Why firms should discover their purpose
“Does your purpose permeate through everything you do?” asks Rob Nixon, CEO and founder of Panalitix.
For practitioners, Nixon said, a sense of why they’re doing what they’re doing should be woven into every area of growing their firm: whether that's inspiring people, marketing or choosing ideal clients.
And now more than ever accountants need to communicate their purpose. The looming legislative changes brought on by Making Tax Digital will change how people view the role of the accountant. Nixon believes this wave of technological disruption will force accountants to change their business model.
“For the accountant, 87% of their revenue is tax compliance and audit,” Nixon told AccountingWEB. “The government will eventually bypass the accountant and go straight to the accounting system of the client. Which means the accountant themselves have to become relevant.”
Finding your why
Panalitix’s Perfect Firm tour stopped by Bristol’s Marriot hotel last week. A group of accountants escaped the inclement spring weather to find out how to remain relevant, what being a perfect firm entails, and the opportunity disruption brings.
Nixon stopped by the AccountingWEB offices before the event and explained why it's important for accountants to find their purpose.
Paul Dunn, 2015’s Practice Excellence outstanding contribution award winner, framed the day in a video where he encouraged accountants to differentiate their business through 'finding their why'.
Simon Sinek popularised the 'knowing your why' phrase. As discussed in various Ted talks, and in this case a recorded conversation with Dunn, Sinek explains that every organisation on the planet knows what they do, some know how they do it through their value proposition, but few know their why.
“When you know your ‘why’, your ‘what’ has more impact,” said Dunn. As a way to direct attendees into finding their purpose, Dunn prompted them to complete the following sentence: “I get up every morning to…”
If Dunn’s words didn’t register, Nixon’s instructions on how to implement a well-developed firm provided a more structured approach.
Leading the seminar with a relentless enthusiasm reminiscent of Tony Robbins (who Panalitix has recently struck a deal with), Nixon energised the room with his vision of how a perfect firm operates; all fuelled by his purpose.
“I want help my clients build success and build a great business so that they can build great economies,” said Nixon.
Permeate your purpose through your whole business
Understanding the motivating factor of why you get out of bed each morning informs how you approach every facet of running a firm. Nixon separated the rest of the day into three sections: profit, capacity and growth.
In each section, Nixon selected a host of strategies (eight for capacity, 11 for profit and 11 for growth) so practitioners can score their firm out of 10. The key is for practitioners to be brutally honest.
I want help my clients build success and build a great business so that they can build great economies
Up until this point, the Panalitix tour had attracted an eclectic selection of firms, with scores ranging from the UK high of 186 to a Dublin firm that rated every strategy as one.
Throughout the day, Nixon explained how implementing each strategy and steering clear of administrative tasks would ultimately lead to growth. The ingredients of a well-developed firm such as automation, value-added services, and upfront pricing are likely to strike a chord with practitioners familiar with the rainmaker practice mode.
Profit. Firstly, how do you price? Do you scope projects before the job starts? Value pricing and upfront pricing feature strongly in this section.
- Pricing takes courage. How do you do it? What’s your method?
- Have you got a people development programme to educate the team to become more profitable faster?
- How do you measure client service? Have you implemented a structured process? How often do you meet clients in person or speak over the phone?
- Do you grade clients? This is where a firm’s ‘why’ reverberates through their client selection. “We determine the rules: this is what a client looks like to us.”
An important strategy under profit is how firms serve clients. Nixon goes into more detail in these videos.
Capacity. MTD will likely cause capacity issues. What workflow processes have you implemented?
- Nixon believes accountants should stick to what they’re trained to do: be accountants and not distract themselves with admin work. To avoid this, they should hire a client service manager.
- Have you got at least 80% of your clients on the cloud?
- Nixon shared a story about a firm who cracked their workflow management by using a whiteboard. Every morning the firm would gather around the whiteboard and carry out a daily huddle. The team would apply self-imposed deadlines on jobs, and list them on the board.
- Have you got the right people in the right roles? Ask yourself: would you enthusiastically rehire your team members?
Growth. Growth comes through knowing your client, knowing where to find them and understanding how to price.
- Do you concentrate on a niche market?
- Again, Nixon emphasised that accountants should concentrate on what they do best: accountants are great advisers, not marketers. So accountants should hire a marketing person to gather leads and dominant the web.
- This leads on to brand development. How known are you in the accounting space? Do you promote your success through case studies?
- Referrals. Prospective clients are not going break away from an accountant who has financial intimacy over them. How do you break that? You need to build trust through personal relationships and social proof.
- “Being a trusted adviser is making sure every client is buying what they need,” said Nixon. Do you goal set with every client?
Below, Nixon expands on how a well-developed firm approaches marketing.
Rounding up the day, the practitioners calculated their scores. The results spread from those just moving the needle (52) to those who have made significant strides (167) but with still plenty to implement if they want to stand shoulder to shoulder with the 250+ elite implementers.
Has your firm developed a mission statement or spent time developing a ‘why’?