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Practice growth plans strain under Covid pressures


Growth is the one objective shared by just about every accountancy practice - but it’s not plain sailing! Sam Mitcham explains the challenges she’s faced scaling her practice. 

25th Jun 2021
Editor AccountingWEB
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Sole practitioner Sam Mitcham is one of the many practitioners who saw their client base grow as small businesses realised they didn’t have the right support to fend off the ravages of Covid restrictions.

But now comes the hard part: how do you maintain the same service levels as prospects gravitate to your firm? Can you keep low costs while addressing growing client demands? And how can you keep going without suffering from burnout?

Our upcoming webcast ‘The Growth Formula’ will explore how accountants in practices like Mitcham’s have tussled with the paradox of growing a practice, yet maintaining the personal touch that propelled them to scale in the first place. 

Mitcham set up SJCM Accountancy in 2019 after 12 years working for a larger firm. Her goal when she started was to offer really high quality client care. But the demands of the last year, coupled with an expanding client base, put strain on her ability to focus on her personal touch USP. 

Technology aids

However, she praises technology and automation for enabling her to keep on top of her practice while it grows, without losing sight of her client relationships.

“[It] means I can be in more places than one,” she said. “If a client needs a helping hand, or if it’s a case of ‘I’ve got this invoice and the VAT code is out,’ I can dive in in seconds. That used to take the client a lot longer. But now you can quickly look at tech such as AutoEntry and it’s done.”

Mitcham runs the entire practice herself, so automation has enabled her to work closer with clients and save time on manual tasks like signing up clients. However, she is aware that technology is a double-edged sword in growing a practice. 

“As we become more tech advanced, everyone is starting to expect everything to be done now,” she said.

The pandemic has only intensified the need for an instant response. Accountants worked around the clock as the country went into lockdown, interpreting government guidance and fielding a non-stop barrage of questions from clients. 

For Mitcham, notifications pinging on her mobile phone at 11pm on a Friday night were an all too familiar sound. To cope with the growing demands on her time, Mitcham has to set boundaries. One method she’s used to avoid bottlenecks is to direct clients to an online calendar schedule tool like Calendly. 

Wellbeing concerns

But growing a practice in the current environment increases the stress factors that affect any practitioner’s wellbeing. 

Mitcham’s situation is not unique to the times we live in. Over the years, AccountingWEB readers have wrestled with similar challenges when trying to scale their practices. Mark Telford, for example, told AccountingWEB in 2019 that there was a point where he could have doubled the size of his practice, but he quickly realised that his current setup was “starting to creak a bit”. 

He likened the surge of new business to a wave that knocks you off your feet. 

Mitcham realises too that in order to grow, she has to have scalable systems and processes. “It’s all well and good working by myself, but you have to take a step back and put yourself in the employees’ shoes and see if [the practice] is scalable.”   

“It feels wrong to turn clients away. However, it’s important to keep a grip on the scalability of our practice - is this going to work for 200 hundred clients down the line?” 

Learn more tips to grow your practice! Join Sam Mitcham and Andrea Dean from Auto Entry in this special AccountingWEB ‘How to scale your practice’ webinar on 29 JunePacked with 'been there' advice from accountants in practice, this is perfect for firms looking to make the most of their momentum and grow in 2021 and beyond.


Replies (1)

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By meadowsaw227
29th Jun 2021 11:19

Have no intentions of "growing" the practice, rejected all new clients and actively got rid of at least a third of the clients since taking over.
A few more "Dear Johns" soon.

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