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?

This afternoon I took the kids to a movie. On the way out 2 of the 3 kids were mucking around in this tiny school bus. I said ‘give me a go’ and when I go into it I realised…well – you get the idea – I had grown to big for the school bus.

We all grow by physical size but are you growing your intellect, your language, your attitude? I am a big believer in personal and business development growth.I have been for 25 years since I started my journey into the world of marketing, sales, service, people, personal and business development. The people I associate with are growing and developing. The most successful people on the planet are growing and developing.

Early on in my learning career – after I left school at 16 – someone said to me “in the future, you will become the same person you are today other than the material you absorb and the people you associate with”.

Some things you hear you have heard before. If it is still a good idea and it has not yet been implemented then it is still new. I was listening to someone the other day (I still devour books, audio, video, internet and other materials every day) and they said:

“As an adult, if you don’t read anything other than news and entertainment then you are no smarter than the person who can’t read”

Are you growing and developing or you groaning and moaning – your choice!

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Today I took my 11 year old to the circus for her birthday. I hadn’t been for 25 years so I was keen to see how it had changed. It had not.

The acts were the same lame acts. The sound system was so bad you could hardly hear the introductions. There was no air-conditioning in the big tent – a very hot day. The food was still horrible and the music was from 20 years ago as well.

The big top had a capacity of 608 seats and if it was 50% full it would be lucky. Overall a tired and poor performance that will go by the way of the Dinosaur if it does not re-invent. With major acts like Cirque Du Soliel operating amazing shows around the world it is no wonder this old tired business is not succeeding.

How relevant is your business? Are you re-inventing and staying up with the times? Are you listening (really listening) to your market? Are you technologically savvy? Are you up with the latest trends from around the world. If you are not re-inventing then you will superceded by faster, hungrier players. The world has moved on – have you?
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Today Nat & I were in the fashion capital of Australia – Melbourne.

In the morning I did the keynote speech for a conference of 129 Accountants and 1 lawyer. It was a rousing, thought provoking and challenging talk – at least that’s what the delegates told me.

Because Nat knew I was going to Melbourne she wanted to come with me – to shop. So I was finished by 11am and we were in a limo by 1120. Our driver, Tom, took us to place to place and dropped us off so we could walk and shop. We were due to rendezvous in a couple of hours.

What we did not realise was that as we walked he was ‘following’ us in the car. So we would literally come out of the shop with bags and he was there. Dump the bags in the car and off to the next place. It was very cool. However there is a problem with this service. When you are shopping without a driver / car you can only hold so much and you know when it is time to go home when your arms are tired.

We had to buy more luggage to bring the necessities home!

In my work with Accountants I find that courage (lack of) and self esteem (low) is killing progress. I cover the reasons why this is so in my new book ‘Accounting Practices Don’t Add Up‘ and in this post I wanted to cover what to do about it.

How do you build courage?

1) Get testimonials from clients. Ask them and they will write nice things about you. It can be audio, video, or text. Get permission to use your clients full details and pump it out to the world. It’ll make you feel better

2) Create case studies from clients. A case study should be structured as a ‘what, now, how, how’ story. Before we started working with you what did you used to look like? Now what do you look like. How did you do it and how did we help you do it. Get it in writing, get a photo of your client and pump it out to the world.

3) Ask your clients what value you create for them. Boldly ask where you have helped them and then go to no. 1 & 2 and get it in writing / on film.

4) Ask others before you price or do a new thing. If you bounce your idea off others then they may give you confirmation or give you a better view. Our coachingclub program does that every day – and so does our online forum where 750 Accountants talk every day about issues and opportunities.

5) Do a self review of yourself. Pump yourself up and give yourself a score card on the key things you are really good at. You must be good at something.

6) On point 5 – build on the strengths. Forget the weaknesses – hire someone to do that or outsource it. Do not learn how to do things you are not inclined to do or do not enjoy doing. If you are good at something get better at it.

7) Have a BIG desire to improve and change. The bigger your desire the easier things are. When the dream is big enough the facts don’t count!

Today Nat and I went to the Home Show in Brisbane. We are building quite a large house on 5 acres (on the top of a mountain) at the moment and we needed to see what ‘new stuff’ was out there. I was particularly taken with the home automation companies where you can run your entire house from your portable device – anywhere in the world. There was everything you could imagine to design, build, gadget and furnish a home at this show today.

We are spending a lot of money on our home and we are serious buyers. So you would think that everyone we spoke to would be interested in who we are and what we are building. Not the case.

Between us we visited 30 exhibitors collecting brochures and chatting with the reps. How many of them got our details to follow up……just 1.

We would have given our details to every one of them if they had asked. Instead only 1 asked. I gladly gave him my details. There were hundreds of companies represented spending tens of thousands to attract people to their exhibit. And only 1 in 30 bothered to ask so they could follow up.

And we wonder why businesses fail. No one asks. It’s not hard this game of business. Have a good product / service, do some marketing and ask for the business. Far out. Why do people not do this?

There was even one company (home automation company) where we had a good chat, I collected a brochure and even shook the hand of one of the 2 fellows. I asked them if they were the owners of the company. Yes was the reply. They acted like they were there under sufferance like an employee who wants to leave. And they own the damn company. My home automation spend will be somewhere between $150K and $250K on the new house. Big mistake, big … huge. That’s a line from the movie Pretty Woman.

What opportunities are you missing out on? Are you asking everytime? For an Accountant (my primary market) I think there are 7 questions you need to ask yourself every time you do a client project. The answers you take to your client as a new idea.

1.What ideas do you have to help this client grow revenue or wealth?

2.What ideas do you have to help this client increase their profit?

3.What ideas do you have to help this client understand and improve their cashflow?

4.What ideas do you have to help this client protect their assets?

5.What ides do you have to help this client with succession planning or selling their business?

6.What ideas do you have to minimise tax for this client in the future?

7.What other opportunities are there to provide extra services to this client that they are not already using?

Ask, ask, ask, ask. What’s the worst that can happen – they say no. At least you asked.

What’s your Ferrari?


To do what you want means you need to be living your dreams. Whatever they may be. You must first work out what you want from your life.

Ferrari – part 1

I was in Naples Florida at a worldwide consultant’s conference and over dinner one night our host (Alan) told a story of how a friend of his always wanted to buy a Ferrari but never did. The friend was severely injured in a BBQ explosion and the friends’ wife said to Alan ‘you know, he never did buy that Ferrari’. At that point in time another dinner guest (Mark) said to the table ‘so what’s your Ferrari?’

And around the table one at a time we were engrossed in stories of everyone’s inner most dreams and ambitions. It was an electrifying discussion. Fast forward to our annual coachingclub conference (Queenstown, NZ) and we had a very special ‘presenter’s dinner’ with all of the Speakers and Accountants who were presenting on stage over the 4 day event.

We were in a private room at an upmarket restaurant and Alan (being one of our guest speakers) was there. Alan told the story again and again we went around the table asking each Accountant (and other speakers) what their Ferrari was. It was amazing that deep down there were dreams not yet fulfilled and goals not yet met. One of the guest speakers (a Business Manager of a successful firm, Sean) leaned over to me and said ‘this is the best night of his life’.

Ferrari – part 2


At our next coachingclub conference (Hawaii, USA) I decided to do something more elaborate with this Ferrari story. In my opening keynote address the room was dark and I appeared on the big screen driving a racing Ferrari in full racing suit. Once the film was over, smoke appeared and I came through the smoke in my racing suit and helmet.

The conference room had a Ferrari theme to it and I told the Ferrari story complete with a slide show of potential ‘dreams’ that the audience may be interested in. I covered housing, travel, charity, sports, health, toys and overall lifestyle improvement. Once I was finished I gave the audience instructions to leave the conference room (this was only 15 minutes into a 4 day conference) with pad and pen and go and write down every conceivable dream, goal, aspiration and ambition they had and then come back in 1 hour.

The audience (all Accountants remember) came back buzzing. We had some of the audience share what they had written down – applause and tears followed. Then each person wrote a detailed plan to achieve their goals.

Each and every Accountant in that room has a much higher propensity of achieving their dreams because they have committed to writing them down and coming up with a plan to achieve them. They are also held accountable to their plans through our coachingclub process.

So what is your Ferrari?

Spend some time working out what you want to achieve in your life. Write everything down. Let your mind run free. Be creative and remember all the things you wanted to achieve when you were younger. If you need some inspiration buy some magazines or lifestyle books. There is a plethora of books available on goal setting – go and absorb them and come up with a definitive list.

I am very goal orientated – diligently writing them down since I was 17. After years of goal setting I have worked out a number of personal systems that work for me. This system keeps me on track and focused on living the life I want to live.

  • My life mission and purpose – this is a statement like a company mission statement
  • My eulogy – I have a written statement that I want people to say about me after I am gone
  • My inspiration – I look for inspiration through magazines, TV programs and dreaming
  • My people – I only associate with positive, goal orientated, forward thinking people
  • My electronic goals – I type my goal list into an electronic file
  • My written goals – I physically write every goal into my special ‘dreams and ideas’ book
  • My dream board – I have a cork board where I stick pictures of what I want to achieve
  • My focus – I have broken my goals down to life, 3 years, 1 year and 90 days
  • My accountability – each month I meet with my mastermind buddies to keep me on track
  • My achievement – as I fulfill a goal I cross it off and put it in the achieved list

With all of my goals I follow the tried and tested S.M.A.R.T formula – with a twist.

Specific – the goal must be very specifically stated

Measurable – the goal must be able to measured somehow

Audacious – the goal must stretch you and excite you

Realistic – the goal must be realistic at the same time

Timebound – the goal must have a completion date on it

One of my favourite achievement models is: Decisions + Actions = Results

The model says that if you want a different result then make some different decisions and then follow through with the appropriate actions. Sounds simple enough. You set a result that you want to achieve, you decide what needs to happen or change and then you go about implementing the action.

Here is what typically happens – YOU DON’T IMPLEMENT!

Why is that? When all the planning took place, the painstaking process of decision making and then you don’t follow through. The ‘action’ part is definitely the tough part and most people do get distracted during the implementation process.

Here’s my theory as to why the action bit doesn’t happen. Action does not happen because the result you wanted to achieve was not big enough or inspiring enough to motivate you into action.

If you had bigger, more audacious goals you will be more motivated to implement.

A correctly structured Accounting business that is run well is a vehicle to achieve whatever result you want to achieve in your life. As one of our coachingclub members said to me one day ‘I know of a 4 partner firm in Asia where one of the partners is a billionaire through the Accounting firm’.

You have the right business vehicle. The question is do you have the motivation. Do you have the dreams and goals to drive you forward?

This is an excerpt from my new book “Accounting Practices Don’t Add Up” – why they don’t and what to do about it.

© Nixon Advantage – all rights reserved

I have decided to give away some of the content of my new book “Accounting Practices Don’t Add Up” – why they don’t and what to do about it. The book will be available for purchase from my main site a few days time.

Here is an excerpt from chapter 5.

Chapter 5 – Put your own oxygen mask on first

No doubt you have been on an airplane and endured the mandatory safety briefing. Every safety briefing has the ‘oxygen mask’ discussion. On very flight I have ever been on they say (or infer) the same thing: ‘make sure you put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others’.

What they are saying is that if you are calm, relaxed and in control you can help others survive. The same applies to the Accounting business. If you (as the advisor) are healthy, fit, relaxed, in control, successful and wealthy then you can help others to be the same.

In this chapter I am going to explore what it means to be wealthy and what you need to do to look after yourself – first!

Real wealth

If you ask people about the definition of wealth most will say either: Lots of money, lots of free time, great health or enjoyable relationships.

Is it one of those or all of those?

Some people think being wealthy is just having a lot of money. Many people who have a lot of money do not have the free time to enjoy it and often they are overweight and unhealthy.

Others think that real wealth is having loads of free time. Unfortunately most people with a lot of free time do not have very much money – although they do have the time to be healthy and work on relationships.

Seeing this is an ‘opinion based book’ and it’s my opinion my definition of being wealthy is:

“To do what you want, when you want, with whom you want in a manner that you want”

This week I was at the ‘Growth Summit’ in Sydney. I got to spend some time with arguably the best business writer over the last 30 years. Tom Peters. His first book “In Search of Excellence” sold 3 million copies in the first 4 years. Now on book 16 and 2500 speeches he is still going strong at 68.

What’s interesting about Tom is he doesn’t have any original ideas. He will tell you he does not either. All he does all day is tell stories to make a point. He is telling example after example after fact after fact on what is going on in the world – and all the stupid management decisions that are made.

It was a fascinating way to spend a day. He is also moving to NZ soon as well. My favourite quote:

“The bottleneck is at the top of the bottle”

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