Further calls for accountants to scrap billable hours

The founder of one Sydney practice has done away with traditional billable hours and now swears by fixed-fee arrangements that he says benefit both the accountant and the client.

Ali Saab established his practice, Saab Partners, in Rockdale in 2007 as a sole practitioner and built it from the ground up.

Mr Saab told AccountantsDaily that it didn’t take him long to realise the traditional method of billing clients wasn’t going to work for him.

“Early on in the first three years I looked at packing it all up and shutting up shop several times. Learning how to deal and cope with debtors and chasing up your money was tough,” Mr Saab said.

“If I look back, from when I first started I did a lot of our clients' bookkeeping, which formed part of their year-end financial reporting ... you'd send out the invoice about six months after year-end, and so you'd be getting paid almost two years from when the job was done.”

“So we changed the way that we invoice and how we collect our money.”

Today, approximately 90 per cent of Saab Partners’ clients are on service agreements, according to Mr Saab.

“They're on a package which involves their quarterly matters, the year-end annual accounts, their company or trust tax returns, and an arbitrary number of phone calls. Anything outside of that scope will then be a separate engagement,” he explained.

Mr Saab said this arrangement provides benefits for both the clients and his firm.

“People don't want surprises, they don't want an accountant to work on their file for 10 hours and then invoice them accordingly without realising how much it was going to cost,” he said.

“With a quarterly direct debit service agreement, where the fees are fixed, our clients have got assurity.”

While Mr Saab acknowledges that this isn't common among accountants, he said it was the only way he could take control and avoid having to chase money.

“I didn't want to spend valuable time chasing up my debtors when I can be free of that task all together and can spend my time analysing and growing my business,” he said.

“As much as we spend time advising clients about their businesses and how to grow their businesses and how to look at ways to innovate, we also need to have time for our businesses, but we are time-poor.”

 

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