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How Accountants Should Be Like Harry Potter (Wizards Who Make Their Clients Rich)

This week on Twitter, I read a comment that really struck me:

Accountants are like wizards who makes you rich. If you’re looking for an incredible accountant I can’t recommend @NL_Andrew enough.

— Calum McSwiggan (@CalumMcSwiggan) May 20, 2014

Accountants are like wizards who make you rich.

Isn’t that brilliant? Isn’t that the kind of thing you want to be said about you?

These days, if you’re an accountant, you’re still used to being seen as ‘the bad guy’.  Perhaps it’s because accounts are confusing, and clients don’t know where to begin.  Or because there is often a big tax bill to pay.  Whatever the reason, that doesn’t have to be the case. You don’t have to be the big bad wolf, and you don’t have to be avoided.  You can actually be something very, very positive: a wizard who makes your clients very, very rich.

Wizardry, of course, brings us to the glittering world of Harry Potter.  So for today’s tip, here are a few ways you and your firm should be emulating Harry Potter, and being wizards who make your clients rich.  (If some of the references confuse you, just ask a small child.)

Show your expertise.

Accounting wizardry is not just a matter of pulling out a wand and saying a few spells….or pulling out a pen and working a few numbers.  When Harry goes to Hogwarts, he discovers that being a wizard may be simple; acting like one, and using spells like one, requires a lot of hard work.  Training.  Classes. Practice.  Applying good knowledge to real situations.

One of the things you want to reveal to your prospective clients is that you know what you’re doing, because you’ve become an expert in your field.  That may be in a certain industry – working with creatives, perhaps, like My Accountancy Place – or a certain market – property owners or missionaries, like David Evans & Co.  We’ve always stressed how critical it is to have a niche or a focus area – so get producing on the bits that prove you know what to do with your wand – er, pen.

Be okay with the fact that not every prospect likes you.

Harry spends most of his time being misunderstood by the wizarding world.  There are brief periods in which everyone thinks he’s wonderful, but there are many times when everyone thinks he’s got his own agenda, or isn’t trying hard enough, or is confused.   But his best friends and those who know him stick around, because they trust him.

When it comes to your prospective clients, there are some who are just not going to click with you.  Who won’t trust you – yet, or ever.  Who don’t like your way of doing things.  That is absolutely okay.  You don’t seek fame and popularity – you’re just doing the right thing, and those who see things the way you do will stick with you the whole way.  Let the clients make the call, and don’t you stress out about the ones who decide they’d rather go hang out with Draco Malfoy for a while.

Remember that there are good accountants, and bad accountants.

One of my favourite quotes from the Harry Potter series is an exchange between the “Prime Minister” and the “Minister for Magic”, in which the troubles of the wizarding world are explained.

Prime Minister: “But you’re wizards! You can do magic! Surely you can sort out – well – anything!”
Cornelius Fudge: “The trouble is, the other side can do magic too.”

In this case, there are other accountants out there who – technically – can do accounting, too.  They can even do ‘magic’ when it comes to accounts, shifting numbers about and squeezing things here and there.  If you’re an accountant with integrity, though, you’ll know that shortcuts always catch up with your clients in the end, and you don’t go there.  Again, that can lose you clients.  Don’t lose sleep over it.  The clients who want to go the shortcut route (or the ‘dark magic’ route) are not your market. Let them go.

The same applies to those clients who want the cheapest accountant out there. (I’ve lost track of the number of requests on Twitter I’ve seen for a “good but cheap accountant”. Come on guys, we all know that doesn’t exist.)  If that’s you, hurrah and go for it, bearing in mind you’ll probably lose that client next year for someone cheaper than you.  If that’s not you (most of those reading this), be proud of it.  Be the accountant with the good magic, and feel free to charge for it.

Make your clients the right kind of rich.

Of course, Harry Potter is not out to learn a few spells so he and his friends can be rich. (Although his friend Ron might like that….there’s a scene where he receives Galleons that tumble out of the sky at a Quidditch match, and is crushed later to discover they’re fake.)  The books are full of that stuff that’s supposed to be so good for kids – ie., “riches are more than money”, “friendship is most important”, etc.

But let’s face it: if you’re a good accountant, you should be figuring out what kind of rich your client wants to be. Not everyone is in business to make billions or even millions of dollars.  At the Infusionsoft conference this year, I was encouraged to hear the speakers acknowledging those who didn’t want to be world changers, but simply wanted to make say £100,000 a year for themselves and take 6 weeks of holiday and support a charity.

So it’s brilliant if you are the wizard helping clients double their Galleons (or pounds, or dollars), but start by making sure you’re crystal clear as to what kind of rich they want to be. Then get them there.

Learn in unconventional ways.

At one stage Harry and his friends set up a bit of a secret society and meet to practice defensive magic themselves, because their teacher is not allowing it.  He sees the threat of Voldemort and his followers (er, He Who Must Not Be Named), so he’s going to learn to defend himself no matter what.

Learning is a whole new game these days. Most of you went to university, worked with an accountancy firm, got your experience, got your certification.  That’s needed.  But when it comes to things like online marketing, or training in a particular industry, you’ve got to get creative. Fortunately, no one is restricting you or preventing you access – but sadly many accountants figure that once their training is done and their CPD (or CPE) is achieved, their learning is done.  But there are so many places you can learn online.

Webinars are the top in their class for easy learning on your own time. We of course provide free webinars each month on online marketing, but loads of other organisations do too, and we think they’re great. Check out:

Xero University – live sessions on promoting and using Xero in your firm, as well as recorded ones (Xero TV)

Social media training – free training webinars from Hootsuite

Hubspot – free marketing materials and templates

Analytics – KISSmetrics has webinars on tracking stuff

The simplest thing to do is drop a quick email to someone you know and respect in the business world (or the area in which you’d like to learn) and ask them the top 3 email lists they’re on.  Your learning will zoom ahead.  (Feel free to drop me a note about mine.)

Don’t be afraid to proclaim yourself as an excellent accountant.

I’m just imagining an accountant whose website says “WE ARE WIZARDS WHO MAKE YOU RICH”.  I mean, how fun is that?? And that’s the kind of thing your prospective clients want to see.  They want to have confidence in you because you’ve got the confidence in yourself.  My experience in talking with accountants is that without fail you know you can win the client if you are sitting in front of them.  But for some reason when it comes to your website, social media, anything promotional, you suddenly become shy retiring flowers, not sure if you’re that great or not.  You are.  You are that great. You’re the expert in franchises, in creative agencies, in property ownership, in inheritance tax. Whatever the category, you know your stuff.

At one stage in the Harry Potter books, everyone is talking about “The Boy Who Lived”, and proclaiming that he’s going to be the one to destroy Voldemort, etc.  Harry avoids this for a long time.  No, I’m not that great, No, I don’t want the attention….but finally he comes to realise that he’d better face up to who he actually is, so that those who do believe in him can be proud to join with him, and those who fight him can be very afraid.

You don’t have the same fight of good and evil, perhaps, but if your prospective clients are going to become raving fans, don’t hesitate to show off what you know.  It’s not boasting – it’s just a fact.

That’s all for this week.  Expelliarmus! (That’s the charm that disarms your opponents. Go for it.)