How Does Your Firm Stack Up?

I recently read a blog post on the secrets of high performing CPA firms which was very intriguing. There was some of the usual stuff one might expect but the comments about partner effectiveness and leadership really got me thinking. In essence, successful firms have a common vision, share it, set goals, and have a strategy to achieve them.

 
This information was music to my ears especially since the first book in my Building Business Value series of books will be on strategy, what it is, and how to craft it. Since I told you that I would be sharing the new book project with you in my blog posts, I couldn’t resist this opportunity.
 
What is strategy? I think it is about being different and engaging in activities that provide your clients with a distinctive blend of value compared to your competitors. That being said that, here is an array of questions to get you thinking about how your firm stacks up.
 
Give the following questions some thought and then evaluate your reactions:
·         How does your firm’s partner’s point of view compare against that of your competitors?
·         What issues absorb most of the partner’s attention?
·         Do your competitors view your firm as a risk-taker or a rule maker?
·         Are you better at providing traditional services or at creating fundamentally new business concepts?
·         What percentage of your firm’s effort focuses on catching up with competitors versus building unique service offerings?
·         To what extent is your firm’s agenda set by offering traditional services and competitor’s actions versus being set by your own unique vision of the future?
·         Am I just maintaining the present or am I an architect designing the future?
·         Among our staff, what is the balance between anxiety and hope?
These questions and your answers should get you thinking about the future. Now that you have some answers, or maybe more questions than answers, let’s consider some further self-evaluation.
 
 As if the first batch of questions wasn’t enough, here are some more thought provoking inquiries.
·         What clients are you serving today and who will you serve in the future?
·         How do you get clients today and how will you acquire them in the future?
·         Who competes with you today and who will be your competitors in the future?
·         What is the foundation of your competitive advantage today and what will it be tomorrow?
·         What is your revenue and fee structure today versus what will they be and where will they come from in the future?
·         What skills and expertise make you unique today versus what will make you unique in the future?
·         What market sectors do you service today compared to where will you participate in the future?
 
My hunch is that most CPA firms will face many challenges and changes as we move into the future. Here are a few thoughts about preparing for the future. The first step is deciding on a basket of services that will provide the best chance to win a competitive edge. Then it becomes a process of developing the skills, expertise, and competitive capabilities that will set the firm apart from competing firms. The idea is to insulate your firm as much as possible from the effects of competition.
 
This should provide a good basis for why vision, goals, and strategy are crucial. It also provides some clues on what will be in my new book and in some of my future blog posts.

This blog

Lynn Northrup, CPA, CPIM - Lynn's focus is on building business value for both family-owned businesses and other CPAs. I also specialize in lean accounting, process improvement, internal control, and assessment of audit risk. Other accomplishments include publishing two books, development of self study programs for Bisk Education, and an Adjunct Professorship at Villanova University. My wife Jessica and I live in southwestern Colorado and we look forward to contributing to the AccountingWEB community.

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