Accountants, like most business people, are not good at setting goals. They typically take an incremental, rather than innovative approach to planning. If you did $2 million in revenue last year, you’re most likely going to aim for $2.1M this year (or $2.2M if you’re feeling particularly bullish.) Such modest growth is reasonably easily achieved in accounting firms; simply put your charge rates up and make sure your write offs do not increase and there you have it.
High performing firms take a very different approach. They understand that the path to true and sustainable growth lies in developing deep and enduring relationships with their clients (typically business clients, but for some, high net worth individuals are just as important); in truly understanding what clients need, rather than simply delivering what they say they want. They take a proactive and intentional role in improving their clients’ financial condition and drive towards helping their clients achieve their objectives.
So when we talk about setting goals, we are talking about much more than last year plus a bit. We are focused on a different way of thinking and conducting business. We suggest you need to develop a thorough understanding of and clear answers to the following questions:
- Who are the firm’s ideal clients?
- Where are those clients located?
- What are the core services the firm offers to those clients?
- What client needs do those services meet?
- Specifically how does the client benefit?
- On what basis are those services priced?
- when they are supposed to pay, they might just schedule the payment online)
- What is the ideal client service model for those clients?
- How are we going to market and sell the services?
- Is the service offering scalable (or is it dependent on a few key people?)
- What changes are on the horizon that might impact the firm’s clients and how can the firm innovate to stay one step ahead of the game?
To gain clarity around these important questions, the key business process of PLANNING should not be overlooked. In our view, most people take on too much and achieve very little - because they feel overwhelmed. A better approach is to:
1. Determine the relative importance of your business goals. For example, if you had to allocate 100 chips to the following six goals, how would you make that allocation? It’s my bet that you’re unlikely to place all 100 chips on just one goal, meaning that usually more than one of the six goals is important, but some are more important than the others. The goals we most commonly see are:
2. Assess your business’s strengths and weaknesses across the following five key business areas:
- Attracting new clients
- Managing existing clients
- Developing team
- Optimizing processes
- Developing products
3. Create a PROJECT PLAN consisting of a small number of projects that have a high correlation with the relative importance of the goals at step one and the low hanging fruit identified at step 2.
4. Implement the plan with a high degree of focus and accountability.
If you want to build a great accounting firm, a business that you and your team can be proud of, a business that is respected as a bastion of your community, you need to set stretching goals, articulate them with confidence and engage in calculated risks. All of that takes courage and hard work. Yet think about it; what would you rather be? A leader of a dynamic, growing organization offering real value to a range of exciting clients, or a partner in a staid, traditional firm growing at the rate of CPI with nothing to differentiate you from your mediocre competition?
If you want the former, it’s time to set some challenging goals. Your goals should be specific, measurable, audacious yet realistic, and time bound. Write them down. Share them with your team. Link incentive programs to them. Create accountability around them. Live and breathe your goals on a daily basis.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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".
PANALITIX HAS DEVELOPED A PROPRIETARY TECHNOLOGY SOLUTION CALLED STRATEGIZE TO HELP YOU WORK THROUGH THIS PROCESS. YOU CAN DO THAT FIRSTLY ON YOUR FIRM, BEST DONE WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF A PANALITIX FACILITATOR - CONTACT US FOR MORE INFORMATION. THEN, YOU CAN REPEAT THE SAME EXERCISE WITH YOUR CLIENTS.