Be honest, do you have the practice of your dreams?

18th Mar 2021
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Accountancy Manager
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With regulations and client demands increasing and competition becoming more fierce, too many accountants in practice are living the kind of ‘9 to... whenever’ life they dreamt of escaping. Shane from AVN speaks to AM’s Jonathan about how to take back control and create a lifestyle and practice you love.

Shane Lukas is Managing Director of AVN - where he’s also a keynote speaker and trainer - and author of Putting Excellence into Practice, ‘a proven roadmap to a profitable, sustainable and value-driven accountancy business’. Basically, he knows what he’s talking about. So it’s great to hear that AccountancyManager gets his stamp of approval… and we’re not even paying him.

“I think it’s a fantastic product and it does change lives as well.”

I just want to emphasise that I talk about AccountancyManager not because of any sort of backhanders. We hear consistently great reviews... I think it’s a fantastic product and it does change lives as well.”

We take a look at how AccountancyManager supports each of Shane’s recommendations for achieving the lifestyle and earnings you want, working with the kind of clients you like and supporting your team in delivering excellence.

Our shared mission: Giving you the lifestyle, clients and team you want

At AccountancyManager, we speak to a lot of accountants about their dreams for their businesses - and their reality. They all talk about the risk of getting sucked into the day-to-day and losing sight of the bigger picture. It’s one of the main reasons they’re so thankful to have AM taking care of their admin, organisation and workflow. They’re released from the minutiae of managing their practice and have more time to work on the business and their clients. Increasingly, accountants are using this time to expand into chargeable advisory services. 

AVN has been around since May 1998, Shane joined shortly afterwards. “We recognised back in those early days, that many accountants haven't necessarily had the training to run a business that works for them on their terms, that’s profitable and prevents them from setting their prices based on the competition.”

“We help accountants identify the kinds of clients they’d love to work with, how to attract those clients, how to better value their services and price accordingly, how to add even more vital services, and to get their team on board, delivering everything to an incredibly high standard in a way that means they don't have to be that control freak.” 

Ask yourself, what would your ideal lifestyle look like?

It all starts, explains Shane, with how you want to live your life - both personally and professionally. “It's really important for accountancy business owners to decide what they want to achieve. Many fall into the trap of running their practice like it's a job, but I say that ‘job’ stands for ‘just over broke’ and that tends to be the reality for many people.”

I once heard someone say that ‘job’ stands for ‘just over broke’ and that tends to be the reality for many people.”

Breaking through the job mentality - and thinking big

“When I'm exploring with an accountant what they really want to achieve, I have to break through that job mentality and look at: 'if anything were possible, what would the ideal lifestyle be for you? What would you love to be earning? How many hours a week would you love to be working? And importantly, what would that enable for you in your life?’”

“You start with that and then work back, ‘what does the business need to look like to enable that kind of lifestyle’? then we can start to paint a picture. ‘Do you want to work with 500 clients for small annual fees or 30 clients for large annual fees?’ One of our members has 10 clients, recurring revenue per client of £30k and he's a one-person-band. He works two days a week, outsources his compliance work and just delivers a business advisory service - and loves what he's doing. That was his vision and that's what he's realised. Ultimately, he's breaking through the barrier of thinking just a little bit bigger.”

Stop working harder for less: Automate, automate, automate

In Shane’s book, he talks about how continuing to follow manual processes feeds into working harder for less, leading to a decrease both in profitability and the ‘fun factor'. “The more forward-thinking accountants are recognising that technology can automate much of what they’ve been doing. Monitoring workflows, automating email reminders to get information in... there's a whole multitude of ways that technology can aid an accountant so they can spend much more valuable time with their clients.”

The more forward-thinking accountants are recognising that technology can automate much of what they’ve been doing.”

“For example, the amount of accountants that start a job, only to realise that they don't have all of the information and have to stop it again. That impacts productivity massively. Having a system which informs you that the work is ready to start just streamlines the whole process.”

Technology moves advisory services from a nicety to a necessity

While phase one of AVN’s services focuses on helping you run a better accountancy business, phase two helps you deliver more advisory types of services to your clients. “Back in 1998, advisory services were seen as more of a nicety than a necessity”, notes Shane, “but with technology changing the role of the accountant, it’s become more of a necessity.”

Define and attract your ideal clients

Once you’ve established your ideal kind of lifestyle, Shane moves on to your perfect client. “If you could dream up your ideal client, what would they look like? And what kind of services would they take from you? Now, what mechanisms do you currently have in place to attract that kind of client?’”

“It's easy to take on any client that walks through the door, but actually that just means that you start to spread yourself thin. And those types of clients are the ones who are probably going to be more price sensitive. Then you have less time to work on getting the right clients that might be receptive to your business advisory type services.”

Beware of the referral

Shane finds that most accountants he starts working with simply rely on word of mouth. “The downside here can be that you're not in control of the kind of referrals you get and you often feel obliged to take on that client. Referrals are a great free strategy to increase your client base, but training your clients up on the kinds of clients you're looking for has to be the starting point.”

AccountancyManager releases ‘Nexok’ for intelligent lead generation

On the topic of finding the right clients, a small plug from the creators of AM. James Byrne and Alex Hawke have recently released a separate software to AM. Nexok allows users to extract data from Companies House using advanced filters such as location, industry and number of directors. You can then use this data for highly targeted marketing campaigns. 

Using technology to nurture client relationships

Once you’ve found clients that fit your ‘ideal’ profile - or have the potential to - Shane compares the process to dating... “If you're married, you probably didn't get married on day one of meeting that person, you'll have gone through a dating process and built up that relationship. Sometimes we have to identify the kinds of clients we'd love to work with and then see how can we build up that relationship.”

“Again, this is where having a practice management software comes into its own. If you can generate a lead that you think is right, you can put them into a nurturing programme where they can get to know, like and trust you much more.”

Stop chasing your clients (and charging them for it) 

Since lockdown began last March, Shane has been coaching non-AVN members for free. “I've spoken to over 400 accountants in practice and very few have a practice management system in place…and it just creates so much extra work for them! The return on investment is massive in time and money. They can stop chasing their clients for books or to pay their tax - these are the areas of client service that a human no longer has to do.”

The return on investment [of a practice management system] is massive in time and money.”

“And, of course, the clients don't want to pay you to chase them. I would say that implementing a system like AccountancyManager not only allows you to deliver client service in a more tech-friendly modern way but allows you to take that time and focus it back on client service, on your business or just increase your time outside the office.”

Give your team the freedom - and structure - to think for themselves

“In terms of the team, there are two aspects,” explains Shane. “The first is, you've got to have the workflows and systems in place to make sure everything’s going to be done to your incredibly high standards…” 

It's a great way of, I won't say relinquishing control, but maintaining control.”

“That's where AccountancyManager comes in. You've got your high quality systems all mapped out in your workflow, everything has to be done your way, with your bells and whistles, within the timeframe that you want it to be done. It's a great way of, I won't say relinquishing control, but maintaining control.”

Stop micromanaging. Start inspiring.

The second aspect of supporting your team to deliver excellence is to allow them to take the initiative and break the habit of just coming to you for answers. “I hate the term ‘managing people’, when we are managed, we're effectively being controlled. And no human being likes to be controlled. When we feel controlled we'll probably do the bare minimum. If we can be inspired, then we'll go the extra mile naturally.”

When we feel controlled we'll probably do the bare minimum. If we can be inspired, then we'll go the extra mile naturally.”

“The best way to inspire people is to have a great vision, of course, but also to coach people rather than manage people. When I speak to people, I'll give them advice on how to ask the right questions to get them to think for themselves, to go the extra mile and be passionate about what it is that they're doing.”

Shane has offered a free copy of his #1 best selling book for a limited time.  It’s called Putting Excellence Into Practice and it’s a highly recommended read for any accountant in practice.

Here’s a link to grab a copy:-

For more information on AVN or to get in touch with the team please visit their website by clicking here.

Want to start automating your admin so you can put excellence into your practice? The see how AccountancyManager can assist your business with a free 30-day trial. Get started by clicking here