To increase profits per partner you have 4 key strategies only: 1) Reduce costs whilst maintaining revenue 2) Increase revenue whilst maintaining low costs 3) Reduce the partner headcount whilst maintaining revenue and low costs 4) Maintain partner headcount whilst growing revenue and lowering costs Many “high profit percentage firms” have low leverage of people…
A project is not the annual fee with a client. Annual accounting is a project. A business plan is a project. A finance proposal is a project. A tax return is a project.
What is your average project value? It’s simple to work out. All you need to do is divide the number of invoices sent into your revenue for the year. If you have multiple invoices for one project then that should be classed as one invoice.
Your average project value multiplied by the number of projects per client per year will equal your revenue per client.
It’s a great way to look at your client base. If you have a very small average project value (but lots of clients) you will have a large administration function just for invoicing. The objective should be to increase the average project value whilst increasing the number of projects that each client buys from you each year.
If your business clients are not spending at least $20,000 with you annually and buying at least 4 projects from you (therefore average project value is around $5,000) then I think you are under-servicing your client base.
I have written an extensive report on Accounting firm performance. You can download the full report here.
Enjoy video # 11.
What waste it is to discount before billing. Often called write offs or write downs. It’s measured by the value of the time charged to work in progress (WIP) less a discount applied before billing. So if $2.3M was charged to WIP in the year yet only $2M was billed then the write down was 13%.
In some countries they record it in a more positive light by using a bigger number– “we had an 87% realization rate”. What a complete joke. Trying to put a positive spin on a negative number.
Face up to it – you discounted 13% or $300,000 in work last year! That’s an apartment or a house in some locations. You destroyed a small house. You would have had more fun if you burned the house to the ground and watched it burn whilst having a cold beverage.
Most firms have them and most firms justify them with blame and excuses like “we couldn’t charge the amount on the WIP” or “the client would never pay that much”. My question is HOW DO YOU KNOW?
Writing down work is at the heart of the self-esteem issue with partners of accounting firms. Why do it? You made a decision to write down – so make a decision to stop it.
If you price in arrears then your business model says whatever is on the clock you should charge – not a minute more. Writing up after pricing in arrears goes completely against your business model and is considered fraudulent behaviour. It’s ‘ripping people off’.
If you price up front, you have agreement from the client on price and scope of the project, and then you do the project in the most efficient means possible you’ll have an abundance of write ups. Much more of a positive result!
You should be aiming for a positive result with write ups – no negative numbers or numbers less than 100%.
I have written an extensive report on Accounting firm performance. You can download the full report here with all 12 KPI’s in it.
Tell me what you think of video # 5….
If you are like most firms you will have a range of charge rates in your firm. Normally charge rates range from $100 – $350 per person depending on salary & experience level. If this is the case then your Average hourly rate (AHR) or net firm billing rate for client hours will be around $150-$200.
It’s pretty pathetic to think that is all you believe you are worth! This is such a silly system for pricing.
I think you are worth much more but you have to believe it and you have to change the way you price projects.
There are 2 measures of Average Hourly Rate.
1) AHR – client hours. Take your revenue (let’s say $2M) and divide by client hours billed (let’s say 10,000). In this case it is $200.
2) AHR – hours worked entire team. Take your entire team (incl. partners, admin & professionals) and multiply by the working hours in a year to get total hours worked (say 12 people X 1750 hours each = 21,000 worked hours). Now divide revenue ($2M) by total hours worked (21,000). In this case it is $95.
It’s important to look at both of them. You can have a fantastic AHR for client hours (>$400) yet very poor on all hours worked (<$150) because of the productivity, people mix & administration process. The ultimate measure is to be focussed on AHR – hours worked entire team. It’s this one that will ultimately drive your profit before partner salaries.
If you are pricing projects up front then there are only 4 ways you can dramatically increase your AHR.
1) Charge more for the same project – straight price rise
2) Be more efficient and have less time on each project
3) Sell higher value projects based on value created
4) Change your administration mix and get more out what you have got
Your AHR should be improving every single month. If it is then that is a reflection on your pricing / sales prowess and your efficiency of throughput.
If it’s not improving (or going backwards) make sure you mention this to our coaching team when they do your Business Performance Review.
I have written an extensive report on Accounting firm performance. You can download the full report here with all 12 KPI’s in it.
Enjoy video # 4
It’s very easy to increase profits in an Accounting firm. Simply have the most senior people (partners) charge more time. The partners generally have the highest charge rates and theoretically the most experience.
Yes you will increase profits but for the short term only.
David Maister, author of many outstanding professional services firms’ books said it best:
“What you do with your billable time will determine your income.
What you do with your non-billable time will determine your future”
Assuming that the partners of the firm are partners for the right reasons (not a glorified / expensive senior Accountant with the title of Partner) then the partners should only be doing 3 things:
1) High end advisory work for a small percentage of time <30% of time. 2) Nurturing existing clients making sure each client has every service they need to satisfy their goals in life. 3) Acting in a leadership position – driving performance, winning new clients & innovation. If Partners spend 2 hours analyzing phone bills and scrutinising the colour of the receptionists new chair - not a good use of partner time. If Partners spend 2 hours doing compliance work for $200 per hour. Hmmm - not a good use of time. If Partners can spend 2 hours in a client meeting and bring back a $10,000 project with a 75% margin then I would consider that a good use of partner time! Enjoy video no. 3
The relationship between profitably and ‘productivity’ (or ‘utilization’) in the old revenue model has always been about ‘billable hours’. How many can be charged to the client/project. As mentioned previously driving billable hours is a ludicrous business model.
Many partners of firms want to drive billable hours and they are quite proud of the fact that they, a team or team member has more than someone else. WARNING! Excessive focus on this metric promotes the wrong behaviour. Team members ‘hog’ work, they ‘pad out’ time sheets and are generally inefficient.
If you want to be as efficient as possible then price the project up front, have an hours budget on the project and then drive the time down – thus running out of work and creating capacity.
The measure is simple – charged time into available time. So if there were 40 hours in a (working) week available to charge and your team member ‘charged’ 30 of them then that would equate to 75%.
If there is plenty of work to do and you have sufficient team members then a healthy mix of ‘productive time’ is expected –around 75% of a normal working week. But not much more.
Enjoy video no. 2
This year I am embarking on my 20th year working ‘on’ the Accounting profession. In that time I have influenced Accountants in 38 countries, had over 85,000 Accountants attend seminars / webinars and personally coached over 500 firms to success.
Although not an Accountant, for nearly 20 years of my professional life has been about Accountants and their success. I started working with Accountants when I was 24 (yes, I know I look younger than that!) and have loved every minute of it.
Some people like science or making things. I like Accountants. In fact I love Accountants!
Accountants can offer so much value to their client base and therefore their community. They are an integral part of the success of business. They are the natural business leader and the true trusted advisor.
They offer an immense amount of value to their clients and they are seriously smart. Yet, they don’t make much money!
If profit per partner is one measure of success then only 2.5% of the profession is earning more than $1M per partner. Most partners of accounting firms make around $350,000 per year. I think it’s a paltry sum for the contribution they make.
The problem is their self-esteem and the business model that they operate under. My business is the Proactive Accountants Network and through our membership and coaching program we help Accountants to:
Maximise their cashflow
Run a more efficient business
Utilize their team better
Delight clients with value added work
Work less hours
Grow their revenue & wealth
Live a better lifestyle
This video series is a ‘secrets revealed’ report focusing on how to revolutionise the financial performance of an Accounting firm. It’s based entirely on what our ultra-high performing firms are doing to achieve success and revolutionary financial performance. As you’ll discover, I do not pull any punches – I just tell it the way it is.
Enjoy getting focused on revolutionising your revenue, profit and cash!
Check back here often for each installment or sign up for RSS feed so you are notified immediately.
Here is video # 1 – enjoy.
Why do you lose a client and why do you win a client?
The answer is the same. I am talking to business people and Accountants every day and the answer is one or both of these:
- Service. Customer service, limited relationship, rude, not proactive, not returning calls/emails/correspondence, no love, no phone calls, visits etc
- Services. Range of services, value for money, didn’t know how much it was going to cost, don’t know what it all means, I need more help etc
They are the same 2 reasons they leave you. Just ask the next one that leaves. Or ask the next new one you got – “why did you leave your current Accountant?”
If they say “they are too expensive.” That is not the real answer. The real answer is “they did not value add to what I am already paying”.
You can stop the bleed by focusing on service and services. You can gain new clients by being an ace at service and services. At the end of the day your clients do not know if you are a good Accountant or not. They just know if they know you, like you and trust you!
Accountants are notorious for it. Discounting before sending the bill out. Commonly called a “write down”. Why oh why does this happen? Are you not proud of your product? Do you not have the guts to face the client and tell them the price? Do you not believe your team did a good job?
Some firms are great at doing this particular activity. I was in a firm once and they had $2.7M in write downs. To make a point I found a picture of a house worth $2.7M and then said that if they burnt it to the ground it would be more fun. Get a slab of beer, sit around and watch it burn baby. That’s effectively what this firm was doing.
What are you burning each year? A house? An apartment? A luxury car? Or even a motor bike? That’s gotta hurt!
If you follow any of my material you will know that my preferred model is to give the client a price before you start the work. The have an hours budget on each job and drive the time down. In that case you get a ‘write up’ in most occasions.
If you are not pricing up front then you better not be ‘writing down’ the work at the time of billing. It’s just waste, loss of income and it says that you do not value what you do. STOP IT.
The other day I was in a retailer and they gave me a discount without even asking for it. I wonder if their Accountant advised them to do that because that is what they do!!!
I was asked a question last week as to when an Accountant should be using Value Based fees or value pricing. Simple answer – 100% of the time.
Let me explain. Let’s start with a definition from the guru of VBFs and my friend Alan Weiss.
“A value based fee is a fixed fee that represents your contribution to the value your clients receive, representing a dramatic ROI for them and equitable compensation for you”
So if that is the case then in an Accounting firm you are always contributing value. Even with compliance and audit work you are contributing value. The trick is to determine (with your client) what the value is that you are contributing. You need to get creative and work out the tangible or intangible value you are offering.
Here are some examples:
Tax planning service VE (value equals) knowing how much to pay and maybe a reduction
Compliance service VE the ability to make better management decisions, basis for planning & keep out of gaol
Systems audit VE knowing what to do to improve efficiency levels
Cashflow management VE Understanding and freeing up cash
Audit VE accuracy of records for better management decisions
Valuation VE ability to realise wealth
Personal income tax return VE tax refund (potentially)
And so on.
If you can work out the value you are contributing then you can work out what is a fair ROI for the client and then you can work out a fair fee for you. You will never work out a fair fee with a time X rate model. How do you know if the price is too low or too high?
The only right price (and it MUST be a fixed price) is just before the client says no. If they keep saying ‘yes’ then the price is tool low. Let the market place determine your value – with their payment or their feet.
You have to remember that without your expert help as an Accountant your clients cannot realise all of their potential. You have to believe that. And that’s the first sale – to your self.