Running numbers through a spreadsheet to create a business plan is a comparatively easy job for an accountant. It's the finding and developing the right people, coupled with getting them to work the way you want, that is the difficult part of growth. A good way to view your plan to scale up to a one million pound accountancy practice is as a long-term change project. After all, as your firm grows it will totally transform itself. This blog post explores the 6 key ingredients, including your Growth Vision, that you will need in place to successfully grow a one million pound accountancy practice.
This blog post is an extract from the book 'The Accountants Millionaires' Club: How to build a highly profitable £1 million practice while working fewer hours with less stress'
Create a Growth Vision that excites your staff
In order to become a one million pound accountancy practice you need to be clear about what you will look like in future. You need much more detail than just a statement to ‘become a one million pound accountancy practice’. Without clarity and agreement about the future state of the firm, there will be confusion and inertia.
A great Growth Vision will declare your intention, that you want to become a one million pound accountancy practice. It will be:
- Visual, so that people can see how the future will look and know what it will feel like to be part of the growing firm.
- Exciting and positive
- Simple to understand and be easy for people to talk about.
Allow people to let go
Beware that when change happens, people have to let go of the old methods which might have been tried and true over many years. Staff will have a feeling of loss, and for some they might grieve for some time. People, particularly accountants, get comfort from the status quo. They know where they are in the world and how they fit in. Your Growth Vision will challenge that status quo. This means that your role is to identify, often on an individual level, what people may perceive they will lose as a result of your Growth Vision. Then allow your staff the time to let go of the old ways of doing things.
Shared need and urgency
If your Stakeholders – staff and clients – can’t or don’t want to see the need to change to grow to be a one million pound accountancy practice, this can put the brakes on growth. You see this happening time and time again when you come back from a conference with a whole set of great ideas! Despite a huge amount of enthusiasm and good intentions from you, the ideas are never sustainably implemented. This is because Stakeholders consciously or sub-consciously derail the changes. Derailment can happen in many ways:
- Staff don’t have time to do anything more than the day job
- You don’t have the budget or can’t find the budget to invest in growth
- Staff refuse to do the new way of working
- Clients may vote with their feet and find another accountant.
Great ways of making sure that your Stakeholders are on board with your Growth Plans is to do some stakeholder mapping. Who is affected by the growth of the practice and how supportive do they need to be for the growth to happen? To help increase the momentum for growth and the inevitable change it is useful to identify the short- and long-term gains if people change compared with the short- and long-term discomfort if the firm doesn't grow. Intense short-term discomfort is normally the easiest way to get a mandate for growth. Sometimes you may need to create the pain to help your staff and clients move forward.
Growing a firm takes ambition, time and money. You’ve got the ambition and now made the time. But a lack of cash can really stifle a firm’s growth. These are some examples of how cash can be directed towards things which are probably listed in your Growth Plans:
- Pay for a new firm website to stimulate lead generation
- Buy in staff ahead of when you need them
- Pay an external supplier to do something that you do now to release your time; for instance, doing social media for your firm
- Pay for a new office when you grow out of your current office space or decide to stop working from home
- Invest in new technology for the firm
Whether it is getting to grips with a new online accounting system or learning different skills, growing your practice will involve staff learning new skills. Sometimes firms don’t realise this, or there isn’t enough support given to the staff to implement and embed their skills. If staff are not given the time and resources to learn and utilise the skills needed to grow the practice, then it can cause large levels of anxiety and tension. These are common scenarios where this happens:
- For us to implement our new strategy the managers need to step up and lead
- To hit our new forecast for gross recurring fees, we need our managers to be able to spot opportunities with their clients for additional work
- We are going to train the staff to be able to handle new business enquiries which come via the phone
- It is just a slightly different way of doing things, the staff should adapt very quickly
Take some time to consider what skills you and your staff will need to develop if you are going to achieve your Growth Vision.
Growth Action Plan
Given the many demands on your time, you need a Growth Plan in order to focus both you and your staff on the day job, but also what needs to be done to grow the firm.