the results. From there set some targets in these 3 areas then introduce marketing, sales, services & efficiency to make it happen. Oh, make sure you price every job upfront and value price them if possible as well.