Hello, I am Mark Lloydbottom, one of the world’s leading specialist in Practice Management. After 20 years training and building my own accountancy business in Bristol, UK I was the founder of what I grew to become the UK’s leading provider of marketing solutions to UK accountants. The in 2000 when the Internet became a force to be reckoned with, I was the founder of the UK’s largest provider of accounting firm hosted and managed websites. Along that journey I have developed expertise on consulting with accountancy business owners and managers. My clients include the top globally branded firm partners and their managers – BDO, Grant Thornton, RSM. PKF, Baker Tilly. My clients also range from sole practitioners to 30+ partner firms. Enough about me.
I would like to share with you a few thoughts and insights which I trust you will find of interest.
You work in what is truly a great profession. While sometimes the going gets tough, and in 2020 and 2021 it certainly did, you enjoy the opportunity to engage in challenging and interesting work. . You have mastered a body of business and professional knowledge that is significant in scope and often complex. Yes, the rules are constantly evolving to keep pace with rapidly changing business, technology and regulatory landscapes. The profession and your firm offers you opportunities for continuous growth, learning and personal development.
Working from home
Everyone understands that Covid has made these last 22 months tough, very tough. The profession has been at the forefront worldwide of giving clients support, helping them apply for grants, loans, employee support programmes and so on. It has been tough on managers, I know that from those with whom I serve – and that is well over 100. Working from home has helped but is has not been easy as the workday often starts earlier and ends later. There is the advantage in less time and cost in travelling but there are the disadvantages of managing staff and giving onsite training. Many have felt remote although firms have done what they can to provide support. Some, I know, have even started cooking lessons as a means of introducing teamwork!
When is busy season?
In answer to the question, “When is busy season” someone I know replied, “When is it not busy season”! As managers you are involved in integrating new staff – many of whom had their interviews conducted online while some have not yet visited their designated office of employment.
In 2022 it is important, above all, that you do all you can to enjoy your work, to be satisfied while delivering quality and timely work. Part of your reward emanated by training and encouraging those who look to you for guidance, encouragement, and leadership. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple once said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
I think accountancy is one of those vocations where work-life balance is never easy to navigate. I work enough managers and partners to from the on the job training you do and your engagement with your teams as well as your dedication to clients. Accounting, tax and auditing are seasonal and deadline-driven services. It is no surprise therefore that there are periods of extreme demand where overtime is required to complete assignments on a timely basis. Take the UK as an example – right now none of my UK-based clients wish to talk to me as January 31 is tax filing deadline. It seems to me that every return is filed this month. In the USA 15 April, New Zealand 7 July and Australia 31 October. I am meeting my South Africa clients this month because in February they will be doing their tax filing. It is stressful, but isn’t everyone glad when the deadline has come and gone?
Preparing and delivering on budgets
If you are in an advisory practice your work, thankfully, is less seasonal but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have deadlines. Some of the managers I work with experience the pressure to deliver on chargeable hours while bringing jobs in on budget. My observation over the years is that the DNA of most managers is that they are optimistic budgeters. They assume that everything will go according to plan. But it rarely does, does it? The remedy is surely to budget realistically what the job will take to complete. To my way of thinking a good manager prepares a budget that can be delivered on. Why not include a reasonable PC sum to take account of the fact that work does not always turn out as expected? I always tell my partner-clients that it is unfair to make a manager develop a budget based on the fee. Now that is an incendiary comment for some partners. But why do so many managers leave firms? One reason is that they are beaten up by the partner for job losses that they are not responsible for.
Now, I think this article has been forwarded to you by a partner. High praise for them indeed. Why not discuss with them how you prepare budgets? My view is that you should prepare a realistic budget and be held accountable for delivering on budget. Yes, I know that things can go wrong. For example, you have to do more work than expected. I call this a client-caused extra for which the client should pay.
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I wish you well for 2022.