A recent poll has found that the biggest concern for practitioners growing their firm is maintaining consistent service levels.
A survey conducted during the ‘How to scale your practice in uncertain times’ webinar (now available on-demand) found that 50% of practice owners were trying to keep up their level of service in the face of change.
Webinar panellist and practice owner Alistair Hayward-Wright was not surprised by this topping the poll. “It goes hand-in-hand with that constant change [in the profession].”
In recent years, practitioners have butted heads with additional compliances such as Making Tax Digital and GDPR. These additional burdens have contributed to added demands that are forcing practitioners seeking to grow their practice to fret about their service levels.
These are not the only challenges thwarting growth-minded practitioners, as the webinar tackled other timely concerns in the profession such as recruitment, automation, and customer expectations.
Why always-on is counterproductive
But most prominently, maintaining consistent service levels has given rise to always-on culture, where practitioners become a slave to their emails and work late into the night to grow their practice.
Hayward-Wright recounted his own experience grappling with this compulsion. “I was checking emails constantly from the moment I woke up in the morning to the moment I went to bed and on weekends,” he said in the webinar.
“It actually becomes counterproductive because you start to resent that inbox and you’re so tired and exhausted that you start to make mistakes.”
Hayward-Wright broke the always-on spell by enforcing a boundary on checking emails between 8am-to-6pm Monday to Friday. “It was hard to make that change but it's proven beneficial because you are providing a customer service. It might not be instant but the quality of that service is better.”
Bending over backwards for clients
His fellow panellist Melanie Dowie, who spent 20 years in practice as a bookkeeper before an opportunity at Receipt Bank came calling, also had a similar lightbulb moment which helped her maintain service levels.
After bending over backwards for clients at all hours, she woke up one morning and thought: this has got to change.
“The first thing I had to do was to look at the business holistically and one of those things was looking at my client base and scoring them on several criteria such as do we work well together, do they value our service, and do they pay our bills?”
This approach made her focus on her ideal clients. As such, she decided to move away from the pub and retail clients that ate up much of her time. Instead, she concentrated on consultancy, website designer type of clients, which she could do quickly and scale.
Why it is my biggest concern
The discussion of maintaining consistent service levels struck a chord with webinar attendee and small practice owner Georgia Duffee from Benedetto Accounts and Tax.
“It's a concern for me because it's taking up so much of my time working ‘on’ the business, to ensure I am using the digital change to add more quality to the service we provide,” Duffee told AccountingWEB after the session.
“As we move into the digital age of accountancy, we must step back from our desks and spend more time with our clients.”
However, according to Duffee the ongoing pressures of keeping up to date with changing legislation, uncertainty in the economy, learning new record-keeping methods and reviewing client bases are still holding accountants back.
"There is little time to focus on how we make our clients feel," she said. "This needs to be our number one focus to maintain quality while going through so much change."
Duffee is embracing digital change to increase my word of mouth referrals. "If we provide excellent digital onboarding support, take the time to see our client and hear their goals, remember their goals, and show them how they can track their financial progress to meet those goals from the power of an app on their phone, we will secure those golden leads.”
To learn more on how your peers manage these challenges when scaling their practice, watch an on-demand version of the webinar, supported by Receipt Bank.
About Richard Hattersley
Richard is AccountingWEB's Practice Editor. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.