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From Stress to Success!
By Jason Dormer

Whilst browsing accountingweb the other day, I came across the following post from a disgruntled member…

Almost 5 years into my practice, circa 150 clients, i am not sure this is for me.

In my most recent post, I experienced my first client loss through choice (not ceasing to trade) last week. This morning, I got a good referral from an existing client, which will almost balance the loss I think.

My one full time employee is okay, but if I could find someone else at similar pay level, I would sack him.

I work long hours, have three young kids. My partner isn't working as he is recovering from successful surgery removing two cancerous tumours, one from each kidney.

Does everyone experience large amounts of stress with their practice, or is it maybe that it is just not right for me?

I wish I didn't worry constantly about something or some client, but looking back over the weeks, months there is always something that gets me 'down' about my business.

Is there anything I can change to make it work?

The above post is not uncommon for accountants, especially after the annual January madnesss of last minute tax returns. Many accountants are finding it more and more difficult to "switch off" with increasing challenges such as increased regulation, stiffer price competition, increased (and sometimes unrealistic) expectations from clients and the very nature of the emotive work that is being carried out for clients and the implications of getting it wrong.

Having my own accountancy practice in addition to Seahorse (UK) Ltd, I can understand and empaphise with these feelings, however there are many obvious and easy to implement measures that can be put in place to help alleviate these feelings.

Firstly, and this is by far the most important bit, is to educate all of your clients what their responsibilities are. It is unrealistic of them to bring in VAT records the day before the return is due. It is unrealistic to bring in year end accounts work on 25th January, with a deadline of 31st January. It is unrealistic to expect you to be on call for them 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

You know the behavioural patterns of your clients and the ones that are causing you stress and anxiety. Change these patterns. Use a stick, a carrot, both, or anything else that works. If they still won't change then sack them, it really is as simple as that. Don't worry about lost fees, don't worry about negative goodwill, don't worry about anything just let them go and let them burden someone else, whilst you concentrate on building up a client bank of responsible, profitable and decent businesses, whom you enjoy working with. Trust me, there are more than enough of them out there.

Once you have carried out that first exercise then have a complete audit of yourself and your practice and look at ways of alleviating the things that are causing you stress.

High debtors? Get them on standing orders.

Profit not as expected? Review pricing, cross sell, have a marketing purge, look at a niche, review costs, review your expectations.

Staff not performing? Have a sit down with them, find out what makes them tick, agree and timeframe some challenging goals for them communication is key.

Always too busy? Learn to delegate, consider outsourcing, plan your work better, have periods where your calls are taken and your email is off, agree timeframes with clients (and make sure they stick to the bargain).

Confront your worries How many of the things you worry about actually come to fruition?

A client leaves? So what? Unless it was your fault (make sure you put it right, then learn from it) then clients come and go, it's business and it's life. The post above mentions a client base of 150, first client leaves and it's seen as a bad thing! The alternative reaction could be for the poster to pat herself on the back for a job well done in retaining 149 clients.

Anyway, you get the point. If you are constantly worried about clients, HMRC, deadlines, servicing etc etc etc then you need to get out of your business for a day or two. Write down everything that is causing you stress and then plan and implement change. It really is as simple as that. Don't become an NHS statistic.

Finally, and this is the big one. Treat yourself. Have days off when you feel like it. Make sure that you have a hobby. I box twice a week, trust me it's hard to worry about work when I have someone 20 years my junior trying to punch me in the face! Find a hobby that works for you and make sure you do it. Count your blessings you are your own boss, you (and only you) can entirely shape your future. You have the choice of who to work for, how and when to do the work, how to price it and who to help you carry it out.

Use that privilege wisely.

We provide mentoring services for accountants and bookkeepers, if you are experiencing any concerns or anxiety about your business then please contact us for an informal chat to see how we can help.