By Ira S. Rosenbloom, CPA (inactive)
“Sustainability” is not just a priority for society; it’s also vital for a CPA firm. Yes, we often look at sustainability from an environmental perspective, but it is also important to make sure every business is focused on its present needs without compromising its future – that’s sustainability. When we look to optimize the sustainability of a CPA firm, there is no perfect recipe for success, and the factors evolve over time. However, if you adhere to five basic building blocks, you can help your firm work to secure its future and long-term sustainability.
Diverse Management Team – Operations need to be tasked to the right people in the right way. Responsibilities should not be divided up because one person has the most time at the firm, another has a strong interest, or a third has been doing it that way forever. Match staff skills to the tasks at hand. Your clients will be happier in the short term, and that will put you on the path toward your long-term goals.
Additionally, understand that not everyone in your firm is an accountant. Other traditional management team duties should be handled by an internal liaison, such as a firm administrator or office manager. You should also get input regularly from other experts at your firm, such as marketing, human resources, technology, quality control, and others. It doesn’t matter if they are part-time, full-time, or contracted. Rely on their input to help make day-to-day decisions that affect the firm and your clients.
Model Client Profile – Being selective is the pathway to continuity and gratification. If you haven’t done so already, create a profile of your model client or clients. Consider industry, nature of service, frequency of service, consulting requirements, fee level, communication style, and demographics. Be sure that your client acceptance process is tied to the profile.
Efficiencies – Society is accustomed to smart phones, intelligent appliances, and convenient access. Efficiencies need to be a regular budget item, with no less than $10,000 for a solo practitioner and a per capita in the thousands for larger firms. The more ways you can rely on tech and process efficiencies to work smarter, the happier your staff (and clients) will be, and the more comfortable it will be for you to retain the clients you want.
Advocacy – The best interests of your clients and staff must prevail. When it comes to clients, emphasize that client liaisons are advisers. They should help their clients plan and offer advice and solutions that can help clients make and save money – improving their lives, not just their tax returns. Encourage networking as the priority of the client service platform to keep the clients loyal and curious.
When it comes to advocating for your staff members, provide pathways to career progress. Emphasize both personal accountability and teamwork. Structure evaluations so team members understand exactly how they’re being evaluated and how they can improve. Leaders should show an interest in people who are growing and excelling. Often, especially in today’s virtual work environments, alternative work methods may be implemented to increase your employees’ satisfaction and overall well-being. For example, has your firm ever had part-time partners? A sustainable firm recognizes that not everyone can be – or wants to be – a partner. That’s OK! Everyone has a critical part to play. Don’t advocate for the status quo or the ways things have always been done. It’s not in anyone’s best interest, and can lead to higher staff turnover.
Be Vital – Often, a client will call and say, “I’m thinking of buying X” or “I’m thinking of starting a new business.” Become a vital resource for all your clients’ interests, not just their tax returns. But being vital starts by being better connected.
The more connected your firm is to the right resources in the business community and to knowledge of business matters, the more prominent you will be in your market. That can lead to current business opportunities as well as long-term sustainability. Align yourself with the top attorneys, business coaches, social media gurus, and other centers of business influence.
Heighten your visibility and connectivity to these players, and then communicate, communicate, communicate. The business world needs to see you as an integral part of your community and market, and you have to be able to deliver on your expertise. Good networkers will be top-of-mind for referrals, and they will become part of the discussion when even bigger business opportunities arise.
Working to shift the culture and priorities of your firm in the ways outlined above can help your firm today, but also help you remain on the path for long-term sustainability and future success.
Ira S. Rosenbloom, CPA (inactive), is chief operating executive of Optimum Strategies LLC. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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