And there are thousands of tools, software programs, consultants and training sessions available to help you (and I should know – I’ve created loads of them myself for AVN members).
So why aren’t all the accountancy practices in the UK incredibly successful, productive, profitable etc etc etc? After all, much of the information is accessible for free and other resources come at a low cost. Testimonials about their efficacy are two a penny so it’s pretty clear that they work.
And yet, when I speak to accountants I hear the same story over and over again – my clients won’t pay a higher fee; my clients won’t pay for advisory services; I have to check all the work my team does; there isn’t any alternative.
Despite the wealth of resources they could tap into to make really positive change, they’re doing exactly what they’ve always done. And feeling frustrated and overworked as a result.
Even firms that have made the decision to join AVN and pay the monthly subscription for our services sometimes behave in the same way.
At AVN, we provide training on leadership, team building, marketing, value pricing, customer service, systemising, opportunity spotting, delivering added-value services and business consultancy. Our ever-evolving software tools help shortcut the implementation of many of these areas and we also provide access to intellectual property that includes a full suite of ready-to-tweak practice systems and growth strategies. In addition, we provide coaches to challenge, advise and provide accountability. Yet some of our members who have access to all of these resources just keep on doing the same old thing.
Why is that?
In 2015 I decided to find out. I travelled the length and breadth of the UK, visiting as many AVN members and former members as I could. I tried to understand their circumstances when they first joined us, the approach they’d taken so far, the results they’d had, and the challenges they’d faced.
I found out that were three main causes of inaction and I believe these apply to all accountancy practices, not just AVN members.
Too much choice
‘Where do I start?’ When you’re faced with a huge range of choices, it’s overwhelming. Making a decision becomes really difficult and often it’s easier to make no decision at all.
On average, the big UK supermarkets now stock a whopping 40,000 products – we can buy pretty much anything we want from there. I just checked the Tesco website and they sell 212 different shampoos; 111 types of milk; even 37 varieties of toilet paper. So what do we do when we’re faced with an aisle full of choices? We certainly don’t review them all, balance them against each other and make an informed, rational decision. How long would the weekly shop take if we did that every time! No, we reach for the familiar. It may not be the best option for us, but we know the results we’re going to get and we don’t have to think about it.
Fear of rocking the boat
It’s not just that the choice is overwhelming, there’s also the risk of getting it wrong. You’ve probably spent years building your accountancy practice and it’s certainly demanded a lot of your time and energy. Even if it’s not running exactly how you want it to, it’s putting food on your table and that of your team. What if the new way of doing things doesn’t work? What if it makes things worse instead of better? It’s safer to stick with the status quo.
No clear path
It’s not just taking the first step that’s so difficult, it’s what comes after too.
I found that many of the firms I spoke to had actually taken some action to make changes. They decided to do one thing – perhaps to put a new pricing strategy in place - and when it was done they moved on to the next. Often, they did have some success and things improved in that area, but they didn’t have a clear path that connected all their actions. The piecemeal approach didn’t have real momentum behind it and in some cases, everything just fizzled out.
Does any of this resonate with you? Does it help you to recognise what’s stopping you from taking action to improve your own practice? Once you identify what that is, it’s much easier to start making change happen.
What I discovered from my journey was that there was a clear pattern to the approach of the most successful firms in implementing the AVN concepts. It wasn’t purely about taking action, it was about taking action in the most appropriate order.
I developed a new approach to the way AVN helped accountants. This new approach fell into two stages:
First, I identified seven key principles that would lead to a far more profitable, enjoyable, scalable and purposeful practice. These, and the methodology around them, form a structured process that I call the AVN roadmap since, effectively, it’s a journey.
Next, I identified a better way of helping the accountants we work with to take action to implement the necessary changes more effectively.
These two approaches are the basis of my book, Putting Excellence Into Practice – and of course, the basis for these articles too. I’ll be looking in more detail at what’s stopping you taking action in my next article, but if you want to find out more right away, you can download the book here and read Chapter 5.