Sometimes accountants find it hard to stand out. While they understand the need for differentiating themselves from the firm down the road, actually doing so is much more difficult.

Some have a clear point of difference – they’re the biggest firm in the area, or they might place great store on being the fastest. Some might build a great business plan around being the cheapest in town.

But sometimes these promises can’t be kept. What if a bigger firm moves into town? What if a new, up and coming firm decides to undercut everyone else?

There are plenty of ways in which you can make your mark – first amongst them is being trusted over time.

Accountants are often referred to as the trusted advisor. More than any other profession, they’re the one to which clients turn in times of need.

But is that reputation warranted? And how do they actually deliver on that trust promise?

Consider your local food takeaway. At some point in the past you decided to try them out. Perhaps it was on a recommendation – maybe you read the delivery menu they posted through the door. Or maybe you decided to give a new aspiring business a try out.

That first takeaway is important. Not just for you as the customer – after all, it dictates whether or not you’ll buy another one – but also for the longevity of the business. But the 2nd, 3rd and 4th takeaways are just as important. The “contract” is about good food, delivered on time. And so, if those contract terms are met, we return.

Because we trust them.  

There is an equivalent in accountancy.

We can deliver what we assume the client wants. Or we can go a little further and make sure we check exactly what the client wants, then deliver.

Or we can go a little bit further still…

We can check exactly what the client wants, then tell the client exactly when we’ll deliver those contract terms, then make sure we do deliver. So, the “when” element gives a spoonful of certainty which allows us to be trusted even more (or not, if we don’t deliver!)

Being clear about WHAT and WHEN we’re going to deliver isn’t only good for clients, it’s great for us too - because it sets into stone a contract of delivery which is far harder to break than a vague assumption of what the client really wants.

It keeps our team on our collective toes. It gives the client certainty. And it means that we take real responsibility for ensuring we have systems and processes in place that allow consistent rather than ad-hoc delivery.

And in the process, we earn more trust.

Sometimes we over-analyse the secrets of business. We get confused over what really matters, or we get distracted by a new technology or marketing fix which promises to be the panacea for all ills.

But sometimes we just need to focus on being brilliant at the basics.

When a client gives feedback like “you deliver exactly what you said you’d do when you said you’d do it”, you’re on the right track.

Make promises you intend to keep. Then keep them.