Questions Questions Questions

I find it perplexing that Accountants do not ask enough questions. Asking questions shows you have high self esteem and willing to learn. You’re not afraid what people think of you and you are open to new ideas. Asking questions shows you are curious and intelligent. It seems most Accountants sit back and just wait…

Most Accounting firms exist by default not by design. Over the years they have just happened and here they are today. They have been poorly planned and they are often producing poor returns for the owners. You can change it. There are 4 key areas (and 26 sub points) an Accounting firm must focus on at all times to run a great firm.

1) Workflow

2) People

3) Revenue

4) Clients

All 4 must have attention every day. If you focus on just one the other three will falter. Do not start on any one of them first – do them all together at the same time – otherwise you’ll miss out on opportunities.

It’s your business – re-engineer it the way you want to run it. What I am writing about here is best practice based on 19 years advising Accounting firms around the world.


  • Client service. It seems the term ‘service’ has been forgotten by many Accounting firms. What’s it like in your firm? Do you…offer refreshments, promptly return communication, explain all of your work, run events, educate your clients, have pleasant people, smile, provide technology, offer additional services and so on. Ask your team what are some examples of great customer service. Emulate the great companies. Do something different. It’s a sea of sameness out there in the Accounting profession.
  • Niche markets. If you are attempting to be a generalist Accountant who works with any type of client type then you are being nothing to no body. Get focused on who you want to serve. When you pick your niche(s) make sure you like working with them, they are good people and they have the ability to pay.
  • ‘A’ class strategy. Because most firms exist by default not by design they have a mix of A,B,C & D class clients. What are you doing for the A class clients? They know people who might be an A class client as well. Make sure you have a defined strategy for the A’s.
  • Classification / Selection. There is an abundance of clients you can select from. Why do you take on anyone who walks through the door. You are not a community service or a charity – you are a business. Know who you want and be ruthless about it. If you have the attitude that you are selecting and not convincing then your entire persona will change. And so will your client profile.
  • Value Added Services. Here’s what annoys me most about Accountants. If I give you an income statement showing 3 years of progress & a balance sheet and ask you to brainstorm ideas of improvement for the client then you will come up with a host of ideas. Then why are you not doing that every single day with every client you meet!!! Your clients may be buying tax & compliance service but what they really need is: Profit improvement, Cash-flow management, Revenue improvement, KPI analysis, Planning, Monitoring, Health Checks, Cloud technology, Benchmarking, Strategy, Coaching & Wealth Creation services.

Roadmap 4


  • Branding / Leads. The function of marketing is to generate high quality leads – either from new or existing clients. Branding is very important as well. However when you get involved with marketing and hire marketing people make sure the money you are spending gets a return. Your brand probably needs a makeover and you also need to do activities that actually generate enquiry. Your marketing activity should make you money not cost you money.
  • Services productised. Every day you generate IP in your firm. What happens to it? it more than likely gets locked in a client file somewhere never to be seen again and then started again from scratch the next time that type of work needs to be done. I am being facetious! I know you have templates and processes for compliance and tax work. What about everything else? The more you productise your services the more efficient you can be, the better service you will deliver and the more money you will make.
  • Sales process / skills. Accountants are lousy at marketing but good at sales. Once we teach you. Think of sales as servicing. Making sure each client has what they need from you to achieve their goals and objectives. You do need skills in interviewing, language & questioning techniques. You also need a predictable sales process. Think of sales like workflow management – step by step process.
  • Value Pricing. To price a job upfront is not value pricing. Value pricing is setting a price based on your contribution to the clients outcome. If you can save the client $250K in tax paid (and you know that in advance) then what’s wrong with charging $25k to do that? A 10:1 return is a great return in anyone’s language. Charging by the day or the hour will keep you in the poor house.
  • Retention rate. There is no point in getting loads of new clients if you cannot look after the ones you already have. You must work out ways to retain your clients for the long haul. If you have a client that pays you $10k per year and refers 1 client per year that is worth a similar amount then that direct client is worth $200K over a 10 year period – plus inflation! You need to look at the lifetime value of each client – not just this months transaction.
  • Average project value. Each time your client buys a project from you is an opportunity to add value, up-sell, and make sure the client is paying an appropriate price based on the value you provide. Pricing remains a hidden gold mine in an Accounting firm. 99.9% of firms undercharge for what they do. The right price is just before “NO, I do not want to pay that amount of money for that”. What your client is really saying is they do not see value in what you are proposing. It’s not until you get a lot of push back do you know if you have hit the threshold. Do not assume what the right price is – test it and listen.
  • No. of projects / client. Accountants can offer huge amounts of value to their clients. If you have done your job right then your clients will be buying a large range of services from you each year. Most clients buy around 2 projects per year from their Accountant. Based on what clients need and what Accountants can provide that number should be an average of 4 or more.

Roadmap 3