If you own or manage an accounting firm, Rob Pillans FCA is an important man to hear from. The founder of Planet Consulting, he is a coach, mentor and consultant for accounting firms across Australia. Rob has worked the gamut of management roles, and spent ten years delivering client services, including audit. He is particularly interested in helping firms strengthen and grow, and has five key strategies for accounting firms to consider.
In Rob's experience, conversations around growth are largely concerned with revenue, not profit. But he points out that while growing revenue and profit is more difficult, it's important to have strategies for both. He says there are two distinct methods of growth: organic, and by acquisition or merger. Organic growth is a valuable place to start, especially as it begins by doing better with what your firm already has.
1. Increasing prices
Rob says there is one chronic weakness he sees everywhere: firms undervaluing their services. He recommends discussing the fee and scope of work with the client up front, articulating the value immediately. This provides an opportunity to charge a higher fee than you otherwise might, while also being clear about your value to the client.
2. Delivering more services to clients
Surveys indicate that accounting firms are widely considered 'trusted advisors' by businesses, and clients often want their accountants to be more proactive and to help them make better business decisions. Rob believes there is significant opportunity for firms to do more for their clients. To achieve this, he advises creating a client service matrix to identify what services are being offered to which clients. Using this matrix to educate both clients and staff can be a powerful way to create and nurture new opportunities and increase your firm's value.
3. Becoming more efficient
Successful firms, Rob says, have efficient, consistent processes. These firms have focused on finding the single most efficient way of completing each task in the delivery of their services. Efficient workflow and service delivery leads to generating higher revenue, without increased costs - therefore generating higher profits.
The key to that consistency is being rigorous, especially in firms with multiple partners and directors. Rob advises a mantra for improving efficiency: "let's find the best way to complete each of the tasks that make up client service delivery and roll them up into an efficient, effective process".
Each of these three steps is about working with what you already have. So what about looking outwards?
4. Winning new clients
The first step in finding new clients is identifying your ideal client profile. While it can be tempting to say any client is the right client, Rob says this approach is problematic. Instead, he advises following a straightforward process to attract and engage new clients:
- Build an ideal client profile
- Understand what they need or want
- Identify where the ideal clients hangout
- Connect with the ideal client prospects
- Have a process to convert leads to clients
5. Growing through acquisition or merger
While this approach can be a fast way to grow profits and revenues, it can also end in tears! It can often be an expensive way to grow a business, with the costs involved far exceeding the budget you could otherwise spend on marketing and sales activity. Rob advises any firms considering this approach to take a great deal of caution, and to consider their organic growth first.