Practice Excellence strategies for accountants

Opening up a summer of articles in our Practice Excellence Programme, AccountingWEB editor John Stokdyk maps the landscape ahead for accountants who want to improve how their firms work.

The lessons from three years of Practice Excellence Awards are remarkably simple. They also confirm what most practice development experts agree are the drivers of success, which can be boiled down to the formula:

Client focus + efficiency = profitability + growth

The fundamental formula of Practice Excellence is simple, but like most business rules, it allows endless variations when it comes to implementation.

Drawing on 25 years’ experience advising accountancy practices on business development, Mark Lloydbottom comments, “The World Cup shows us there is more than one way to score a goal. There is no one way to build a business, but there are certain core components that should be in DNA of any firm that's seeking to deliver a high quality, high value service.”

For the next month or two, Mark Lloydbottom will tackle those core components in a series of articles in AccountingWEB’s SAP-sponsored Practice Excellence Programme. Register for free with AccountingWEB and log in to see the full article, which covers:

  • Client focus
  • How to become a trusted business advisor
  • Equip your practice for growth
  • Little things you can do to make a big difference
  • Winning new clients

According to Lloydbottom, the continuing pace of change will increase the need for accountants to examine their underlying business assumptions and approach.

“More people have the option of doing cash accounting and we’re seeing the last remnants of the audit,” he says.

“Compared to 20 years ago, more people can file their own tax returns. All of this is nibbling away at practitioners’ core services. What’s happening is leverage is going down. Where 25 years ago you’d have 10-12 staff to one owner, now it’s down to eight or less. Partners are doing more and more of the low-end work. And sometimes as a result, maybe they are not taking the necessary firm-wide steps to move away from compliance.”

To make a successful transition to higher value client work accountants need to develop new habits to make the changes sustainable. As well as planning and managing implementation effectively, Lloydbottom urges accountants to develop an “armouring strategy” to defend their initiatives from resistance and inertia. This needs to start from a proper understanding of your firm’s position and good accountability processes within your team.

Over the coming weeks, Mark will expand on the individual themes in articles that draw on the real life experiences of the top performing firms in AccountingWEB’s Practice Excellence Programme. But to start our summer of excellence, he offers a simple summary: “The successful firm of tomorrow will have to deliver an exciting environment where people can do meaningful work.”

Mark Lloydbottom is the author of Deeper: Advanced Practice Management Strategies and numerous other programmes, seminars and guides. Mark started his own practice in Bristol in 1978 and founded both Practice Track and PracticeWEB. 

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