The "work in/work on" trap can stop your firm from growing. If you are honest with yourself, it's often you, the accountancy firm owner, who is the cause of your firm being stuck in this trap.
I'll explain a little more. When's it's YOUR firm and YOUR baby, your staff often don't work the way you want them to, or do things to the standard you want. So, you keep everything tightly controlled. So, much so, that you become the bottleneck and stopper on your firm's growth. If you’re critical to your firm, you simply can’t grow it past a certain point (it also scuppers your exit value.). Growing your firm needs YOU to change your mindset.
Leaders invest in their team, not themselves
Stunningly bright blue flashes surrounded us, and then I noticed the slower intense orange and silver fish moving around me. An octopus slid across the rocks below, changing colour as each part moved onto a new rock. It was a dive much like many others, beautiful and restful.
We moved around the corner, things had stopped going so smoothly for one of the couples that were diving. They were struggling to sort out a couple of small problems between them, in fact it looked as if things were starting to get stressed. Thirty metres under the surface of the water is not a good time to get stressed (well, when is?). My buddy and I went to help, starting by breaking up the couple so each of us could help one person. A minute or so later all was well and everybody carried on with the dive.
The discussion afterwards made me think of a problem that many small firms suffer. Divers always dive in pairs, as a basic safety precaution, and the issue was that the less experienced of the divers was unable to assist the experienced one when he had a problem. The experienced diver had invested a huge amount in his ability and skills, but not in his partner’s. Unfortunately, however skilled you are you need the skilled support of your team from time to time. If they’re not up to the job, whose fault is it?
Are you investing more in your team’s skills than your own?
It is your team that will rescue you when you have a problem; best ensure that they can help you not just the other way round.
Failing at growing the firm, in practice.
Imagine a busy time in your firm (maybe tax return time, or any other point in the year). You can clear all the tax returns (or other workload) in time, but your skills are critical to the process. It feels good to be the one that the whole team turn to for ideas, help and support. That is the way you have set it up, as you like to be the fountain of knowledge in your firm. No? OK, so why are you the only one that can do all of the things you need?
In what way is your current situation serving you?
You've seen plenty of businesses with one key person and other team members unable to help. We see it in firms of various sizes; often the key moment is when I ask the owner “how is it serving you?” It’s a question based on the fact that whatever you have built must be serving you in some way, or you wouldn’t have built it like that.
Making somebody reflect is something a good coach does. When people are feeling honest, they often say they have enjoyed being looked up to by their team for their great skills. The reality is that growing your firm will be really hard until you change what you find rewarding, to being looked up to for helping the team develop.
What skills could you invest in now, so your knowledge is more widely spread among your team, and in so doing reduce the stress levels in busy times?