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Common hurdles for accountants looking to expand

In my experience, there are some consistent roadblocks to expansion that accountants face, however I believe that firms can overcome these to grow their practice using the ‘person first, client second’ method.

Insights Trevor Marchant, Marchant Dallas Consulting 29 September 2017
— 3 minute read

I believe that you can hold on to what you’ve got and attract more of the same by helping your clients grow their business and using the ‘person first, client second’ method.


I also know that — albeit anecdotal evidence — there is a $2 billion consultancy ‘pie’ out their being ‘eaten away’ by hundreds of inexperienced and un-qualified business advisers.

I believe this is your pie they’re eating.

You are best-placed to help these clients. You have the trust, qualifications and experience, and you know how the numbers work.

Yet, there is a missing piece, because every business is two businesses – there’s the one that does the work and the one that sells the work. If you don’t, can’t or won’t sell the work then there’s no work to be done.

No work, no clients, no cash, lights out.

I would also add that most people know how to make the thing they sell – but generally don’t know how to sell the thing they make.

So what if accountants knew how to better sell the thing they make; what if they were also able to help their clients and prospective clients better sell the thing they make.

What if accountants knew more about marketing, selling, delivering and servicing their own business and had a cost-free method to help their clients do the same.

When you help your clients grow their business – you can more easily help them improve their profitability. Once they’ve got spare money in their pocket they’re more inclined to seek your help on investing and creating a range of wealth-building and income producing assets to enhance their lifestyle and prepare them for later in life.

So to help you grow your business, help your clients grow theirs and have a consistent stream of prospective clients asking how you do it and how can you help them do it, you firstly need to improve your selling skills. It’s my view that selling is the most important skill for any accountant to master right now.

Secondly you need to develop a ‘roadmap’, because without one there is no structure or consistency to your approach.

Here is why it’s often not working:

  • They have a great product or service yet they’re just not good at sales and marketing.
  • They’re not getting the right kind of marketing or sales help in time – or not at all – and not having a plan to make it happen.
  • Not understanding – and/or – half-baked implementation of the core management strategies of any great business including purpose, vision, values, culture, brand, point of difference, ideal client, key marketing message, optimum sales strategy and outrageous service.
  • Not understanding the seven key drivers of profit of any business from Wal-Mart to Royal Dutch Shell to Toyota to Fred’s Chicken Shop… and even worse than that, not having a clue how to use the right strategies at the right time to ramp-up the profit drivers.
  • No differentiation – trying to market – me-too, same-old, lame-old – non-attention-grabbing stuff.
  • Not delegating or hiring part-time help to do the things that most of us want to hang onto but we know ‘deep down’ that we have to let go – if we want to move forward.
  • Not having a systematic referral system. A referral strategy is a lead strategy, it’s a customer service strategy, it’s a process strategy, it’s a competitive strategy, it’s a management strategy, it’s a people strategy and it’s a financial strategy.
  • Not understanding and not taking full advantage of the greatest productivity rule ever discovered – the 80/20 rule.
  • Failing to calculate the lifetime value of a client and therefore not understanding that business is about the ‘long-game’ not the ‘short game.’
  • Neglecting to communicate and market to your existing clients… the ones that already like, trust and respect you. The ones that have decided to belong to your ‘tribe.’

So how do you get it working? Reverse the key points listed above. Build a roadmap to get from where you are to where you want to go. Not a business plan, not a marketing plan but a roadmap with the route you want to take, the shortcuts you want to build in, the traps you want to avoid and the milestones (and KPIs) you want to achieve.

Lastly, always, always put the person first and client second.

This is a core-behaviour all firms and business owners should use during their relationship building conversations with all their clients. This is about dealing with the person-problem before we deal with the client-problem.

Most accounting firms can help clients with their problems yet many firms never go far enough to find out how ‘by fixing the client’s problem’ it affects the person. How does it affect the business, their lives, their families, or their lifestyle?

Following these steps can also enables you to...

  • Improve retention rates;
  • Develop lifelong relationships with your clients;
  • Sign clients up quicker;
  • Have them buying more of your most valuable services; and
  • Have more fun


Common hurdles for accountants looking to expand
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