In another life I was the new GM of a company that just came out of a failed merger. The company had a loss of $340K versus profit the year prior of $1M. It had debt of $1.1M versus year prior of cash in bank. It had revenue of $3.4M versus $4.5M the year prior. A Complete mess.

My job was to turn it around and make it work. The upshot of 15 months work was:

  1. Profit went from $340K loss to $2.5M profit
  2. Revenue went from $3.4M to $6.7M
  3. Debt paid back in full
  4. Business got sold for many millions of dollars

Here’s what I did to turn it around.

  1. The general manager (me) was on very attractive incentive program
  2. We contained the cash outflow – put the cheque book in the draw
  3. all expenses scrutinised and reduced
  4. strict budget & cashflow – measured daily then weekly
  5. worked out what to stop doing, continue doing & start doing
  6. writing project plan of 149 initiatives – shared responsibility
  7. relocated the business – a breakthrough happens after a breakwith!
  8. hired above average people – total team of 17 FTE’s
  9. position descriptions, performance standards & career development process implemented
  10. non financial incentive programs implemented
  11. created a fun and success driven environment – people wanted to come to work
  12. involved team on decisions and shared all of the KPI’s
  13. increased training budget to 7.5% of salaries
  14. set up management structure with weekly “soft” & “hard” reporting
  15. hired a sales team with clear focus – sell
  16. invested heavily in IT to reduce downtime and speed up processes
  17. wrote extensive systems on “the way we do it here”
  18. increased client numbers by 11% with marketing initiatives
  19. increased price of one major product line by 36%
  20. created new product – responsible for $1m rev & $400k profit

I learned that a successful turnaround can happen if you have a plan, your are focussed, disciplined and the work you do is in the right area.

Recently a number of accounting firms have been telling us that they will run out of work this year. This is a good thing. So that you can fill the capacity you should do this with every client on every job – every year.

When you are doing the work for the client have your Accountants (or you) answer these 5 questions about the job they are working on:

1. What ideas do you have to help this client grow revenue or wealth?

2. What ideas do you have to help this client increase their profit?

3. What ideas do you have to help this client understand and improve their cashflow?

4. What ideas do you have to help this client protect their assets?

5. What ides do you have to help this client with succession planning or selling their business?

Add these 5 questions to your reveiw process, train your accountants what to look for, come up with some ideas and then take the ideas to every client. I did this exercise last week with a group of accountants (they brought 15 random client files to the training) and everyone of them (teams of 3) came up with ideas that once implemented would:

A) Get a great result for the client

B) Increase the average fee per client by about 50%

Think about your clients when doing the work – and then take the ideas to the client.

If that fails then ask every existing client for a referral.

Towards the end of 2010 we conducted our largest Benchmarking Study on the Accounting profession yet. In total 373 firms from across Australia and New Zealand participated in the survey.

The report was released last Thursday and already over 13,000 Accountants have downloaded it.

Some of the highlights from this year’s Report are:

  • Two years ago the average profit per Partner was $211,050. This year the average of the 373 firms surveyed is $305,191 profit per Partner
  • The highest performer was $1.7 million profit for a Sole Practitioner
  • We are also starting to see revenue per Director get to decent levels – the top performer at $3.8 million
  • Revenue per full-time equivalent person (incl. Directors) peaked at $385,081 – you can make a good profit on those results
  • Average hourly rate averaged at $160 with a high of $356 – still not high enough for the value that you create
  • The lock up (WIP and debtors combined) average was quite poor at 92 days – but the best performer has -61 days in lock up

You can download a copy of the free Report here. You can also view the recording of the webinar we held about the Report on Tuesday.

The Report also outlines a number of recommendations on how any Accounting firm can make improvements to their results in the key areas surveyed.

It is all free with no strings attached. Enjoy the gift!

It’s been a while since my last blog post so I thought I would update you what I have been up to in the last 2 months:

1. A golf trip to New Zealand with some buddies. Played Kuri Cliffs, Cape Kidnappers and The Hills. I am a member of the Hills in Queenstown. A BIG week was had by all. Lot of fun. I even won the 110 year old Putter for the most birdies of the week. Won the cash as well

2. Xmas was spent with family in Dubbo. It was a driving trip with my wife driving (I have temporily lost my license due to speeding multiple times) 2,500 KMs. Great trip and a lot of fun

3. Wrote a book. My first book was written over the summer – finished it last week. It’s all about the accounting profession and will be on sale from Feb 21. Title “Accounting Practices Don’t Add Up” – why they don’t and what to do about it.

4. Had a family holiday in Bali. Spent 2 weeks in Seminyak, Bali. A lot of relaxing, shopping & eating. Rode an Elephant, cycled down a mountain and fed wild monkeys. Very cool trip

5. Released an industry wide benchmark report. We had 373 firms contribute their financial performance to the report. It was released last Thursday and already over 13,000 downloads. It’s a good read.

6. Had a 2 day planning session with my managers and set the strategic direction for the next 10 years. Broke the plan down to 3 year, 1 year and quarterly KPIs and priorities. Have rolled it out to the team and they all have their own individual KPIs and priorities this quarter.

So a busy couple of months!

I have just wrapped up 2 x 2 day workshops in Sydney and Auckland. Around 120 Accountants in a sales training program. Most came in with pre-conceived ideas what selling is about. Over the course of the 2 days I de-mystified sales and they all realised the importance of sales and how they can all be great sales people.

Many of them were shocked at how good they actually were once they were trained in questioning techniques, listening and most importantly the order of which questions to ask and when.

Here is some of the feedback:


“The workshop gave us re-affirmation of what should be done. Great to hear the success stories.” Myf Rigby, Partner, Insight Business & ‘Financial Services, Goondiwindi, Queensland, Australia.

“The workshop gave us practical help in regards to interviewing techniques, scripting of questions etc. It has reinvigorated the process and has been good to hear from others in the industry who have had success using the value pricing model.” Alethea Robinson, Snelleman Tom, Toowong, Queensland, Australia.

“I enjoyed the quality of information and input from experienced participants. It has inspired and motivated us.” Nick Ciccocioppo, Hattam McCarthy Reeves Pty Ltd, Parkside, South Australia.

“This workshop has highlighted some very real opportunities. Implementation plans are going out that generate 6-figure fees.” Warwick Jackson, Partner, Berkmans, Wyong, New South Wales, Australia.

“I had a number of ‘ah ha’ moments regarding the proposal process. The workshop has given me practical advice on how to market and sell accountancy services.” Evan Bulmer, Sole Practitioner, Evan Bulmer & Associates, Seaton, South Australia.

“I liked the clarity of the material presented and the ‘hands on’ case studies and sharing experiences with other Accountants. The workshop has explained the concepts of marketing and sales for Accountants and instilled more confidence in implementing these concepts in our firm.” Antje Moore, Accountant, Collins Hume Accountants, Ballina, New South Wales, Australia.

“I liked the role-plays and scripts the most. I am walking away with practical skills that I can use tomorrow.” Kathryn Lynch, Accountant, Collins Hume Accountants, Ballina, New South Wales, Australia.

“I enjoyed learning new ideas and ways of working better.” Amy Holmes, Enright Tax Accountants, Ballina, New South Wales, Australia.

“I really enjoyed the sales mindset and hearing other peoples responses to the case studies – there were some great ideas. This workshop has inspired me to help my clients more!” Naomi Rogers, Elliotts Accounting, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

“We now have the tools to use in everyday client meetings.” Tami Simpson, Elliotts Accounting, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

“The workshop was worthwhile as it provided more information and confidence to start selling business advisory services.” Felice Male, Partner, Illingworth David, Geelong, Victoria, Australia.

“This workshop was an eye-opener for what we can do and offer for our existing clients.” Naomi Harkness, Berkmans, Wyong, New South Wales, Australia.

“The scripts we got will help with conducting client interviews. The workshop has emphasized the need to concentrate on extracting information from our clients.” Kim Steber, Berkmans, Wyong, New South Wales, Australia.

“Lots of practical information. This workshop has highlighted some of the pitfalls on interviewing and implementation plans that I was struggling with so I’ll watch out for these now.” Sue Dobinson, Client Manager, OBT Accounting & Tax, Gatton, Queensland, Australia.

“I will now be focusing my energies back on my A-class clients and booking more meetings now rather than later!” Jarrod Fletcher, Senior Accountant, May Partners Pty Ltd, Kerang, Victoria, Australia.

“I enjoyed learning the skills to capture the client’s needs and translate that into sales. I learnt a lot about sales and marketing and I have changed my mindset and will focus on servicing my clients better.” Matt Danvers, Doyle Partners, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia.

“I liked the scripting and the step-by-step plans for each area. It will make it easier to look at later. The workshop has given me the right approach to market and sell services.” Matthew Lee, Director, Lee & Alexander, North Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia.

“All content was excellent. Both days were extremely beneficial. It has highlighted the importance of running structured client meetings which will allow for endless opportunities for additional work.” Luke Atkins, P P Atkins & Co, Taren Point, New South Wales, Australia.

“I liked the ‘nuts and bolts’ practical solutions. The workshop has clarified a lot of the finer details that sometimes make all the difference between a successful or non-successful sale.” Damian McGrath, HAS Business Solutions, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia.

“The workshop has given me a lot of ideas to take back with me to improve current processes.” Lisa Blakely, Senior Accountant, HAS Business Solutions, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia.

“I liked learning about how to structure client meetings and asking the right questions. It has given me the courage to take my business to the next level and the tools to make it work.” Adam Griffiths, Adam Griffiths & Associates, Fullarton, South Australia.

“It was good to get a solid feel for the work I have to do with my team to bring them up to speed. I have assumed too much (in relation to their abilities).” Craig Devlin, Partner, Devlin & Co, South Yarra, Victoria, Australia.

“The workshop has inspired me and made me excited to be in this profession.” Joy Batra, HLB Mann Judd Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

“The workshop has re-focused me to concentrate on the formula for sales and growing the business, the implementation plan process, and common mistakes to learn from.” John Drakakis, Senior Financial Planner, Snelleman Tom Pty Ltd, Toowong, Queensland, Australia.

“The case studies and role-playing was difficult, but very beneficial. The skills I have learned can be applied to the job from day 1. See you next year.” James Dunn, Affinity Accounting Plus, Brisbane Market, Queensland, Australia.

“I really liked going through how people thought they went after the role-plays and learning where we needed to improve. I will be taking a lot of ideas back to share with my Partners to start growing the business.” Tania Zunic, Partner, Wilson Porter & Associates Pty Ltd, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

“The questions section was extremely helpful. I now have the skills to conduct a well-structured client interview.” Michael Mitchell, Director, MKM Accounting, Albury, New South Wales, Australia.

“Rob 38:43 – It’s a bible like philosophy! But one that needs action not belief. Sales is a key part of what we do and revisiting the good habits is vital in keeping the bad habits at bay.” Nick Rundle, Insight Business & Financial Services, Goondiwindi, Queensland, Australia.

“I enjoyed learning new material and Rob’s ability to make every scenario simple and straight forward forcing attendees to leave the ‘fluff’ out of servicing clients at the door. Love Rob’s ‘take no crap’ approach!” Kelli Willmer, Hern Financial Services, Fullarton, South Australia.

“The role plays were very helpful and that’s what I learnt the most from. I also met up with other firms that will be valuable for sharing ideas with.” James Harty, MBR Group, Brunswick, Victoria, Australia.

“Turned theoretical ideas on selling & value pricing into real live workable material that I can use tomorrow. Every, and I mean every, accounting partner / director needs to go to this and everyone who thinks they want to be a key player in their accounting business” Philippa O’Mara, Engine Room CA, Pukekohe NZ

“Rob has given me the tools and knowledge to grow myself and the business. Thanks” Hamish Pryde, Coombe Smith, Palmerston North NZ

“Our team now has better selling skills & buy in into the value of client meetings and value added proposals” Lesley Patchell, Quay Accountants, Whakatane, NZ

“As I am not an accountant it was good to see that you do not need to know how to – but just to question, question, question” Gina Webster, Quay Accountants, Whakatane, NZ

What a trip. Was very hectic with meetings most days and of course snorkelling with the manta rays and reef fish. We had fabulous dinners out every night and we discussed (11 of us) a lot of global consulting / coaching issues and opportunities.

I have decided to get serious with this business of mine and go global. I have been playing around in Australia and New Zealand for the past 10 years and it is time to take what I do abroad.

With technology I can systemise my unique (and very profitable) coaching business here in Australia and then license it to others around the world.

Watch this space for more information.

As well as some big thinking and big decisions I finished off 1.5 chapters of my book. My tell all book on the Accounting Profession will be released on February 20.

Arrived into Bora Bora today after an arduous trip from Brisbane to Auckland then overnight in Papeete, Tahiti (the worst hotel I have ever stayed in – ever). Anyway, all worth it now that here.

I am here to catch up with some of my high achieving consulting buddies from around the world on our annual think tank. My writing space is pretty cool. I am writing my book right now – will post an excerpt.

Rob boat bora bora

Michael Shane Rob Bora bora

Deck Bora Bora

View bora bora

Today marks the 5th anniversary of my business. On November 7 2005 I started what is now called Nixon Advantage. It was started with the idea that it would be a ‘lifestyle’ business working from home.My first months revenue was $2,000 (I made a loss) and since that month I have been profitable ever since. Little did I know that the service (coachingclub) I designed would be so powerful that I would build a multi million dollar revenue business that employs 16 people.

It’s been a wild ride. What the next 5 years will look like – watch this space?

Coaching

Someone has already done what you want to do. Don’t be so arrogant to think that you know the answers to everything. Hiring outside experts to take a fresh view on your business will shortcut the length of time to implement…dramatically.

If you want to improve your software efficiencies then hire the software usage coach. If you want to improve your communication skills then hire the communication coach. If you want to improve your fitness then hire the fitness coach.

If you want to improve the financial performance of your Accounting firm and build a lifestyle you only dreamed of then hire US – the Nixon Advantage team.

We have a team of coaches and world class methodology standing by to help you.

Build your support team

To think you can do everything on your own is flawed. There are so many projects to implement, so many new skills to learn. Hire some extra people, outsource some of your projects, get others around you who can help you. Delegate to others to get things done.

As the partner or leader of an Accounting business your job is to do a little as possible. However, with what you do it needs to be seriously valuable and ‘high dollar productive’ work. Partners / Principals or Directors should only be doing 3 things. 1) High end chargeable work for a low percentage of time available 2) Nurturing existing clients to find out what they need and 3) Leadership – driving performance of your business.

Everything else is administration. Build a support team of professional administrators and a network of confidants.