Putting time, money and effort into growing your accountancy practice almost always helps enhance your firm’s value, and ultimately bolster your bottom line.
But managing growth can be a challenge, especially when it comes to scaling up your business effectively. As accountants you’re experts in helping your clients grow sustainably, but it’s easy to overlook some of the steps you need to take to manage your growing practice.
1. Make time to consider changes.
Accountants are busy (we get it!) – especially during tax season. But there are still times in the year when things are a little quieter. It’s tempting to fill these times with everything else you’ve got to do (finding new business, overseeing projects, general firefighting) – and of course those things still need to be done.
Taking a strategic view isn’t something you ‘get done’ in a few spare minutes. So, like anything else in your business, schedule in time for it. Think of it like this: Your practice is up for sale and (pretend) you don’t already own it. Would you buy it? You might be growing, but are you growing in the direction you want to?
2. Stand out from the crowd
There are tens of thousands of accountants out there, all vying for new clients. Some of those potential clients might prefer a firm local to them, or one which specialises in a specific industry. However, with new collaborative tools and cloud accounting more easily accessible than ever, clients often decide to work with accounting firms anywhere in the country.
It can make it harder to stand out, but as customers shop around your brand identity comes into play, and what it conveys to customers. It’s how they know what you’re about. If you’re busy building up a practice now, you might be focusing on a particular message.
So, what happens if that message needs to change as you grow? A complete rebrand of your accountancy identity might be in order, or at least some tweaks to stay with the times.
3. Scaling up your processes with your client list
These days everyone wants things yesterday. As part of your plans for growth, you need to keep up the momentum. Delays cost time, which costs money – and clients won’t thank you for hold ups. But, scaling up inevitably means more work from more clients. As well as deploying more resources, such as taking on staff, it might also be time to change the way you do things.
Finding ways to be more efficient
For instance, COVID-19 saw more people having Zoom meetings instead of face-to-face ones. Lots of these changes have stuck, and there are plenty of online tools to help you to chat with clients in real time on messaging platforms, as well as collaborate on databases and documents.
Many of these technologies are free to use, although some come with a small monthly subscription cost. Other processes you might want to look at could include client onboarding, the way you send reminders for payment or document requests, or even your data management system.
Are you busy, or ‘billable busy’?
There’s a good chance you’ve had this conversation with more than one client already, but it’s true that being busy doesn’t automatically translate into profitability. Are you doing a lot of extra work, but not actually making a lot more money?
Unless this is an intentional ploy towards future growth, it’s worth considering your internal processes, and having a look at your clients’ too. Are they as billable as they could be?
The fact is, clients who are tech-savvy will speed everything up, and make a positive difference to your bottom line. Not only working online mean less face-to-face stuff, it makes it easier to collaborate, faster, and with fewer errors.
Yes, you’ll always have a few old-school clients, especially ones who’ve used your services for years. And of course, that’s fine. But the more forward-looking businesses you have in the mix, the better. More efficient processes give you room for more billable work, building your reputation as a progressive practice for modern businesses.
Moving clients to digital bookkeeping
If you have clients that you think could be a little more tech-minded, then help them get up to speed by offering to set them up with a cloud-based accounting package. Once they’re up and running, they’d make a great case study for other clients too. Some real motivation!
Everyone is different when it comes to embracing new things, and updating technology can be pretty baffling. Doing your research will help you feel more confident in the system you’re buying in to. You’ll also need to train your staff, and work through any issues.
Try not to be put off. Start by completing a full cost-benefit analysis and aim to understand the longer-term benefits of streamlining your most laborious workflows. Even document filing and data recall is faster with the appropriate tech.
Technology can help get you working more efficiently, saving you money and effort that can both be reinvested into your business.
4. Could you go after a niche?
Sit back and evaluate the work you’re doing and the clients you’ve got, to help you decide how you want to grow. Are you taking on a large amount of one type of work, or dealing with particular types of clients? You could be developing a niche without even realising it.
Of course, many accountancy firms target a specific niche from the get go, but for others it happens more organically.
- Identify patterns in the kind of work you’re doing, and look around for any gaps in the market.
- Are the projects you’re delivering really profitable, or would it be worth branching out into something more lucrative?
- If certain parts of your business are doing really well, why not turn it into a focus on its own?
Developing a niche practice has some great competitive advantages. For example, you can benefit from economies of scale, developing systems that deliver projects quicker. You can also develop a deeper understanding of certain industries, making yourself a ‘go to’ name in delivering authoritative advice.
Targeting a specific type of accounting customer
Bear in mind that developing a niche doesn’t necessarily mean you should rush to change your whole marketing strategy straight away. Begin with a new landing page or microsite, using the URL in email footers and promotional campaigns. Such changes won’t break the bank, offering a strong launchpad to continue growing your accounting practice.
5. How are your employees doing?
It’s not always obvious, but your staff have a huge effect on your brand, your culture and your profitability.
During the process of growing your firm, consider your staff objectively. Do you have the right people in the right roles? Do they get on well with your clients and with each other? Are they on board with your plans for growth, with the skills to develop?
Finding excellent accountants who also have good people skills isn’t always easy. And paying them bigger salaries (even if this is affordable) isn’t necessarily the answer. What other value can you add to their working and personal lives?
Remote working, free lunches, and a pleasant working culture are all big selling points!
Anticipate hiring needs
As your accountancy firm grows, pay attention to how quickly and effectively you’re serving your clients. If there are gaps, consider if there’s space for creating new jobs.
Remember, efficiency doesn’t necessarily mean working on a shoestring. It’s about spotting new talent and having the bandwidth to engage with exciting new opportunities.
Sometimes, identifying roles that are likely to come up in the future can take months to bring to fruition. But the important point here is not to fall into the trap of thinking the roles your staff are doing now won’t change as your practice grows. Be open and considerate of your future hiring requirements.
To wrap up
Keeping up with your growing accountancy practice takes work and dedication – and yes, a healthy dollop of luck.
But in such a competitive sector, growth and expansion is vital. The secret is to automate as many processes as you can, ploughing your time savings into further growth and efficiency. Your long-term survival depends on it.
Pandle is an all-in-one cloud-based solution that lets you manage your business on the go. Chat to one of the team using the Live Chat button on screen, or start your free trial of Pandle Pro today.