Systems - Part One.

Budgeting and planning -why they matter.

It’s time for back to basics and the simple stuff which we often can overlook. If you don’t have proper budget and planning systems in place then you will be left feeling as if you’re pushing water uphill!

These essential processes underpin the operational success of any firm. This means they drive client service, gross margin and profitability as well as team morale and stress.


Is your firm an award winning practice?

Every year we read of amazing firms who win awards, read their stories and ask ourselves ‘Could we stand a chance of winning that too?’ If you have the basics in place within your firm any award entry takes very little time and it is a wonderful way to reflect on what you have achieved.

Entering awards is a key success driver for boosting team moral and a valuable marketing tool. Sharing such news with clients will reinforce why you are the best advisor for them. Your firm will be perceived in a more positive way and it helps with recruitment and attracting stronger candidates.

Here are 4 key areas which can set a practice apart from the rest and take minimal time or money to implement;


Referral systems as part
of your marketing plan.

Last month we looked at referral systems and how effective they can be in generating new business. Every practice is currently focused on maintaining, if not increasing, profit levels and winning new clients.

Given it is a very tough and uncertain economic climate at present for many, there is even more focus on keeping up with competitor accountancy firms and getting the best return on the time you invest in growing the business.

Referral systems should be an integral part of your marketing plan. Even sole practitioners and the smallest of firms should have a marketing and business development plan. It is a good use of your limited time resources and gives you a clear focus and action plan to work on- remember, little by little and small chunks of time each week will ultimately yield results. A marketing plan should be shared with your team- they will ‘buy in’ to the firm more when they feel part of what the future plan is and know what is going on.


How to manage referrals and increase fees.

Every practice is looking for new business- the right kind of new client that fits their ideal client profile. Given the increasingly competitive marketplace all practitioners know it takes time to convert a new client and build a relationship that will retain them as clients for years to come.

Many practitioners have tried various business development and marketing tools with varying degrees of success. Listening to the more successful practices I deal with, it is widely acknowledged that the best new business comes from referrals.

Referrals are just those networking contacts you keep in touch with every so often. Every practice should have a referral system that they use consistently in order to generate the best results.


Topical staffing issues and how to deal with them.

Every practitioners has experienced the frustration of losing staff members to competitor firms and not being able to recruit new team members of suitable quality. There are two main issues to deal with here; firstly how to retain the team members you want to keep and develop within the firm and secondly, how to attract high quality new recruits to keep pace with the firms growth.


How to agree fees and avoid disputes

Fees and how to charge for work done and recover your time is an ongoing issue for practitioners. Whilst fixed price agreements become the norm it is a challenge to identify what is included within that fee and what is outside the scope of the fixed fee. Then there is the issue of how to discuss and agree extra work with the client and bill it separately.

How often have you spent time and energy researching and delivering advice to a client only to find they don’t appreciate what was involved and are unhappy to pay for it? This leave bad feeling between both parties and is a situation that can easily be avoided.

The golden rule is to never do any work on a client’s affairs without agreeing the fee with them first.


Perfect time to Spring Clean your service offering to clients.

March is the perfect time of year to review what you are doing for clients, secure if not increase our fees and ensure you are offering levels of client service that make them want to stay with your firm.

Many clients have a March year end or are looking at the end of a tax year whilst thinking about planning for the financial year ahead. This is why more so than ever, clients will want to hear from you. It is also a time of year when your firm is likely to be less busy after the January rush and lull of February.

Many practitioners understandably don’t feel confident is contacting clients out of the blue and do not want to appear ‘pushy’ or trying to ‘sell’ services.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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