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Being Intentional when Growing your Accounting Firm—And Why It Matters

Firm entrepreneurs struggle with the definition of strategy and how it applies to firm growth. It is a confusing topic. To boil it down, the word ‘strategic’ is just another word for ‘intention.’ So if you say you want to be more strategic then you are committing to becoming more intentional in growing your firm. I believe intentional is the opposite of accidental, which is never a productive way to grow a firm. This article is about the principles and practices of being and intentional when growing your firm. In a sense, those who win grow their firms on purpose. Let’s learn how to do that together.

For more teaching on this topic, you can watch my latest webinar as part of Bill.com’s Automating Success webinar series, The Strategy to Change Your Firm’s Business Model (watch on demand now). This webinar is about the theory of why we would change our business model and what the future practices are that we’ll have to implement to make those intentional changes a reality in our firms.

Principles of Growth

Before we discuss strategic (intentional) business model changes its important to list a few principles of growth:

  • Growth activities is a list of tasks to perform just like preparing tax returns, performing accounting, or paying bills for clients. Many firm owners struggle with what to do in their growth tasks. Growth activities include things like improving your marketing, building processes, creating new services, planning what you will do in the next 3, 6, and 12 months in your firm, and hiring and training new team members.
  • You need time on your calendar to perform these activities, just like you need time on your calendar to perform accounting or prepare tax returns. When we work with entrepreneurs, the first things we do is ask them to add a 2 hour, weekly recurring calendar block on their calendar so that they have a place to perform these growth activities. Firm owners are so busy working in their firm that they need intentional blocks to work on their firm.
  • Owners grow firms, while the team is meant to fulfill the bulk of the revenue from clients. This means that as your firm grows and changes, the owner will perform less and less revenue producing work in the firm, while the team (and newly hired team members) will progress in serving more and more of the revenue producing work. In small firms (with teams of 12 or under), the owners are going to produce some of the revenue. But the goal is to have the overall team (not the owners) produce as much of the revenue as possible.
  • Since all service work is innately limited by your own professional capacity (your time), learning how to manage your calendar is a key to being strategic in your growth. Since all humans are bound by the same amount of time, placing blocks on your calendar committed to strategy work, and time dedicated to revenue producing work are key to your growth. A firm owner needs both kinds of blocks.

Being Intentional with Your Time

The main take away from our principles above is that you don’t get to do everything you want to do. Time binds us to make choices about our future. When you become skilled at making the right future choices, then you will inevitably become good at growing your firm with intention. Manage your capacity (the time you have to give away to revenue producing activities and firm growth activities), and you will eliminate anxiety, stress, and begin to gain traction in your growth.

As mentioned already, one practical way to manage the strategy of growth with our calendars is to put (at a minimum) a 2 hour ‘Strategy & Planning’ block on your calendar every single week. The key is for this to become a rhythm. Here is the definition of a ‘rhythm’ = a sacred block on your calendar that appears at the same time and same day in the rhythm (i.e. daily, weekly, etc.). Beginning at this point will ‘wedge’ working on your firm right into your calendar so that you don’t skip it when the block comes up (it’s sacred). This way, you will force yourself to commit to the strategy and planning that firm building requires. This ‘Strategy & Planning’ block will grow over time as your firm grows.

For this to work your block can not be skipped and no other appointments, or team care, or personal commitments can impede on this sacred ‘Strategy & Planning’ block. Have this rhythm recur into the indefinite future, and you will be exhibiting the courage it takes to own your future by controlling your calendar with these blocks.

Uncommon Sense, Common Nonsense

In the webinar, we discussed a book by this same name: Uncommon Sense, Common Nonsense. We learned that our firm building endeavors are based on assumptions and beliefs we have that are either true or false. The authors of the book pointed out that many times entrepreneurs that are growing companies are unknowingly committing to paths and strategies about the future that are false. To differentiate between the true and false strategies that firm’s use in our profession to grow their firms, we learned new vocabulary:

  • Uncommon Sense – the winning firm’s sole strategies
  • Common Sense – winning strategies shared with competitors
  • Uncommon Nonsense – the losing firm’s sole strategies
  • Common Nonsense – losing strategies shared with competitors

In the vocabulary above, any phrases with “Sense” in them are strategies based on truths about firm building. Any phrases with “Nonsense” in them are strategies based on falsehoods. As an example some would say that hourly billing is an ‘Common Nonsense’ strategy in that it is common among the profession while based on a falsehood (that the passing of time denotes value has been created by a firm, thus justifying a client to pay for that passing of time in the form of an invoice).

With our new set of vocabulary, we can answer these practical questions about our firm’s strategy as we setup our business models:

  • What secrets or ideas do we know that we would be willing to try?
  • What good things are we doing that everyone else is also doing?
  • What new things do other firms seem to be doing well?
  • What do we continue to keep doing over and over that is grounded in our past and/or our culture?
  • What ineffective things does our profession continue to do (and that we fully participate in)?
  • What do we see other firms doing that produce poor results?

As you pursue the answers to these questions above with the new vocabulary we’ve learned, you can begin to sort out the future of the strategy of your firm.

Now take the above 6 questions and put them in your newly created ‘Strategy & Planning’ calendar block over the next few rhythms of your ‘Strategy & Planning’ block.

Begin to brainstorm the answers to these questions over the next few rhythms of your blocks and I believe you’ll be amazed at what you learn about how to grow your firm with intention.

Ready for more instruction and intention? Join Thriveal’s Incubator 3 day intensive program on strategy and growth for firms. We cover 8 entrepreneurial modules covering Strategy, Pricing, Team Building, Risk Taking and more. Taught personally by myself and my partner, our sessions always fill up. Our October 21 - 23, 2020 session is already half full. Hurry to register here and join us in October!

Join Bill.com’s Automating Success Masterclass

Don’t miss Jason’s next webinars on Pricing and business model, as part of the Bill.com Automating Success series, which brings industry thought leaders who have adapted and thrived to walk you through what it takes to redefine your business for today’s world. Subscribe today and gain access to all on-demand webinars.

September 24, 2020
Jason Blumer
Jason and his partner have also been leading their own firm, Blumer & Associates, CPAs , for over 15 years. The firm was one of the first to move from a traditional office to a virtual environment, where they serve various creative service niches. He and his partner focus heavily on business coaching and consulting with firms and agencies, while their team meets the technical and compliance needs of the client. Jason is the co-host of two podcasts, the Thrivecast and The Businessology Show and speaks and writes frequently for creative agencies. He has been honored as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting (Accounting Today).