Accountability

Let’s face it. We’re all basically slack. If we can get away with it then we will. If we are not accountable to anyone then we won’t necessarily do it. It’s human nature. Very few people are disciplined enough to do what they say they are going to do without any intervention from anyone else.

Me included.

This year I ran the London Marathon. For my condensed training program (17 weeks) I met my trainer (Craig the accountability running coach) every weekday morning at 5am. I would get my butt out of bed at 4:20am and go and do what I had to do – not what I wanted to do. It was terrible. It was like ground hog day. Another hour of training every morning.

I turned up – every morning. Why? Because I was accountable to Craig. I said I would meet him and I did. With limited training (and I wasn’t a runners shoe beforehand) I completed my Marathon by not walking, not stopping and in 4 hours 20 minutes. All applause gratefully appreciated.

If we want something bad enough then we need someone to push you and keep you accountable. Our coachingclub members are accountable to their coach and their peers in their group – they get things done because they said they would.

Implementation – ON time

Just having the motivation, getting buy in and coming up with the plan is not good enough. You need to actually dedicate (as Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth would say) working ON time. You need quiet time to get things done.

No clients, no team members, no suppliers, no damn interruptions!

You need to work out your system for working IN time. I had a seminar delegate one day commit to every Wednesday would be his working ON day. So he proceeded to rip out every Wednesday in his paper diary for the year. He figured that no one could book an appointment with him if the page didn’t exist. What he didn’t realise what that Thursday was on the back!!!

I take my laptop to the cafe’, I write on airplanes (I am on a flight from Christchurch to Sydney as I write this), I come up with ideas when I am on my own. I find that my working ON time (which involves a lot of writing) does not happen very well in the office.

Think of your working week as 10 half days. At least commit to a morning or afternoon per week working ON – that would be 10%. And then build up the time. The more time you spend working ON your business the more your goals will be achieved.

Master Chunking

Once you have your list of projects now what you have to do is chunk them down into categories. You may have a cashflow group, a workflow group, a client service group, a services group, a capacity group etc.

Once you chunk them then this will make the allocation of projects easier to the relevant people.

Key projects

As a result of your planning what are the projects you need to implement to make a difference? It starts as a list and then each project needs to be given a project champion (person who is responsible for the project), and a finish date.

I first learned the value of project management when I was the General Manager of a company. The company was in a mess ($340K losses and $1.1M in debt) and in 15 months my team and I paid back the debt and turned the loss into a $2.5M profit – at the same time increased the revenue by 97%. The team came up with 149 projects to do – we implemented 134 in 15 months.

Our coachingclub members use the Accountants Strategy Map. It’s a list of 390 projects categorised into 10 key areas. All of the projects have been done before by other Accounting firms. If they implement 3 projects per month then it will take over 10 years to complete the list.

Planning

How often do you put your feet up on the desk and simply think about ideas? How often do you surf the internet for ideas? How often do you get you and the team away from the office and plan what you are going to do? You might call it a team or partner ‘retreat’. I prefer that you call it a team advance! You are not retreating – you are supposed to be advancing.

Many of our coachingclub members use an idea from Anne Barry in Stones Corner, QLD. Every quarter Anne and the team have a structured ‘innovation day’. They bring in a temp to answer the phones and for the entire day the team innovate. They come up with new ideas. They plan.

Spending time planning what you need to do will be paid back in motivated team members and improved results.

Buy In

Is everyone in your firm on the same page? Are you all signing off the same song sheet? Are the partners aligned? Is there anyone on your bus that has their hand firmly on the handbrake of the bus?

You need the partners (if you have them) and the team all rowing in the same direction. If you do not have ‘buy in’ then you will have a hard job implementing anything. Getting buy in is not a singular event. As fabulous as our seminars are, sending all of your team to just one of them does not change the behaviour.

You need to create ‘buy in’ events on a regular basis. Our coachingclub members use a series of on-line learning resources to educate and continually get buy in from the troops.

The more ‘buy in’ you have the easier implementation is.

Almost everyone reading this article has had a good idea that they have not implemented. Or you set a goal and the necessary action steps were not implemented – thus the goal was not achieved.

The ideas may have come from a seminar, a book, a podcast, the internet, or even one of my articles or blog posts!

All good ideas at the time but little or no implementation. What a waste of energy coming up with the idea. As my friend Michael Sheargold says “the power of an idea is in its implementation”.

I am an implementer. I get things done and I get them done because I follow my 9 step process. Each day for the next 9 days I will add one more step.

Motivation

You need to start with WHY you would want to implement something. People are either motivated by fixing something or achieving something. If you are 100% delighted with your business progress then you will implement nothing.

As an adviser to Accounting firms my biggest competitor is perceived apathy. The perception is that everything is OK so you get comfortable and apathy kicks in. You need to work out WHY you want to do something different. When we ask our coachingclub members they tell us it is a mix of 8 reasons WHY they implement. Maybe

  1. Cashflow improvement
  2. Reduced risk
  3. Increased profit
  4. Team excellence
  5. Client delight
  6. Personal excellence
  7. Revenue growth
  8. Lifestyle improvement.

Work out a strong set of reasons WHY and you will start implementing.

When my eldest son Hugh was 8 we had the ‘profit’ conversation. I told him that a profit was the selling price minus the buying price. Sell take buy he said. A couple of hours after educating him on this most important concept I asked him what profit was. Profit is good he told me! A little while after that I asked him how much profit we should make. As much as possible was the reply!

Hugh is now 15 and wheeling and dealing whatever he can. His favourite saying is ‘let’s do a deal’.

Well it seems that my daughter Harriet has the Entrepreneurial spirit in her as well. Today is election day in Australia and about 150 meters down our road is a polling station and as such there have been loads of people walking past all day today to pledge their vote. Harriet and her friend got the idea that they would capitalise on the opportunity and set up a lemonade stand and sell home made lemonade to the thirsty voters walking past. They started by juicing about 20 of my limes (that were supposed to be for my Corona beer and sparkling mineral water) and the first version was Lime based lemonade – hideous it was.

After a few initial sales I was sent to the shop to get some lemons. So with a new recipe business flourished and 51 cups later they had made $25.50. Only problem was I did not have the profit conversation with her. I paid for everything and they kept all the money!

Girls Lemonade stand

This marks my 17th year helping Accounting firms grow and develop their businesses. I am not an accountant by training – in fact I left school when I was 16 so I do not have a ‘formal’ peice of paper to my name.

I fell into the Accounting profession in May 1994 when a lovely man called Ellis Ryan turned up to one of my seminars in Dubbo NSW. It was a very very small seminar (by today’s standards) with only about 8 people in attendance. Ellis was an Accountant from Coonamble (population circa 2,500) which is about 2 hours north of Dubbo. He said to me ‘will you come to my town and do this seminar for my clients’.

Never one to miss an opportunity I grasped at the idea. he would promote my event to his clients, I’d collect the profit and he would get the kudos.

He had 126 clients. After 2 mailers (email not invented back then) 56 people turned up to the Coonamble RSL club. They loved it and I made a profit of $2,500 for the night. I was hooked on Accountants. They could fill a room based on their credibility and they could lower my marketing costs to almost zero. After that event I scrapped all other direct marketing (TV, Radio, Press, Mail etc) and started cold calling Accountants offering them a Value Added seminar which cost them nothing.

We started filling rooms. And as they say the rest is history. After over 1,600 speaking engagements, 4 companies, countless articles, books, products, software, web technology, learning tools and thousands upon thousands of lives positively effected I started to realise why Accountants.

All of my work has been centered around helping Accounting firms run better businesses for themselves and their clients. It was about 10 years ago the penny dropped. Every single business in the world is connected to a trusted advisor – their Accountant.

If we can help enough Accounting firms sort their businesses out (cashflow, profit, growth, reinvesting back into the community) and then we can help them go to all of their clients and help them with cashflow, profit, growth & community then we can make a positive impact – on the world.

We can change the world by helping the Accountants. That’s why Accountants!

Accountants are funny in the way that they hire people. They would much rather hire more accountants and let the accountants do the administration work rather then hiring professional administrators to do the administration work. After interviewing about 5,500 accountants over the past 5 years I have determined that an accountant spends on average 1.5hours per day on ‘administration tasks associated with the accounting job’.

Amazing – 1.5 hours per person per day. If you have 10 accountants at an average hourly rate of $200 that works out to be $675,000 of potential capacity. 10 x 1.5 x 5 days per week x 45 weeks for the year. You could hire 2 full time administrators at a cost of $100,000 to do that work. Spend $100k to free up (new capacity) $675K – go figure!

And it gets worse. I meet partners of firms who are doing more admin work then they need to. Some are doing the ‘practice administration’, some have the euphemistic title of ‘marketing partner’ and some attempt to look after the firms IT. Give me a break. I have never met a partner of an accounting firm who is an expert in these areas.

If a partner of a firm is mucking around doing 2 hours of ‘practice administration’ versus meeting a client for 2 hours and finding some new business – then they are wasting their time. A 2 hour meeting can generate (in a lot of cases) $5K or more of new business. A full time business administration on the firm can be hired for $50 – $75 per hour. New business generation at $2,500 per hour or administration work @ $50 per hour. Go figure.