Do You Have an Up To Date Business Plan? – Part 2

If you have not read part 1 in this series here is a link to the first article.

In the previous blog – in my first article we started by asking ‘what needs fixing’? This came complete with a summary of the 8 key steps that effective problem-solving management comprises. Then in the second essential business planning component we looked at team member planning.

3. Clients and Client Service

There is a sense in which I endeavour to prioritise these planning pointers in order of importance. You will, no doubt, have your own view on those which deserve greater prominence in your planning. 

Everyone has had and most likely continues to have a tough time. Here in the UK, as elsewhere, business owners endure the impact of much higher energy costs. Insolvencies are on the increase. Nomura Holdings Inc., the brokerage, forecast an increasing number of economies going into recession amid tightening government policies and ever-increasing living costs, pushing the global economy into a synchronised growth slowdown. While many accountancy business owners were on the crest of a wave as a result of Covid-driven demand for services this is unlikely to be the case this time around. “Increasing signs that the world economy is entering a synchronized growth slowdown, meaning countries can no longer rely on a rebound in exports for growth, have also prompted us to forecast multiple recessions,” Nomura wrote. 

I recall only too well the pain of bad debts suffered in my accountancy business during the early 1980s. So, while client service should quite rightly be at the forefront of our planning getting paid must also be a high priority. More about that later.

Covid gave rise to the need for prompt service in response to the various schemes to keep businesses afloat. Some key questions that may be relevant for your client service development plans.

Key question: What needs to happen to improve your firm’s timeliness of service? Lock up (debtors/receivables and WIP at realisable value is a barometer of your firm’s timeliness of service. The Internet has changed our expectations regarding timeliness. The Internet generally promises that if you want it now, you can have it now – maybe give or take a few days. Where lock up is in excess of 20% of annual revenues there is, in my opinion, evidence of poor service timeliness. Successful firms manage their firms with WIP of no more than 6% of revenues.

Let’s just consider three client service areas that you might regard as important and ripe for development:

  • What additional services do clients need that will solve client problems and enhance your client value? What services can you deliver that will make you irreplaceable? My view of the future is that we will provide more insource services as opposed to outsource. Possible solutions – Cloud based? Client accounting services? I have an accounting firm client who perform all the accounting functions for a well known drinks brand.
  • In what areas is your service expertise in need of being deepened? Clients value dealing with professionals who have an in-depth understanding of their industry. More about that shortly.
  • Visible time. How many annual hours are you face to face, eyeball to eyeball with clients? Clients don’t see or necessarily value the work you perform behind your desk but they [mostly] value the contact time you spend with them. Today, that can be online as well as in person.

Key question – what is your plan to enhance client experience?

I have previously written extensively on client service. Here is a link to some of my earlier articles –

4. Expertise development

What plans do you have for extending your firm’s service expertise and range of client solutions? Accountants mostly have high quality training in a range of technical areas which is then developed by learning by osmosis – that is listening to and learning from clients, gaining wisdom and experience along the journey of the accountancy career.

But there cannot be any substitute for ongoing personal development. In my case I invested in studying management – 40 years on I am still learning.

What is your claim to fame? What expertise do you have that is compelling for your clients? Please sidestep a response that is compliance related. The old cliché informs us that people do business with people – people they either respect or like – maybe both. 

Key question: What will you learn in the next 12 months to make yourself more valuable to your clients? 

What do you bring to the meeting table that is of value to your client? Your industry awareness and expertise. Again, my client related blogs distil as much wisdom as I am able to. The challenge is for you to seek to go ‘inch wide’ and ‘mile’ deep in your areas of expertise and service communication and delivery.

5. Technology

This is the halfway mark in our essential planning commitments and, I admit the topic where I have least expertise. So, allow me to pose a few key areas to enable you to assess how you should frame the technology component of your business planning.

  • Security. In an era of scams, phishing and security breaches – which even high-tech companies (most recently Apple – Have you had appropriately qualified people check out your security? Your internal team will no doubt offer some reassurance dependent on their qualifications and expertise, but an external review may well identify weaknesses and glitches that have not yet been recognised. We hold highly confidential client information – this must at all costs be protected.
  • Passwords – are these strong enough? Are passwords being used by your team members on other applications or are their passwords unique? Nowadays, simple passwords are very easy to guess or break with tools. So, it’s wise to add more factors into your password to make it harder to guess, such as special characters, capital letter, and numbers.
  • Antivirus software – Do you have high level antivirus software or anti-malware program on your computers? It is possible for your computers to be infected by viruses, malware or malicious programs, especially when visiting harmful websites. Therefore, you should have at least an antivirus software to help protect your computer against those threats.
  • Firewall – The firewall is an important factor in securing your firm’s computer. This is to block suspicious incoming connections to your computers and prevent hackers from gaining access.
  • Software and Operating system up to date? Developers work to improve their products and release updates as soon as possible to fix bugs and enhance the stability. Make sure you keep everything up to date. Time consuming? Yes. But mission critical.
  • Your website – I see this as your ‘window to the world’.

    According to there are over 1.1 billion websites but less than 20% of these are deemed to be active. Definition of ‘active’ – an inactive website is one where business transactions can occur through the website or information can be exchanged to solicit business. 

    So, that may well include your site for many accountants have what I call a ‘brochure’ site – one which is static, not regularly updated and therefore may possible not be 100% up to date. I have no issue with brochure sites although I prefer and recommend them to be designed professionally rather than using standard templates. As the founder of the world’s first shared content system for accounting firm websites I should know my way around this topic. Here are a few tips for you to consider:

    Tip 1 Is your website professionally designed? Does your website impress clients, prospects, referrals and so on? If not, then this should be one of your top priorities. Our IGNITE team member Rebecca Holdstock has worked with me for over 20 years – she was one of the leading designers in PracticeWEB (, the first company in the world to offer tailored website design that was rich with content. Need help or advice – contact Rebecca.

    Tip 2 Loading speed. Ensure you have a fast load speed

    Tip 3 Mobile devices enabled. Ensure your website is enabled for smartphones and other mobile devices

    Tip 4 Does your menu of services include a focus on benefits rather than features?

    Tip 5 Does your website include an About Us area where firm owners, and maybe managers and other team members, are showcased? Pictures included? I have always regarded this as very important. Bios – keep to less than 150 words. Last sentence/paragraph – include something personal. Reference your passion and/or expertise

    Tip 6 Client testimonials and case studies always add value to the website

    Tip 7 Ease of contact – make sure visitors can make contact easily. Avoid the info@ contact approach – far too impersonal

    Tip 8 FREE stuff. Can visitors download free content?

    Tip 9 Content rich – is your site content rich? And, importantly, is any content up to date?

    Tip 10 Finally, ask around the office – Is our website fit for purpose? Or on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being perfection – how good is our website? Where responses are less than 9 enquire what the respondent considers can be done to improve the site.