Safeguarding the future of your practice.

In February thoughts are now turning to how every practice can achieve its goals this year and maintain their position in an increasingly competitive marketplace. By definition this means you are looking to safeguard your business whilst securing, if not increasing, profit margins.

There are some simple steps you can take to ensure your practice continues to operate successfully into the future.

3 key things will safeguard the future of your business- client base, staff and cash flow.

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Seize the moment on 1st February-hunting season for new business.

As you read this the 31st January finish line will be within sight or you may even have passed it early. You will recall reading many articles at this time of year about the need to now plan ahead and think of systems and a different way of doing things so you don’t have the same stresses again next year. In this regard you know what you need to do and how to do it.

What I am going to outline here is the approach you should be adopting to seize the unique opportunities that present themselves with clients- existing and new- in the month of February.

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Practical tips on how to improve gross margin

Finola McManus outlines the ‘magic 13’ steps that will guarantee a rapid increase in gross margin and profitability.

1. Many practitioners measure gross margin in total. Drill down by client and identify which clients you make a strong margin on and which are loss leaders. A successful and progressive firm aims to achieve 70% plus overall gross margin, however many firms achieve 80% plus.

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Time to get ready for a New Year and New Start in 2016.

During perhaps the busiest time of your year and the shortest working month you may think you simply don’t have the time to think or plan ahead for 2016. The most successful and fulfilled practitioners use times of stress to make time to review their goals and business plan. It keeps them focused and motivated and confident in their ability to grow and develop their businesses.

In my last feature we looked at how you can review what you have achieved this year. You will therefore have identified the areas you need to address in the year ahead. I have recently surveyed partners in practice and identified some common issues which every practice seems to be facing and need to be worked on as priority in 2016.

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Time to review your achievements in 2015.

We are rolling towards the end of yet another year with little time to think of what have we done and where did the time go!
Before we start planning for 2016 its time to stop and think about what we set out to do this year and measure our progress.

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Preserving your sanity in tax return season - Time Management techniques (Part Two)

In Part One we look at the pitfalls of not managing your time in tax return season and the impact on client service levels.

Here is a simple checklist of things for you to do in order to change things;

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Preserving your sanity in tax return season - Time Management techniques (Part One)

The summer break is a distant memory and we are now very much bunkered down for the onset of winter and with that comes the dreaded 31 January deadline looming yet again.

Once again we have failed to put systems in place to avoid the perennial crisis- justifiably so due to pressures of client demands, volume of work and staffing or recruitment issues. This is the life of a practitioner.

Now is the time to make the most of the time available and put some simple strategies in place to ensure client service levels are maintained and staff aren’t wanting to move to another firm come the 1st February 2016.

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How to reward and motivate your team

Many practices are coming towards the end of their financial year and the time for career development reviews which usually include pay review discussions. The current trend is a move away from traditional annual % pay rises in line with inflation and towards a system whereby individuals can be in control of setting their own pay rewards and increased earnings.

Accountancy practices are keen to develop and retain a team of people that are self-motivated and eager to be rewarded by results. Bonus schemes have changed dramatically in recent years. There used to be a variety of methods used to calculate and pay out bonuses. These included;

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Holiday reading-What client service really means- a year in the life cycle of a client.

The summer break is nearly upon us and many practitioners use this as an opportunity to reflect on what they need to change – especially in terms of keeping clients happy.

Happy clients’ means they will stay with you and not be tempted to leave for your competitors. A retained client is far more valuable to your business in terms on ongoing income streams than having to replace them with new client fee income.

Happy clients also tend to pay bills on time and recommend to you to others. Similarly, they are far more likely to ask you for other advice and services which makes working life more interesting and again increases fees.

Every practitioner believes they offer fantastic client service but when asked what this really means on a day to day basis they often get stuck after replying ‘meeting deadlines.’ Meeting compliance deadlines is a given for any accountant- it is simply a fundamental part of the job.

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Cash flow- why clients don’t pay on time and how to prevent this.

As practitioners you will be well versed in advising clients on managing their business cash flow but often I see practices who struggle to manage their own cash flow. This cripples growth plans and impacts client service levels as partners spent too much time on trying to manage their own lock up. We all know ‘cash is king’ but perhaps need a reminder on what we need to do to ensure clients are happy to pay on time.

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Why do Partners never have enough time to get things done?

If you are a Partner reading this then congratulations! You have already found some time to focus on managing your own business. This is rare as most practitioners continue to work very long hours and do not earn an appropriate realistic return on the true time they spend working. Time is absorbed often with dealing with technical compliance work instead of doing what only a partner can and should be doing. Surprisingly, the majority of partners do however make time to check Smart Phones regularly during the course of each day! This proves if you really consider something important enough it will get done and perhaps it is now time to consider how to prioritise the job role and responsibilities of a partner in practice.

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How to retain, train
and recruit the right people.

‘Why can’t I ever find anyone as good as me?’ is a question I hear regularly from practitioners struggling to find the right people. Based on past and recent experience of the pitfalls of recruitment stories shared with me the following practical points are worth sharing with you to help your practice grow and become more successful.

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Succession Planning- Part Three

In Part Two we last looked at the practicalities for planning for succession. In this final part we will assume you have now dealt with the ‘housekeeping’ issue detailed previously and are ready to go ahead with your plan whether it be for a third party sale or merger or an internal ‘buy in’ to an existing or new partner.

Overview checklist of what you now need to consider

  • What summary information to include in your ‘sales pack.’
  • What time you need to budget for whilst the succession plan goes ahead and how to keep managing the core business.
  • Communication to staff and clients about what is going on. How to manage expectations.
  • Your role in the transition period and beyond.
  • The reality of ‘taking a back seat’ and deal with no longer being in control.
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