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BHAG’s and SMAG’s

Most accounting firms set no goals or at best they set small goals. If they do set any goals they set SMAG’s – Small Minded Adequate Goals.

If you go back to my success formula (doing what you want, when you want, with whom you want, in a manner you want) then a SMAG may be appropriate for your style. At least it’s a goal – albeit a goal that doesn’t full your potential.

In my opinion (and this entire book is based on my opinion – plus a lot of research) we’re only here once so let’s do something purposeful. Let’s do something grand. Let’s do something that lives beyond us.

Let’s set some BHAG’s – Big Hairy Audacious Goals.

From the seminal work of Jim Collins in his landmark book ‘Good to Great’ the term BHAG was first used.  A BHAG can inspire you, your team and your clients. The great USA President, John F Kennedy, had an awesome BHAG that inspired the nation and many parts of the world.

“By the end of this decade we will put a man on the moon and bring him back safely”.

Now that’s a BHAG. Now apparently it did happen. Either way it got people excited and hundreds of millions of people watched in excitement in July 1969 as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon and then returned safely to this planet.

What then followed was NASA, space exploration, new research, new industries and now (at the time of writing) there are at least 3 wealthy Entrepreneurs building and testing space craft to take the regular public to sub orbital space. I am one of those ‘Future Astronauts’ where at some time in the future I will be flying on Virgin Galactic into space. My wife bought me my ticket in 2009 for my 40th birthday. Pretty cool gift and pretty cool wife!

BHAG’s for an Accounting firm come in many shapes and sizes. The BHAG could be revenue related “$10M in Revenue in 10 years”. It could be team member related “100 of the best, brightest and most creative Accountants on the planet”. Or it could be client related “All of our 500 clients are financially retired.”

Whatever the BHAG is it needs to be bold, it needs to inspiring and it needs be easily communicated. It needs to get you excited and it needs to get the team excited.

Before the BHAG is your purpose and your mission. Why is it you do what you do? What’s your purpose for being? Why do you go to work every day? Why do you care so much about your clients? As bestselling author and TED star, Simon Sinek, would say “people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it.”

Some examples you may want to R&D….rip off and duplicate.

Purpose: Making a massive difference to clients financial performance

Mission: Help all of our clients to financially retire

BHAG: By 2020, 100% of our current clients are financially retired


Purpose: Helping all clients achieve all of their goals

Mission: Provide every service to every client that helps them achieve their goals

BHAG: $10M in revenue from 400 Awesome clients

I particularly like client focused purpose, mission and BHAG’s. And the reason for that is you can promote it to the clients. You can use it in your marketing. Let’s say you’re talking to a new prospective client. The conversation might go something like this:

“At our firm we help our clients achieve all of their goals. We make sure that every single client is only buying what they need from us to help them achieve their goals. We’re only looking for 400 awesome clients who want our help to achieve their goals. Tell me Bob, what are you looking for in an Accounting firm”?

Unless Bob is a complete ‘nuff nuff’ (technical term for not a very good client) then he’s probably going to answer with “An Accounting firm that helps me achieve my goals”. Sale made. Rinse & repeat.

Get creative with this. Start with what you (the owner) wants then involve your team. Some of your team members have some super ideas. Ask them individually why they became Accountants. Ask them what ‘juices’ them up. Ask them what they want from their careers. Ask them what they would do if they were running the firm. Get to a consensus. Then do a reality check and see where you are today with your Purpose, Mission & BHAG. After that it’s action time. If you want a different result (BHAG) then you have to make some different decisions and then Action those decisions. Decision + Action = Result.

For my business advisory software company ( we are very clear what our purpose, mission and BHAG are. They help us make decisions and help us keep on track.

Purpose: Positively influencing lives through Accountants

Mission: Make Accountants real time

BHAG:  10,000 ‘Real Time’ Accounting firms using PANALITIX every day

What is your purpose, mission and BHAG? When you’re done send it to me, I’d love to see what you come up with.

Efficiency woes

Most Accounting firms are on a quest for efficiency. They are focused on systems, process, people and equipment to get more efficient.How can we do the job more efficiently is the management mantra.

Accountants have been pretty good at getting efficient over the years. But at what cost?

If an Accountant ‘prices in arrears’ where the price is determined after the work is done (based on the time taken and a charge rate) then if the Accountant is more efficient then the time goes down and so does the price. Or worse you end up doing more work for the same amount of money. Some Accountants attempt to ‘write up’ the job to a more acceptable price. This is unethical as the business model said ‘time taken X charge rate = price’.

Unless you want to be penalized by being efficient the only right way is to scope the job out in advance. Then price the job, communicate in writing the price and scope of the job to the client and then be as efficient as you possibly can. Don’t go outside of the scope and if you see another project within the same job then communicate that to the client with a new project scope and price.

Pricing in arrears has got issues written all over it. And don’t get me started on driving utilization, productive time or billable hours – that’s the worst of them all. In another blog post perhaps!


It’s November and I have already ‘scheduled out’ 2015. I have added to my calendar all regular events:

  • Gym
  • Date nights
  • Bike riding
  • Blog writing
  • Kids drop off
  • School holidays
  • Mancasions
  • Rob & Nat Holidays
  • Unavailable time
  • Golf – practice & play
  • Meetings – team, board, forum
  • Conferences to attend
  • etc

Anything that is known or regular is in the diary. So far 12 International trips for 2015. I then do any business around what it left. In my experience, if it’s not in the diary it won’t get done.

Burning the Brand

With the increasing development of technology many companies have been forced to close their doors or reinvent themselves. Think of the products that have gone by the wayside due to the digital economy; Kodak, Walkman, record stores.

Our business, Proactive Accountants Network (PAN) is no different. Established for nine years, with team members in four countries and over 2000 Accounting Firms as clients, today we are killing our long held brand.

My business partner, Colin Dunn and I made the decision to bury the current brand and reinvent it as a software business called PANALITIX, in the process completely restructuring the previous offerings into an online software provider.

Our previous model was very labour dependent. It involved accountants flying to our offices every quarter for face-to-face coaching on running better businesses. Now with online learning, webinars and the vast array of information on the web, this model is becoming unviable and difficult to scale, even though it delivers outstanding results for the firms that use it. We will continue to run this program for the firms involved – however under the PANALITIX banner.

We have spent the past three years making this transition to develop a new software application, PANALITIX. This tool bundles all our previous learning and coaching content into the backend of the software which is used by accountants to consolidate all their clients’ data from all accounting software onto one dashboard.

One of our star clients, David Cowling from Brisbane based accounting firm Roberts & Cowling told me: “‘The main reason I use PANALITIX is to keep my eye on the ball with my clients.” PANALITIX displays businesses’ data in real time to help pre-empt what’s going on in a client’s business. The program sends daily alerts to the accountant and flags if one of their business clients is in trouble. This now means that accountants can be proactive rather than reactive and call a business owner to discuss worrying financial trends before it’s too late.

Our group coaching has had a profound impact on the ability of accountants to positively impact their clients’ businesses. Over 700 accounting firms have been through the coaching program. Over the life of the program, we have developed a substantial library of video based training and associated content for accountants to run a better accounting business and then help their clients run better businesses. PANALITIX integrates all of this content, providing not just a technology solution but also the ‘how tos’ that accountants need to properly advise their clients.

Now that we have reinvented our business, we are positively influencing more businesses than ever and will achieve our goal a lot faster. Plus the bonus is we have created our own category, and have a unique piece of software that does not exist anywhere else in the world. If an accountant needs help with developing an area of a client’s business – we have the resources to help them deliver it cost effectively to clients.

The creation of PANALITIX was not without heartache. Software development is a hungry beast, and we were totally funded out of operating cash flow. We have a team of twenty developers who have been working on this for three years to get it to the stage we are at now. With over 350 firms already using PANALITIX and getting great results with their clients, we are very confident that we are moving in the right direction.

Our General Manager, Rob Pillans, has been leading the development team. I asked Rob for his insights on what is happening in the profession. He said: “In order to survive in this economy of digital disruption, you have to evolve or dissolve. We have over 130 hours of learning content for accountants and we just had to repurpose it and present it in the framework of a cloud software solution so that it suits the future of business and the future of the accounting profession. We have worked very closely with accounting software developers on their API’s so that we now automatically integrate with Xero, MYOB AccountRight Live and QuickBooks Online. PANALITIX pulls the data from these programs to monitor clients and help accountants provide the advice and conversation they need to be having with business owners.”

Our whole team is excited about the new direction and we’re looking forward to continuing to serve the accounting profession around the world and to help them make a massive difference with their clients.

To celebrate the re-invention we burned the old brand yesterday. It was a cathartic experience. You can find more details on our new website,

Burning 1 Burning 2 Burning 3

It’s a connected world

Right now I am sitting in a jungle camp site in Thailand (I kid you not) with 3G on my phone and 6Meg wireless running through the camp. Already this morning I have looked at my emails through Gmail, I checked out Facebook for 5 minutes, I checked my bank accounts, I accepted 11 new LinkedIN connection requests, I had a look on our online community to see of the client chatter and I looked at the daily report on the key metrics of my business.  About 10 minutes of total ‘checking what is going on in my world’ time.

The daily report is automatically generated through our CRM program ( and we customise the main report every quarter in line with our quarterly theme. I can see the critical results of what we are focusing on right now. Event numbers, campaign results, client numbers, revenue & profit etc.

With everything on the ‘cloud’ you truly can run a business from anywhere in the world. I can see what it happening as it happens and respond accordingly. I don’t have to wait for the next meeting to jump on something I can see as a trend right now. I don’t have to wait for a lengthy report to tell me what an automated report can tell me.

I have team members in Brisbane, Darwin, Manila, Delhi and Vancouver. I have clients who use our software in 8 countries. How could you manage that with old technology systems on a hard drive or server? Well you can but it is very expensive and very slow.

It’s business real time. It’s a connected world. It’s exciting. It’s now time for a coffee then Elephant rides and Tiger cuddling later in the day. Stay tuned.


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