We Run Your Practice

“Should I Sell My Accountancy Practice during This Recession?”

With the UK racing “towards its fastest and deepest recession for more than a century”, according to the Bank of England, probably the idea of selling your accountancy practice has crossed your mind. With many of your staff likely furloughed, and the end of the lockdown nowhere in sight, selling your practice might seem like the only option.

But what kind of price would you get for it in these highly uncertain times? Doubtfully a decent one.

Times are toughest for those who were not prepared for working remotely. There are so many tools out there for doing this — Microsoft Teams, Monday.com, Slack, Zoom, and others — that trying to navigate through them during the pressures of an uncertain economy is impossible.

Perhaps you’ve decided not to sell your practice, after all. You’ve chosen to hunker down for the long haul, dig into savings and push through until the end of the lockdown, then market like the dickens and get in new business when the lockdown is over.

But leaked information about the UK government banning hot-desking makes going back to the office more complex.

And new rules mean you would have to adhere entirely to the two-metre rule (or the one-metre rule) to be allowed to open the office at all.

What if your office isn’t big enough for that?

You might have to implement other protective measures such as making staff wear face masks or installing Plexiglass at desks to limit the chance of contagion. This means even more expenditure, more use of cash just to be able to open your doors.

There’s also talk of implementing staggered work hours. Even if you had decided to hunker down, for now, it appears you might need to implement some kind of remote-working facilities, after all.

Change, change, endless change. It’s like walking on quicksand at the moment.

But take heart. There is hope.

The world has changed, people will understand if you don’t have an office

The world has changed. People feel it in the air. Things are dim, and we’ve all been through something catastrophic and difficult together.

As a result, we all look at the world differently now. And who’s to say that the changes are bad? Coronavirus is one thing, but what about illness in general — cases of flu, colds, and other diseases? I cannot count the number of times I’ve been shopping at the Tesco in winter only to walk past three people coughing in my vicinity.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, my first thought was, “Stay home if you’re ill, people!”

In today’s world, the thought of women being forced into the life of homemaker with no choice to earn a living in a “man’s world” is abhorrent. It’s difficult for us even to imagine such a discriminating, unjust world. And yet it existed before World War II. The war changed that.

A posh address which starts with “One Canada Square” was the reality of yesterday. Today’s reality is, “Oh, goodness, how do you keep your staff healthy if you work there!?”

Working from home is the new normal. Our kids and our grandkids will not feel the culture shock we’re feeling today. They’ll go to the office, see the Plexiglass, wave at each other and smile from a distance. They’ll think that their parents/grandparents were a lot of fools because we spread so much disease.

So, have no qualms about ditching your office space. No one will care, or at least everyone will understand. There is no shame (anymore) in running your fancy business from your home.

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What to do with staff?

This is a terrible situation for everyone, and times like these make it difficult to do good by everyone. The matter of personnel is a catch-22 at the best of times.

The government has provided us with the CJRS, but in order to qualify, staff must not do any work at all.

Let’s look at that:

  1. If staff do no work, you can’t run your business and stay afloat.
  2. If staff do work, you can’t claim 80 per cent of their salary, and thereby increase your overheads.

To solve that, the UK gov went and gave us the BBLS. More loans, more debt. A never-ending downward trend of reduced income and increased costs.

I cannot advise you on what to do about your staff. This is a personal matter of integrity that every accountancy owner must consider themselves. We deal in numbers, but our staff are people with families and livelihoods.

Still, we do deal in numbers. And the numbers paint a dim picture. If the entire ship goes down because we’re forced to hold onto the whole crew, then everybody suffers. As much as business owners wish they could keep their staff, this simply might not be possible.

I would, however, appeal to you to talk to us first if making staff redundant is your only option left, we might be able to help. This is not a plug of our own services, but a plea to do everything you can to keep your people employed.

The next breath

In times like these, when we are all seemingly at the whim of daily government decisions which encroach directly into our livelihoods, it’s difficult to do more than take your next breath.

We’re allowed to go outside once a day for exercise. I would strongly recommend that you do that. Take a walk, look around, appreciate that the world still exists.

All you need to do is take the next breath, save the next penny, and then get back into business with a roar when we’re allowed to open the doors again.

Until then, look at how to cut costs. Consider your office space first, and your staff as last. We don’t need offices anymore. We do need people.

The world has changed, and we must change with it.

4 Uncommon In-House Departments Your Accountancy Practice Should Invest In

The accountancy industry grows ever more competitive with each passing year. Gone are the days when people considered a “good accountant” as someone who could submit their tax returns on time while possibly also saving them a hundred quid. These days, people want more services, they want flashing lights, they want speed. And, as a result of the gig economy mindset, they also want these things for peanuts.

To compete with this mindset, you have to attack the problem in two ways:

  1. Play a hot marketing game where you have sufficient materials (website, social media following, glittery brochures, etc.) that convince people of the superiority of your service
  2. Invest in more efficient ways to run your practice and reduce your workload

You could pay an external company to do these things for you, but that might get expensive. Instead, here are four in-house departments you should invest in so that you can constantly keep on top of your competition

1. In-house web design team

A website is your portal to the world and how people will look at your brand.

Especially for younger clients who do not remember the days of slow modems or of no internet at all, your web presence needs to be smoking hot. At the very least, the website should be mobile-friendly.

But a website is a living thing. It must constantly be updated and worked on or else it’ll gain little to no traction in the search engines.

Hiring an outside company to do this has its pitfalls which usually fall under the categories:

  1. Low prices but awful website/service
  2. Amazing website but too expensive

When it comes to updating your website regularly, however, the costs can become astronomical if handed to an external company.

Hire some people to do it in-house. You’ll reap the benefits tenfold.

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2. In-house SEO team

While clicks from organic traffic are technically free, companies that regularly get found on search engines for multiple search queries are not there by chance. They have invested heavily and knowledgeably into search engine optimisation in order to be found.

Search engine optimisation is a big subject which encompasses innumerable facets, including:

  1. How mobile-friendly is your website?
  2. How readable is your website?
  3. How good is your content?
  4. How engaged are your social media accounts?
  5. Do you even have social media accounts?
  6. Do you have the right kind of social media accounts?
  7. Are the social media posts you’re making relevant and useful to your followers?
  8. Are you gaining high-quality links to your website from other reputable websites?
  9. Are the inbound links you are gaining coming from relevant websites?
  10. Do the links have the right text in them which will let search engines know what your site is about?

The size of the subject is genuinely staggering. But its results can mean the difference between an accountancy practice that is skyrocketing compared to one which is merely “doing well.”

The cost of SEO, when done properly, can be enormous. Hire an in-house person or team who knows their stuff to do it for you.

3. In-house social media team

Because SEO is such a large subject, and so tremendously vital to long-term success, the reality is that you’re probably going to need more than one person to take care of it.

I mentioned a few things about social media in point #2 above. If you truly want to leverage social media in your SEO strategy, you’re going to need at least one person working on it full-time.

It’s not only about SEO. It’s about engagement with your clients, and keeping them informed.

People access information in wildly different ways compared to ten or even five years ago. Your clients will look for updates on various subjects from different sources:

  1. Twitter for quick updates and news
  2. LinkedIn for more business-related information
  3. Email for information relating specifically to your relationship with them

You need an experienced expert to take care of this full-time for you, either on a subcontracting or employment basis.

4. In-house tech team

I don’t mean an IT team. I mean a team that implements and invests in highly advanced processes and workflows using the latest technology in order to minimise wasted time and improve efficiency.

There are so many tools out there on how to do this specifically for an accountancy practice, that the knowledge would fill a book.

The accountancy profession is traditionally quite terrible at implementing new tech. But even if it’s good at it, there is simply so much choice available that you do need a dedicated team to work on it so that you’re free to run your practice.

The investment is worth it. Accountancy in the UK is a tight-margin industry, and only through efficient use of tech and cloud-based solutions can one reduce workload and increase effectiveness.

Thinking outside the box

There are so many accounting practices in the UK that believing you can compete with them purely through word of mouth is folly. Not only is our industry tight in its margins, but it is also brutally competitive.

Make the above departments a part of your practice so that you can constantly stay ahead of the competition.

3 Tools to Dramatically Improve Your Accountancy Practice’s Email Marketing

Accountants are terrible marketers. Yes, I know that might be a generalisation, but it also happens to be mostly true. In our experience, the accountancy firms we take on either have no email marketing strategy in place or they have a horrible one.

Email marketing can take on many forms — cold emails, emails to subscribers, emails to clients, etc.

Too many firms that we deal with think that email marketing is simply a matter of collecting up your clients’ email address and then blasting out a mail to them now and then telling them about something in which they might or might not be interested. Official guidance on whether this is legal is murky, covered under the heading of “soft opt-in”.

But, whether legal or not, the approach is clunky and cumbersome at best. We’ve seen some practices simply add all the email addresses of their clients into the BCC (or, worse, the CC) field and then simply send the mail out!

How many people opened the mail? How many clicked on links in the mail? How many people marked it off as spam? If someone unsubscribes, how do you handle it? Do you keep the name on a list? How will you guarantee that you never send a marketing email to that person again?

All these questions come under the heading of Marketing.

Sending an initial marketing mail to a client might generally be considered acceptable (if the client is in the UK). Still, it does become a violation of applicable laws if the users “opt out” of such emails.

And what if you’re running a cold email campaign alongside your campaign for existing subscribers? It starts to get a little confusing, and that’s why most accountancy practices just give up at this point.

You need a system that manages mails, subscribers, non-subscribers, opt-ins and opt-outs seamlessly and professionally so that all you have to do is prepare the email and send it off.

The mail also needs to look professional.

Fortunately, there are plenty of tools that make all of the above possible.

1. MailerLite, MailChimp, GetResponse

If you’re looking for a platform which does only emailing then MailerLiteMailChimp or GetResponse might be the answer for you.

When I say “only” emailing, I don’t mean that the tools are not sophisticated. They are. And they offer advanced reporting, which can give you an idea of how each of your campaigns is performing.

The only “problem” (at least with MailerLite and MailChimp) is that they tend to be something of sticklers when it comes to taking on new accounts with existing email subscribers. They want to make sure that their platform is not used to send out spam and wish to know, specifically, where a list of subscribers was obtained from, and whether or not those subscribers are opt-in subscribers.

If you’re planning on sending emails to your client base, this might be a problem when MailChimp/MailerLite start vetting your account. You could contact their support team and discuss the matter with them, but it’s not guaranteed that they will allow you to open the account.

If you plan on getting new subscribers, however, each of the above options is relatively straightforward to use. They offer all the “usual” features of email marketing:

  1. Easy design interface
  2. Advanced reporting of user engagement
  3. Unsubscribe feature
  4. Audience profiles so individual emails can get sent to specific groups

These are the best options if your email campaign is simple. For larger accountancy practices, however, you’re probably going to want something that can integrate with your CRM.

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2. Keap (previously InfusionSoft)

Although there are plenty of email marketing tools out there that only do emailing, an accountancy firm of any respectable sized is better off using email marketing software that integrates with its CRM.

Keap is one of our favourite options in this respect. The software is “robust” and “effectively streamlines your marketing by combining your CRM, sales and marketing automation software and online store into one platform.”

It has all the expected features of an emailing software:

  1. Design-tools for creating professional-looking emails easily
  2. Analytics to be able to tell how much engagement the email obtained
  3. Tools to improve “deliverability”

“Deliverability” is an immense subject which gives every email marketing company nightmares. It is a complicated topic which has to do with ensuring that your email lands in someone’s inbox and not in their junk folder. The issue is out of the scope of this article, but you must know this: If you’re running your own in-house “marketing” campaign with your local email program, your deliverability will almost certainly eventually suffer.

3. Salesforce’s Email Studio and Marketing Cloud

Salesforce’s Email Studio forms part of its trailblazing Marketing Cloud platform which leverages sophisticated AI to best market to your clients. This is a premium offering, and definitely something to consider if your accountancy firm is somewhat large.

It does far more than merely managing email campaigns, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll stick with that feature.

Email Studio offers an easy-to-use drag-and-drop design tool. You can build email campaigns that respond automatically to triggers and send a follow-up email to users depending on the actions they take.

The tool has a steep learning curve because it can do so much, and if your accountancy firm is a high-end firm, this might be the platform for you.

Don’t ignore the tools

The backend and complexity of email campaigns are far more complicated than you might imagine. I touched briefly on the subject of deliverability. But there is far more to know about this:

  1. Where is the mail originating from?
  2. Is it coming from a “trusted” source?
  3. Does the email contain text which might be considered spammy?
  4. Does the email read like some spam currently doing the rounds on the internet?

If you send mail which gets incorrectly triggered as spam, it might have a detrimental effect on your ability to send your clients valid business emails in future, because your business mails will start landing in their junk folder.

Companies specialising in email campaigns go to great pains to provide you with the tools necessary to ensure your emails don’t get marked as spam.

On the subject of email campaigns, investment is the answer. Invest in a solution that saves you time and brings in a high ROI because your marketing emails are actually arriving, being opened, and being engaged with by their recipients.

3 Tools to Improve Your Accountancy Practice’s Advisory Functions

An accountant is not a financial adviser/planner and should not be offering investment advice unless he is qualified to do so. But the tight-margin industry of accounting forces accountants to be able to provide more and more services that our clients consider valuable.

One of those services is to advise our clients as to their cash flow and where we think they might be losing money. This is not investment advice per se, and it is essential to understand that difference.

In this respect, an accountant can indeed be a “Financial Advisor” if that advice relates to where the client might be losing money or spending too much. But if you really want to give your clients value for what they’re paying you a month, you’ll need to come up with something more in-depth in terms of financial advice.

One solution is forecasting and reporting tools.

1. Futrli

Futrli is our personal favourite when it comes to calculating potential cash flow problems for our clients, or to create highly sophisticated forecasts and reports using its “Advisor” features.

It comes in two primary flavours:

  1. Advisor for Accountants
  2. Flow for businesses

This latter is designed for businesses, although accounting practices can also use it. For this article, we’re going to focus on the former.

We’ve used it for years, and I can tell you from personal experience that the forecasts it provides are impressive. It gives “at a glance” insight into whether or not specific business actions might result in a profit or loss — invaluable data for a client to receive from his accountant.

Where Advisor for Accountants really shines is in its reports. In this tight-margin accountancy industry of ours, adding more services to our repertoire too often means adding more workload to our day-to-day grind. That’s not the philosophy here at We Run Your Practice. Our gameplan is all about reducing workload, and Futrli’s reporting features do just that.

Instead of you having to number-crunch the data into a customised Excel spreadsheet and generate homemade reports — or some other clunky solution as that — Futrli generates the reports on your behalf. You can then simply send those reports over to your client as-is for them to pore over.

Professional financial reports and forecasts which are of value to the client build trust and make for long-term businesses relationships — which is the bread-and-butter of an accountancy firm.

Futrli also offers a white-label solution so you can bake your own branding into the reports.

Futrli Advisor integrates with QB, Xero, Excel and MYOB.

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2. Fathom

Fathom is another forecasting giant which provides “Comprehensive financial intelligence, performance reporting, dashboards and consolidations,” to quote their website.

One of Fathom’s features which we consider extremely useful is its Goalseek functionality. Using this component, it is possible to tweak various drivers related to a KPI and thereby figure out how to achieve a pre-determined goal. This might actually mean reducing prices or volume in order to increase cash flow, and the internal algorithm which powers Goalseek and Fathom works out precisely what needs to be done to achieve that goal.

All the data can then be downloaded as a PDF and provided to your clients so they can make decisions about their finances.

Fathom integrates seamlessly with Xero, QBO, QuickBooks Desktop, MYOB and Excel.

3. Spotlight Forecasting & Reporting

Spotlight Reporting is a high-end tool which offers tremendous flexibility in its forecasting functionality. It provides an easy-to-use comparison feature which lets you quickly see differences between forecasts.

Spotlight’s lowest-priced plan begins where the highest-priced plans of the previous two offerings end off. It is definitely geared toward a premium market.

Like the other two tools, the more companies you wish to generate reports and forecasts for, the more costly the subscription will be.

Spotlight also integrates with Google Analytics.

Users report that Spotlight’s dashboards are top-notch.

Accountancy practices must urgently modernise

If there is one thing the COVID-19 pandemic taught us it’s that accountancy practices which are not up with the latest technology and service offerings will simply not survive unforeseen disruptions. Accountants tend to be a little too “old school”. Like the local DVD store which didn’t recognise changes in the way people accessed movies, and then collapsed, so will accountancy firms collapse which do not adapt to new times.

Even if COVID-19 hadn’t hit, one thing you must be sure of is that your competitors are absolutely making use of more and more tools to reduce their workload while increasing their service offerings.

Accountancy is a tough field to turn a profit in, and the only way to survive these changing times is to continually modernise, continually improve one’s service offerings while also reducing one’s workload.

As an accountancy practice owner, you must continuously look for new and innovative ways to keep your practice alive without working yourself into the ground.

Accountancy Practices: How Many Are There in the UK?

There are 43,720 registered businesses in the UK classified under the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) of “Accounting; bookkeeping and auditing activities; tax consultancy”.

Granted, this does not mean each of the businesses is an accountancy practice, and many might only be delivering bookkeeping services. But I’ve scoured the web up and down until it sparkled and these were the closest numbers I came up with.

The information comes from the Office for National Statistics, and the businesses break down further like this:

  1. United Kingdom: 43,720 businesses in the “Accounting; bookkeeping and auditing activities; tax consultancy” category (up from 43,575 in 2018)
  2. Great Britain: 43,000 (up from 42,875 in 2018)
  3. England and Wales: 40,970 (up from 40,860 in 2018)
  4. England: 39,705 (up from 39,645)

London has the highest concentration of accounting businesses with a whopping 11,680 classified as Accounting; bookkeeping and auditing activities; tax consultancy, beating even all of Scotland (2,275), Northern Ireland (795), and Wales (1,380) combined. 

36,110 (81 per cent) of the businesses have four or less employees. And only 150 of them have more than 250 employees. 

As for turnover:

  1. 29 per cent of the businesses (12,770) turn over £49,000 or less per year
  2. 28 per cent (12,445) turn over between £50,000 and £99,000 p.a.
  3. 26 per cent (11,420) turn over between £100,000 and £249,000 p.a.

Competition is fierce

Accounting/bookkeeping/tax consultancy businesses are the twelfth most popular business in 615 categories, putting it in the top 0.019 percentile of services being offered in the UK! It is beaten only by such ubiquitous trades as “Business and Management Consultancy”, “Computer Consultancy”, “Restaurants”, etc.

There apparently are more accounting/bookkeeping businesses in the UK than there are hairdressers!

Shew. That’s a lot of competition. If you ever needed a wake-up call regarding your accountancy practice’s marketing channels and overall efficiency, let this be it.

Computer programmers have less competition, lawyers have less competition, real estate agents have less competition. Not only that, computer programmers, lawyers and real estate agents are not services that are generally required regularly. They are specialised services which people will pay for once and then forget about. If the bill was high, time might “heal the wound” by the time the person ever needs such services again.

But the accountant… Oh, the accountant sends his bill regularly to his client, and the client is forced to look at what he is paying so often that he might very well consider “shopping around” for someone cheaper if he doesn’t see value in what is being offered. 

Accounting is a tight-margin industry, and unless you have reduced your workload in the extreme, as well as honed your production so that it sings, you’re going to struggle to stay profitable. 

But it gets worse. 

In October 2019 the FRC reported that registration in the various UK accounting bodies continues to grow and now stands at a whopping 365,000 members in the UK and ROI, and a staggering 550,000 members worldwide.

There are also more students studying accounting than in the previous year.

So, not only is the accountancy field rife with firms, there are more accountants on the way…

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COVID-19’s impact on the accountancy profession in 2020

A large number of accountancy practices will be forced to close their doors this year — unless they completely change the paradigm under which they are operating. With the UN predicting a global loss of five to 25 million jobs and “$860 billion to $3.4 trillion in labour income” as a result of the coronavirus, a lot of accountancy practices will be fighting an uphill battle to stay on track.

But it is not all doom and gloom. The coronavirus is a challenge like no other challenge we have faced before. But it is important to keep in mind that it is precisely that: A challenge. And no business worth keeping ever made it through without fighting through challenges.

Billionaire John Paul DeJoria, who parlayed $700 into a $900 million-a-year hair care enterprise, was homeless twice before achieving success. Chris Gardner, who was portrayed by Will Smith in the biopic “The Pursuit of Happyness”, had an extraordinary rise to success that seems almost fictional in its impossibility. 

Accountancy firms must modernise in order to stay afloat. Just as the newspaper business was forced to find a way to become profitable when it saw that the internet (and free information) wasn’t going anywhere, so must accountancy practices realise that using a sophisticated combination of curated online tools is the only way to survive this business when things are normal

But things are not normal now. COVID-19’s impending economic crisis means that optimising your accountancy practice’s workflows, marketing, and efficiency are now more vital than ever before. 

You must must must find ways to reduce your workload while at the same time increasing your profitability. There are ways to do it. I have written an entire book about it. 

Competition is fierce in the accountancy field, but moving forward you will have the added load of trying to succeed in what very well might be another recession. You can do it, believe me. But you’re going to have to start now, and you’re going to have to modernise in the extreme so that your practice offers more things, better things, and at a better price, than the 43,719 other firms competing with you out there. 

Accountants: How to Stay Safe from Cyberattacks When Working Remotely

COVID-19 has forced nearly every business in the UK to shut its doors or to start working remotely. For those of us whose businesses are built around remote-working tools and cloud-based methods of accounting, the impact has been minimal. For those who are unfamiliar with cloud solutions, it can feel a little like being thrown into the deep end of a pool.

The learning curve is steep. And, unfortunately, part of that learning curve must include how to guard yourself and your clients against cyberattacks and online fraud.

Modern hacking is not like the movies

We all love to see the Hollywood film with the young hacker pounding away at a keyboard and suddenly cracking through the Department of Defense’s firewall through sheer ingenious skill. But for those of us who know even only a little about cybersecurity, this kind of scene in the movies is laughable.

Factually, almost all successful “hacking” these days is done through “social engineering” or password-theft as a result of poor security practices.

Social engineering — beware of email and online communication!

If you ever get an email from “someone you know” and that person is requesting delicate information such as passwords or other confidential information, politely refuse to send the information via email and then phone the person up personally to ensure the email was actually sent by them.

This is an extremely common method of obtaining sensitive information and was, in fact, the method used behind the notorious (and highly embarrassing) hack of the federal security firm HBGary.

If, upon calling the purported sender of the email, you discover the email was not sent by them, then inform them that their email account has likely been hacked. The first step they should take is to immediately and without delay change their email password to a strong password consisting of 12 or more characters, lower and upper case letters, numbers, and at least one special symbol.

Never send passwords by email — do this instead

Never ever ever send a password by email. When sent by email, the password sits in the email account…forever. It’s the easiest way for hackers to find passwords for sensitive accounts.

Google has recently implemented the option to send “confidential emails” in Gmail. But if you are not using Gmail as the email backend for your business, this option is not open to you.

One tool we like to use is OneTimeSecret which allows you to send sensitive information in an encrypted manner. The information sent is then destroyed after it is viewed.

If you choose to add a passphrase to the encrypted message in OneTimeSecret, then send the passphrase to your client via SMS, or phone them.

Never save passwords in a text file on your computer

Best security practice dictates that you should use a different password for everything. That’s a lot of passwords to remember and is quite impossible to do.

You do need to save your passwords somewhere, but these should only ever be saved in tools that are designed specifically for the saving of passwords — definitely not in a text file or Word Document or Excel spreadsheet.

“Password Managers”, as they are called, encrypt the passwords stored in them so that they cannot be viewed by anyone else. The only password you need to remember, then, is the one to access the Password Manager itself.

Make sure that password is an extremely strong one. Write it down and put it in a safe or in a safe deposit box.

Some Passwords Managers are:

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Your Google Account

Using the Google Chrome Browser your passwords are automatically saved in Google and can be accessed at the link https://passwords.google.com/. Just make sure your Google Account’s password is really strong.

The benefit of this password saver is that you can access it from anywhere.


This is a free tool where you have to type in the details manually for every password you save. You can also configure it online so you can access it through a website, but that starts getting a little advanced.

There are very many other tools you can use as well.

Phishing — another typical hack

Phishing is when someone sends an email and makes it look like it comes from someone else. Con artists often try and get banking details from people by sending an email that looks like it comes from an official bank.

They could do this to your clients as well.

Phishing is a well-known scam which is unfortunately difficult to combat because it targets the client.

Fighting against phishing can only be done by properly informing your clients on a regular basis that you will never ask them for things such as passwords, account details, etc. in an email. You can then also put a notice on your website to inform clients not to fall for this practice.

No doubt you’ve seen these kinds of messages and alerts from many of the popular UK banks such as this page on Lloyds Bank or this one on Barclays Bank.

The only way to fight a phishing scam is to be proactive. Send an email to your clients informing them that you would never ask for account details or payments via email. Not only does such an email help reduce phishing scams but it also makes you look professional in your accountancy practice. And that inspires confidence, which is always good for business.

Bring Your Accountancy Practice out of the Coronavirus Crisis Better Than It Went into It

There are only two ways your accountancy practice can come out of the current coronavirus crisis:

One: Limping along for years as you struggle to bring it back up to the level it was at before the UK Government began forcefully closing down businesses.

Two: Or you could recognise urgent changes required in your business and come out of the crisis stronger than ever. It is in times of greatest trial when business owners become most resourceful, change the way they were operating before, and come out with an entirely different — and far more successful — way of doing business.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s financial aid announcement (and red flags for business owners)

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced a staggering economic scheme called the “Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme” in order to help save jobs.

Some of the key points of his address follow below. We’ve marked RED FLAGS for business owners and sole-traders with a red asterisk (*), and will explain why they’re red flags in the following section.

Here’s a summary of key points of his address:

  1. The government will help pay people’s wages. Any employer in the country, small or large, charity or NGO can apply for the grant. Government grants will cover 80% of retained workers up to £2,500 per month. This is slightly higher than the median income.
  2. Workers in any part of the UK can retain their job and secure at least 80% of pay backdated to the 1st of March. (*)
  3. The scheme will run for 3 months initially, but is open to being extended.
  4. Government will pay grants to secure as many jobs as necessary. (The Chancellor mentioned that many people had been laid off already.)
  5. HMRC is working 24/7 to get the scheme up and running.
  6. The first grants are expected to be paid in weeks.
  7. The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will be interest-free for 12 months. Loans will be available as of Monday. This is currently available for small- to medium-sized businesses. Other plans are afoot for large businesses. (*)
  8. The next quarter of VAT has been deferred. No VAT for the following quarter will need to be paid until the end of the financial year. This equals a direct injection of £30 billion into the UK economy, or 1.5 percent of the GDP. (*)
  9. Business rates abolished altogether for this year for businesses in hospitality, retail and leisure.
  10. UK Gov will provide cash grants of £25,000 for small business properties.
  11. Universal credit will be increased by £1,000 per year for the next 12 months.
  12. Working tax credit basic element will also be increased by £1,000 for the next 12 months.
  13. The minimum income floor will be suspended so that self-employed people may “access, in full, universal credit at a rate equivalent to statutory sick pay for employees.”
  14. Self-employed self-assessment payments have been deferred to January 2021. (*)
  15. Homeowners can “get a 3-month mortgage holiday, if they need it.”
  16. Local housing allowance will cover 30% of housing rent.
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The red flags for a business owner or sole-trader

Watching the Chancellor’s speech, one cannot help gain the impression that he is sincerely trying to do his best for the UK. But whether that’s the case or not, the UK really has no choice right now. Either financial support is injected into the country, or we will enter a period of financial dark ages that has never before occurred in our lifetimes.

For employees, the equation of the announcement is simple: They will receive up to 80 percent of their pay, and they might qualify for other benefits. End of story.

For the business owner, the equation is far more complex. Because the red flags above all relate to the subject of loans.

Think of it this way:

You will not have to pay next quarter’s VAT — but you will have to pay it. This is a loan.

You will not need to pay interest for 12 months on an Interruption Loan — but you will still need to pay back a loan you were not expecting to take out had it not been for coronavirus. And after 12 months, that interest will start needing to be paid. This is a further burden on your business 12 months from now.

Self-assessment tax has been deferred. This is merely another type of loan. It will eventually need to be paid.

If you have employees, they will be paid for up to 80 percent, but you will need to pay them their full wages once the scheme has run its course. It means that you either get your business up and running successfully, quickly, or those employees will need to be laid off eventually.

Yes, the injection by the Exchequer is massive and appreciated — but it will only benefit you if you come out of this stronger than you went into it. In essence, you’ll be in more debt when the 12 months have run their course, or when the end of the year comes and this quarter’s VAT is due.

Don’t consider the injection a handout. Consider it a marketing fund. Consider it nothing more than a breather while you drastically cut costs and increase your client-base.

Yes, the Exchequer’s injection might keep you afloat. But your goal in this current crisis should not be to simply “stay afloat.” It should be to change ship entirely, to find a completely new model for your business, a model which allows you to work remotelymarket aggressivelyput your name out there and really come out of this crisis swinging.

Mitigating COVID-19’s Impact on Your Accounting Practice’s Bottom-Line

The pound sterling has dropped fifteen cents to the US dollar in a month, the lowest our currency has been since the 1980s. “The fall came despite chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday unveiling a £350bn package of measures to support the UK economy,” reports City A.M. On Friday, 20 March, cafes and restaurants were told to close and not open tomorrow. The government plans to pay up to 80% of salaries of employees unable to work.

Big news. And yet we don’t need the news. Many of us are working from home, many of our colleagues have had to close up shop. The streets are empty, schools are closed. The UK economy, to put it mildly, is in dire straits.

COVID-19’s effects on the accounting industry specifically

We have spoken to colleagues and to clients to try and understand the particulars of COVID-19’s effect on an accounting practice. This is what they told us:

An accountancy practice’s clientele is composed mainly of businesses, trusts, etc. The current economic “uncertainty” — as the media likes to euphemistically describe it — is already leading to an immediate decrease in new business ventures being launched, with the ultimate effect of a delay of growth in established businesses. This is currently being seen by a decline in overall leads for practice owners. The problem of no leads is exacerbated further by a drastic reduction in walk-in customers — people simply aren’t on the streets, and we don’t know when they will be again.

All businesses are going to be hit by this event, regardless of size, and an overall reduction in cashflow for businesses means that accountancy firms might receive an increased number of requests for fee reductions. Smaller businesses, especially, simply will not be able to pay the accountancy firm’s usual fee, and will likely terminate their contracts with accountants in order to cut costs.

As more and more companies flock to doing work online and try and find new leads through the internet, PPC (Pay Per Click) costs might increase due to a surge in online competition.

Some companies will benefit from the sudden surge of people at home

Employees are suddenly working from home. Big online businesses which already operate in the areas of “remote work” are capitalising on this fact. Dropbox is currently offering a three month free trial of its Business Plan (as opposed to its usual one month) for NGOs and non-profits fighting coronavirus. Many of these organisations will undoubtedly stay on as clients for Dropbox after the trial is over. Smashwords is running an enormous sale of eBooks. It will donate the proceeds to families affected by the virus. No doubt it will garner many new customers from these sales.

Even our local UKPostBox.com is joining in on the “Work Remotely” bandwagon. It offers no specials, but has a special message regarding the coronavirus on its website, telling potential buyers about working from home during the virus, and urging visitors to sign up for their service — a virtual UK postbox.

Many companies will reap the benefits from this virus. They are neither wrong nor bad for doing this. They simply happen to offer the services people need during this unique period of history.

Accountancy practices, unfortunately, are not such a business.

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Working from home: Complexities for accountancy firms

Practices which already have systems and procedures in place for working from home will be the least affected. But in our experience this number is in the extreme minority in the accountancy industry. (This is the very reason we began We Run Your Practice in the first place.)

For firms which must suddenly and immediately transition into a “Working from Home” model, the costs and difficulties can include:

  1. If everyone suddenly works from home, then costs for the premises are simply wasted.
  2. Inability to monitor employees who are unaccustomed to the sudden “freedom” of working from home.
  3. If your accountancy practice uses in-house computer servers with no external access, a sudden transition is all but impossible. Those servers are usually designed to be “locked down,” and accessible only from within the office. (Companies using some sort of online storage will have an easier transition.)
  4. Employees tend to be more “on the ball” when inside an office with their superiors.
  5. Inability to meet clients face-to-face.
  6. Difficulty in obtaining physical client records from clients.

There are several solutions to each of the above problems. The catch is that there are simply so many services available that choosing one gets complicated quickly, and that choice might then lead to conflicts with other online services you are already using. The transition from Office Work to Remote Work is one best done with patience and time, considering all factors.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has taken all that time and patience away from us. Companies that are not set-up to work remotely might simply haemorrhage income for two weeks and hope to get back on their feet when this is all over.

But “hoping” is never a good way to do business.

Possible solutions for accountancy firms hit by the coronavirus pandemic

  1. Outsourcing. We have written about outsourcing accountancy services here. There can be severe pitfalls involved, and these must be understood clearly before committing to any outsourcing company.
  2. Selling your practice. This would be a last-resort “solution.” But what of all the work you put into building your practice? And, really, what kind of cash would you get for businesses that, according to you, might be headed for troubled waters?
  3. Take on an additional partner? Merge with another company? Wait it out?

We started We Run Your Practice long before the coronavirus outbreak. Never in our wildest dreams had we imagined that something like this might happen. And yet here we are.

At We Run Your Practice we take your accountancy practice off your hands, market it, brand it, take care of your clients, and let you reap the dividends. We designed our service with Remote Work in mind.

We are not an outsourcing company, we are something entirely new — a full-service company which takes care of all aspects of your accountancy firm while still keeping you involved and informed to whatever degree you want to be. It’s your business, but we take the load off.

Whatever you choose to do, there are a few unavoidable facts that must be addressed for your accountancy firm to survive the imminent fallout of the current government “lockdown”:

  1. The economy is going to suffer, no question about it.
  2. As a result, people and businesses will have less money to pay you with.
  3. Somehow, you still need to turn a profit — that means reducing costs.
  4. You’ll need to put elements in place now that will allow you (and your staff) to work remotely if they ever need to do so again.

That’s a lot of things to work out, a lot of new areas to research and make decisions about. You could research and address each one of those items yourself and hope you come up with the best possible solution, or you could turn over the whole problem to us and let us solve it for you.

Because we have solved it already. We solved it long before the coronavirus came along.

Accountants Who Outsource Accounting: Easy Answers to Contentious Questions

As HMRC crackdowns on Limited Company taxes grows more intense, and as laws to prevent fraud promulgate and increase, an accountancy firm is evermore pressed to look for outsourced accounting services.

It’s a contentious subject. If there is one thing we accountants pride ourselves on, it is the professionalism and integrity of our work. We are proud members of the ICAEW. We seek further qualifications with institutes such as the ACCA, AAT and ATT. We constantly look for legal ways to bring the highest possible profit to our clients, so that they continue to use our services and recommend us to others.

In a sense, we are somewhat like virtuosos. And no true artist wants to have his artwork produced by another.

But we are also businessmen, and the very essence of our profession is to ensure profitability. There is simply too much work to be done for us not to at least consider outsourcing.

The types of outsourced accounting services

To attempt to lower the workload, an accountancy firm might seek to outsource one or more of the following services:

  1. Preparing ledger accounts from raw documentation such as receipts, invoices, bank statements, etc.
  2. Reconciliation of balances to bank statements
  3. Finalising accounts from the trial balance for final review to extended trial balance level
  4. Drafting and preparing financial statements with corporation tax computations
  5. Financial controller services
  6. Company registrations
  7. Payroll processing
  8. And others
Outsourced accountancy services

Reading the list, one gets the idea that it’s possible to outsource one’s entire business and then simply go to the beach, stretch one’s legs and drink piña coladas all day.

Well, yes and no.

Mostly no, in fact — until now.

Busting the myth that outsourced accounting services save time and money

There is no dearth of information on the internet about the purported benefits of outsourced accounting services. Many of the links lead to Search Engine Optimised articles written by an outsourcing company’s marketing department.

Yes, you do need a solution to reduce the workload, but let’s consider a few factors regarding outsourcing as it is done today before you jump on this bandwagon and pay for it severely later:

You need to review outsourced work again

This is true of any business, but is especially true for accountancy firms. Errors could lead to being banned by the ICAEW, which itself can lead to a closed business.

You simply cannot afford to not review the outsourced work. It is our experience that, with outsourcing, 90% of the work received needs to reviewed again to ensure quality is not compromised.

This is both time-consuming and costly. If you pass inaccurate reports onto clients, there is a very good chance you’ll either lose the client or get sued for incompetency.

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Lost control 

With outsourcing, you are dependent on the outsourcing company to deliver the accounts in a timely manner. If they fail to meet deadlines, ultimately it is your firm which will face the consequences. It is still your responsibility to ensure deadlines are met.

Possible loss of quality controls

This is not necessarily true of all outsourcing companies, but is a factor that must be watched like a hawk in order to prevent catastrophes. It is our experience that many outsourcing companies’ key motive is to cut costs so as to achieve mass data entry. The business model of an outsourcing company is bulk work for cheap prices.

In such an ecosystem, quality is the first attribute to go out the window. It might take several attempts by you to find an outsourcing company that does work this way. During those attempts, you will need to review work and check on quality for all the work you send to them. Instead of reducing your workload, you will likely have increased it.

Of course, the outsourcing company itself is probably also going through the growing pains of “Too much work and too little time.” Even if, after all your false starts, you do find a company that does the outsourced work with good quality, you will periodically have to check the work to ensure that no corners are being cut.

The risk is always there.

As mentioned previously, other professions might be able to pass off low-quality work and get away with it. But, for us accountants, it could cost us our livelihood.

Hidden outsourcing costs

This is particularly true of bookkeeping. There always seems to be some small hidden charge when it comes to something that requires custom treatment. Not all clients are the same, and a small tweak can cost you dearly in the long-run. It’s vital that you read the fine-print.

Security Risks

This is yet another potentially catastrophic area for an accountancy firm, especially since the enactment of GDPR laws. In this digital age, data breaches are a common occurrence. When shortlisting an outsourcing company, you must take into account their level of compliance with data privacy laws.

Additional administrative burden

When you’re managing a number of clients that are being outsourced, you’ll need to ensure there is a robust process to account for each job delegated. This means you’ll need to have an internal manager to stay on top of the new workload.

Different time zones and deadlines

Many outsourcing organisations are based abroad. It is imperative that you can communicate at the same time. When emails are exchanged after 12 hours, this can cause delays in your expected deadlines and further add to the administrative burden.

Our solution: A new paradigm to outsourcing accounting services

Perhaps in its heyday of the early 21st century outsourcing was the boon every expanding company was looking for. Regulations were less restrictive, and penalties weren’t so severe.

But things have changed. A new paradigm is required for “outsourcing.” What is needed now is something above outsourcing, a full-service company which is both accountabletrustworthytransparentcompetent. A company which can take the load off your shoulders while still allowing you to retain control of your clients.

There is no word for this new type of service. I believe we are the first to offer it.

Whatever your choice is regarding the subject of outsourcing, as an accountant you must be aware of the risks involved, and the potential loss of money if you hire a company that does not deliver the goods. You need to do your homework, and go with a company that you feel you can trust, and who really does save you time and money in the long run.