Mark Lee considers the pros and cons of accountants specialising rather than being a traditional general practitioner.
Four years ago I posed the question: Are you a bog-standard accountant? More recently I was asked whether accountants are more likely to build successful practices if they are generalists or specialists.
Most accountants start out as general practitioners and tend to stay that way as their client base has always been quite disparate. Many of those who specialise do so only because they originally trained in firms that had a specialism.
It is especially difficult for multi-partner firms to focus on a single specialism. What tends to happen is that different partners focus on different niches. Indeed this is another reason for there being so many general practices. Even if individual partners focus on a specific niche, the firm itself cannot claim to specialise.
There are several reasons why focusing on a niche makes it easier to make more profits.
The starting point is that it becomes easier to attract more clients. This is because it is easier for people to recognise when to recommend you. Having a clear focus also makes it easier to attract PR. In simple terms an accountant who has a clear and distinct niche will STAND OUT from the other accountants they and others might previously have seen as their competition.
When you try to be all things to all people you end up being the same as everyone else. Why should anyone recommend or refer clients to you as distinct from the accountant down the street? Why should anyone who meets you remember you as distinct from the other accountants they have met or might meet in the future?
Having a clear focus or niche also helps your ranking on search engines. The key point here is to rank highly for what prospective clients are searching for. Being number one for ‘Accountants in London’ is a tough ask. Being number one for ‘accountant for taxi drivers in London’ is easier. And easier still when referencing more specific areas than ‘London’.