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Runagood

  • Technology & Internet
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Automated, affordable business consultancy and advice for small and micro businesses

Jun 07

The AI powered way to understand a business

The way we work, produce and live is rapidly changing mostly thanks to the 
 current state of information technologies…

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Feb 12

“Physician, heal thyself”

This old taunt is about people who offer advice to others whilst not taking it themselves. In my own case, I can advise anyone on their golf swing whilst having broken 100 once only.But when it comes to business advice, I can hold my own, given 32 years consultancy experience and of running my own business throughout.And all the accountants whom I know can hold their own on compliance given their professional training and experience.But the great challenges of the day for consultants are how to advise on any aspect of a business credibly and affordably. And without the benefits of professional training (there is none) and assistive technology (very little available) they are not able to ‘heal themselves’.And the great challenge of the day for accountants is how to reconcile compliance work with business advisory work so they can diversify their services into business services practice. The 2 disciplines (accountancy and consultancy) are superficially similar, but practically very different. And as people who also run their own businesses, how can accountants ‘heal themselves’?Well, for me it starts with a definition of ‘business advisory’ about which there is so much misunderstanding in the accountancy world. I simply cannot believe the sheer volume of products and services on offer that claim to turn accountants into business advisors. But do not.Why?Because none of it provides practical solutions to any problem or ambition that a business owner has nor enables them to immediately implement them.The consultant’s definition of business advisory is to ‘help a business to improve its future performance’. Scary, because the future is an unknown place, so any strategies they propose have no guarantee of success, and that comes with consequences. But their classic personality profile (high D/I) enables them to deal with that, and not lose sleep.And here is the dichotomy…Accountants, steeped in the ways of historic analysis, double entry bookkeeping and accurate compliance of company records against laid down regulations are dealing with what has already happened. That is the environment in which they have trained and worked for years so a 180-degree pivot into the client’s future takes them to an uncomfortable place, especially if they have the classic (high S/C) profile.So how does this get resolved?Important, because it’s holding so many accountants back from making this ultimately essential transition.Well, here is the model we have evolved with the brave accountants who are doing it and it works very well for them:Turning Your Accountancy Practice into A ‘Whole Business’ Advisory Centre It’s a matter of redefining what the practice exists to do eg:“Our Mission is to help business owners solve problems and realise their ambitions”And…“Our vision is that we will be the first port of call for every local business owner with an unresolved problem or ambition by 2026”The above diagram sets out everything that the practice exists to do which involves every single aspect of any business client and a readymade solution with skilled support to implement it.That means the business-facing people in the practice start from a new place with every prospect and client. A mindset that wants to learn “what’s this business about, where is it now, where does the owner wish to take it and when by?”Classic consultant questions but laced with the objectivity of the accountant to see how that translates from numbers now, to numbers in the future.Confidence for the accountant to ask such questions in the first place and then proceed into a client partnership to help achieve it all profitably comes from training in the human skills of consultancy backed by technology that provides detailed answers and implementable solutions.All very well but how will these new clients be found?It is the big remaining question that stops most accountants getting started. From a lifetime of acquiring new clients by referral and introduction to suddenly becoming a marketing and sales wizz is more like a 270 degree turn and highly disconcerting. It’s a very serious point because being salesy conflicts with the accountant’s professionalism, the need to be respected as the expert who is consulted because of his / her reputation and standing.This proposition has the more dramatic solution of reorienting the practice to be about the provision of professional services that solve business problems and help business owners to achieve true value.The marketing needs to be educational, getting local businesses conditioned into an understanding that every problem has a solution and that its analysis and diagnosis is uniquely free and impartial. Thus, trust is built that the practice is not a sales organisation, but a reliable source of professional advice backed by fairly priced support, if they choose to buy it.It is a process that takes 12 months to show serious results and then keeps growing. That is as it should be, given the absolute need establish a long-term enterprise of quality at the hub of the business community.Practices that undertake this transformation (as all must ultimately) need training in the analytical and systematic skills of marketing and the psychological skills of soft-selling. But accessing a readymade kit of marketing resources designed for promoting ‘whole business;’ advisory resources gives a flying start as the skills develop into self-sufficiency.Is it easy?No. But neither is it difficult.It’s about learning and applying processes systematically which works well for accountants, accustomed as they are to training and process.So, it’s a matter of convergence between accounting and consultancy disciplines to deliver holistic and enjoyable services that range across the whole of a client’s business. Find out more By Duncan CollinsFounder of Runagood.com Ltd

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Feb 02

What isn't a Business Plan

I’m often assured that a professional practice has a business plan and when I ask to see it – it isn’t. Instead, it’s an income and expense budget with a cashflow forecast. In other words, what banks ask for when considering a loan application and something that small businesses ask their accountant to prepare, for no other reason.   And when I ask the practice owner what actions are planned that will make the forecast numbers come true, I usually get a shrug of the shoulders, a weak smile and “It’s just the arithmetic of how many clients I think I’ll serve through the year”. So, what should a business plan actually be? Well, before answering that, consider this: You have a sole trader client who is a self-employed plumber. In presenting last year’s accounts and tax return, he asks you “how can I get more customers and get payments coming in quicker?”  You probably won’t recommend a business plan or even a marketing plan because you don’t don’t have either of those yourself. And if you did, it wouldn’t be the right place to begin anyway. And because you don’t help him he falls prey to a costly marketing consultant or you lose him to a more lively practice.   But if your practice already had a good business plan it would have identified your plumber’s type of problem and how to deal with it profitably. You would have developed business advisory skills and methods for identifying the causes of his lack of customers and cashflow, and have practical solutions that you can sell to him. So back to the business plan. What should it look like if you are to help your plumber client? VISION A sentence that states 5/10 years from now what status your business has achieved that makes it special.  E.g. “the biggest / most profitable local small business solutions advisor” MISSION A sentence that states what your business does, who for and to what standards.  E.g. “we help small businesses to solve problems and grow”  OBJECTIVES  Six statements of what must be measurably achieved to satisfy the Mission and keep moving towards the Vision: Marketing What I will sell to new customers, in what quantity and when by  E.g. “All round business / financial advisory services to small /medium businesses”  Operations What I will supply to customers, in what quantity and in ways that brings them back E.g. “Practical solutions at affordable prices for permanent income from every customer”  Systems What I will invest in technology and processes to make the business efficient  E.g. “Automation everywhere to minimise employment and maximise data” People  Who I will employ and manage for commitment and productivity E.g. “A small stable group of smart people that exceeds planned results” Finance  What I will invest in the above to get a high return  E.g. “100% return on total assets”   STRATEGIES  The approaches I will take to ensure that the Objectives are achieved E.g. “Quarterly market intelligence report on competitor activities” ACTION PLANS The detailed steps that named individuals will take by specific dates  E.g. “Eric will set up a CRM system loaded with prospects and clients by 30/6/21” BUDGET  The expected expenses incurred in implementing the Business Plan and revenue receipts as a result  E.g. “Total sales to new customers of £240K for 2021”  REVIEW  Monthly management accounts showing actuals compared to budget Weekly / monthly KPI report of pre-sale statistics and trends  Meetings to agree corrective actions and changes   So, there is our practice plan for the year, where is our plumber in all that?  Well: Because your practice is now geared up to be an all-round provider of business services you answer your plumber’s questions about lack of sales and cashflow like this: “OK here’s what we’ll do (Fred)” A benchmark assessment to see what a business like yours should be achieving.Here’s how you score against other plumbers for: a) Marketing  b) Operations  c) Systems  d) People  e) Finance f) Value What do you think? Discuss / understand interactions between all the stats until the penny drops.Here is a forecast what is achievable and when by.So is that what you want to achieve in life? Here is a simple a plan to achieve it.These are the priorities for action.Happy with that?Would you like to see the practical actions to take?a) I can help you to implement these.b) At a price you can afford.Shall we make a contract and get started?Conclusion  You can achieve anything with a good plan and having mastered the skills for your own business, you can do the same for any client’s business. It’s easier than you think.  Take a look at the Runagood® solution here. By Duncan CollinsFounder & CEO of Runagood.com Ltd

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Jan 27

Why the Institutes & Gurus Dress Rules as Business Advice

The professional institutes, the gurus, and the accountant advice community, hold out the prospect of easy diversification into the business advisory market. Googling ‘business advisory software for accountants’, gets 8.7m results. By the time you get to page 3 you’ve seen 60 already, half of them ads. Most irrelevant.  Because business consultancy is my core skill, I look at every one that gets on my radar in the hope of finding another one that really does enable an accountant to give business advice to clients.  And I’m still looking. What’s on offer for accountants to use with clients comes in three forms: Online bookkeeping – management accounts – graphs of performance metrics – areas of the business to pay attention to – fact sheets and articles about things to consider in seeking improvement.Business compliance consultancy – H&SW – GDPR – Employment Act – data security – ISO9000 – Companies Act.Referrals to specialist consultants who only know how to do one thing eg websites – SEO – Adwords – social media – email marketing – telesales – graphics - HR – IT – funding – grants – insolvency  Useful, but all about compliance with regulation or systems.   None solve the real and practical problems that small businesses confront like “what actions can I take to: Get more customers? Get more repeat sales?  Give a better service? Work more efficiently?  Buy the right technology?  Get more commitment from my people? Raise their productivity?  Increase profits?  Improve cashflow? Overcome a crisis? Exit?  Grow?  Get a lifeDiversify?This is the difficult stuff – too scary to risk getting into.  And the ability to answer these critical needs with constructive stuff that can be implemented immediately is beyond anything I’ve seen.  Yet it’s what a good business consultant has to do, rolling up their sleeves to work inside, making things happen. Small business owners only turn to them, when things are desperate, when their accountant has exhausted one or all of the 3 approaches above and something concrete has to be done and quickly, in the name of survival.  Business consultants are much maligned, as there are no professional qualifications or skills training for them. Too often, they are redundant managers between jobs with none of the required skills. By which I mean the ability to analyse the overall performance of any business – spot the causes of its underperformance - plan the solutions – sell it to the boss and crucially, execute it hands-on until performance improves, then train him / her to take over. There are few consultants who can do that and those that can, often don’t like working with small businesses. Medium / large ones being far more lucrative. So, any would-be developer of business advisory software must start with a personal understanding of these realities.  They need to have run their own business to know the pain of fighting to survive and finding solutions. They need to have advised many businesses from inside, sharing the highs and lows, finding answers, and motivating the people to keep going. They must have a toolkit of techniques that they can use competently to solve problems and implement the processes of discovery, analysis, planning and practical implementation.  The business advisory dichotomy is that people without these attributes are writing the software and basing it on accountancy rather than consultancy knowledge.  Just as with accountancy, where software helps the accountant to accelerate the delivery of what s/he already knows how to do, so consultancy software is the same. It is only useful (and usable) if used by someone who understands consultancy. And that is why, having spent a personal £1m developing consultancy software that covers every single aspect, in the hope that accountants could use it ‘out of the box’, I had to give in and introduce consultancy training first!  It has been an interesting journey to see how accountants adapt to consultancy. The principal difficulty is psychological, about stepping into the future. The client wants a route forward with all the uncertainty that entails whilst the accountant comes from a background of defining a certain past. It’s daunting.  We start with personality profiling to understand self, the client types, and adaptive behaviour that builds trust. We proceed to selling skills and then the processes to use during project implementation: mentoring – coaching – consulting – training – project management.  Role play and working with real businesses builds operating confidence – then we add the technology that does all the hard and time-consuming work of analysis – forecasting – planning – methods – action steps and implementation. At which point the software makes complete sense and creates a powerful mix of technology and humanity to genuinely introduce business advisory diversification for accountants.     There is nothing else like it on the market…  Take a look here.By Duncan CollinsFounder & CEO of Runagood.com Ltd

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