7 Graces as a Barometer for Choosing Ideal Business Partners

trying to put a square peg into a round hole will never work in businessAuthor Lynn Serafinn shares true story illustrating the distinction between hiring someone who is competent, versus someone who is congruent with your company’s core values.

I’ve been thinking a lot about congruence these days. The more I develop my own business, and the more I work with clients in developing their own brands, the more I see that no matter how ‘good’ someone may be in what they ‘do’ if they are not congruent with my values, they are simply not a good match for me.

Here’s a story about something that happened this week to show you what I mean.

A few months ago, I hired a new accountancy company, who just completed my 2011-12 tax return. They did a very thorough job and were very professional. I cannot fault them with anything they ‘did’. Their bookkeeping was accurate, their business accounting was sound, and they filed my return quickly and professionally. Their fees were slightly higher than I was used to paying with my old accountant, but nothing too extortionate. So while I didn’t feel a very ‘personal’ connection with them compared to the more casual relationship I had had with my previous accountant, I thought As long as they do the job properly, it’s all good.

However, this week I receive two very strange letters in the post from my new accountants. Neither was a personal correspondence; both were what I would classify as ‘junk mail’, although presented in a very formal letter with the company letterhead.

The first was an out-and-out sales letter with a coupon with BIG bold letters saying I had FREE ACCESS to some new ‘Business Growth System’ supposedly worth 5,996.40 (that’s about $10,000 to you in the US).

Now while I admit I didn’t want to enter my name and email to find out what it was (and…damn…they said they were be verifying that we were legitimate clients, so I couldn’t enter one of my ‘incognito’ names and emails I reserve for such occasions), I have been approached in the past by SO many supposed business growth gurus who have tried to hawk business growth products, and they’re typically either pyramid schemes, ‘cookie cutter’ business models, online planning or goal-setting software, or supposed one-stop technological ‘solutions’ for web design templates that are usually aimed at people who are still in the dark ages and have no idea how to leverage the world of social media, blogging and digital marketing. Nine times out of ten, this supposed ‘bargain’ will offer you only a taste of what the ‘super-duper-nifty-deluxe’ package can do, which of course they offer to you at an incredibly ‘reduced’ price (well…reduced from their over-inflated estimate of what it is supposedly worth).

Such promotions are not only ludicrous, but also clear examples of the ‘Deadly Sin of Deception’. They are never worth what they say, always try to get you to spend your money on something even more over-valued, and they all too often prey upon people’s ignorance about technology.

Because I couldn’t get ‘in’ to their back office, I checked the footer of the website and found the company who set up the supposed growth system, and found a very typical ‘free video’ website (using Optimise Press theme for WordPress exactly as it comes out of the box) offering accountants a free video series that can teach them how to ‘dominate their competition’ (they used this term more than once on the page). If you’re a 7 Graces fan, you’ll remember that ‘Competition’ is the last of the ‘7 Deadly Sins of Marketing’ and that it only results in looping us back up to more and more Disconnection.

As if this weren’t enough, I received yet another piece of ‘junk mail’ from my accountant’s office today, with these words emblazoned across the first line of the letter in bold black letters:

‘Are you protected against the cost of an HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) Investigation?’

After that opening line, the letter went on with the very obvious and deliberate intention to instil genuine FEAR in the reader, saying:

‘New legislation has widened HMRC’s already significant powers to allow less formal enquiries and visits to your premises.’
(bold is in the original letter)

And what is my accountant trying to sell me? An insurance policy, which is supposedly ‘good news’ because their ‘insurer is offering new clients a substantial discount where paid by 31 August 2012. (bold and underline in the original letter).

So, basically, my accountant is actively informing his clients about something they knew nothing about so they could get just paranoid enough to buy an insurance policy from him. Mind you, using fear in marketing is the cornerstone of the entire insurance industry; they need to keep finding new ‘monsters’ for us to fear so they can get us to buy new products.

Egad! This is MY accountant?

If you’ve read my book The 7 Graces of Marketing, you’ll remember that ‘Fear’ is one of the ‘3 Furies of Marketing’ (along with Sex and Humour) and how you will find one or more of them at the foundation of nearly every example of ‘old school’ marketing on the planet. In fact, it’s such an old and crusty tactic I’m surprised my accountant is even using this strategy.

And it’s also guilty of the ‘Deadly Sin of Persuasion’, where the marketer will use any technique to make a sale. Again, if you’ve read the book, you’ll remember the contrast between ‘Persuasion’ and the ‘Grace of Inspiration’:

With Inspiration, we feed our customers

With Persuasion, we feed upon our customers

And then, of course, there is the ‘Deadly Sin of Invasion’ because I never asked my accountant to send me such junk. It’s come into my house and now I have the responsibility of putting it in the recycling bin. How many other people are just tossing it into the trash adding to the ever-increasing piles of junk in our landfills?

And finally, what about the ‘Deadly Sin of Disconnection’? As I’m reading this junk mail I’m thinking that I cannot believe this is coming from my accountant, who supposedly knows all about my business. I find myself wondering:

DOES this guy know ANYTHING about me? Does he realise the absolute absurdity of him sending me this rubbish considering the book I wrote and the work I do? Does he CARE? Does he actually believe he’ll ‘sell’ me something using the very same unethical marketing strategies I took two years to research and 400 pages to discredit?

And then I’m thinking:

Gosh, could I be any LESS congruent with this accountant (and his marketing director)?

It’s Friday night, so he has no way of knowing I fired him tonight.

Then, a thought came to me. If people like myself and others in the 7 Graces Community promote themselves as ‘ethical businesses’, maybe there’s someone out there who promotes him/herself as an ‘ethical accountant’. After all, we’re going to be registering the 7 Graces Project soon as a social enterprise. There must be accountants out there who not only specialise in social enterprise accounting, but who make a practice of being ethical themselves.

So I went onto Google and did a search for ‘ethical accountant UK’. All I got were a bunch of articles people had written about the legal requirements for social enterprises and charities, but I didn’t see any accountants listed.

So I decided to be blunt with Google and I typed in the words: I want an ethical accountant UK. Here’s what I got:

Google search shows no results for I want an ethical accountant UK(Sigh).

If you know an accountant in the UK who can pass the 7 Graces ethical barometer test, please let me know. If you don’t know what the 7 Graces are, please check our Mission Statement page (or pick up a copy of the book). If you’re on the same page as we are, come join The 7 Graces Global Garden Facebook group, as we form the vision of the fledgling 7 Graces Project together.

AND…let me hear YOUR opinion:

  • Would YOU stop using a service provider or business partner because their behaviour was incongruent with your values?
  • Under what circumstances would you prefer to repair or salvage the relationship by explaining your position to them?
  • At what point would you decide there’s no point in trying in trying to fit a square peg in a round hole?
  • Do you think tolerating business and marketing practices that are against our values is the more compassionate choice or something that allows unethical behaviour to become ‘the norm’?

Please share your views below!

~ Lynn Serafinn, 10 Aug 2012

Since posting this article, I HAVE found a brilliant accountant (through a referral from someone in our 7 Graces Community) who is not only ethical, but also highly experienced with setting up and doing taxes for social enterprises. He’s also VERY nice, as are the rest of his team in his firm. Have to say, my faith in the industry has been restored. 😉

Lynn Serafinn author of The 7 Graces of MarketingLYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She was recently named one of the Top 100 marketing authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was selected as a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. Her eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. In her work as a promotional manager she has produced a long list of bestselling mind-body-spirit authors. Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project, a budding social enterprise whose aim is to help grow a new generation of passionate entrepreneurs who want to serve both people and planet through innovative, ethical, independent enterprise.

PLEASE share your views! Leave a comment below AND then join us in the 7 Graces group on Facebook. Help us create the new paradigm.

Be sure to subscribe to this blog to receive future news about the 7 Graces Project (see sign up box in upper right hand side of your screen).

If you would like to get involved in our emerging social enterprise. please come along to one of our MeetUp meetings, either in London or via Skype. Click HERE to join our MeetUp group.

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10 Responses to 7 Graces as a Barometer for Choosing Ideal Business Partners

  1. Lynn,

    Excellent article and very good points made! I happen to be an accountant (although I prefer ‘business adviser’) so this article struck a chord with me. You are absolutely correct that today’s service providers rely almost entirely on persuasion of sales rather than on relationship driven collaboration. Sure, we want to utilize our knowledge and expertise to make a living, but shouldn’t we as a service provider (and specifically an accountant) be more about changing our customers lives than our bottom line profit?

    I, for one, want to be this type of service provider, this type of professional. I want to know that I made a difference far beyond some simple compliance work like a tax return. I want to impact my customers in such a way that it will make an eternal impact.

    Thanks for your blog! Appreciated it.

    Michael J. Elliott, CPA – Ohio

    Check out thriveal.com – a collaborative movement of CPA’s across the world who are all about changing lives.

  2. Ingrid says:

    To add in a few salutory stories here. My first accountant promoted themselves as specifically for conscious entrepreneurs – they were lovely but didn’t have the technical skills to do my work (and I wasn’t thrilled with the smilie stamps and glitter all over my P&L documents either).

    My second accountant promoted himself as being 100% ethical – except he never returned calls (or apparently returned correspondance from our Tax Office) so I ended up with the odd challenge or three from his work.

    My third attempt at an ethical accountant was a Pillar of the Church and spoke about business ethics and decision making … and embezzled me to the tune of $40,000 (and left a string of unpaid debts to my alliance partners).

    My fourth attempt has been great (whew!). I had just about given up hope. So what are the lessons? Even with recommendations from colleagues & friends there are people out there who see the terms “ethical” and “spiritual” as simply marketing spin for the gullible. Just as you have done – watch if the actions match the talk and don’t be afraid to leave promptly when there is a disconnect.

    And yes – if there is a clash in values I either don’t hire the person or leave the business relationship – simple!

    • Lynn Serafinn says:

      Wow, what a rollercoaster, Ingrid! Oh, I soooooo agree with you. Please toss around words they think will make them look good, but aren’t bothering to walk the talk. And finding that balance between ethical and competance can also be a challenge. So many people I meet who are genuninely committed to living ‘ethically’ are often very soft-hearted. Sometimes that can make them resistance to embracing the ‘rigour’ needed to run a business efficiently. Obviously, both are needed. Rigour and ethics are both vital. I’m hoping, as the 7 Graces Project develops, it will help foster that kind of business person. At least, that’s the vision.

      Twitter: @LynnSerafinn @7GracesMarketng
      Facebook community: 7 Graces Global Garden

  3. Jennifer says:

    I would have done exactly as you did: I would have fired them immediately. I hope you have found an accountant or accounting firm that you trust and are completely at

  4. Excellent post – it’s essential that the services we use reflect our business ethos.

  5. Save for you and other proponents of a more ethical client-driven market, ethics is an alien word in today’s business environment. The very few who are vaguely aware of it put in a relativistic context, i.e. they’re not as evil as those blokes in Wall Street, innit?
    I would love to devote my life to a workplace where the leadership actually embodies the organization’s core values, but in my short life I have worked for three different outfits where unethical middle management dictates the “business sin of the week”. The leadership? Oh, they defer minutiae to middle management, of course. Such is a structural functionalist business model.
    I’m not saying that your brand of business ethics isn’t going to work – because apparently, it is – but you would have to undo millenia of ethical perversion cleverly disguised as tradition.

  6. Robert says:

    Ethics are something individuals develop for themselves.

    Business standards are something else that is part of management handbooks and orientation meetings for employees.

    I often wonder if ethics really exist.

    As a professional, I have turned down writing jobs over ethical concerns.

  7. Hi, great article, if only so it gets you thinking about this stuff.
    I had the same letter from my accountant in 2011 and it brassed me off a bit, for exactly the reasons you mention. I recycled it.
    Last year (2012) they sent me the latest version! It *really* brassed me off – I recycled that too but you’ve reminded me how much it disappointed me! Now I’m thinking through all the accountants I know to see if any of them ‘feel’ congruent with my own ethics…. nope, don’t think so. Perhaps it’s endemic of the breed? ;o)

    • Lynn Serafinn says:

      Since writing this article, I was referred to a fantastic accountancy firm, who had (for me) the perfect balance between professionalism and ethics. They also had a LOT of experience with social enterprises, whereas my past accountant just stared at me blankly when I talked about them. I’m happy now. 🙂

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