By Troy Waugh
Periodically, the partners of all firms should pause and assess the strategic direction of the firm. Strategy and tactics are easily confused and I've worked with many firms that hold a Strategic Advance only to get bogged down in tactical detail. So what's the difference? Strategy deals with direction. It deals with what we are about. It deals with what will we look like in three or five years? Tactics are those necessary action steps we must take every day, week or month that will get us to that future state.
Over the last 15 years, in working with hundreds of accounting firms, we have developed a strategic assessment tool that we use.
All strategy begins with the market. In which services is our market passionate about receiving? Which services will grow in demand? Which will decline? If there are particular services in which we are passionate about delivering, we must ask ourselves candidly, is the market demand substantial. What about the industries we serve? Do we love our clients and their businesses or are we just filling out forms?
An important part of the market is to understand our competition. Which services are they providing and which of those are growing and profitable? We probably don't want to copy our competitors and become another me too. But, in studying them, we can see opportunities in areas they are not serving well. There is a great deal of information available about your competitor. Of course, you can check their web site and obtain their marketing materials. But, talk to some of their clients and employees and try to obtain one of their proposals. Use your creativity.
During your strategic assessment, think about the compatibility of all your clients with your firm. Are there clients who cause you headaches and/or losses with whom you'd be better off without? Do you have too much work during one time period and not enough during other time periods? Are there things you can do to re-order this phenomenon?
Talk to you largest clients. I mean, really talk with them face-to-face and live. Ask them why they use you? Why they chose you in the first place? If they would choose you again? Ask if they'd refer you. Talk to some of your newest clients and ask them why they changed and if they are getting what they weren't getting before.
Then talk to and listen to the five largest clients who've left your firm in the last few years. Find out why they really left. Get behind the phrase that you were too expensive. That phrase is a put-off phrase for, "I really don't want to tell you".
Evaluate your firm's staff members. From top to bottom, are we employing excellent or mediocre people? How can we hire a few more excellent professionals and outplace a few of the low performers? Do you have an 800 pound gorilla? In other words, do you have an owner that attracts a big book of business but will not support a healthy culture for growth?
Evaluate your firm's financial data (pricing, utilization, yield, margins, realization, etc.) in comparison to national averages. Lastly, compare your communications materials, such as brochures, newsletters, proposals, to others.
Most of the time, when you perform a strategic assessment of your firm you will find areas for dramatic improvement. You will discover hidden opportunities to meet market demand with passion. To talk more about a strategic assessment, please call me or Angie Grissom, Director of Consulting for Five Star3, at 615-373-9880. We'll walk you through the process with no obligation on your part.
About the author
Troy Waugh, CPA, MBA, is CEO of Five Star3, LLC. The Rainmaker Academy, The Rainmaker Consulting Group, and Enterprise Network Worldwide are divisions of Five Star3, LLC. Reprinted with permission from A Marketing Moment, published by The Rainmaker Consulting Group, a division of Five Star3, LLC.