Mindset: The biggest barrier to growing your firm?

Heather Townsend
Founder and Author
The Accountants Millionaires' Club
Columnist
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Ask any small accountancy firm owner who is growing their firm about what are their challenges or barriers to growing their practice, and you will hear things like availability of good staff, getting the right clients through the door etc, etc. What you are unlikely to hear is anyone talking about overcoming psychological barriers in order to grow their practice. This article explains why our biggest barrier to growth is down to our brain and way of acting, and what you can easily do to remove this barrier.

Overcoming psychological barriers to growing your accountancy practice

I was staring down at a steep rocky and dusty slope. Every part of my brain was telling me that NOW was the time to get off my mountain bike and push it down this section of the trail. As I shifted my right hand slightly on my handlebars it ached, and I was reminded of why it ached. And the pain and trauma I had experienced after my last bike crash.

Sarah, our guide and mountain bike coach, asked me what it was I was afraid of. And I instantly snapped back, steep slopes. It was at this point she pointed out to me that at the end of each of the short steep slopes on the ride there was an uphill which would rapidly reduce my speed and keep me in control. She mentioned I had not only had a helmet on but knee pads AND elbow/arm pads. Short of a full face helmet and full body armour, the normal culprits would be well protected if I did fall off.

On the next steep slope, I started to relax. And then I started to enjoy myself as my abject terror was slowly but surely being converted into an adrenaline buzz.

Fear is our brain’s way of keeping us safe

Fear is your brain’s way of protecting you. It’s an emotional response which comes from the old reptilian part of your brain. It’s this part of the brain and response which has been responsible for the human race’s incredible ability to survive over the last few millions of years.

Fear is there to keep you safe and in your comfort zone. Unfortunately, when it comes to growing your accountancy practice you will need to come out of your comfort zone. Overcoming psychological barriers is key. You will need to learn to be comfortable with learning new skills, changing your role and responsibility over time, tweaking or making whole-scale changes to your business model, hiring staff and developing them… Every time you move out of ‘business as usual’, fear will try and push you back into your comfort zone.

It’s difficult to convey in words the gut-wrenching fear you can often face when you are making your first big hire. The worry (and that’s a massive understatement) can get to the point that it becomes paralysing and all-pervasive. If you are going to grow your practice, it’s imperative that you overcome your psychological barriers. But overcoming psychological barriers to growing your practice is not easy. If it was, there would be many more accountancy firm owners wanting to rapidly grow their practice!

How to overcome your fear

So what’s the solution here? Was feeling my fear helping me to do it anyway? Far from it, it was paralysing me. Overcoming psychological barriers like this fear, for me, needed to happen very rapidly or I would risk not enjoying a large portion of my ride. Admittedly you are not facing a ‘fall off the bike situation which will really hurt’ with your accountancy business, but not being able to pay your wages or mortgage is just the sort of thing which can give you sleepless nights.

The solution is to do as Sarah did to me at the top of that slope. And no, she didn’t push me down the next slope either! She asked me what I was worried about. She asked me to engage my ‘new’ brain, the thinking brain. And one-by-one she made the fears I was worried about seem less scary and seemingly trivial.

It’s the same with you and your growing accountancy firm. Our members use the club as their way of helping them ‘feel the fear’ and do it anyway. Or as I now like to think, analyse and rationalise the fear and do it anyway.

This article was originally published on The Accountants Millionaires' Club Website

About Heather Townsend

Heather Townsend is Founder and Author of ‘The Accountants Millionaires’ Club’. In 2015 the ICAEW decided she was the number one online influencer for the accountancy profession. She is the author of 5 books, including The Go-To Expert, and ‘How to make partner and still have a life’ (co-authored with Jo Larbie).

Heather is always up for a challenge. Perhaps that is why she has built a track record of helping accountants grow the size of their practice by 50-200%, often in under two years. Often helping them make partner or equity partner in the process.

Heather is a high profile member of the accountancy profession in the UK. She has worked with over 300 partners, coached, trained and mentored over 2000 professionals at every level of the UK’s most ambitious professional practices. Heather's clients have included: 7 out of the Top 10 UK practices, including all the Big 4 firms. 

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