How to Design The Accounting Firm You Really Want

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Most Accounting firms build their firms by default - not by design.

Typically, the senior manager becomes a partner of an existing firm or they leave with a ‘block of fees’ and start their own firm. The firm grows by referral, the partners accept all clients and voila it grows to what it is today.

Very few firms start ‘with the end in mind’ and design it from the ground up.

Most Accounting businesses grow by default with people, systems, culture, clients, numbers, habits and attitudes.

If you take a good hard look at your firm today, it is exactly what you want it to be?

If you are motivated you can make changes, then there is so much content, process, methodology and coaching available to make whatever change you want. But you have to be motivated.

We would suggest that you focus on five key areas of business design.

As you go through the list here are some quotes to help you expand your thinking.

“If nothing happens, then nothing happens.”
“If you think you can, you can; if you think you can’t, you can’t - either way you’re right.”
“If it’s going to be, it's up to me.”
“A breakthrough often happens after a break with.”
“Your future is dependant on your decisions and actions today.”

Here goes.... some questions to ask yourself:

1. Designing Your Business Lifestyle

Q. How much cash do you want to take home each year?
Q. What are you going to spend it on?
Q. How many ‘delivery days’ do you want to do each year?
Q. What is the minimum fee per day when you deliver a client project personally?
Q. Where are these delivery days to be located?
Q. How much travel do you want to do?
Q. How many ‘free’ days do you want per month?
Q. What type of clients do you want to work with?
Q. How many real family holidays per year? 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 weeks?
Q. How many weeks of personal (no kids or partners) holidays per year?
Q. What role do you want to play in the business? Operational, non operational or other?
Q. How many promotional days per year?
Q. What are the three highest productive activities that you should spend your time on?


2. Designing The Numbers

Q. What revenue do you want the business to be?
Q. What profit per partner would you like?
Q. How many offices?
Q. What does the headcount look like - the team? Less, same, how many?
Q. What partner productivity do you want? <30%, <20%, 0%?
Q. What average hourly rate for client hours do you seek?
Q. What is the ideal average fee per client?
Q. How many projects per year per client?
Q. What is your personal wealth upon selling your shareholding?

3. Designing Your Services Offered

Q. What percentage of your revenue do you want as compliance?
Q. What involvement do you want with cloud services and IT implementation?
Q. What value added services do you want to provide? Business Performance Review, Planning, Monitoring, etc.
Q. How much consulting do you want to do?
Q. What about owning a legal firm or having a legal division?
Q. What about finance broking and insurance services?
Q. Do you want to outsource all of your compliance? Or just a percentage?


4. Designing Your Culture

Q. What is your documented culture?
Q. How many finders, minders and grinders do you want?
Q. What is the attitude of the team you desire? Positive, negative, neutral, miserable?
Q. Who are your alliance partners?
Q. What are the documented performance standards and values?
Q. What does the office layout and environment look like?
Q. What are the benefits and perks?
Q. Do you want a reactive or proactive culture?
Q. What are the rules of being a team member in your firm?
Q. Who needs to stay and who needs to go?

5. Designing Your Client Base

Q. Which niche market(s) do you want to target? Or are you going to take on everyone?
Q. What denotes an A class client? How many do you have?
Q. Do you want “start ups” or established businesses as clients?
Q. What weighting towards personal income tax and retirees do you want?
Q. Do you have an ideal size (Revenue, GP or NPAT) of client?
Q. Do you want franchisees, business owners, family businesses or Entrepreneurs as clients?
Q. What potential for additional services in your current client base exists?
Q. How likeable are your current clients?
Q. Who needs to go?
Q. What is your marketing and sales plan to find the ones you want?


With these five areas you can have a business that works, is fun, is stimulating and makes money. It’s your choice what your business design looks like.

The first step to redesigning your firm is creating a customized business performance profile and plan to measure your current productivity level versus its full potential and what you should implement right away to achieve your goals faster.


About the Author

Colin Dunn

Director & Co-founder at PANALITIX

Colin is a Chartered Accountant who, having spent almost 10 years with one of the fastest growing and most innovative firms in the UK, has since invested over 20 years helping business owners to improve their businesses with a focus on attracting new clients, better managing existing clients, developing new products, building an engaged team and strengthening internal business processes.

Colin's primary focus at PANALITIX is on product development and business improvement content. He is the author of the bestselling book “Accountants: The Natural Trusted Advisors".

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