Archive: AVN Insights

Why do we enter awards?


As a company we encourage our members to enter awards and as company we practice what we preach! So AVN entered the Lloyds Bank National Business Awards UK.

We encourage our members to enter awards because its a great opportunity to reflect on what you have done. We are often too involved in the day to day dealings of our business to appreciate the efforts our teams put in everyday and the impact we can have on our clients.

A reflection of 20 years

As part of the process we got to apply and recognise not only what we have done over the last 12 months but reflect on almost 20 years. We have been changing Accountancy practices to achieve the aspirations of their owners. Deliver better and more transparent services to their clients and in turn their families.

Whilst some decisions are never easy we have helped some of our members actually understand why they are in business and what it means to them personally. A very different journey for them all, a journey that constantly changes. Helped them get the most out of their teams and work out who is right for the journey.

A personal journey

Whilst some of our members may look for practice growth while in their 20’s. This may change into their 30’s as young families come along and time is a more precious commodity. During their 40’s they may start to look to their future and design a practice that can let you do what you enjoy. Into their 50’s they may start thinking about passing the practice on to up and coming team or family members and starting to take it easy.

The reality is a personal journey, one member I work with is in his 70’s and not thinking about retiring, its not about the money it is about a sense of pride, ownership… its what he wants from his practice and gives him enjoyment everyday.

Having been around for nearly 20 years, it is nice to see people come back. They take the ideas and practices we have shown them and build a successful business, but they want to be challenged more and develop new skills. They raise the bar time and time again and turn to AVN to support them in their endeavours. It with a sense of pride we see these practices change and can be their to support them.

Why did we choose Lloyds Bank National Business Awards?

Well, it has been described as the “Oscars for Business” by David Cameron. Looking back at the previous entrants we are truly in prestigious company and to be a Finalist is a mighty achievement, completely down to such an amazing team we have. Including a few that have moved on to new challenges, but have supported us and wished us well in the “Enabler of the year” award.

So on the eve of the awards dinner it felt right to reflect. Awards are great for raising your profile. Making you stand out from the crowd and giving you a great marketing angle. But to be honest its about making a difference day in day out to your clients.

Good luck to all the entrants for the Lloyds Bank Business Awards 2017, The Vonage Nexmo Business Enabler of the Year.

The finalists

  • Altia-ABM @altiasolutions
  • Avalara Europe @vatlive
  • Volo Commerce @volocommerce
  • Gatwick Airport @gatwick_airport
  • Close Brothers Retail Finance @closebrothersrf
  • Give A Grad A Go @giveagradago
  • Mobysoft @mobysoft
  • DCSL Software @dcslsoftware
  • Radius Payment Solutions

The sponsor

And also a big thank you to the sponsors Vonage @vonage @nexmo.

Article Source: James Miller

Benchmarking Your Accountancy Clients


I recently had a conversation with an Accountancy Practice about our benchmarking software (no this is not a sales pitch!).

Whilst the software is intuitive, easy to use, gives great visual reports and highlights the areas you can really add value that your clients appreciate, this is just obvious value… the real value comes from what it enables.


It enables conversation, easy subjects to start with. But by using your skills of observation, listening and sometimes asking the damn stupid questions, you connect with your client. If you are really good you find the answers to questions you have not even asked.

Why does a client want to talk about their family, the fact they’ve just got an MBA or the location of their next holiday, when they have a super successful business? Is this information a waste of your time?

The most valuable use of your time

I would suggest this is the most valuable use of your time.

By relating to them as an individual and not just a company, you are creating long-term relationships that can last years, decades. Be a trusted individual to disclose hopes, dreams and fears.

time-2860031_1920You may find out what is driving your clients? Maybe money is not enough, but the gift of time to spend with a child or a loved one could be more valuable than you could ever perceive. By helping them systemise their business or delegate responsibility to their team or even by you taking on some of the business tasks.

I have used many accountancy firms over the years and the ones that stick in my memory are the ones that cared about me as an individual. Of course they did a great job with our audit and accounts but what I really valued was the personal touch.

The smallest things can make a difference

Sometimes this is easier with a small firm but the smallest things can help.

I worked with KPMG for a while and the fact that they knew how I took my coffee and the partner was willing to have a chat about what was going on made a big difference.

coffee-2714970_1920With smaller firms I like how they had this holistic view of my company. They can look at the audit, accounts, tax, my plans for the future of the company and personally as well, all in one stride. There is no inter department squabble for my hard earned cash.


So make time for your clients, forget the timesheets. Invest in them and allow yourself to show what you can offer. Rewards may not be instantaneous but the benefit to your practice could be huge. Often clients just see the compliance work you do as a quasi tax, something they have to do for HMRC or Companies House. Unfortunately its something that often they do not value and push you on price because somebody is always cheaper, undervaluing themselves and the profession.

Make time and understand your clients

By making time and understanding your clients on so many levels, you have the opportunity to add value that not only they perceive, but makes a real difference to them.

The added bonus is that when clients discover this about you they are more than happy to tell their friends and other business contacts how you are different. Allowing you to stand tall in your market place.

The stupid questions

If you do not understand what a client is saying, push them on it. If they cannot sell an idea to you as being the right thing to do, then I would argue it is the wrong thing to do.

mindmap-2123973_1920I argued with a non-exec for two years that we needed to keep a division open. I would explain but he did not get why, he continued to question, pry and query my logic. But he did not give up.

In the end I ran out of illogical reasons. I eventually started to question my own logic, analyse what we were doing and saying.

We closed a department where we were loosing £100k a year, but we had to keep maintaining sales in other areas. The result was that we didn’t lose sales in other areas. By shifting the departments operations to a couple of key suppliers, they were able to drop their price to us. The end result was that we netted an extra £350k onto our bottom line.

Now that non-exec was a really valuable trusted advisor.

If you are inspired by this blog and want to find out more then drop James Miller an email at

Article Source: James Miller

Awards – Why Bother?


I was asked recently why we win awards and the simple answer was because we enter them. So if you’re sitting on the sidelines here are 3 very good promotional reasons to make 2018 the year you enter awards and a there is a bonus 4th…

Reason 1: Media Proof

Industry awards allow you to be acknowledged by your industry. It’s important to raise your profile and awards allow you to do this in a few ways with the media from: Press Releases with the possibility to be published or broadcast and get a wider reach with their readership, listeners or viewers; with producers, journalists and researchers as you are now on their radar even if they don’t react the first, second or third time so keep at it.

Reason 2: Peer Proof 

Your peers recognise you as an industry expert and the judges independently endorse this proof. Obviously this is most applicable when you’re shortlisted, a finalists and a winner. This then allows you to raise your profile with the media as one of the experts in your field thus supporting reason 1.

Reason 3: Social Proof

Clients as you know when you help them they just love it and are more open to give you testimonials so make sure you ask for them. These can then be shared with other clients in many ways and everyone one in social media. Typically when you win or are a finalist your chance to share in social media is invaluable as well as getting lots of likes often with FaceBook they encourage you to share and increase your reach with their promotional offers and the opportunity for more to follow you and get to know, like, trust.

AND the Big Bonus?

Reason 4: Progressive Proof

We’re members of AVN Inspiring Accountants and the 2020 innovation Group so by being proactive in what they offer we naturally call ourselves innovative, inspirational and progressive accountants and business advisors. By being members of both we can punch above our weight by getting access to some excellent CPD for the team, use some innovative tools, techniques and systems to streamline our operation and future proof our firm as attending the conferences allows us to get the vibe of the moment, be more inspired and innovative from learning from others; pat ourselves on the back for a good job well done; and look to 2018 with a refreshed horizon on how we can improve ourselves to make the clients love us more by helping them be more successful.

So best advice? Become a member of both and enter the awards to get the opportunity to mix with other members and peers and learn more quickly what others are doing to keep ahead of the game and punch above your weight!

AND you’ll find it is so much more fun when you get out more ;-))


Gerry Murray 

Marketing Director

Murray Associates Accountants


Article Source: James Miller

When it comes to customer service only remarkable service will do…


Why you need to deliver ‘Remarkable’ customer service and why does it matter?

  • It will help you in an ever increasingly competitive market, if you aren’t delivering a ‘Remarkable’ service then somebody else will
  • Give people something to talk about…Spread the word…’YOU ARE REMARKABLE’
  • Help you stand out among competitors and get it right, every time, with every customer
  • Likeminded customers will be drawn towards you and get people talking about the great things you do
  • Builds strong customer and team loyalty; a great place to work and great people to work alongside

You need to start going the extra mile: you can’t just decide you want to be ‘REMARKABLE’ you have to act like it too. Start doing and create an experience for your clients … every time

It’s a talking point: to be remarkable, you need to be remarked on, so think about how you’ll do this:

  • What are they going to talk about?
  • What are your USPs?
  • Do you go above what other business in your sector in your area?
  • Are you the go to person in your area/sector?

Be different, be BOLD, you may not have an endless marketing budget or time but you can play a different game

  • Be unconventional, be real, and be different – Why not?
  • Stay true to your promise and your passion, but don’t be afraid to push the boundaries and experiment with new ideas.
  • Above all, think of your customers, service with a smile is great, but you want to be remarkable, It has to be in in everything you and your team – do, say, think, and offer

 You first need to define what is your ‘Remarkable’ ?

Using this 5 step approach will give you a robust and structured process to start and continue to enhance your customer service each and every time:

  1. Team – Enthused, pulling the same direction, focused on the customers experience

An engaged Team pulling in the same direction is key, creating a great team ethos and culture can have an equal impact for you and your clients’ experience.

Benefits –

  • When a team member is motivated they do a better job, their workload will become easier, fun and become more enthusiastic
  • Build your businesses culture and live by your values, keep your team engaged and working together
  • Give your team a platform to gather ideas, nominate each other on a job well done
  • In order to motivate your team to succeed, you have to be a great leader and give everybody a sense of purpose
  • Understanding that you need to deliver a remarkable customer service experience every time!


  1. Systems – Don’t leave anything to chance, a step by step for every task

How can you ensure your remarkable service happens every time and not left to chance?

 This is where a systemised approach is key, Michael Gerber the author of The E-Myth books wrote that up to 80% of a business can be systemised. With the right systems in place alongside an engaged team every task can be carried out with the same level of expertise and the outcome be the same, no matter who is carrying out the task.

 Benefits –

  • Increasing standards, saves time and allows you all to work smarter – will give great customer service every time
  • Empowers your team, rather than having to ask you
  • Builds a culture – culture blame a system not a person
  • Each customer will get the same remarkable service every time!


  1. Wows – Exceeding your clients expectations every time

Wows in customer service and their experiences are about meaningful details, they are unique, and an expression of your company’s culture and shared values.

When a customer experiences a ‘wow’:-

  • You are exceeding their expectations in an unexpected way
  • It shows you are interest in building rapport and not just purchase a service or product
  • It is about making personal emotional connections with empathy

 Let’s look at ‘wows’ that our clients experience when attending a training event and why:-

  • All our car park space free and clearing marked with our company logo

Why: To help the clients clearly see the designated parking

  • Football table

Why: to interactive with the clients in a fun way

  • Charity donation to B1G1

Why: to help our clients see we care about others

  • Toiletries and toilet twinning

Why: To refreshes themselves and see the poster that (2.4 billion people don’t have somewhere safe, clean and hygienic to go to the loo. That’s more than a third of the people on the planet) shows we care about others around the world

  • Retro sweets

Why: Take the clients back to 1980’s and either eat themselves or take home for their children

With any wow its import to remember –

  • Your client relationship is paramount, clients will remember and perhaps more importantly talk about, the ‘little things’ that you do more than the products you deliver.
  • What was once remarkable becomes the standard very quickly, so it’s important to keep evolving and enhancing!
  • If you forget a wow you have done with a client in the past, your client may notice!


  1. Learning from others – Do not reinvent the wheel, what have been your experiences and read about what are other credible experts doing

We also experience good and bad customer service in our everyday life and taking the good and adapting it for your business is a great way of passing on what and how it made you feel.

Learning from others gives you a different perspective and it will gives you an insight to sectors and ideas for your business.

A great exercise is to brain storm with your team and all think of great customer service each of you have experienced and in true brain storming session pick the best idea which you and the team can implement.

There are many ‘customer service’ books which are recommend a couple:

  • Feargal Quinn – Crowning the customeris a hands-on guide written in a simple jargon-free style
  • Ken Blanchard – Raving fans that will help everyone, in every kind of organisation or business, deliver stunning customer service and achieve miraculous bottom-line results.


  1. Gathering feedback – Ask and reflect to know you are remarkable and ensure you get candid feedback

How do you know that your clients think you are remarkable? What are other saying about you?

  • The easiest way is to ask, many people don’t like to ask and if they do would you get an honest answer or would they just say the nice things!
  • Think about using an App or software – these can be automated throughout the year or after each job.
  • Don’t be put off sending a manual feedback questionnaire. You could sent in a bright coloured envelope, so it stands out and also printed on different colour paper e.g. yellow or green and you could also add a gift like a biscuit, tea bag. If sending through the post you must always enclose a SAE or a free post envelope.
  • Social proof and what others say about you and your services, so gathering Testimonials is a must these can be used whole to display in your office or on your website and social media.


With any feedback good or bad ensure you share with your team, if good to celebrate, since we all like recognition or if negative think about and implement, what system needs changing? Do the team need training?

Your Client happiness should be measured either after each meeting, project or periodically throughout the year. Research shows that only 4% of dissatisfied customers will ever complain. The other 96% will quietly go away and 91% of those will never come back. Furthermore, a dissatisfied customer will tell 8-10 people about it. Asking your clients for feedback gives you an opportunity to address any issues before they become a problem.

A few thoughts…

Deliver a remarkable customer service and your clients will become your advocates and tell others!

Be the business that people know because of what you do – not because of what you don’t!

Please let me know is this approach has enhanced your customer service

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog

Laura Newby



Article Source: Laura Newby

An Inspirational Conference


I had the pleasure of helping to organise the AVN Conference, which was held on the 6th October 2016 in Nottingham.  The theme of the conference was ‘taking action’ and we heard some really great inspirational speakers – Steve Pipe, Richard McCann and Shane Lukas.

I took 2 main pieces of learning from the day…

  • No matter what life throws at you, you can always bounce back and strive to achieve your dreams, and you shouldn’t let anything stand in your way.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t achieve your goals.
  • We are all procrastinators in some way – you have to find your own way to overcome this and to ensure you do the important things, and not just fight those fires that keep us all busy.

To see some great picture from the conference, and to find out about the 2017 conference go to



Article Source: Jenny Lukas



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