Why I Don’t Charge for Meetings

There are a couple of different ways that accountants figure out what they are going to charge you to do your accounting and taxes.  They can use a flat rate system where they charge so much for a certain type of work or they can use a quoted system where they quote a price for you based on what they know about you, but the most common method is to charge you by the hour.  This eliminates the risk for the practitioner, its low cost for them to administer and it allows them to get right to work.

I use a combination of methods depending on the work that I am doing – I customize it for each client and engagement.

One thing that I don’t do is charge for meeting time with my clients, and I think I’ve finally figured out why.

At first I thought I was being responsive to my clients.  What I was hearing potential clients say was that they were being charged for small talk and that really bothered them – they didn’t feel they were getting value for their money.  I knew that my clients were talking loud and clear and I had to listen.

Then I thought it was just me – I like to chat with my clients and I didn’t want them to be penalized for being personable.

But I finally realized that underneath there was a very real, valid business reason for what I was doing.  I realized that my effectiveness as a practitioner depended on my chats with my clients.  This is when then juicy stuff comes out!  You see what makes the difference in personal finance and tax planning isn’t the little tidbits of obscure technical details of how accounting and tax law works.  It’s the ability to look at the big picture.  To step back and take in all of the details and pull the disparate pieces together to create a picture – and a plan.  These little details aren’t things that typically come up when talking business – it’s in the small talk. 

Planning on having a baby?  Let’s make sure you’re maxed on EI contributions.  Have a sick parent?  Let’s talk about providing for their care and maximizing the government’s contributions to it.  Your children going off to college?  Finishing?  Let’s sure we captured all the tuition and education credits.

Life events can have a big effect on your finances.  If I know about them then we can work together to plan for these things. 

If you know that I’m charging you for the meeting time and all you can hear is the ticking clock in the back of your mind then maybe we don’t talk about these things until it’s too late.  And I’m not able to do my job as well as I could.

So come on in for a chat, we’ll forget about the clock, and we’ll chat about what really matters to you.  No charge, no clock and the coffee’s on me.

The Third Thing Business School Didn’t Teach Me – Leadership

Leadership fascinates me – the ability to inspire, direct and engage groups of people towards a common goal or purpose.  What it takes, who can do it, who can’t, why there are many right ways – and so many wrong ways.

There are innumerable articles and books on leadership and I suppose I could have just posted a link to one of my favourite websites, but I then I would have had to choose just one and I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to share some of my own thoughts.

Hire the right people, good people.

There is nothing you can do if you don’t have the right tools.  You shouldn’t perform brain surgery with a steak knife, and neither should you try to power a rocket with firewood.  Both of those things are useful, but not for those purposes.  You MUST hire the right people.  You MUST train them correctly.  And, critically, you MUST remove those pieces that don’t fit.  This is the first essential building block of leading a successful team.

Give them the freedom to do the job for which you hired them.

You can call it empowerment, you can call it autonomy, you can call it self-actualization.  What you call it really doesn’t matter.  You’ve hired the right people and you’ve trained them well – now you must set them free.  If you don’t then you will stifle them, they will leave and you will have failed.  If you set out to hire the best and the brightest candidates for the positions available then why would you treat them as though they are incompetent?

Provide guidance and support

You’ve hired great people and fully empowered them – now what?  What do they even need you for?  Your job is to make sure that they have everything they need to perform those tasks which you’ve required of them.  Materials, assistance and time are the most common – make you’re your people are well equipped.  Motivation – communicate your mission – often.  It is your job to keep your people focussed on the goal that you’ve set.  Check in with them regularly – make sure they’re on track and that they have everything they need.  Show them that it is important to you that they succeed – and that you’re committed to helping them get there.

Being a leader is more than just being a boss.  It is not easy, but its incredibly rewarding – and it is the only way to succeed when you get to the place where you need help to achieve the business goals you’ve set.