Navigating the 5 stages of an accountancy practice
By Shane Lukas, AVN Managing Director
Over the last 25 years I’ve had the privilege of talking to – and working with – accountants from across the entire spectrum of the profession. Partners in large multi-partner practices with swish city offices. Sole practitioners working from a shed in their garden. Young, enthusiastic accountants ready to conquer the world; and seasoned old pros with a ‘seen it all before’ take on the profession and life in general. Maybe I’ve even spent time talking with you!
In all those conversations I’ve tried to find out what drives them, what they wanted to achieve when they set up in practice, how close they are to reaching that goal and what’s stopped them from getting there.
An accountancy practice goes through 5 stages
What’s been remarkable is that their experiences have been so similar. They’ve found themselves facing the same challenges and feeling the same frustrations. So much so, that it’s led me to look into what happens at each stage of an accountancy practice, from starting up all the way to the point where the owner/partner exits. And what I’ve found is that there are five distinct development stages, each with their own specific issues which, if not dealt with, lead on to further problems down the line.
Statistics paint a stark reality: a 2019 survey by the Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association (CABA) found that 98% of accountants feel stressed every day, with workload cited as the primary cause. This reflects what I’ve found in my conversations: a significant proportion of accountancy practices turning over less than £1 million are characterised by overworked owners who are underpaid and stressed. Fear of letting go creates an owner-centric bottleneck. Every decision needs the final say, every client demands personal attention. This micromanagement fuels stress for the overburdened owner and team members alike.
And even successful, profitable firms aren’t immune to these challenges. Success can breed complacency so the firm coasts on past achievements, neglecting future-proofing and building up value. So when the owner wants to exit, they find the business isn’t worth nearly as much as they hoped.
Is there a better way?
What’s really worrying is the resistance to change at every stage – or rather the belief that change isn’t possible. I’ve come across this mindset time and time again, in practices large and small, new and well-established. The accountants believe that low fees and giving away their expertise for free are the norm and the only way to retain clients. The reality is that this just creates dwindling respect and appreciation.
But there is a better way. As I’ve dug deeper into each of the five stages, it’s clear that accountants can break the cycle and step away from the endless grind. It’s all about recognising which stage your business is at and understanding how to navigate your practice’s future strategically.
So I’m running a free webinar where I’ll be diving into each of these stages and sharing the strategies that have been proven to tackle each of the related challenges.
The webinar is running a few times so click the link to see which date suits you best and register for this 45-minute session now: https://avn.pages.ontraport.net/PBWebinarJourneyRegister
You deserve more from your practice and more from your life – click now to start making that happen.