Originally posted on 9 Jan 2014

I spotted this yesterday. The article by Art Kuesel in accountingTODAY says that 2014 should be a great year for your accounting firms. To my mind, every forthcoming year is a great year, particularly when you look at it on 1st January.  But now, there are real signs within the accounting world that point to increased growth and profitability.

Like most opportunities, it won’t just “happen” at your firm. You have to pick up the handles of the wheelbarrow of opportunity.

Firms that achieve success usually choose just a few strategic initiatives at the beginning of the year and distil them throughout the firm for implementation at every level. It’s no good trying to do everything, you just won’t get anywhere with a strategy like that except to fail completely.

Art Kuesel, obviously looking through the window of opportunities in the US suggest that by changing course on a few select marketing, practice development, sales and/or people initiatives, you can build a stronger firm, be more profitable, and achieve the growth you deserve.

That sounds good enough for me to apply to the UK as well.

Why not consider these do’s and don’ts as great places to start:

  • Do build a better leveraged model: Leverage is a magnificent thing, too good to underutilise (like the pun?). More leverage can increase job profitability, overall firm realization, and help to develop your people faster. Partners – don’t let me ever catch you with more than 1,200 billable hours. Plus, by better leveraging work, you give yourself more time for marketing.
  • Do build a talent pipeline: Finding good people is unlikely to become easier anytime soon. So, don’t wait until you need someone to get started. Use LinkedIn to identify ideal candidates for existing or future roles at your firm, and then invite then to coffee on a regular basis throughout the year. This will give you a priority position when they are at the end of their rope with their current situation.
  • Don’t blow a sale because you mismanaged the sales pursuit: From the prospect’s perspective, how you manage the sales process is a direct reflection of how you will manage the engagement and conduct yourself as a professional. Plus, a solid discovery process is really the only way to build winning value propositions.
  • Don’t write off time: You work too hard to be giving your time away for free. Start believing you’re worth every penny (and more) and watch your personal job satisfaction rise—along with your income. Don’t worry if you lose a few price-sensitive clients—because they probably weren’t the right fit for you anyway. You’ll be more personally fulfilled, and can refill you client base with clients who will pay full price. My own tip on this is to get an engagement letter in place for everything you do, including any extra tasks the client want you to take on – if you do, there’s a significantly better chance you’ll be able to bill all those hours in your WIP ledger.
  • Do have a strategic growth plan:You may have growth goals, but how will you achieve them? That’s where the growth plan comes in. Without it, you have nothing but a dream. Map out what areas of your firm you want to grow, assess your ability to get there, and decide how you will fill in the gaps. Hire a sales person? Add a new service line? Add a lateral partner in a key practice? Come on, you’re the business adviser – you must be able to work it out!
  • Do double the number of personal referral sources you have:Usually a few key referral sources are not enough to grow a practice (due to natural attrition). Set out to double the number of top referral sources by the end of the year and watch your pipeline grow. It’s a number game and you know all about numbers, right?
  • Do cross-sell all your services to top clients:This is perhaps the easiest place to find growth. All of your top clients should use all of your services. This also boosts client retention significantly over the long-term. Plus, when executed well, clients view your efforts as proactive and interested in their business and success.
  • Do add a new strategic niche to your firm: Many firms lack in the consulting services area needed to open doors with prospects and create winning value propositions in pursuits. What service(s) do you need to consider adding to your arsenal and how will you execute this strategy?
  • Do have all your people participate in marketing: Get everyone trained in marketing basics, so they can contribute to the growth of the firm. Not everyone will be able to contribute like the rainmakers do, but you’d be surprised how many cross-selling leads and opportunities can come from staff and seniors who are trained to recognise an opportunity – and bring it to someone at the firm who can reel it in.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew at once! Most firms elect to pursue only a few initiatives per year and ensure they are successful before adding more to the plate.

It only takes a few of these initiatives, executed well, to make a significant difference to your firm. More satisfaction. More profits.

Say no more!

Martin Pollins
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