Friday, 1 May 2009

Why do accountants put themselves through it?

I was chatting on Twitter yesterday with Stuart Ramsay of Accountancy Extra.

We both agreed that we'd got a wardrobe full of T-shirts saying something like "I've prepared accounts from crap records", and wishing we dared to turn up to the ultra-posh Accountancy Age awards dinner in November sporting one of these T-shirts apiece.

What I don't understand is why accountants put up with being presented with crap records year after year after year.

I remember one client back down in Buckinghamshire who kept his books on Cashflow Manager. Every month he put through an "adjustment" of several thousand pounds to make his bank rec balance. Then, when we charged him a large fee to correct all his "adjustments", he would turn round and say, "But I've balanced the bank!"

Added to that, this guy was also a thoroughly unpleasant person who had been known to shout at the payroll team and swear at the partner.

Yet he was a long-standing client!

Just recently, I was working on another client's books.

An Excel cashbook - for a huge ironmonger's firm. It didn't agree to the bank. I had to spend hours ticking it back. The manager said they'd tried to get him to make his books better but to no avail.

"Then why is he still a client?" I asked.

"Because he'll pay whatever we ask him to!" she replied.

That may well be so. And I know there's a credit crunch on and fee-paying clients are a very valuable commodity.

Richard Murphy tells the tale of how when he was in practice, clients had 2 years to get their records up to his standard. After that, if they were still presenting him with rubbish records, he sacked them.

I admire him for that. It's what I wish - and hope - I'd have the guts to do if I ever set up my own practice. It's what I wish all accountants did. Because even in these hard times, there's got to be people out there who won't give you crap records if they're taught how not to.

I guess sometimes it's hard to do that with existing clients you've known for years and who have become friends.

But someone like the rude guy from Bucks should have been straight on the "please close the door after you" pile!

1 comment:

  1. Yep, bad clients have to go.

    These type are usually not profit making, demotivate staff, are not nice to deal with, pay late, are rude, don't refer, and are above average risk.

    Is it a case of can't afford to sack them or can't afford not to?


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