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.

Ask yourself how many of these ‘Top 5’ issues impact your practice and need to be part of your practice management strategy in 2016.

1. Recruitment
Can’t find quality people and have difficulty retaining team members.

Action point
Review ongoing recruitment policy, interview systems, employment terms offering, communication systems internally (weekly meetings, awards, share business goals etc.) HR systems with regard feedback, training and career development reviews. This is what attracts good people who want to stay with your firm. Just because you are not a Top 20 firm doesn’t mean you can have all of these things in place and it won’t cost you much!

2. Gross margin
Seems to be lower than it should be especially due to increased employment costs and resistance to increase client fees.

Action point
Examine your fixed fee agreements, systems to prevent over servicing and not recovering fees, production efficiency systems ( budgets, planning and work planner systems),what your KPIs are telling you and what to do to change the results.

3. Increase Fees
Every practice is focused on winning new business. Assuming you have your ‘housekeeping’ issue above in hand you can look to draw up your marketing strategy for 2016 and set a target- even sole practitioners do this to great effect.

Action Point
Start with looking at ‘Windows of Opportunity’ where you can measure how each client knows exactly how you can help them as well as measure which clients ‘buy’ what from you. Using a ‘Windows of Opportunity’ system consistently is guaranteed to increase fee income. This is before you even start to look at winning new clients from referral systems or other marketing strategies.

4. Time management
You work too many hours. If you are honest with yourself and measure the true return on your time spent on and in the business your equivalent hourly rate is probably lower than some of your team members! Remember to include the time you spend in the car and at home looking at e-mails and returning calls.

Action point
List your ‘role and responsibilities’ in detail. Review it and highlight tasks that you should not or do not need to do. Have a refresher session on managing interruptions like calls, e-mails, fee queries etc.  Use you diary to plan tasks. Book out holidays and days off in advance and treat them as important as client meeting themselves!

5. Keeping on top of practice management
You have the best of intentions but somehow one week rolls into another and you get bogged down in the day to day operations of the business. You then become ever more frustrated when you read articles such as these and realise nothing ever changes in your own business!

Action Point
It really is simple. See yourself as your own Grade A /Gold level client. Book out small amounts of time in your diary each week for practice management. Make a clear list of action points starting with some ‘quick wins’ that aren’t too time consuming but will give results to motivate and drive you on- managing lock up is usually a good place to start. Tell you team what you are doing and why –ultimately they will benefit too. Treat your practice management time as if it were a client meeting- no interruptions and no phone calls. Ensure you also measure your progress and achievements during the year ahead. Many practitioners take themselves away from the office for a couple of hours each month to work productively on practice management. Set yourself targets. If you have business partners then book your monthly partners meetings for the year ahead and never ever allow them to be postponed!


These ‘Top 5’ points are the key to driving any accountancy practice forward. Follow up on the action points and progress is guaranteed. Who knows, this time next year you could be basking in the glory of achieving your goals and actually looking forward with energy to another New Year!

December 2015 Copyright - Finola McManus Practice Perfect

Helping accountancy firms to make their clients successful


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