OUT NOW: 2022 State of client engagement.  Download the report

Automating client engagements builds team confidence

Brown & Co
Chris Brown, Managing Director

Chris is the founder and managing director of Brown & Co, having previously spent nearly 8 years at KPMG. He is a Chartered Accountant and tax specialist, providing tax planning and advice on both a corporate and personal level. Chris says he set up Brown & Co because he really wanted to help people run their businesses, rather than have their businesses running them.

“The Ignition platform has brought confidence into the team when engaging clients, and having less awkward conversations is positively impacting our team culture."

Chris Brown, Managing Director, Brown & Co

The challenge: chasing up clients for information

“As a small firm, it can be hard to say no to clients. When a client argues, it drags the whole team down, and can have a negative impact across the whole business.”

Chris Brown has seen many sides of the accounting profession over his 25 years’ in the industry.

Chris’ experience included eight years at KPMG and he is now extending that Big Four consulting expertise to the clients of Brown & Co Chartered Accountants – his own tax and advisory practice in the UK.

One of the biggest bugbears Chris has experienced in the accounting industry is how often awkward conversations arise with clients. In particular, the arduous task of chasing clients up for critical tax information needed to complete the work and for late payments on work already completed.

“It’s a nightmare for my team and I to chase people up. Brown & Co is developing its culture every day – we have a certain way of working. Ideally, we want our clients to have a similar way of working.”

“Previously, we worked with a sole trader who promised my team documents were ‘in the post’ or ‘already sent’. For two years, our team strived to continue to service the client, but the tension points only increased. Unfortunately, when the client accused our team of not doing any work, we had to retire the account and make a big write-off.”

This is a common occurrence at many accounting firms. According to new Ignition research, when awkward client situations arise, 31 per cent of accountants address them with clients, but then just absorb the increased time and costs themselves. As Chris describes, this can have a negative impact on staff’s morale and motivation.

“It [awkward client situations] drags the whole team down. It has such a negative impact on the team’s morale… it essentially devalues the work that the team is doing.”

The solution: putting an end to awkward conversations with Ignition

Chris believes that avoiding or delaying these conversations can lead to a high-volume of time consuming work, including client follow-ups which aren’t materially adding any value to the practice.

“Prior to using Ignition, if we had a difficult client call to make, I’d coach the team to bullet point how they’d want the conversation to go, think through the potential objections, absorb all the client material and communication as much as possible.”

“In short, we were spending hours in preparation to support the client in their goals while trying to keep our practice sustainable. My team was frustrated because they weren’t focused on higher value tasks.”

Since moving to Ignition to engage clients and automate billing and payments, Chris says it’s easier to show the value of the team’s work and get paid – which has also meant less awkward conversations and more confidence when engaging clients. “From a cash flow point of view, I know I can continue to operate my business and importantly, pay my own staff."

“The Ignition platform has brought confidence into the team when engaging clients, and having less awkward conversations is positively impacting our team culture. It’s so easy to send proposals out to the client, have them sign it off, and get the cash flow benefits,” he says.

“I always see Ignition as a tool to scale the business. As we get more clients, and more work, it’s easier to scale. The team can do all the proposals and invoicing themselves, so I don’t even need to do any of that.”

2022 State of client engagement

With unrecovered out of scope work costing accounting and bookkeeping professionals nearly £70k per year on average, UK firms are leaving money on the table. Having or avoiding awkward client conversations, whether about scope creep or late payments, is a part of everyday life – but it doesn’t have to be.

Register for our 2022 State of client engagement webinar on Thursday 22 September 2022 at 11am BST, featuring Chris Brown from Brown & Co.

Hear from our expert panel about Ignition’s latest research insights on the cost of avoiding awkward situations, and the tools and strategies your firm can use to put an end to these. Ignition’s first ‘State of client engagement’ report explores the impact that delaying awkward client conversations has on accounting professionals and their firms in the United Kingdom. Click here to download the report.

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