It has been suggested to me on more than one occasion that I need a bib, but let’s not go there. I always said I wanted one like the kids had when they were small where you could scoop the food up and feed it to them again. Glad they are a bit (a lot!) older now.

The full quotation is that you should take off the bib and put on an apron. Of course, the pattern would have to match my suit.

The quote is from Ivan Misner, the founder of BNI. What it means is that you should stop “hunting” and start farming, you should stop “feeding on” and start “serving” your customers. It was interesting to hear Kier Starmer saying that being elected to parliament was a privilege and an opportunity to serve, rather than a way to become wealthy. It’s the same sentiment, I think.

Don’t worry, no more politics. Don’t know about you but listening to various election broadcasts, nobody is going to win my vote, but they can make me want to vote for anyone else.

I frequently hear from clients of other accountants that they seem to get billed for every phone call, meeting etc. Don’t get me wrong our living depends upon being able to send out invoices. But we often get people wandering in off the street who think they need an accountant, but all they need is some quick advice. More often than not we like to help them out and send them on their way. It’s not worth the admin to set them up as clients. That would take longer than the quick chat to sort them out. It also gives you a nice warm glow.

But, if you go out of your way to help people, to serve, how do you ensure that you are making a living? That’s the balancing act.

Even though you want to help, you still have to cover your costs and make enough to provide for you and your family. Your employees depend on you to get that right and provide the means for them to support themselves and their own families. You owe it to your own family. You therefore have a duty to make a profit. All these people depend on you.

But, I think the idea of service is not so much one of arithmetic, as it is a state of mind. If you live by that sentiment, it influences every decision, every conversation, email and letter. It also affects how you deal with things that have gone wrong or complaints from the people that you serve. I have heard it said that complaints are valuable feedback that makes your business stronger, and everybody has them. However, they should also be an opportunity for your customers to really understand your values. Once the problem has been dealt with, your client should feel happier because of the way you dealt with it. It is a sign of who you are.

I have known other accountants and business owners who treat customers with disdain and without respect. We know stuff that they do not, but they know stuff and can do stuff that we cannot do. We each bring different things to the table and work together to produce positive results for all of us.

Over the years I have met with such a spectrum of individuals. Some were highly intelligent but could not run a business. Others were the school dropouts running very successful businesses. I have met guys who could not read or write but who made their own way and were in business. Every one of them had something to teach me. I just hope that I was able to give back in the same way.

But at the end of the day, we have to charge for what we do. That is just what has to be. Otherwise, we would not be in business. And it takes long hours and dedication over many years to build up a business, not to mention the stress and limited holidays. Don’t get me wrong, that was our choice and I would not have wanted to do anything else. But at the end of the day, however, we got here, all that matters is that we are of value to our customers right now and that they feel that they are getting value for the money they pay to us as a firm. It’s the same for any business, don’t you think?

Anyway, I started with a quote from Ivan Misner, founder of BNI. If you want to meet, and pitch to, around 30 local business owners in Inverness, let me know and I’ll book you into a weekly meeting. You can then hear more cool stuff.


Alan E Long

The Long Partnership

07770 738770



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