Practice planning: Avoid football in the fog

You wouldn’t play football in the fog if you couldn’t see the goal, says Stuart Sheldrick, a director and shareholder of Chelmsford-based accounting firm LB GroupSift Talent's Matthew Evans finds out more about how the firm takes care of forecasting, budgeting and planning.

Sheldrick enjoys using the analogy of playing football in the fog, but admitted that his own firm used to be as guilty as anyone else of doing just that.

The way to avoid that mistake is to ensure the practice is budgeting and planning for the future.

“You have to make the time so you can see where the business is going,” Sheldrick said. Like many of the firm's clients, he added, “We are an owner-managed business and you can get bogged down in the day-to-day.

In terms of top level preparations, the firm does annual budgeting, which in theory should be a simple exercise for a firm of accountants.

“You have a number of staff at a charge-out rate and so you almost should know what your turnover is as long as you retain your staff,” he said.

However things are changing at LB Group. For the first time the firm is organising a strategy day where the board goes offsite to talk about the future and planning ahead to see where the business is going.

“For any business sometimes you forget where the ultimate goals are and if you don’t know where your goals are how do you achieve those?

“You get focused on the day-to-day work, which is common for any business. At some point you had a direction of why you set that business up and what you wanted to achieve,” Sheldrick said.

He explained the firm had previously done a similar exercise where each individual office did its own business plan by forecasting five years forward.

“As part of this strategy day coming up we will be saying, ‘Okay, we thought we would be doing this five years ago. Where are we now and what have we learned over this period of time?’.

“Forecasts get stuck in a drawer and if you don’t open it up you will never see your progress,” he added.

“What we found is that we have come up with lots of good ideas but just haven’t had the time to facilitate those. If you are coming up with great ideas which can potentially grow and generate more income for the practice that should be your preference.”

Matthew Evans is a research manager at Sift TalentFor part one of the interview, which includes sections on added-value services, technology and marketing tips from LB Group, visit Sift Talent.