Always remember our responsibility in engagement with clients, to safeguard and confidentially use information obtained in the engagement. We have to always remember and go back to what our agreement entails. As business accountants, we should not try to fulfil the duties and responsibilities of an auditor. We should work through the engagement and when we identify the irregular finance activities, meet with the client and discuss the effect this will have on our report, of course depending on the report that we need to issue, e.g. accounting officer or independent accounting professional. If we are just appointed to do the bookkeeping, we’ll have to meet with the client and explain our role as professionals registered with a professional body (SAIBA). We must explain that we will not be able to continue with our engagement, should the seemingly irregular finance activity be illegal.
I usually try to convince a client to sign a retainer fee, and if we get any ad hoc work, we require a deposit for work to be done. Our fee is very reasonable and usually affordable to our clients, so it is never difficult to get fees paid. I don’t believe that it’s a good idea to hand over clients to lawyers. I feel that we assist these clients to achieve their personal goals, e.g. vehicles and homes that are expenses, so when they achieve these goals, we effectively take them to a stage where they can’t afford our service, because of these bills. I always show these clients the importance of our services and what we do, so that they can excel. The key in my practice is that I meet with my clients monthly, so that they can see that I personally invest in their businesses, and so we build a respectful relationship. The client will feel responsible to pay our fees. The key element is that they see the benefits of our services and our support to their business.
My practice is built to develop future accountants. I lead my staff through training, development and implementing procedures and processes. We have an initiation training programme based on identifying and igniting the business person within yourself. I help develop each individual so they can move on from my practice into business or start their own practice. We have been involved in the youth of the community for a number of years, working with government departments. We’ve noticed that they focus on the skills to help individuals to open their own businesses and enhance job creation through these small businesses.
Is it general practice to have an increased rate per hour for ad hoc work and discounted fees if the client agrees on a retainer billing? I usually explain to clients that come in on an ad hoc basis that they are losing out on services that we offer, so I convince a prospective client to consider our package rather than just using a specific service. This is how I run my business, so I can’t say whether this is general practice.
Should a client not pay, I’ll request my partner to follow up and request payment. I’ll still source work from the client, but my partner will request payment. What’s key is the fact that I won’t let the client feel that our income is more important than rendering a service to a client. As the accountant I will never request payment, because I want them to feel that my primary goal is to help their businesses. These are the isolated cases.
It is important to plan your month so that you can attend to everything. In my business I can work for 21 hours a day, but I have the philosophy that every person has a certain number of hours to work before retirement, and the more hours you work, the earlier you’ll retire. This motivates me when I’m going to bed at 3:30 am and starting my day at 6:00 am. We are in a business of working hard and when the time comes, we will have the rest. I may have this philosophy because I’m still young, but it works for now.
It is important to treat every client with respect and dignity and to give your best, because they are the best avenue to your next client. Happy clients will always refer new clients. I also have a very busy social network where I educate the public in financial administration, taxation and accounting. In addition I attend all the networking and business meetings in our community.
I try to impact the youth so I usually do not have skilled trainees in my practice.