Archive: AVN Insights

Why do we enter awards?


As a company we encourage our members to enter awards and as company we practice what we preach! So AVN entered the Lloyds Bank National Business Awards UK.

We encourage our members to enter awards because its a great opportunity to reflect on what you have done. We are often too involved in the day to day dealings of our business to appreciate the efforts our teams put in everyday and the impact we can have on our clients.

A reflection of 20 years

As part of the process we got to apply and recognise not only what we have done over the last 12 months but reflect on almost 20 years. We have been changing Accountancy practices to achieve the aspirations of their owners. Deliver better and more transparent services to their clients and in turn their families.

Whilst some decisions are never easy we have helped some of our members actually understand why they are in business and what it means to them personally. A very different journey for them all, a journey that constantly changes. Helped them get the most out of their teams and work out who is right for the journey.

A personal journey

Whilst some of our members may look for practice growth while in their 20’s. This may change into their 30’s as young families come along and time is a more precious commodity. During their 40’s they may start to look to their future and design a practice that can let you do what you enjoy. Into their 50’s they may start thinking about passing the practice on to up and coming team or family members and starting to take it easy.

The reality is a personal journey, one member I work with is in his 70’s and not thinking about retiring, its not about the money it is about a sense of pride, ownership… its what he wants from his practice and gives him enjoyment everyday.

Having been around for nearly 20 years, it is nice to see people come back. They take the ideas and practices we have shown them and build a successful business, but they want to be challenged more and develop new skills. They raise the bar time and time again and turn to AVN to support them in their endeavours. It with a sense of pride we see these practices change and can be their to support them.

Why did we choose Lloyds Bank National Business Awards?

Well, it has been described as the “Oscars for Business” by David Cameron. Looking back at the previous entrants we are truly in prestigious company and to be a Finalist is a mighty achievement, completely down to such an amazing team we have. Including a few that have moved on to new challenges, but have supported us and wished us well in the “Enabler of the year” award.

So on the eve of the awards dinner it felt right to reflect. Awards are great for raising your profile. Making you stand out from the crowd and giving you a great marketing angle. But to be honest its about making a difference day in day out to your clients.

Good luck to all the entrants for the Lloyds Bank Business Awards 2017, The Vonage Nexmo Business Enabler of the Year.

The finalists

  • Altia-ABM @altiasolutions
  • Avalara Europe @vatlive
  • Volo Commerce @volocommerce
  • Gatwick Airport @gatwick_airport
  • Close Brothers Retail Finance @closebrothersrf
  • Give A Grad A Go @giveagradago
  • Mobysoft @mobysoft
  • DCSL Software @dcslsoftware
  • Radius Payment Solutions

The sponsor

And also a big thank you to the sponsors Vonage @vonage @nexmo.

Article Source: James Miller

Benchmarking Your Accountancy Clients


I recently had a conversation with an Accountancy Practice about our benchmarking software (no this is not a sales pitch!).

Whilst the software is intuitive, easy to use, gives great visual reports and highlights the areas you can really add value that your clients appreciate, this is just obvious value… the real value comes from what it enables.


It enables conversation, easy subjects to start with. But by using your skills of observation, listening and sometimes asking the damn stupid questions, you connect with your client. If you are really good you find the answers to questions you have not even asked.

Why does a client want to talk about their family, the fact they’ve just got an MBA or the location of their next holiday, when they have a super successful business? Is this information a waste of your time?

The most valuable use of your time

I would suggest this is the most valuable use of your time.

By relating to them as an individual and not just a company, you are creating long-term relationships that can last years, decades. Be a trusted individual to disclose hopes, dreams and fears.

time-2860031_1920You may find out what is driving your clients? Maybe money is not enough, but the gift of time to spend with a child or a loved one could be more valuable than you could ever perceive. By helping them systemise their business or delegate responsibility to their team or even by you taking on some of the business tasks.

I have used many accountancy firms over the years and the ones that stick in my memory are the ones that cared about me as an individual. Of course they did a great job with our audit and accounts but what I really valued was the personal touch.

The smallest things can make a difference

Sometimes this is easier with a small firm but the smallest things can help.

I worked with KPMG for a while and the fact that they knew how I took my coffee and the partner was willing to have a chat about what was going on made a big difference.

coffee-2714970_1920With smaller firms I like how they had this holistic view of my company. They can look at the audit, accounts, tax, my plans for the future of the company and personally as well, all in one stride. There is no inter department squabble for my hard earned cash.


So make time for your clients, forget the timesheets. Invest in them and allow yourself to show what you can offer. Rewards may not be instantaneous but the benefit to your practice could be huge. Often clients just see the compliance work you do as a quasi tax, something they have to do for HMRC or Companies House. Unfortunately its something that often they do not value and push you on price because somebody is always cheaper, undervaluing themselves and the profession.

Make time and understand your clients

By making time and understanding your clients on so many levels, you have the opportunity to add value that not only they perceive, but makes a real difference to them.

The added bonus is that when clients discover this about you they are more than happy to tell their friends and other business contacts how you are different. Allowing you to stand tall in your market place.

The stupid questions

If you do not understand what a client is saying, push them on it. If they cannot sell an idea to you as being the right thing to do, then I would argue it is the wrong thing to do.

mindmap-2123973_1920I argued with a non-exec for two years that we needed to keep a division open. I would explain but he did not get why, he continued to question, pry and query my logic. But he did not give up.

In the end I ran out of illogical reasons. I eventually started to question my own logic, analyse what we were doing and saying.

We closed a department where we were loosing £100k a year, but we had to keep maintaining sales in other areas. The result was that we didn’t lose sales in other areas. By shifting the departments operations to a couple of key suppliers, they were able to drop their price to us. The end result was that we netted an extra £350k onto our bottom line.

Now that non-exec was a really valuable trusted advisor.

If you are inspired by this blog and want to find out more then drop James Miller an email at

Article Source: James Miller

Awards – Why Bother?


I was asked recently why we win awards and the simple answer was because we enter them. So if you’re sitting on the sidelines here are 3 very good promotional reasons to make 2018 the year you enter awards and a there is a bonus 4th…

Reason 1: Media Proof

Industry awards allow you to be acknowledged by your industry. It’s important to raise your profile and awards allow you to do this in a few ways with the media from: Press Releases with the possibility to be published or broadcast and get a wider reach with their readership, listeners or viewers; with producers, journalists and researchers as you are now on their radar even if they don’t react the first, second or third time so keep at it.

Reason 2: Peer Proof 

Your peers recognise you as an industry expert and the judges independently endorse this proof. Obviously this is most applicable when you’re shortlisted, a finalists and a winner. This then allows you to raise your profile with the media as one of the experts in your field thus supporting reason 1.

Reason 3: Social Proof

Clients as you know when you help them they just love it and are more open to give you testimonials so make sure you ask for them. These can then be shared with other clients in many ways and everyone one in social media. Typically when you win or are a finalist your chance to share in social media is invaluable as well as getting lots of likes often with FaceBook they encourage you to share and increase your reach with their promotional offers and the opportunity for more to follow you and get to know, like, trust.

AND the Big Bonus?

Reason 4: Progressive Proof

We’re members of AVN Inspiring Accountants and the 2020 innovation Group so by being proactive in what they offer we naturally call ourselves innovative, inspirational and progressive accountants and business advisors. By being members of both we can punch above our weight by getting access to some excellent CPD for the team, use some innovative tools, techniques and systems to streamline our operation and future proof our firm as attending the conferences allows us to get the vibe of the moment, be more inspired and innovative from learning from others; pat ourselves on the back for a good job well done; and look to 2018 with a refreshed horizon on how we can improve ourselves to make the clients love us more by helping them be more successful.

So best advice? Become a member of both and enter the awards to get the opportunity to mix with other members and peers and learn more quickly what others are doing to keep ahead of the game and punch above your weight!

AND you’ll find it is so much more fun when you get out more ;-))


Gerry Murray 

Marketing Director

Murray Associates Accountants


Article Source: James Miller

HMRC to issue 400,000 auto-completed tax returns!


Why does such a statement fill me with dread? While I can see the appeal for HMRC to gather data from different sources to validate it and make the life of the taxpayer easier, there are three things I am sure of:

  1. There will be an unacceptable number that are incorrect, inaccurate or just completely wrong returns.
  2. Taxpayers will be confused and unsure- or worse, still convinced HMRC must be right.
  3. Accountants and business advisors will be left trying to pick up the pieces for their clients who will not want to pay for this work.

So where do you start? Education. Your clients need to be aware what could be dropping through the letter box and that you still need to see them and validate the information. Plus give you plenty of time to be able to assess the data correctly.

You need to enquire whether new clients have received them.

This is also an ideal time to reinforce the value of the work that you can do, and by having the information early it gives you the greatest opportunity to help.

HMRC say, “Millions will benefit”. In theory, they will read, comprehend and agree the figures…. oh and then pay the bill!

How many clients look at tax calculations, let alone comprehend the workings? This will lead to mistakes and misunderstandings that then have to be sorted out.

The initial group is limited to two relatively small groups, which is a good thing!

  1. New state pensioners whose income is about £11,500.
  2. PAYE Taxpayers who have underpaid by a relatively small amount.

But the net is widening and this type of data gathering is going to increase- meaning that it really starts to impact on some of your clients. In theory it will only be where HMRC has all the taxpayers income information. But, how can they truly know what a self-employed person will have earned? Plus, situations do change.

Let’s see how this develops and remember that clients only have 60 days to challenge the simple assessment.


Article Source: James Miller

Times are changing!


For centuries accountants have been seen as the trusted advisor and held in high regard. A source of incredibly valuable financial information and insight. Essential to helping businesses make sound financial decisions so they can plan ahead.

But now the rate of change in the world is far too rapid for a set of year end accounts to serve any meaningful purpose other than for the requirements of HMRC or Companies House. Business owners now view the cost of production of their year end accounts as a quasi tax, not something of benefit to their business, but a legal requirement to produce. They are therefore questioning value and looking for the cheapest solution, this in turn is putting the fees accountants can charge for compliance under pressure.

Businesses are now operating in an environment where they need to adapt to change and serve their customers instantly. Questions can be answered in an instant with Google, you can make a purchase with a fingerprint and everything is happening in real time. As such this is how Business Owners need their financial information and their accountant to support them.

For accountants who focus on compliance fees alone you are now at a crossroads. Stick with compliance services and struggle with the increased competition from other accountants, and technology devaluing what you deliver or step into the role business owners are looking for and willing to pay for.

Accountants have an incredibly important part to play as they step into the business advisory role. Embrace change not only within how you produce a set of accounts, but proactively work with your clients so they can embrace these changes as well. Where you can make such a difference to a business that clients are more than willing to pay your fees.

Help clients to navigate through the vast array of overwhelming information. Allow them to focus on the real indicators that will make a difference to their businesses. Complement this by giving recommendations and strategies that will help to improve these numbers.

This change in focus will not only allow accountants to maintain their profitability, but allow it to grow and the status of a “trusted advisor” will become a necessity for every business who wants to be a success.

But is this a role that comes easily to accountants?

Our research suggests that this is not an easy role to just move into. It is one that accountants have not traditionally been trained for. As such you require the systems and solutions that make it easy and give you the answers before you are put in awkward situations.

If you want to grasp this opportunity and make your future a bright one join Shane Lukas MD of AVN, Author and Speaker and Martin Bissett Founder of the Upward Spiral Partnership and International Adviser to the Accountancy Profession as they explore the challenges that lay ahead for 2017 and beyond. Giving practical tips on how you can transform into a truly outstanding advisory practice and develop this into a steady pipeline of business.

If your an Accountant in Practice register for their FREE webinar “A Changing Profession: Maximise Your Success” by the 28th February at 10:30a.m by clicking the following link


Article Source: James Miller

What makes a great accountancy practice?


The things that really successful practices do and what they have in common was the subject of a three year research project by Steve Pipe for AVN.

With remarkable candour and generosity of spirit, the firms we studied revealed in precise detail exactly what they do to generate extraordinary results for themselves and their clients.

Based on what those firms told us, we were able to identify the 15 primary drivers of excellence for the profession and work with them to construct a step-by-step action plan for transforming the results of any practice.

Now, we want to pay their generosity forward by sharing with you the 15 drivers of excellence the research identified. We also want to explain the arguments that some firms use for why the findings don’t apply to them and reveal them for what they really are… excuses.

Background to the research

The firms we studied came from just about every corner of the United Kingdom, from village greens to city centres. They ranged from start-ups to long established practices who can trace their roots back to the 19th century. They represented independent accountancy firms of all sizes, from sole practitioners to multi partner firms (although it is important to stress that the vast majority were 1-3 partner firms, only five firms had six or more partners, and the very largest was a 16 partner firm). We didn’t, however, study any of the Top 50 firm’s since we wanted to discover what works for “normal” accountants.

The 15 drivers of excellence

  1. Intent
  2. Decision Making
  3. Measurement Systems
  4. Action
  5. Measurement for Clients
  6. Improvement Solutions for Clients
  7. Alliances
  8. Client Meetings
  9. Proactivity
  10. Service
  11. Clients
  12. Pricing and Cash Management
  13. Teamwork
  14. Systems
  15. Marketing

To find out a little more detail behind these drivers, look for our forthcoming blog posts where we will get into the detail and analyse them further. If you like this article please like it for others to find.

I hope you find this article useful.




Article Source: James Miller

C is for Clarity


Our research has shown that Accountancy Practices suffer from the similar issues and their ability to deal with them effectively is often governed by their own understanding.

Therefore the first step is to get Clarity on what you as an Accountancy Practice owner is looking to achieve from your business and develop a plan around that.

This may be to earn more, work less, develop your team, retire or something else. This is a personal journey to achieve your aspirations.

Sometimes in multiple partner firms the goals of each partner can be different and maybe focus in different directions. This can cause some conflict but to be able to move your practice forward, they need to be addressed and resolved.

AVN has developed its Clarity Workbook to do just this. It is part of a personal action plan helping you develop the way forward for your business. Based on a telephone session with one of our Practice Growth Experts we create a personalised action plan, which sets out where you are now and where you want to get to and by when. It identifies potential areas of weakness and strengths and then allows you focus on these areas and make great leaps forward in developing your practice.

Already 50% of our membership has started on their personal journey and it has been extremely well received. If you are an AVN Member then contact one of the team to book your Clarity call. If you are not an AVN Member then give us a ring on 01246 571191 or email us at and to find out more about AVN and how we can help you drive change in your practice.

Clarity is just the starting point of our workbook series, leading you through various steps to AVNExcellence in your practice.

Article Source: James Miller

Disney is every companies competitor


I was listening to a great webinar today and one of the key points that hit home to me was that Disney is every companies competitor!

Why? Well Disney delivers exceptional customer service. They don’t just perform above what you expect they go above and beyond that. They create an experience that lasts for years, they create memories that you look back on.

If you or your company could just harness some of that remarkable customer service and your clients/customers talk about you, enthuse about you. They start to create power in that people want to work with you, you are not constantly searching for new clients they are searching for you.

So how do you start to make this happen? Well the first step is to engage your team. If your team are engaged and understand why you are going above and beyond they will know within which boundaries they can work to make a great experience for your clients.

Once you have a way in which to deliver great service you want to ensure that time after time it happens, it happens without having to think about it. Whilst some people can pull this off the better way is to systemise your approach and allow your team to understand it in detail.

How to WOW your customers? This is something that creates an experience for them, something that sticks in their memory. This could be sending them a bar of chocolate as a gift or something bigger for passing you work or for no reason at all.

So turn your interactions with clients into a remarkable experience that compels them to talk about you in a positive way that drives people to want to work with you.

Hope this inspires you to think about your customer service.




Article Source: James Miller

Time for an out of body experience


Shane Lukas, AVN

Shane Lukas's article: Time for an out of body experience. shane lukas lucasWhen was the last time you walked in to your office and assessed it as a potential customer?

What do your prospects see and think when they walk in to your office?

You walk in there every single day; you may have become blind to the things that a fresh pair of eyes might see.

  • Does it look old or modern?
  • Is it colourful or bland?
  • What personality does it reflect?
  • How does it make you feel?
  • Do the walls need a fresh coat of paint?
  • What does it smell like?
  • How well are prospects and customers greeted?
  • What’s the overall impression they get when they walk in.

What about before they enter the office,  was parking easy and obvious?  Is customer parking reserved nearest to the door or is that reserved for the directors.  If I were a prospect or customer and it was raining I’d draw a pretty…

View original post 146 more words

Article Source: James Miller

How to win business without losing it in life


Recently I have been considering what is it that drives me. What equates to success and what drives me.

When you ask what is success, you often think of earning money, profit or some other monetary gain. But when you actually really think, this is all irrelevant what really matters is family, health, love, understanding and recognition.

Money is just a mechanism to allow you to do some of these things.

So some golden rules to live by:

  • Live for today
  • Live by your values,what are the values your want to live by? Do you know?
  • Treat the most important thing as the most important
  • Buy yourself some time
  • See the future and create it
  • Dare to dream

When you start to think you really start to question your true drivers in life and what you need to focus on.

Good luck in getting some focus and start enjoying life.







Article Source: James Miller



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