Create an accountancy practice that doesn’t rely on you

What would happen to your accountancy practice if you weren’t there?

One of the lessons we’ve all had to learn over the last 18 months is that we never know what’s coming around the corner. Whatever we thought we knew about being prepared was blown apart by the speed and scale of the Covid pandemic.

And while there will – hopefully – be few other disruptions of this magnitude in the near future, other situations are bound to crop up. Sudden illness or a family emergency can happen at any time.

So if the unthinkable happened and you suddenly weren’t there to run your business, what would happen? Would it continue smoothly and seamlessly without your clients even realising you aren’t there? Or would it all fall apart?

If your accountancy practice relies on you to be there in order for it to function, then it’s running you and not the other way round.

And that leads to…

  • Stress – you carry a lot of weight on your shoulders when you know everything relies on you
  • Frustration – you can’t get away from day-to-day tasks to do the bigger stuff that really matters
  • Long hours – the sheer volume of work is overloading you
  • Less profitability – you can’t scale up if your business is dependent on you being there to run it
  • Low team engagement – if your people can’t see a route for them to grow and develop, they won’t have much motivation or loyalty

“I was worn out … and ready to leave”

This was the position that Paul Carvell found himself in a few years ago. As senior partner at SFB, Paul had taken on more and more responsibilities. As a result he earned 50% of the fees that came in and was responsible for 80% of business growth. But clients insisted on dealing only with him and he regularly worked a 70 hour week. And with a team of 30 and turnover of just £800,000 the business was heading in the wrong direction. At one point Paul couldn’t even afford to pay the electricity bill.

“I was worn out,” he says now. “I was doing everything, with no support, and it had got to the point where I just couldn’t do it anymore. In fact,  was ready to leave.” SFB was part of Paul’s life for more than 20 years and that was a huge step to contemplate.

But instead of walking away, he decided to learn how to change things. And the lessons he took on board helped him build his business into a 2 office accountancy practice plus another 3 related businesses with a team of 100. Annual turnover is at the £5 million mark and Paul works just a handful of days a month, spending the rest of his time doing exactly what he wants to do.

“The penny dropped when I came back from a 3 week tour of the USA with my wife. I had no calls from the office while I was away and when I walked back in, there was no work waiting for me. That’s when I realised what I’d done.”

How to create an accountancy practice that doesn’t rely on you

Paul knew he had to start thinking differently. So the first thing he did was to…

Accept that you can’t do it all

As Paul discovered, you simply can’t do it all – he admits that the service he delivered wasn’t great when he was trying to do everything. So you have to let go and delegate – and doing it successfully means letting go in a controlled way. Work with your team on this – they may be as scared as you about taking on new responsibilities, but they may also be really excited. Paul delegated by telling his clients that they would have 3 points of contact in the team (he wasn’t one of them). And what do you know? Service levels went up and the business grew.

If you don’t have a team, look into outsourcing as a way to delegate your routine tasks. Done properly, it really lightens your load and frees up your time to focus on the things that only you can do.

Allow your team to make mistakes

If you expect your team to get it right first time, every time, you’ll be disappointed. Paul created a culture that doesn’t punish mistakes and the focus is on doing it better next time. So the team have the freedom to try new things, to learn when it goes wrong, and to grow both individually and as a business. After all, didn’t you learn by making mistakes?

Systems are the key to growth

Along with delegating, you need systems to maintain high standards and keep consistency. Otherwise, you aren’t in control. But, as Paul says, “Never think a system is God.” Keep them simple, keep monitoring their effectiveness and make changes to continually improve them. And involve your team – since they’re the ones using the systems, they know better than anyone what works and what doesn’t.

More help to make change happen, faster and easier

Change wasn’t instant for Paul. But he knew he had to start somewhere because the alternative was to burn out completely. And that’s the key for you too, to start making changes, small step at a time.

Taking those first steps is hard, and trying to do it on your own is harder still. That’s why I created a programme that helps accountants just like you. It’s based on 23 years of research, talking to thousands of accountants about their challenges and frustrations, as well as their successes. What came out of that research is a roadmap that shows you what, when and how to do it. 3500+ accountants have already benefited from the programme. And as a result they are getting higher fees, better clients, more fulfilling work and more time to live their lives in the way they want.

I’m sharing the roadmap at two events in September and October, one virtual and one in person. Whichever one you choose, you’ll get two days of intensive training plus a comprehensive workbook to help keep track. And you’ll learn some shortcuts that make it easier and faster to see results.

There’s more about the event here – www.avn.co.uk/masterclass/.

Creating an accountancy practice that doesn’t rely on you is possible, you just have to know where to start.