January 16, 2020

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Accountant niches

We talk about niches around here from time to time. The idea being that if you specialize your practice, whether on an industry, service, or something else, you will be providing greater value because you’re an expert. “I’m the foremost CPA for cat cafés,” you could say. You’d handle all the ins and outs of cat cafés, like bookkeeping and payroll, and you might even consult owners on managing wet vs. dry cat food inventory, and whatever other issues may come up.

One popular niche for accounting firms is high net worth individuals and families. People with money coming out of their ears can be incapable of managing it well, so hiring a firm to deal with the multitude of entities, tax arrangements, and sordid relatives is well worth the price.

Speaking of which:

[Prince Harry and Meghan Markle] say they want to become financially independent. But given the web of tax, security implications, royal protocol and the political sensitivity of royal finances, it is unclear whether that is possible. Minor members of the royal family have struggled in the past to monetize their links to the monarchy without getting embroiled in scandal or cheapening the royal brand.

Yes, MEGXIT has thrown the Royal Family into a bit of an imbroglio, not least of which is the couple’s finances. For example, they’re leaving the monarchy, but they’re not leaving the monarchy:

On their website they speak of their desire for a “new working model.” They have already applied to trademark “Sussex Royal,” covering a host of items including socks and greeting cards.

However, on their website they state that they expect to keep state-funded security and continue to live in a cottage owned by the queen and refurbished at a £2.4 million ($3.1 million) cost to taxpayers. They also want to split time between Canada and the U.K., raising logistical questions including whether Prince Harry would have to pay income tax on his earnings.

If income tax and splitting time between Canada and the U.K. and socks and greetings card doesn’t scream for a CPA, then I don’t know what does. Maybe they should hire Archie as an employee to design the greeting cards.

I’d like to think that if I was running a HNW practice, but also addicted to supermarket tabloids, I would’ve seen this coming. I would’ve laid the groundwork for a ROYAL HNW division months ago, anticipating the very day when Harry and Meghan split from Windsor. Then the full court press would be ON, working every angle possible to guide Harry and Meghan away from Grandma’s allowances and toward a Sussex Royal sock and greeting card fortune.

So should you specialize? Maybe not on royals; but being considered an expert, even if it’s for feline-based businesses, is rarely a losing strategy.

Accountant worries

Last month we talked about some classic accounting worries: recruiting/retaining employees, winning new clients, and keeping up with technology. This month, we’re reminded of another tried and true accountant worry: slow clients.

Time is the biggest concern for practitioners heading into this year’s filing season, with two-fifths reporting in a recent survey that late client information and time compression are their main worries.

We’ll save time for another discussion, but suffice to say worrying about it is pointless. We all inhabit the same 24 hours, etc. etc.

Anyway, as far as tardy clients go, I haven’t worked in public accounting for a while now, but I definitely remember the dreaded last-minute shoebox (literal or figurative) clients, and those moments… those stick with you.

It made me wonder, though: Why are clients late? Probably all kinds of reasons: they’re disorganized; they underestimate the amount of time needed to compile everything; they’re lazy. The root causes of those things are as numerous as the reasons themselves, but they may also just be busy, and other priorities may be in front of collecting, organizing, and sharing their information with us.

But this accountant worry also makes me wonder: Do accountants know why their clients are late? If an accountant is sitting around, just waiting for the shoeboxes to show up, that can make for some pretty anxious and passive client relationships. But if they understand the nature and root cause of why clients are late with their information, perhaps an accountant can assist the client by either making recommendations for tools that could help alleviate the delays.

Accountants have another option toofire chronically tardy clients. If clients don’t want to be helped by you, and refuse to help themselves, it doesn’t strike me as an unreasonable step to end those kinds of relationships. It seems especially counterproductive to worry about something you’re not willing to fix. Unless you like the worrying, of course, in which case, we have nothing more to discuss.

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Caleb Newquist Caleb is Editor-at-Large at Gusto. In 2009, he became the founding editor of Going Concern, the one-of-a-kind voice on the accounting profession, serving in the role for 9 years. Prior to Going Concern, Caleb worked as a CPA for nearly 6 years in New York and Denver. He lives in Denver with his wife, two daughters, and two cats.
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