Summer is here, and tax season is fading into the rearview mirror. But, naturally, now that the smoke has cleared, questions arise, such as “What should we (I) be doing differently?” or “How can I make my practice better?” and “What’s the best way to grow?”
Now is the moment to consider those questions. With the busiest time of the year finished, the time in front of you is golden – a time to work on your business, and a time to concentrate on what’s in it for you and how you can make it better and more valuable. And, while it may feel more appealing to just let it ride and use your summer for golfing and fishing, consider this: Doing nothing imposes an enormous cost. That’s because, in the words of the great Notre Dame Football coach Lou Holtz, “In this world, you’re either growing or you’re dying so get in motion and grow.”
But, what does that look like, exactly? It’s about far more than just increasing revenue. Let’s look at five basic ways you can build a better practice:
#1: It’s not about getting bigger. Getting bigger before you get stronger is doing things in the wrong order. There’s a story circulating online about the ubiquitous Bradford Pear tree, with a lesson that applies here. From the outside, the Bradford Pear is delightful to behold, but inside, its structure is weak and insufficient to support its growth. Inevitably, the tree fractures and falls apart. Lesson: Growing in size without first growing in strength will lead your firm to collapse under its own weight. You need to grow from the inside out.
That doesn’t mean growing a “heavy” firm. You can be both lean and strong, if you have the right business model in place. This makes for a good segue to the next item.
#2: Consider refinement as growth. Specifically, consider 2016 a time to shape and refine your business model. Define the type of ideal client you want, to serve or the niche you’re best at supporting. What services do you want to offer for them, and how do you want to deliver those products (your technology model)? Do you have these parameters defined for your firm? If not, then this can be the type of growth to aim for this year.
Growing by adding more clients may be the last thing you need. If you’re overwhelmed and feeling like your business is out of control, adding more of the same thing isn’t what you need. When you build your business around the right technologies and processes, a well-trained team, and ideal clients, growth and profitability will come more easily. Growth through refinement builds an environment for financial success!
#3: Tell your story clearly and cohesively. Your story is more than just what you do; it’s helping people understand why you do it – what motivates you to do what you do. Crafting and expressing a compelling, authentic message that is driven by passion and shaped by life experiences is both exacting and rewarding. It takes both hard work and an artistic touch to sift through the noise and minutiae of everyday life and really discover the heart of your message. Missouri CPA firm Sanford, Lea & Associates recently took on this challenge. They enlisted the help of a video storytelling company to conduct multiple interviews with staff and clients, record candid conversations, and step through the creative processes. The result is a handful of short documentary-style videos that deliver their message and engage both current and prospective clients.
Here’s a sample of the message Sanford, Lea & Associates created for their firm.
Sanford, Lea & Associates is interested in more than just accounting. They want to see things, as they say in their own words, “grow and come to fruition.” Tying the owner’s passion for seeing the flora and fauna on his farmland grow to his passion for seeing his clients’ businesses grow delivers a vivid, memorable message to the audience and engages them on an emotional, human level.
Using powerful storytelling to deliver an engaging, authentic message is an important component in developing your larger brand strategy, and it’s this strategy that will attract your ideal clients to your firm. (Click here to see more messaging that came out of the Sanford, Lea project.
#4: Fill the pipeline. Now that tax rush is over, it’s time to fill your sales funnel with prospects that fit your ideal client profile. As you consider your marketing strategy for 2016, begin with the end in mind. Ask yourself what success will look like. What kind of clients and how many do you want to add?
#5: Achieve clarity. It’s not something you can quantify, but meaningful growth can come through just having a better understanding of how your business fits into your life – how it should support the life you want to live. Perhaps, this year, you just need to clarify that vision in order to get your business and your team aligned for growth. Imagine what 2016 would look like for you and your firm if you gained clarity about the following:
- Your mission statement for the firm
- The core values by which you’ll run the business
- Your firm’s brand and what it promises to your clients
- Your firm’s competitive advantages
- The market segments you and your team are best suited to serve
- Five strategic objectives you want to achieve by year’s end
How much would you and your team grow as an organization if achieving this level of clarity was your goal for 2016? Sometimes, clarity is the best form of growth!
Here, you have five ways to approach growing your firm beyond tax season. Not an overwhelming number, and not difficult to unpack and understand. As you’re enjoying your summer, make some quiet time to reflect on these five things and consider what each one could mean to your firm this year. And, think about how next summer might feel a lot different as a result.