For most people, there are two principal benefits they’re looking for when they launch their own firm. The first, of course, is the ability to put food on the table (and the eventual ability to put a nice little BMW or Mercedes in the garage).
The second benefit is satisfaction. A lot of the accountants we work with made the leap to starting their own firm because while they enjoyed helping the clients of their previous firm, they felt handcuffed – they felt they could do so much more to enrich their clients’ businesses and lives.
Here’s the added bonus of being able to pursue the latter benefit – that sense of fulfilment isn’t only a perk, it’s also a tool that you can use to mold your own business into your ultimate ideal firm.
Helping clients helps you
As you work with a growing range of clients you’re going to be able to get a better sense of the kinds of jobs that give you, personally, the greatest sense of fulfillment. Let’s say, for example, that compliance work just makes you drowsy, but helping new business owners get through their first year of financial hurdles has you leaping out of bed in the morning.
You should compile a list for yourself over the next couple of days, sorting the types of services you do by your favourites at the top through to the jobs that you’d rather avoid entirely at the bottom. There are no wrong answers; these lists are going to be highly personal.
Once done, you don’t just have a list of services; rather, you have the future of your firm in your hand.
First of all, you’re going to find it a pleasure to dig deeper into that specialisation, gathering more knowledge that you can bring to bear on your related clients’ files. This means you’re going to offer more value to those clients, which in turn means you’re going to be able to raise your value-based pricing rates.
Second, you’ve identified where your marketing dollars should be focused. Shot-gun marketing, advertising that is meant to try to pull in clients from any and all directions, is usually a waste of money because in your efforts to appeal to everybody you’re unable to show your value to a specific type of client. The problem is, potential clients want their particular problems solved, and they’re looking for focused experts to help them find their solutions. Wide-range advertising does not speak of specialisation expertise.
Third, also related to marketing, as you focus on the services and types of clients that you care most about, you’re going to become a local authority in that area. The clients within that specialisation niche are going to start recommending you to others who have similar financial concerns. That’s free word-of-mouth marketing, and word-of-mouth marketing is the most trusted form of marketing out there.
Fourth, you’ll be identifying your A-list clients, the types of people or businesses that you really want to work with. From here, you can start steering your firm to cater more to the clients you want to sign on with on a regular basis.
Just by creating this one list, you’ve laid out the future of your firm.
The rest of the list
Now the question is what do you do with the rest of the list?
You might not yet be in a financially stable enough position to start winnowing away the clients represented by the lower two thirds of your list. But at the same time, they might be holding you back from being able to specialise or forming your ideal firm.
The first option is, if you have employees or partners, to get them to create similar lists of their own. Those that have different ideal clients from you can now specialise in the area that makes them the happiest.
They benefit from being able to work with their ideal clients, those clients benefit from getting a specialist that focuses on their particular needs, and your firm continues to enjoy the income from those clients. That income can potentially even increase as your specialised team members A) can add more value for their clients, meaning higher value-based pricing and B) get good word-of-mouth referrals from their existing clients.
The second option is to outsource the work represented by the lower portion of your list. This way those clients continue to receive quality work turned around in a timely manner, while you still have the time free to focus on your preferred A-list clients.
So what kind of work makes you happy? Which types of jobs bring you the most satisfaction? What is your ideal form of firm? Don’t just hope for it – get to work on your list and take action.