Are you loving the way your accounting practice is running in 2020? If not, Valentine’s Day marks the perfect time of year to get on top of a few key housekeeping issues and start building the passion once again, writes Amanda Gascoigne.
Whether you’re looking forward to a bunch of flowers arriving today, or you prefer to write Valentine’s Day off as a superficial Hallmark holiday, February is the perfect time of year to take stock of the year ahead and truly set yourself and your practice up for success.
Between the problem clients, long hours and busy schedule, it’s easy to fall out of love with what you do. But, as in any relationship, it could just take a little TLC to get things back on track.
To help get you started enhancing your passion for your accounting practice, I’ve detailed five things you should do to reignite the spark.
1. Organise some dates
If you’ve not done this already, get ahead by diarizing important dates like public holidays, office closures, conferences, planning days, key lodgement dates, set times per week to review jobs, set times per week to get caught up and dedicated times at least once a month to work on your business and to review your numbers.
It might be a little scary doing this exercise, as there will definitely be less space to book client meetings in, but all of these other tasks are equally important and, unless they’re scheduled in, you’ll never get away from having to work out of hours and weekends.
Trust me, this was one of the things that saved me from burnout and a health crisis when I was running my own practice.
2. Love the ones you’re with… or dump them
Work with more clients that are your ideal clients, who respect and value what you do for them. Are you clear on who they are? Are you clear on how you can get more of them?
Imagine walking into the office each morning, checking your diary and not cringing when you see the names of the clients you’ll be seeing that day.
Of course, there’ll always be difficult conversations that need to be had with clients, but I always find my ideal clients are more open, reasonable and accepting during those conversations.
Is 2020 the right time to move on non-ideal clients causing you grief and stress or perhaps having a discussion with them that may turn them into ideal clients?
3. Take the Marie Kondo approach and cull the tasks that don’t spark joy
Do more of the work that you love, that you’re good at and that you can make good money from. You can make time for more of the work that suits you by removing work that’s not for you.
For those tasks you find mind-numbing, repetitive or of low value, can they be delegated or even outsources? Maybe there’s a new partnership you can develop to handle this work?
I see too many solo practitioners thinking they have to offer every single service the bigger practices offer. This is a sure-fire way to cause you more stress and sleepless nights.
Over the years I outsourced, a capital gains tax case involving millions and millions of dollars and a group consolidation – certainly not jobs that came over my desk every day. I was honest with the clients saying I could do the work, but that I would prefer to outsource to an expert and I would liaise and work closely with that expert. They appreciated my honesty and I could continue to service my clients doing the things I loved while the work was happening in the background at another practitioner’s office.
Maybe working with self-managed super funds is becoming hard service to offer in your smaller practice? With this one, it simply may not be commercially viable to continue to offer that service to a small number of clients considering the increased costs of licensing and additional training. It’s not a reflection of your skillset, but merely a commercial financial decision.
Who could you refer extraneous jobs to while maintaining a good relationship with your clients?
4. Work to live, don’t live to work
Review the number of hours you’re working in your practice. Is this work rate sustainable? Is it making financial sense? Is it healthy for you and those around you?
I see too many practice owners working too much, for too little. You may have started your practice journey for lifestyle over financial reasons, but somehow you’ve ended up working 50 or 60 hours a week to get through the work and bring home your desired salary.
Sadly, I’m seeing practice owners struggling to find time to enjoy with their loved ones, earning less than they would working for someone else and have so much more added stress and legal exposure.
Are their tasks you could automate with better processes or with technology? Just because a practice is small and may not have employees, it’s a great idea to challenge yourself on whether your systems and processes are really up to scratch, as it’s those elements of your business that could save you the most time and effort.
Let me tell you, practice software is a lot more affordable than it used to be and it’s no longer just for the big practices.
5. Practice what you preach
Getting on top of your business finance shouldn’t just be something you advise your clients to do.
Review your practice’s year-to-date performance and reset your P & L budget if necessary.
Do you have a business P & L budget that is also entered into your accounting software? Do you have a monthly fee budget that takes into account things like your holidays, team capacity and lodgement deadlines? Do you monitor your practice KPIs against your budget and industry benchmarks? Is your pricing strategy working?
If this area of your business hasn’t been shown much love to date, it’s time to start crunching your own numbers and embracing automation, including bank feeds and receipt capture technology.
Now that you’ve seen my tips for maintaining a healthy relationship with your accounting practice, how does your reality stack up? Remember, regardless of how bad things may seem, there’s no reason why you can’t love what you do for work with a little bit of care and commitment.