So many sole practitioners:

  • are working too many hours
  • are not being well enough remunerated for these hours and
  • are feeling frustrated and disillusioned by their current practice life!

Unfortunately, it’s a belief that it’s their “lot in life” and it goes with the territory. This is how they have always done it and their bosses and mentors before them. What may surprise and hopefully inspire these practitioners, is what other practitioners are doing and achieving inside and outside their practices.

Here’s a few findings from the 2018 The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (GBU) of the Australian Accounting Profession Report.

The good news is anyone can improve their practices’s profitability, pay themselves more, work less and get their business and life mojo back.

The bad news is that they are going to have to say goodbye to some of their existing habits and mindset beliefs.

The ugly news is what may happen if they don’t embrace a contemporary approach to practice management. Perhaps it will be a crisis that forces their hand? Or when they want out of the nest egg they are nurturing or being a slave to, it may be difficult to find someone to buy-in to such a practice or lifestyle!

Business man Harvey MacKay said “Good habits are as addictive as bad habits, and a lot more rewarding.” Having been a sole practitioner for fourteen of eighteen years, here are a few of my “practice management habits” that served me well. You too can have a fun, rewarding and profitable practice!

Know your numbers

from the 2018 The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (GBU)
of the Australian Accounting Profession Report

Set yourself up for success by knowing and monitoring your numbers.

Each new financial year I reviewed and reflected on the previous year. I prepared both a personal and business budget and ascertained what I wanted to achieve in the following year professionally and personally.

I’d prepare an annual fee budget. Then our monthly fee budget, taking into account staff capacity which then determined our workflow scheduling plan.

To ensure buy-in, my team was involved in the budget and KPI setting process. Our targets were displayed, updated and monitored weekly and they motivated and guided us all year long. I also reviewed monthly our wages, overheads, net profit, ATO lodgements and where necessary took corrective action to get the team back on track.  

Communicate

By communicating to your team and your clients, you will be seen as a proactive leader and advisor.

Don’t be afraid to communicate your vision either. This will ensure that you attract and retain your ideal team and clients.

Everyone’s time poor however engaging, quoting and communicating at all times with your clients saves misunderstanding and resentment down the track.

I encouraged staff to add at least one personalised sentence to a template letter. This could be an explanation of a question they pre-empted a client might ask, an observation about their numbers or maybe a tip.

I also wrote a monthly newsletter which was emailed to clients and colleagues, informing about the latest tax and business news, upcoming lodgement deadlines and anything pertinent for the month. For example, at tax planning time, I wrote about what a tax planning review was, what was involved and the cost. I saw my newsletter as way of educating my entire business client in a really nurturing way. If something resonated, clients would contact us for more specific information or request we provide an additional service.

When you make your clients feel valued, well informed and cared for, you have a winning formula.

Diarise

With the growing demands on our time, prioritising and working smarter not harder, has never been so important.

Many will remember a time when we only had to deal with mail once a day. It could be read, actioned and delegated by morning tea leaving the rest of the day for jobs and meetings interrupted by the odd client drop-in and of course phone calls. These days, our inbox activity is unrelenting and it’s just one of many things that will run our day if we let it.

So the secret here is diarising. Diarise time to check your inbox, see clients, review work, have staff meetings, return calls, urgent meetings or tasks and to review your practice’s numbers.  Also diarise time for non-negotiable appointments whether that be of a business or private nature – children drop offs or pick ups, a mid-week golf game, gym sessions, hair or beauty salon visits or just a specific time each day to leave the office and head home.

Remember this is your practice and I dare say flexibility was one of the reasons you took the leap. Rules and boundaries are the key here and if you follow what’s in your diary, it’s takes all the emotion out of accepting appointments or tasks that you really should be saying “no” or “not today” to!  

Your definition of success will be different to anther accounting practice owner so be sure to check in with yourself and think about what success means to you and what you really want from your practice and your life. This will help you formulate sustainable habits that will see you doing business “your way” and with “balance” across all areas of your life!

This article first appeared in the 2018 The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (GBU) of the Australian Accounting Profession Report in November 2018.