Confidentiality comes as standard

When I joined ICAEW as a trainee accountant sometime back in the dim and distant past I signed up to a code of ethics. Like most accountants I take that code of ethics very seriously as I believe it is part of being a professional. Amongst other requirements was confidentiality. Everything is confidential so the extent that ICAEW suggest that I shouldn’t even share the names of my clients without their permission, let alone information about their business.

So it was quite a surprise when a prospective client asked me whether our conversations would be confidential. It felt a little like somebody asking whether I like tea (I’m a self-confessed tea addict). It is something so ingrained that I hadn’t even realised that lay people may not know this.

Which got me wondering what else we don’t share as we take it for granted.

We’re so busy focusing on what differentiates us from our competitors that we forget some of these other positives that are shared by many of our competitors.

Anyone can call themselves an accountant, but ‘chartered accountant’ is a protected title in law. I’m proud that I’m not just a chartered accountant but a Fellow and also an elected member of ICAEW Council helping to shape the future of the profession. But we need to make more of this.

Most professional accountancy bodies have similar codes of ethics whereas unqualified accountants or those not belonging to any professional body are not bound by any such code but dependent on the individual’s personal integrity. We’re supervised by our professional bodies so clients have recourse if they believe that we have failed to live up to those standards. We are required to undergo checks to ensure that we are ‘fit and proper’ persons. And we are also required to have professional indemnity insurance in order to protect our clients in the event that we make a mistake.

I have also signed up to a code of ethics as a member of the PSA (Professional Speaking Association) which means that I pay for copyright to use pictures on any slides so that the event organiser won’t be sued. Similarly for any music and videos I use in my talks. It’s not something that most speakers think about and they may not even realise the importance of paying royalties to the creators of those media.

What mundane things do you do instinctively to protect your clients? Can it become part of your marketing?

Continuing professional development

This week I’ve been busy with my QAD inspection. As a chartered accountant I have these inspections regularly. Although I like to think that we do everything ‘by the book’ at Minerva Accountants I always worry that I’ve missed something. While these inspections can be quite nerve wracking they can also be reassuring when everything passes with no queries or comments. It’s also reassuring for my clients to know that our regulators are checking up on us to ensure that we reach their required standard.

As a member of ICAEW Council and speaking, writing and coaching accountants to run a better business, it is important that I set a good example myself in my own accountancy business.

One of the things they check up on is my CPD, aka continuing professional development. Complying with this is no problem for me as I write books and articles to help accountants as well as business owners so I’m always researching.

Here are just some of the areas that I read up on, attend webinars and talks, and research in depth.
• Latest tax and accounting developments to support our clients at Minerva Accountants. No mean feat with 4 ‘budgets’ already this year and MTD (Making Tax Digital) on the horizon
• Latest research into growing businesses or making them run more efficiently for my coaching clients. Also useful for running my own businesses better
• Latest coaching developments as I’m a qualified coach and mentor as well as an accountant
• Ways to improve my speaking as a member of the Professional Speaking Association
• Anything interesting as I love to expand my mind

Education is the wing on which dreams fly

I’m not sure of the original source of this quote but it strikes me as very true.

As a chartered accountant I get hung, drawn, and quartered (or something similar) by ICAEW if I don’t keep my knowledge up to date through CPD (continuing professional development) ever year. But, as a business owner, I need to develop so many skills beyond just my accountancy ones.

I’m a member of the PSA (Professional Speaking Association) to improve my speaking skills, I used a writing coach for my first book, I have a formal coaching and mentoring qualification to help both my coaching clients and because it is a great way to help advise business owners.

And that’s without going into all the books and articles I read, some of which I recommend here.

It’s why I like to speak, write and run courses for business owners of all sorts. Yes, you’ll pay a premium for the most valuable courses (which all come with a guarantee) but I hope you’ll get a lot of benefit from the free webinars too. We run the Minerva Money Matters series for general business owners and the Better Business series for accountants and bookkeepers.

What other means do you use to educate yourself on how to run a good business that will not just survive, but thrive, through these tough times?