What do you really want from your accountancy practice?
That’s one of the first questions I ask when I start working with an accountant. And all too often, the answer is that they don’t really know.
I vividly remember visiting Robert, one of our AVN members, who was struggling to come up with a pricing solution for his practice. When I offered my assistance, it soon became clear that he was trying to accommodate such a wide variety of clients that every scenario he considered contradicted a previous one.
I quickly stopped the discussion on pricing as there was obviously a far more fundamental question that needed to be answered first. What did Robert really want from his practice? What was his vision?
Your fundamental purpose
Often when I ask the question the initial answer centres on a financial aspect. Bigger turnover. Better profits. Higher fees. And those are important, of course. But in most cases the real motivation is something deeper, something that gives you a purpose.
With Robert, I asked him a few exploratory questions and then we started to focus specifically on his ‘why’. What was he really passionate about?
After quite some time digging ever deeper, we worked out that he’s most passionate about helping people to be the best they can. That was his purpose.
Your personal goals
This tied into his personal goals – which is what we discussed next. Your business and your personal goals are intricately connected. You need to be clear on your personal goals so that you can develop your business in a way that helps you achieve them. Otherwise, you will always be fitting your personal life around your business.
One of Robert’s personal goals was to continue working with his local children’s football club, doing their accounts and coaching the children. He also wanted to spend more quality time with his own children.
Your business vision
What do you want your business to look like in a few years’ time? What will it be doing for you and for your clients? How will your team feel about working there? Your vision is not so much about specific numbers: it’s about what those numbers represent.
In Robert’s case, he wanted a practice that would be helping his clients to grow their businesses and give them their lives back. He wanted his practice to create a better life for the people behind each business and he recognised that the accounts and financial reports he produced were the means to an end – in this case, of starting conversations – rather than the end in themselves. He also wanted his practice to be a great place to work, where all his team enjoyed coming in and received a huge sense of fulfilment from what they did.
Once you know what you want your practice to be, you can start putting things into place to help you achieve it – your business goals.
Your business goals
It’s a common mistake to look to the past when you’re setting your business goals. If you’ve been growing turnover at 20% each year, your goal might be to continue that or to increase it modestly, say to 25%.
But what would happen if you made your goal 100% growth? Or even 1000%?
Those figures might seem ridiculous. But what if you really committed to them? What different ideas might you begin to have? What help could you get to achieve them? Perhaps you could take a shortcut through acquisitions, or come up with a new, innovative way to grow.
I’m not suggesting that you aim for something so extreme that it’s impossible to buy into, but do make sure you pick the middle ground that’s leading towards being very ambitious. I promise you’ll be amazed by how much it changes your thinking and approach!
Robert set some very audacious goals during my visit, including ensuring that absolutely nothing in his practice would rely on him being there. Every part of the service-delivery, including advisory, would be delivered by his team. In fact, as per his original plan, he intended to run his practice as a business. He also assigned target dates to meet them; this plays a key part in making any goal seem real.
We went on to look at Robert’s practice in depth and identify the areas that needed most focus. I asked him, if he were to start his practice again from scratch, which clients would he choose to work with and what would he choose to deliver? As he described his ideal scenario, it became clear that this would include getting the accounts produced externally and then using the information he gleaned from these to help his clients analyse their businesses and look for opportunities to improve them. He could benchmark the accounts to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each business and then – using the AVN Performance Measurement and Improvement methodology – take each client through a journey of improvement. As Robert described the impact this could have on his clients, he came alive and his energy became infectious. Imagine the impact that could have on a team of people!
So do you know what really matters most to you, both personally and in your business? Do you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and goals that will take you there? When you have this clarity it makes it so much easier to move forwards.
This is a condensed version of Chapter 8 of Putting Excellence Into Practice – to read it in full, download your copy here.