5 simple steps to niching a multi-partner accountancy practice
Having multiple partners in an accountancy practice can make choosing your firm’s niche seem impossible. With everyone wanting to move the firm towards a different goal, this can be detrimental to the productivity of your staff and therefore the growth and success of your practice. So what can you do if your multi-partner accountancy practice is being pulled in every direction? Implement this effective strategy of 5 simple steps, decide which niche markets for accountants you want and become the expert in each niche.
Is it possible to have more than one niche?
In short, yes, it’s possible to specialise in more than one niche (Is marketing yourself as the expert, good or bad?). However, with multiple partners involved, actually deciding between niche markets and agreeing on which ones you’ll specialise in can become quite complex.
If you’ve got one or two main fee earners, the process of adopting a niche and then becoming an expert in it can be hard, but will have real benefits.
With 8 (or more) partners, it can feel like a never-ending task. Although collectively and even individually, the partners know that they want to improve their fee generation (and get some operational efficiencies), choosing more than one niche is very difficult when there are so many people involved. Let’s look at why.
A case in point: why multi-partners make niching difficult
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had three discussions with firms that have 8-15 partners. They had been trying to resolve their desire to adopt some specialisms but were getting nowhere.
The reasons that this process had ground to a halt were almost the same across each firm:
- Aligning 8 partners felt a bit like herding cats.
- Just getting the project team together seemed like hard work.
- They weren’t really sure what to do next.
- They weren’t totally sure what specialisms they should adopt.
- The partner dedicated to moving the firm forward on the issue delegated some of the work to a change team (i.e. a couple of her managers). They weren’t getting much traction, however, and were starting to lose motivation on the subject.
- They started by having discussions with all of the partners to try and understand what type of client each partner wanted; they had even reformatted their website to show their (very long!) list of specialisms (Find out the 5 ways your website could be losing you clients).
In each case, different members of the change teams had a different understanding of the reasons for this marketing shift, from marketing efficiency to operational efficiency and even client service.
5 practical steps to specialising in a larger firm
“The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones”
Looking at the niche markets for accountants and deciding on which ones you going to specialise in is absolutely essential for the growth and success of your firm.
So what is the best way to do this?
Rather than trying to herd 8-15 partners, listening to everyone’s ideas and goals and trying to make all the changes at once, take small steps instead. Carry away these 5 small stones first to create real and lasting change that will keep growing in your firm.(Read: How to minimise growing pains)
- Be really clear on the logic of developing yourself as the go-to expert in one (or more) niches. Think about what the main driver is for your firm. Do you want to convert more prospects? Find clients more easily? Maybe charge higher fees? Do you want to improve client service in each of your teams so that you can provide extra support and advice and demonstrate your expert knowledge of a sector?
- Don’t try to do everything at once. In any team that decides they want to change, there will always be some who embrace it and some who are less willing (Find out how to get staff to support your growth plans). Work with the one or two partners who want to champion the change, rather than trying to work with all of them. When it works, others will soon become more motivated to get involved themselves.
- Choose the niche(s). Now you’re down to individuals, it’s possible to talk about their niche. That will mean considering their credibility and passion for that niche, the size of the niche and if it can afford your offer, etc.
- Start to develop the plan. Work with these partners and help them to improve their LinkedIn profiles, help with blogging, speaking engagements and publishing articles. Make sure that their team get a range of trade magazines related to the specialism. Take the simple steps first.
- Add a page to your website that’s specific to the niche. Demonstrate your expert status rather than claiming it; this is where blogs come in useful too. You can also update the profile of the relevant partner so that it clearly talks about their niche and the skills they have that makes them the expert in it.
Which niche markets for accountants do you want to be known for?
Deciding on the niche(s) that you want your firm to be the go-to-expert for can be made unnecessarily difficult when there are many partners involved, but it doesn’t have to be.
Choosing your niche(s) is an extremely important element to the growth strategy of your firm, so develop the route to expertise with a few partners first and as they start to get success, others will soon follow.
Do you have a multi-partner accountancy practice? How did you choose your niche?