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4 Ways for Firms to Develop a Disciplined Approach to Success

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Jul 15th 2016
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Accounting firms can learn a lot from others who are diligent with discipline in their fields. From running meetings to learning when to say no, a disciplined approach to day-to-day business practice can yield more work, higher returns, and an increased satisfaction among your clients.

Nurturing discipline in your firm’s culture helps everyone focus, laying the groundwork for success. It is easy to believe that success is the result of brilliance or that individuals who take their business to the next level have some innate skill that others lack.

The truth is much simpler and more hopeful, however – success comes most often through the practice and cultivation of discipline.

Mindset of the Best

All top performers practice discipline. For athletes, musicians, or any other field, this one characteristic stands out from others. Their lives are set up to reinforce discipline, surrounded by teams, schedules, and practices that remove guesswork – and as many excuses – as possible from their routines.

Discipline is a great way to allow you and your staff to relax because they have clear expectations and are aware of expectations. This facilitates more efficient scheduling with an emphasis on punctuality and clear processes.

Here are four healthy ways that accounting firms can develop a more disciplined mindset to their work environment:

1. Staff Meetings

Meetings can make or break company morale. Many long meetings earn descriptions like “useless” or “pointless.” To break this cycle, schedule brief standup meetings each morning where each employee has a minute or so to answer three questions each:

  1. What’s up?
  2. What’s your daily metric?
  3. Where are you stuck?

Answers to these questions invite communication and shared solutions, as well as setting the tone of action for the day. Firms that exercise discipline to structure meetings eliminate wasted time and add value to employees’ workdays by staying on topic, ending with either solutions or a concrete plan to get them.

Another method to encouraging disciplined meetings is to schedule meetings at odd times, like 9:09 a.m. or 10:17 a.m., and stick to it. No excuses and no waiting for stragglers. This strategy works for phone meetings, too.

By making timing unconventional, people are forced to pay attention to the clock and be more aware of how they use their time. Focusing on discipline in small ways like this helps put a spotlight on the larger issues as well.

2. Regular Client Meetings

The best accounting firms know their clients well. This closeness only happens through regular, consistent contact. Partners need to schedule meetings with every client each month to learn more about where they are with their business, to understand their objectives, and to redefine any shifting goals.

Scheduling, maintaining, and executing on these regular meetings takes discipline, but it pays off. It makes clients happy, helps them understand their finances, and reminds them that their accountants are an essential part of the business. These meetings can also produce additional projects from existing clients and referrals for an attentive accounting firm.

3. One Thing at a Time

Anyone who tries to do two things at once ends up doing neither task very well. Clients want to feel like services are tailored to their unique set of needs. Employees are happier when they feel a sense of accomplishment instead of realizing they only did 10 percent of each item on their to-do list.

A disciplined approach to time management includes executing one project at a time and making separate time to respond to emails and other communication rather than hopping back and forth between things. Opening only one client project and carrying it through to its conclusion helps avoid mistakes and inefficiencies, and is a best practice that carries over into non-work life.

4. Saying No

Turning down new clients seems counterintuitive, but it is exactly what successful firms have to do. Looking to your firm’s business plan, each new client should fit the profile of your long-term goals.

While it is tempting to take on any new client who walks in the door, firms that do this can lose focus and spend too much time and waste too much money solving problems outside their area of expertise. In the long term, success comes from sticking to the wisdom laid out in the business plan.

Final Thoughts

Discipline is a practice, not a perfection. Incorporating disciplined habits in small ways reveals its power and practicality in creating success.

The shifts that happen in response to greater discipline lead to further changes that affect overall success and the bottom line. In business, as with any top performer, a disciplined mindset has to become a way of life.

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