In early December, a panel of progressive accountants from across the globe joined me for Karbon’s annual end-of-year review. They shared their top initiatives and learnings from the year in relation to practice growth, practice management, and systems and processes.
Joining the discussion was:
- Bruce Phillips—HPC CPA (USA)
- Aynsley Damery—Accounting For Entrepreneurs (UK)
- Steph Hinds—Growthwise (Australia)
- Timothy Munro—Change Accountants (Australia)
From the 60-minute discussion, I’ve selected the highlights and top takeaways that every accounting firm that wants to thrive in 2018 should put into action:
Schmidt: What was your top initiative that fueled practice growth?
Phillips: The big growth initiative for us has been what I call, "more for less"—we do more things for fewer clients. It takes a lot less effort to serve 10 clients, than 100, so we decided to broader our service offerings. Not just more packages like bookkeeping, accounting and virtual CFO, but to offer more things within those packages, and add more value for our best clients. Thereby, we were able to charge more per client, and serve fewer clients.
Damery: We focused heavily on partnerships, which let us join a lot of entrepreneurial and business organizations, and get heavily involved with their client list. We followed this on with an event that we ran called the "TT Big Event", which leveraged these partnerships. 140 attended, including existing clients and lots of good prospects.
Schmidt: What was your top initiative in relation to managing your team?
Damery: We introduced daily huddles. We break into sub-teams for 10-minute stand up meetings. The idea is for everyone to go through what they need to do for the next 24 hours. If people have some help that they can give, or they've worked with that client before, or they have dealt with that problem before, then they are able to give feedback and assistance.
Phillips: My biggest thing was, how do I continue to get the culture that I want, build the team I want, and ensure everyone is getting along? That's difficult when you are a fully remote team. So we had our first big company-wide outing and went to Mexico for three days. Everyone got to know each other socially, and it was an enormous success both for the company and for everyone personally. I learned that even when you're a remote team, you must still see each other.
Munro: We made an effort to find and focus on the personal why for people who applied to be with us. In other words, why do they do what they do? Everybody needs to have something that they are passionate about, and understanding what this was helped us to identify the right people who will deal with our clients the way we want them to.
Schmidt: What was your top initiative in relation to systems and processes?
Hinds: Most people only use 10% of a technology system that they implement in their businesses. Our aim for 2017 was to become absolute champions of every single product that we have, and really build out our systems and processes so that we were as efficient as we possibly could be. Focusing on this has given us the best efficiency gains that we've ever had. And that’s our 2018 plan too—refine, refine, and refine more, because it has worked so well.
Phillips: My two things are, no manual processes and no chasing. So we figured out how many manual processes we have across how many clients, and rated them. We then started eliminating them four at a time. I want to fix what we've got inside, because the gains are much more than any other growth.
Schmidt: What is your top initiative planned for 2018?
Damery: Up to this point we've really pushed the firm brand all the time, but next year we’re going to really focus on our personal brands. I think that the importance of personal brands and each person in the team taking responsibility for a different element of the business from a personal perspective is going to be really, really powerful from a growth perspective.
Munro: We’ll be ensuring that we go through a process with each client called the freedom gap. That's simply looking at where they are and where they need to be to achieve their lifestyle goals. There’s always a gap, and within one minute we help them to instantly see that. Then, everything that we can offer, whether it's business advisory or anything else, is all related back to getting rid of that gap. When people can understand that then they understand the value of our services.
These are just a selection of the insights from Karbon's end-of-year accounting review. You can watch the full session here. Happy holidays!
About Wayne Schmidt
Wayne Schmidt is the practice advisor for Karbon and has more than 25 years experience in the accounting industry having worked with firms in the United States, United Kingdom, and China.