Improving the profitability of your practice

At this week’s meeting of The Inner Circle for Accountants our headline discussion topic was: “Improving the profitability of your practice”

Members had identified this as a key issue they shared. It was also one of the most common concerns expressed in  a recent survey I ran of accountants who want to feel more successful.

We started by exploring the key headline ways in which accountants can improve profitability – most of which I have addressed on this blog a number of times previously. Our list included the obvious: Increasing fees (and value as perceived by clients), providing more advice and services (and charging for these) and systemise recurring services so as to reduce the time they take to provide.

We also listed a number of preliminary steps to take to improve profitability. These included considering what really makes for a profitable or unprofitable client (especially for sole practitioners). And also hat are the most effective lad generation activities – comparing the fees/profits  generated by clients with the cost of acquisition (considering both cash and time involved in securing the client).

One of the most challenging parts of the meeting was when members attempted to summarise their most profitable services. They realised that few of these services were promoted on their websites.

Among the key learning points noted at the end of the meeting were the following:
• Increase fees for compliance services generally by referencing value of each service, rather than the time and work involved. Clients rarely care.
• Review whole approach to AE and charge more for related services.
• Pilot the idea of offering upgrade to monthly reviews for those clients currently benefitting from quarterly business reviews.

All members have received a list of the key learning points identified at the end of the meeting, together with la summary of the discussions, ideas and suggestions raised during the meeting and links to related reading topics*

*The growing library of post meeting notes are also available to new members when they join The Inner Circle. Take a look and if you think it might help you, feel free to schedule a call with me here>>>

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Pricing for profit – who’s charging what?

At this week’s meeting of the Inner Circle, members shared their approach to pricing 6 specific client situations.

A variety of distinct entrepreneurial approaches became apparent during the round-table discussion.

In a clear sign of the times, none of the members referenced time-based fees or timesheets.

Most members quoted monthly fee rates, or annual fees – typically to be paid monthly. They also shared their views about how to deal with clients coming on board close to their accounting date or who leave part way through the year.

One member said afterwards that he now had the confidence to increase his fees by at least 25% almost across the board.

As ever, members shared freely what worked for them, what they’d tried and what lessons they’d learned through experience. This all means that everyone around the table moves up the learning curve that much faster. Everybody wins.

I have just sent the follow up notes from the meeting to all members, including those unable to attend due to pressures related to the 31 January deadline. The notes include a summary of the discussions, the key learning points noted by members at the end of the meeting, plus links to all of the services and facilities we discussed – plus links to related blog posts and articles. Copies will also be added to the members’ online archive for the benefit of future members.

If this sounds like the sort of exclusive group you might like to join, you can see more of what it’s all about here>>>

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Time management in a busy accountant’s office

At this week’s meeting of The Inner Circle for Accountants our headline discussion topic was: “Time management in a busy accountant’s practice and prioritising what needs to be done by you.”

Members had identified this as a key issue they shared. It was also one of the most common concerns expressed in  a recent survey I ran of accountants who want to feel more successful.

At the start of our meeting I shared some background thoughts and questions to stimulate the discussion and ideas around the table. My questions included:

  • Why is time management an issue for you?
  • What gets in the way of you doing as you have planned? and
  • What do you put off doing and why?

Inevitably some of the responses and subsequent realisations might seem obvious – certainly with the benefit of hindsight.

For example, accountants rarely need to make time for billable client work. Indeed the opportunity to serve clients (and get paid for doing so) is typically what gets in the way of office admin, marketing and planning to work ON the practice itself.

After we considered the Four Time Management Quadrants, one member noted he could now see that he was never making time for important activities unless or until they became urgent. And planning to upgrade his website rarely reached that stage. Even though he wanted to get this done, he never felt any need to prioritise the related work and to allocate time to the project.

Another realisation was that members focus on client work as it invariably has an ‘end point’. Strategic work to build and develop the practice seems to be an ongoing activity. If you start it when will you know you’ve done enough?

Among the specific techniques we discussed to overcome these and other challenges were:

  • Breaking big tasks down and identifying what specifically needs to be done first;
  • Diverting your calls or setting up a phone answering service to take calls during fixed parts of the day when you don’t want to be disturbed;
  • Discussing issues that are dragging on during our monthly calls – two members related stories of how they had been putting off doing things they thought they wanted to do. When we talked through what they wanted and how they could move the actions forwards they were able to unblock their reluctance to take action;
  • Committing to a third party (eg: partner,  friend, service provider, coach or mentor) actions you will take so that they can hold you to account;
  • The use of meeting and call scheduling apps.

All members will receive a one page summary of the key learning points they identified at the end of the meeting, together with links to related reading topics, support services and apps.* This will include a link to a list on this blog of 15 top tips to avoid procrastination.

*The growing library of post meeting notes are also available to new members when they join The Inner Circle. Take a look and if you think it might help you, feel free to schedule a call with me here>>>

 

 

 

 

 

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Reviewing 6 months of The Inner Circle for accountants

When I started The Inner Circle 6 months ago I could only speculate that members would benefit and find it of value. That was confirmed again this week after our 6th meeting.

Members explained why they had joined. There seem to be five explicit reasons which keep them coming back month after month:

  • To learn from others what they are doing better than me;
  • To avoid reinventing the wheel;
  • To focus on building the practice rather than just servicing clients;
  • To gain a greater commitment to achieving my goals; and
  • To learn new ideas I can adapt and implement to suit me, my practice and my clients.

When I started The Inner Circle I had other objectives in mind – and these are set out on the introductory page of my website>>>>>

Over the last 6 months we have addressed many issues of practical and commercial importance to this select group of smaller practitioners.

  • Distinguishing our practice from the competition
  • Business growth strategies and tactics
  • Effective use of technology and reviewing new ideas/trends
  • Making efficient use of social media
  • Attracting the right type of clients
  • Obtaining high quality clients through effective marketing
  • Attracting talented staff
  • Adding value (and fees) to our existing client base
  • Getting clients to give us what we need faster

The key learning points and follow up notes from each meeting are building up into a valuable pack that will also be available to new members – to reduce the temptation to ‘reinvest the wheel’ ourselves. And most members are keen for me to hold them to account when we have our monthly 1-2-1 conversations between meetings of The Inner Circle.

At this week’s meeting members agreed that I should set out the agenda for the next 6 months – which I will do after first running a short survey to ascertain the most popular topics from those members have said they want to address. We often sidetrack a little but my role, in part, is to ensure that we keep (relatively) focused and avoid repeating previous conversations.

If you’re tempted to find out more, do have a look at this introduction and let me know if you’d like to have a chat. We’re quite selective though as it’s important the members are comfortable with each other. The key criteria are not onerous but all members do satisfy them. You’ll also need to be able to get into London for our monthly meetings. You can see the basic membership criteria here>>>

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Getting sufficient support for your practice

The main topic for discussion at last month’s meeting of The Inner Circle was: How do you get the right staff and support for your practice?

The topic had been raised during a number of the conversations I had with members after the previous meeting. Not all have staff however.

We met at The Eight Club in Moorgate, London and members of The Inner Circle again benefited from the willingness they all had to share their experiences and insights during our round table discussion. In accordance with one of our key membership principles everyone agreed to abide by the Chatham House Rule.

During the morning we discussed a range of related issues including:

  • Formulating job specs and people specs; being clear as to what you really need and how to assess candidates’ suitability.
  • Using your website to effectively support your message and what works in practice including related tools and automated systems.
  • Sourcing, managing, liaising with and relying on home workers and other remote workers (either in the UK or overseas).
  • Making interviews more informative and a better filter.
  • Titles and roles that appeal and which motivate – whether or not they are on staff.
  • Inducting new workers effectively – whether or not they are on staff.
  • Motivating the right people to stay with you.

At the end of the meeting everyone shared their key learning points and takeaways. Two observations stood out in this regard.

One member said he didn’t have any staffing issues but he still valued the meeting and had benefitted from some of the related issues we addressed. Another member who had been making copious notes announced that there was so much he would be doing as a result of attending the meeting he wasn’t sure where to start.  We’ll address that when I have my catchup call with him later this week!

After the meeting I circulated to all members my summary of all of the identified key learning and action points. I also shared links to the third party sites mentioned during the meeting and also to some of my blog posts that address related issues.

If you’d like to know more about The Inner Circle, just click this link>>>

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Inner Circle – How to differentiate your practice

The main topic for discussion at last week’s meeting of The Inner Circle was: Distinguishing your practice from the competition.

We met at our new home, The Eight Club in Moorgate, London. Members of The Inner Circle again benefited from the willingness they all had to share their experiences and insights during our round table discussion. In accordance with one of our key membership principles everyone agreed to abide by the Chatham House Rule.

What follows are simply some of the opening comments that set the scene for our round-table discussion:

The primary objective of distinguishing your practice is so that it stands out (positively) from others when a prospect is considering which accountant to appoint.
Another reason for doing this is to make it easier for others to remember you, to refer you and to recommend you to the type of clients you want, to do the work you enjoy and for the fees you deserve.
Check your online echo and that your website, linkedin and other profiles support and echo the distinctions you talk about when you meet people. Otherwise you risk standing out for the wrong reasons (being inconsistent) which will not help you win work.
Don’t worry about trying to find a USP – few accountants can provide their services in a unique way.
Branding often starts with a strapline, a business focus, a specialism, key areas of expertise, a niche audience or even a local area.
What distinguishes your practice needs to be valuable, relevant and memorable.
A strapline alone is just a gimmick. Better to ensure that the concept is evidently part and parcel of how the practice is run and the service that clients receive.
The practice’s culture needs to tie with what you believe, your ethos and your approach.
This is such a topical issue that we are likely to return to it again at a future meeting of The Inner Circle. If you’d like to know more about it, just click the link>>>

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Effective use of new tech in accountancy offices

This was the main topic for discussion at yesterday’s meeting of The Inner Circle for Accountants. I have summarised below some of the key issues members addressed.

We met at The Eight Club in Moorgate, London and Members again benefited from the sharing of knowledge and insights around the table. Inevitably we strayed onto related topics as will be seen from the summary below:

– Likes and dislikes about key practice software
– Software that members had tried but given up on
– Different approaches to CRM using software solutions
– Synchronisation issues and solutions
– Managing multiple client and prospect databases
– Workflow management tools
– Managing online marketing campaigns
– Pricing formulas and fee quoting software

One of our members is among, what he believes to be, less than 300 UK accountancy firms to have invested in a branded ‘app’. His views will evidently impact other members’ response to the heavy marketing push around this topic.

Half of the members present had been at Accountex last week and provided their feedback as to whether a visit is worthwhile and how to gain maximum value when you do go.

At the end of the meeting I invited members to share what were for them the key learning points and takeaways. I have since shared these with all members of The Inner Circle along with related links to save them time trying to locate them. I will also share a fuller note of the issues discussed and shared at the meeting in due course together with additional relevant ideas. In accordance with our Membership Principles all such notes will comply with the Chatham House rule.

The Inner Circle is a facilitated group of like-minded accountants in practice who share similar challenges – and are willing to help each other by sharing practical solutions.

Check it out and follow the link to watch the intro video and then get in touch so that we can discuss whether joining would be good for you and for your practice

 

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The Inner Circle – first meeting report

The inaugural meeting of The Inner Circle for Accountants was evidently a success last week.  I have summarised below some of the key takeaways.

We met at Soho House in London and Members clearly valued the mix of shared peer-led insights together with, as one said, “the independent common sense you always get from Mark Lee”.

It was a diverse non-competing group of sole practitioner accountants from different areas around London (eg: Rickmansworth and Wandsworth).

After members had introduced themselves we focused on two key areas:

  • Making efficient use of social media; and
  • Attracting and obtaining the right type of quality clients

In each case the discussion was focused on specific practical, relevant and commercial solutions. Those around the table talked about what they have found works and what doesn’t work for them. And, when appropriate, I shared my observations and experience too.

At the end of the meeting I invited members to share what were for them the key learning points and takeaways. I have since shared these with all members of The Inner Circle.  I will also share a fuller note of the issues discussed and shared at the meeting in due course together with additional relevant ideas and a recording of the discussions. In accordance with our Membership Principles all such notes will comply with the Chatham House rule.

A couple of the key takeaways shared at the end of the meeting, together with my supplementary thoughts, are included below for the benefit of readers of this blog:

Sample key learning points

  • Often it’s the little things that can make a difference (eg: shortkeys.com to save having to keep typing the same sentences or paras of text over and over again). NB: Amongst other things I use this when replying to requests that I receive on Linkedin – both when I’m agreeing to connect and also when I ask for for more info before I will agree to connect with a stranger.
  • We agreed that the best new clients are introduced or recommended by existing or previous clients – and sometimes by other advisers who know, like and trust you. Rather than networking to find strangers with whom you could try to build relationships, start with the advisers to your existing clients. Ask your clients to introduce (and to recommend) you.

The Inner Circle is a facilitated group of like-minded accountants in practice who share similar challenges – and are willing to help each other by sharing practical solutions. Check it out here and follow the link to get in touch>>> We can then discuss whether joining would be good for you and for your practice.

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Announcing: The Inner Circle for Accountants

I rarely use this blog to advertise my business activities. But this is a special occasion.

The Inner Circle helps accountants build a more successful practice.
Priorities –> Progress –> Profits

Over the last few years I have spent much time participating in and facilitating groups of tax experts and of entrepreneurs. In fact, when I checked back I realised I started running such groups back in 2001!

More recently I have had plenty of requests from accountants who have wanted to work with me. To date the only option was mentoring which some consider to be quite pricey.

Away from 1-2-1 mentoring I really enjoy the stimulation and idea generation that comes from running a group of people who are keen to resolve similar issues. And it was this idea that led to the creation of The Inner Circle for Accountants.

It’s exclusive (no more than 20 accountants in the group), it includes regular 1-2-1 calls with me and it’s London based initially – though I hope to be able to replicate the concept around the country later in the year.

Before launching The Inner Circle I sought feedback and expressions of interest through my weekly newsletter. This enabled me to ensure that it will satisfy a need and provide forward thinking accountants with a fantastic new resource and facility. One that has been proven to work in all sorts of other business contexts. So far as I am aware, no one has previously attempted this with a group of accountants.  I am committed to the success of The Inner Circle so I invite you to check it out and let me have your feedback and expressions of interest.

You want to develop your practice? You have challenges to overcome? You want more of the right clients? Whatever your issues or dreams The Inner Circle can help.

The following links should tell you all you need to know:

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