One thing I have found recently is clients discussing the need for change with me but when it comes to actually making the hard decisions, they bottle out and waste the work done and money spent up to that point. Then very quickly regretting it but never picking up the mantle again and pushing through to the end of the project.
This behaviour is an anathema to me… when a need to change is identified, why do people consistently seem to let the process fall by the wayside part done?
I have witnessed two different examples of this recently. One was the implementation of a software program many people have heard me shout about in the past – TCM4000 – the paperless office. A client had realized they needed to smooth out the bottlenecks in the business causing hassles and cash hemorrhaging which would ultimately help their staff by automating processes that caused the bottlenecks.
A lot of work was done by the good people of APT projects Ltd (the authors of TCM) to tweak the already brilliant system to perfectly match the business which involved the looking after of cleaning machines, equipment and bins. It was all run on Outlook calendars and spreadsheets involving a huge amount of work for each of the almost 200 sites looked after by them. Only one person could do the invoicing via a spreadsheet (bottleneck), only one person could draw up the driver schedules (bottleneck) – just a couple of the issues. TCM automated the invoicing based on the driver schedules it drew up. The boss could see the position at every single site at any point in time. Anyone could run the automated invoicing and the driver schedules were prepared each morning automatically based on which sites needed attention that day and organized the route to minimise mileage.
Those two bottlenecks alone caused horrendous problems if a staff member responsible was off sick as no-one else could understand the mix of calendars and spreadsheets that had grown up like topsy for each task.
Imagine the disbelief all round when one of the staff complained the new system was too complicated and why did they have to bother changing something that worked already. Did the boss push the change through despite this? Nope. TCM was abandoned. The truth behind the decision to abandon the software was not commercial – it was emotional because the staff member shouting realized that if the software was introduced, streamlining the company, increasing the profitability and simplifying each task it touched – they would no longer have a job. So instead of learning the software and using it to catapult the company into a massive growth spurt, the boss listened to the one member of staff who complained and stopped the project.
I am hoping that after reading this they will see sense and realize that we all have the change and adapt to survive. The way I run my accountancy business now is so different to just 5 years ago as to be almost unrecognisable. I love it!
Another example of this is very different and involves a meeting I had with a prospective client recently. They had identified many issues with their current accountant and had interviewed a number before being recommended to me by an existing client of mine who was a friend of theirs (thanks Chris!). I spent a couple of hours with the chap and he was very happy to change over to us. I left him with a load of ideas for change which he hungrily listened to.
A week or so later – after I had written to his old accountants for professional clearance – I had an email from him saying his old accountants had offered to do his accounts at a fixed price – 2/3rds of the price they charged him the previous year and he was going to stay with them. However he thanked me for my excellent ideas which he had already started to implement.
I have no problem with this in essence but the thing that bothers me is that all the issues he had with those accountants are still there, albeit at a cheaper price, so he hasn’t gained anything more than a discount. No improvement in service and no proactive support which is what he so liked (his words) about us.
I still hope he will see sense and move away from those accountants that are causing him so many issues to any other accountant, not even me, as his business will only benefit. But I doubt it.
These two examples highlight a basic underlying trend for people to stick in their comfort zones – no matter how strong the evidence in front of their noses is that a change will only help their business to new levels of efficiency and profitability.
I am constantly changing things in my business as most people know. The biggest change this year is the introduction of anonymous benchmarking of the accounts as they are produced. These reports are hugely detailed and very revealing. Your figures are compared with others in your industry (no names of course) to highlight areas where you are doing well and indicating where you are lagging behind your competitors.
If I were to produce one of the 26 or so page reports for a “non client” I would be charging £750+VAT – and they are worth many time more than that. If you can’t wait until this years figures are done for any up to date comparison, get in touch and I will gladly run the report for your last year’s figures to demonstrate it.
Of course, this kind of powerful information is most useful when done as soon as possible after your year-end and this is another change I have introduced. I have powerful systems here now that drive my client contacts. Everyone is starting to be reminded about VAT returns, annual returns, P35 returns, accounts year-end approaching etc. I think the tax planning letter issued a month or so before the year-end has caused the most comment as it makes you constantly think about the future and the direction you are taking your business. My aim is to no longer play catchup – but to drive clients’ businesses forward by constantly poking and tweaking! Sounds worse than it is but I have put a lot of effort into turning things around so I am not relying on you remembering anything or missing a single deadline.
This process is complete but it will take probably the rest of this year to filter through to everybody – it depends when things in your business are due to happen.
So don’t be surprised if you receive a lot more post, emails and texts from me over the coming months!
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