Practice Excellence 2017: Growth practice shortlist
Growth has become more than a view of top-line revenue. Demonstrating how growth impacts, or is impacted by team culture, systems and service line development has become an important formula for this year’s shortlisted firms.
Many of the entries to the Growth Practice of the Year Practice Excellence Award described tried and tested routes to growth such as referrals and cloud accounting as a platform for new client service offerings.
But in common with many other categories, the strategies that pioneers were adopting three years ago are now becoming standard practices for firms today.
With such a tight field to choose from, the firms that stood out were those who showed how their sales activities fitted into an overarching business development strategy that was planned and measured.
This sense of purpose and vision is a good indicator that the whole team is buying into the growth project and is a good foundation for a client care culture that supports long term, sustainable growth.
One factor that emerged as a significant differentiator was client education and training. Often this might relate to new cloud products and the hand holding that goes with that, but there were copious examples from entrants of seminars, webinars, seminars and digital content on key topics including Brexit, Making Tax Digital and current tax hot spots. Firms that focus on educating clients and boosting their practical skills are finding that it can reinforce the client service brand - and increase client referrals.
Many of these examples came from the firms that are in the running for this year’s Growth Practice of the Year Award:
Last year’s winner returns for to defend its growth title. Brighton-based Crunch is an online accounting specialist that has one aim, to make its microbusiness clients successful. Client education and added value services are front and centre in these growth plans. This approach continues to pay dividends for Crunch, whose turnover grew by 34% in 2016 while profits grew by 121%.
Recognising that clients often struggled to access affordable financial advice, Crunch launched its own range of specialist financial products, providing clients with access to mortgage, insurance and financial planning services. It also created a 23,000-strong “micro-business community”, essentially an email bulletin and collected web resources to help small businesses tackle issues such as late payments, IR35 changes and dividend tax.
Sumit Agarwal started DNS Associates in his bedroom in 2005. Since then the firm has gone from strength to strength and now has several offices around the country, acquiring four practices in the past 12 months alone. DNS has seen turnover grow consistently over the past three years with a 17% increase in turnover between 2015 and 2016 and an 18% increase in new clients.
Agarwal credits this consistent growth to careful management, sensitive recruitment and staff commitment. Investment in technology and automation have helped the firm to their manage growth, including the development of Nomisma, its own bespoke online accounting and CRM system. Other initiatives include improving staff training, web investment and a strategic focus on marketing and sales.
Fish Partnership is based in High Wycombe and has seen steady growth over the past three years. Much of this success is down to its investment in people. The firm’s excellence as an employer is recognised with an Investors in People Gold accreditation and in its role as a Platinum level training office for the ACCA.
Client feedback is regularly reviewed at partner meetings, where new strategies are created to ensure growth and quality services are maintained in tandem. These new strategies include a new Brexit service and a specialist digital tax service to prepare clients for the changes ahead.
Growth is about prioritising resources for The Peloton, a Falmouth-based online accounting firm. The firm capitalised on cloud accounting and subscription services and has adopted a focused and strategic plan for growth. It sets monthly targets for enquiries, meetings, quotes and value of ‘yes’s’. This year The Peloton exceeded those targets despite raising them twice, and increased fee income by 55% in the last financial year.
With a client retention rate of 98.6% and 60% of new business coming from referrals it’s not surprising to discover that The Peloton focuses on delivering exceptional client service. Each client has a dedicated account manager and every enquiry is tracked with close attention paid to the ‘nos’ to glean valuable insight into how the firm can improve.
Seymour Taylor set its sights high with a target of increasing turnover by 54.5% by 2020. One of the longest established accountancy practices in the Thames Valley, the firm celebrates its 100th year in 2017. Priding itself on proactively looking for ways to promote growth, Seymour Taylor has enjoyed a 100% increase in net profit between 2013 and 2016.
Actively investing in staff and client care is the foundation for the firm’s ambitions. By focusing on empowering individual employees, Seymour Taylor allows staff to drive the development and growth of the business alongside providing excellent client service. The firm works assiduously to create initiatives that hold real value for their clients, including lunches for business leaders to introduce clients to each other along with technical seminars and other strategic networking opportunities.