More on Business Proactive Planning in the Real World

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I’ve written before about how annoyed I get at the “experts” who criticize accountants for not being more “proactive” with clients. The thing the “experts” miss is, most of us are trying to be proactive … but it’s hard when the client won’t be an active participant in the process.

Here’s an example.

Several years ago, one of my business clients called me to say he was “sick of this $hit” and wanted to sell his business. He was burned out and tired of dealing with all the “stuff” that comes with running a business.

This client was a service provider who traveled to numerous states to provide his service. Not only did this create compliance headaches, but it also meant he was on the road away from home most of the time.

The client had an employee but for some reason wouldn’t push much work onto the employee.

Here are some of the things I told him:

  1. If you want to sell, that’s fine. But here are some alternatives.
  2. Put more responsibility on the employee. The employee had said she would love to be the office manager. Give her that job. She should be the one answering the phone, dealing with basic customer requests, and managing the schedule.
  3. The client was using his personal cell phone as his business phone. I recommended that he get a new phone for his personal cell, and only answer the business phone during regular business hours. This would provide some separation between business and personal.
  4. Create a set service area and an ideal customer profile instead of running all over the Midwest to serve customers here, there and everywhere.

In all, I made 9 recommendations for the client. All were things the client could have implemented immediately at either no cost or low cost.

But here’s the thing that makes “proactive planning” so hard for the average accountant working with clients in the real world: the client implemented exactly 0 (Z – E – R – O) of my recommendations.

He didn’t sell the business, he implemented none of the things I advised, and he continued to complain about how hard it is to run a business. Eventually we parted ways for reasons I won’t go into here (it involved filings in other states … filings that the client refused to do).

See, it’s easy for the “consultants” and “experts” to say accountants should provide proactive advice. They make it sound like we’re doing our clients wrong by not being proactive.

But it’s a two-way street. There’s only so much the accountant can do if the client won’t act on your advice.