In a tough economy where there is significant pricing pressure and more companies are chasing fewer pounds, accounting firms have to work hard to walk the thin line between profit and loss. Many organisations are built on reputation and years of providing services to a core group of customers, but the overall market forces have begun to erode this business model.
The central question is – how does an accounting firm continue to prosper? If competition is increasing and if margins are being eroded, what strategies can one employ to retain their market-leading position? The answer is simple, even if the execution is harder: it’s time to act like a unified company. It’s time to manage the business.
To do this effectively, they need to manage the business with a “one-firm” mentality versus managing five separate fiefdoms run by five different partners inside one company. As organisations move toward a “one firm” approach, there are a number of actions and technologies they can employ to become a unified company:
- Manage by metrics
You can’t manage what you can’t measure. If an organisation is to be managed like it is one firm, it needs to be measured like one firm. Implementing business intelligence (BI) tools that generate dashboards showing key performance metrics is a best practice to understand total firm performance. Performance management – measuring the past and present, and business analytics – predicting the future, should be the first BI priority for many accounting companies.
- Show one face to the world
Accounting companies need to show one unified face to the world from a marketing perspective. This means avoiding siloed marketing campaigns by having one marketing department oversee the firm’s brand and lead generation efforts; standardising on one CRM system for all customer interactions; using one corporate brand with an overarching message and actively cross promoting the company’s various services on all outbound marketing activities.
- Leverage enterprise software systems
A prerequisite to managing as “one-firm” is having common, scalable enterprise systems that unify the key operations of the firm. Many organisations today use a mix of systems that manage the business in functional silos, particularly following fast growth or acquisition. To avoid this patchwork architecture, growing firms should consider purchasing one integrated enterprise software system that is purpose-built for the accounting industry and that offers a unified technology platform for the important business processes such as CRM, financial management, human capital management, resource planning, project management and BI.