Unprofitable work

According to the 80:20 rule, we are spending 80% of our time looking after the concerns of 20% of our client base. Fine if we get paid for our efforts, but what if we don’t? What if we are busy fools?

Barriers to delivering profitable work

There are quite a few, including that you will have clients that:

  • are not prepared to pay for work with added value – advisory work,
  • don’t appreciate the value of the work you do provide, and
  • always want more for less – they consider your fees a cost not an investment.

To some extent this is a reflection of your willingness to accommodate clients, for example, by answering yet another call that you know you will not be paid for, and the current COVID effect; clients simply do not have the resources to pay for advice.

Strategies to counter this trend

Depressing as it may seem, the best way to deal with a problem is to realise you have a problem in the first place. If you are finding it difficult to expand advisory services – the profitable work – there are a number of strategies you could employ to counter this trend. For example:

Sacking clients

We all have clients that waste our time, don’t appreciate the work we do for them and are constantly seeking to reduce our fees. Surely the obvious solution is sack them…? Wouldn’t this free up time to complete more interesting work with clients who are prepared to pay?

Pro bono

If you have clients, good clients, that really can’t afford to pay for “extras” due to COVID disruption, would it not be sensible to offer a limited pro bone service for a short period of time? As long as you can see that by undertaking the work you can return clients to normality in an acceptable time period. This will sow good seeds in your practice goodwill patch.

The alternative is to stand aside and perhaps see- what may be a potentially valuable client – go to the wall. You will then need to acquire new client(s) to replace these losses, and the cost of acquisition may exceed the short-term cost of any pro-bono support.

Assessing risk

COVID has underlined the need to take a fresh look at your client lists and assess risk. For example:

  • Are they transactional, seeking to minimise activity to reduce fees or relationship biased: can they see the value of advisory services?
  • Are they bad payers, constantly seeking to reduce their accountancy support costs or are they good payers, appreciative of the work you do for them?
  • Are they survivors or will COVID disruption prove to be the end of their business ambitions?

Fee Building the Landmark way

If you are looking for ideas to make a positive impact on your efforts to build a profitable practice, take a look at our Fee Builder service. For a monthly investment of £55, this service will provide you with ideas and resources to implement fee building strategies.

Bob Edwards

Bob has been working with practices across the UK offering novel ways to improve cross-sales and increase new client acquisitions. He is also interested in "step changes" in legislation that offer challenges, and therefore opportunities, for practitioners to provide new recurring and one-off support services to clients.

Leave a comment