The Surprising Secret to Effectively Growing Your Accounting Practice
Have you ever faced a challenge and felt incredulous that you could possibly ever accomplish it?
That’s exactly how I felt when I decided that I was going to run a half-marathon, after realizing that I was out of shape, under too much stress, and my physical and mental health depended on making a big change. But the thought of running non-stop for over two hours in order to cover 13.1 miles seemed like an outrageous impossibility to me. It both thrilled me and scared the crap out of me!
This is somewhat similar to the idea of going from being an accounting firm that’s just getting by during a pandemic to a thriving, efficient and highly profitable one. Is that even possible?
Where do you begin?
The best way I’ve learned to face such challenges, both in business and in life, is to begin with the end in mind. (Yes, this is one of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.) What are the main components of an effective and profitable accounting practice? Knowing this will help us identify what we already have, and what we need to begin the transformation.
3 Key Components of a Highly Profitable Accounting Practice:
- High quality client base
- Skilled team and company culture
- Lean and effective workflows and systems
While most of us would probably think the most important of these components is bringing in high-quality clients my experience has shown me that this is not actually the case. In fact, starting there could hurt your reputation and increase the struggle.
Interestingly enough, this is much like a new runner who wants fast results so enthusiastically that they attempt to run five miles every morning from the start. A lot of would-be half marathoners have tried this approach and ended up with painful injuries that put them out of action completely!
Instead, a solid foundation must be laid first. Yes, to run 13.1 miles, if you’re out of shape, you must literally walk before you can run. You’ll also need a gradual, progressive training schedule that starts at your current level of fitness. The same can be said for working toward a highly profitable accounting practice.
We need to take a look at our existing workflows and systems to build a strong foundation for our team and our marketing activities.
Just like my training schedule helped me build the strength and endurance to reach my big goal over time, creating standardized workflows that are efficient and effective (that boost your profit margin) make a big difference so you can move in the right direction.
I also kept a running log so that I could track what was working and what wasn’t. This helped me stay injury free throughout my training. The same approach applies to examining your existing workflows. We need to identify where the bottlenecks are and find areas where automation can strengthen our core operations.
The hardest part of creating a workflow… and of training for your first half-marathon… is in the beginning. You need to build the habit of doing the work and documenting your results. But once that habit is formed, progress seems to happen quickly and almost magically.
Before I knew it, I was running 7, 8, and 9 miles at a time, and it usually didn’t even feel difficult! Did I have bad runs? Yep. Did I make mistakes along the way? Yes again. But my system was working and I learned by doing! You’ll have workflows that are a mess too. That’s okay. Smooth out the rough patches one at a time and your operations will begin humming, your team will build confidence and skill, and your clients will be delighted with the results they’re seeing from your services.
While documenting workflows and building standardized (and automated) procedures may not seem like the fast track to a successful practice, this is building your business strength from the inside out.
Only after you have lean foundational workflows and systems will you be in the best possible position to hire top talent and attract the best quality clients for unstoppable success… even during a pandemic.
On September 15th, 2013, the Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon in Philadelphia had finally arrived. I finished the race within 60 seconds of my predicted time! The impossible became possible, and I was hooked, and ready to do even better in the next race. The rewards were worth all the effort. In hindsight, it was following my simple system that really got me there.