Whilst this expression does not truly reflect the status of sole practitioners and partners in smaller practices – after all, they don’t claim expertise in other trades – it does flag up a competitive disadvantage that small firms can face and who cannot offer the specialist services provided by larger concerns.
As the legislative environment in which firms operate becomes ever more complex this gulf is likely to widen.
But specialisation has its own risks. If the field of study becomes too narrow, say IR35 legislation, if the rules change, or if the legislation is abandoned, specialists would be obliged to reconsider their options.
General practitioners, those who keep abreast of the “bullet points” rather than the detailed text, are not affected in the same way. They also have the option of seeking out strategic liaisons with other advisors should they need to advise on topics outside their knowledge base or professional comfort zone.
Fortunately, most compliance activity can be tackled by most practitioners, as it can be reduced to a repeatable and systematic approach. It is only when clients need advice where the practitioner has no prior experience of delivery that the issue of outsourcing will occur.
Practices that buy-in help in this way will no doubt use each occasion to increase their knowledge base, and there is another marketable spin to this process. For example, if you seek help to reorganise a client’s estate planning, you could use the process to plough through your client and prospect lists to identify individuals in the same position, who would benefit from the same advice, and leverage the benefits for your firm.
Smaller practitioners may not be Jack of all trades in a literal sense, but they may be in a better position to advise a larger cross section of the business community than their specialist counter parts in much larger firms.