This month I am celebrating 3 years of working independently as a management accountant.
It’s been an interesting journey over this time. When I started out I knew all the accounting things that I was good at, I knew the bits I wanted to do and the accounting things I really didn’t want to get involved in, but I didn’t really know if anyone else was interested in me doing that for them.
So I’ve been on a steep learning curve. Most notably, in the beginning I thought that I had worked for a small business before – my first job inside a company was with a software business that turned over £10 million a year in the UK alone, which was small compared to where I was working immediately before and after!
My first client turned over a little more than £1 million a year – I soon learned that the real world looked very different and exactly what “small business” meant.
Luckily while I was working with that business I was advised that you should plan for a new business venture to take at least 3 years to get established. The lady who told me this wasn’t interested in professional services; she was running shops, but the advice has proved spookily true. In the last 12 months I have finally worked out what works for me and my clients, and I feel (touch wood) that things have settled into a comfortable rhythm that I can build on.
All my clients are great individuals. My kind of work involves giving advice face to face about sometimes delicate issues so it’s vital that we have a trusting relationship and get on on a personal level. This in turn makes the work even more satisfying.
Hopefully the next 3 years will be even better!
In order to gain a licence to work as an independent Management Accountant I have to do a number of things – I have to have insurance, in case I make a mistake; I have to have a contract which is about 7 pages long, and I have to have a complaints procedure and an ethics procedure.
When I meet clients I have up until now felt rather embarrassed by the fact that there is so much focus on things going wrong. The complaints procedure seems a bit silly since I am the only person in my business – if you’re not happy there’s no one else to speak to!
However, I have recently been helping a client with a tricky problem which has made me see this in a different light.
Two years ago my client started working with another consultant. They agreed terms etc in an email conversation, but never prepared a written contract to be signed.
One of the terms agreed was that after 2 years the deal would be renegotiated. Now after 2 years have passed my client wants to end the working relationship because it hasn’t delivered the results either side had hoped for, but the consultant feels they are due payment for work on projects that have not yet finished. You can probably imagine the argument that has ensued.
If only there had been a contract at the outset – it wouldn’t have prevented the relationship ending, but it would have made clear instructions as to what each party needed to do (and pay) at the end. By agreeing it at the start, when both parties are friendly it would be more likely to ensure that there was a reasonable deal for both sides.
So this experience has pointed out to me exactly why I have such a detailed contract, even though if my contract is terminated I only get 30 days notice and nothing else.
The point is that I will hopefully be able to avoid having to express all the anger and upset that typically comes at the end of a relationship. In future I’ll be more proud of my contract!