To be a success in the Accounting profession you need to focus on increasing the average project fee per client. Not the total fee but for each transaction how much margin do you realise.

Here are 11 points to implement to increase the value of each project – without increasing the labour component.

  1. Realise and believe your services are worth more
  2. Find the courage to charge more
  3. Increase all prices immediately
  4. Offer additional services at the time of buying
  5. Have a standard menu of services and price list
  6. Price in advance not arrears
  7. Articulate the value of each project eloquently
  8. Get rid of low margin services and low margin clients
  9. Improve your language and sales skills
  10. Target more profitable clients & services
  11. Use value based fees – not time X rate!

I am flabbergasted at the lack of questions that come from Accountants. In our live workshops, our on line forum, our coaching meetings and even in general conversations – not enough questions are asked.

In my world we are providing systems, tools, education & coaching about matters that our clients (Partners of Accounting firms) want to learn:

Profit, People excellence, workflow, efficiencies,  leadership, marketing, sales, value pricing etc.

These are all topics that my coaches and I are experts on. You are expert in finance, tax, structuring etc. Our clients pay good money to learn new ideas in each of the above topics yet when it comes time for questions – they seldom come.

I know we are good but we cannot be that good and explain it that well that minimal questions are forthcoming.

Why are you not more curious?

Why don’t you ‘put it out there’ and get clarification?

Why don’t you post more questions on our online forum?

I think I know the answer. You have been trained (by whom I am unsure) to be expected to know the answers. And anything less than knowing the answers is seen to be a sign of weakness.

I think by not asking questions – that is a sign of weakness. By not asking questions you are saying that you ‘know it all’. And you know what they say about people who know it all – they know little.

You might think that your question is a stupid question. Let me assure you the only stupid question is the one you do not ask.

I just don’t get it. I really don’t. There is a direct correlation between the curious ones and business success. Always seeking clarification and asking questions. Ask a better question – you might just get an answer and speed up your progress.

Go on – ask!

For many firms the concept of ‘pricing up front’ scares them. They are scared that the price will be wrong, that there will be ‘job blow out’, that there are variations and the dreaded ‘what will  the client think’?

Once you get over yourself and start pricing every job up front you will find that the clients love the fact that there is certainty in the price and scope of work. You will be pleasantly surprised.

To help you with some of the mechanics you need to have 2 paragraphs in your engagement / implementation plan letters:

Paragraph 1 – deals with ‘scope creep’ – when there is more in the job then you first thought:

“The price listed is for the scope of works that are documented that we have both agreed on. If there is anything outside of this scope that you request, or if we find additional matters that need dealing with that have not been listed and priced then we will communicate with you separately with what they are and how much the additional price will be.”

Paragraph 2 – deals with offering phone calls and emails.

Please feel rest assured that you can contact us as often as you like with questions or for
assistance. Our Annual Accounting Service only covers those discussions which assist you
with your initial query. If as a result of our discussions and/or upon your request, we deem that
there is work to be performed that will fall outside of our Annual Accounting Service, we will
advise you of this before we commence any work and provide you with a fixed price
engagement to complete the work, at your discretion.

“As part of this service you can contact us as often as you like with questions or for assistance. Our [Service] only covers those discussions which assist you with your initial query. If as a result of our discussions and/or upon your request, we deem that there is work to be performed that will fall outside of our [Service], we will advise you of this before we commence any work and provide you with a fixed price engagement to complete the work, at your discretion.”

By adding these paragraphs you will serve your client better and improve your margins. Win:Win!

What a day it was yesterday. During the day at my “Sales Success” workshop with 120 Accountants I had the legendary Paul Dunn speak to my group. And during the night I sat next to our former (and the most successful of all time) Prime Minister – the Hon John Howard AC at a charity dinner.

What a day!

Paul is 68 years old this year and he enters his 5th decade educating and inspiring people. He spoke for 100 minutes on the meaning of ‘being remarkable’ and creating ‘WOW’ experiences in your business.

Paul has been instrumental in my career (I have known him for 25 years) and over the years he has inspired >10,000 accounting firms over the years to greatness. His energy is second to none and he was genuinely interested in making a difference- not just going through the motions.

Mr Howard is an absolute master. It was the first time I have met him and at 72 years old he is still the consummate professional who made an effort to meet as many people as he could.

I was speaking to the leader of the QLD opposition (Campbell Newman) whilst Mr Howard was ‘working the room’ and I said “Look at this Campbell, he’s 72, he doesn’t need to do this and he is making everyone so welcome”.

Mr Howard spoke to the group for 28 minutes covering leadership, team work and political topics. Over dinner we spoke privately and extensively, about the state of the political arena, sporting leadership and some of the more interesting people he has met in his illustrious career.

What a day – 2 legends to be inspired by!

Paul Dunn

John Howard - dinner

John Howard

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.