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Growing the practice: Tips for sustainable growth

7th Mar 2014
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Only after the self assessment period do accountants really think about their New Year’s resolutions.

For those practices looking to grow and take on new skills this year, here are some key insights resulting from conversations from among the thousands of UK and Ireland accountants my team talks to regularly. So for those practices looking to accelerate growth in 2014 here are some points for consideration.

Plan your own future, don’t wait for success to find you

Some of the most successful managing partners I know are always forecasting. They ask themselves, where should my practice be in five or 10 years, how will we get there, and what skills will we need?

The business landscape is subject to change, and clients’ fortunes fluctuate, leading to changes in practice revenue. Always knowing where to go next, to shape the clients you’d like to work for, is a powerful way of making your own luck.

The skills issue is one that the best practice managers always have in mind. With one eye on the emerging legislative, technology and corporate landscape, they consider who in the business should lead or manage teams and projects – and what to do to get them to the right stage.

Market your practice, find the clients you want

At Sage we hear time and time again that practices have a real need for more effective practice marketing. The pain point is that many practices don’t necessarily have the marketing or technology skills to take their marketing to the next level, beyond local advertising or basic SEO (search engine optimisation).

Marketing the practice requires a set of interrelated skills, covering a variety of topics from lead acquisition and direct mailing to effective social media and blogging skills. In fact, technology and online marketing are the spaces where returns can be maximised for those practices that perhaps haven’t looked at their marketing mix in a while.

Maintaining social media accounts, demonstrating activity and engagement with business issues, and blogging, are all free activities that all members of the practice can engage in, and hopefully are already. Having a regular, well-written blog is also a good way of giving the SEO rankings of your website a healthy boost. Sharing your blog on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn will help find engagement with a wider audience. Sharing on the right online forums can raise your profile with potential local prospects.

Properly thought out social media engagement and blogging can add much to a business’s online visibility, and when integrated into a marketing plan with assigned roles and responsibilities, can provide effective marketing with trackable metrics, unlike much of traditional advertising.

Value added services

For those currently offering a basic accounting service, there’s an opportunity to expand beyond the core offerings and market those with a higher value. Consider new or less obvious services that you could become specialists in to deliver a competitive edge.

For example, forensic accounting, corporate finance business advisory services, virtual financial director services, or growth strategies are all options.

Practices with the skills or drive can also set up vertical opportunities such as through specialising in customers in particular sectors, such as the legal space.

Broaden your offering beyond accounting

For those with the confidence to try something new, use the trust UK businesses have in accountants to add new strings to your bow. Sage customer surveys regularly show that accountants are the most trusted source of business advice, even on topics unrelated to accountancy.

New skills and business offerings are just a new hire, or training course away, allowing you to take on new projects in new areas of your clients’ businesses.

But something that any practice can deliver is a workshop offering. This can be on topics such as cash flow management, budgeting or sourcing investment revenue. Clients will see this as an added-value service and if you make these events open to the public, you might attract new clients.

Make technology work for you

Online software solutions and mobile devices should be every business person’s best friend. There is no reason to tie yourself to an office-based PC, as if leashed on a leash!

Clever client collaboration doesn’t even have to cost much. Cloud storage solutions such as Google Drive and Dropbox allow a practical collaborative arrangement. Operating through the cloud saves space on your computer, laptop or tablet, and will sync all your files across all your devices. Sharing large or multiple files is also a doddle. Data storage space is no longer a worry, and security concerns are allayed as your files are kept secure with the very latest enterprise security.

Nothing beats face time with a client, but if it’s too hard to visit them, then FaceTime or Skype are a great way to deal with clients who you may not be able to visit. Again, like other online services mentioned, these are free and well used.

Economic indicators point to 2014 being a year of promise, and the tips above can be considered opportunities to consider for quick boosts to accelerate growth and success.

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