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Accountants Caught Lying To Clients In Desperate Quest For Authority

LieI've been looking at accountancy websites recently (on the whole a pretty depressing task, more of which in a later post).

As part of the process I found something quite weird, and rather disturbing.

And something which really disappointed me. I'd just thought better of the profession as a whole.

About a dozen or more accountants are claiming co-authorship of a book called “Why Businesses Stop Growing And What You Can Do About It”.

You can get a partial list of them here via google:

Wall of shame: the book with the most co-authors in the world >>

Obviously, all these guys aren't really co-authors of the book. The real author has written the book and cooked up some scheme that gives the accountants a co-author credit for a fee or whatever in order to boost their credibility.

(Update: just to clarify, this isn't a sort of compilation book with multiple co-authors doing a chapter each. This is a book always labelled as having only two authors. It's just that one of them changes every time depending on which accountant is claiming he's the co-author).

So good for the author. He gets a bunch of money.

Good for the accountants. They get to pretend they're the co-author of a business book without actually having to bother writing one or be in the possession of the expertise needed to do so.

Good for their clients? I don't think so.

They're being fooled into thinking their accountant is more of an expert in business than he really is. And it's very deliberate. Some of these guys appear on videos saying “Hi, I'm so-and-so, co author of Why Businesses Stop Growing”.

It's not just something that's slipped into their marketing by accident. They are deliberately fooling their clients and potential clients and claiming expertise they may not have and an achievement they didn't do.

Ironically, many of them have a bio which reads “…so-and-so is the co-author of “Why Businesses Stop Growing And What You Can Do About It…” and a trusted authority on helping start up and small business owners achieve success”.

A trusted authority? A good start might be to not lie to your clients.

One of the absolutely core qualities you want in an an accountant is honesty. For heavens sake, you're trusting these guys and girls with all the details of your finances. You want them to act purely in your interests. You want their advice on things they know about, and you want them to tell you when things are out of their area of expertise.

What you don't want is them lying to you and claiming expertise they don't have.

What do you think?

Is it all just harmless? Is it “good marketing”?

In my Authority Blueprint training I teach professionals a bunch of ways to create content and get it showcased to their potential clients. But that's hard work. Much easier just to pretend you've written something when you haven't.

Would you trust these guys to do your accounts?

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18 Comments

  1. Ian, each of the accountants contributed their own content, very likely. In that sense, the book is a compilation of co-authors. Where is the lie? It may not be pleasant that the content compiler made a bunch of money, but what accountant will take the time to actually write a whole book? None or very few.
    So there you have it – a need is filled.
    Only if the accountant claimed to contribute and didn’t provide his or her own expertise in his/her own chapter is it a lie.

  2. Hi Nancy – I think you misunderstand. It’s not a book compiled with multiple co-authors. It’s one book appearing on multiple accountants websites as having only 2 authors. The real author and the accountant in question.

    So on site one it appears as Joe Bloggs & John Smith. On site two it’s Bill Jones and John Smith. On site three it’s Andy Perkins and John Smith.

    As far as I can make out the accountants have had no input into the book whatsoever other than their name on the top.

    When this article was published I was contacted by an accountant who told me that he was offered the same deal. There are some other elements in it which are good and which would add value to an accountants clients. But he was put off by the book thing which seemed to be dishonest to him.

    I’ve since managed to find the promotional literature for this scheme on the web. Here’s what it says:

    “We ghost write the book on your behalf, establishing you as co author together with Steve… all you have to do is add a short bio and photo to it and our designers and printers do the rest.”

    So as far as I can say, they’re authors in name only.

    Ian

  3. Hi Ian, speaking as someone who’s actually written a book for the express reason for demonstrating to my clients that I know what I’m talking about I find this deceit quite distasteful. I’m all for clever marketing and finding new ways to position yourself ahead of your competitors but this form of lazy marketing is, frankly, pathetic.

    They will get found out at some point and they will regret their actions.

    Some may say it’s only a small lie but the saying “if I can’t trust you with the small things how can I trust you with the important things” is one that will come back to haunt these people.

    Mike

  4. Thanks for the clarification. This indeed sounds like a large gap in integrity.

  5. Good on you Ian for exposing this. An accountant connected with me on LinkedIn last month telling me the had co- written the book. I Googled the title to make the same discovery.

    Not wanting to get locked in combat with the marketing firm involved, I did nothing about it. Shame on me. Sadly there is awful lot of bad marketing practice / advice about from ‘accountancy marketing specialists.’

    Last year I put out a blog titled: ‘Is Accountancy Marketing stuck in the 1990s?’ A competitor copied & pasted large chunks of it under the title: ‘Accountancy Marketing – Back to the 90s.’ When I asked for an assurance they wouldn’t copy my content again, they denied they had responding, “I definitely wrote the majority of the content myself.” I was promised a call from their MD but no surprise, no one got in touch.

    Patrick McLoughlin
    .

  6. It really is quite sad isn’t it Patrick? If you copied their actual products or services they’d be up in arms. But because it’s “only marketing” they seem to think it’s OK to copy. Or to lie in the case of the book.

  7. An accountant client of mine told me yesterday that she had found a competitor’s site with an About Us bio exactly the same as hers, but with just the other person’s name substituted. Do these people really think they won’t be found out?

  8. Hi Ian

    Like Mike I’ve written a book to establish my authority….. in fact Mike contributed the foreword in my book. But I’m appalled with this deceitful practice.

    I wrote to a handful of the co authors asking if they could explain which parts they wrote in the book you mention but none have come back. Ibet they soon get the book of their websites if we challenge them . If we all challenged this practice it would would soon stop.

    Stefan

  9. You make a great point Stefan. I suspect most of them feel a bit bad inside already about it, but are thinking “well, no one will notice”. If we show them that people have noticed it may make a difference.

  10. What a shame. That is worrying. Just to clarify. Anybody can call themselves an accountant even without training or membership of a professional regulatory body.

    A “Chartered” Accountant on the other hand is a member of an institute (a regulatory body) and will think twice before lying about writing a book or involving themselves in any activity that can be/or seen as lacking integrity or unethical.

    My advice is to only work with accountants who are chartered and thereby regulated by relevant institutes. They have their membership at stake and will normally try to act above board.

    Any other accountant …. well … anything can happen and they could be lying about more than not just writing a book!

  11. As CEO of a business that generates a considerable amount of good-quality uniquely-written content, I don’t have much sympathy for anyone who copies content from others or plagiarises articles without permission.

    We work with professional firms to help them influence prospective customers in their chosen sectors and creating a booklet showing expertise can be very powerful, and a good marketing tool!

    But in this case they seemed to have been badly advised.

    David Lomas
    CEO M3 Media Publishing

  12. Always make sure you check out there qualifications first and whether they are part of the chartered institute hbttp://www.stevenglicher.co.uk

  13. Original Author is Richard Brewin FCA, Maybe that relates to the US False Claims Act rather that Fellow or Chartered Accountants

  14. The book is obtained by each accountant after signing up for a marketing system out of the UK called Accountants Growth Programme. Google it and you will see that the book is one of the offerings in their suite of tools. Presumably it is an eBook where the accountant “author” name is changed for each member. They also have a FB page called Marketing For Accountants.

  15. As an FCA who adheres to the ethical code of conduct in other non-accounting work that I do, I was horrified to read about this practice as it is truly out of integrity. Luckily I read Ira Smith’s comment and it makes sense. Many non-accountants also use PLR content but the advice that I hear is that one should change at least 20% of the content to make it different. Fortunately I don’t need to use PLR products but I use Copyscape to check for plagiarism of my content and have had to send out quite a few DMCA notices in 2015.