Most readers will be aware that as well as blogging I also write for traditional print media. My regular gig is Unlimited Magazine, a New Zealand magazine for the new economy.

Here’s my June article – where I have a rant about so called professional advisers… Enjoy

Often in my travels I hear deprecating comments about lawyers, accountants and other professional advisors. A few recent experiences have made me a little more sympathetic to these moans (not to mention the overwhelmingly powerful opinions of those who firmly believe all lawyers are crooks, financial advisors no better than Mafiosi, and accountants as animated as road kill).

Before I continue, I must confess I don’t suffer fools gladly and can be reluctant to have others do something badly that I could do quicker and better myself. I’m also a little obsessive when it comes to detail, always liking my i’s and t’s to be properly dotted and crossed.

With that disclaimer made, a few months ago I got an interesting email out of the blue. The mail, seemingly specific to my particular business read: ‘Being a climber myself and a Cactus enthusiast it is great to finally get in touch with you … I would be most interested to meet with you to see whether there are any opportunities whereby we could assist you with advancing [your business]. Given the range, scope and quality of your products, I believe that there are a number of profitable opportunities for your company to consider internationally.’

The email piqued my interest so I decided to meet the guy. What eventuated was a half-hour session with a very slick (in the greasy hair and cheap suit sense of the word), but equally smarmy, teenager whose sole platform seemed to be an offer to facilitate an application to New Zealand Trade and Enterprise for market development funding. Unbeknownst to the chap, I have a fair amount of experience with NZTE and am aware the application he referred to is neither onerous nor complex.

I was even more skeptical when, a week or so later, I talked to a friend in the coffee business who had received an email from the same company that read: ‘Being a coffee drinker myself it is great to finally get in touch with you … I would be most interested to meet with you to see whether there are any opportunities whereby we could assist you with advancing [your business] … I believe that there are a number of profitable opportunities for your company to consider internationally.’

Yep, it seems this company had pretty much trawled the Yellow Pages and done a mail merge. I can only wonder how many gullible business owners paid good money for these clowns to ‘assist’ them.

But it’s not just business advisory services. Over the 15 years I’ve been in business, I’ve almost exclusively done my own accounting and legal work. Sure, like I said in my initial disclosure, I’m pretty finicky (more so than most accountants I’ve met). I’ve also done some study of accountancy and commercial law (but am definitely neither an accountant nor a lawyer). My reason, though, for doing my own stuff isn’t because I’m good at it; rather it’s that my experience with so called ‘professional advisors’ has shown the ones I’ve dealt with to be pretty amateur.

There was the time a few years back when we engaged a chartered accountant. Despite supplying him with complete and clear records with all transactions coded correctly, he still managed to double-enter a number of items (and bear in mind that all the job entailed was copying completed accounts onto their own letterhead). Not only this, but it took three or four attempts before he understood what I was saying and did the work correctly.

I’ve also experienced far too many accountants who advise against doing data entry work oneself, generally saying ‘but it means we [the accountants] have to go through all the transactions to make sure they’re coded correctly. It’s much easier to let us do all the work’. Guess what? You’ve just been advised to replace what should be a $15 per hour accounts clerk job, with one that bills closer to $100 per hour. Value huh?

Or what about the solicitor who advises that doing a property check on your own is risky and that they need to obtain and check the LIM. How many of us have heard nightmare stories of solicitors not picking up significant issues and purchasers not checking because ‘the solicitor handles all of that’?
So here are two rules that I, as a small business owner, live by:

1) Anyone who is in business must understand the rudimentaries of accounting and law. There’s no excuse for not doing so.
2) No one is as concerned about your business or property as you are. Core stuff should not be farmed out.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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