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SME business advice to include mediation

Posted: 9 June 2017

Maximiti , whose services include business mediation for SMEs has recently introduced the concept to the UK's small and medium sized accountancy practices

Highlights from Maximiti's survey showed :

  • Over 60% of accountancy firms did not realise how cost effective mediation can be compared with litigation.

  • Only 58% thought that mediation would achieve a better result than litigation.

  • Over 70% of accountants were aware of clients being involved in disputes in the past 3 years.

  • Approximately 62% of accountants were unaware of how swiftly mediation can bring about a resolution.

With a success rate over 80% and a mediation meeting typically lasting a day or less at a fraction of the cost of litigation, Katz reckons that accountants are missing a trick in their never ending quest for more arrows in their value-added quiver.

Whilst the survey did show that around 60% of accountants had been involved on some format in trying to sort client disputes, all too often it is in a passive role once the legal fees had reached "silly sums" in proportion to the matter under dispute.

Katz end off by pointing out that in business disputes it is almost certainly "only about money" , making it ripe for a swiftly mediated conclusion by a professional mediator , whilst allowing a role for the accountant that can earn them fees that are easily justifiable.

Are accountants finally closing the expectations gap ?

Posted: 20 April 2017

Maximiti, accountancy practice brokers and consultants has long pointed out the gap between what clients want and what they get.

Accountants traditionally saw themselves as compliance clerks whose year end meeting was endured by clients, rather than looked forward to. Clients have complained for years that their accountants weren't giving them business advice.

The result, according to Norman Younger FCCA, director at Maximiti, was a Mexican stand-off that was in nobody's interests. Clients simmered quietly and accountants wondered why fee and client growth was stagnating.

Maximiti's recent survey found that 66% of accountants described themselves as trusted business advisers, 22% saw themselves as providing traditional services and a surprising 12% had never given the matter any thought !

Younger ponders as to whether this change in self-perception actually translates into hard, useful advice that clients truly value and are willing to pay for. "It's a leap of faith for clients to pay extra for advice they always felt entitled to but never received" , says Younger and he continues by pointing out that many firms face the uphill struggle of justifying their new found "value added" as it can take time for the results of advice to manifest themselves and even then it's only if the client actually follows it through in a timely manner.

Younger believes that the commoditisation of basic accounting services is forcing firms to re-think what they stand for and he expects that 66% to climb steadily in the coming years, eventually reaching 100%, although admittedly it could well be a generational phenomenon and may not reach saturation until the last of the old school finally closes their ledgers.

 

 

Are accountants underappreciated by clients ?

Posted: 23 February 2017

A recent survey of the accountancy profession by Maximiti, practice brokers and consultants, reveals that 72% of practitioners believe they are inadequately remunerated.

The profession has long faced fee pressures of the sort not seen by other disciplines. All too often the annual meeting with clients becomes a game of poker over the fee.

According to Norman Younger FCCA, founder and director of Maximiti, this points to clients failing to make proper use of their accountant for business advice and unfairly relegating them to the role of compliance clerks.

So where does the fault lie? Given that Maximiti also found that 68% of firms claimed that they saw themselves as "trusted business advisers" it would appear that this message is not being articulated adequately to clients or that clients simply do not believe that accountants have the commercial nous needed for the front line of business.

"I think many small firm owners would be surprised about (a) how much practical experience many accountants actually have - after all a practice is also a business, complemented by the fact many partners have external business interests , and (b) how their experiences in advising a wide range of businesses can be easily applied across all sectors" adds Younger.

Clearly there is an expectations gap but the question is whether enough firms are grasping the nettle to push themselves forward as people who can truly add value to their clients' businesses.

Younger ends off by predicting that as change sweeps the profession many will have no choice but to do so in order to keep the lights on.

 

 

Maximiti launches accountancy mediation service

Posted: 13 February 2017

Maximiti , leading UK accountancy practice brokers and consultants has opened a mediation service for its clients

This new department is run by Rafael Katz MCIArb, who has a wide and varied experience with mediating disputes at both the professional and general business level.

Norman Younger, founder and director of Maximiti, believes that mediation is something that many accountants could benefit from as the profession goes through unprecedented change that will have a direct effect on client expectations.

"The beauty of mediation is that clients can be retained and in the worst case scenario the need to go to law is obviated. When solicitors get involved there is only one winner - the law firm", says Younger wryly.

"Clients don't seek to leave their accountant when there is a disagreement, nor does the accountant seek the negative publicity that disgruntled ex-clients can foster but clients typically feel they have little alternative. We want to change how misunderstandings between accountants and their clients are handled" Younger concludes.

The appointment of a professional mediator will also assist the development of the specialist business brokerage cum corporate finance function that was launched last month by Maximiti.

Maximiti extends accountancy support  

Posted: 18 January 2017

 

Maximiti , leading UK accountancy practice brokers and consultants has added on a new portfolio of support services to the accountancy sector

  • Mentoring

  • Financing

  • Sale of client businesses

Norman Younger FCCA, director and founder says this move is a mixture of response to requests from clients and that the business sales and mentoring is the resurrection of a service that was previously offered in a limited way.

We have extensive experience of advising small accountancy firms and of general business transfer for specialised assignments in what may be described as "boutique". Having changed some of the dynamics of accountancy practice brokerage since 2007 Younger feels the time is ripe to take a different approach to general business sales.

"We have spent time and money on this project working with professional partners who see massive potential for all parties" , says Younger, who is also marketing the businesses for sale listings to accountancy firms as another avenue of "value added" for their clients.

 

Accountancy firms ill-prepared for winds of change   Posted: 21 December 2016

A survey by Maximiti Ltd, leading UK accountancy practice brokers and consultants reveals a worrying statistic that could bode ill for many small practices in 2017, given the pace of change facing the accountancy profession

Norman Younger BA (Hons) FCCA , founder and director of the firm reveals that 80% of firms recently surveyed by his firm have no strategy for change in place for 2017.

"Given the massive changes facing SMEs and micro-entities, ranging from RTI to MTD it is time for every single firm to know how they will cope with client demands and government IT gremlins" says Younger.

Maximiti believes a major concern is whether firms feel able to recover the extra costs involved. But more worrying explains Younger is that "challenge also presents opportunity and that many firms are failing to see the massive potential for growth on the back of these changes coupled with others such as commoditisation of the core offering that is the bread and butter of so many high street practices".

"It's small wonder that our survey also found that only 50% of practices were optimistic for their fortunes in 2017" he says ruefully.

"If firms cannot look after themselves adequately and are somewhat downbeat" wonders Younger, "what does that say for the level of business support and planning that they are offering their clients?"

Younger ended off by returning to a recurring theme he hears from SME owners on a depressingly regular basis - why their accountants are not proactive with business and investment advice. He wonders whether the profession will ever close that expectations gap, but is certain it won't be in 2017.

 

 

Lifeline for clients of jailed accountant in last minute deal  Posted: 6 May 2016

The conviction of jailed accountant Christopher Lunn earlier this year had left thousands of clients, including household showbiz names, with a worrying wait for a resolution of their affairs following his sentencing

Norman Younger of practice brokers Maximiti, who negotiated the sale with the administrators Frost Group, observed that “this was a highly unusual and complex deal whose circumstances adversely impacted its marketability, and we had to bear in mind that with the passage of time the risk of clients finding a new adviser increased, thereby wiping out value for creditors. One would also hope that a better outcome for many clients will be achieved with a single firm liaising on behalf of the group with HMRC".

He added that the cause celebre surrounding the case demonstrated how rare such events are and remained confident that the reputation of the accountancy profession would not be undermined.

“The forthcoming Accountex exhibition shows just how energised and buoyant the sector is. This country boasts a robust and well regulated profession that can be relied upon to assist clients with compliance and fulfilling the role as trusted business adviser ” said Younger, who says that demand for the purchase of fee blocks or entire practices remains buoyant in spite the sluggish economy.

 

 

 

Only 16% of accountants have had Brexit conversation with clients   Posted: 26 May 2016

Maximiti, leading accountancy practice broker and consultant, has revealed that "the elephant in the room" is not on the radar of small accountancy firms

"For a profession renowned for caution and worry about possible adverse outcomes this was indeed a surprise," he says, but continues to ponder why this is and what it says about the profession.


"Most respondents simply said their clients were too small and a Brexit outcome would not affect them, but I think they are failing to think things through properly by not considering the trickle down effect, or perhaps they steer clear of politics for fear of upsetting the client" says Younger.


He goes on to point out that there are many subcontractors or suppliers to larger entities that will undoubtedly be affected, and states that the odds are on some sort of short term shock. "You only have to look at what the uncertainty is doing out there for many firms and that's before we've left - imagine the uncertainty the morning after" Younger is quick to state.


But for him, the headline statistic is not so much about Brexit but it is a worrying sign that smaller firms are simply not "getting it" that their role to clients is as a trusted business adviser and that their job is to create the environment for questioning both strategy and tactics on a regular basis.
"Nobody sees beyond a business like an outsider - they simply do not wear the blinkers that the owners do, however talented they may be," says Younger.


As a parting comment he declares his Brexit position in the interests of openness - the sooner we're out , the better!

 

The accountant's lot is a happy one   Posted: 14 April 2016

A recent survey of accountants in practice by Maximiti has found that over 80% of respondents who are thinking of selling up are not doing so because they are fed up of the profession

The survey results along with anecdotal evidence points to a profession who practitioners enjoy what they do and tend to sell up because of retirement as opposed to burn out.

Although generally a happy lot, the decision to retire is often precipitated by impending changes in the profession, either as a result of the march of technology that commoditises "bread and butter" fee processes or creeping regulation such as Auto Enrolment and quarterly reporting by HMRC.

"For somebody in their late fiftes who has been slogging away in the profession for over 30 years, one change too much is often the straw that breaks the camel's back , especially if they can get their hands on their pension already" , says Norman Younger , Director at Maximiti.

"I don't know how it compares to other professions" notes Younger, "but it seems that if you have a head for figures , it doesn't matter what the headwinds are - you'll be happy crunching numbers come what may until retirement appears on the horizon"

Younger points out that such high satisfaction rates only exacerbates the shortage of practices available on the market for young aspiring accountants eager to buy into a good quality established firm and hit the ground running instead of building up from scratch over a number of years.

 

Are accountants failing to heed their own advice? Posted: 23 March 2016

Accountants, long established as trusted to look after the business affairs of others, may benefit from a look in the mirror

Maximiti, a leading firm of accountancy practice brokers, conducted a survey of firms whose owners were considering selling, and asked whether they thought that their practice was ready for sale.


Only 17 per cent of respondents thought that their business was ready for sale. This suggests that when it comes to looking after other people's businesses they are performing much better than looking after their own affairs.


Norman Younger, director of Maximiti, says that it doesn't necessarily mean that the profession is in a poor state at the High Street level, but that it probably indicates the lack of time and "headspace" practitioners face due to the constant pressure from clients and creeping regulatory pressure, from money laundering rules to auto-enrolment.


He adds that it doesn't help that many small firms fail to fully grasp that they are not simply professionals, they are also in business for themselves and the same rules that apply to clients apply to their own business.


He points out that there is no suggestion that the advice given to SMEs is lacking but in fact there is a growing awareness of their role as trusted business advisers.


Younger ends off by noting that "the cobbler's children have long been going barefoot - plus can change".

 

Accountancy practice valuations in 2016 – will they finally diverge?  Posted: 30 December 2015

For many years the valuations of accountancy practices have defied the basic law of supply and demand and they have been trapped in a narrow range in spite of the ongoing shortage of “good” practices available.

Norman Younger FCCA , director of Maximiti , a leading firm of accountancy practice sales brokers , thinks that buyers may be tempted to outbid each other in 2016 , driving prices higher. “A lot depends on the attitudes of sellers. After all, if they don’t have the time or energy to meet several prospects there is less competition to drive up the multiple” says Younger .

So why might 2016 be different to past years ? The answer he says could lie with the agents, who are after all in the best position to determine how likely it is that buyers will break rank and compete against one another to land a plum practice. “Such opportunities are rare and it doesn’t make sense that prices are not rising when they do come up , especially if you factor in potential savings . Everybody has a point after which they will move beyond their comfort zone - it's time for agents to nudge practice sellers to meet multiple buyers ” says Younger .

With interest rates set to remain low for some years to come , following clarity on the matter from central bankers in recent weeks, buyers , especially those with investors behind them could react by paying more for a quality investment that is at the lower end of the risk spectrum. “Professional investors are getting restless in the quest for returns from passive investments with a low risk and the accountancy remains an obvious target especially as they realise that the alternatives are simply too risky in the current economic climate” says Younger , who looks forward to 2016 as a year where a lot more practices will change hands than in 2015.

“In many other asset classes prices growth potential is also factored into the valuation - perhaps it’s time for the accountancy profession to do the same. Trouble is accountants are a cautious bunch used to preparing historic accounts and the future is something not on their radar”.

So no bull markets then but a 5 -  10% rise , perhaps ? 

 

Accountants fail to grasp the hidden value in their practice   Posted: 15 July 2015

With interest rates at record lows and volatile markets, accountancy practices remain popular investments for existing practitioners. Buyers outnumber sellers massively but too many small firms underestimate their worth