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What’s the difference…?

Recently I was at a networking lunch where I was asked why a business would use my services instead of relying on their usual accountant.

It’s clear from the number of accountants who have introduced me to their clients that I’m not their competition. I don’t replace the services that a traditional accountant offers; I work alongside them to improve the information they have to work with and help their clients understand the figures.

The first thing to recognise is that a large number of businesses don’t need my help.

A lot of businesses follow quite a simple model; they buy in goods, add a set margin and sell on. (Simple doesn’t mean easy; it’s just not difficult to understand) There’s a few accounting jobs there that have to be got right but so long as the margin is right, and costs are kept under control the business will run successfully using the standard accounting reports.

The same applies to established businesses who understand what makes them profits. If doing what they’ve always done works for them, then they don’t need my help. (I’m happy to work with them, but they probably don’t feel the need.)

So which businesses does that leave?

I specialise in helping food manufacturing businesses where working out the cost of the product is more complicated and where making one key product creates a number of other products which are often less profitable or harder to sell.

In these sorts of cases the answers that business owners need doesn’t come from analysing the year end accounts differently, or from producing the accounts more often. The figures required come from changing what you measure in order to get information that shines a light on what’s happening inside the business.

– Does it matter how much the total gross margin is if you make a huge profit on one product, but lose most of it on the others? Questions that management accountants answer

– Would you be able to sell more units at a slightly lower price and actually increase your bottom line?

– What will happen to profit if you increase sales by gaining a new customer but need to employ more people and change your delivery method?

It’s all too easy to allow customer demand to dictate how a business grows, but if you have the right information you can make sure that the business is developing in the way that the owners and management want it to.

It’s when they want that kind of information, plus my experience of working in business, managing finance teams and understanding the accounting information that businesses come to me.

LinkedIn

This week I found out I have been awarded the North Devon Business Action 2014 LinkedIn Award!

Susie Kevern on LinkedIn I love LinkedIn, it allows me to keep in touch with what’s going on in the wider (business) world while being based in a small village tucked away in North Devon.

There is a fantastic group of accountants on LinkedIn that target the same sort of work that I do – helping businesses understand their finances and have strategies in place to make the most of the opportunities that come to them. These accountants are spread far and wide across the UK and it would be difficult to interact without the internet, but on LinkedIn we can discuss all sorts of issues and share updates about what we’re working on.

I think there is a common misconception that LinkedIn can be used to create sales, but I have yet to see an example of this.

To me the benefit of LinkedIn comes more from the ability to build a network of business people who have information and (hopefully) an understanding of what it is that I do, in the hope that they might tell me about new opportunities that they come across.

Nowadays we are so used to being bombarded by sales messages and special offers that my first reaction is to ignore them totally!