Finola's Story - Part 2

In Part 1 I explained how at our little practice, Landers, we were able to reduce our workload to just 4 shorts days a week at et same time as eliminating WIP and achieving a 250% profit growth per partner. In this the second part I will explain exactly how we did it.

It wasn't all plain sailing that's for sure ! There were plenty of challenges along the way and days when both I and my fellow partner, Robert Brown, wanted to throw the towel in and run for the hills.

After buying Landers we spent 5 years sorting out our own housekeeping issues and had achieved a moderate degree of success. Progress however was slow and we felt we needed some extra resources and support to help us as a small firm punch above our weight.

We looked at all that was available at the time from 2020 to the Dunn style Bootcamps and remained sceptical. After attending a 3 day AVN event we maintained our cynicism and remained arms firmly crossed and our minds firmly closed as we listened to Steve Pipe. Rumour had it that we were going to be asked to leave the event as we looked so negative and disruptive ! For some reason we felt that it was worth joining this network and giving it a go. The scepticism remained but our minds had latched on to a few things which we believed could work for us and were worth the investment.

I would not be so naïve to say joining a network was a magic wand to cure all problems but it was pivotal in moving us to another level and at some speed. Maybe we could have got their on our own but the journey would have been so much longer and more challenging.

Again, we faced challenges during the next few years and would sit down annually to review our investment in the network we had chosen and whether we were still getting a good return. After starting with the small simple stuff to get us going we could see a real difference. Things like Fixed Price Agreements and Client Manager Systems helped to eliminate our lockup and cashflow problems very quickly. We were able to tap into resources to help us package business advisory work which clients were happy to pay for and that we could deliver with confidence.

Marketing and raising profile is a big issue for the smaller firm. We used a combination of tools our network provided, a part time external consultant and launching our own seminars to generate new client leads and promote our services. These seminars (Business Builder Forums or BBF's) were the single most beneficial thing we used from our Pandora's box of network tools.

The 10 keys to making it all happen

My own clients now ask what is the 'TOP 10' checklist that made Landers develop so successfully. This is what I would say;

  • Develop and maintain the right attitude as a partner
  • Do the small stuff first
  • Be disciplined in booking out small chunks of your time in the diary to 'practice development'.
  • Enlist the help of an outsider to come in and chair your partners meetings. Landers did this periodically and the difference it made was phenomenal. None of what we did was rocket science but having a third party to talk to made us more responsible and accountable. It made us feel less isolated and encouraged us to run our own business like it should be.
  • Listen and learn from others and copy their strategies which are successful
  • Set your own goals and have a business plan which you update at least 6 monthly.
  • Get your team on board and let them share the business plan and understand their part in it. This was something Landers embarked on and then went on to roll out with clients. .
  • Measure your successes regularly. Our particular network membership ensured we did this as par for the course as we were mindful of what we were paying and keen to ensure we made a profit on that investment !
  • Don't procrastinate and think too deeply. Accountants by nature are conservative and analytical creatures. I wasted time in really getting going with the tools our network had provided us with in the first 3 years of membership. Progress would have been more swift if I had sorted my mindset out sooner and just got on with it!
  • Don't worry about failure. Some things will prove more successful than others. Some firms had successes with our network resources that were unmitigated disasters for Landers. We put these aside quickly and just moved on. Overall there were more wins than losses and it's only the successes you remember.

The most important part of the story…

The reason I left Landers in 2008 and set up Practice Perfect is the one reason why I am so passionate about what I do .I will share that reason with you in more detail………

In 2007 I was unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer and had to leave the office at short notice to start my treatment. On 16 October 2007 I sat at my desk for 3 hours, talked to the team and effectively made myself redundant. I never returned and Landers continues to grow without me. I decided not to go back as my illness
had allowed me to re-assess my goals and priorities in life. I wanted to pursue a different line of work helping other accountancy firms and having more time for my family and young sons. My treatment was successful but it was a wake up call for me. I didn't want to look back in a few years and think 'if only I had spent more time in the office .'

When I talk to Practitioners and share my story they ask ' but how did you actually do that. We can barely leave the office for a week without returning to chaos!' There are two parts to the answer to that particular question. Firstly, I had a remarkable business partner in Robert Brown. Secondly, the tools provided by the network we used for support had built a business that wasn't overly dependent on a partner and could readily continue without my involvement. I felt so proud that I had achieved this and my work was done. Given that the practice was heavily systematised it also meant Landers was valued at a premium on my departure.

My story is one which aims to motivate and inspire all those practitioners who are feeling less than positive. Even in this hard economic climate, positive change is possible. There are still many opportunities for the small practice.There are still successful strategies to ensure you keep one step ahead of the competition, build a team of people that will grow the business with you and provide you with a valuable business asset into the future and your own retirement or exit date. It is also possible to achieve that 4 day week and longer holidays with some simple business planning.

And finally…

In conclusion, if you take one thing away from reading this article it is that you simply must have a plan and take action. If you don't then how can you expect anything to change for the better. Resources are available to help you, seize the opportunity and watch the results.

Finally, if you are a partner and want some further free guidance please email me on This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and I will give you even more details of exactly how we made it all happen and give you my thoughts on exactly what you can do to make it happen in your practice too.


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