are good at many things, but one thing they traditionally have
enormous difficulty with is what we might call the
"selling" process. Most accountants simply don't see
themselves as "salespeople", yet the reality is that
they need to sell their services to at least keep pace with
the competitive pressures.
Adelaide-based accountant has found a solution - one which is
now being embraced enthusiastically by his fellow accountants.
Even more to the point, their clients are also embracing it.
It's a solution that uses technology in an innovative way.
The route to
the solution is equally interesting. Greg Perks, a director of
Adelaide-based Perks & Associates, was looking for better
ways of marketing his firm and at the same time adding value
for his clients. After attending a program called the
Accountants' Boot Camp in 1992, he realised that there had to
be more to life than just compliance work.
accountants, he felt bogged down with the daily grind that
takes you away from the real issues that confront clients. He
decided that there had to be more interesting and effective
ways to market his services to his clients.
was to add value for the clients by going beyond the basic
preparation of financial statements and tax returns. Greg
Perks soon realised that finding a way to achieve this was
going to be harder than he first thought. After a couple of
years of business consulting, he had achieved some level of
success but was frustrated that it was still not up to his
In 1994 he and
his team at Perks and Associates set about designing a
marketing system for accounting firms that would add value for
clients while also building non-compliance fees. He saw that
there was a possibility of marrying a traditional but often
ineffective checklist approach with technology to both
personalise and automate the process.
It took two
years to create, test, refine and develop the system. The
initial end result was a program called Business Needs
Analysis. Initially it was used internally at Perks and
created an enormous increase in work at the practice.
"The system clearly had the potential to change the way
accountants think and do business," Greg Perks says.
"For the first time, the accountant was able to obtain a
true and accurate understanding of the client's needs. We
created what we believed to be a unique marketing system for
accountants, but the process becomes much more personal with
the client in control."
Over the next
two years Greg Perks and his team further developed the system
with continual testing and refinement.
in late 1996, the system was shown to Paul Dunn, chairman of
Results Accountants' Systems (RAS). The program was promptly
renamed Focus for Results (FFR) and was further refined
before its launch in Australia and New Zealand in April this
year. RAS has now assumed responsibility for marketing FFR
system is designed to flag issues which fall outside the
normal tax and compliance matters. To that end, it is an
effective method of marketing an extended range of services to
clients in a way that is not seen as "hard sell":
clients see it more as a procedure to review their business
and personal affairs.
simplicity itself. The client is asked to answer a series of
simple "yes/no" questions on the computer screen.
The number and type of questions can be modified according to
the needs of the client, with additional questions added or
deleted as necessary
automatically generate a series of actions. For example, one
question is: "Have I got a valid will that expresses my
current wishes? if the answer is no, the action is:
"Prepare a will as a matter of urgency". Most
importantly the client is then asked by the program to
prioritise the importance of the actions.
degree of control by the client that makes a very real
difference," says Greg Perks. "The accountant is
doing no selling; the client specifies exactly and without
pressure his needs. All the accountant then needs to do is
advantage of Focus For Results is its ability to
automatically produce detailed and informative reports that
identify the client's wishes and priorities. The report also
produces an action plan which lists the actions required. the
priority of the actions, the person responsible and the target
date for completion of the task.
feature is that it is based upon an agreed monthly budget. All
of this happens in a fraction of the time that would otherwise
be required - about four minutes compared with seven hours!
The reports can then be edited directly with Microsoft Word.
patent pending application was obtained in October last year
and the program has since been released in New Zealand, the
USA, Canada and Britain. In excess of 500 firms have invested
in the package worldwide.
The bottom line
for the program, however, is the enthusiastic response of a
Melbourne-based accountant who has been using FFR since April.
"I've been trying to get away from compliance work for
years, he exclaimed as he bought a copy of FFR. "This is
my ticket to freedom!"