What barriers to business growth is your accounting firm facing? Although the answers to that question might vary from industry to industry, I’m sure most boil down to similar sentiments.
I know in my business, bandwidth can be a barrier to growth—but not bandwidth in the technical sense. Instead, we’re sometimes limited by our own bandwidth and how much our team can accomplish with the time and resources we have. Sometimes we manage our bandwidth well, and sometimes we don’t.
There were times we tried to take on a task we should have outsourced, or skimped when a tech upgrade would have done the trick. Management can make or break your business growth. Is there room for improvement in your accounting firm management?
According to Karbon, a resource for accountants, accounting practices of all types are stifled by nearly identical barriers. Here are five of the most common:
- How to acquire new clients
- Setting the right prices
- Standardizing processes
- Marketing for growth
- Maintaining a healthy work-life balance
We’re here to help eradicate these barriers to growth—or at least offer some accounting firm management tips that will make them manageable enough to surmount.
How to Acquire New Clients
The best advice I can give any business owner seeking to acquire new clients is this: work your connections. Your current client base can be your “in” to boost your client list. There’s no shame in asking for referrals. Money is such an important area of consumers’ and business owners’ lives that they almost always seek out referrals and reviews before making a decision on what company to trust with their finances.
According to the most recent BrightLocal survey, seven out of 10 consumers will leave a review for a business if they’re asked to, and 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Bottom line: You need to ask for referrals and reviews and then act on them. Once you’ve completed a service, let clients know you’d appreciate it if they would recommend your business to their friends, family members, and business peers. Make sure to promote your social media platforms on your website and in your email correspondence. Finally, don’t forget to add a quick note on each invoice thanking the client for their business and asking them to put in a good word for you on Yelp, Facebook, LinkedIn or anywhere else your business has a presence.
Setting the Right Prices
Deciding how to price your services is always a tricky task, but it’s one of the most important things accounting firm management should concern itself with. First, take some time to analyze and list your services and what makes your accounting business stand out from others. Then consider your pricing model. Are you still charging by the hour? Billing by the hour has long been the standard in the accounting industry, but it’s not necessarily the most profitable route.
More and more accounting firms are making the switch to a value-based pricing model. For many, determining your price based on the value provided to your clients makes more sense. Now you just need to convince your clients.
Value pricing is not a set-in-stone price. It requires constant review and adjustment, and you must know what’s important to your clients. One way you can add value: Look for extra services you can outsource that bring in money for your accounting firm. For example, if you join the CorpNet Partner program, you can offer your clients business formation and compliance services. CorpNet handles the work and your firm makes money.
Even if you have only one employee, having an employee handbook for him or her to read and sign is essential to good accounting firm management. Written workplace policies can help prevent disagreements and lawsuits. In addition, an employee handbook is vital to spell out procedures and systems involved in different aspects of your business. Making the effort to standardize processes can save you a ton of time, since you won’t have to explain certain procedures over and over or reinvent the wheel. Better yet, standardization ensures all your clients get the same level of service from your firm. For more help on what to include in an employee handbook, check the Small Business Administration (SBA) website.
Marketing for Growth
The key to marketing for growth is attracting and retaining targeted leads. Leads that fit your specific target market are more likely to become clients, which means those leads are worth spending a little more time and money to get.
Study your best clients and look for similarities in gender, income, occupation and other characteristics. Jot down how you acquired these clients and determine whether you’re currently doing enough of that type of marketing. Finally, brainstorm to come up with new ways you can sell more to your existing customers. The probability of selling to an existing client is up to 14 times higher than the probability of selling to a new client.
Maintaining a Healthy Work-life Balance
I need to be honest here: I don’t believe attaining work-life balance is possible for small business owners. Well, at least not an equal balance. You may not be able to “turn off work” completely at the end of the day, but there are a few things you can do to keep some sanity in your life (and have a part of your life that doesn’t involve work).
Who or what in your life is most important other than your business? Now think about how you can put that person, people, or passion into your daily life. It might be as simple as setting aside time for dinner with your significant other a few nights a week, reading bedtime stories to your children every night, or having a monthly brunch or golf date with your best friends.
If you’ve got a passion outside your business, like fitness or spirituality, figure out how to make that part of your life every day. For example, meditating in the mornings or going for a run four days a week can help keep your business from completely taking over your life.
Getting Over the Growth Hurdles
Which of these five barriers are hampering the efforts of your accounting firm management and ultimate growth? What tactics have you used to overcome them?