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My principles of doing business

April 18, 2013

I think I have gained a lot, and lost nothing, by having certain principles which I have stuck with since becoming a senior practitioner, and then a partner, at my firm.

Fifteen years later, they have stood the test of time. Amended for when my mother died, and one or two minor tweaks, they remain unchanged. I decided a while ago to post them on my blog: since there is no downside in so doing.

In the early 1990s, I read a book, Taxes- Burden or Blessing?, by the then Bishop of Manchester, Stanley Booth-Clibborn. I haven't read it since, but should do so, though reading it helped me formulate much of my beliefs about my particular profession. It was around this time I worked out for myself my principles, which I first wrote down in 1997, on becoming a partner, and kept in my Filofax.

My present formulation is below. I can, as I write this blog, think of numerous cases where they have kept me in good stead, and still rue two occasions where I broke my rules, one from weakness- a domineering senior partner, and one from trusting where I knew I shouldn't.

My principles of doing business



Rabbi Hillel motto [6/03] – my fundamental principle

Rabbi Hillel, who lived at the time of Jesus, was challenged to explain the whole Torah while standing on one leg. He replied:

“What is hateful to yourself, do not do to others. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. Go and study it”.


Full and frank with clients;

…with Revenue

When clients tell me something which makes me know that there is tax to pay (which hasn't been paid), clients must pay the tax.


“Sunday Times” test: how I would feel if I was mentioned in relation to a clients affairs by the Insight team; if the client was mentioned.

Or: how I would feel if Jane or mum [now 11/02, my children] found out: would they regard it as proper (or, if they didn't, is the difference solely because of not being commercial).

Bishop of Manchester book

David Bookbinder morals/hospital test.

How do I explain what I do? How to explain to my children etc that being a tax advisor is something worthy.


Try and be comfortable with our fees: hope that clients accept that much of what I do, and what our best colleagues do, come from thinking about them; always have a value for money check, but recognise the hours of thought from which ideas come.


Don't work for fees which I believe are below what is fair, particularly far below, or where price is the predominant factor.


Never let Deloitte interests outweigh clients


Preference to explain to clients; in sufficient detail to give them the facts and experience as much as they need to make a decision


Preference to explain “what I would do”; “if you were my best friend/dad/family”


Never to recommend a colleague just because they are colleagues (unless e.g due to geographical location it is obvious I don't know them)


Not to upset existing good relationships which are working for the client (i.e particularly incumbent tax advisors: if potential clients have good incumbent advisors, help, not displace; entirely different if the incumbents aren't good)


Not to accept rudeness to colleagues, including/especially junior staff/secretarial…


Open book approach to fees; prompt payment required; a smaller amount which the client is happy with, rather than a larger one that they are not.


Try hard not to let colleagues, particularly specialists, overcharge [two client experiences- one for TP, whether CF partner (LCSP) dominated, and the other where specialist partners convinced me that their proposal was market norms ] nor to be too hungry for work.”overselling” [6/07]


Preference for repeat business, from people I enjoy working with, rather than one off work: and preference against one off work just for schemes sake.


Preference for clients who want to minimise but pay the right amount of tax; but acceptance that some clients will adopt schemes- in that case, must know the risk.


Will not sell short lived schemes unless client knows it could be short lived, and that unwind can be costly. Only for savvy clients.


Preference for clients who are willing to let me get to know them, to some extent, rather than those who just want a e.g minimum cost service.


Preference for clients who I like [added after JA experience 2/99- though 5/10 can't remember who JA was]; who when I am reading articles or books in the evening etc, I will think of.


Preference against inter-office (particularly international) referred work; preference for NW [6/07] business.


An interest in charitable/not for profit work, or for clients with benevolent or community benefiting intentions.


Not sure where I stand on Co-op type areas (arms, testing animals….). So far I have never had to work on such cases, but of course Deloitte does, and therefore I benefit.



AWB 6/97 updated 6/07 and 5/10



From → Life and career

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