The ICAEW recently published some research showing that almost 40% of small businesses have no desire to grow bigger. Less than a quarter it seems want to grow more than a little. This comes as no surprise to me and accords with the view I have long had that the vast majority of accountants themselves feel quite comfortable. As a result they are unwilling to invest much time or money in trying to grow their practice.
If this describes your attitude, it makes sense to me entirely.
You have built up a pretty good portfolio of clients, most of whom need your services and possibly even your advice year after year. You are making a good enough living and you feel no great need to seek out new clients. You see little need to do much in the way of active marketing or networking. You win the odd new client and this pretty much makes up for the odd client that you lose each year.
There have been numerous occasions over the years when it looked like comfortable accountants might get caught out. By this I mean that forecast external factors made it seem to many commentators that even ‘comfortable’ accountancy practices would soon suffer the loss of a significant number of clients.
It didn’t happen when self-assessment was introduced; it didn’t happen when online filing became an option for taxpayers and it didn’t happen during the recession. Yes, of course, there was some client attrition but few ‘comfortable’ accountants lost loads of clients.
The question I want to ask in this blog post though is whether you are sufficiently comfortable?
Although new technology, new online facilities and new service models continue to arrive thick and fast, I do not believe that anything is going to lead to a miss migration of clients away from their existing trusted advisers. At least not overnight. As ever you will have plenty of time to adapt as the impact of changes becomes apparent.
In my experience, most accountants do not react well to being told, yet again, that some forthcoming change is going to have a major impact on their firm. In the past all has been well as accountants have simply adapted to new developments. This has been the way the majority of firms have evolved over the last 2 or 3 decades at least.
As I said earlier there is no need, in my view, to have big ambitions for your firm. Once it has reached a size that enables you to derive a good enough living, to work the hours you want, and to only look after the clients you like, there is no need to seek out new clients all the time. On the other hand there is also nothing wrong with ambition, with wanting to build up a better quality client base, to secure bigger and more regular fees, to focus on the work you really enjoy and to evolve your practice faster than might happen if you leave it to chance.
And there is also good reason to consider whether your practice could be more successful, whether you could make the same money with less effort, reduce your cost base or increase your profits by embracing change and opportunity. But any change is risky so you don’t want to do it alone. I understand.
This is one reason why some accountants seek my input as a mentor – as part of their investment in the future. To avoid rushing off too fast and to ensure that they get best use out of new software and systems. I hold them to account and encourage them to get the best return on their investment.
Whether you do it alone, with me or with anyone else, you can, if you wish to, become even more comfortable.